Merida Brass Monkeys: Winter XC Endurance Series Round 1 – Windmill Hill, Deep Cut
Just to Keep Me Pedalling
I thought having a race to look forward to would give me the motivation to start putting in the winter miles. That theory simply didn’t work! There are many excuses I have discovered that I can tell myself to not ride (this is not good!), here are some of the classics…
- I can’t ride in that dark on my own, it’s not safe
- It’s too cold, wet, dark or late to go for a ride
- I really need to go food shopping and finish Christmas shopping
- Work was really tiring today (it’s never really that tiring!)
- I’ve ridden to work and back that’ll do (it’s only 2km away, this DOES NOT COUNT!)
…This is not the motivation or mindset I need to prepare for the Brass Monkeys series or anything for that matter. I did manage a few random, non specific rides here and there which may have helped a little. I have also joined the Zwift movement to make the turbo trainer seem a bit more appealing, but still not put in the miles necessary. 4 hours on the bike in ‘race’ mode was not looking very appealing or successful, but I’d booked it, so I was going.
Just Me Then!
The race was on 18th December and I’m sure on one of the e-mails they mentioned it would be nice to spread a bit of festive cheer by donning on a bit of Tinsel or something. I think only I got the memo. Rocking up I had wrapped the Epic in gold tinsel, popped a couple of cheeky gold baubles under my saddle and a star on my helmet, thinking I would fit in nicely…umm, well NO ONE else, well apart from one chap who popped a couple of baubles on his helmet, nice, he was also wearing jean shorts and riding a single speed, enough said – though he did go on to win the SS category!). Anyway, At least the tinsel and baubles made me smile and got a couple of comments about my baubles (oo, cheeky!). At least it would brighten up a quite foggy, dark, yet dry day.
2 hours, go…3 hours, go…4 hours, go – Got that wrong!
I’m usually pretty good at reading the race information and being ready at the start line, but apparently not this time. I knew the 4 hour race started at 10.10am, but I assumed the different races would go in order, 2 hours first, then 3, then 4, but nope, naturally 2 hours, 4 hours then 3 hours. This confused me just a tad (doesn’t take much apparently), so whilst what I though were the 3 hour riders heading out, I was still spinning merrily around the field. It was only because I noticed all that riders who remained had 3’s at the start of there numbers, checked and yep I should have gone already, whoops! Not a great start to any race…not starting. The chase was on after the organiser jokingly said I didn’t go through the barrier, so turned around, to have them all laughing and telling me to go (cheers for that one!). In my head the race was already lost as you really need to be at least in sight of those you are racing, I did not see any of them! For me now it was just me against the clock to see how I would get on and if I passed any ladies along the way that was a bonus!
It’s Time to Settle in for a Few Hours
It didn’t take too long to catch the back of the 4 hour pack, so at least I was in the right group! I found myself following a guy single speeding, who in turn was slowed by the guy in front of him, but there was no where to go. It was all running on tight and wiggly singletrack with no idea when it would open up. Some may have pre-ridden the course, but not me! This first lap was all about seeing what the track was about, no need to do extra riding right! It may have been useful though to know when and if there were fire roads or wider sections, but I would find out soon enough, keeps it more interesting!
The course itself was running pretty sweet for a December event, surprisingly dry, good grip and nothing too sketchy apart from every single slippy root! You couldn’t really switch off as concentration was needed for most of it, due to the lovely weaving trail through the trees, down little shoots, up short sharp climbs and a nice drop off and bomb hole (this was the A line, not sure what the B line was like as I never took it!)…BOMB HOOOOLLLEEEE, WAHEY! There was one cheeky climb that I couldn’t manage as it was so steep, so had to do a bit of CX racing (aka run with bike and hop back on!). Apart from that it was a really enjoyable 6 mile loop, not too much climbing though that did mount up after 57Km of riding, 827m according to Garmin!
Highlights of the Ride
I say highlights, I really mean the only bits I remember. The first loop there was a marshall by the aforementioned A – B line, wasn’t really a help as I went in more cautiously than I should have and nearly didn’t make it out the other side, getting caught on my saddle (no dropper, nice bruise there now!). Getting away with that I may have taken a moment to compose myself at a steady pace. I passed a few riders, who got the unfortunate puncture and some who after a bit of following I managed to pass. The 2nd lap was thankfully uneventful, just kept my head down and stayed out of trouble, just a few of the faster guys trying to squeeze through gaps that sometimes weren’t there. One guy riding a fat bike thought he’d give it a go, passed me and tried to pass the lass in front as well on a narrow and rooty corner, he lost grip and washed out pretty quickly. I checked he was ok, but was thinking, ‘served you right’…at least wait until there’s an actual gap. Don’t get me wrong some were very polite, asking and waiting, but a number were not as patient or polite, but that’s the way it goes!
