MTB Marathon in the Peak District – #RideforCharlie

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.

rideforcharlie-round

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!IMG_0229

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.

IMG_0237

Bike high jump!

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.

21248256_1546304278725399_4875469008552518234_o

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.

7Kwb1iA4

Photo courtesy of Aoifa Glass of a gaggle of mountain biking ladies, awesome!

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.IMG_0222

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

IMG_0238

The last of the sun, before we set off into 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. IMG_0236

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.

IMG_0240

Time for a brew (check out my colour co-ordination!)

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.

IMG_0235

It’s a beast of a route

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.

IMG_0241

The ants, sorry bikers still yet to reach Jacobs ladder

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.

IMG_0242

Thought this was close to the top…10 minutes later we were there!

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.

#RIDEFORCHARLIE

What’s next?

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!

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Gorrick: TORQ in Your Sleep 2017

2_tiys-logo (002) 2017.jpg

Torq in your Sleep – 10 years young

It’s been going for a while now, there have been a few challenges for the event organisers to overcome. It seemed like it was touch and go if this years event would happen, but they worked there magic and the race was on. Firstly I would say well done and thanks to the team who work behind the scenes, planning and organising this and many other events, it’s clearly much loved as we all come back year after year to give it another go. Hopefully it will continue as the trend seems to be for shorter endurance races, so we’ll see what the future holds.

When you do a race a few times, year after year, sometimes you need to do something different to add an extra challenge to keep it interesting. It was a last minute entry for me as I was without a bike suitable* for the race. I was having a thought of not bothering with the whole racing thing as the fun of biking was getting lost. However, after a little Pinkbike peruse I came across a single speed that wouldn’t break the bank and would give me something new to try out and challenge myself, so I thought why not.

IMG_0165

Love new bike day!

I got the bike a week before Torq in Your Sleep, booked onto the race just before it closed having deliberated over doing the 6 or 12 hour race, naturally opted for the 12 for the more chilled out pace, 6 is simply too fast and furious especially with one gear. I managed a couple of rides on the bike around the New Forest, which was ideal for getting to grips with being with the one gear and no suspension in sight. A different kettle of fish, yet quite nimble and fun!

IMG_0175

There’s no place like home

*Any bike is suitable from fully cyclocross to the big bouncers and all in between. I saw it all out on the course, yes the choice of bike may affect your time, but it may also impact on you having a good time or not!

IMG_0166

Nephews built a den, perfect for the bike!

 

Single Speeders

There seems to be a stereotype around the type of person who picks up a bike with one cog apparently and I’m most definitely not it! Typically older chaps with a beard who may indulge in the odd beer or 10. Hmm well I’m afraid I don’t fit the mould on any of that, so I think it’s time to break the mould and highlight how good single speed is for your fitness, cadence and humour! You can’t take a single speeder too seriously as they have chosen a bike usually steel with rigid forks (some may treat themselves to front forks) pick a gear and roll with it whether that be easy or hard for them. I have now a new found respect since joining this crewe, it’s a whole new way of riding, coasting on the flats, rolling down descents and grunting up the climbs. It makes for a very physical workout far more than I have ever done on a full susser and I strangely enjoyed the pain of it all! For those who love the numbers, I was running a friendly 33:20 gear ratio, which is apparently easier than the standard 32:18. All I know is that it worked for me on that course.

IMG_0179

Whatever bike you have, just have some fun!

Keeping all things simple

One gear, no gels, no problems! I didn’t go in with a plan not to have any gels, but that’s the way it panned out, It was more about keeping hydrated as it was HOT! I was on Skratch hydration goodness (still waiting for the new flavours to be released in the UK). Then it was onto the snacks that got me round…

  • 2 bananas – the ultimate energy source!
  • 2 Jam rolls
  • 2 Jelly pots
  • 1 Nine – Carob, Raspberry & Chia Seeds
  • Handful of Haribo
  • 2 Fig rolls
  • Handfuls of Salt & Vinegar baked biscuit/crisps (Dog biscuits as they were renamed!)
  • 2 Veggie sausages
  • 2 Aldi ‘That’s it’ Fruit bars
  • 2 Tea’s with Vanilla energy powder due to lack of sugar!!!

That was it, when I list it all it doesn’t look like much, but that was the lot that kept me spinning round and round. I didn’t have any stomach issues what so ever and felt ok for the most part with this. There was no point that I was thinking that I could really do with a gel. It may have been different if I was in the 6 hour and going faster, so you can get that delivery of energy quicker, but not necessary for me this time.

It’s only 12 hours!

I was coming off the back of my first 24 hour race at Pivot Twenty-four 12 where it was the wettest, muddiest, toughest conditions I have ever ridden in. The thought of just doing half that seemed like a piece of cake, but I was still recovering from the effects of that epic with a bad back, tingly toes possibly caused by a trapped nerve and tight/plainful fingers. I don’t seem to bounce back as quick as I used to. Any who’s now I had the single speed I thought that Torq in your Sleep was the best race to test it out and have a bit of fun. I was only entering it to have a good time, as I really didn’t think that I could do that much on the one gear, but you never know until you try.

 

It was good to get a recce lap in on the Saturday in the early evening to see what was different on the course, but more importantly whether or not I could keep pedalling around the course on the one gear. There were a couple of testing short sharp climbs, but  with a little bit more grr, I got up them. This was however with fresh legs and only one lap, I could be doing this over 8 times (not a clue how many I would manage). There was a reality that I would be spending a lot more time out of the saddle as on the lumpy, rooty sections it was just pushing it enough that being up and out would be a bit more comfortable and faster to keep the rhythm up.

I came back from this recce loop, feeling happy that I made it round, but the bike had a creak and it was really annoying. I thought it was from the bars, but after checking it was the seat post. Thankfully I had noodled into a space next to the AQR racing team and friends, where Rob who had some carbon gripper to silence the creak and also some ESI grips to test out (not the right blue will have to get the aqua ones, but they did the trick!). The steed was set, Garmin on the bars, saddle bag (no dropper required) and light mount at the ready. All there was to do now was chill out, watch the sunset over the event arena and snuggle in the van to watch a film. That’s the way I roll.

IMG_0198
Love a sunset and this was a beaut

A True Summer Bank Holiday

You can’t ask for much more, wake up with the sun shining, feeling fresh and excited about the prospect of what was to come. I was joined by Colin, one of my brothers who was going to be racing the 12 hour in a pair with Andy (brother no. 2) who was travelling down from Manchester. Absolute nutters, so Colin would start it, Andy would rock up around 5pm to change over, then after a night lap for Colin he would disappear as he was flying to France in the early hours of Monday, leaving Andy to ride until the end. Not the best way to race it, but both were desperate to get out on there bikes so these are the lengths you go to do get a pedal in! Enough of my bonker brothers back to my faffing and antics. You would think that with a bike that is so simple I would have less faffing to do, but apparently not, I seemed to successfully faff from breakfast until the briefing at 11 doing I’m not sure what. I think I was pretty chilled, so everything just took a bit longer. Went for a small spin with Colin to make sure his bike was ok and came back after 20 minutes feeling ok, but melting already in the heat. Saying that I would prefer the heat than wet and cold, not a fan of that so much!

It’s the final Countdown

FullSizeRender 7

Colin won’t be hard to miss in all that green!

As like many other races the go to tunes is ‘It’s the FINAL COUNTDOWN’ but it gets you in the mood as you wait on the start line, a bit further back than a ‘racer’ should be, but I was yet again entering the unknown and knew I wouldn’t have a fast start so happy to roll with the pack.

IMG_0204

Looking on to the actual elite athletes & those who got there earlier!

It was already hot and it was going to be a while before it would cool down, so it was about keeping it steady. Ha, that goes out the window on the first lap just because you go with the speed of the people in front of you and find your place and pace after that first loop once it all begins to spread out. It was going to be good. The first lap included a loop of the start arena, skip the olympic woods onto the wide track to try and keep us all moving. For the most part this was effective, just a couple of slower sections in the wood where it started to climb very subtly and where I was gauging how slow I could go with out finding the limit of the gears with a few cheeky track stands thrown in, no walking for me just yet! It also seemed that the single speeders seemed to find each other, I can’t remember what he called 3 single speeders in a row, but we were that!

I knew that there were 14 in the solo female categories across the open and vets, which I think is up from previous years. I wasn’t too sure how many were in my category, but I really didn’t care! My mindset was all about completing the 12 hours on the single speed. I did have the P7 in the back of the van for back up, but with no intention for it to make an appearance. I think I would stop instead of switching if it came to it…thankfully it didn’t. Lap one went surprisingly quickly 00:53:54 discovering that I was in third out of four in my category, but it was a long old way to go so nothing to be fussed about. The fastest first lap was done in 00:35:21 by a mixed team of 3 called ‘Renvale RT’, now that is going some! The difference this time was I don’t think I would get any faster, but doubt I could get much slower or I’d be going backwards! It would only be if I gave into walking, which was a high possibility on a couple of the climbs at least in the latter stages. Lap 2, I was still finding my pedalling legs and trying to understand the rhythm of the bike, knowing that my normal sit and spin just wouldn’t cut it. There was a lot more up and out of the saddle for comfort as well as trying to maintain a good pace. It turned out that it was slightly quicker than the first even though it was slightly longer, but I guess the riders had spread out.

I didn’t stop at the pits for anything more that a bottle change and grab a bar until lap 4, which meant that I was away from the event arena when the fresh legged 6 hour racers kicked off. I knew I was going to be passed by them at some point, but glad I was away from the craziness. Got a few hello’s from some of them as they cruised passed me. At this point I was struggling with my hands becoming rather sore and starting to blister, every bump I felt and the gloves were sliding about a bit with all the sweat, which wasn’t helping my mood, but carried on  regardless. It’s usually around this 4-5 hour marker that I hit my low point and feel like I want to quit because it’s getting too hard. I have come to recognise this, not saying it gets easier, but I know I get through it and bounce back after a lap or so. I wasn’t riding particularly well either and successfully punched a small tree with my hand (the tree won) and I just managed to stay on the bike with just a saw little finger, thankfully nothing worse.

I switch my focus on the next goal of getting round the lap, then stopping for the lights and so on. It breaks it all up and makes it all far more manageable and realistic. Coming back round after lap 4 or 5 I was greeted with the cheers of my other brother, Pete and his family, which was a nice little pick me up especially when I was finding it tough. I decided to take the gloves off (getting all serious!) and hope the ESI grips would be ok on bare hands. They were to be my pit crewe until the end, which was an added bonus.

The lap itself was a change from previous years. It still had some of the main features like Minley Maze, Corkscrew, bomb hole, banksey and bridge to nowhere, but the rest was all pretty new, which was cool. It keeps things fresh and you get to improve the more times you pedal round it. At first I didn’t find it particularly flow, but once the freshly cut lines got cut in and you knew what was coming up, it began to flow nicely and a lap was over before you knew it, which is always a good thing. It was on this lap that I think Andy had rocked up, ready to head out, but I came back first. Totally confused by this I realised that I had completely blanked Colin who had hit the deck on Corkscrew, earlier in the lap. I felt really bad after the race that I didn’t stop, but i just didn’t realise even though he did shout my name. He was able to ride on, but quite badly bruised with a possible cracked rib, ouch, sorry bro!

IMG_0214

The 2017 8 mile loop, nice

The time came to put on the lights just after 7pm and faff with the glow stick they provide, which highlights you as a solo rider. Think it warns people that you may be going slightly slower than them and not as with it so give us time and room when overtaking! I was of course running the Exposure lights Maxx-D and Diablo, just so good and no need to worry about them running out cos I can see how much burn time they have left. The sun was beginning to set and the temperature was finally cooling down. I now knew that down to the new pit crewe I had that I was sitting in 2nd, but only a couple minutes behind 1st. My head was back in the game, I’d got some jam roll down me and continuing to drink loads so I was happy to just plod on and it seemed to be working. I had only walked up half of a climb on lap 5, I think when I was feeling particularly rubbish. For the most part I seem to just build up to a short effort up the climb and then give myself time to recover before anything else requiring effort came along. I tell you this course is ace for beginner single speeders, everyone should give it a try at some point!

