Mountain Mayhem 2017

In spite of the temptation to race solo at the last-ever Mountain Mayhem, I decided at the start of the year that I’d have other fish to fry this year that I want to be fresh for. When Jamie Willetts asked me to race with him in a pair, it sounded ideal.

Less than ideal was my arrival time. I got to the race nearly 6 hours after it had started because of various domestic issues that occur when you sell your house. Jamie didn’t seem to mind, but by the time I’d arrived he’d already ridden for 6 hours and was slowly baking in the 30+ degree heat.

It was really, really, really hot.

Keen to let the lad have a well-earned rest I got changed, filled my water bottle and set about riding a few laps. “Are we taking it seriously, Jase?” Jamie asked. “I’ve just arrived 6 hours late”. No, in other words. Let’s just enjoy it and try not to get fried.

The course was fast and arguably the best one yet at Gatcombe Park. Mountain biking in dry, dusty conditions is such a novelty for UK riders that any old crap would be enjoyable, but this was genuinely pretty good.


Cutting straight to the entertaining stuff though, my front light rattled loose and tumbled down a steep slope at the side of the course at about 11pm. Luckily it remained lit to it was easy to find…down and down I climbed, legs getting scratched on prickly shrubs. Eventually I retrieved the light and climbed back up – my helmet bumping into a low branch and sending my helmet light tumbling down the hill. Down and down I climbed, legs getting scratched on prickly shrubs while the air was turned blue by my potty mouth.

You couldn’t make it up.

Jamie’s turn again. He arrived back after one lap after a crash that ended with his sternum meeting his handlebar stem at high speed.

No intention of riding 12 hours solo in the wrong category, I went to bed for a bit.

The glue on my grips had melted by the time I got back on my bike in the morning and as the temperature continued to rise I took more tea breaks in between laps. It was going well.


Jamie brings it home

Jamie put in one more lap before the end of the race and that was that. 20 years of Mountain Mayhem, all finished.

The Big Daddy of UK 24 hour races, I, like thousands of others, have had fond memories of this race and it will be sadly missed.




Get fixed

I’ve been getting progressively slower for a few years now. I thought it was one of those standard ‘getting old’ things – loss of form leading to loss of motivation, leading to more loss of form…and so it goes on.

It all started to come to a head late last year when I picked up an injury while out running. Or at least I thought I’d picked up an injury that day. As it turns out, I’ve been carrying an injury for a lot longer than that. I’m talking years.

I was on day 9 of a 256 mile running challenge back in December. Day 9 meant 9 miles. I managed to do about 6 miles that day before pulling up with an injury in what I thought was my arse cheek, or perhaps my upper leg.

I rested and basically muddled through as the pain came and went over the course of several months. I’d had lower back pain quite often in the past but just ignored it mostly. I tend to spend lots of my time in discomfort so this was one of many aches and pains that I’d got used to managing. I remember a 24 Hour UK championship race about 6 years ago where I had to repeatedly get off the bike to stretch my lower back and since then it’s been a near-constant companion. I never did anything about it other than moan and do the occasional stretch. Stretching, I should add, did nothing to alleviate the pain.

My off-the-scale level of suffering and general poor performance at a stage race in Belgium a few weeks ago tipped me over the edge and I started to seek some help.

Google told me that there was a guy just down the road from here and his past clients clearly rated him highly. Off I went to see Stephen Oakley, AKA Massage Hands.

I described to Stephen what had happened, how I sometimes couldn’t walk and how it’s often been painful when I’m pushing hard on the bike. He showed me where he thought the problem was and explained that over the years (probably since the first flare-up back at the UK champs 6 years ago), my Quadratus Lumborum muscle was quite simply, tired. In fact, he quickly noticed that it was as hard and as inflexible as a block of wood. It’s also a bugger to stretch, so probably needs fairly regular maintenance.

A very painful 30 minutes followed while the offending muscle was squashed, pummelled and broken down so that it would heal back the way it should be. A bruised and sore few days followed, after which I immediately started to feel better – more flexible, able to do more before it became painful.

I went back 10 days later for another session. Less painful this time, my body already responding to the therapy. 2 days after that I felt better and stronger than I have done for years. I rode a 100 mile local road sportive and The Distance 165 mile bikepacking event a few days later with Phil. I felt faster and had more endurance than I have done for a long time and I was actually enjoying riding bikes again. Only a few weeks ago I was assuming that riding bikes simply hurt more as you get older. I was very, very wrong.

Yesterday I had my third and final session with Stephen and I feel amazing.

Get your niggles and injuries fixed by someone who knows what they’re doing – it’s money well-spent and in my case has helped my state of mind and how I feel about racing bikes too.