UK 24 hour solo championship

(pic courtesy of epicyclo)

Looking at the photo above, you would be forgiven for thinking that I was my usual grumpy self during this race, but you would be wrong. At the time the photo was taken it was getting close to the end of the inaugural UK 24 (AKA 24 Hours of Exposure) and I was in a world of hurt. Not my legs, although they were weary, not my wrists either. I was suffering from the most horrible, agonising backache. Pain that was up there with the time half of my tooth fell out and the time I had appendicitis – Ibuprofen wasn’t working at all and the only way I could find relief was to keep stopping, getting off the bike and doing a ‘praying to Mecca’ stretching manoeuvre at the side of the trail.

My final 4 or 5 laps were taking 20 or so minutes longer than they should have been because of this and my plans to catch James Leavesley and gain at least one place in the final standings evaporated. I was hanging on until the end, resisting the sometimes overwhelming urge to quit, (remembering that others had travelled up here to support and to help me compete) but despite all this, I was at all times resisting the urge to get grumpy.

I was giving The Power Of Positive Thought a go. It was working.

The course was like this; 12 miles of woodland ‘stuff’, long fireroad climbs and sections of the ace red route at Newcastleton that consists of typical Scottish trail centre rocky singletrack with more flow than you would think possible and loads of berms. Climbing-wise it was a scary 550 metres of climbing per lap. This was a hard course. A man’s course. I loved it, despite before the race working out in my head that four laps was slightly more horizontal and vertical distance than a whole Mary Townley Loop. Ouchy.

It all started without a run, thankfully, just a ride from the square in the centre of Newcastleton behind some guy on a cruiser in wellies then a 3 Peaks Cyclocross-alike neutralised rolling start behind a van where 12 or so of us dropped the rest of the field after half a mile or so…then BAM we’re off and racing proper. Duelling for a couple of laps with James, passing other riders, coping with the heat and picking up a fresh bottle of energy drink every lap, it was going well. It continued to go well for hours and hours. I was staying consistent. Phil was utterly immense in the pit – pulling the empty gel wrappers from my jersey pockets (don’t drop litter lids) and bunging new ones in, swapping my bottle, sorting the bike when it needed fettling/a torn tyre replacing and always having the spare bike ready to go – our pit strategy in fact meant that I think I spent at the most 25 minutes of the entire race not on the course.

Not much went wrong for the first 18 hours; I ripped my rear tyre about a mile from the end of a lap and had to complete that lap by running to the end to get the spare bike, I felt down when I saw Dave drop out of the race with sickness, but apart from that all was tip-top-tickety-boo. Until the back pain started….

I wanted a top ten finish in this race. The start list was a who’s who in UK endurance racing and up against that lot, top 10 would have been a big achievement. I finished in 6th place, which I’m obviously very, very happy about and I’m in a great frame of mind now for Mountain Mayhem in just less than a month.

Things that worked well: Staying positive. Not getting grumpy. Having a few days holiday before the race to properly relax with Deb and the kids and force me to pack a week early. Having utterly flawless support from Phil who stayed up all night and made sure that our pit stops were absolutely dialled (even giving me a bollocking when he thought I wasn’t eating enough). The bikes were spot on – a bit more time the week before to prepare them properly paid off.

I think I’m starting to get the hang of this lark…

24 Hours of Exposure – Now we’re ready

Food, check. Clothes, check. Two pairs of shoes, check. Caravan (!), check. A variety of tyres and some spare wheels, check. Two race-worthy rigid 29ers, check. Two sets of lights, check. One new set of Ragley stickers for the TD:1, check….and about a MILLION other things that are now packed and ready. A load of it is travelling up separately in the van with Phil who’s very kindly giving up his entire weekend to provide race (and probably a bit of emotional) support, leaving Deb free to do important things such as checking the kids don’t run off 😉

Hit the North 2 – an update

After a nervous few weeks waiting for permission for one or two of the sections of the course that kind of go through private land (not quite someone’s back garden, but close), we’re now accepting entries for Hit the North 2 (there’s a number two in the title despite it being our fourth race). With less than nine weeks to go we expect to fill up quite quickly – entries for the first ‘big’ race were really slow for weeks and weeks, to the point where we actually considered abandoning the idea entirely, then all of a sudden, with the help of some tactical guerrilla marketing and bombardment of Internet forums, BAM we were sold out.

