The Last Hoorah of 2017
It came around so quickly, but it was the last MTB Marathon of 2017 and what an event to end on! It was so much more than just a long ride. This was a uniting of riders, young and old, not only to have huge amounts of fun on our mountain bikes in such an incredible location, but to support the Craig family after the unexpected loss of there genuinely kind and talented son, Charlie and raise money for the ‘Ride For Charlie’ Charity that has been set up to support young off road riders like Charlie get the help they need.
“CHARLIE WAS AN INSPIRATION FOR SO MANY AND HIS LEGACY CONTINUES SO STOP THINKING ABOUT IT AND GET OUT THERE AND #RIDEFORCHARLIE”
If you have a moment, pop over to the website, check it out and maybe donate a quid or 2 or buy a mug for such a great cause to get behind the future riders.
Love a new place to check out
This was a new location in Hope, Peak District for the MTB Marathon crewe, but the back garden of the Craig family. Charlie’s school was to be the event arena, which was super kind of them especially so close to the start of the new term! It is a beautiful place in the UK and I think many others thought so too as it was very busy. It may have something to do with there being a ‘Trekfest’ on at the same time. The challenge of bikers, walkers and dogs on extendable leads, not the best combination, but I believe it all went without a hitch. As I drove in, on every side there were beautiful views with the rolling hills, then the realisation that we would probably be climbing up one or two of them and they weren’t small, but I do love a good climb and it generally leads to a pretty sweet descent so all is good there!
If you weren’t there you missed out!
The event arena was buzzing with all the usual suspects from Scott bikes, Torq Fitness, Schwalbe, Gore Wear, Alpkit, Hope and Team Topeak-Ergon with the lovely Sally Bigham who was carrying a little more weight (not being rude, she is pregnant with I’m sure a future MTB champion forming inside!). Sally said this about the event:
“What a nice weekend in the Peak District (where I was born and bred). The MTB-Marathon Series in Hope Valley was a great event on amazing trails (though I went for a tamer road ride rather than risking the gnarl!). The turn out to support #RideForCharlie was awesome and it was a great tribute.” – Sally Bigham
On the Saturday there was a lot going on. It sounded like the Hope Tech Kids Academy went down the storm, so many youngens getting stuck in. They also got a treat from the current Trials World Champion Jack Carthy showing off a few of his winning moves. I think this was appreciated by all, nice to have something different that you don’t get to see that often.
There was also a massive raffle going on, with all the proceeds going to the Ride for Charlie Charity. There was some impressive prizes up for grabs as this pic shows.
Hope Tech Women take to the hills
The sun was shining, the ladies were out in force and it was time to get a little taster of what was to come with a nice chilled out loop up and out onto the hills. It took in a proper climb, which got the heart rate up and a descent that kept you on your toes as it was strewn with rocks and the occasional walker that made you slow down.
This was perfect for me as it was the first ride on my new steed, the 2018 Trek Remedy 9.8 in all it’s purple glory with the addition of Hope brakes. I won’t bore you with the palaver to get the bike ready to ride for this weekend, but all I can say is this bike was spot on for the terrain we were going over. It was nice to be back on a big bouncer, such a drastic change from the rigid singlespeed of the week before, so comfortable.
It was such a great atmosphere, no pressure, go at your own pace, go fast when you wanted to and get to know some new riders. It was just the best way to start the weekend and it set it up for a fun night ride and big old day on the Sunday.
Be The Best Version of You, you can be
Another exclusive at the event was a brilliant, interesting and emotional talk by Tim Buckley. In a nutshell it was about the inner workings of your mind, what makes you tick and how you can get to know yourself and get the best from yourself. The quote below sums it up quite nicely
“The Chimp Model offers a simplified way of understanding our two thinking brains and how we can learn to use them to the best of our ability. A model is not pure scientific fact or a hypothesis. It is just a simple representation to aid understanding and help us to use the science. It may also help us to make sense of how we have been in the past, how we are now, and how we can manage ourselves better in the future.
