or, The One Where Tony Done a Ton (sic.)
Like a boxer winning on points after twelve rounds, plucky underdogs clinging on to a one goal lead having had a man sent off or a runner hitting the final six miles of a marathon in thirty plus degrees heat…today was a slog.
I’d anticipated it was going to be like that, of course. It wasn’t particularly tough…I got through it without any niggles, it was just hard work. For a long time. A very long time.
Knowing I was in for a ‘fun’ day, if only for the distance, I was up and out of the hostel early having had a breakfast of currant buns and strawberry milk that I’d picked up the night before a few miles out from the hostel (‘cos it really is remote at the Loch Ness hostel, there’s nothing around it!).
It was nice to be on the road by half past seven and the first thirty miles or so flew by, with the tree-lined A82 offering excellent shelter from the wind.
About five miles down the road a deer jumped out of the trees and ran in front of me for about a like before darting back into the undergrowth. Having spotted it coming it was quite a sight to watch, but it was easy to see how they can cause a nuisance to cars.
Reaching Inverness and looking at the Cateye as I stopped to pick up some supplies (shortbread as a snack…well, I’ve got to get something Scottish!), I was amazed to see I’d averaged 14.9mph! I knew it wasn’t going to last, unfortunately…
…and, lo, once out of Inverness the weather gods were awoken. And they sent onto he the winds of wrath. Okay, maybe a big dramatic but it certainly felt like that once I turned to head north proper.
Anyone that’s read the blog in it’s entirety will have read about my trip back to Peterborough. For those that haven’t (and I don’t blame you!), I made a trip back to ‘boro on Easter Sunday which was a similar distance and into a headwind the whole trip. Today was like that. Only with a stronger headwind. And hillier. Peterborough and the surrounding area isn’t renound for its rolling countryside!
They big hill in the middle of the route (I forget it’s name, sorry) was a pain to get up but the descent offered one or two stunning viewpoints and was ample reward. Stopping at one I got chatting to an elderly Scottish couple for a bit. They kindly told me to stock up on bits in Lairg as there was nothing between there and Tongue! Thanking them for this advice, and after taking the opportunity to have a photo taken by then, I set off.
Quick feed stop in Bonar Bridge (steak slice and chocolate muffin, nutrition fans) and a chance to buy new batteries for the Garmin which was on the second pair of lithiums and finally running low. I couldn’t help but curse the two days I’d accidentally left it on overnight…it would have survived the trip otherwise!
Bonar Bridge is about sixty miles from Loch Ness. The last half of the journey looked entertaining enough by the route profile alone. Little did I know quite how much more fun it was going to be..,
Past Lairg and with just thirty five (‘just thirty five’?! ha, listen to me now!) miles to go and the A836 changes from a ‘normal’ road. It becomes bleak. It becomes exposed. It becomes singletrack.
Oh yes. Not only was I now battling into a headwind with no shelter for miles, I also got to stop at random points to allow cars to pass. Brilliant.
With my speed into the wind down to about nine miles an hour, it’s fair to say I was a little demoralised. There wasn’t any point cursing either, any sounds lost to to wind as soon as they were uttered. At least there were the odd, cold, showers coming along at random points to cheer me up a bit…well, a monster headwind on its own would be too easy isn’t it?!
It was a long thirty five miles and there really was nothing between Lairg and where I was heading. It’s so strange, having travelled up from ‘the bottom’ to see just how sparse shops and services are up here, especially when compared to somewhere like the Lake District which has it’s little village shops scattered upon the route.
I finally made it to Tongue (really pretty approach to it, a two mild of so decline, with a lovely view over the sea) and found my way to the hostel, rolling in at just about half past eight. Nope, really…thirteen hours after setting off this morning. Like I said…a slog!
I ordered in a pizza on the recommendation of the hostel manager (it was that or shortbread, as nowhere’s open in Tongue past half six!) and had a bit of a chat with the other residents before retiring for the night. I got a feelin’…that tonight’s gonna be a good night’s sleep!
The winds had started to turn to the west as I settled in for the night. That would give me a lovely tail wind for the final leg should they stay. What’s the betting tomorrow is as calm and still a day you can imagine…?! Sigh.
Stats for the day
Distance for the day: 113 miles
Time in saddle for the day: 9hrs 54mins
Average speed for the day: 11.4mph
Maximum speed for the day: 29.2mph
Total distance to date: 985 miles
Total time in saddle to date: 75hrs 18mins
Average speed for trip to date: 13.0mph
Route for the day…
Route profile for the day…