As the sun goes down, the race changes

There are some moments that I wish I could have stopped to take a photo and watching the sunset over as I climbed out of the trees onto an open grass track was just beautiful. The sunset doesn’t last long, but the race still had a good few hours left in it. I know I have said it before, but night riding is awesome. It can transform a route that you’ve ridden several times into what feels brand new. It’s down to having more of a tunnel vision only seeing what your lights highlight. This comes with a slight hesitation for some riders, but with the exposure lights there is no excuse for not going the same pace as you would do in the day because it’s just as bright. No excuses right

IMG_0197

Just makes you smile

 

 

I was taking seemingly the same amount of time on the laps just now, but a little longer at the pit stop to enjoy a bit of a new tea concoction due to the lack of sugar they popped in a bit of Torq Vanilla energy powder. It was slightly weird, but went down alright, warm and wet was what I needed! This alongside a fig roll and a few dog biscuits, I was happy as larry. The cool of the evening was definitely working in my favour. However the bike had started to develop a little creak again, but no where near as annoying as before as well as my cleats squeaking which was slightly off putting as I thought they may have been coming lose, being new cleats in new shoes (treated myself!).

21078741_1970797416473455_5284625011108730378_n

Exposure lights making the night full of light (Torq Fitness kudos here not me!)

 

Now, it’s the FINAL COUNTDOWN

There are some races that do the long 12 hour format, thankfully Torq in the last couple of years in there wisdom have opted for a short version where the clock stops at midnight. One minute over and it won’t count. In my less with it state I was trying to work how many laps I had done and how many I could fit in. It was about 9:30pm and I had just finished my 10th lap, which had already surpassed my expectations. The problem was that there was actually someone chasing me down. Over the previous laps I had wangled my way into first place with about 10 minutes between myself and second. I never spotted her, but must have passed her when she was in the pits or something. I say I’m not competitive, but now I was out in front and I wasn’t going to give it up without a fight. I still wanted to go the full 12 hours to say I had done the whole hog SS style and getting the top spot did seem pretty appealing. It was mine to lose, so I had to give it beans!

IMG_0205

Take pity on me, I’m a solo rider! (is what a glow stick says with no words!)

I was actually feeling stronger by lap 11 and as shown by the lap times I actually sped up. I think because it was getting a little bit cooler especially when you came out of the trees into the open it dropped a good few degrees, which spurred me on to keep pushing. I also caught up with a couple of the other single speeders and kept with there pace and found I actually passed them on the climbs where my gearing was easier and they walked. I was determined to pedal those climbs and I did, just took a little longer to get back on the pace again. Coming back round to the pits I had time for one more, so with a quick slog of tea and a fig roll I just cracked on hoping I wouldn’t fade and push to the end knowing it was the final lap. I just didn’t want to come in after midnight so there was no messing about here. I needn’t have worried though as I had 20 minutes to spare and 2nd place didn’t quite have enough time to fit in another lap, so…I DID IT, I WON!

IMG_0208

Top spot with me, well done to Cassie (2nd) and Alex (3rd) good riding!

The open female category on a single speed and got the 12 laps in the 12 hours, BOOM! Looking at the results as well if I had entered the Singlespeed category I would have come 3rd, ok Steve Day was not riding, but hey that’s not too shabby. I was super happy with quite an unexpected result and feeling good, bar my hands. The results are all here and makes for a good scan over: Torq in Your Sleep 2017. Here’s my Strava of all the fun and games – 12 Hour Solo Singlespeed.

Here’s a few links to event organisers and pics….

Here’s the link to Kevin Sheldrake’s images http://www.kevinsheldrakephotography.com/Cy…/TORQ-1212-2017/

12:12 Torq in your Sleep Facebook page

Event organiser – Gorrick – Mountain Bike Events

21105423_1970797656473431_2213669676386720204_n

Photo bombing a Torq Fitness photo (that’s me in the background!)

I can say I am a fan of Singlespeeding and will be a cracking winter steed to keep the fitness up, not take life too seriously and have a laugh. I’m considering what to do next, but this was the last race in the calendar. Who knows what I will be up to next, but I do know I have a big bouncer for this following weeks MTB Marathon in the Peak District, which is going to be the complete opposite of this, no racing, pure fun and a whole lot of rocks! Watch this space for my waffling on that one and maybe even another bike review…thanks for reading and I hope you are still loving life on 2 wheels!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pivot Twentyfour12: The Dirty Dozen (and boy was it dirty!)

Thoughts and ramblings before the event

If you cast your minds back 12 months to last years event it was so warm, dry and even dusty for the most part with the water splash being there to cool you down. I think I got lucky that time because Plymouth is one of the wettest places in the UK and sounds like a dry event is few and far between, oh and I stopped at 12 last year and then later on the rain came in! With this in mind I went into this one a little too innocently expecting it to be the same. Oh, how naive I was! It couldn’t have been more wet if it tried!

13738293_10154433218785530_9218044302702830113_o

Same time last year – so refreshing!

As I drove down through heavy rain and wind I was pondering how wet you can get before you hit breaking point and pack it in or push on without a care in the world, because it can’t get any worse! It’s a shame because the weather was lovely at the start of the week, but the forecast was different each time I looked at it, changing from dry, sunny, windy, heavy showers, thunder, cloudy and so on, basically it could be all four seasons over the weekend minus the snow! What will be, will be, I was taking part despite what the weather was going to chuck at us.

This is now what I will say, is my first 24 hour as a solo (Mountain mayhem ended after crashing badly around the 12 hour mark, so I’m not counting that one).  If you want to find out what happened there and the lead up to Pivot then check out the previous blog post. This will also be my first one with some proper British weather chucked in just to spice it all up. All the others have been in the glorious sunshine for the most part, don’t know how I have got away with it for so long! It all hangs on whether my thumb and wrist hold up, fingers crossed with enough sugar in me and concentrating on staying on the bike I will forget all about it.

IMG_0050

All packed with way too much stuff!

I’ve got company for once!

This time, I’m not on my own, wahey! I’ve got my brother, Andy who is doing his first solo 12 hour and his lovely wife, Michelle who is on call as ‘camp mum’ or the other name she didn’t realise…‘pit bitch’ to the high amusement of my bro! This means I’m kipping in a spacious tent that you can stand up in, have some company which is always nice and someone to sort my bottles and food out for me. This was all a bit of a novelty as I’m usually a solo soloist.

IMG_0053

It was one more corner to the start/finish…nicely done!

I had nothing to do with our awesome pitch spot at all, it was all down to Andy and Michelle cruising round the arena for an hour or so to get what turned out to be a really sweet spot! It seemed hundreds had gone down on Thursday, so it was really full already and many squeezing into gaps where ever they could. There was nothing much to do on Friday as I missed registration, it was just get the tent up and have my first cup of tea since Mayhem (not sure why, but I took a break). There was many getting there drink on and having a good old knees up!

IMG_0061

Tasted good!

My plans & ideas

If I’m totally honest there was no plan, just the thought of doing as much as I could on the day. I knew I could do 12 hours, but beyond that it was all a mystery. I was aiming to have no gels (though I brought my box of goodies) and keep it all normal food and just using Skratch Labs energy drink (that has real fruit in it!) and Oompf bars (which are so naturally tasty good). This changed after speaking to Luke Humphrey of Juice Lubes (who has done one or 2 of these events). He was saying definitely eat normal food from the start and keep that throughout, wash that down with water as it helps break it down and digest it. Lastly because your body can not create the carbs you need quick enough the need for a gel and that sugar hit will give you a massive boost half way through a lap as you start to dip. This should help to maintain a steady pace and not fade (as much). It is sound advice, but I think he may be in the mindset that I was going race pace not snails pace!!!

The rain eased overnight so it was a calm and peaceful night and woke up super psyched to give it beans whatever came my way. Bring it on, mind over matter and all that. As I have said in the previous blog post, I’m racing against myself, not wanting to quit, but to do as much as I can whatever that may be as it’s all a bit of an unknown. The weather will play a major factor in this one, so it’s fair game for everyone willing to tackle it!

What have I got myself into?

IMG_0060

Morning gluten free porridge (it’s ok!) and saucepan handle DIY!

It’s the calm before the storm as we woke to a dry and calm morning. A good brew and a bowl of porridge began what was going to be a very long couple of days!. Waiting until 12 to start gives you a lot of time to faff, get everything sorted, change stuff, check stuff and faff some more. I had my Specialized Epic FSR and my back up bike that I really didn’t want to use, the Orange P7. It’s a great bike, but a little heavy and slack for this type of event, but it was there if needs be, like the car that followed the Top Gear crewe round on there adventures! I had packed pretty much all my cycling clothing, not knowing if I would change regularly or stick with what I had on for the entirety. I had 3 sets of gloves and 2 sets of shoes, waterproof clobber and a couple of helmets to see me through. It should be enough right?

IMG_0068

The race steed on it’s final outing

The other area was the food and drinks table, no we are not talking a fancy spread, but a table with bits and bobs on from Quorn sausages (yes I’m a veggie), jam sandwiches, breakfast bars, crisps and bananas. I still really have no clue on what are the best go to foods to have on one of these, but hoping that this would see me through. I would love any feedback, advice and tips on what to eat when entering a 24 hour race.

IMG_0066

A bit chaotic, but I think we had a good mix

I had a chance to watch a bit of the kids racing, which was superb this year with over 100 kids entered and a few events on the Friday and the Saturday to keep them entertained. It’s so great how much they put on for them as they are the racers of the future. Whilst we watched the beginning of the rain showers began to kick in and it didn’t look like it was going to stop, ho hum.

After going for an insurance pee, it was time to get my kit on, chamois up and feel the butterflies begin and feel like I need the loo again, but it was just nerves. Before these events I seem to get a bit giddy with nervous excitement especially when it’s a new adventure. I knew with this one I would settle in pretty quick.

P1080896

What have we got ourselves into?

It’s the Final Countdown

We rocked up to the start line, just behind the guys riding in Sumo Suits (there’s always some who want all the attention!!!). We had the countdown then after a few more seconds we got going. It had begun, 12:00 and we were off. Everyone was all very jolly, clearly the front runners were all very ‘game face’ and jostling for an early lead, but I was in the mindset of, why rush I have a very long time to go and I don’t know what I am going to manage so no need to go hell for leather just now thank you very much.

IMG_0070

From Pro’s to sumo’s what a mix!

The Course – 100% rideable, but changeable!

We had the short lead out loop, which got you warm and spread the field out rather well as we sped back round to the start after about 5 minutes to start the first lap. There was so many riders and supporters, it was awesome, cheers and whoops as you passed. Then you started heading off up the first and main climb and the noise faded, first up through a grass field, with a cheeky little descent followed by a right hander onto the tarmac road to make a steady spin up and up. I preferred this to last years shorter and steeper one, I’m definitely a happy spinner in the saddle as much as possible. This was to be the only bit of let up from the mud and it was nice. After this is jumped onto a wide fire road for a moment before leading you onto the first bit of single track. Over a couple of routes and rocks, rolling down a little further and then onto a short, but steep bomb hole, where you needed speed to get up the other side or you were walking. Out from this onto another wider track to take you onto what I call the rooty-tootie section, where picking your line through a maze of routes, little up and overs kept you focused. This led into Bluebell woods, which was a descent last year, but this time a steady clamber over more roots, not too bad really. It did end with a descent, which steadily turned into a controlled slide by the end before you sped down a fast fire road getting completely covered in mud spray.

20369000_1594729920538184_1479938530080913732_o

What was inshore for us!