I found a couple of fire tracks that I could actually take onboard some fluids and energy goodness, it really does help, especially the Torq Winter Shandy Gel, so good! Maybe it was the gels that got me a bit giddy, but lap 3 was the one where I got closer to nature! It was an unexpected little tree that just clipped my handlebar and I was spun onto the ground on my side, oof. Typically there was one spectator at this spot, there was no one else on the rest of the track, all she said was, ‘I bet your used to that!’ Not concerned, probably just amused by it (bruise number 2 and 3!). I was fine, but I think I may have bent my rear mech a little as the gears were not as swift and clean whilst shifting as before. It wasn’t bad, so just carried on!
4 hours isn’t that Long!
Back round to the start, to find out I was in that annoying position of 4th, but ignoring that, I now wanted to see if I could squeeze 5 laps into the time. I wish I had kept track of my lapping times, but I didn’t have a clue, so just assumed I had time for definitely one, but maybe 2. The cut off was at the 4 hour mark not after so it had a bit more of a time pressure on it, which apparently I’m not a fan of, I like my pace and my pace only, but if I’m going to make things within time limits or faster I need to SPEED UP! I kept looking down at the timer on my Garmin and the time seemed to be disappearing too fast. The 4 hour mark was close approaching and I couldn’t work out how much more of the fifth lap I had to go, but just kept pedalling. My legs were feeling it on the short yet sharp climbs, so I know my pace was fading (training a bit more would have helped a lot!). I crossed the line, thinking I was just within the time (didn’t take a look at the big clock, wish I did), but alas I was just over apparently knocking me back to 4th as I didn’t do the fifth lap within the time limit, doh!
Is it a Short Fast Endurance Race or a Long Fast XC Race?
I was thinking as I was pedalling around how I would categorise this race, but I couldn’t. Either way I looked at it, it was intense. and fast. Yes you can take it at your own pace and ride as much as you can, arguable endurance. The flip side, many were riding it like it was a sprint, fast paced, no messing. I have already discovered I don’t have the speed for XC racing, I thought I had the endurance, but not this time, I was sluggish, though I felt ok, I was just steady and steady doesn’t win these types of races. I will put this down as a good training ride and hopefully improve for the next one if I can make it, though there is Christmas and New Year in between them, hmm!
It’s Worth Hanging Around
It’s always nice to stick around to support and see the podiums unfortunately many people left straight after there race was done. It’s all very anti-climatic after you finish, just pack up your stuff and go. For those who did hang about sometimes there may be cheeky treats in store for those who didn’t make the Podium for the smallest trophy I’ve seen! Secretly they must have known that I love tea, so I picked up a Merida bag took a peek inside and found 2 mugs and 2 bottle openers, #WIN. Everyone’s a winner.
Here are the results from the day: MBM Round 1
Here’s the Strava of the shenanigans https://www.strava.com/activities/805645396
Here’s a few thoughts random or sensible to end with…
- If it’s a bit of a journey to the event (like mine was) book somewhere to stay close by, saves a silly early morning start, I found a great Air BnB house, which was superb
- If you want to put tinsel and baubles on your bike, do it – it may bring a smile to someone or amuse yourself!
- There wasn’t too much of an atmosphere at this event, no marshall or cheering going on, so I think I may pop some headphones in on the next one (is that rude?). I may not hear the guys mumbling that they want to get passed…not a bad thing right!
- Ride your own race and have fun, if you’re not having fun go and have a cup of tea!
That’s All Folks
That’s it for this year, have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! There has been many races this last year, from the Andalucia stage race, 12 hour solos, a few MTB Marathons and a trip to Kielder for a laugh. Next year is already set to be a bit more challenging as I am booked on to do my very first 24 hour solo race, this may break me, I may hate riding bicycles afterwards, but I will risk it. Alongside this I may try out this running malarkey, but this is dependant on my knees behaving. As I said before if I’m not having fun, I will just have a cuppa and cheer on the other nutters, all good fun!