The 2024 Gralloch – we go again

My first, in fact, THE first Gralloch last year was fun. Big fun. But it felt like a bit of a learning exercise, and this year my firness was much better. I was excited, and, dare I say relaxed? I was just going to throw myself into it with all that I learned in 2023. But that was about as good as it got in terms of results and outcomes. A day of misfortune and balls-ups.

What went wrong?

Fundamentally, tyre problems. Having proudly spouted off last year about how I got my tyres and pressure right, I headed into the 2024 race proudly sporting the same set-up, but with even better foam liners. This was tried and tested, and it worked.

It didn’t work.

As soon as I entered the start village on a truly glorious sunny May Saturday, I was relaxed and ready, with 50 minutes to kill and chill before my start wave. Then Andy Porter stopped me, mid conversation, to say that he could hear my front tyre. I looked down, and saw air, then sealant, spilling from a slit between the tread and sidewall. Off I went, smile wiped from face, to the mechanical ‘tent’. After a quick assessment, they had to fit a new tyre there and then. They cracked on, and for a very reasonable £45, I was plush with a new tyre, sealed up, with the same peace of mind that I had enjoyed less than 15 minutes before. Aaaand … relax.

It started well

The way I somehow managed to get myself to the 2nd or 3rd row of my wave for the start was quite remarkable, and effortless. I somehow found myself free of the minor panics of 2023 where I was a little too relaxed and saw hundreds of my age cat ahead of me. I was in a great spot, and for the start of the neutralised rollout at 10:23 am, my relaxed and confident demeanour was about as good as it gets. That was as good as it got.

A bit of a let down

As punctures go, this one was subtle and started with two to 3 minutes of a niggle in my head as to whether I was imagining it. After all, I am the first to admit that I am not gifted at climbing, and with the first 4 miles pretty much straight up nearly 1000 ft of ascent, I was right on the threshold, ready to die. But somehow, this was slower and harder than it should be. Was it a bad day? Maybe. Just get on with it, Dave. You’ll come round. No. No this isn’t right. The rear wheel’s squirming a bit. <looks down> Oh grallochs. It’s definitely punctured.

I spot an emergency tool station, and a track pump. Great – I can get some air in, fast, and lose a few places, but that’ll seal whatever it was. I have about 180ml of sealant in there. It’ll sort it.

Pumping up a tyre with a track pump when you are already at threshold is interesting, but It must have been 30 seconds. Loads of lost places but just relax – it’s 30 seconds.

I got going again and soon the climb was over and I could start to get a rhythm. Finally.

Ongoing issues

I don’t need to go through a full narrative here, my readership is already painfully low, and there’s no need to lose any more. What happened over the ensuing 90 minutes was depressing and … well… deflating. I stopped a further 4 times to re-inflate and I simply couldn’t find the hole. I need specs, I had no specs, and the mess of dust and sealant meant I didn’t know where to plug the hole. It was small, but it was enough to not seal, no matter how many times I re-inflated the tyre.

Then, to cap it all, the valve core broke, so I no longer could put any more air in using my CO2 inflator. It never rains, it pours.

The 20 minutes that preceded the second feed / tool station were a chilled affair. I had to let it go now – I’d lost so many places. I would get a tube in, chill out, eat, drink, and roll back on the road. I got my camera out, rolled along nonchalantly on the foam liner alone, and eventually got to the welcome respite.

Once I was there, I finally got someone with eye sight to locate the hole in the tyre. I plugged it instantly, and it sealed fine. I had been reluctant to use an inner tube anyway – they wouldn’t last on gravel like that.

So what now? Do I roll back the DNF tarmac way, or do I crack on?


I’ve come to cite Charlie Craig a number of times in years since his cruel, sudden, passing at the age of 15. Charlie has definitely been symbolic to me – a mid-life reminder that life is for living. I awoke to how lucky I was to be here, on these gorgeous Galloway tracks, and how I could be a million other versions of me in some quantum physics way, but the one I was, was the one I was happy with. Just crack on. So I cracked on, and I swear I even smiled.

There were about 30 miles left by now, and legs that had pedalled a soft then flat tyre around were legs more tired than they should be, but I definitely found a new lease of life. It was a wonderful ‘doesn’t matter’ feel to it. I could grind myself into the ground, or if it got too much, I could just chill a bit. But I mainly ground myself into the ground. I rode strong and pulled people along. I asked for no help, and made a lot of friends. I pushed myself to near cramp, for no good reason, other than I just loved feeling this cooked. And I was indeed cooked.


Nah – get lost – it was all gone by then. I’m not telling you.

I still have sealant all over my frame, saddle, and shorts, and are on the umpteenth clean. But my tyre is now fixed (even though I shall be retiring it), and I had another ace day somehow.

In 2025, we go again.