This gave you a little recovery time, though no chance do anything other than hang on, it was a bit sketchy! This somehow brought you back round to the ‘Motivation Station’ where the tunes blared out, some questionable but all in high spirits, it’s nice to have the marshals out on course, just the pick me up that you needed! It was then onto what would have been a really fun section as I recalled it from last year, a couple of short downs, quick climbs and a series of 4 bomb holes that flowed lovely in the dry. Not this year though, if you were able to pedal through the quagmire you were doing well. it was thick clay that clung onto your tyres if they slowed or stopped. Then the bomb holes were more like deep water splashes, which actually were still quite fun! The rolling continued as you passed the marshals who seemed to like Heavy metal ‘music’, before heading onto the Cottage return, which was great wet or dry. A bit slower this year due to the sloppiness, but as long as a root or rock didn’t catch you it was sweet.

Then you were back down at base level, a blast along a fire track, which was now my place to take a gel (yep, I caved). some were speeding along this section, I saw it as a moments breather before heading on the single track along the riverside, which to begin with was lovely and flowing nicely…this changed! Instead of the maze through the campsite of last year we only had a couple of up and back to get cheered on, which was really nice as I got quite dizzy last year! This then led us down the other end over the grass to the now well known water splash, which was a bike saver as the waters got higher and higher. If I made it to this point still pedalling it was a great time to clear out some of the mud from the drivetrain to make it over the last section. It was another reverse of last year that worked really nicely, a gentle little climb then descending gently over a few rocks and past a few forgotten cars and vans, with a lovely roll around a couple of fire roads before a cheeky bridge crossing and burst of power up and over the roots on the other side. I thought this might be a section to walk, but once I rode it out the first time it was all good for the rest of the race!

It was then the final climb, a steep kick to start with, easy gear and spin up as walking was going to be no easier in the slop before it levelled out. You were now above the event arena about to roll speedily down a grass descent, round a couple of bends, through another bunch of lovely campers who were so encouraging then the last couple of corners with short sharp climbs before rolling round to where we were camped. What a great course it was, it had it all, nice climbs, sweet descents and some moments just to roll if you had nothing in the tank for a moments recovery. Nothing too technical, but enough that over 24 hours it would be really tough. Saying all this it was the rain and mud that kept changing the course as the hours rolled on by, which was interesting for some sections and terrible for others.

The memorable moments of the many hours

Lap 1 & 2 – went without a hitch

It was nice to get the first ones out of the way. The pace is usually just a bit quicker as everyone has fresh legs. The rain was light and it was just a little splashy in places, but nothing too bad at all and it was really fun just getting into the swing of things and settling into my rhythm, not chasing anyone. At the end of the first lap I chucked off my garmin as it was not worth it getting trashed and my glasses that were steaming up so you couldn’t see anyway so chucked them off too and risked the amount of mud that was going to infiltrate my eyes, my poor eyes. Not ideal and hoped it was ok as I did have a little mudguard on the front, which helped slightly!

P1080902

The second lap, spirits were high and smiles was all I needed to keep me going. I was having a good time, but it was early days. I did start on the gels as I knew they could only help not hinder unless my stomach said otherwise, but 2 laps down it was going well with no stop just straight through to keep the pace steady whilst there still was one!

Lap 3 –  Clay like mud

The rain had eased, you would usually be thinking, yeah that’s great, it’s dry. This was actually not a good thing. On sections where it was quite muddy the rain was helping to loosen it up, so when it had eased, it was bad. The section just before the 3 bomb hole swoops for me were horrendous. I lost my momentum and had to stop, this then turned into a battle of strength as the bike was picking up more and more mud, getting heavier and heavier. I was stuck in the mud and going no where fast. it wasn’t until I managed to slide my way out of this section that I could clear some of the mud away to even manage to pedal again with mud flying off everywhere. That was exhausting, staying on the bike is key, walking was not an option.

Lap 4 – 7 – Just keep pedalling

Time goes by and sometimes you just miss stuff as you’re pedalling round, but I swear there was no sheep in the field at the top of the first climb over the first couple of laps. At some point it got filled with a number of sheep with green necks, so random. Was this the first moment of madness? I think they were real, but how did they get there? There eyes were going to be  scary during  the night if they were going to stay!

There wasn’t much to say about the next few hours, the rain kept falling again heavily, the only time to have a swig of drink without having a mouthful of mud was on the first climb, so that’s what I did each lap and seemed to be all I drank on a whole lap, not ideal but just couldn’t face the mud bottle. These few laps with a few quick stops to get a quick munch of an oompf bar or banana as well as a bottle change was working well. I had no concept of time so relying on Michelle in the pits as to when lights were going on and where I was in the race, but I wasn’t really chasing for the win, this was all about a personal challenge of whether I could physically do it.

It was on the grassy descent that was getting sketchier and slippier with each lap where a chap who was hooning it down the track looked like he was out of control and getting a slide on. He was heading to his pits at the bottom of the hill and I’m sure he would say it was all skill, but managed to slide left and do a full 180 and stop outside of his tent. It was one of those moments that I bet he couldn’t do again if he tried!

Lap 8 – Into the darkness

I don’t like the dusk lap where you have your lights on the bike, but you don’t really need them until one section that you do because it’s gone into a darker section of trees on a descent where you really need them on, but don’t manage to turn them on quick enough before needing to be on the bars, so you have to guess the line a bit more and hope you stay on track before it leads you back out to a lighter section. I just wanted to add a bit more interest to the ride of course. I think it was on this lap that on the last climb up a chap went for an overtake. The track was wide enough, but I think he was too close to the edge and had one of those moments of almost going down, but managed to bring it back some how!

Lap 9 – Lights on

It was somewhere around 9pm or something, laps were slowing and the rain was still coming down, but apart from not really wanting to eat anything I was doing ok. When the lights go on it’s as if you have opened a new chapter and a small release of energy kicks in. Night riding is so different yet not at all when your are running Exposure lights that make it like daylight! I was running the Maxx-D on the bars and Diablo on the lid with an extra battery linked up to make it last a little longer. However whether the extra battery was charged or not after half a lap the Diablo started pulsing of an unknown reason, I need to check with the chaps what it was up to. I stopped to unplug the battery and it was fine on it’s own, so that was a waste and made me more cautious of making the Diablo last. I did luckily have a back up set from work so I wasn’t going to be caught short.

72582758-DHP_1317

Even on the flat it was hard to go straight!

Lap 10 & 11 – Are my brakes alright?

I’m not one who goes through brake pads, usually they rarely get replaced, but the conditions here were naturally going to wear through pads like no tomorrow. I was running resin pads (first mistake) and I only had one spare set, so I wanted to make them last (second mistake) so I went for lap number 11. First part was fine…it was uphill. It was the latter stages that simply put I HAD NO BRAKES. At first it was that they were slowing me down minimally, but then just before the cottage return the back one gave up the ghost, pulled it to the bar, but got nothing and the front was gone, but not blown. I had to ride into the side to slow me down and then thankfully there was a bit more claggy mud that slowed me down! It was a relief to make it onto the fire road to breathe a sigh of relief, but knew there was a few more places where brakes were needed. I slid down the little drop to the riverside track. I then slowly rolled my way round the paintball section with my feet out slightly. Then after the climb it was the fast, grassy, slide descent. I put the dropper seat down and like a kid on a balance bike used my feet to slow me down and along with a bit of sliding, I made it, unscathed! It was then just a grassy, muddy slog back to the pits.

IMG_0079

This is the good one and there doesn’t appear to have any pad at all, oops!

I was not amused, this meant that I was on the Orange P7 for the next lap at least, whilst that one got fixed. It was just a case of get it out of the van, switch the light over, have a quick munch on some pasta, run off for a pee and ride off into the night hoping that the other one would be fixable. Oh my word it was different, obviously it was heavier, being steel and all that, but it’s so much more relaxed in the geometry and smaller wheels, it just wants to have fun, not slog around an XC course for hours, but it was what I had it was what I would ride, I just really didn’t want to trash him as well.

IMG_0076

This is my Minion yellow P7 called Stuart!

Lap 12 – Was that real?

I was off on the P7 (Stuart) who was surprising me with how well it could tackle this course. I had a lot more grip with this one with a Specialized Butcher and Purgatory for tyres. This was fine in the rain, just moving gracefully through the streams that flowed around pretty much all of the course now. I couldn’t use the dropper due to my thumb not being quite right still, but Ibuprofen was working it’s magic and dulling the pain it usually gives me. I was getting bad neck ache now as we were now beyond the 12 hour mark where I usually stop. I was into the unknown and more pains were creeping in.

There was a moment that I won’t forget and I think it happened, but it was the early hours of the morning so I could have been hallucinating, but I watched as a deer just gracefully wandered across the track and up the hill the other side. No one was with me and the forest was all quiet. It was just a really cool moment that was totally unexpected, love it.

Getting back to the pits it was bad news for the Epic. They took out what was left of my rear brake pads, not much by all accounts. They tried fitting some, but there was not joy, just nothing. It was game over for the Epic and all because I was to set on continuing and not getting the pads changed sooner, lesson learned.

Lap 13 – It’s all gone Pete Tong (wrong)

It was on lucky lap 13 (had to be right!) that I started to go downhill. The rain had eased and actually the clouds were breaking up. Was it actually going to get dry? This should have been a good thing. The problem is the part between wet and dry son it is simply terrible to ride in especially on super grippy tyres. The amount of times the chain came off was beyond counting. I would pedal a little and then be spinning and going no where, it was getting ridiculous, so much mud. I was getting really annoyed that I wasn’t making much progress with loads of stop, start moments just unclogging the gears so that I could pedal for a little bit. Then I had a silly off on a really muddy section before the long fire break and bashed my knee.

P1080921

Am I on a fat bike?

This was the turning point in my head. I was not happy. I rolled down that track trying to loosen up my knee and thankfully it didn’t seem so bad, but then it was as if all the pains and hurts rushed to the surface. My neck was giving me shooting pains when I moved it, my fingers were aching because of my thumb being above the bar putting more pressure on my fingers. Then there was my feet. They were both throbbing on the balls of my feet, but it was my left foot that felt like I had a huge blister that was stuck onto the inside of my not so waterproof Sealskinz (I guess nothing can withstand this amount of water!). It was not pleasant in the slightest. I think this lap took about 2 hours, felt like it anyway so when I eventually got back to the pit the light was just starting to creep in, but I was not good and didn’t want to go back out. May be I had hit the wall, but whatever it was I was cold, tired, not really thinking straight and wanting to stop.

P1080924

Chain dropped off yet again!

Back at the pits after walking up the last little hill slide after the chain came off for the umpteenth time I chucked the bike down and just stood blankly. Thankfully Michelle was there to sort me out. I needed to get out of the wet clothes and warm my feet up. I sat down and started to slowly take of my shoes and then peel back my socks. Phew no blisters just a very weird feeling as the sock came off. It was just cold, wet, white and prune like, not nice whatever it was. As soon as I did this I knew I wasn’t getting back on the bike straight away. The bike was completely clogged up anyway it was not going anywhere easily. The suggestion of getting a shower was like music to my ears and after getting everything handed to me I plodded over to the shower block. I think it was at this point I saw a guy chucking a large flamingo inflatable over the fence. Another sign of madness, but I hear now that he was going to slide it down the grassy descent, still awaiting the video!

The shower took a while as it wasn’t the most powerful, but it got me cleanish and warmer, so that was ok. I then wandered back and just curled up in the tent. I set no alarm, but at that point I thought I was done. I had made it to about 4:30 or something, which was ok, but there was still many hours to go.

It’s sometimes down to random events

P1080913

End of lap 1 or 2 – not clean!

Andy had finished at 1am or something after doing a superb 11 laps and coming 9th overall in his first 12 hour solo event raising money for the Wheelchair rugby team to go to the 2020 Olympics. Maybe it’s more motivating to ride for a good cause and not just yourself, hmm food for thought there!

