Earlier this month the annual Cairngorm to Coast challenge took place with participants braving torrential rain to undertake a 30km hike and 70km bike ride for our charity. David Scott, the first cyclist over the line, recounts his journey.
When I came across the Cairngorm to Coast I couldn't resist signing up. As a fundraiser for the RAF Benevolent Fund, I knew I had to raise at least £150, so set to work flogging overpriced chocolate bars in the office.
Fundraising done, it was time to start thinking about the event itself. I was intending on running the first 30k section, and then switching onto a mountain bike for the Dava Way, and a road bike for the final section. My run training had been going well in the build up, with a number of ultra marathons already this year, as well as the London Marathon.
Friday afternoon saw me arrive in Lossiemouth – a great chance to meet a few of our fellow participants. The next day, we all lined up outside for a team photo, and with that, we were off!
There were a mix of walkers and runners, and the two groups quickly separated, with around a dozen at the front end of the pack, starting a mad dash down the ski road. The drone flying overhead no doubt captured the nervous look on many faces, as we set off on this 100km journey to the coast.
Before long, we were directed off the ski road, and on to a trail that dropped through the forest, and followed down towards Glenmore Lodge.
Before we knew it, we had climbed out of the Glenmore forest, and were heading up the Ryvoan pass. Then it was into the beautiful pine forests of Nethy.
We crossed the main road at the old smokehouse, and then over the Spey, into the woods that lead to Grantown. It's not the easiest to navigate once you are in there, with paths going off at all different angles, but through a combination of luck and good judgment, we found ourselves popping out at the Training Centre where our bikes were parked up.
Cycling to the finish line
On with the cycling shirt, helmet, bike shoes and gloves; a quick banana, and then I was back outside. It was onto the bike, and then a long climb through Grantown, past the caravan site, and up onto the railway line.
I managed to build up a reasonable pace again, feeling the benefit of the wind, and despite the ground being so wet, I just rode on through the endless puddles on the railway. A couple of brief hellos as I passed through the various checkpoints on route, and before long, I was passing the Dallas Dhu distillery on the approach into Forres.
It was all a bit quiet, as I seemed to be much earlier than anticipated, having completed the Dava Way in around 1 hour 40 minutes. Forres seemed a bit of a ghost town in the rain, and I don't think I saw a single car as I passed through.
I passed the Loft, and then turned right onto the narrow lane that would take me in a straight line round the back of Duffus Castle. From there, it was a left turn and only a few kilometres to the finish. Finally I had made it – 5 hours and 22 minutes after leaving Cairngorm, I had reached Lossiemouth.
It was great to get changed into dry clothes as I waited for other participants to finish. Everyone had given it their all, and really suffered in the cold and wet conditions. However, they all arrived with beaming smiles on their faces, delighted at what they had achieved.
What a great day out it was. The feeling of passing through mountains, forests, open moors, and sprawling farmland made for an incredible journey. This was a fantastic event, on one of the best long distance routes in the country, with some amazing people.
By David Scott
Cairngorm to Coast was organised by Team RAFBF Lossiemouth, a volunteer group who fundraise throughout the year for the Fund. The first walker over the finish line at Grantown was Barbara Brown-Villedieu, who completed the event in 4hrs 53minutes. This year, the event hopes to make £10,000.