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Blue Eskimo Scotland 29/30th July 2000.

 Team: David Ogden (Scotland) Sonya Clark (New Zealand) Sonya Thomson (New Zealand) Primus Lambert. (England)

Friday 28th July. Drove down to Glasgow in a van to met the two Sonya's and transport them and bikes to the Army Camp at Gairlochhead which was the race headquarters. Arrived at camp 2145 and were allocated to dormitories. Race bibs, start times and map of course were handed out Primus traveled up from Southampton and arrived 2230. We met up and introduced ourselves, before retiring for the night.

Saturday 29th July Race briefing was held at 0500, a reiteration of some of the rules and a demonstration on abseiling, warning given regarding the scourge of Scotland "The Midge". At the end of the briefing, the locations of the checkpoints were handed out. Competitors were advised that a gear check would be carried out between 0700 -0730. Two gear bins were allocated to each team, these bins were used to transport gear, food and water to each of the transitions points. Before breakfast at 0600 we plotted out the course and the order of play was set out as Mountain Biking, Short Run, Canoeing, Short Run, Trekking/run, Abseil, Trekking/run, Mountain Biking, Trekking/run and finally Mountain Biking. There were cut-offs set at end of Canoeing, at the Abseil, and at end of 2nd Mountain Bike section.

A fairly thorough check was made of compulsory equipment and one or two teams had to borrow spare items from other teams, then the teams gathered together at the starting gate. The teams were dispatched at two-minute intervals. Our start time was 0810. We made last minute checks and then were off, a short downhill section on tarmac before joining a main road with a moderate climb, thereafter it was downhill for a while, we stopped briefly as Sonya's (small) chain came off. We climbed another small hill before starting a quite steep twisting decent, as we neared the bottom we rounded a bend to find a car stopped in the road, A woman from one of the leading teams had crashed and was unconscious in the road. Assistance was available so we rode slowly past and waved down cars coming in the opposite direction. A bit further along was a marshal's car and we asked him to stop the traffic. (We learnt later that the woman's helmet was split in half and she was kept in hospital overnight with a badly cut/grazed face). The road flattened out along the loch side and it was here we made our first mistake by overshooting a turn off onto a forest road. We were in company with a number of teams, all who were looking for a non-existent telephone box prior to the turning. We eventually realised our error and retraced our steps. The forest road was a long moderate climb and at one stage we rode past the first checkpoint with another team, Sonya (tall) saw the marker but assumed it was for later use. Some time later we realised our mistake and I returned with Primus to stamp our passport (Moral of story ensure all team know where course markers are expected) Returning once more up the hill now in last place we picked up the girls and continued on to the summit. We caught up with one team at the summit who seemed unsure of the way to go, we had little doubt and were soon on our way along an undulating gravel track, off road at last (smile) at the next checkpoint we caught up with another team, the question was which was the quickest way to the next CP, we decided rather than continue along the track, we would descend the hillside following a stream, carrying our bikes. We negotiated our way down the hill slipping and sliding at times through the trees and eventually reached the road by the loch side. We had a straightforward cycle around the head of the loch and eventually arrived at the first transition point. We were pleased to note that we had overtaken the team we had met up with at the previous CP. Dumped our bikes and prepared for canoeing leg, a short run through the woods and a campsite then down to the water. Once in the canoes we set off down the loch, where in the distance we could see other teams. The water was calm with a slight breeze, however as we made our way down the loch the rain started, lightly at first and then harder so we halted briefly to don waterproof jackets. About two-thirds down the loch we met the leading team on their way back. There was only one team in sight behind us and when we reached the next CP they appeared to stop for a rest. The return journey was uneventful; once again we were gaining on the teams ahead.

Another quick run through the wood to the next transition, Chance to refill water bladders and take on food, three other teams were in Transition so we were working our way up the field. The next leg started with a gentle climb on a forest track, some teams started to run this part however a little further on we turned on to a small path up a steep bank, after a few hundred feet the path levelled out again and we could see the three teams ahead of us, they appeared to have missed the shortcut up the top of the Brack, so we got ahead of them, following a narrow track along a water course. The climb was quite steep and at one point I had to stop with cramp in calf, however prompt action by Sonya had us all underway after some ten minutes, by this time though the three teams had passed us. As we neared the summit we met one team descending, and asked if there was a problem, they replied no they were heading for the next checkpoint (wrong way).

Once on top we looked across a valley to the next CP on Cnoc Coinnich. The teams ahead of us took the option to descend into the valley, we however made use of a ridge to take us around the valley without the need to loose so much height. Once again tactics was right and were moving up the field. Having bagged the next CP(9) it was a matter of working out the best way to reach the abseil point at the end of the peninsular. Once again we stayed high making use of ridges, before descending through a wood onto a forest track. We continued along the track until we reached private land then climbed up a steep bank onto a plateau. The question was where was the abseil point; eventually we spotted the ropes on a rock face just behind us. In the briefing we had been told that on completion of the abseil there was a rope we had to follow leading to a path back up the cliff. We made use of this path to get to the head of the abseil. Arriving with a few minutes to spare before the cut-off to change into climbing gear down the abseil, then back up the path once more.

Another team resting at the top withdrew at this stage, due to an injury, so we gained another place. We now faced a three-hour hike back to the mountain bike transition at the other end of the peninsular. We started with a small climb and then descended a few switchbacks, passing by a Lochan (lake) to which we would have to return on our bikes. The evening hike was quite pleasant however as darkness drew in the midges began to gather, as we met teams struggling up the hill they gave messages that the transition area was infested with midges, making it most uncomfortable.

We arrived at the transition about 2300, refilled our water and ate a late supper, after about half an hour, two other teams joined us. We consulted our maps to see what still lay ahead of us. We needed to reach the next transition by 0400, however looking beyond that we realised that this would give us only 5 hours to complete the final two legs, as Primus needed to be on the road south shortly after midday. There was also the possibility that we might not make the 0400 cut-off, as it was mostly uphill to the Lochan. We discussed the pros and con's and eventually decided to retire. By doing this Primus would be able to set off earlier and the two Sonya's' who had not been to Scotland before could do some Mountain Biking with myself the following day.

We passed our decision to the marshals who arranged to transport us and our gear back to the camp, where we were able to get a few hours sleep before breakfast. The leading team Mawn-Y- Wrach completed the race at 0736, they had had a little difficulty during the night trying to find a path shown on the map which appeared not to exist. They were followed in by Educated Marras and The Avengers at 1030 and 1100. These were the only three teams to finish!

OVERVIEW
The race is quite long and in order to complete within the time limits required a fast pace which requires some running at times. The race was well organised and Marshals very helpful, my only comment would be that given that some transition points were used more than once, the opportunity was lost to provide an alternative shorter course for teams unable to meet the cut-off times.