When a friend suggested that we enter the Loch Lomond 2 Day trial this year, in hindsight I perhaps ought to have done a little research before sending off my entry.
So, Friday morning my friend Chris and myself headed up North blissfully, unaware of what was about to come. The Trial is set in the hills high above Loch Lomond, and Saturday morning I set off on my bike towards section 1, a little nervous perhaps, but also exited at experiencing new terrain. The weather was perfect, there was hardly a cloud in the sky but a nice breeze to keep the midges at bay.
Here is where it all started to go wrong (yes, already), I somehow lost my scorecard before I had even reached the first section. After a short search I headed back to the start and thankfully they issued me a new card. I set off at pace quickly inspecting and riding the first couple of sections to try and catch my riding partner who had already reached section 3, about 2 miles away over the moors. With the panic looking for my scorecard, I did my second stupid mistake. I left my rucksack at section 1. This contained tools, emergency fuel, drink & crucially the 2nd scorecard for later sections. I had no option but to double back and fetch it.
The 4 mile extra ride put me well behind schedule, so it was a case of going full speed ahead, briefly inspecting the section, cracking on and hopefully I would catch up. However, this highlighted an issue that would prove my undoing all weekend. I simply don't have any experience of riding Scottish moorland. It is physically very demanding. I just don't have the technique, fitness and nerve to go fast enough for long enough. My riding buddy Chris has ridden in Scotland and other similar event many times before. Couple this to the fact that he is an ex British Enduro Champion and Centre Motocross Champion, you'll begin to understand he knows a bit about going fast. I just couldn't keep up and had to watch him effortlessly disappear into the distance. I hadn't trained for this and my fitness level was nowhere near good enough, already I was starting to pay for it.
The course itself was incredible, I have never seen such breath-taking views. The sections were mostly up a rocky streams or becks of varying types and after a shaky start I was starting to ride a little better. The severity of these sections was way harder than I had expected though, each one demanded maximum effort and concentration. The Saturday route was 45 miles long, entirely off road and almost exclusively across the wet boggy moorland, up and down the steepest of hills / mountains which just seemed to go on forever.
We had a time limit of 7 hours to complete the course. Try as I might, it was beginning to dawn on me, I wouldn't get in on time. Every 1 minute over the 7 hours incurs a 1 mark penalty. Over an hour late - Exclusion. I had no option but to keep any section inspection to an absolute minimum, even riding some sections without prior inspect at all. After about 5 hours I was starting to get cramp in my arms, towards the end of the sections my hands would lock onto the bars making riding impossible and crashes frequent. There were times when I thought about giving up, the physical exertion pushing my body so hard actually made me sick at one point. I didn't stop though and eventually made the time check at 7 hours 20 minutes, incurring a 20 mark penalty. At this stage I wasn't sure if that was good or bad, as this meant I'd have to do it all again the very next day!
Waking up Sunday morning I had aches and pains all over my body, but I had had a decent sleep, so I headed off to the start area for part 2. My spirits were lifted a bit before the start when Prosaw's Scottish Area Salesman, Frank Byrne paid a visit. A good chat with Frank took my mind off what was to come for a while.
I was thankful to learn it was a shorter course Sunday, 2 laps of 15 miles each. Mindful of Saturdays time issues and the fatigue I felt, I decided that the only way I could make the time limit was to spend as little time inspecting the sections as possible. Of course, this would have a negative effect on my observation score. But at this stage my only goal was to finish. The sections weren't any easier on Sunday and after the first lap I did briefly consider a nice lay down in the shade whilst I waited for everyone else to finish. I pressed on though and there was even the odd moment where I rode quite well. These moments were quickly forgotten though as cramp and exhaustion forced errors and crashes. However, I made it to the finish with less than 3 minutes to spare!
My total score for the weekend was 145 marks lost, this put me in 40th place from 150 riders entered. I'm a little disappointed with this, but pleased I dug deep and finished when quitting would have been so much easier. I am now working on my fitness and endurance in preparation for my next 2 day trial. This is the Manx 2 Day in July, so 6 weeks of cycling and running.
The next big event for me is in 2 weeks. A Kia Championship round in Yorkshire, back on my faithful old Yamaha - Hopefully no boggy moorland!