So what did you do with your Bank Holiday weekend? Did it ever cross your mind to pedal a bike for up to 12 hours? No, just me then, this worryingly seems to be becoming the norm in my little world! It’s all good fun.
It’s been what seems like an age since I raced Torq, but it’s only now that I have time to sit and reflect having been travelling around to various places straight after. All with biking at the forefront. Let’s rewind a little…
Actions speaks louder than words
It was only a few weeks ago that I was being all enthusiastic after Pivot 24:12 saying that ‘I will step up the training and be super ready for TIYS’ (Torq In Your Sleep, if you didn’t guess that one!). Well umm, life and motivation has a way of changing those good intentions. It started off well with a couple of shorter recovery rides to spin the legs. Then I decided I needed to take my new road bike out for a longer ride, so found a Herio sportive route file I could download to my Garmin. I think it was about 80 miles. Unfortunately by about 10 miles in my right knee started getting a twinge, but as usual I just kept going. It didn’t improve and with every incline the pressure of pedalling was getting quite painful. I should have turned back, but stubborn as I am I don’t like cutting things short even if I am in pain (idiot). It was a lovely route, but just couldn’t enjoy it and the best part was rolling back home! This left me quite frustrated, when I was all geed up to get the miles in, I physically couldn’t.
A couple of days off the bike would solve it? Right, let’s test it out (I’m not impatient, at all!) so I hopped on the turbo trainer to see how it was, there was instant feedback, ouch, oh pants! Another couple of days down the drain. All this because I believe my saddle was not at the right height or the carbon post slipped down. Lesson learnt, set up a new bike properly before embarking on a long ride! Thankfully the pain passed and managed an hour on the turbo as the rain chucked it down outside (classic British summer!) and wondered about how much biking/training I can squeeze in as I was working the majority of the time, looking after a friends dog and generally being slightly busy.
What a difference a week makes
One minute I was planning on riding my Cannondale Habit SE at Torq in Your Sleep, sleeping in my van, setting all my stuff out that I need for the race and doing what I normally do as it seemed to work, so it should work again. Not this time though!
Firstly Specialized release the limited edition Torch Epic Comp Carbon, instantly loved it, so instead of my plan to get a hardtail I sneaked in an order for the Epic, unfortunately it’s not the colour changing one (to mine and everyone else’s disappointment), but still very pretty (and that’s what counts right!?!). This will be my first time properly on a 29er hoping I would get on well as previous bikes I have briefly ridden I have struggled slightly to turn the bigger wheels. Here’s hoping this will be a good fit.
Then disaster struck, my van had a hissy fit and kept slamming the brakes on itself whilst I was driving! Naturally my thoughts jumped to ‘how will I get to Torq and then Kielder?, could someone pick me up, hmm maybe I’ll hire a swanky van…’ Thankfully my local garage sorted it out and it was back on the road within a couple of days, phew! The transport was sorted, though there was a plan coming together to get a nice Leisure Lakes bikes VW Transporter for the event, which would have been a rather nice upgrade and of course great promo for the company. It was a bit of a shame mine got fixed so quickly, ha ha!
Then the new bike arrived, all nicely wrapped by Shack Wrap (look him up if you want your frame protected). I Love new bike days and this was more exciting as I am now riding under the banner of Leisure Lakes Bikes with them providing the bike and the Jersey (phew no jersey dilemma for me anymore!) and supported by Mojo Suspension (Fox suspension distributor) in the form of the world class Fox Factory Step Cast 32’s, they just finish this bike off!
This all got sorted on the Friday, so had a couple of hours to see if everything was ok and in the right place. Just a bit of time to pack and then head down on the Saturday. That week went way too quickly and not much riding happened at all. I’ll class that as extreme tapering!
Back to the Race in question
Oh yeah this is meant to be about Torq in your Sleep! If you are unsure of what it is about here’s my take on it. Teams, pairs and solo riders tackle an 8 mile course at Minley Manor for a duration of 12 hours. There was a change up this year with the race stopping at midnight. Anybody finishing after it ticks over to 12 will not count. It’s harsh, but means it ends at a sensible time. Last year I was just coming in at 1am, typically I would have won if this tule was in place last year, ah well. Let’s look forward…
I’m not alone
My aim was to get there fairly early as unlike all the other endurance events I have done, this time round I HAVE SUPPORT in the form of my wonderfully lovely yet slightly bonkers family! My 3 brothers and my sister in law entered as a mixed team of 4, so they were in for the long haul too with 6 kids to cheer us until the late hours! This was a slight shock to the system, but in a very good way, the company makes all the difference.
