Sunday, 18 September 2011

Day 8 Pitlochry, Perthshire-Inverness, Highlands

The end was now in sight. After a good breakfast and a chat with a touring Australian couple, I got underway and headed out of Pitlochry towards Blair Atholl where I met a lady cycling to work. I asked her about the quality of the cycle track ahead and she said it should be fine for a road bike. I had read differing views in the past but it was a better option than staying on the main road. I told her what I was doing and she wished both Jen and I lots of luck.

Once again, the rain came and went but I was in good spirits. I stayed off the main A9 until the cycle track ran out and I then joined it, rising ever upwards to the Pass of Drumochter. Although this was the highest point of the entire trip (at over 1500ft) the ascent had been quite gradual since I set out of Pitlochry.

On the way down the far side of the Pass, I noticed the cycle track had returned, this time as pristine and smooth tarmac. I quickly got off the main road and enjoyed a traffic free ride down towards Newtonmore. Unfortunately, my enjoyment was soon to end as just after a small bridge over a stream, the track dog-legged left and then right. The kink was hidden by the bridge so I didn’t see it and therefore have time to slow down (from about 20mph). As far as I can remember, I skidded briefly before realising I wasn’t going to stop in time and by that point I was heading into a ditch where the cycle track should have been! I remember the ground rushing up to meet my head, landing (not very gracefully I would imagine) and found myself lying in the ditch with my bike underneath me.
After sitting there for a moment, checking I could still move everything, I slowly got up and eventually climbed out of the ditch. I immediately noticed that my right knee and both hands were very sore. Once I had got the bike out of the ditch, I checked it over, I was most worried about the carbon fork receiving most of the impact and being split or snapped but thankfully they were intact (it seemed that I had taken most of the impact!) The only damage was the bars, which had been bent inwards by about 10 degrees, nothing that would prevent me riding.

I was still over 50 miles from my destination so I knew I had to get back on and moving before I seized up. As soon as I put my hands on the bars however it was clear that they were too painful to put any weight on, forcing me into an uncomfortable position of holding on with just thumb and forefinger. My knee, whilst not too painful pedalling in the saddle, felt very sore and unstable when I had to pedal harder out of the saddle.
I limped on and stopped in a Newtonmore diner for haggis lasagne (yes, it’s as good as it sounds) and a hot chocolate. I was feeling cold, wet and sore and looking forward to reaching Inverness, still some 40 miles away. I took the B9152 and B9153 through the Spey valley, Aviemore and Carrbridge. Due to the weather and earlier incidents, I probably didn’t fully appreciate the areas beauty as much as I could have, I was thankful however for the relatively flat terrain up to Findhorn Bridge. 

It was at this point that I had planned to bear west and come over the hills and into Inverness from the south. This route however would add several extra miles and some steep ascents; things I didn’t feel would be particularly good for my knee. If Inverness had been the end of the trip, I probably would have taken the original route, but as I still had over 100 miles to go over the next 2 days, I went for the damage limitation option and rejoined the A9 for my final descent into Inverness.
I was welcomed to the B&B by the promise of a hot shower. Once I had collapsed on the bed, I could inspect the extent of the injuries. 2 cut knees, one worse than the other, 1 cut elbow, bruised ribs and arm, 2 very sore hands and wrists and a grazed forehead. After my shower, I felt really sore but we decided to limp into town for some supper. Once sat down again, I felt better and I enjoyed steak and red wine followed by pudding and a whisky. When I came to leave, it was raining hard so I got a taxi home. Although very friendly, I was sure the taxi driver must have been an ex racing driver and I got back to Ivybank Guesthouse almost before we had left the restaurant. I tipped him for not killing me.
88 miles, 5 hours 55 minutes, average 14.86 mph, 7622ft of ascent

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