2nd May, saw the first real Endurance race of the year, the Gorrick 100 (km) at Swinley Forest.
I turned out on the Single Speed and planned to use this race as training for the up coming 24Hr Solo race. 7 Laps of a mud heavy, wet, tyre sucking sand, sharp hills, twicthy descents, flat out fire roads and sweet as a kitten single track was the target.
63 men started in my category and the conditions would play a part on bikes and legs. A small number of women had turned out for the 7 laps
The whistle went and so did we, the first lap was about sorting the field out on the track and then peoples strategies take affect. By the 3rd lap the track was cut up a treat as there was one hill that was compulsory to walk thanks to the mud.
My plan was to keep ticking over an try to keep the laps at a comfortable speed, the lack of gears tends to keep you honest to such a plan, the plan was to finish the race. At the completion of the 3rd lap people had already started to retire due bike, condition, plain too hard and not much fun. But many continued on, many of the 7 Lap girls making it a 4 lap race considering the conditions this was a great effort and a sensible decision.
As we continued the track got heavier, but the SS remained pretty much unaffected apart from the back brake pads disappearing, this made the twitchy descents interesting, but retiring never entered my mind, today had become about being string in the mind, even if that meant having to run/walk the bike up some hills.
On the 5th lap nature enforced a comfort break and would do so on the 6th lap, slowing my lap times. But what had been impressive was the fact that I had been overtaking other racers in my category, this had bouyed me on. Out on the 6th lap, I was thinking cool only one lap to go after this. It was going to be a long hard day in the saddle, but it was worth it, I had put loads of hard k's into the legs.
Dipping into a deep bit of mud off a small embankment, the front tyre submerged up to the hub and a super many into 12 inch deep mud was experienced, this actually only added to the fun and didn't make me any muddier. As I jump back on the bike, I realised that I had not seen many other riders in my category in a while and the riders I was passing or being passed by, were either 3, 4 or 5 lapers, and there weren't many of these left.
Climbing the last hill in the wheel sucking sand, I decided this would be the point that I was going to lift the pace, for the final lap.
As I headed for the Start/Finish, I noticed that they had re-routed the finish, as I crossed the line I commented that "I thought you might do that" to the stewards and thanked them, 6 laps was still long enough. They all responded with big smiles and congratulations and the sponsor grabbed a bag and shook my hand and handed me a bag congratulating me on 2nd Place, I questioned this "What?", and he said you have got 2nd Place. I smiled broadly and thanked him and the small party of race organisers left and Rory the winner came over and we congratulated each other.
What a surpising race and a great result I thought, but it still didn't register as a great effort until seeing Nik at home. I had enjoyed the race, suffered the conditions, managed a poorly bike, made my target, loved the track and chatted to some other like minded people as we suffered together.
Next stop 24Hr Solo Champs.