In our model, the inner Chimp is the emotional team within the brain that thinks and acts for us without our permission. The logical team is the real person, it is you; rational, compassionate and humane, and is the Human within. The memory banks for reference are the Computer.” Steve Peters, Chimp Management
It’s something that Charlie did naturally, knowing who he was, comfortable and confident within this and as Tim put it, he was already showing the best version of himself at the age of 15. We can all take a leaf out of his book and try and be the best we can be. I’m looking to get this book and understand a bit more about myself and learn about my inner chimp and use it to better myself.
Light up the Night
After a recovery pint of tea during the talk it was time to get on with the night ride faffage! The evening was drawing in, the temperature was dropping so it was the good old dilemma of how many layers to put on or take with you. I had opted for the Equinox route which was a pleasant 25km because I wanted some energy to enjoy the following day. Looking at the route and hearing about the final climb and descent on the big route I’m glad I played it safe being on a new bike in the dark. Apparently it was hugely rocky with a few over the bars and the last section unrideable. I may go back and give it a go in the day time, but not just now.
The route took in the same climb as the womens ride, but because of the amount of riders I didn’t manage to clean it like earlier, but then we hung a left to traverse across the top of the hill leading to a quite technical descent basically through an ongoing boulder field. I know I would have been struggling if I was on a hardtail like many I passed who were taking there bike for a walk . The Remedy just ploughed through it all whether I got the right line or not. By the end of it, I was smelling the brakes and my arms were getting pumped, but pretty happy that I rode through it all. It was then a nice recovery along the road before cruising our way beside the lady bower reservoir back to the finish. Absolutely spot on, left me smiling with time for a brew and a cheeky sip of wine and some energy in the tank for the day after.
Time to take on the Peaks
It was a moody sky as the dawn broke, the forecast was for possible rain showers later on. This just meant I was aiming to get back in a reasonable time, but this was all about having a good time on a new bike instead of chasing a particular time as long as I was back before it got dark! It was going to be a long day in the saddle, but there was going to be some pretty fast and technical descents to enjoy. The first challenge was getting 1,000 riders through a 5 foot gate. Unless you were at the start it was a shuffle until we got released onto the open road.
The atmosphere was buzzing as everyone warmed up there legs on the initial road climb. I didn’t really check out the route map beforehand, but I could predict it was the beginning of the first long and steady climb on road, then on to a ‘broken road’ up out onto the hills. There were so many of us, just incredible. This led us towards ‘Mam Tor’ which had kind of like a yellow brick road that walkers took to the top, but after a few manoeuvres around some ramblers we took a sharp left hander then the fun began. It was pretty much a worn away path, many boulders in a gully to navigate through or take the easier sheep track on the grass. I seemed to be up for a challenge so went for the straight line over the boulders, a few rock drops to keep you guessing, so much fun. It then opened up onto the grass and then road where speed had to be controlled not to be going full pelt into oncoming traffic. That is not a good look and would damage the paint job! I was buzzing after that one as excited for what else this bike could get me down.
I had heard of the next climb, Jacobs Ladder. We were heading up the steeper, rockier side apparently. I’m sure the guys at the front were flying up it and cleaning the climb, but back in the pack there was not even a chance to try. We were like an army of ants in single file taking our bikes for a lovely walk up the mountain. I was quite content with the stroll, it was the guys on E-bikes who had to lug the hefty 50lb bikes up the hill were not so smiley now. I do love that sense of adventure, exploring new lands and getting to the top, checking out the view and just taking a moment to enjoy and appreciate what a beautiful place we live in.
