Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Highland Trail 550 Race Day 4.

What a stunning morning. I was in no rush to leave this place.

Soreen and water for breakfast.

About an hour after getting up, I was packed, and set off down the hill.

On the first up, I felt a hot spot on my heel. I stopped and put some compeed and tape on to prevent any further deterioration.

Going was slow down, and next, also up through Achfary forest.

The view from Bealach nam Fiamm.

My average speed so far was slow for the morning. so I smashed it down the hill.

Hungry I stopped for the most expensive burger and chips I've ever bought at Kylestrome.

And of course I had a beer.

As I rolled along the road I noticed a faint scratching/grinding noise. As I rode towards Lochinver it became more noticeable.

I stopped. I couldn't find play in the cranks, the pedals, the headset or the wheels doing the usual "wiggle" test.

I rode on. The noise was maddening. I stopped again. I took all the bags off, and did all the checks again.

Over 15 mph and the noise was crazy as if something was going to explode. At slow speeds it wasn't so noticeable. I started dragging the brakes as the noise wasn't too bad at slow speeds.

Nearly at Lochinver I heard metal on metal as I descended a short hill. My front pads had expired.

I stopped to replace them.

Whilst replacing the wheel I found the cause of the phantom noise. The right hand front wheel bearing had some play in it.

I was gutted, there were 300 miles still to do, and my front wheel was apparently on it's way out. I guessed one of the bearings had been crushed, leaving the others unevenly to take up the load.

I put the bike back together and rode on towards Lochinver.

Nearly at Lochinver I stopped to refill my water bottle. I stood by the stream, my legs wobbled, and I nearly fell in. All the worrying and ascertaining the cause of the metallic grinding noise had made me forget to eat anything for a couple of hours.

I arrived in Lochinver in a right mess. Two cans of coke, a pork pie and a whole ginger cake and I felt well enough to continue.

I was devastated. My fear had been my body packing in, not my bike letting me down. Incidentally, the wheel was near enough new.

The sun was out, I headed for Glen Canisp.

My mood was dark though.

The track starts off incongruously enough. Soon it turns into a much different proposition though.

The final straw in my day was having to change my GPS batteries in a cloud of midges. 10 minutes later, I'd jacked for the day, far short of my intended destination. A meagre 55 miles for the day.

I was mentally and physically shattered.

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