Not just 1 ride, but 2 – MTB Marathon Series, big thumbs up!
Oh yes, the MTB Marathon crewe pull out all the stops by putting on a night ride on the Saturday evening as well as the marathon routes on the Sunday. This is not a small little job to sort out, so my hat goes off to them all for how much work they do to mark all the routes, 5 in total (very well I may add!) and set up the event arena as well as enjoying a cheeky beer or wine as well. Great work team and always with a smile too, love it!
If you haven’t managed to get yourself onto one of these events, DO IT. They are so cool, really great atmosphere, a good mix of areas, trails are cracking and there are distances for everyone to have a good stab at, even for the kids. It’s not a race, so no pressure on you to perform or feel like you’re in the way. It’s just you, your bike, your riding buddies having a grand day out in the great outdoors, what’s not to love?
The lead up
It’s been just a week since Kielder 101 and I have clocked up a sum total of 15km on the bike. I simply didn’t want to go for a ride, shocking I know, but I think Kielder and Torq in your Sleep was a lot in itself and my motivation to sit on the saddle was not there, so apart from working all week, the evenings were completely chilled, so much so that I only got round to unpacking all of my stuff from my travels half way through the week. I think it was the thought that I had to repack most of it again for this MTB Marathon that I didn’t see the point! I shall call this ‘Extreme Tapering’ : doing so little and eating too much, got to be good prep right, hmm! I may need to rethink things a little on this one or get a training partner to kick my butt and get out for a ride.
There in body, but not in mind
Some days you wake up and feel like you’ve not slept although you have, you feel rubbish, a headache just won’t be shaken and seemingly everything is an effort, oh and it’s that time of the month (is that too much info!?! Ah well!), so all in all I felt pretty darn flat and the motivation to do 2 not so little rides didn’t fill me with joy, but when I pay for something, I flipping well do it and I do love these events so couldn’t pass it up even if I felt crap.
I hadn’t thought too much about this event, to the point that I thought it was in mid wales and about 2 hours away. Got that wrong, this one is in North Wales another hour and a bit further north. At least I had all day to get there, so after a pleasant chilled morning, I packed the van, 2 bikes for good measure, the usual excess of stuff and I was off. Only a few caravans and a couple of tractors to slow the pace allowing you to enjoy the scenery, but eventually got to Ruthin at about 4:30pm with time to register, check the bike over, munch on the free pasta, catch up with a few familiar faces, smile at the sunshine (it was raining down south) have a brew and get ready for the first off.
I decided that while I have the privilege of having 2 bikes I may as well use both of them! The Cannondale Habit needed to leave the house as it’s not had much love since the Specialized Epic rocked up! My plan was to have a chilled ride on the C’dale on the 40km night ride and then unleash the Epic on the 75km on the Sunday. It does mean that I have 2 bike to clean when I get home, so not ideal, but it will be nice to compare the two as a fair chunk of the night ride is repeated on the following day. Though my legs won’t be as fresh, but never mind, all good fun.
A year is a while to forget everything tough about a ride!
I don’t have the greatest of memories, but I thought I’d remember more than just the duck pond at the event arena, and the field that had scary cows in that you could hear and not see on the night ride, scary beans. I really hoped they were somewhere else this time round. It was a dry evening, a little cool and a bit of dew on the grass to add a little more interest to the trails. There was about 80 riders across the 2 distances, which was a good turnout. I caught up with a couple of guys I had met at other events and they inadvertently ended up putting us at the front behind the lead out van. I tend to hide at the back so I can just do my own thing, but not this time. When you’re at the front the tempo just naturally increases and you just get caught up with it as it led off the road, up a steady, but long climb that just seemed to keep going! Eventually it turned out onto a field…hang on a minute, it’s cow free, love it! so a spin through the field and some deep breaths it was time to really test the new Exposure lights I had with the first descent. I was feeling pretty tense and not ‘in the zone’ so it was a little cautious, slow, off balance, twitchy on the rocky and slippy tracks. Oh, I could see beautifully, but that doesn’t improve my riding skills or lack of!
Find your happy place
It’s clear to me that I am much more comfortable on the climbs than the descents just now, so I was happy when it came to a few km’s of forest tracks. I had a slight recollection as I swooped down then began to climb back up that this was where my brother had a puncture on his tubeless set up last year, oo then just round the corner there was the feed station that had a warming cuppa tea last year. All expectant I spotted the van and slowed to a stop and checked if there was tea, to my disappointment there was NO TEA, they just said there was one at the next stop aka back at the event arena, nice, so time to pedal on for a deserved brew!
Things that go bump in the night!
The track narrowed on a single track section with a few cheeky rocks to keep you on your toes. It was then time to turn off to do the extra 10km for the bigger loop. I wasn’t doing so great at the whole picking my line so when it came to turn right over rocks, well I messed that up! I did’t fall off but a lot of dabbing was required and it didn’t stop there either! I’m not a lover of narrow ruts as I apparently can’t ride in a straight line so I was all over the shop and pretty happy when the gradient eased a little and I could calm down and reset myself. That was just before a low lying branch (lower than I thought) bashed my new Diablo helmet light off, good job I had it on a leash!
A nice spin on a couple of roads (I do love the road bits, should I be a roadie?) to get some tasty blackcurrant Torq energy down me then back up the hill. It began with a steady forest road where you began to see lights in the distance on the nearby hillside, guessing that was the 30km guys coming round. The track narrowed and had a couple of short yet steep sections to really give some welly to get up. Just before the second of these a guy had stopped discovering he snapped a spoke, so shed some more light on it. Thankfully with straight pull it was nice and easy to get out and he could carry on. Onwards and upwards for us to join back up with the lights coming from the neighbouring hillside, just before a climb that I didn’t manage last year and still eludes me. It was just as muddy, slippy, rocky and just not worth the effort!
