2 weekends ago I tested my mettle again. This time at Puffer Lite.
Puffer Lite is the summertime little brother of StrathPuffer (the most northerly, winterly 24 hour race in the world…apparently). Whilst StrathPuffer is a 24 hour race in January with about 17 hours of darkness on some interesting, rocky, techy trails, Puffer Lite uses the same course but is a 12 hour race in June, 8pm to 8am, with about an hour and a half to 2 hours of darkness.
It’s also the Scottish Singlespeed Champs (yup, that’s right, a 12 hour singlespeed champs).
Chris and I drove up fairly early on in the day because Chris wanted to drop me off before going off for a ride in Torridon. So I arrived at about 1pm…plenty time to set up camp, fettle with bike and snooze before signing on at 5 and then getting down to proper pre-race fettling.
The forecast had been for heavy rain, so I had taken hot weather and wet weather kit, just in case. Luckily, the rain turned out to be a few big sploges of rain just before we started.
At 8pm, the Le Mans start saw most folks dash off to get their bikes and then disappear of up the hill. Since I’m not one for starting out fast, I just started as I meant to continue…a slow, steady plod, enjoying the sunshine, views, trails and company.
My plan was to do double laps and just stop off in between to get fresh water and food. The first 4 laps went well and I managed to keep up a good pace. The course was great and the conditions were about as good as they could get. The trails were buff and dusty and fast. I didn’t need to put my lights on until about 11pm and it didn’t really get dark until after midnight. That’s when the dark thoughts started.
I pulled into my pit at about 2am feeling pretty deflated and not really sure I wanted to keep going. One half of me knew that if I didn’t finish the race I’d only be letting myself down and I’d end up kicking myself afterwards. The other half just kept asking why I was doing this.
While I was sitting having a bite of brioche, Chris wandered into the tent and told me I was a lap down on the winner. That made up my mind. I wasn’t racing anymore – I was just going to keep plodding on, forget about pushing myself and just enjoy the trails. I also knew that it would be dawn soon and I didn’t want to miss that (one of the benefits of soloing is that you know you’re going to be the one who gets to do the dawn lap).
So off I went again. The sun started coming up at about 2.30 and it was lovely. The course was pretty quiet by this time, so I managed to take in the views over the hills and forest all by myself. With the dawn, my spirits started to lift again and I started having fun again.
After another double lap, I pulled in to the pits and Chris told me I was 5 minutes down on the leader now. So I’d managed to make up half a lap. I knew it was unlikely that I’d be able to make up any more time at this stage, but I wondered if I might just be able to start pushing a little bit harder to see what happened.
Another couple of laps got me through to just before 7am and I was still 5 minutes down. I really didn’t think I’d be able to make it up so I decided to just go out and enjoy my last lap. I wouldn’t be up this way for a while, so I might as well enjoy the trails and the views.
I got back to the start finish area about 20 minutes before 8 and Chris told me that I’d managed to make up the time and had won. I was on the same lap as second place, but I’d managed to get in before her.
I headed back to the tent to have my finish line cup of tea and while I got changed and cleaned up (it’s the first race I’ve finished in Scotland where I’ve been completely coated in dust!) Chris went off to get my lap timings from the timing folks….it turned out I was a lap up on second place, so I’d somehow managed to make up that lap I was down during the night. I’d also managed to win the Scottish Singlespeed Champs too, so I was doubly pleased.
The folks from Square Wheels did themselves proud again and put on another fantastic event. The weather gods and the other riders made the event another memorable one – thanks!