Highland Trail 560
I’ve entered. Al Goldsmith has added an extra loop on to the northern part of the route, taking the riding up to an overwhelming 560 miles. Scary.
Luckily I have until the end of May 2014 to prepare – I’ll need all the time I’ve got.
Horizontal rain/sleet. A bastard headwind. A short climb on tired legs. Wonderful. Jenn’s Timbuk2 slung over my left shoulder, weightless, waiting to carry a bottle of single malt home with me. I’m on the right side of underdressed. I can feel the weather – I’m not insulated against it, but I’m not subjected to the full harshness of the wind. By the top of the climb, I can no longer feel my hands, but my legs are alive.
A whole week off work. Holiday. Time with my favourite person and my family in a beautiful part of the world. Nothing on the agenda other than having fun and relaxing. Work has been getting on top of me. Life has been getting on top of me. Imperceptibly the weight bearing down on me has been growing. I don’t think I have necessarily dealt with it well. Maybe it is because it was imperceptible… In the same way that a skydiver appears to shoot upwards when their parachute is opened, it is only when the weight has been lifted that I notice I was falling.
Thoughts of work creep into my mind while I am away, but I don’t dwell. I can distract myself with the stunning views, the deep rich autumnal shades, map contours, unfamiliar place names, possibilities.
My head still feels full. No room to process, just act. The act of riding, of being close to important people, of running, of being outside, of eating and drinking, of reading. This is enough.
The sun is out by the time I leave Tomintoul. I have been lectured on the virtues of non-chill filtered, uncoloured whiskies, and have left with a lighter wallet, though heavier bag. My legs have cooled. The temperature has dropped as the sky cleared. The sun sits low in a cobalt sky. The oranges and browns of the leaves are intensified. The still-wet tarmac shines, and my tyres sound sticky as they roll.
The wind has spun around and I pedal to maintain speed down hill. Onwards.