The Strahpuffer is an extraordinary event, if fact its quite nuts, really, honestly its one of the maddest events in Scotland. Imagine its January the nights are long, the xmas excesses are still hanging on your belly and its dark at 4 o’clock and light again if your lucky about 8 in the morning.
Add to this camping in a forest near Dingwall in conditions that might range from extreme minus cold to winter midnight rain and or all of these and ice and snow on the ground. Ok you’ve go the picture, add to this a mountain bike a looped course through a forest and over a windswept moor and 500 hundred riders all determined to ride continuously for 24 hours through day and night with 15 hours of darkness, and you have one of the top 10 toughest mountain bike events in the world.
The Puffer as its affectionately known, is as far as I know the longest night stage mountain bike event in the world. I have for my sins tried to compete in the madness, In the early days of my presenting Job for the Adventure Show we entered a team of 4, Dougie Vipond has fatefully tried it solo, only to have to forcibly withdraw, having head butted the frozen ground leaving more addled then he normally seems. It’s an extraordinary challenge, for almost all the participants winning is out of the question as at the elite end you have to produce almost incomprehensible performances. For a mortal, last years coerce was taking 2 hours to complete one circuit and riding more than 4 circuits is a pretty good day out; The best were riding the circuit in well under an hour and doing this every hour for 24 hours solid. It’s a testament to ultra endurance determinations and fitness, truly amazing.
For my part, my naive performance is nothing to write home about, I remember the day circuits the twilight and night circuits at 11-12 midnight. I also remember lying in my soaking wet sleeping bag with cramps running up my hamstrings. But most of all I remember failing physiologically to be able to bully myself into getting on the bike again. I do regret this and every year we film the event brings me to the same question, why did I stop when I did, why when many others continued did I bale out, maybe, working and riding is a weird mixed headspace to be in, maybe, I really was finished and not fit enough, or maybe for this sort ultra endurance activity I do not have the mental toughness to keep going. If it’s the latter I should try and rectify this, as I do think of myself as having endurance and stamina, after all I have proved this many times over to myself in other adventure situations.
Why put yourself through something like this you may ask, well the answer is quite simple. if you have to ask you will never know. The 2011 event is now past but there is always next year and the year after, and the one after that.