Let’s start with the plan. Arrive late the night before the race, camp out, get up early, do the race. Dig deep but not too deep – remember you’ve got a 24 hour solo next weekend. Just dig deep enough to make the trip to Bristol worthwhile, make sure all is well with the bikes you’ll use next week and maybe win some beer. Drive home.
…for a change, that’s pretty much what happened. Almost. The drive down was late enough to be trouble-free and 3 hours after leaving Manchester I arrived at a dark Ashton Court in Bristol and pitched the tent (just how ace are pop-up tents?). A solid night’s sleep and a relatively stress-free couple of hours of pre-race faffing passed a little bit too quickly, leaving just a few minutes to use the loo.
There weren’t many loos and a lot of people queuing to use them. Ooops.
Eventually, I’m back in my tent, feverishly pulling on bib shorts and jersey while simultaneously applying chamois cream and I made it to the start line with literally 3 seconds before the start of the chaotic run to the bikes, left at the side of the gravel track.
The course was almost all purpose-built, hardpacked, swoopy MTB trail and was mostly very narrow. I spent the whole race politely asking people if I could get past just before nearly riding into a bush while riding past. After a couple of laps I started to get the hang of it, let a few psi out of my front tyre and started to have fun. I even jumped a few times. Go me.
One of the highpoints of the race was a lump of home-made flapjack left on my table by Ant, complete with a written note to tell me how I was doing. Up until this point, about 3 or 4 hours in, I had no idea if I was first, last or somewhere in between so I was forcing myself to push hard the whole time. Which wasn’t the plan.
Anyway, the flapjack was bloody lovely – just slightly over-done but not burnt. Perfect 🙂
6 or 7 hours later and I think I started to fade a bit. In fact, the earlier fast pace after what’s been a big couple of weeks on the bike definitely caused me to fade a bit and eventually a very fast Andy Cockburn went past and carried on riding off into the distance to win the 8 hour race overall. I managed to hang on for the last half hour or so after that and I can’t complain about winning the vet’s category after riding 15 laps of what turned out to be a very punishing course – especially as I won beer, a cup and a pretzel.
So….all is set for Relentless 24 next weekend – my fourth last 24 hour race of the year.
Someone told me it’s been snowing in the Highlands…