Riding a mountain bike quickly at night, in driving rain on a trail that twists and turns through a dense forest whilst only being able to see out of one eye is not an experience I want to repeat. Ever.
The start of Dusk Till Dawn went well, I’d got myself into a reasonably good position during the rolling start, well out of trouble (there was plenty of sketchy riding going on all around me at the start) and whilst I sat behind some traffic during that first lap it was ok. Not blisteringly fast, but not slow either. Making full use of the fireroads to stretch my legs and overtake large groups of other riders I was feeling good, just as I was last year.
The second lap was a bit wetter. At some point soon after the start of the race the rain also started and the levels of grip that I’d enjoyed in that first lap had pretty much gone now. I needed to get back to the solo tent where I expected Michael to have the spare bike (with mud tyres) ready to go.
It was still raining and now a large blob of mud had scored a direct hit on my right eye, despite me wearing glasses. I’ve also lost the use of my rear brake, oh and the rear mech seems to have developed its own free will. This is starting to get interesting much earlier than I was expecting it to….
Back to the solo tent, there’s Michael stood in the rain with the bike. He’s a good lad, my lad. A quick ‘my eye’s hurting and this bike seems to be broken’ whinge and I’m off again, this time apparently with a level of grip and an ability to manoeuvre around the twisting and turning singletrack the like of which the rest of the riders out there could only dream of. The biggest challenge at times was avoiding crashing cyclists.
One lap and a pair of brake pads appeared to have been worn out. I think I actually braked just twice during that lap too. Back to the tent, eye hurting, grab another bottle, eat a gel, carry on.
Ignore the pain. No idea what my position was but I was pretty sure I was doing ok.
As well as brake pads, my right eye was now definitely being worn away. The grit that was obviously still in there was causing me a great deal of pain by now – I was having to stop more and more frequently to try to remove it with my filthy, cold, wet fingers and not surprisingly I was making the problem worse.
I was getting angry with myself now as I should have just gone to get help and have the eye washed at the end of the second lap. I was going to have to stop after this lap and find the first aid tent…
Then my rear mech packed in – bizarrely the grit seems to have destroyed the lower jockey wheel so that’s now seized. The chain is continuing to roll over the jockey wheel but it was vibrating and making a noise like a moped.
I’d better get back to the solo tent to fix it then.
But I can’t see out of my right eye now without it feeling like someone has built a small fire in it. Sod the bike, first aid is what you need.
The medic shone his light into my eye and after washing out most of the dirt with (I think) a water pistol, he told me that I’d put a large scratch on the eyeball. No amount of cleaning was going to reduce the pain so he put a dressing on it, shared an anecdote about scratched eyeballs and chainsaws, told me to expect a couple of days of pain and then sent me on my way.
And that was the end of that. My race had ended after just four hours.
Other riders went on to soldier on through the worst weather ever seen at this race – 50 minute lap times eventually became over 2 hour slogs. Even the wide fireroads deteriorated to a point where they were mostly unrideable but despite this, many riders made it through to the end.
Suppose we were long overdue a proper wet race. Who knows what would have happened if I’d not got injured..I know loads dropped out, each one either having their own troubles or just talking themselves out of carrying on. Onwards and upwards…Relentless 24 next, after some bike repairs and a few days of Optrex.