World Solo 24 Hour Championship 2018

I’d decided months before this race that I’d not be doing any more 24 hour solos. I’d had over a year of not really thinking about racing, then a few months of thinking about little else. By the time the day of the race arrived I was as fit as I’d been for years, I had a pair of bikes that were the best I’d ever had and I was as enthusiastic as I’d been since the first 24 hour race I did about 15 years ago.

Once the race got going I was as happy as I could be, still keeping my little secret that this was The Last One. I’d avoided being so conceited that I was going to announce my swansong before the event as I’d look like a tool and I’d probably jinx the whole weekend anyway. But in my head this was it. Finito. No more.

I found it very easy to keep my chin up, smile, laugh and even shout unkind words of Witty Bantz™ at Budge as I rode past the Team JMC pit.

We all know that a happy rider is a fast rider, so for me, even after my extended hiatus I was going pretty well. The first lap hoodoo that’s dogged me for a few years didn’t materialise, in fact the first lap was fast and spent at the sharp end and my second lap was even better. I didn’t want to ever stop riding my Blur and Debbie was so on-form in the pit that I’d stopped for about 30 seconds in the first 7 or 8 hours of the race.

Motoring.

I was really, really chuffed with the way things were going and I still am.

While the first half of the race was brilliant and something that I’m really quite proud of, the second half tested my faith.

Things had been going well, flawless, even, so inevitably I got really cocky. The ever-present rain that drizzled and soaked everyone and everything started to intensify and so did the wind. As darkness fell across the course, the wind started to cut through already-soaked riders on the exposed top part of the lap and gradually…surreptitiously…I started to lose my core temperature. In my over-confidence, I didn’t eat any hot food. I wanted to maintain my ridiculously short pitstop time total and unbelievably, I didn’t even change into dry clothes.

In my defence the ambient temperature wasn’t too cold but my preoccupation with consistent lap times was going to be my undoing.

The beginning of the end was in the small hours of the morning, just before I trundled into the Santa Cruz tent desperate for some dry clothes. I changed my jersey, struggled to pull some winter gloves on and even donned a jacket. All too little too late, already cold and shivering I set out on another lap.

It was almost pointless (to be fair there’s a motivational effect that prize money can have on very tired bodies) but I had to at least try to push until the end.

While I was able to warm up a little bit on the climbs, I wasn’t able to concentrate on the rough, rocky downhills and I was losing a lot of time.

Eventually riders who used to be almost an hour behind were now riding past. All I could do was shiver and stagger back to the pit. I’ve felt like shit before, but this was another level.

23 hours into the race, I stopped with what I assume was hypothermia. I looked like a zombie and was unable to speak coherently. Even Debbie, who’s normally a drill sergeant when it comes to kicking me back out for another lap unless my head is hanging off agreed that it was probably time to call it a day. As more riders went clear, I shivered under a blanket in the car, engine running and heated seat on full while Debbie struggled to pull my sodden shoes and socks off.

Then, more than ever, I maintained that this was my last 24 hour solo race and I would never do another. Who would? I was pretty wrecked and needed no more convincing that this was a pretty horrible thing to do to oneself.

Only several glasses of whisky could warm me up, which meant that I was a bit bladdered by the time I accepted my 7th place Elite (even though I was really 13th overall) envelope of cash in front of everyone….

It was a bloody brilliant weekend though, and while I’ve been kicking myself ever since for my schoolboy errors of not keeping myself properly fed and warm, I was far from the only one to have made the same mistakes and I reckon I did pretty well up until the bit where things went all chilly and wobbly. Life in the old dog yet. And I absolutely loved shattering myself again.

All that stuff about it being my last 24 hour solo? Nah, next year’s European Championship is in Portugal and I intend to be there.

Massive thanks to Deb, Dave of Velocity and Vitality Coaching, all at Santa Cruz UK and Jungle, Sam Hill at the Break Pad, Proper Cleaner for the fenders, my bros Mark and Tom of Exposure Lights, Spook and Morag for the bed, Ant for the unbelievably light Mount Zoom bike parts, the Team JMC army and most of all thanks to the men who invented alcohol, pizza and hats.