P1080930

It was some point around 7am I think that I was half awake, but heard someone get up. It was Andy who had an unsettled tummy. It was here that I sat up and he said, ‘shall I clean your bike and see if you want to go out again?’. I said yes, not knowing how I was really feeling, but I started to get some clean, dry kit back on and when he got back with the bike I just clambered on and began to pedal. If he had not been up then I’m not sure I would have carried on.  It was dry and sunny as well, but that was not great for the drying out track it was still deep and sticky in places. That rest did me the world of good, ok if I carried on I could have got a possible 2 extra laps in, but would I have done that or crashed several times and got really grumpy. Who knows, but in the conditions the rest for me was wise. I did hear someone shout to another competitor come on, everyone is quitting and giving up. To be honest I think anyone who gave this course a good crack gained my respect and no giving up happened, just sensible decisions! Carrying on seemed stupid, but hey each to there own.

I was not sure how many laps I would squeeze in, but I was feeling ok, the legs were fine it was whether the bike was going to get me round as the chain continued to drop. I only had one major issue on what was the penultimate lap when my rear mech just jammed or something and it was going no where at all. It was then a chap came past and asked if I was ok and he could see I was struggling. He gave it a try, did some wiggling of the mech and somehow it sprung back to life. It’s the guys like him that I really appreciate. He could have happily ignored me and road off, but he chose to stop and help regardless of what that did to his position. I saw many accounts of this on the laps. There was many broken bikes out there! It’s that together spirit and being in it all together that really makes these events a huge success.

That’s a wrap!

P1080932

Just keep smiling and everything will be alright…esp when it’s all over!

I got round to the finish for about 1pm. I think, most had finished with only a few riders behind me slowly coming in. I crossed the line and a sense of relief came over me and then I had a beer shoved in my face which in my state of not thinking, downed it. I really don’t like beer…any chance of some cider as well on the finish line? Any who’s just like that it was done!

IMG_0071

A fantastic trophy hand made by ‘Beer Babes’ and Joystick from Exposure lights!

I didn’t know what to do with myself apart from wander around for a bit as the podiums weren’t too far away, not that I knew where I had come. It turned out that I had won my category (solo 24hr) and come 5th overall. What a result considering the lead up to this was not exactly full of training and the event itself was full of minor upsets. I was happy just to have done all I could let alone get on the podium. That was just the icing on the cake.

P1080937

Happy as larry!

Here’s the details of my 16 laps and everybody else’s very respectable lap times: Pivot 2412. If you are intrigued on some stats, here’s the Strava timing of it, which my phone managed to track without dying! I have no regrets of how I did, but it has left me thinking that I need to do it again and go the distance with no big stops/sleep and do the full 24 hours. This means that I think I will be back, but that’s mainly because this event is one of the best with a great course whatever the weather, superb atmosphere, great for the whole family and just super fun. I just wish I took a couple more days off to really get into the festival style that it is like. Simply awesome and here’s the photo’s from Digi Dave (Dave Hayward) who braved the weather to get some cracking shots!

P1080942

What an amazing bunch of ladies to share the podium with!

Lessons learned

  1. The weather plays a massive part on the condition of your bike, so take more spares than you think you may need
  2. Make your back up bike a nice light 29er hardtail or something
  3. You may be a solo rider, but it really helps to have a pit crewe and support with you through it all!
  4. Stop before you trash your brakes. 10 minutes stopping to fix it and clean it is better than not getting back on the bike at all because you’ve trashed the brakes and this will also save you money in the long run!

    IMG_0080

    DO NOT LET YOUR BRAKE PADS GO THIS FAR!!!

  5. I need to learn what food and drink choices I should be consuming as my stomach wasn’t happy half way through – Should I have had the gels?
  6. The legs can keep plodding on, but it’s the mind games that will get you, oh and all the sore points on your body
  7. 24hour racing isn’t as bad as I thought!
P1080940

Still smiling!

You may be able to tell that despite the conditions, the bike breakages, the muddy kit, the pains, aches and stomach discomfort that I enjoyed this in a very strange way. Not all the time, but for the most part it was ace. It was a real challenge and one that I think I did rather well at tackling. I hope all that were there and may have ended it early won’t be put off, but it will spur them on to give it another go. For me it’s helped to get my mojo back a little even if I am still broken with pain under the knees from repetitive use, neck and shoulder pain from being in the one position for so long and numb fingers with occasional pins and needles/pain from being in the wrong position on the bars. When I am fully recovered, which I hope is sooner rather than later I will be back on it and keen to put a few more events on the calendar where before this was going to be my last event for a while. I may still do less, but I think I have got to come back and go the whole hog at next years Pivot Twentyfour12 – lucky number 13 right!!!

image.php

Lastly thanks you to all the event crewe, marshals and fellow competitors and encouraging pit crews, it really is an awesome event to be involved in! THANK YOU!

 

The Weeks leading up to Pivot Twenty-four 12 – Will I be faster than a tortoise?

The last post was left with me, crashing out from Mountain Mayhem, feeling pretty gutted that I failed to complete a 24 hour solo race. Instead I left hot and bothered (mainly cos of the soaring heats) with a bike in need of repair, bruises on my legs, cut on my forehead (but we don’t mention head injuries, if it’s not that bad), a sore right wrist and a swollen and very sore left thumb. Driving home was not the most comfortable, but I made it after a sugar overload half way. When I got back I just crashed out and straight back to normality with additional physical hindrances!

IMG_2765

Bruised and really sore

I’m not one who rushed to the doctors straight away, I didn’t think anything was broken in my thumb, but after a week of the same amount of pain, I thought I best get it checked out. 5 hours sitting in a minor injuries hospital is not what I call fun on a day off, but I was better off than some of the people in there! It turned out just as I thought, tendon damage and it’s just time that heals. Sometimes I wish I had broken it, it may have healed quicker! It got strapped up with a thumb spica support, just so I had very limited range of movement for the next few days to see if that helped. All I know was that it was frustrating, one because I’m left handed and it was my left thumb, but also because you use your thumbs a lot, opposable thumbs and all that. It makes everything a lot harder from writing, to pulling you shorts up to washing up. All tough with one hand!

DDWAjJrXoAQTP5l

Thumbs up for everything!!!

 

This left me quite down about the prospect of not being able to join in the fun at Pivot, but all I could do was hope it would heal. The heat wave of the year was on and it led me to simply do nothing, mope about and feel sorry for myself. I think I went for a run once, but half heartedly. I was just not in the game to do anything regarding bikes. It was as if I had given up on the whole idea of being a biker, not just because of being injured, but recently I have lost the love of it. Going to events because I had booked in advanced, not because I wanted to, which doesn’t make them the easiest to get stuck in whole-heartedly. Not being able to ride wasn’t bothering me too much at this point.

Another week or so passed and all I was doing was using my single speed steel road bike on the couple of km’s to work and back. It felt ok on the road so took it out for a longer flat road ride, but the longer I rode the more sore my thumb got. I really wanted to test the water off-road on a gentle mountain bike ride especially when a demo Cannnondale Jekyll was on offer. However, this was a bad idea, it was almost ok on the climb, but the descents were painful. I had to drop the seat post with my palm and hold on with my thumb above the bar to reduce the pain from the roughness. Not good, too much too soon. This just left me frustrated still, but at least a small voice was saying I needed to get back on bikes, but it was the turbo trainer for me.

DEIu-tDXsAI5XBr

The 2018 Cannondale Jekyll, shame I couldn’t ride it properly 

It was when I had to miss the MTB Marathon down in Exmoor, which I do enjoy that I seemed to start talking myself round to getting my butt into action. Instead of the 65km off road, I headed off on my old road bike and did a steady 80km and sneaked into the Velothon Wales up Caerphilly mountain just to grab an ice cream, it was good to be out, but still uncomfortable in some positions.

DETqVoiXsAA4hMn

Lemon Curd Ice-cream, so good!

As well as that, I had just signed out of Zwift because it was summer and who wants to sweat buckets inside, when you can play outdoors…I signed back in, humph! It was all I could do as I could spin the legs without even holding on, so that was the best for me just now, at least I had the Tour de France and Wimbledon for company!

DFSFttSXcAAgynL

Sweaty Betty!

It still wasn’t great because it doesn’t really imitate the terrain that a mountain bike would go over, but it was definitely better than nothing. I managed a couple of longer road rides too when it felt slightly better, but discovering my right wrist began to twinge in certain positions, not ideal, but it was bearable. There was also a mountain bike distance ride chucked in there for good measure, which was pretty, but pretty dull, not so much on the adventurous side!

It is now the final week before Pivot. I’ve tested the waters on the off-road again with a steady pedal around Cwmcarn trails. It was a mixture of feelings, at first just the happiness of being back on on the mountain bike with a little bit of my mojo back, but then there was the struggle with the dropper post lever, I used it sparingly, as it was sore and not essential most of the time. I shifted the levers and grips to more comfortable positions on the bars and that seemed to help. It was on the descents where it hurt the most, but as soon as the descent was over, a quick shake out and it seemed to ease off.

image.php

I would say I’m 85% there in fitness and 90% healed, so I’m gonna give it a good crack with the help of a few Ibuprofen and various snacks and goodies. I had all the best intentions to do all the training back when I booked, but it may be a little too late. Hearing of guys training endlessly for the past 9months just for this race. All I have done is a 7 hour, a 12 hour, a few long road spins and a number of hours on Zwift, but it is wha it is. All I can do now is hope that it will be enough to see me through to actually complete a 24 hour solo race. This is my only aim, to say I rode as much as I physically could in the 24 hours and not quit, stop or crash (without causing further injury to myself), hopefully crossing the line after the longest 24 hours of my life!

If you are heading down there, I hope you have a fantastic race as well. It’s quite nice this time that my bro is entering the 12 hour race, so I will be in good company. All in all it will be a good weekend whatever happens and whatever the weather, fingers crossed the rain holds off. The next time I write will be after the event come what may and hopefully I shall pedal faster than a tortoise or turtle because I will actually be there!!!

All updates about the event are on their website, Facebook and Twitter

 

Bike Review: 2017 Specialized Epic FSR Comp Carbon

Epic-comp-Rio-2016-Torch-Edition-exp

One of Specialized promo shots!

New is always better?

It’s always a good day when it’s new bike day. This came to me later last summer in the form of the 2017 Specialized Epic FSR Comp Carbon Torch Edition. Before I continue, no it isn’t the version that changes colour in the heat! That was the SWorks version, yes it’s very cool and worked well on the Tarmac at the Olympic Games in Rio. Little miss positivity in me says I got the best of both worlds having both the yellow and the orange. It’s certainly eye catching and is my little ray of sunshine whatever the weather, but of course the paint job really doesn’t affect the performance of the bike, but it certainly got my attention! Yes shiny new bikes are great, but it’s worth taking a look at what you want to be using it predominantly for, what kit is on it, where they may have skimped, which could change the feel and performance of the whole bike.

IMG_1786

This bike is a whole lot of new to me and I jumped in without trying it, so I really was hoping the reviews of previous models and my appreciation of the research, technology and design that Specialized put into there bikes was going to meet my expectations. I was after a cross country race machine, but also something that would be comfortable to ride in 12 and 24 hour solo races, to be honest I think that’s a big ask of any bike and in fact my body! I was going to go for the Epic HT, but this one got released and I just couldn’t resist a little bit of suspension to soften the blow and too be honest I’m already pleased I did and I’ve not done the 24 hour races yet!

IMG_1787

So here’s the low-down

  • FRAME: Specialized FACT 9m carbon, World Cup XC 29 Geometry, M5 rear triangle, carbon PF30 BB, carbon headset cups, 142mm dropouts, internal cable routing, PM 160 rear brake, SWAT tool cradle
  • FORK: Custom RockShox Reba RL, rebound adjust, Solo Air spring, tapered alloy crown/steerer, 15x100mm Maxle Stealth thru-axle, 100mm of travel, 51mm offset (THESE HAVE ALREADY BEEN REPLACED!)
  • REAR SHOCK: Fox/SBC Epic remote Mini Brain with Autosag, brain fade adjust i-valve
  • STEM: Specialized, 3D-forged alloy 75mm, 4-bolt, 6-degree rise (Switched to a 45mm)
  • HANDLEBARS: Specialized Mini-rise, 6000 alloy, 8-backsweep, 6-upsweep, 10mm rise, 720mm width, 31.8mm clamp
  • BRAKES: Shimano M506, hydraulic disc, resin pad, 180/160mm rotor
  • DRIVETRAIN: SRAM NX/GX 11spd with 11-42 Cassette and 30T chainring
  • WHEELS: Specialized disc, alloy, sealed cartridge bearings,15x100mm thru-axle Front, 32h. 12×142 Rear
  • TYRES: Specialized Fast Trak, Control casing, 29×2.2″, 60TPI, clincher, Aramid folding bead, 2Bliss Ready
  • SADDLE: Specialized Body Geometry Phenom Comp, hollow Cr-Mo rails, 143mm (CHANGED)
  • SEATPOST: Specialized, alloy, single bolt, 30.9mm (TO BE CHANGED TO A DROPPER!)