Eventually after about 20-30 minutes of walking up we reached the top. It was quite windy, so I just cracked on, but it was pretty much straight up then straight down! No more plodding it was time to get my downhill head back in the game. It was going to be a long descent. I already knew it would be rocky, but flip me there was no proper line more about hoofing the bike down any which way and hoping you didn’t get bucked off or caught between a rock and a hard place. It wasn’t good to go too slow or you would be pinged around and eventually stop on a rock, so speed and just looking ahead was key. I felt just about in control and just let the bike absorb the hits and try and get the best route through and it worked well and my grin was growing as I worked my way down. My arms were getting pumped though as I wasn’t use to descents this long. The terrain changed from big rocks to a very loose gravel path which was horrible, no grip and you felt like you were skating over the top hoping you didn’t wash out. Thankfully it didn’t last too long and I came away unscathed. Phew that was tough and yet I really enjoyed it and wanted more of that, though I think my brakes needed some time out as the smell was quite strong of burning brake pads, they were hot!
We were 2 climbs and descents in and I was feeling good, taking it at a steady pace, not busting a lung or pootling round, just enjoying it at a comfortable speed. After a few undulations we had reached the first feed station at about the 25km mark. It was a welcome sight and I really fancied a banana as well as a top up of the old bottle after downing half of it (I really am bad at remembering to drink). It was nice to take a couple of minutes to have a munch and say hello to other bikers.
It was onwards and slightly upwards on some wide tracks pedalling away the kilometres. The weather was teetering on the, ‘will it rain or won’t it?’ with cloud cover getting a little thicker and greyer. This wasn’t going to stop us. As like many of my rides my memory fades on what happened when, so instead of trying to rack my brain I’ll give you a quick lowdown of sections that are still rattling around in there! There was indeed a lot more climbing, a long road drag with a headwind. This then turned off to descend at full pelt on road where I clocked just under 40mph with not too much effort. There were a few more technical and of course rocky descents to enjoy.
The one I remember known on Strava as ‘The beast’ under a tree canopy so all dark and wet and oosh that was some big rocks strewn everywhere and definitely tested my descending skills with a sense of relief after I got down it. Then it joined a track we did the opposite way on the night ride, so I knew there was a short and very steep little climb up to the road. I thought it may be nearing the end, but the climbing wasn’t over yet, there was another rocky climb which got the better of me, but led to another sweet cruise down above the Lady Bower reservoir. There is so much to explore around this area I need to come back. It was the last road section that I was feeling empty, thankfully it was either flat or down as I just ran out of juice in my legs to go up again. Looking down at my Garmin I knew it wasn’t far to go if thee distances were accurate so I just dug deep and pedalled until I got back. I was doing this last stretch on my own. It’s amazing how with the 1000 plus riders at many points I found myself on my own, ah well.
That was Awesome
I was spent when I got back in, it was a tough 65km that I did in just over 5 hours, but it was a really great course and highly rewarding. It may have been a bit much to put in Jacobs Ladder for many and slowed timings down for many. I thought I was going to have to cut it short at the cut off as I got there at 1:40, but apparently it got moved to 2pm at some point so I had to continue. I’m not one to shorten it if I had no real excuse! If you were there I hope you enjoyed yourself, if you weren’t, I hope you had a good reason because you missed a cracker. Here’s the proof of the ride, Strava. There were also some photos being taken and a drone flying about by Rob Barker so I’m sure a video will be up at some point soon to tempt you for next time.
It was a real success, I believe it went down well with everyone and I hope it will be back on the Menu for next years series. If it’s not I need to make a plan to get a weekend up there as I didn’t capitalise on the cafes either. All I can say is thanks to the entire team for putting on another fantastic weekend, to all who went the extra mile to support Nick Craig and his family. I would say Charlie would have clearly beaten us all, but would have loved to have shared his back garden with all those who love life on 2 wheels.
This pretty much signs off my year of ‘what I call, racing’ (any Miranda fans out there?) I didn’t take anything seriously, had a heap of fun along the way, went through some lows too, but have come through achieving 2 wins at 12 and 24 hour events and ridden with some great people along the way. I have no plans or goals yet for 2018, but I know there will be a whole lot more biking involved, but in what form who knows. I am just about to book onto the Hopetech Women Enduro up in Gisburn and see if I can get down in one piece, after that it’s whatever comes my way that takes my fancy. If you have any suggestions, fancy a ride somewhere or a tough challenge then let me know, I could be keen or mad enough to give it a go!