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Kirroughtree Enduro – the view from the start of Stage Five

Deb did her bit for the UK race scene (yet again) at the PMBA Kirroughtree Enduro – supporting her local bike race by volunteering to marshal and was placed at the start of Stage 5, otherwise known as “The Really Hard Bit”….

Packing enough supplies for a week into the car at 7.30am is not my usual start to a Sunday. Once I’d arrived at the visitor centre and the marshal sign on and briefing was all done, our merry band of hi-viz wearing volunteers were all distributed around the 5 stages of the PMBA Enduro course. I was so glad I remembered the midge spray.

I was responsible for the start of the final stage and had been placed at the top of a very steep, very slippery and very long downhill section through the dense forest. It felt a long way from anywhere but surprisingly it appears to be the only spot at Kirroughtree with an EE 4G signal. 12 months of living here and I’ve finally found it.

This was a rather daunting experience as the whole Enduro marshalling process was a first for me. I felt slightly out of my endurance mountain biking pit helper comfort zone.

Riders soon started arriving for practice runs. I watched in admiration as time after time people attempted the slippy, rooty, rocky hairpin descent that was merely the beginning of the intimidating technical section. After a while I began to learn the line so well that I almost believed I could ride it myself.

The range of rider ability was vast (as was the age range) but each and every rider had endless courage and determination. This was in spite of the occasional nerves and doubts creeping in as they waited the minimum of 20 seconds for the rider in front to clear off.

I wished I had had more than the regulation 20 seconds to chat to them all but if I did I’d have been even later home and would have completely ruined everyone’s concentration.

Team JMC – It’s not me!

It seems that lots of people who I meet (and presumably lots of people who I haven’t met) think that ‘Team JMC’ is so-called because it’s named after me. Jason Miles Cycling, or possibly Jason Miles C….with a naughty word added on the end.

It’s not. My ego may be the size of a wardrobe, but it’s hopefully not the size of an oil tanker.

Allow me to explain.

Once upon a time, there was a computer company in Manchester called JM Computing. It wasn’t called that because it was named after me either, it was named after the 2 chaps that founded it. It’s not there now. It’s been swallowed up by a much bigger computer company but the name ‘JMC’, which is derived from that, lives on.

Team JMC was started as a bit of a fun, social thing and was basically people (like me) who worked at JM Computing all spending time with each other outside work, doing stuff like white water rafting, hiking, triathlons and mountain biking.

Over time, things got more organised and for some, things got more serious. People started getting good at stuff. People who didn’t work at JM Computing joined in. ‘Ringers’ I think they’re more commonly known as.

As the months went by, the distinctive blue, white and red cycling jerseys became more common and more recognised. Mainly because they were being photographed in races up and down the country, sometimes abroad and increasingly, on the steps of podiums.

Now I’ve lost count of how many people have joined in, mainly because I’m not the guy who does the counting.

But it’s not my initials. It’s a complete coincidence that my initials and the logo on my biking jersey are the same.

For what it’s worth, If I started my own race team I’d call it Team Chicken Biryani.

So that clears that up then!

As you were….

 

10@ Kirroughtree 2018

Getting to the start of 10@Kirroughtree race this year for me was super-easy, in fact I can’t remember ever taking part in a race before where halfway around the course I could see my own house. I was even able to have a few practice rides on the rooty, steep, massively fun and challenging course in the week leading up to the event.

For 3 days I was messing about trying to get tubeless tyres to seal properly. The weather forecast for ‘The Ten’ as it’s known locally suggested that the race would be muddy and slippery to start with, but in the sunshine and breeze should dry out nicely.

I had my Highball hardtail ready with a pair of wet conditions tyres (even dragging a mud tyre out of the shed for the front) and the Blur was all setup with some fast dry conditions rubber. I did consider swapping the tyres on the Blur for a nanosecond but then remembered how much effort it took to get the damn tyres to seal on those rims too so immediately dismissed the idea and planned on turning up with 2 bikes like some kind of full factory show-off.

