Last Sunday (20th) I did the Trossachs Ton 100 miler (or 98.85 as it turned out on my Garmin annoyingly). As June hasn't been great cycling wise due to falling onto a big pile of rocks I wasn't sure if I was going to actually go for the full distance or do the shorter one.
It was a bit of a last minute decision to enter anyway, I entered mid week with an eye on the forecast which was pretty good and thought it would be good to tie it in with a visit to my folks on father's day weekend.
A quick 25 minutes on the M9 from my folks on the Sunday morning saw me parked up in Stirling and as I rolled to registration I decided to go for the full distance, sod it. Plan was to settle into a steady pace, eat and drink regularly, actually look at the scenery occasionally as the Trossachs is a lovely part of the world and basically just get to the end. The route had around 6000ft of climbing so it wasn't a brute. Two major long (but alpine style) climbs: the 3 mile long Duke's Pass at about 22 miles and the 5 mile long Crow Road at 75.
Set off just before 8 and the first 20 miles are pretty flat, I'd forgotten how much of a plain Stirling was on, there was a reason they built the castle where they did, can see for miles from it. I was kind of sitting in behind a group, not too close as there was some shonky riding going on but close enough that I was getting some benefit. It was a bit windy and there was a bit of cloud cover, however it was due to get quite warm later on.
Soon we were at the bottom of the Duke's Pass, quite a few 12 and 13% ramps at the bottom and my legs didn't seem happy but I think it was just the transition to climbing. It soon eased off and steadily climbed away and my legs found their rhythm, I even overtook a few people. The steady climb gave way to a steady descent, easy to keep a really good speed going and not too many tight corners to worry about, just the odd cavernous pothole and a corking view - theme for the ride really.
Soon into the first very, very well stocked feed station. Lots of flapjack, biscuits, jelly babies and other goodies on offer. I stocked up on some jelly babies and some chunks of flapjack, topped up the bottles and set off on the road around Loch Katrine. I'd taken my gilet and armwarmers off at the feed station as things felt like they were warming up, got about 10 metres out of the station onto the lochside and stopped to put the gilet back on, the wind was strong and cold blowing up the loch, brr.
The road was single lane but basically closed to traffic apart from water authority vehicles (Loch Katrine is the main reservoir for Glasgow..and it was pretty empty looking). It was typical lochside road, up and down and twisty. On the outward side it was generally heading uphill. There were a few other cyclists around but I quickly decided to ride in my own space after watching a few near misses as people didn't quite make bends or slithered around on gravel.
With it being single lane there were effectively two clear lines where the vehicle tyres travel but lots of gravel piled up in the middle. It was also forested so the edges of the road had pine needles strewn everywhere, add to that some fair old potholes and I took it steady and kept plenty of space around me. As the road twisted around the edge of the loch it seemed to move in and out of the wind. Once around the end of the loch the wind briefly became a tail wind and the track started heading down.
I had settled on eating solid food approximately every 10 miles or so and drinking regularly, anytime I saw someone else go for their bottles I took in some fluid too even if I thought I didn't need to. I had a bottle of energy drink and one of plain water and alternated each drink.
Once off the Loch Katrine road it was back onto a slightly wider but still twisty and pothole strewn open road. The potholes were just unbelievable, often seemingly covering the entire road and being unavoidable. A few cars were travelling in the opposite direction so had to ride on the left and the dappled light through the trees made spotting the holes difficult too. I manualled the road bike over several huge ones I couldn't avoid, somehow managing not to explode the rear tyre or get any sort of puncture.
The road surface was so broken and holed there was no way I would take my hand off the bars to warn anyone behind me, the riders in front of me were clinging on for grim death too. At least it was mainly downhill, got stuck behind a camper van for a bit on the twisty road but managed to draft it a bit through Aberfoyle so I forgave it!
I rolled into the second feed station at The Rob Roy hotel, Aberfoyle just after 50 miles. It was billed as a "lunch stop" and they had proper food. My plan was to have a proper break, use the loo (proper loos, fab), top up bottles etc. I queued up for some pasta with a savoury meat sauce which was great after all the sweet stuff. I ate that and some cheese salad then was itching to get going again. I still had the Crow Road to come at 75 miles so I was very mindful of saving some energy for it and took off at a steady pace.
I found this section the hardest by far, mainly because it was seemingly into the wind again and I was on my own and it was quite a busy road. A couple of groups sped past but I thought they were going too fast for the effort I wanted to put out at this stage. It was quite undulating which broke things up a bit. I could see Dumgoyne in the distance and I knew the course went somewhere near it but it just never seemed to get any closer.
Eventually whizzed past the Glengoyne Distillery where I could see the WHW and wondered how Kate had got on. Things were starting to warm up, the cloud cover had gone but the wind was still there in my face. Blew into the last feed stop at the bottom of the Crow Road still feeling pretty good. I could see the climb snaking up the hill in a very alpine style, I would be turning back on myself and realised I would be out of the cooling wind once heading up.
Stocked up on more jelly babies and had a caffienated gel for that last kick for the end then started up the climb. Like the Duke's Pass the Crow started with some 12 and 13% ramps but my legs were happier this time. It soon eased off and I kicked the cadence up a few notches and started overtaking people, lots of people. I really enjoyed the climb, seemed to suit me though it was a bit warm.
Only one person overtook me and it was a very fit looking roadie bloke stomping up in the big ring. A switchback with a 10% ramp had me out of the saddle briefly but then it was fairly easy gradient to the top. It took quite a while to get to the actual top but the five miles of up passed quite quickly, one of the motorbike marshall's gave me a thumbs up as he passed and said I had made it look easy.
Once over the top it was onto the long steady down where I had a near crash nearly missing a turn....because the view was just jaw dropping, it really was and I stopped looking where I was going. Took it slow for a while to stare then started heading down, fast and open descent apart from one dodgy sharp turn near the bottom then it was onto the last stretch along Carron Valley Reservoir to the finish.
I knew from the course profile that it was quite lumpy for a while but I was still climbing well, the road was very quiet but still had quite a few potholes. It wasn't too twisty which was great for pedalling hard downhill, not something I tend to do very often. I think most of the last 10 miles were downhill which was nice. Rode over the M9, out of the quiet roads and into Stirling and a bit of traffic, was quite a sudden change. I felt good all the way to the finish. Total time 6:35 and ride time of 6:05 with 16.2 average, pretty pleased with that as I did most of it on my own.
The event wasn't officially timed but as a first 100 miler it was a good one to pick, great scenery and good organisation.