Unsurprisingly, racing a fifth 24 hour solo in 12 months was a pretty uncomfortable experience. I’d had a good few days of taking things easy after a slightly-harder-than-I-thought-it-was-going-to-be Bristol Oktoberfest, I was nice and organised (apart from the fact we didn’t arrive in Fort William until 1am the night before the race) and I was feeling ok. In reality though, I didn’t really have the legs for a 24 hour race last weekend and I’m still quite surprised that I was able to finish it, never mind win it.
I was fine for the first few hours. In fact, I created a nice big gap between me and everyone else at the start of lap three by making a Heroic Big Move™ and hammering it to the top of the first climb after spending the previous couple of hours to-ing, fro-ing and “getting into it” with a fresh-looking Jason Hynd.
After 6 hours or so the running order behind me was starting to settle down (Matt Jones was putting in some nice consistent lap times in second place) and the gap was now somewhere between 20 and 30 minutes. It wasn’t getting any bigger though and I was starting to become frustrated at my inability to kill things off and make the gap bigger. I was feeling tired and if I’m honest, I was hanging on and praying that I didn’t have a mechanical – if I had some catching up to do I wouldn’t be doing it today…
Debbie arrived four hours into the race and after a 6 hour drive, immediately dropped into her role of supporting me while I immediately slipped into my role of grumpily barking orders J
It was raining. I was getting cold and my shorts seemed to be filling up with fragments of Scottish granite. I wasn’t so much ‘tapping out laps’ as ‘grinding round the course’. I was suffering but I wasn’t planning to sack the race off because I’d put £120 of diesel in the van to get here.
The course was trying to break me and to be fair, it was doing a pretty good job of it. The first climb from the start/finish line was testing my patience as well as my legs and some of the tricky downhill sections were getting sketchy too (including one muddy bit that by now had a rut that looked like it had been caused by a meteorite).
I kept grinding out the laps. Matt would put in a faster lap and I’d somehow respond by doing the same. The gap never extended beyond 31 minutes. I was going to have to ride for longer than 24 hours ‘just to make sure’. My 23rd and final lap was enough for the win and as I rode for the final time to the finish line towards a cheering throng of 4 people, my rear mech finally packed in, seemingly in sympathy with my wretched and crumpled body.
It was time for chips, gravy and a bloody good rest. Big thanks to everyone who was there for putting up with my monosyllabic grunting, especially Deb, Jacqui and Phil. Thanks also to Frazer and Spook for their hospitality and for organising the race, John and all the guys at Exposure Lights for shouting encouragement as I rode past 23 times and finally a massive “bloody well done lad” to Matt Jones for a super-strong ride for 2nd place.