Hit by a Headwind
Last night’s course change and today’s headwind have hit the teams and the race organisation hard, and it’s been a tough day for all.
Teams have struggled to make progress, whether portaging on land or in a choppy sea against the wind. The enforced change left teams with a longer portage to the coast and it was harder to find a route, and of course going out of your way is magnified when you are pulling a kayak cross-country!
The leaders were well behind schedule, but racing hard and making good progress, and the rest of the field were much further behind. At the end of the paddle at Ardessie the next stage was the Pharaoh Canyon, a descent organised by ‘The Canyoning Company’. The latest arrival time to do the canyon was gradually pushed back with the helpful staff agreeing to stay on as late as possible to get as many teams as possible through.
The expectation had been to have teams in the canyon all day today but in the end 9 teams were able to make the descent. It a short walk up the hill over the road from the transition, the teams came down a series of slides, waterfall descents and flying foxes, all in quick succession, to arrive back at the road. The waterfalls were small but descending through them got the pulse racing!
Two of these teams who arrived together were Lochland Runners and Endurancelife Development Team. Lochland Runners told me, “The portage was hard as we are three girls on our team, so we had to take one kayak forward with all of us, then go back for the other, again and again.” Tim Martin the first time racer with Endurancelife DT joked it was “one of the top 10 worst days of my life”, but he was still managing to smile, especially after the canyon and a slow transition to prepare for the next trek.
Both these teams are very experienced at tactical races that have multiple options, and both knew gaining time early on is the best tactic. It allows them to manage the race and make choices later on the course, rather than rush from cut-off to cut-off. Lochland had taken the short course on the first ride and missed Suilven, while Endurancelife DT had climbed Suilven. It gained them some penalties, but by doing the canyon they avoided an 8 hour penalty and are now well placed.
To stay on the full course teams had to leave Ardessi by 19.00, after that it was mandatory to take the short course route on the next trek. A couple of teams had to rush to complete the canyon in time, and the last of these was the other Endurancelife team. They were the fifth and final full course team to leave and bundled out of Transition with their kit minutes before 19.00, than packed on the track.
Of course this left most of the teams still having not arrived, and some were not going to make it. Some stopped at Achiltibuie, and the race has arranged for them to be picked up by bus and brought to Ardessie and to continue the race from there. They will then have to leave by 5am at the latest tomorrow morning, but probably earlier if they want to make it to the rafting.
Some other teams pulled in to Ullapool, or nearby, and they had the option to walk cross country from there (without their kayaks) to Ardessie, so they could continue under their own power. Team Turbaina and Beacon Adventure Racing decided to do that and the others are also being picked up by bus.
All of which will bring the race back together overnight and allow teams to move on completing as much of the course as possible.