The tyres on the hardtail had about a gallon of sealant in each of them and following a lot of effort and swearing, by Friday, they seemed to be holding air.

HOWEVER. In a similar way that some people have a predetermined disposition for ingrowing toenails, baldness or crappy tastes in music, I appear to have been cursed with some sort of First Lap Rear Tyre Affliction.

This must have happened 5 or 6 times now. Opening lap of an endurance race and BAM, the rear tyre either gets torn or otherwise loses all air pressure so I stop and watch the rest of the field ride past. I stopped, removed the back wheel and trying to contain my rage, started to replace all the useless sealant in the tyre with an innertube. Ritchie soon arrived and abandoning a good time for his own first lap, lent a hand (and a malfunctioning C02 inflator).

I’ve no idea how much time was lost but I was soon on my way again, dropped back to about 9th or 10th place in the solo category.

Early days yet, chin up lad.

For the next few hours I bashed around the steep, extremely rooty course and while I was thankful that I was using tyres that were working well in the conditions my lower back was crying out for Ibuprofen and a go on the full suspension Blur.

Eventually the course conditions improved and I jumped aboard the Blur without worrying that the tyres were going to dispatch me straight to Valhalla. What a difference. In a proper hardtail/full suspension back-to-back comparison like this and it was obvious which was the more capable and faster bike. Even though I was pretty knackered, my lap times came down by about 7 or 8 minutes for the remaining 4 hours, my back stopped hurting and crucially, I started to enjoy myself.

God I love that bike. I really do. I almost cried when I had a little crash (ahem) and scratched it.

I was gaining places now. I’d told Deb to keep my position in the race to herself until the end so while I knew that the past few hours had gone better than the first part of the race, I had no idea how many solo riders were still in front.

What I did know was that I was nowhere near friend and local rider Ben White who I’d last seen when my tyre went flat. He’d spent the race riding away from everyone else into the far distance (and he subsequently won the overall solo race) but I tapped out the laps and eventually, with about an hour of the race left, I slotted into 2nd place somewhere behind Ben. I’m an old geezer and Ben’s not so I won the over-40s vets solo category and for the first time in 18 months I ended the day by standing on the top step of a podium. Chuffed doesn’t do it justice. And my local race, too. Fabulous.

 

It was a great day for the biking community of Newton Stewart as aside from Ben and I, the rest of the roll of honour was dominated by male and female riders from our wee town.

The Newton Stewart Roll of Awesome

Graft

Blogging a bit more often than I have been doing would seem to be the right thing to do, now I’ve kind of dragged my backside out of my endurance racing sabbatical. Perhaps someone out there is still interested in how many times a week I get soaked on a training ride or possibly would be half-bothered if I’ve bought a new pair of shoes or something.

In the past few weeks I’ve ridden a 300 mile charity ride, a stage race in Spain, a painful duathlon (never again!), a super-hilly gravel ride in Yorkshire and I’ve been welcomed by the local cycling lads and lasses (shout out to the Newton Stewart Thursday night bunch!) so I suppose it’s been a decent run so far. 2018 is already 100 times less shite than 2017.

Since the first time I rolled my new Blur CC out of the house (and subsequently died on my arse) at the Glentress 7 over 11 weeks ago, I’ve gradually got my body and mind back into the routine of more regular big rides and more recently I’ve reminded myself what interval training feels like.

I’ve also noticed that at 47 years old, losing weight isn’t the piece of cake (or bowl of salad) it used to be…

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Of course, it’ll all be absolutely fine  – I’ve been here before and my level of enthusiasm seems pretty good for now so we’ll see how we get on.

As well as all the help I’m surprisingly still enjoying from all my regular sponsors and supporters (and family) Dave is helping me along on the road to the 24 Hour World Champs in October – I’ve kind of got a bit bored of my regular training routine that I’d been using for years of 24 hour racing, so Dave’s pushing me harder and while the goals are the same, the preparation feels new and a lot more exciting.

I can’t seem to be able to tell myself to break myself to pieces any more, I need someone to tell me to do it. Weird eh?