I managed to get a big enough spot for the Hall clan to descend upon that was fairly flat, only a few mole hills to squish. Hopefully our lovely neighbours didn’t mind the invasion (think we got on pretty well!).
One by one the family arrived and after a bit of plot arrangement tents finally got put up, vans parked up and bikes were getting a ‘quick’ check over before a sunny steady recce of the course. There’s always a faffer in the family and we know who it is in ours! To be fair on him the new tyre was not playing ball in going up tubeless, so not solely his fault though it was nearly dark by the time we got going, just kidding, love you bro. It was then a quick dusting of the bike, a nice hot cuppa and bed, ready for the day ahead.
Don’t mention the porridge!
The start was at 12 noon, so there was a nice relaxed start to the day. Waking up to an overcast yet warm day with hints that it may rain at some point soon. It is, what it is, going to pedal through whatever comes our way. Now there was no question that porridge was the breakfast choice we all required, but wow, who knew everyone had a comment on the ratio of porridge oats to milk/water! It was the closest the Halls came to arguing! I did not get involved, but whatever was made, worked a treat. Everyone was up, final tweaks to bikes. I got my box of goodies ready though having more support it seemed to be all under control, more than I knew!
‘It’s The Final Countdown’
It was time. After an attempt at warming up in between some heavy showers it was time to head to the start line. It’s funny that even though I have done a few of these now I still get a bit nervous on the build up to it, maybe it’s nervous excitement, who knows! The heavens opened again whilst we waited for it to tick over to 12 as the classic tune of, ‘it’s the final countdown’ blares out of the sound system and everyone automatically humming or singing along! Then it went quiet and we were off.
My heart rate shot up as we went round the start loop, that needed to settle down, but to start with you just go with the flow and find your place in the pack, not get caught to far back before the first single track section.
There was still a little traffic jam, but not so bad and it spread out pretty quickly. Some chap commented that ‘it wouldn’t be a bank holiday weekend without getting stuck in traffic!’ which made me chuckle, gotta look at the lighter side of life and just enjoy what you are doing.
It’s time to settle in for the long haul
I never learn and go out too fast because you just start following the person in front, pass people and adrenaline is flowing ad you have the most energy you will have for the entirety of the race! I didn’t go in with any game plan, didn’t know who else was out there as there was no starters list, so I was doing my own race, all I could do really. The difference here was that I had a crewe of supporters to fill me in on where I was and how far ahead or behind I was. After the first lap they were calling out the positions we were at, so this is where I discovered I was in 1st place. The amusing thing was I didn’t as yet know how many other ladies I was racing. I only knew that there were 12 females in total in both the open and vet categories for the 12 hour solo race. I could go off on a tangent about the lack of women at these events, but I think everyone is aware of this who care anyway!
I decided to just crack on for 4 laps without stopping and then find out where I was just to get myself into the race mindset a bit more. The Specialized Epic had 2 bottle holders, which was a win so I could keep going further with far less faff! The course was perfect for the 29er and a good route for me to get used to the bike having had about 2 hours on it prior to the race start (not recommended!). It was about 90% single track with a few forest tracks perfect for taking a swig of drink or wrestling with a gel before it turned off back onto another twisty, rooty, dusty section in the woods. The track had changed from last year for the better I would say. They kept the fun stuff in and then added some more, by changing the direction so you went down instead of up (that’s never going to be bad!) with a few more bomb holes for a laugh! Nothing too technical, but nothing that you could switch off for as you would probably clip a tree or slide on a root.
There was also the 6 hour race kicking off at 3pm, which was why I kept going for the 4th one as I didn’t want to get caught up in the traffic of the seemingly more popular shorter race. I found myself half way round the course when they kicked off which was ace. Though it’s a little depressing getting caught up by super fresh legged riders, all clean and enthusiastic!
