As far as venues go, can there be a more idyllic setting than the cairngorm national park for a memorable night out. Besides, if you’re going to push yourself to the limit you might as well do it somewhere notable. The Cairngorms have always been a special place for me, and now they boast of one of my favourite races.
Pre-race nerves are always a worry and never more so than when you’re stood looking into the inky blackness of loch Morlich being churned up by a strong onshore wind – still, it’s too late to turn back now!
Once in, you’re transported to a world of illuminance as glow sticks bob all around you hanging off competitor goggles, as you aim for the flashing beacons like some distant lighthouse offering sanctuary.
Before you know it, you’re out and on to the bike and trundling along virtually empty roads and lost in a world of seclusion. What a pleasure it is to race in almost complete silence, with only the hum of deep section wheels and a halo of light to your front to keep you company.
Of course, no extreme race is complete without a good climb on the bike and the ski road is no exemption. Grinding up past the sugar bowl just about sets the tempo for what’s to come as you top out and get ready for the continuing climb up to Cairn Gorm on foot.
It’s called Windy Ridge and for good reason because it’s windy, and wet on this occasion, but it’s a great trail under foot and easy to follow to the summit before back tracking down the ski routes and down some more to the start of the next hill.
If ever there is a moment to savour in this race, this is it. Summiting Meall Bhuachaille you’re gifted with the return of daylight and with it one of the most impressive views. The Cairngorm plateau spreads out to reveal the rugged crags of Sneachda and Lochain before dropping down to the lush forestry of Rochiemurchus and Glenmore.
You could almost outline all of your progress up to now from this vantage point but more importantly you can spot the finish line, and it’s all downhill!. Let gravity guide you down and finish up with a short blast back along the soft sands of where it all began in what felt like an age ago.
Yeah, it’s quite a memorable experience, this one.