No coasting on this ride!
The Rat Race Coast to Coast Event takes you from Nairn down towards Fort Augustus for a quick kayak on Loch Ness then onto the Great Glen way to Fort William, then it’s a run along the West Highland Way and across Loch Leven to finish at the Isles of Glencoe Hotel.
The event starts with a 7 mile run from the coast along the rough single track river trail to Cawdor Castle where you collect your bikes and then take the B roads south-south-west towards Fort Augustus. The road is now pretty decent after being upgraded due to the wind farms being built in the area. After about 60k The road takes a long and steady climb up General Wades Military road before the final steep sections up to the Suidhe Viewpoint where several race followers had gathered to cheer the riders on whilst the event photographers had positioned themselves to capture the misery of those slogging it up the hill. We then had a beautiful descent towards Fort Augustus. They've done a fair amount of deforestation here so you now have fantastic views down over Loch Ness. The event hit a delay though as three massive sections of wind turbine body were coming up the hill towards us, they were an hour late and shouldn't have clashed with us, however, riders & race officials had to grin & bear it and wait till they were clear.
On arrival in Fort Augustus you drop the bikes and run to the small Kayak section on Loch Ness. It's a beautiful spot & even more so when the sun shines. The Expert category carries on here to complete the whole event in a day, however for those in the Challenger Category who are doing it over the two days, you could rest up, grab some food and ice cream and enjoy the views of Fort Augustus in the sun, however the weather was forecast to change to heavy rain the next day. Groan....
Day 2 started at 7.30am with the cycle from Fort Augustus along the canal towpath heading south. It had already been raining heavily from early in the morning and the silt on the path was quickly being sprayed everywhere - it looked like we'd cycled through a cement works when we came off the path. This year they had changed the route and put us onto the old railway line to the East of Loch Lochy- avoiding the single track sections through the woods. This is a really nice cycle route and brought us out near Invergarry.
We then joined the traditional off road route to Fort Bill. By now the rain was back on with gusto and would follow us for the rest of the day. When you come out the forest, it’s still a long way around the coast and the undulating road towards Forth William and then fighting your way through the ever present heavy traffic to get to the transition area. Into transition and time to refuel and change into dry gear for the trek along the West Highland Way. The route up through Glen Nevis was okay but the second half of the trek was basically running along a river bed. Thank goodness for good Merino wool socks which although soaking wet, the feet were warm and unchaffed.
We reached a Marshal on the course where you would normally turn off the West Highland Way who told us the path to the Kayak was closed as it had been washed away in places and directed us to carry on all the way to Kinlochleven. That's the last thing we were hoping for as this lengthened this section & we were heading for "midge-central". However a bus was waiting in kinlochleven to quickly move us to the Kayak section. Credit to the organisers who had this in place so quickly.
The Kayak across the estuary was the toughest I'd done in this event. There was quite a swell in the estuary, which, when you’re on a sit on kayak, makes you a bit nervous. The rain was now torrential and in our faces, however Julie & I just kept our heads down & paddled on, finally reaching the finish line, wetter than an otters pocket, but a great event to do together.
Thoroughly recommend this event, a beautiful route and really well organised.