Squadron Leader Shane Spence from RAF Lossiemouth recently took on the Etape Loch Ness to raise money for our work. In this guest blog, Shane tells us all about this tough 66-mile cycle challenge.
As I was on the start line of the Etape Loch Ness at 6.30am on a cold Sunday morning in April with around 4,500 other cyclists, I was wishing I had kept my good ideas to myself.
I had met Zee Fletcher, the Scotland RAF Benevolent Fund Coordinator, at the Annual Reception last year where we chatted about fundraising for the Fund and how it might be a good idea to add some none running events to the list.
I suggested the Etape Loch Ness might be one to consider and the rest, as they say, is history. The RAF Benevolent Fund team consisted of Zee Fletcher, Kat Clark and myself.
The Etape Loch Ness is a 66-mile cycling event which circumnavigates Loch Ness. It started about 10 years ago with around 300 cyclists and has become ever more popular.
The reason it starts early on a Sunday morning is that the roads are closed for the event and so you can actually cycle along the A82 without putting yourself in grave danger!
The event is challenging as you have to maintain 13mph average speed to complete the event in the 5 ½ hour timeframe and there is also the infamous Glendoebeg climb half way through.
So there we were within a sea of lycra as we were called forward in waves to the start line. Then off we went along the A82 from Inverness along the north side of the Loch.
There were spectators already out cheering and encouraging us all along this stunning route, past Drumnadrochit, past the stunning Urquhart Castle and towards Fort Augustus which was the half-way point. Then it was on to the infamous leg burning, lung bursting, Glendoebeg hill which is around 360m of ascent in 6km.
On cresting the hill it was an exhilarating decent down to Whitebridge and Foyers reaching speeds of 35mph.
With tiring legs, it was onto Dores and then the finish in Inverness to cheering crowds, a Harry Gow's Iced Donut and a finishers goody bag.
It was a fantastic event, with a great atmosphere and stunning scenery. As an added bonus the team raised, at the last count, over £800 for the RAF Benevolent Fund.
The Etape Loch Ness has become an extremely popular event and this year all the places were taken within eight hours; therefore, pre-registering is essential. The ambition for next year's Etape Loch Ness is to enter an RAF Lossiemouth Team to again raise money for the RAF Benevolent Fund.
By Shane Spence