After Pitlochry it began to get dark, and by Blair Atholl it was definitely night, with the hint of a headwind. Somehow, including the stop for lights etc., I had lost more time, and was now just over two hours down.
The climb is then steady and continuous for over 15 miles. I knew that I could split it into three parts.
The first stretch is around the Blair bypass to Calvine. Then you climb for five miles to Dalnacardoch Lodge, where the dual carriageway starts. Finally, you strain your eyes for five miles watching for the sign to Dalnaspidal Lodge. When this finally appears, you know you're near the top. Of course, it's never that simple, as there's still a further two miles to go - but by that time, your enthusiasm is up & ready for the descent. I reached the summit at 11:25pm, 2hr 10 mins down.
There then followed perhaps ten miles of descent, but it wasn't steep enough to freewheel down. This was confusing, because I'd freewheeled down it in May. I seemed to be slowing dramatically whenever I stopped pedalling. I might as well have been still climbing for the effort I was putting in!
Passing Dalwhinnie, Newtonmore and Kingussie, I was feeling sleepy again, and so took another 10 minute break. The road now starts to climb, and I optimistically presumed that I was on the run-up to the Slochd summit. However, after several miles of (light) climbing, I recognised the hotels of Aviemore beside the road. What a drag....the real work hadn't even started.
If Drumochter had seemed a long time coming, then the "Slochd Summit" signs took forever. I felt good, and was climbing quite positively - I hadn't been off the big ring (48) since Cowdenbeath. However after three or four false ends I knew that the summit had got to come soon, or I would be at risk of fading. At last, it was there, and I began the freewheel to Inverness.
Well, that's the way it would be if life was simple. There are two interruptions to the downhill slope to Inverness, and the second one (nearly there!) brought me down to walking pace. 700 miles passed in 42 hours - about 2hr 10mins down on schedule, but of course still comfortably ahead of the record.
Eventually the lights of Inverness appeared, at about 3:30am. What a set of lights! I was convinced that there must have been all-night celebration going on, as everything seemed to be fully illuminated. However, when I finally reached the Kessock bridge it was clear that nothing was going on, as the only sign of life was a solitary enthusiast pointing the way for me.
I wouldn't have expected to classify the bridge as a "climb", but I was down to 8 mph before zooming away from its summit. Once on the Black Isle, there is the prospect of over 5 miles climbing.
Any traffic which may have kept me company as far as Inverness had now disappeared. Consequently, the hallucinations which had surfaced sporadically now became more intense.
I had already become accustomed to seeing people ahead with drinks, who turned into trees, signposts or lampposts as I approached. Along this stretch, though, I was hearing voices and seeing human faces on all sorts of plants, trees etc. The ultimate vision was the group of four people in the layby. As I approached, they turned into three plants, and a sack of rubbish!
Another quote from Mr Woodburn sprang to mind at this stage. He had said, in his sage-like way: "When you start, all you want to do is to beat the record. When you get to Inverness, you know you're going to make it - then you can start thinking about how much you'll knock off the record.". Personally, I think that a home-straight of 120 miles is something more than a formality!
Meanwhile, I was climbing towards the roundabout at Tore. I was given advance warning of the roundabout by a huge sign, saying that there was one mile to go. Several minutes later, there was another huge sign - this time it was half a mile to go. Around a bend, and there was the final approach, with another giant sign. After all that preparation, there were no cars - just a solitary marshall!
The road climbs a little further, then descends towards the Cromarty Firth, where there is a bridge across. I knew there was a bridge, and I'd been over the bridge. However, I couldn't see the bridge as I tore (ha ha) down the slope. I got worried, and I wondered what to do if the bridge wasn't there any more. I guess I was tired.