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)