After 4 laps, it was time for a quick pit, switch the bottles, scoff a few jelly babies and find out my position (still 1st) and time (30 mins ahead). It was here that I found out that there was only 3 ladies in the open female category, so already guaranteed a podium without trying at all, but that’s not my style! I didn’t know who I was racing, so just assumed they would be going the distance too, but as the race proceeded it was clear that I may have been in a race of my own. Ah well, it’s all good practice, experience and training.
6 Hours in and still going
They say time flies when you are having fun, it also flies when the length of the lap takes just under an hour each time (for me anyway), knowing that 12 would probably be the max I could achieve, if I needed to. Unlike Pivot 24:12 where the lap was shorter and you were back before you knew it, here it was more of a commitment I guess to head back out there, knowing each time it gets that little bit harder. There were climbs, but they were not so bad, just one short and steep incline that took a bit of power to get up, but over in a matter of moments. another lap down and the support crewe had grown with a few more popping up for a few hours to see the rest of the Hall clan and try and understand a little of the madness I do on seemingly a regular basis! I rocked up completely covered in dust, to there amusement, but there was no point in cleaning it off as another lap would collect a whole lot more.I had time to fit one more lap in before it was time to put the lights on, so just pushed on out. It was nice that nearly each lap I met one of the Hall clan on the trail, just to give each other a little boost, it’s nice to know I wasn’t alone.
Lights On, Sun Down
My plan was when I had to put my Exposure lights Maxx-D and Diablo on, it was time for a brew. It’s a real treat to have a cuppa on a ride and this one was cracking. It was all pre-planned and hit the spot. To be honest I didn’t want to head back out as it was just too good (thanks to pit mum, Michelle!). Eventually after some other random munchies I set off again not needing the lights on yet. I always seem to get a bit anxious as to whether the lights will last, but the trusty lights never disappoint, just get better! Having left them off for the first half of the course I hit a descent and realised I was really struggling to see where I was going, hmm maybe it was time the lights were actually used. It didn’t take long for the sun to set, not that we saw much of it as the cloud cover was pretty thick, though the rain random rain showers had stopped.
I probably said this last year, but I love when the lights come on because it gives the course a new dynamic, the atmosphere changes and I get a big boost of motivation to keep going. It also helps that they put a DJ under ‘the bridge to nowhere’ and some funky lights to get your groove on. I didn’t rate the tunes that I went through to put still made me smile. The time was beginning to pass by a lot quicker, maybe because I couldn’t see the time or because I was taking a few more minutes at our pit area, which was nice, trying not to blind them all when I came into stop! The kids were still up and giving me cheers, but I think the next time round they were heading to bed, that was a nice thought!
Pulling into the pits for the 9th time, I had a check up on what the race situation was and to be honest I was a little disappointed that I was just riding against myself. Nothing against the other 2 ladies for giving it a go, but unlike last year where I had someone unbeknownst to me right behind me all the way, I was on my jack jones and pedalling round and round now, just because! It’s hard to stay motivated to keep going round when I had a clear lead. I knew I could do another couple of laps, possibly a third, but after lap 10, I decided with my hands quite sore and by butt not enjoying the saddle much I decided to chill and do one more lap to take me to around 11pm, which was fine and dandy putting me 6 laps ahead of 2nd, but meant I was also ahead of all the vet ladies too, so not too bad at all. Here’s the link to the results
Overall thoughts on the Race and Event
There was something different about this race, maybe it was coming from Pivot 24:12, but the atmosphere seemed a bit more serious. No one (bar my own little pit crewe were really cheering you on unlike the many camps you passed at Pivot with kids cheering, squirting you with water or offering you sweets. There were no marshals out on course, so once you were out, it was you and the other riders. Don’t get me wrong it is well organised, a great course and lovely bunch of riders I just think that a little bit more fun added to the race would be a great addition, but this is probably just me, I never take racing too seriously!
It was great to have support in my corner and really cool to get onto the top of the podium on the first proper ride out on the Specialized Epic FSR Comp with Fox 32 Step cast forks, it got a lot of appreciation, but no it is not the colour changing one…it wouldn’t change much in the UK climate anyway! Thanks then goes to Leisure Lakes Bikes, Mojo Suspension and the entirety of the Hall family, simply brilliant.
It’s now time to watch this space to see if the race will be back at Minley Manor next year, will I go back or shall I try something else. The thoughts of the 24 hour races keep getting mulled over in my mind, but next onto the Kielder 101!