GEOMETRY

To some of you this will be a list of numbers in a table. In fairness it still is a bit of a minefield as I’ve not had it explained in a way I’d remember, but I mainly look at the head-tube angle, where the steeper the angle the more agile the steering, the epic being to the steeper side making it quick and responsive. Stand over is becoming less important as the frame design is giving away to generally lower stand over. If you want to get a better understanding of some of these numbers check these articles out

epic-geometry

It’s got big wheels!

I have only tried out a couple of 29ers in quite different circumstances. Firstly was on the 2016 Enduro and stumpy 29er and simply found them underwhelming because they could just plough though everything (no technique required), plus I struggled to turn them into corners, but I think that is my issue not the bikes! The other one I tried out was the Canyon Exceed CF SLX 29, which was a fast, racey hardtail with the Rock shot RS1 forks, so the other extreme and after a couple of days on it, got used to the ride and loved pretty much everything about it, apart from having to give it back!

img_6962

MTB Marathon – 2 capable bikes here!

The 29er is now pretty well established as a common wheel size particularly for cross country, though lately they are trying out the big wheel and long travel bikes, which seems to be working as well (there are no limits!). There are questions that go with height of the rider in relation to what size wheeled bike would perform best for the rider, but this is just an ongoing debate that has no black and white answer, just guidance to get the perfect fit. This is however where it falls short, those wheels are pretty naff to be honest. They are what brings up the weight and loses in stiffness especially as the spokes are already required some more tension and I’ve not ridden it hard really.

I’ve seen a natural link between 29er wheels and faster rolling pace, so that’s got to be a good thing right? Well, the part that I have had to come to grips with, is actually getting it up to speed. When it’s there, yes it flies, but I am all too aware that I’m having to put more effort in to get it there. It’s amazing on the long climbs, it’s fantastic at skipping over roots and rocks, in a straight line it goes. It’s just those flipping corners, It’s a big wheel to guide around sometimes narrow and twisty trails that sometimes I tend to take a wider line than I would prefer. All in all though, the pro’s definitely outweigh the cons on this bike anyway!

It’s got a Brain

“Brain suspension technology was developed to deliver the utmost in efficiency on the trail. Whether it’s at the front or rear of a bike’s suspension, it’s able to differentiate between rider input and trail bumps, ensuring that your pedaling forces aren’t being wasted in compressing the suspension.” https://www.specialized.com/us/en/brain-technology

IMG_2775

Soft to Firm adjustment

It’s firm over smooth terrain to maximize efficiency and active over the rougher stuff. Simply put this means more speed and control, now that’s never a bad thing. I’ve played about with it as it has soft to firm settings. Now on the shorter XC rides I have been popping it onto firm, to gain the maximum speed as the terrain isn’t that rough. On the trail centre rides, mtb marathons and the latter stages of a long endurance ride I put it to the soft side for a bit more comfort where comfort as well efficiency is appreciated.

IMG_2774

The only draw back to it is in the middle setting closer to soft is the delay in reaction. You go into a bomb hole or some rougher terrain and it doesn’t feel as though it’s quite in sync with you. Fair enough it can’t see what’s coming up, so naturally there will be slower reactions, but it does create some interesting feedback and noise just after going over the rougher obstacle. I think I still need to get to grips with it to gain the maximum usage out of it, just like my own brain!

The Ride

There is so much on a bike these days that you can waffle on about, but the majority of the time all we care about it how it performs at the prescribed style of biking it’s designed for. In this case it was chucked straight into the fire as it’s first outing was a 12 hour at Torq in you Sleep, last year! Nothing like 12 hours in the saddle to really get to know it, right! I had managed to go for a quick hour spin up and down the local trails near me, just to get a handle on things and twerking it a bit, such as seat post height (not used to a static post), saddle position and getting to grips with the bigger wheels, really hoping I would like them!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It was up to the task, more than me! It was comfortable, efficient and could have been fast if it wasn’t for me slowing it down. The first few laps was definitely an adjustment to the bigger wheels in the close and tight single track, struggling a little to turn them properly. This improved as I got to know the course and get to grips with the bike. By the end of the race, not only did we take the win (again not much competition here), but I was loving the bike apart from the grips, my hands were at the verge of cramping. It was smooth on the undulations, climbed with ease and on the flats it munched up the terrain. I did find it a bit more effort to get up to speed, but once it was there it didn’t want to stop. These sections were short lived unfortunately, and then I had to build the speed and maintain it through the trees. I was noticing that I was going slower because of the wheel size that I have done on previous bikes on this same course. Is this telling me I am better off on a 650b wheel or that I need to change my riding style to adapt to the bigger wheels. Overall I would say this is built for the short XC races as well as the marathon style rides and it’s down to a few tweeks and rider handling whether or not you can ride to what it is capable of.

crhgzvaweaawniv-jpg-large

It can handle the rugged north (Kielder 101)

It would be better if…

SADDLE – There’s always thing we would like to change and upgrade on bikes just to make them the best possible. There were a few things for my comfort that needed changing, the saddle (a key contact point), with the amount of time I was spending in the saddle this was important, so I have gone with the Specialized Oura expert saddle, which for me is so comfortable even though it’s highlighted to be for the road.

IMG_2777

Specialized Oura Expert Saddle

FORKS – A massive upgrade and unexpected treat for myself courtesy of Mojo Suspension setting it off with Fox 32 step-cast forks. These not only finish of the bike beautifully in the bold orange, but they are a whole lot lighter, great adjustability, stable and capable. These were a massive step up from the Rockshox Reba RL’s that come as standard. If there were 2 things that could be upgraded it would be the forks and then the wheel set. The wheels are the massive let down, they are heavy, basic and even for myself being a lighter rider I notice that they are not very strong, but unless a new lightweight XC wheel set falls in my lap that’s what I will use!

STEM – The next thing was the stem, it came with a 75mm length and just found this to stretched out and I was on the lower limit of the medium, so initially reduced it to a 60mm and that was better, but now I have brought it in 15mm more with a 45mm stem that has made the position slightly more uprights and the handling thankfully not twitchy, but just a bit more manoeuvrable for me which is ideal.

GRIPS – Following the stem were the grips, I’ve not got on with basic Specialized ones at all, just feel horrible. These changed initially to some ODI Elite grips, with a bit of waffle for better grip. These are so comfortable and ‘grippy’ but I popped them onto my Orange P7, so I then got some Ergon Marathon grips that have a bit more palm support for the longer rides. I’m still in 2 minds about these as I get slight discomfort down the sides after a couple of hours, but I think it will be down to moving the position slightly.

PEDALS – I did over the winter months pop on some Crank Brother Candy 1 pedals. I was told that particularly in muddy conditions they were one of the easiest to clip in and out of and able to shed mud quickly. I can confirm that they are very easy to clip out of and get rid of the mud well, but to get into them, not so much. I spent more time faffing and struggling to clip into these on a couple of races that I wished I was on flat pedals! It was good to try them, but I’ll stick to my Shimano XT pedals, which just work for me. Speaking of mud, which we see a lot of here in the UK, this bike over the winter races has struggled with mud clearance around particularly the rear tyre. A couple of times I have had to stop to clear it up as the mud has just built up too much. Apart from that it’s handled the delightful conditions of particularly wet Wales (the sun does shine, honest!).

S.W.A.T

It stands for ‘Storage, Water, Air, Tools’ and all the little tricks work really well. It’s really neat that a bike can carry most of the repair stuff that it may need. It’s all tucked in little crevasses that you don’t see straight off and with minimal noise when pedalling. For one you can have to water bottle cages, that can comfortably hold 600ml bottle, not much more or it will hit the frame or shock. There is a multi tool just above the shock underneath the top tube, You could get one that screws onto the bottom of the SWAT bottle cages, but this is slightly rattly, but convenient.

IMG_2779

Next up is the Chain tool tapped into the headset, with the power link sitting neatly on top and all you need to get it out is the 4mm from the multi tool!

IMG_2778

Lastly there is the SWAT XC Storage, that works because of the extra bottle cage screw hole to raise the bottle cage, attach the box to the cage and away you go. It really is pretty much self sufficient.

IMG_2781

Dropper versus Static…

The latest purchase that could be seen as a topic off debate is a KS E30i 100mm dropper post. It’s one of only a few that have been made for the narrower seat post diameter of 27.2mm. The reason I have gone for this is because I already know that a dropper when descending allows me to let the bike move under me more freely and I can get my weight back therefore increasing my confidence on the bike and in turn hopefully impact positively on my speed too. I just know I have had several occasions where I feel having the seat post up (as high as I need it) means I have caught my shorts and bashed my legs trying to avoid it. The gain in a slight bit of weight will most definitely be over ridden by the comfort, confidence and speed on descents. The Battle on the Beach is going to be the last time for the static post as it looks pretty flat and fast, XC through and through!

C8rEJ2AWsAIG3Bm.jpg-large

Oo cheeky…Why are MTB companies so tongue in cheek with there slogans?!?

Having now used the bike with the dropper on a couple of trail centre rides including Glentress trail centre and the Tweedlove Glentress 7. The dropper for me is a must. It gives me the ability to get further back on the bike on some of the steeper sections allowing me to go through with a bit more speed and control. It definitely outweighs any disadvantages. There would have been a couple of moments where with a static post I may have opted for the easier line, which meant longer, so in fact having the dropper was to a great advantage.

Verdict

It would be easy to say, this is the best bike I’ve ridden because it’s probably one of the only XC bikes I’ve had the pleasure to ride that has been realistic to what I could afford. As mentioned before I’ve ridden the top spec Canyon Exceed CF SLX and the Cannondale Scalpel Si both being £6k plus and ridiculously light, stupidly stiff and just rapid straight out of the box, but there’s no way that I could afford one, only sponsorship would make this happen. The Epic is great for where I’m at, I’m not the fastest out of the blocks, but I don’t give up and neither does this bike. It is not the most playful on the local trails, but once getting used to the 29er wheels it is just more capable than myself. I know this because I met someone else with one and he was flying on it. It’s a shame that certain speeds don’t come with the bike, not dependent on the rider! If I could I would go for the S Works version, but for what I use it for this is great.

img_2180

At the end of the day, it’s all about the fun you have on whatever steed you have!

 

 

 

 

Mountain Mayhem 2017 – A Solo Tale of 2 halves

Go Outdoors Mountain Mayhem 24hr 2017 – 

20th Anniversary at Gatcombe Park

24 HOUR SOLO

IMG_2723

The Pre-24 hour ramblings!

I may have said this before, but it appears that the older you get the quicker time passes by. It was Christmas 2016 that I booked onto Mountain Mayhems to make me commit to it and get the dates firmly in the diary. This was to be my first 24 hour solo MTB race, previously ‘only’ doing 12 hours and feeling finished after that. The thought of adding another 12 hour on top of it just sounds painful, let alone what it will be like when I have endured and hopefully enjoyed pedalling round a course for close to 24 hours as I can.

When I was at the 12/24 hours of Exposure and Pivot 24/12 it was watching these top athletes get more and more fatigued as they relentlessly pedalled through the night. It was when they finished and attempted to get off the bike or simply walk. They were broken men, physically and mentally spent, no surprise really, but the thing is they do lots of these events, there bodies may not like it, but they are used to it. This is where I feel super inexperienced and stepping foot into the unknown.

