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Friday, 11 May 2012

Day 6: Callander - Drumnadrochit

Looking at the forecast for the day it was clear it was going to be a day of two halves. The morning would be one of heavy and sometimes wintry showers before clearing up in the afternoon. After shedding my panniers now that Kerri was with me I put any thoughts of extending the journey to 8 days behind me and decided I would push on an complete it in 7 as originally planned. This thought was re-enforced upon seeing the forecast for the weekend with Saturday looking glorious and Sunday showing heavy rain all day.

Light drizzle at the start of the day

At the start of the day I was greeted by light showers and as the road started climbing I soon shed my waterproof layer as I warmed up. It soon became apparent that it would be another day of strong winds but knowing that the weather would brighten up and the winds would become cross- rather than head-winds once I reached Fort William and turned North East helped keep me going.

Heading up the first climb of the day
It was also great to cycle through such wonderful countryside and actually be able to see it after the rather bleak scenery and dreadful weather of the previous day. Snow-capped peaks, dramatic mountains and some fantastic feats of engineering made the day much more stimulating visually.

Pretty dry at this point
With Kerri having set off from Callendar a while after me she cuaght up with me after about 34 miles at which point the conditions were still ok. The light drizzle hadn't deteriorated into anything worse and the hills hadn't proved too taxing.

8 miles later, it's shelter in the car time
We had agreed to meet again at the Bridge of Orchy for lunch but shortly after Kerri drove on the heavens opened in earnest. Whilst I was climbing it wasn't so bad but I soon hit a descent and the heavy rain hit my face like ice and I was glad to meet Kerri again and have the chance to dry off a bit and warm up in the car.

Climbing into the Highlands
After a big tub of pasta and sitting out the worst of the rain I was back on my way climbing up into the highlands. The scenery was still amazing but the weather was really closing in and the headwind starting to make itself felt in my legs. The road itself wasn't too busy but any time a truck passed it the opposite direction the wind blast would almost stop you in your tracks and it was pretty demoralising.

I think this wins the biggest sign of the week award

Pushing on into Glen Coe the headwind wasn't letting up but I was certainly glad I no longer had my sodden panniers weighing me down as I passed another cyclist with a huge amount of luggage struggling into the wind. Approaching the summit of the road in Glen Coe the sun finally started to make an appearance and I was filled with hope for the remainder of the day.

Heading up Glen Coe
I was certainly glad the weather hadn't been any more wintry as I made my slow way down the descent towards Fort William. The stats would later back up what my legs were telling me that the headwind was really slowing my progress. According to my Garmin I averaged a measly 16.6mph on the way down Glen Coe and my heart rate indicated I was having to work hard just to achieve this!

View near the top of Glen Coe as the sun starts to come out
Once I reached the bottom I could relax knowing that the worst of the terrain and the weather was over. Upon reaching the flat and pushing on I really started to feel the pain in my Achilles again and, having left my medication with Kerri, I took the liberty of giving her a call and asking her to meet me a bit earlier than planned. Applying a bit of pain relieving gel and taking some pills as I consumed another pot of pasta I was concious of the need to press on as I still had 60 miles to go and it was getting on for 5pm.

Loch Leven
I had initially planned on taking the B8004 over the other side of the River Lochy but being short on time I decided to stick to the A82 as the traffic wasn't too bad anyway. There were still one or two small climbs along the way but with a cross wind it was quite so hard going as earlier in the day.

Looking back towards Fort William
It was in the Great Glen that I first really started to reap the rewards for the effort I'd put in during the week. As the sun started to set over the mountains and reflect off the lochs it was really a wonderful place to cycle. I didn't have too much time to sit up and take in the views though as I wanted to get to our accommodation before it got dark. Even the sometimes dreadful road surfaces and the occasional racing Friday evening traffic couldn't dampen my spirits.

The Great Glen
I arrived in Drumnadrochit on the shores of Loch Ness in the gathering gloom, tired but elated knowing that tomorrow would be the last day and I could begin to relax knowing that I would complete the ride. The weather forecast only boosted my spirits further showing a bright sunny day with a west south westerly wind set to assist me on my way.


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