Over the next few months, we’re going to feature a new guest blog as we follow Anna and Fiona as they prepare for Strathpuffer – the legendary 24 hour MTB race that’s held in the Scottish Highlands in the depths of winter. Over to Fiona to explain more...
The Strathpuffer is not an event for the faint hearted, it’s renowned for being one of the most challenging 24 hour mountain bike races in the world and it takes part right here in Scotland. The Scottish Highlands to be precise, in January with 17 hours of darkness – grim, dark and freezing with unpredictable weather conditions that can serve up anything from, snow, ice, rain, mud and grit.
Competitors attempt to do as many laps of the 12.3km course as possible in 24 hours as either soloists, pairs or quads. Endura are kindly supporting Anna Riddell and me (Fiona Finnie) to ride the event as a pair. We’ve both done the Strathpuffer before in quads or solo but this is our first time doing it in a pair. Truth be told, riding your bike for 24 hours is the easy part, the real challenge is in the training and preparation.
When it comes to Strathpuffer there is a lot to think about - you need to be physically fit and strong, but that’s nothing without the mental strength to persevere when the going gets tough. You need to carefully consider your kit and equipment - mud tyres, ice tyres, spares, support crew, lights, food, spare clothes… One thing that we’re sure of is that whatever conditions the ‘Puffer throws at us, we’ll be kitted out with the ultimate in performance gear from the MT500 range.
We first met in a coach/client scenario. Anna is head of RideOut Coaching and offers mountain bike coaching and trail days throughout the north of Scotland. Since those first coaching sessions, we’ve become great friends, Scottish Enduro racing buddies and more recently, I’m is now assisting at her RideOut trail days.
It isn’t easy for these us to organise a training ride together. I work full time as a Marketing Manager and Anna juggles the busy coaching business around family life and school drop offs, so training time is scarce. We decided on Torridon for our first official training ride as it is the perfect backdrop to set the scene for the training months to come. Harsh, rugged and wild. We were desperate to get out into the mountains and have an epic ride after a long summer of lockdown. It seemed like the perfect excuse for a bit of an adventure.
Our chosen route was the ‘Torridon Classic’ a 50km loop with over 1000 metres of climbing which takes in spectacular scenery, rugged landscapes and arguably two of the best descents in Scotland. There really was no better place to start our training – horizontal rain, howling wind, bogs, hike-a-bike and midges - challenging but rewarding conditions. We were cold, wet but absolutely buzzing. It was just so much fun.
Perhaps one of the toughest things about preparing for the 2021 Strathpuffer is the uncertainty around whether the event will be able to go ahead. Covid-19 has meant the cancellation of a number of sporting events and there is no guarantee that it will be able to go ahead. Part of the reason we love this kind of race is having a goal and a reason to train but will we be able to stay motivated for an event that might not happen?
Over the next few months we’ll be documenting our antics and training, stay tuned for updates.