I consciously chose Mountain Mayhem to pop my 24 hour solo cherry for a few reasons. The main one being that everyone is doing 24 hours. Unlike other races where there is a 12 or 6 hour version, with this one everyone is in the same boat whether a team, pair or solo. This means you will get fewer whippets hustling past, though I’m under no illusion that there will still be many of them here, they may be going a little slower, maybe!

The lead up to this event has been less than desirable. After a pretty good winter of training and races I was putting in the miles and enjoying the new world of Zwift on the many cold, dark, rainy days. For reasons unknown to me I was slowly losing the drive to go biking and was doing very little in the way of training. I got through the Glentress 7 hour endurance race up in Scotland and blagged 2nd place, which was undeserved due to the lack I had done. That was 3 weeks prior to Mayhem and in that gap I have pootled to work on my steel single speed, done a couple of Zwift sessions, a handful of squats and push ups and that’s about it. My head is out of the game, so I’m hoping Mayhem will give me the shove I need to get back on the bike. It may have the opposite effect of making me not want to sit on a saddle for a very long time. I’m hoping it’s not the latter as I have Pivot 24/12 coming up at the end of July. Time will indeed tell!

IMG_2721

This was me for the next couple of days

This will be one new experience that is making me very nervous with a great deal of apprehension about the whole race. It is the longest time I will (attempt) to keep peddling for, it’s on a course that’s completely new to me, though I will get to know it VERY well and I don’t feel mentally or physically ready for it. Oh, and I am completely on my own, a solo, solo, so pitting for myself. To be honest for this one I’m happy to go alone, in a strange way it will be a good timeout even though I am surrounded by others I will be self sufficient and it will be all about my personal challenge. This could be quite a journey.

IMG_2724

Look how shiny that kettle is, and good advice from the mug!

I have it all planned, I have got hopefully all that I need and more. A few extra purchases largely to feed my tea habit. I have a Massive hot water dispenser that will be ready to pour tea that will hopefully stay hot/warm for the majority of the race. A new shiny kettle, stove and water carriers with the tap thing for easy bottle top ups. The last treat was a camping table, not sure how I have gone this long without one to be honest, it’s so much more civilised. This does mean I have no real excuses apart from mechanicals that I can’t fix with the many spares I have or injury. It will be down to the mental game probably from 3am onwards (I can’t believe I am evening saying that!).

Mountain Mayhem 24hr 2017 – the 20th Anniversary & Final Edition

IMG_2722

I had heard about Mayhem for years and just thought it was just mad to pedal for 24hours, now here I am. I couldn’t miss out on this event with it being a rather special one at that. It’s had a couple of locations, many sponsors, mixture of weather (some better than others), but largely hundreds of competitors and spectators coming year on year. There must be something about it for it to have achieved such great success, so we’ll see what all the fuss it about. There’s not much more I can tell you , there is a course that you try and go round as many times as possible within the 24 hour time limit. On top of that they are putting on kids races, evening entertainment and I’m sure much more in a stunning location, courtesy of Princess Ann opening it up just for this weekend!

IMG_2738

This year is set to be golden, weather wise any way. Previously there have been ‘puddles’ up to your shins. This year will be a contrast with sun cream being a necessary item, it’s going to be hot and not cooling down too much through the night either, which for me is good as I get pretty cold, pretty quickly, but it could also get to hot to handle.

All I can do now is, chill out. It is literally the calm before the storm, well race! I’ve got a nice space, track side just before the start/finish area. I have clocked where the closest loo’s are, the water sources, which are big tankers with cow like udder taps (highly amusing) and the escape route home if I want to throw my toys out the pram and bale (not planning on that one). I’ll check out the course in the evening and hopefully that will settle any nerves about what the course has got in store and highlight the major climbs, any tricky descents and places to have a swig of drink or something.

The Course – What’s in Store?

The map gives you hints of the main features and sponsored sections to show where the interest is or areas to be cautious of, but it can’t be too technical or hard as there are such a range of abilities here to get round it hopefully in one piece.

It’s seems a tad odd to do a practice lap of a course you’re going to do umpteen times, if all goes well, but it’s what we do and lets you stretch the legs and mentally prepare (if you do that) of what you will be exposed to for the race. Simply put this is going to be flipping tough. One lap was hard enough! It’s an 11km loop (according to my Garmin) with approximately 270 metres of climbing each lap. Now if this was a nice XC 4 lap style race then it would be tough, but achievable…24 hours mind is a whole different ball game. The climbs are going to feel like they are getting steeper and longer and trying to maintain the concentration on some of the single track sections will be tricky. I sense there will be a few silly hopefully not serious offs during this and possibly a bit of walking in the latter stages maybe. The practice loop took about an hour with a few stops for pictures and checking out the A or B lines along the way.

It begins in the event arena field and then heads quite quickly into the woodland on some single track sections. It’s a bit narrow in sections with some roots chucked in to keep you on your toes. It’s just a little undulating, but nothing to technical. There was the first choice with a little bomb hole  or skirt around the side, some may find it a little bit scary or not worth the risk, but I found A easier.

IMG_2728

A-line bomb whole, not so bad

Thankfully the majority is in the woodland keeping the hot sun off our backs. It carries on over some freshly cut tracks, some built up berms and a cheeky little short steep drop with a right hander, just to slow the pace down, before you fly round a couple of faster tracks with checker corners.

IMG_2729

Doesn’t look like much, but you don’t want to go in too fast or you’d miss the corner!

The next A or B choice could be interesting, the A being steeper and loose with a higher risk of washing out follow by a climb up the forest track. Not taking the B line it was only seeing people pop out the other side that made me wonder if it was more down, less up. It’s looking likely that the B line this time would be wiser.

IMG_2731

This was a drag, but it descended to the right, so that made you smile!

This then popped you out down the bottom of a field that drew your attention to the rather impressive stately home at the top of the hill, very nice! For the riders though it was where the climbing started to kick in, first a little slog up a grassy hill with a couple of steeper kicks just to make you work. You were rewarded with a nice wide and fast descent, so that climb is forgotten quickly.

IMG_2732

Round the lake, very pretty

This feeling is short lived when after a bit of a lake side pedal, very picturesque begins what seems like one continuous climb up back up to the event arena. There were a couple of short and steep descents, but they were quickly forgotten as the climbs on rocks, a few roots and the final grassy drag seem to take an age, the latter being exposed to the sun made it twice as hard. The lap ends with a blast around most of the campsite and then a little bumpy section before opening up to the start/finish. Few, quite action packed and apparently better than in previous years.

IMG_2727

The view just above the final climb, not bad eh!

 

This course already feels tougher, harder and sketchier than the other courses such as Torq in Your sleep and Pivot 24/12. This is not a bad thing, but it’s just going to make you work for it with no real let up! The challenge I face is when to hydrate as there isn’t much in the way of breaks in the course, a lot of single track and not much wide forest track until you’re in the arena. There is no denying it I’m in for a long 24 hours if I make it. If I was fit as a fiddle and on top form I may be looking at 20 or 21 laps maybe, but in my current state of play if I get anywhere in the higher teens that would be ok, but I really don’t have a clue how this will play out! If all else fails I won in the Kenda raffle, paid a quid and picked out the one for a set of Kenda tyres, so not all bad went 650b that fits a bike I don’t have, unless I make the Orange P7 an XC Machine and rock it at Pivot! I think I will be heading for that size on the new steed, whatever that may be!

 

Mountain Mayhem – A tale of 2 halves

FullSizeRender 8

The Epic all good to go

There are some races that you enjoy, there are others that you endure. I would say for me this had a bit of both. Waking up to blazing hot sunshine on the Saturday morning was lovely, but stupidly hot (I’m not very good in the heat). I would say I’m not good with extremes, that’s why i’m British, happy with overcast and meh weather, not too hot, not too cold (easily pleased!!!). If I were dipping my feet in a paddling pool in the shade then I’d lap up the sun, but not so much when you are pedalling with quite some effort to get round an 11km  course for hours on end.

IMG_2739

There were an random collection of animals including this friendly fella!

After a pretty relaxed morning, it was time to get to the start line. The nerves had kicked in and I was feeling very much out of my depth and very alone in the crowd with not much positivity for the following 24 hours. The crowds were gathering for the silly run thing. It was about a mile loop with the idea to spread the field out a bit then you grab your bike and begin your race journey. The keen beans sprinted off, either out for glory or wanted 5 minutes of speed before they hit the bike bit! I went for a gently jog, not a fan of running in SPD shoes, but it didn’t last long. Grabbed my bike, turned the Garmin on and the real race began. I had no idea who or how many I was actually racing, but it’s the type of race you can only do as much as you can.

IMG_2740

The riders briefing

Lap it up

The first lap was pretty steady as you can imagine being over 800 riders (or something) to get on there way. It only slowed down over the technical sections where some were taking it cautiously, which holds everyone up, but not for long. The first laps is always a bit steady with many just getting there bearings of the course, but went without a hitch, everyone all smiley, happy and energetic (that will change).

IMG_2726

My humble corner, next to the machines of Pivot Boompods!

Lap 2, the headache kicked in from dehydration and it was pounding, particularly on the descents as I was shaken about and feeling like I was getting pummelled from the inside. I was getting grumpy and not wanting to be there at all, the heat was a killer, but as always just plodded on for another lap as I still had a bottle with me and pushed on through the pain. It was end of lap 3 that I stopped to take some paracetamol and switch bottles, hoping that might lift the headache. I was still not in ‘the zone’ and not sure I would find it as although the majority was in the shade, when you hit the sun it hit you big style, not pleasant even just to sit it.

It was on lap 5 that I caught up with a lovely guy riding for JMC who was also soloing and had done a few before, we were going the same pace and we just chatted a bit as we pedalled steadily along, I was gleaming from his experience and how to pace it. The whole JMC team were just great, so hats off to them. This was a gentle distraction from the headache and by the end of the lap I was feeling much clearer (love paracetamol, don’t have it that often so the effect is quick) and I was getting a bit more energised. It’s amazing what a conversation, the temperature cooling slightly and the headache clearing makes you feel good. It felt as though I could get through this with a few more bottles of drink.

IMG_2734

The laps were in and around the hour mark, some longer because I was taking longer for breaks because of the heat and faffing. My new table funnily enough from the title sponsor ‘Go Outdoors’ that I bought just the week before decided to collapse, thought it had something more than velcro to hold it up with. This left all my organised snacks in a heap on the ground, in a mess. Not what I needed, so chucked it all in the back of the van and left it all to swelter, which wasn’t great. This is where a pit crewe comes in handy, to sort out the bits you don’t need to have to worry about. This is turning into a very big learning curve on how to plan and ask for help (I hate asking and always want to go alone, note to self >>>REALLY STUPID, GOING ALONE SUCKS<<<)

IMG_2735

Just so pretty!

What treats were in store?

In my snackageness I decided to go a bit more healthy and natural, so made some, jam rolls, banana loaf, healthy flapjack (didn’t know that existed, but it does), bought some ‘Oompf’ energy balls and bars (really tasty good, homemade in Dorset) and ‘Scratch Labs’ energy drink mix (made with real fruit juice).

Alongside this, I made a vat of vegetable pasta, bought some oat cakes, malt loaf and of course some Haribo, I was going to have a tub of mini jelly men, but could not track them down, so star mix it was! I was going to try this one without the use of energy gels as I am learning that for me a banana works more wonders that a slurp of a gel filled with a whole load of stuff your body may not like. This all seemed to be working a treat, but I really wish I had a fridge or something because it was getting all too warm and melty in the back of my van in the tropical heat.

Just keep pedalling

It may be a long race, but you can break it down as you pedal round and all the time the clock was counting down. The laps were a good length, so you knew it was around an hour for each lap. Those who were machines were averaging 47 minutes constantly. I was not one of these, so I knew each lap another hour or so had been ticked off. There were time checks to be had in all sorts of ways. When 3 hours clocked over, there was only 21 hours to go. After 6 hours, you were a quarter of the way through. at 8:30 it was lights on, so that’s a great time to start a new section, then there was 12 hours, half way through and so on.