So if you have been thinking of entering or you intend to enter but you’re waiting for a bit, be warned we might have to pull the shutters down in a hurry like we did back in 2008.

As for the race itself, I’m quite proud of this course. It’s different to the previous 3 races, there are the now-customary bits where getting off to push/carry is the only way forward but there are plenty of sections that are plenty fast/scary to satisfy/terrify everyone. Included as part of the 6-mile lap are the new trails near here that have just this week been completed by the Forestry Commission so this time we’ve got berms and purpose-built rocky and wiggly bits. It’s ace. You’ll love it.

Some who have previewed the course say that it’s our best yet 😉

Live music, licensed bar, fab catering and free camping completes the package. We’re giving the profits away to a good cause too. Just get it entered!

Enduro 6 2010

It was 2005 when I last raced at the Enduro 6 (it was called the Enduro Plus back then, no idea why). I can’t remember my final placing last time but it would more than likely have been ‘somewhere in the middle’. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t expect to do much better this time….

After a rough night trying to get to sleep due to sharing a caravan with a relentlessly farting dog (who was ejected to the awning around 1am), I got ready and lined up with Budge and Shaun for the run that would start the race. For some reason the mile-long run seemed to be much harder than it should have been…perhaps the dog gas had damaged my lungs! Eventually I made it back into the pit, stuffed the spare tube, tool, emergency gel and co2 into my jersey pockets and made my way with the bike through the melee out of the pit area and onto the bike to start my first lap.

POW. Woohoo I felt fast. I had no idea if I was fast enough to do ok and to be honest I had no idea of how well or otherwise I was doing throughout the whole race . I did know however that I’d had a crappy start (again) but now I was back where I could probably start to do some damage. I was picking people off without any fuss (apart from one or two exciting elbow-y moments) and managed to avoid most of the bottlenecks to record a reasonable first lap.

The second lap was about 6 minutes quicker, the 3rd was quite nippy too. I was feeling good.

After 3 or so hours I started to feel nauseous. It’s never happened to me before – I’ve heard many stories and seen several people struck down with horrid sickness in long races (especially 24 hour races) so knew that it was common, but up until now I’d got away with it. It would wash over me in waves, a bit like when you would read a comic in the back of your dad’s car when you were a kid – that stuffy, lack-of-fresh-air feeling that you could get rid of by opening the window…only this time i just had to tough it out and hope it would pass. Which it did. Then it came back again and again throughout the next couple of hours…. Very odd.

The dry weather recently had turned the usual horrific mud of Catton Park into a hard-as-concrete circuit that was covered in ruts and bumps and my rigid carbon fork was shaking me to pieces in certain sections of the course which wasn’t helping matters, each jarring bump and rut making my internal organs bang around inside whatever bag they’re supposed to be in and putting a haribo-sized blood blister on my hand (that admittedly has been good fun to play with for the last couple of days). I need no more convincing that tubeless is the way forward…

I carried on and despite feeling sick in the middle 2 hours and like I’d been beaten up in the latter part of the race I remained pretty consistent. I think I might have climbed one place from 8th to 6th at one point and thought that I had finished right there – in the ‘Curse of Twinklydave’ 6th place but in a weird twist of fate the results were fettled and I ended up in 7th instead. Positions 1 to 9 all finished with 12 laps, so quite a close run thing.

On reflection a good result. At the time though, my legs and my heart were ‘suggesting’ that I’d done much better than that. No matter – still a significant improvement on 2005 😉