This weekend an man of less than normal brain capacity was joined by many others at Newham Park near Plymouth. The site of this years Bontrager Twentyfour12, one 24hr MTB race and two 12 hr races, one starting at 12pm with the 24hr riders and the other at 12am in the middle of it all, the Torch Bearer.
I had signed on in the ranks of the 24hr soloist, second 24hr attempt, would turn out to be second time lucky. On what would be a great course, the rain started to full only an hr or so before the race start. It stopped but it would only be briefly, over night it had rained heavily, but the track had stood up to this. A few final tweaks, a successful and very rapid tubeless conversion, food and drink prep'ed, Nik with the plan in her head and loads of encouragement ready to be dished out as I needed it and it was off to the start line (half an hour earlier next time).
The race started, a sneak starting change to the course, made it easy to work through the bike hikers and wobblers (one of which most 24hr soloist become during the race), the course started to clear and flow well, the first two big hills would sort the riders out and the racing for the rest of the bunch would begin. The lead soloist and teams had already shot away.
Enjoying the new bike the course and the occasional chat and the encouragement form most pairs, teams and all the spectators it is easy to see why the soloist can keep going during the day, evening and into the night. The rain had come and whilst warm the rain made the course very technical, many crashes were starting to happen due to the exposed wet roots and rocks, but so far only a few dabs from myself.
I found it strange to find myself at 10pm after some pasta and varying other foods, passing some pairs and teams, as many as were passing me, well that's the way it seemed, I'll have to check the results. Each lap, Nik offered food, encouragement and a measured amount of abuse, gotta love her! Each lap I turned the pedals, watched the light fade into the now heavy mist as my tyres squelched through the mud, rode over the rocks and routes, two sections had become extremely cut up and technical and only the strong riders from the pairs and teams could muster the power and speed to get through these now. Skill was no longer enough, walking was quicker and safer.
As time pushed on, I found myself singing along to "Always look on the bright side of life" with a lass that had started in a mixed pair in the Torch Bearer, we chatted a bit and I can't recall if I rode off or she did, yes it was about to start getting a bit hard. Then a chat with Nik and the chap (Sheldon) who had set his pit up next to us and I found some spark. I sang (as headphones are now band, someone obviously had a crash recently in a race and their headphones were to blame), so yes I upset the owls and god knows what else at points during the night.
3am soon arrive and I started to feel bad, very bad, at 4am I decided to finish this lap and some food a sit for a moment and see if the body would recover. After this a bit of a keep and toilet stop, I was on the road (trail again), Nik thinks this was about 45 minutes for this stop. I had wrapped myself in a rug, then Nik tucked me in with a pinic rug, I recall the conversation not the event, the event I do remember was sitting on the toilet feeling cold and like I can't go on, but on leaving the toilet, I was wide awake and super psyched, methane poisoning???
I remounted my nolbe and new Niner and head out, it had only failed me briefly and the faithful Wanga Single Speed had been on hand to complete two laps on. The track was still wet, but the rain had eased and the mist was thinning, the light was up as well (good less weight without the lights on). Off I set.
Some of the pairs and teams were flying, two other soloist where also flying when they went pass, then on a technical section one had to get off and walk, we walked it and chatted, discussed the race and the track and wished each other well. The spectators that had yelled at us most of the the night, continued to keep us motivated, one group giving the soloist Jelly Babies and Team Singular cheered me on as I cheered them on, our this is why people do 24hr MTBike races.
With morning comes hope, they say. In a 24hr race, it is joy and a certain smugness, that you are going to make it. As time closes in, you now start the tactical game, Nik checked the stats, positions and lap times, I was in 8th, with 4o minutes to 24hrs being done, did I need to go again to hold on to 8th, 7th was too far ahead, he would have to stop or have a mechanical or accident, you don't wish that on another competitor and John is a top bloke as well.
Nik ran the maths, I ran what I could of the maths, then Nik checked that if I crossed the line now, did I have to do another lap, the answer was now and I crossed the line with 20 or so minutes left until the 24hrs was complete, in the SUN. :-)
The reason for this decision was several crashes on the last two laps, I was all over the shop at this stage, but had to concede that 8th in my second 24hr and the first one I have completed in some pretty terrible conditions was great, but was 8th safe, a top 10 was assured. If I had to go again, I would have done, but I am not a hero, most hero's are dead and I have another 24hr race in 2 weeks.
All in all, a great bloody race, great course, great organisation, great spectators and the best support team ever.
Right recovery time.
Massive thanks to Nik and Cycleworks.co.uk