What I did miss at this event was sections of entertainment, there was nothing. At Torq in your sleep, you get a DJ pumping out the tunes in the dark, at Pivot you got scone, jam and cream, TEA, lollies and a huge heap of encouragement (hoping for that again this year). Don’t get me wrong, there were supporters and marshals, but for a lot of it you were just plodding round on your own. It just seemed to be lacking the spark that I got from other events, but hey everyone seemed to love it, so I will shut up. I think I just wanted more distractions!

I decided at the lights on marker that I would have a change of kit as it was all sweaty and it was a smidge cooler than it was. It felt like the start of another race, new frame of mind for the night laps, it was going well and I do love biking in the dark. It brings the track to life. I had enough lights to, already having my own Exposure lights Maxx-d and Diablo with extra battery, I also borrowed another set just in case, but the battery life on these bad boys are so good now the one set would see me through, but now I guess I will have to wait for Pivot to test that out…

It all went wrong in a second

It only takes one slip up to put a halt to everything. It was lap 11, everything was going well, loving sneaking through the trees in the dark and just cruising. Woah, crash, bang, whollop, I was down and in pain. I had a fast paced crash on one of the easy descents that I had done 10 times before. It was very quick, not sure what caused it, but knew it wasn’t good. A bash to the helmet and slamming onto my side, knee and hands left me in a heap on the track. I’m not sure who the chap was who stopped and helped me, but thank you very much, he made sure I was alright, moved my bike out of the way of on coming riders. Checking the bike over, the rear mech had been bent leaving the gears jumping all over the place. I managed to bend the mech slightly, but it wasn’t happy or fixed and nervous it would break. This unbeknownst to me was to be my last lap. It was simply to painful to hold the handlebars, it didn’t feel safe to ride the descents and on the climbs the bike wasn’t happy as it jumped around the gears, so It was time to retire. After a little weep by my van I literally chucked the bike by the van and threw the bed I wasn’t planning to sleep in back in and just laid there. My race was done and I only achieved 12 hours. That’s the way it goes. I feel a little annoyed I couldn’t complete it, but it’s only a race and in a few days time it will all be forgotten. It also makes this write up shorter!

If it was just the bike, in the remaining time I could have probably fixed the bike enough to get it working. The issue was my hands the left thumb swelling up badly and the right palm bruise making it agony to put any pressure on let alone try and shift the gear lever or dropper post (not really needed on this one), but all said and done, it’s not worth putting your body through anything that may do it more harm than good. You could say that the whole race does that, but us humans seeming to like pushing our bodies to the limit now and then!

After a couple of hours sleep, I just lay there watching guys and girls just keep riding through lap after lap. I was struggling in the heat even in the early hours, but when it got to about 9am, it was roasting and I would guess that those last few hours for all the riders were the hardest, not just because of the 21 hours that had gone before, but the heat was testing. After an event like this, you get the ‘should have, could have, if, buts and maybes’ and it’s easy to say in hindsight that I could have been a contender for the podium if not from that crash. I was already on 11 at around 12:30, so if I kept that pace then maybe I would have got another 8 or so laps, but I can say that easily now, it’s a whole other story if I were actually riding it. I will never know now, which is a little frustrating, but hey that’s the way it goes. My hat goes off to everybody who just kept going, everyone should be proud of what they did, it certainly ended mayhem on a high.

24hr still eludes me

I can’t say that just entering a 24 hour race means I’ve completed it. For me that was just a 12 hour and a long wait for the finish! I will now have to wait for Pivot 24/12 at the end of July to hopefully say I have entered and completed to the best of my ability a 24 hour race. The difference at that one will be that my brother is racing 12 hour and brings his lovely wife who not so secretly loves organising the pit crewe and keeping us sorted. There will also be other people I am looking forward to see there and just feel it will be more of a fun event for me than Mayhem was, just depends on what the weather is going to throw at us. For now I need to get healed up, fix the bike see if I can sort out a second bike as well maybe (could be the P7) if the worst happens and give myself a slap in the face and sort my head out. I’m not sure how much of this long distance biking malarkey is going to be in it, I think I need a change, a new challenge or just a break. Too much of something can take it’s toll on someone, not all as I know many racers will do this year on year and absolutely love it. I want what they have, but just for now I want to plan a few holidays and have a bit of play time, none of that training malarkey. If your hearts not in it, move on and try something else and I think that’s wise for me right now.

All the links and social media about Mountain Mayhem 2017

Results – I did 11 laps, looks like lap 2 didn’t get acknowledged, but not fussed enough to get it adjusted

Photo’s – Daisy Dog album 1, Daisy Dog Album 2, Daisy Dog Album 3, Daisy dog Album 4

Mountain Mayhem Website

Singletrack reviews

UPDATE

It’s been 2 weeks since Mountain Mayhem and unfortunately I am still not fully up and running. I got my thumb checked out after a 4 hour wait at the minor injuries clinic. The X-ray showed that I hadn’t broken my thumb, but must have badly damaged the tendons and they take longer to heal. Humph! I got really down by this and didn’t bother doing any cycling. Then the thought that I still wanted to go to Pivot with a fighting chance, forced me to get the turbo trainer out and start spinning the legs as no hands are needed!

I thought that it was healing nicely after a week being strapped up, so though I would test the waters with an off-road ride around Cwmbran – BAD IDEA. I was ok on the flat and alright on the climb though my right wrist was niggling in certain positions, but it was the descents that were the killer. I couldn’t use the dropper post with out instant pain and then the simplicity of holding on was becoming worse and worse with every bump and hit. Frustrated to say the least.

For now under wise instruction from fellow bikers I am restricting myself to the turbo and the road (have to fine the smoother roads) and see how it goes. I’m really hoping I can participate in Pivot, but time will tell.

Tweedlove Bike Festival 2017: Odlo Glentress 11 (Run) & 7 (Bike)

Screen Shot 2017-05-31 at 17.23.02

Tweedlove Bike Festival

“TweedLove Bike Festival is a celebration of all things bike, and is 100% organised by bike riders. We think we’ve got the UK’s best concentration of mountain and road biking options right on our doorstep, so we have a lot of riders living here, keen to invite you to share our back yard”

It’s really rather awesome, so many events, not just for the elite, but for the whole family, for the roadies and the mountain bikers, the young and the old. It’s bringing the biking community from far and wide, creating opportunities to explore this stunning area on 2 wheels, well and a run was chucked in there too!

IMG_2661

View from my accommodation!

The festival runs throughout May and June, growing from strength to strength. All the events are listed here: Tweedlove Bike Festival. I may have only been up for a short snippet of this whole thing, but I can already say it has gone down a storm and set to continue. A great festival and celebration, run by passionate people is always going to be filled with fun and won’t disappoint. I hope that I can get a bit more involved next year, support the event and volunteer as much as possible. That would be a good excuse to spend an extended time up there in such a beautiful part of the country.

What did I get up to?

Travelling up for a weekend from South Wales isn’t the shortest of journeys, but it was totally worth it, heading up on the Thursday, gave me time to play. After 6 hours plus in the scorching heat (not used to that!) I was passing through some gorgeous scenery and remembering the beauty that I was entering where I used to live and work. It was straight to the trails to stretch the legs around Innerleithen 7Stanes, taking it nice and steady on my Orange P7 because of the heat as well as the looming 7 hour race on the other bike!

 

IMG_2665

P7 enjoying this as a back drop!

I had to make the most of the area, so went for a spin around the Glentress red trail on the Friday morning in the beautiful sun, again very steady, but still good fun. It was then time to chill out, grab some food. If you’re in Inners, head to ‘Cafe No.1′ on the high street, simply tasty good food, chilled out and very welcoming, then get a refreshing homemade ice cream from Caldwells, so good! After a mooch along by the river in Peebles, it was time to get psyched for the 11km trail run that evening.

IMG_2670

Picture Perfect…the water was refreshing

Odlo Glentress 11km Trail Run

Running, what?!? I don’t run, I’m a biker. They were cunning those organisers up in Tweedlove HQ. ‘I know, why don’t we do a deal on the run if you book it at the same time as the Glentress 7 hour bike race’. Little did I know that this caught my attention and I was doing the occasional run now and then back in the winter, so why not eh, I’d be up there anyway so a positive way to spend the evening!

It’s amazing how the months disappear and all the ‘training’ you may have had planned just simply slips away. Before you know it the weekend where you’re meant to be on your game rocks up and you really haven’t done anything significant to help get through this event. Ah well, what will happen, will happen! This was the first of it’s kind at the ‘bike festival’ and with up to 150 runners out, I would say they might do it again!. This was massively helped by it being a gloriously sunny day, though we aren’t used to it, so it got a bit much for some! We are never happy, whatever the weather. I was pretty content, no pressure on me, this was all just for fun or something like that!

The Odlo Glentress 11, is set conveniently on the same course that the bike race was on the following day, so if all else failed and I was absolute poop at least I was gaining the benefit of a track walk! As you can tell, I had no race time in mind, just to get round the course was enough for me! It’s the taking part that happens, right!

Running is simple, all you need is a good set of trainers, shorts and t-shirt and your away. I rocked some green biking shorts, blue top and my blue Salomon X-Scream trainers. In the end I was nicely colour co-ordinated, not planned at all! After sign on, there was all the time in the world to faff and forget key things.

IMG_2671

Check out that for colour co-ordination!

I was chilling in the event arena, thankfully they did the runners briefing, where the first thing they mentioned was to make sure we had the timing chip or you’ll just be out for a run, not actually in the event. I casually wandered out of the briefing, down  the the van to pick up said timing chip and discreetly blended back in for the final words of the briefing…I’m sure it was all very useful stuff, but I wouldn’t know. At least I was in the race!!!

It was go time, a steady pace, I wasn’t going to sprint off stupidly and bonk half way in, so it was steady as she goes, especially when it was up, up, up! The pack very quickly began to string out as the running machines set off at a blistering pace and the rest of us found our own pace and settle into it. All the climbs up the fire tracks were nice and steady. There was a few steeper kicks up the single track sections, which even at a steady pace were getting the heart rate high. It seemed to be on the technical descents where I gathered momentum and just went with it! I was managing to gradually catch people on the climbs, but hopping over the roots and finding the inside line on the descents and I was gaining on people pretty quickly. I was definitely on the edge of my control and I could have on several occasions fallen flat on my arse, but thankfully I remained upright! It must have been that 2 day orienteering course I went on way back when at uni, where it was all about ‘fairy feet’ when descending, totally paid off!

I even managed a sprint finish from somewhere, just pipping another lass to the finish and almost forgetting to blip the timing chip, thankfully there were people to shout you back! I was sweating buckets, yet feeling good. In a time of 1:03 I was pretty happy with that especially when I really wouldn’t class myself as a runner, more of a head clearer now and then! I was totally unaware of my position, but a check back at the results showed that actually I did alright and came 2nd in the U35 category, only a minute behind the leader, well I wasn’t expecting that…maybe I should try this trail running thing, or quit whilst I’m ahead!

IMG_2672

Not the most comprehensive print out, but it’s got my time!

That was it, a few glasses of water downed and chucked over my head, it was done. There wasn’t any podium for this one, it just kind of ended with the satisfaction of being part of it. Though I think this could be improved upon if it’s going to stay in the festival next year

Odlo Glentress Seven – Let’s kick up some dust

The day started the same as other events, a hearty bowl of porridge and brew in hand. Sitting around the breakfast table, unknowingly with the winners of the pairs from last year, Tom Wragg (who I now discovered owns Ruby the trail dog!) & Joe Norledge who were back to keep there crown, but super relaxed as they set about there morning routine, such nice chaps. Alongside there mates yet rival competitors, Jack Luke and Reuben Bakker-Dyos from Bike Radar joining them. They set off whilst I did a bit more faffing, think I was getting too relaxed! Got the kit on, went full XC stylé with full lycra, mainly because of the heat, I did don some sweet Sako7 socks to complement or clash with my shiny new Northwave shoes, it’s good to be bright, right?!?

