Naomi Freireich, an endurance mountain biker based in Edinburgh, Scotland is back with the second in her series of blog posts written exclusively for Chain Reaction Cycles.
In her latest blog, Naomi recounts a recent adventure into the West Highland Way, proving that even the best plans need to be adaptable…
“I’ve had this idea…” You know when Stuart starts a sentence like this that you’re in for an adventure. And it’s usually a crazy one. This was no exception. Mountain bike the length of the West Highland Way, then run back down again. Non-stop. In winter.
Now, Stuart’s pretty hardcore, and knew I had experience of both riding the West Highland Way and supporting a run over it too. The logic was that I’d pace him on the bike and my partner Charlie, who has run it a couple of times, would chum him on the run back. We’d support each other in a van, two people on the trail and one supporting, each way. We liked the simplicity of the plan.
Trouble is, planning for an adventure like this demands a degree of flexibility and adapting. Things are liable to go awry and you have to be prepared to improvise.
In our case, Charlie got held up on his way back from Canada on the Friday we were due to start, which left us supportless. Thankfully I’ve got a mate who has helped me out at races before who happened to have a ‘spare’ weekend and he pitched in last minute to help out. So 3 became 4 and Charlie joined us part way up the route when he could.
And then there was the kit. Having reliable gear that you trust is imperative when planning an adventure. Having one less thing to worry about if plans change can turn a potential disaster into a minor hiccup. It’s really important that you’ve got a well maintained bike, carry spares and enough tools to get yourself off the trails if something breaks, and at night time, powerful, reliable lights that illuminate the trails are key. Spare clothes and emergency supplies are vital too, especially if you’re out in the wilds.
On top of all that there was the weather itself. A winter West Highland Way is challenging any way you do it. Doing it twice is exponentially so. By the time we got to Glencoe, 75 miles in, the winds were up at 55 mph and the water that had been coming down, coupled with the snow melt, had left all the streams in spate and flooding a lot of the trail. To continue over the next section could be hazardous and potentially impassible.
We had to make a call.
Do we attempt to get to Fort William and risk injury, delay or failure due to flooding, thereby risking our ability to return the full distance? Or do we turn around now and make it a 75 mile duathlon along the WHW?
And I guess that’s the great thing about adventures. They are exactly what you make them, they are adaptable and they are always a success, even if you don’t complete what you originally set out to do. Ultimately you have the adventure no matter what! In actual fact, the more that goes wrong, the more of an adventure it becomes. And the better the stories are afterwards!
And so we turned round. Charlie and Stuart ran the 75 miles back to Milngavie and the whole weekend was the incredible, adventure we’d hoped for, and one we’d certainly remember.
Looking forward to my next blog post! If you want to keep in touch with what I’m up to, follow me on Instagram:
Images courtesy of Iain Macintosh – IMac Images Photography.