Go Outdoors Mountain Mayhem 24hr 2017 –
20th Anniversary at Gatcombe Park
24 HOUR SOLO
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!
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.
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
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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).
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.
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<<<)
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