IMG_2673

What a combination!!!

Headed up to Glentress in good time as I was entering I spotted a van I recognised behind me. To my surprise is was a group from Rock UK Whithaugh Park, up to race as 2 teams, it was really nice to see some familiar faces that I haven’t seen for a while, think they were up for a bit of fun! Collected the timing chip, popped down my box in the solo pitt, full of too much stuff that I probably wouldn’t need. Did the necessary checks to the bike (tyre pressure), got the all important Chamois cream on (don’t know how I never used to use this stuff!), number on the bike and I was ready for the off. Super relaxed and out to have some fun, love riding new events, going into the unknown a little (apart from my run the night before).

IMG_2674

Number 69…

Rider Briefing

We all do it, check the weather several times before an up and coming event. This one was interesting, it was a scorcher of a week in the lead up, the run certainly proved that one! It was no surprise that this was set to continue, but it never lasts. There was a looming thunderstorm set to hit in the afternoon. This was a major talking point, that if it hits the race may have to be cancelled, if it just rained, the course may be tweaked, but would carry on. We were all hoping it would miss us, but the weather does what the weather does and we were definitely going to know about it! The rest was all about making sure you tapped the timing chip each lap, be considerate of other riders and don’t forget to drink, as it was hot, hot, hot!

I was quite far back in the field at the start, but really wasn’t phased as I was in this for the fun rather than the racing as I really have not been putting the training in, totally unsure of where my fitness and endurance was at. I’ve had a bit of a loss of love for the 2 wheels (sorry for those who don’t understand how this happens!), so minimal time on the bikes doesn’t help with pre-booked events. but hey I could do as much or as little as I wanted to, there were no rules! Those who head to the front, I assume they are the super elite or just confused and get caught by the masses on the first climb. I prefer to pass people and settle into my rhythm rather than go off like a bat out of hell and blow up on the first lap!

What’s the course got to offer?

Going Up

It was certainly an action packed 11km loop, with a great balance of climbing, descending and forest track breathers. It really didn’t disappoint. The first lap was slightly shorter to get the hundreds of riders spread out. Nothing like a long fire track climb to let the hares sprint off and the turtles to just get the wheels rolling. I’m not sure that the turtles were ever going to catch the hares in this story, but hey, they wouldn’t give up, well this one wasn’t going to.

IMG_2669

Took this the day before on my loop of Glentress, easier than it looks, maybe!

After heading up ‘Rue de Souffrance’ a testing climb that seemed to get steeper each time. We made our way up onto the blue/red trail climb, which was a nice break, still going up, but a lot steadier as it snaked up towards the Buzzard nest car park. The climbing wasn’t over yet, it guided us beside the bike park area on a rocky track heading up over some roots as the gradient got steeper, a couple of big efforts to spit you out onto another fire road. At this point you were wondering if it was ever going to head down! Thankfully this fire road led us up to the highest point of the course, where they put on a little cake and water stand, which I know many riders including myself appreciated greatly especially on a hot day.

IMG_2662

The black option, short and technical, or you could swing round on a longer loop

Going Down

This was just before the ‘Tunnel of love‘ which was a naturally steep, loose, dark and dusty descent that was quite sketchy (interesting choice of name!). This was a hang on and get down kind of track, especially when it turned sharp left and dropped you down. No walking for me, but many others were being cautious down there which is understandable! This then rolled over rough rocks and roots just to beat you up a little each lap. It was more of a pedal section with a couple of dips to keep momentum. Eventually it popped out somewhere else in the maze of forest tracks just for a momement. A chance to get a swig of drink in before we diverted off right onto more natural tracks, the fun was increasing and gravity was playing more of a part now!

It was twisty, rooty with small trees on the edge of the track and little drops just to keep you on your toes. This was where many guys were absolutely flying, some a bit too quick and washing out in the dust, others getting stuck behind slower riders and no where to go, but hey everyone had a right to have time and space on that trail, some were a tad too pushy for my likings, but you always get that at races. The first section was a bit more up and down traversing slightly to get to the fun stuff. A swoop around a fire track and then dropping into another narrow yet rapid section. I mean off the brakes and go as fast as you can, it would have been cool to have a speed camera down there over 30mph was happening easily (nearly by me!).

A quick climb and a roll or sprint to the next section would take us back to the arena. There was a choice here…stupid or sensible, easy or hard, shorter versus longer. Well I didn’t give myself the option, having run down this the night before I knew I could ride it. I wouldn’t be the fastest, but I would make it. There was quite a big drop into a corner then flat out weaving through trees creating a slalom line through before getting a bit tighter, and sketchier. Many opportunities to hit your handlebars or wash out on the roots that were everywhere. This is where having the 29er just got me out of trouble, just rolling over the top whatever poor line choice I picked! A few tight corners at the end to slide it round then it was out into the open and onto a fun slalom track on the grass all the way down to the event arena.

18664350_745936482281024_2110774530837142912_n

SLALOM!!!

That’s the short lap done and dusted

(literally really dusty!)

Each lap we had to stop and did our timing chip, one lane for the solos, another for the teams. This must have confused me greatly as I slowed down, unclipped one side and then began to roll into the correct lane, but I just washed out finding myself on the ground very quickly. The only crash I had in the whole race and it was at slow speed in front of all the teams and the event crewe. The guy on the mic did say I deserved a spot prize for being the first to crash there, I never saw this prize. All I had was gravel rash on my left leg that felt like I went into stinging nettles, ah well, no time to stop, just ride on.

The solo pits was just around the corner from the timing. It was small and pretty cosy, not really any space to stop, which was a good thing really. This meant that stops were short and sweet. My issue was I couldn’t put my bike anywhere as there was just no room, once a couple of bikes had already parked up the space was gone. I’m used to stopping at my own wee pit stop with space to chill, not feel everyone watching you and feeling like I should just keep going. I wasn’t stopping long and it was only every other lap for switching bottles (I was drinking a lot in the heat), getting a gel or a quick munch of something salty as I saw the salt on my jersey through the sweat (nice, eh!).

The First lap wasn’t counted in the overall timings as it cut out a couple of sections as I discovered when I headed back out. We we led back up the grassy field, which was a bit of a slog, snails pace was the speed I set! This then climbed a little steep bank to reach either a footpath or a bike trail where you could catch your breath and roll down for a moment to either the up and over (pretty steep) or round the side (not so steep, but a little longer). I just went with the flow which was round the side and seemed fine. Then passing under the Go Ape tree top platforms we gradually made our way up the tracks, down some freshly cut track (so glad it was dry). this led us across a couple of fire track roads and up the other side. This may have been the tougher section for me, it was short sharp climbs that you had to put the effort in to get up, you couldn’t go slow and steady or you would just stop! My heart rate spiked at these points , but I recognised where it was leading us to…’Magic Mushroom’ short red descent, which had a nice bit of flow to it. It doesn’t take much to put a smile on your face, this section did and was a nice break up before the climb kicked in again.

IMG_2668

Part of the magic mushroom descent

Just Keep Pedalling

That was it then, time to settle in. I was happy that I could ride all of the course bar any stupid mistakes or other riders causing chaos (thankfully didn’t happen to me, but to others I knew). It was all about keeping it steady for me as there was a lot of climbing, approx 320m per lap, which adds up by the end. I had in my mind that I would like to do 7 laps, which seemed reasonable with time to stop and allow for silly moments or what have you. I was in my own little world, just keeping it going, steady as she goes. that was it. I thankfully had no dramas, no crashes, just a mild stitch half way through, which I think was down to the random mix of energy products my body was getting fed. I was witness to a few crashes, but thankfully they all got up and carried on, those descents would have been a challenge to many, it was getting to me by the end, mainly because my hands were getting sore and so hanging on was getting more and more tiring.

The laps kept going, getting passed by the uber elite and stupidly quick guys, it was like they were on the first lap each time, it really is impressive. I was happy to just plod at my pace, picking up speed where it was easier and going steady when it got steep and not being stupid on the descents, maybe a little too cautious sometimes, but hey I stayed upright, so that’s a win!

Clapping from the Heavens

It was about 4pm and the atmosphere was literally changing, the clouds had rolled in, there was little spats of rain coming down, but they seemed to amount to nothing. 10 minutes passed and then it got even darker, the skies were looking threatening and then the rumbles began. That thunderstorm that we hoped might move on was right above us.  As I passed a guy, he said it was just heavenly encouragement applauding us. I think it was more of a warning and and get a wriggle on as it was going to get interesting very quickly!

18698358_1678741765477222_9139621430445703500_n

What a sky, the power of nature was about to hit big time!

EPIC FINISH!

My word did it change, I was at the tunnel of love just dropping in and it was so dark. I gave up on my glasses on the climb up, but it was tough to make out anything down there, just going the way I had done before. The rain was beginning to fall, the thunder was rumbling and the lightning was striking…it was close. This was a really exciting event to be involved in, but also pretty darn scary! We got out of that thick tree section into the now very heavy rain.

We were just about to enter the interesting descents when all the marshals got the radio call to ‘SHUT THE COURSE, SEND THEM DOWN THE SAFEST AND QUICKEST ROUTE POSSIBLE TO THE EVENT ARENA’. This meant we were instantly diverted down the fire roads in the rain. It was intense, water spraying everywhere, soaked to the bone and speeding down the roads hoping not to have a high speed crash at this point. I’ve not been caught in a thunderstorm and that was intensely exciting even though it was a nightmare for the organisers. They did an amazingly quick and effective job at making sure everyone got down safely. The final descent in those conditions would have been so sketchy and the fact the lightening was apparently striking the grass field of the final descent, shows how close it was. Here’s some of the photo’s from the event taken by Keith Phunkt who takes some stunning photos check out his gallery, worth a peruse!

What just happened?

It was a little bit of chaos as riders were getting diverted from all over the course, it was just making sure everyone got back. It was only 30 minutes and then the rain subsided, the storm had moved on and all that was left was a soaked through people, quite clean bikes and kit that was left in the sun, now looking sorry in the puddled event arena. The timings were now massively confused as everyones got cut off at various points, but they also had a power cut too, so that made for a tough work out for the timing crewe. It took some time, but eventually they worked out the results minus the last lap, which was the only fair way to play it out. It was a shame it took so long as the podiums were a little underwhelming and to be honest I just wanted to get clean, dry and sort stuff out. To me at this point the fact that I got 2nd place in my category really wasn’t on my mind, but more how epic, fun and exciting that course was.

IMG_2678

Yes there was more than 2 of us, but most had left by this point!

I had no idea of where I was positioned at any point in the race so that really wasn’t on my mind. It was a pleasant bonus that with hardly any time on the bike for training that I can blag a 2nd, don’t really feel worthy of it, but I guess the slow and steady approach like the turtle can make headway in the end! In total I rode 86km with approximately 2, 800m of climbing. That’s not too shabby at all and good mileage for the looming Mountain Mayhem in a couple of weeks time, but how much more I will do before then may not amount to much, so that’ll be a whole new experience that I may love or loathe, who knows!

All I can say is if you have an inkling that you may want to do this kind of event, DO IT. Get a rabble of mates and have a laugh as a team or be brave/stupid and do it solo. It’s a fantastic setting, great course, lovely bunch of people with the occasional numpty, but that’s life right! It’s really chilled with an emphasis on fun and challenging yourself, so book some deserved time off work and why not make it a nice holiday in the Scottish Borders, it is totally worth an explore!

Events: Tweedlove

Check out the area: 7Stanes & Peebles

Results: Glentress 11

Photo’s: Glentress 11

Results: Glentress 7

Photo’s: Glentress 7 (Phunkt)

Glentress 7 (Roots & Rain)

Singletrack was there and posting live videos via there Facebook page to get more of a vibe of the event, so they may still be up to see what’s going on. I’m sure when the festival is all done and dusted there will be a highlights reel of all the action that we were part of or missed out on!