Even though I’ve done a few 24 hour solos in the past (with vastly varying degrees of success), I’d never solo’ed at Mountain Mayhem before. I knew what to expect – it would inevitably rain and the course would become slippery and some parts of it would become unrideable (for me anyway).
I was right. The rain started on Friday evening and it continued to be miserable, damp and drizzly all day Saturday. I started the race on the singlespeed – partly because I’d entered as a singlespeed rider and partly because it had mud tyres on it and I just couldn’t be bothered swapping tyres between bikes prior to the start. After 3 laps of that I swapped to the Global – gears and semi-slicks offered some welcome comfort after the full-on committed efforts of the singlespeed.
I continued to steadily complete the laps without incident, coming in every 2 or 3 for a fresh bottle and some gels until “PSSSSSSSSSTTTTTTFFFFFFF!!!” – the air cartridge in the USE fork went pop. I rode it for the remainder of that lap just on the coil spring – no rebound and pretty much 90% sag. After the lap I rode over to the USE stand to see if Chris could help me out. Within 20 minutes he stripped the internals from his fork and mine, swapped them over, reassembled mine and got me on my way. What a guy. I made sure Michael delivered him a bag of cake afterwards.
Eventually, after 10 hours or so I chatted to Rich on the course and he seemed surprised that I was still on the semi slick tyres in the ever-increasing mud. To be honest I hadn’t really thought about it until this point but that particular lap was exciting to say the least. I think I discovered some limitations of Kenda Small Block 8’s…
I continued through the night, now back on the SS due to the mud getting REALLY bad – I could do without my rear mech being torn off the geared bike. The night laps consisted of horizontal rain, mud like epoxy resin, bad tempered riders losing the plot and presumably lots of folk returning to their tents and staying there given that the course seemed to be pretty empty at times. I was just telling myself that each really bad bit was linked to the next really bad bit by a perfectly rideable and fast bit and that seemed to stop me getting “The Despair”.
At sunrise, the course started to get better, the sunlight gradually turning the sludge into firmer soil. I went in again and swapped back to the Global (that Michael had cleaned for me at 1am, bless his cotton socks) after swapping the front tyre for a gnarlier one I had in the van and off I went again.
I saw Twinklydave start his 14th lap (I’d overheard the conversation between him and his helper) so I was only 2 laps behind him at this point. I wasn’t deluded enough to think I would beat him or anything, but it was nice to know that I wasn’t too far behind a successful rider. He dropped me on the first climb 😉
I was doing the sums at this point. I knew that 15 laps was pretty much in the bag providing I didn’t have a major mishap. 16 could be possible as long as I fed properly and stepped on the gas wherever possible. I was feeling quite fresh and I was making sure I was taking no risks, the course had a number of really bad bits by now that needed great care – the anti dive fork was doing it’s thing and keeping me on the right side of the bars and I was glad I swapped that front tyre.
23:35 and I started my 16th and final lap. That felt good. I crossed the line for the last time in 12th place – pleased with that for now but I’ll be looking to get some order back into my training between now and next year’s race to improve on that result – the last few months have been chaotic and slightly frustrating (although this is only down to the fact that we’ve 2 youngsters to look after, so it’s worth it really).
The two lads I was there with, who were racing solo for the first time, did 10 laps apiece – a storming effort for a first go. If you’re planning to do something like this again then a tough race will always do you more good than harm (even if it doesn’t seem like it at the time!). Big up Budge and Andy 😉
Right. Hit the North is 4 weeks away. We’ve got some work to do to be ready for that, at the same time I’ve a team entry at Sleepless in Saddle and the 3 Peaks Cyclocross to prepare for. I’m really looking forward to the 3 Peaks now, not least because it gives me the excuse to ride the CX bike LOADS in the coming weeks.