Saturday 2nd September I’m cycling the UK’s biggest climb Bealach na Bà raising money for the MS Society. And all being well on Sunday 3rd, I’ll cycle it in the opposite direction - Bealach both ways!
Bealach na Bà is the UK’s biggest climb at 2,053ft. It achieves that in around 6 miles from Tornapress to Applecross in the Scottish Highlands. In the opposite direction it’s almost as brutal with similar elevation in 5 pain-filled miles from Applecross.
I’m participating in the cycling sportive, Bealach Mor, which is the Saturday and starts in Kinlochewe, It covers 90 miles with the Bealach featuring just before half way. On the Sunday I’m planning a solo 47 mile route from the cottage we’re staying in which hits the north side of the Bealach after 34 miles.
I started cycling a couple of years ago, and after completing my first sportives last year I was looking for a challenge to target in 2017. I originally planned to do the Tour of the Highlands in May, but three weeks before I came off the bike and managed to break my collarbone which put a hold on that, and a hold on my cycling for a few weeks. I deferred my entry to Tour of the Highlands and will complete it in 2018.
Bealach Mor is an annual cycling sportive run by Hands on Events. A couple of hundred like-minded two-wheel enthusiasts head for a remote part of the Highlands to takle the UK's biggest climb. It starts in Kinlochewe and navigates clockwise, Achnasheen, Lochcarron, Applecross, Shieldaig and back to Kinlochewe. This year it's on Saturday 2nd September.
Bealach Mor - 89.6miles, 7,173ft of ascent
On Sunday 3rd September, weather permitting, I'm planning on a solo route to takle the Bealach from the other direction.
Bealach-the-other-way - 47.7miles, 4,908ft of ascent
Done :) - 3rd September
Bring on the Bealach - 26th August
I successfully (this time) got round my last event before the Bealach today - Tour of Tweeddale in the Scottish Borders. It was a good one with some good climbs to test the legs on.
Southern Uplands Audax - 12th August
Big ride alert! I pushed my longest ride to 254 miles in the Southern Uplands Audax. Starting at 6am from Musselburgh it was a 400km mammoth, and I finished just before 1am the next morning having completed my first hours of darkness. Full details here.
Broke my collarbone - 6th May
So, it was the last event before the big one, and what did I do 50 miles in? Ran out of talent, hit the deck and broke my collarbone. Unfortunately that meant I had to postpone the Tour of the Highlands to 2018, but I have selected Bealach Mor in September as it's replacement.
Big MS 200 ride - 15th April
I kicked this off with a ride in the shape of the letters MS - 103 miles this time I thought 200 miles would be good. A couple of friends and I headed out on 15th April for an incredible day in the saddle. Full details here.
First Audax - 5th March
I’d had my eye on Audax for a little while now, and spotted the Forth & Tay 200km event on the calendar. A bit different to other events that I’ve done it is much more self-sufficient, relaxed and the first I’ve done with controls (where you need to get some proof of passage at a location). Start and finish in South Queensferry, then Dollar, Auchterarder, Tayport, St Andrews and Falkland - so a mix of familiar and unfamiliar roads. The weather was great. The 130 miles was completed in around 10 hours 30 mins, and plenty of cake was eaten! Full writeup and photos here.
First century of 2017 - 19th February
It's the time of year when "reliability trial" events crop up. I headed for the Kennoway Road Club event and tagged my ride to/from it to round the day out at 103 miles. It was brisk in the tail wind (25mph average speed) and then pretty brutal when we turned to face it. A good event with a good spread of cake laid on when we finished :)
Monikie Duathlon - 12th February, 8th January, 11th December
A bit of something different over the winter, I entered my first duathlon, the Angus Bike Chain Monikie Winter Series. 4km run, 21km bike, 4km run was the format. I hadn't done much running, and was niggled by slight injuries by trying to pick it up quickly, that said it was a lot of fun and I'll definitely be entering again next year. In the end I placed 17th from 55 with a total time of 3:32:06.
Kick off - a big MS - 23rd October
With a little inspiration I decided to kick this off by drawing the letters MS with a route, and naturally it had to be a century :) It ended up being a tough ride, clockwise with an easterly wind, so a headwind towards the end, oh and a bit of October weather (rain). My mug ended up in the local paper - there's no backing out now :)
I started cycling in 2015, and completed my first sportive events last year (Etape Caledonia, Tour o the Borders). My longest ride to date was a jaunt to Glen Clova, 130 miles, but mostly my riding is the 34 mile round trip commute from St Andrews to Dundee.
That trip to Glen Clova piqued my interest and set me looking out a challenge for 2017. Having spotted Tour of the Highlands while keeping it quiet I arranged a double century weekend (Len Reid Memorial Ride 103 miles, Fife Century Reliability Trial 106 miles) to test the waters. This being successful I made my entry and thought about how to kick it all off…
With a little inspiration I decided to do a route in the shape of a big "MS". Completing this in October the challenge is now on. You can follow my progress on this page, my JustGiving page (please donate :), or by following me on Strava or Twitter.
Just training for this will be a challenge, with some big miles, and big climbs to be done. Tour of the Highlands is going to be one of the biggest challenges I've faced on the bike, and with your support raising funds for the MS Society will give me the extra strength to crest the final punishing climbs.
MS is the most common progressive neurological condition affecting young adults, with diagnosis generally between the ages of 20 and 40. MS is the result of damage to the myelin - a protective sheath surrounding nerve fibres of the central nervous system. When myelin is damaged this interferes with messages from the brain and other parts of the body causing a wide range of symptoms including fatigue, mobility issues and problems with co-ordination.
There is currently no cure for MS. For some people, MS is characterised by periods of relapse and remission while for others it has a progressive pattern. For everyone, it makes life unpredictable.
The MS Society depends entirely on charitable fundraising and the support of the public and volunteers to be able to do their work.
Please help me in helping them to raise funds for this worthy cause.
- JustGiving page for donations and more details.
- Strava profile to follow my training and all rides and runs.
- Twitter account for updates about this and whatever else is going on :)
Comments? Tweet me @mealybar, smoke signals, or homing pigeon, or something :)