Thirteenth Puffer - lucky for some?
I believe you make your own luck. Of course there are exceptions and we all know at least one jammy individual who has by-passed meritocracy, whose toast always lands butter side up and everything seems to go their way. But then, natural justice always prevails. The universe has a canny way of balancing out these things just like truth always overcomes evil and the good will out.
Anyway, we all know fortune favours the brave and on a seriously snowy sub-zero Saturday in mid January two sisters followed in their father's footsteps and had a go without a care in the world of what would happen next. Best way to race. As my soulmate says "Be the best you can be". Results, times and positions are just a way of creating a superficial pecking order for egotists. I firmly believe it's all about personal performance, not global positioning.
And our two wee girls performed to the best of their ability at Strathpuffer 2018. The eldest, Katie, now just about a teenager had done zero Puffer training, bar a Friday evening a week before the Puffer when we tested out the gear with Barbara and had an ace sleepover at her and Ian's munching on kebabs and slurping home brew, red wine and fizzy juice. Her sister two years her junior, Lucia spends most of her free time making pop videos on her iPhone. Thank God they're enrolled with the Scouts and play on their trampoline. We wish we could have more time with them.
So when they stood on the podium finishing the Puffer in second place with 4 laps each in their legs, cumulatively over 100km of riding and nearly 3000 metres of climbing in physically demanding conditions where it is only light for 7 hours, was I surprised? Not really.
I always eat my dog food. And I've always told them the same old mantra...
"Aim for Jupiter and you might get to the moon".
It's all about positive energy and mindset. Nothing is impossible when there is hope and not expectation. Dream big and see what happens. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Those who try to impede you are jealous and have nothing to offer the human race because they are worthless and want you to be too. Don't listen to the naughty kids in the classroom, who have no ambition of their own and therefore don't want you to better yourself, listen to the teacher who wants to see you strive.
Lucia, a serial worrier, was anxious that The Adventure Show may not show their interviews with Dougie and Andy if they came last. Hels blew that one out of the water.
"Even if you do come last, you've beaten all those who didn't turn up, who don't have your courage and opt for a box set of excuses instead".
And they didn't come last, far from it. But that doesn't matter, because in the eyes of Helen and I, even if they did come last, they are true champions, because they challenged themselves, were willing to get out of their comfort zone and they are much better human beings for it. The world is a terrible place, as I've unfortunately and naively found out to my chagrin - full of narcissists, machiavellians, sociopaths, sadists or combinations of all four (the dark tetrad my psychology course informs me), but these innocent, open, kind, generous, funny and inspiring wee lassies are a credit to mankind because I said so (and I'm biased).
On a lighter note - back to the race.
It may have been the thirteenth Puffer, but the number 4 seemed to pop up all over the place. Just shy of becoming a Super Veteran (he clearly had an easy paper round), Keith Forsyth charged his way to his fourth consecutive solo title, giving both girls huge shouts as he always does as he passed us like he'd been fired out of gun. When Lucia was being interviewed by Andy at the top of the fire road, Keith had me in fits with a "Go the mighty Entwistles!" shout as the light came up and KFC started to override Jelly Babies in Lucia's mind - so Jason Miles helped me polish them off as the race was drawing to a close in addition to the Drambuie I'd left out for him on a seat by the van, closely guarded by Kermit the Frog. You had to be there, the Puffer throws up a lot of randomness because the whole event feels like a modern day Lewis Carroll novel. Jason, a two-time solo winner of this race (and outright on a singlespeed) just like Keith, was supremely supportive and encouraging of the girls as he too passed us on many occasions, often stopping for a quick chat, or riding with us for a section. That's the thing with the top guys and girls, they are respectful of all riders regardless of ability, unlike a number of Jason and Keith wannabes who were quite intimidating, particularly to Lucia. Thankfully, Lucia had Helen to sort them out. "You're not going to win" she shouted at one idiot. Don't mess with Hels, she (mercifully) killed another deer last week on the way to work that had been critically injured and had created a traffic standstill. It must be hard being a vet as you must be hard at times to be a vet.
Back to the number 4. Even though the girls shared the family heirloom - the Kona MuniMula, 4 different people have raced that bike at Puffer. Mike Dennison was looking in fine form for his fourth Puffer, two years after getting a new hip a month after he and I came third in the pairs in 2016.
Emily Murphy and ace buddy Richard Lawes secured 4th solo place in their first 24 hour race and this year Barbara assembled an all female quad team (who came last in their category and frankly didn't care) had a hoot - I know this because we were parked next to them! Barbara's better half, Ian Taylor rounded off the 4 soloists I was keeping an eye out, with an amazing 10 laps. Rival time triallist and runner up at the Scottish National hill climbing championships, Liam Beaty stopped for a chat in seemingly disbelief (I don't know why), he and his team had won the male quad competition. Awesome to the power of 4!
It was a Puffer that will last long in the memory - from Lucia making Dougie Vipond a cup of tea in her kitchen on Friday morning to the four of us sharing a post Puffer KFC family bucket on Sunday in Inverness complete with a huge bottle of a popular orangey fizzy juice and four cups.
4 for Tango.