Bervie and Beyond A 150 km Audax,

By Wallace Shackleton



Held on 9th September 2001.

So far my 2001 Audax season has been very poor, so I thought that I would finish with a challenge, instead of a 100 km Audax I would extend myself and try a 150 km run. The weather on that Sunday morning was to say the least inclement, light rain showers propelled by a southerly 20 mph odd winds.
I was surprised to see such a low turn out, nobody from the Fife & Kinross DA, proof that there were folk out there with more sense than I, however ten is still a low turn out.
Starting off from Maryculter we made the now customary up hill start before going south onto the Stonehaven Road. Not having done a 150 before my tactic was to not to keep up with anyone but to go along at my own pace rather than run the risk of tiring myself out. The strategy seemed to work, though it was galling to be dropped so quickly, watching my fellow riders disappear into the distance.
My solitude was briefly relieved when a late starting couple on a tandem passed me, only to leave me as quickly as they had arrived. Down into Stonehaven and along the main street, good memories of past family holidays here - hell, I remember when this place had a fishing fleet!
I was relieved not to be going directly up onto the old coast road. Since the advent of the A90 by-pass, it has been made one way for (down) traffic, though it still allows cyclists to ascend as part of the North Sea Cycle Route. The Audax went up a small country road, which I never knew existed, emerging onto the coast road near Dunnottar Castle, from here it was along the coast, past Kinneff to Inverbervie where the route left the coast road and disappeared into Strathmore.
The trouble started shortly after leaving Inverbervie, the wind seemed to intensify as I climbed the gentle hillside, abating for a short while as I turned to head south again.
Near Marykirk, I stopped to pick up (a wind fall?) a rear light that had evidently fallen off a fellow riders bike.
Leaving Marykirk, I misread the route instructions and nearly went the wrong way, fortunately a running distance calculation showed that something was wrong and I found the new route without too much trouble. It just goes to show the benefit of keeping a close watch on the route sheet. I subtracted 0.5 km from the route sheet to synchronise with the trip computer - giving a discrepancy, which told me that I was about to go the wrong way.
Through Logie Pert, past what I later discovered to the site of RAF Stracathro, followed by a sprint across the A90 to the control at the Stracathro hospital canteen, (need to remember this place in the future, good eating and open until 6:30 PM) I did not intend on stopping, preferring to put my trust in eating energy bars every 25 km, however once inside I capitulated to the warmth and the promise of a rest. I even managed to reunite the rear light with its owners - I love a happy ending!
Back on the road, passing through the beautiful hospital grounds, then through Edzell and Fettercairn. Things started to unravel; the wind was now more in my face and I was starting to tire, I was also off my energy bars, a danger sign I know only too well - fatigue was setting in. (Why did I not listen to myself?) The road to Clattering Bridge was hell, the head wind was so strong everyone had to pedal hard just to go down hill. I stopped for a rest and a meal at the Control (84 km), another nice place to eat.
Setting out was fun, the 12% (1:8) climb was not that bad I took exception to the heavy rain shower which dampened my spirits, on and on through the picturesque Drumtochty Glen, then a turn northwards into the wind to run alongside Fetteresso Forest. Sixteen kilometres of agony and ecstasy, the wind for the first part was murderous, then it seemed to turn round becoming a tail wind until the turning for Rickarton, when it changed to a head wind for the climb to the Slug Road.
My weakened resolve started to crack under the relentless head wind. A short rest did nothing for me except to place me as the last rider. Turning onto the Slug Road and the innocuous climb past the Durris transmitter was the final straw when I made the decision to pack in and return to the finish.
Much soul searching had gone on, I told myself that having worked on Friday night shift and not sleeping well on Saturday and the wind all had contributed to a bad situation. I was mentally and physically exhausted and it was time to call it a day.
The real irony came on the way back to the control, I actually started to feel better; my headache had lessened, my knees were not hurting anymore and I started eating again. Perhaps I could have gone the distance - don't you just hate uncertainty?
I joined most of the other riders back at the Final Control in the Maryculter, the couple on the tandem arrived just as was departing for home, leaving the other couple as the last to finish, which should have been my job. Looking back I was pushed to the edges of my physical and mental limits, battered by the wind and deprived of sleep, I can now fully sympathise with the more experienced riders who undertake the longer Audax runs - you have my sincerest respect.
All said and done I managed 132 km out of 150 km in seven and half hours, averaging 18 kph.

My personal thanks goes to Roger Mattingley and his wife for organising the Deeside Audax weekend.He tells me that there will be no Audaces next year, taking a well earned holiday, I will see you in 2003, I have a grudge to settle!