Falling with style!
At the top with a few more riders around me I knew I wasn’t riding very well at all, so let a chap go in front of me thinking he would be faster on this grassy descent. I left a gap and then followed down just to see him in a heap on the side! I looked up to see him, asked if he was ok and then proceeded to wash out on the slippy grass to, very elegantly said the guy behind me, cheers! I clearly fell off to make the other guy not feel as silly of course!
This descent can be very fast, but as I was feeling rubbish riding badly and being one of a handful of night rides I was super cautious. I was glad to get down, my arms were feeling pumped and my brakes I know were hot (I could smell them!). A quick road crossing then onto a rocky descent that reminded me a little of the Exmoor section where I ended up slamming to the ground, so again eased it up, but too much and had a slow motion off, hitting my knee, nothing too bad and just carried on.
Thankfully this ride finished with a nice roll down the road, just keeping an eye out for the arrows, which seemed to elude some people who may have been racing there mates to the line (It’s not a race guys!). It was done and I have the mug to prove it, in 2 hours 24, which meant it was around 10:30pm. After a quick bike clean I got my shower stuff, went and grabbed a brew, can’t say no! Then it was on for a nice shower, sort out the van, stuff an egg sandwich, which was like a midnight snack and get a few hours kip. I was still awake as people were still coming in after midnight, good effort guys, but rather you than me!
The longer ride after the shorter ride the night before
Waking up to sun shining into the van put a smile on my face, it was going to be a good weather day, love that. It was a slow wake up, to be honest I would have been pretty happy to have stayed in bed. I was still not too great or energetic/psyched for the big day ahead, but I wan’t going to pull out, just push on through! Same routine as usual, loo, porridge and a much needed brew, get the bike out and number board on, good to go. I may have not been totally ready as I locked the van and proceeded to get on my bike in my wellies! This was to the amusement of Rob and Neil who were waiting to head to the start. There’s always a faffer and this time it was definitely me!
There was a whole load more riders who rocked up on the day to create such a great atmosphere and impressive lead out train through Ruthin. The ride began up a long road climb up, which spreads the riders out and in the sunshine (yes lots of it!) it got the heart rate up and the sweat starting to kick in. It was pretty nice to get to the top of that one and onto the undulating forest tracks, but I was feeling the effects of last nights 40km and knew this ride wasn’t going to be easy.
This led onto the same route as last night and on the Specialized Epic and it’s big wheels I found it a lot easier, but that may be because it was in the day time, who knows, but I didn’t have the legs to even try the muddy, rocky climb so another year and it’s still got a hold on me! It was down the long grassy descent again, that got no better, same arm pump and cautiousness, but I got down it in one piece. It was then time for a little bit more climbing, there was over 2,000m of it on the big loop, it was going to be tough.
The first feed station came up at the right time, I just needed a pick me up and the jelly babies and a top up of the bottle fitted the bill. The climbs kept coming and sections that I got up last year I just didn’t have the energy to give them a good go, so walked up a couple sections getting passed by Matt from Torq who rode up it all with ease, guess he needed to get back to the stand! I was definitely not in this fully, it was more of a grit your teeth and plod on than a give it beans and push through kind of ride!
No awkward silence
I’m not sure when the creaking started, but it got more and more annoying. on every climb my saddle with the more pressure I put onto it would get louder and louder. I couldn’t glide stealthily past other riders, just creaked and cracked nearly into a rhythm as I up. I got out of the saddle a few times just to shut it up! This is a great excuse to test out another saddle, thinking about the Ergon ones, if it’s good enough for Sally Bigham, it’s gonna be good enough for me!
The climbs are relentless
The journey carried on and I got to meet a couple of new riders as we kept pedalling. It helps pass the time when you chat with someone along the way, it takes your mind off your legs hurting as the climbs kept coming. There were a few road ones chucked in, though that meant they were even steeper, with some people zig zagging there way to the top. Just because it’s road, doesn’t make the climbs easier! All in all the trails came and went, my mind wandered as to what was coming up (still couldn’t remember!). Then we entered the woods, which was very pretty and a little break from the sun. The time ticked over, my legs were getting heavier, but thankfully the gearing on the Epic was easy enough that I could spin away to just get through the last section.
Like last year the 5 hour mark was coming up, I thought I could just duck under that time, so pushed a little bit more on the last steady climb, got across the grassy fields and onto the final descent, which was also the climb on the night ride. I was close, but there was a few roads to negotiate and places where you had to stop (no closed roads here). This as well as my extended breaks at the feed stations, letting them know 2 guys may have missed a turning (I hope they got back on track), but I got to the finish in a time of 5:00:13 so I’ll take that! All the rider times are found here. If I had just done the 75km maybe I would have been quicker, but where is the challenge in that! All done, got some food and chilled out as many others finished this really tough course, some smiling, some looking a little broken, check out the pics from Rob Barker Photography, some pretty cool ones!
Over for another year…well until April!
I would say that was a successful series yet again. I only managed 3 out of 5, but they all seemed to go down well. I hope that Exmoor is still in the list for next year as I have to ride that one with out falling off! It would be cool if there was another switch up as I love exploring new areas, but I think they know what they are doing so I will leave it to the pro’s!
I’d love to say I’m done for this year and just planning the following years events, but no I have decided to chuck one more the 20:12 at Haleigh another 12 hour solo at the Olympic MTB course. If you want to check it out here’s the link. Instead of kicking back as the weather begins to change I need to keep ‘training’ (my level, not like a real athletes!) and give myself the best shot at getting on the podium. However, this one is from 8pm to 8am so 11 hours in the dark could be interesting, it’s all new, so just going to have some fun!