Strathpuffer 2012

It’s three in the morning and I’m sat on a chair in a tent with my head between my legs, trying desperately to stretch my back muscles. It isn’t making much difference to the amount of pain that I’m feeling. For the last three or four laps of the Strathpuffer, I’ve tried to ignore the pain and shift my position around on the bike as much as possible. My mind was on ‘pain relief’ and not on ‘nutrition’ as much as it should have been, so I was heading for a bonk, big time.

I’d crawled off the bike, back still in agonising spasm, head spinning from the rapid drop in blood sugar due to my lapse in concentration. Annoying. I’m supposed to know what I’m doing.

Up until now, the Strathpuffer had been going well (for me at least). I’d entered as a singlespeed rider, only because I was curious about being able to maintain the required pace without gears and up until the 16 hour mark, I’d been smashing it.

photo: Rachael Eaton

The only downer up until then was that Dave had earlier suffered a bad crash off the side of a bridge having been in the lead. His race over. Phil had a few problems with punctures, allowing me to overtake and lead for a while. My lap times were good. I was coping. Considering I was spinning like a loon due to my lack of proper big gears on the flat bits and standing up and grunting up most of the hills, I was enjoying this.

Then I was far from ‘coping’.

My back went. It was the same lower back pain that I had at UK24 a couple of years ago. One or two too many stood-up climbs perhaps, I grimaced my way back to the Team JMC pit, downed some protein, rubbed in some Ibuprofen gel and set off again.

After a few more laps of ‘slow n painful’ I crawled off my bike and onto a chair. Eventually I got changed into normal clothes, tried for ages to get semi-comfortable and went to sleep in the van, my race also over.

2 hours later I woke up, wriggled my toes, got dressed into dry cycling clothes and decided I was going to spend the remainder of the race salvaging some dignity. My back still very sore, I figured that I could perhaps secure the singlespeed category win if I could get a few more laps in.

I was right – I won the singlespeed cat by 3 laps but couldn’t help but be a little bit disappointed to have finished 5th overall.

Would I do it again? Probably.

While all this was going on, Phil battled onwards and claimed the overall solo win and before he’d dropped out, Dave had recorded the fastest lap of the entire event, which wasn’t too shabby for a soloist ;0)

Christmas cross and Strathpuffer countdown

Despite my resolution at the end of the 2010 cyclocross season to “have a half-decent ‘cross season next time”, my effort this time was a bit lame. I managed to attend just two cyclocross races, one was the Macclesfield Supacross – an hour-long tear-arse around a park in Macclesfield. Conditions were quite nice, not too cold, quite dry and the course didn’t turn into a total bog. So it was fast. Saw lots of friends. Budge’s dad brought his hip flask. Great fun.

My second race was the grand Yorkshire League finale (I think) – the Todmorden Cyclocross event, where the vets’ race was a mere 40 minutes long. 40 minutes? I’ve had longer showers than that. I entered the vets race and to satisfy my tendencies for stupidity, I also entered the hour-long seniors (under 40s) race. At least I’d have 20 minutes or so between each race to compose myself, change into a clean jersey (how pro), etc.

Photo – Steve Makin

The course was hell. Shin-deep puddles of thick mud, the usual thigh-mashing steep climb up the slippery cobbles, more mud…some barriers to heroically leap across…some mud…

I finished the vets race in mid-table mediocrity then with only 10 minutes of the second race to go I pulled a muscle in my leg during a ‘flailing arms and legs’ dismount in the middle of (you guessed it) a bog. Off I limped to a dnf. Great fun.

There were some summer cyclocross races last year. I think they might be the way forward for me….I’d only enter one at a time in future though.

This weekend I’m finally going to make it to the start line of the Strathpuffer (I’m not going into why I didn’t make it last time again). Normally the weather forecast hovers somewhere between ‘ice’ and ‘snow’ or even both, so this is the only 24 hour race I’ll ever do where I find the current ‘wind, rain and mild temperatures’ forecast encouraging.

Despite having raced for 24 hours several times before, this time I feel like I’m stepping into the unknown. I’m tackling the race singlespeed this time. I’m also hideously under-prepared, but that’s a subject for a very boring blog post so I won’t bother.

To be fair the course suits singlespeeding quite well plus there are a few benefits in having no derailleurs or gear cables at the Strathpuffer. I’ve got a pair of On-One Scandals, one of them a brand new one that Brant personally delivered to my house last night (in return for the obligatory cuppa). Despite it having only one gear, it’s got a suspension fork and a tapered headtube. Yeah, I’m bouncing and stiff-front-ending my way into the 21st century, readers.  I’ve also got a huge bag of brake pads, all ready for the conveyor belt of destruction.

I’ve been scratching my chin for weeks about appropriate gear ratios, I think I’ve settled on something just about sustainable for the full race on both bikes so here goes…..