Jun 112012
 

There was never any doubt that I had to ride Bristol Bikefest again this year.  Last year’s BBF was my first “proper” competitive race and 2nd place in the solo ss category took me by surprise, whilst giving me the feedback that all this extra riding I was doing was at least having some positive effect!  Besides, Bikefest is the unofficial main event of Dreaming Tyres, the marvellous group of Oxford-based riders with whom I ride a lot.

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A lot can happen in a year, and I approached Bikefest 2012 with confidence in my ability to ride for 12 hours straight (unlike last year when that particular fact was untested). I’ve also learned a lot about nutrition for long rides, what works and what doesn’t for me, and in fact I think this year I probably took on board about a third of the food that I did at last years event! The resulting lack of stomach ache and requirement for a swift trip to the loo after the race was quite an improvement this time around :-).

I can’t say I was disappointed to see that last year’s winner of the solo ss class, Dan Treby was racing in the team category for his new sponsor this year. Dan is an incredibly strong rider and even at my best I really wouldn’t fancy my chances against him. Nevertheless, Dan’s previous team Singular Cycles, who seem to have a bottomless pit of strong endurance riders, came up with the goods again in the form of Aidan Harding. I’m sure most people reading this will be familiar with Aidan & his incredible rides in races such as the Tour Divide & Iditarod Invitational, but needless to say I have huge respect for Aidan as a rider and for the work he is doing in bringing a new long distance self supported event to the UK in the form of the EWE. As I develop my riding fitness & “headspace”, I find myself drawn to a similar style of riding, attracted to the challenge of riding and racing “big” routes, “epics” I suppose some would describe them. I’ve only just begun, but my route wish-list is already growing fast! So, despite knowing that it’d be a huge stretch for me to compete closely with him, I was really pleased to have the chance to race against Aidan.

The race itself this year felt a lot more simple logistically than last. I was confident in my fuelling and the fact that I could make the distance. I’d pre-mixed all my drinks & had a good selection of gels & snacks to grab depending on how I was feeling. The new start, designed to avoid the short-cut taken by some in previous years, was a bit of a farce yet again. In the scheme of things though, especially in the context of a 12 hour solo race, it’s of no great consequence.

After perhaps three laps or so, I was surprised to hear a cheery hello from Aidan coming up behind me. I assumed he would be up ahead somewhere already but turns out some idiot moved his bike at the start so he wasted valuable time finding it & then no doubt fighting his way through the traffic. I hung onto Aidan’s rear wheel for most of a good fast lap, with a bit of chit-chat thrown in when pacing permitted. Inevitably, I soon dropped back a bit on one of the climbs into a stiff headwind. Aidan’s pace at that point was just a bit too much for me to sustain long term and I knew I had to be mindful of my own pacing, so I didn’t risk blowing up by chasing him too hard at this point in the race. The next time I was to see Aidan was on the podium!

Chasing Aidan…
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From then on, I mostly rode my own race. From occasional snippets of feedback from my Dreaming Tyres chums, I knew Graham Phillips wasn’t too far behind so there was certainly no chance to ease up & relax. Graham is an experienced endurance racer, demonstrated by his consistent lap times, and as my mid-race lap times started to slip, his remained strong. I seem to recall a 6 – 8 hour tough bit last year too. Perhaps there’s something going on physically there, I don’t know, but at least this time I knew I could push through it. If I’m honest, I’d had enough mentally after about 7 hours. Riding round in circles like this is an odd thing to do when there are so many great trails out there just waiting to be attempted. Perhaps I was spoilt by the last 12 hour ride I did along the Trans Cambrian Way but I’m still developing as a rider & finding what I enjoy & what motivates me, so riding these very different types of events & trails is a good thing for me right now. Anyway, to be honest Bikefest is about much more than the racing…it’s also the atmosphere, being around other riders and making & meeting friends.

Back to the race, I started to count down the remaining laps, 4, 3, 2…and then the elephant in my room appeared again…asthma. I’ve been troubled with exercise induced asthma since my TCW ride a couple of months ago. If I’m honest it affected me for months before that, but I didn’t know what it was & it only became a major problem at the end of that ride. This time around, I could feel a shortness of breath even just a few laps into the race. It got progressively worse to the point where, on the final lap, any significant effort resulted in the familiar tightening of my chest & an inability to draw breath, which meant I was walking the climbs and taking it easy elsewhere. To put it bluntly, if the race had continued for one more lap, I think I would have had to pull out. I later discovered that my inhaler wasn’t working properly, which certainly wouldn’t have helped! However, tackling this asthma issue is my top priority at the moment & I see it as the biggest single obstacle to achieving my riding goals in the future.

Anyway, I’m really happy to have come second to Aidan, who finished 17 minutes ahead of me in the Solo Singlespeed category. We would have come 5th & 6th overall in the Open Solo class, and I’d have come 1st in the “Old Gits” class, which as of this year I am a member! Not a bad result, and as ever it was a really enjoyable weekend camping & racing with friends. Next year, if it doesn’t clash with the Tour Divide, I reckon I may have a go at a team ride for a bit more fun. Although, I may have said that last year as well!

Aidan 1st, Me 2nd, Graham 3rd…
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May 092012
 

It seemed a good idea at the time to take on two concurrent challenges when each served to compound the difficulty of the other.

1.  Ride 1,000 miles in the month of April – http://kinesismorvelo-rob-lee.posterous.com/ride-with-me

2. Climb 105,312 feet between March 15th and April 30th – http://www.strava.com/challenges/specialized-classic

Each of those in isolation would have allowed me to ride lots of easy flat miles, or lots of short hilly ones.  But of course put them together and they create a cocktail of big miles and big hills with nowhere to hide.  To achieve both targets, I’d need to essentially double my average monthly mileage whilst also introducing a lot more climbing – not the smartest of training techniques.   I knew at least it’d be a learning experience depending on how my body reacted to the increased load.  I’d missed the start of the climbing challenge by a few days, but by the end of March had around 30,000 ft already done, helped by a 10,000 ft 85 mile ride around the Brecon Beacons the week before the TCW ride.

I started April with the Trans Cambrian Way record attempt.  133 miles and around 13,000 feet of climbing got me off to a good start and allowed me some slack to recover a bit during the first week whilst still getting some easier miles & hills in.  For the remainder of the month I experienced a lesson in how to shoe-horn seemingly constant riding into a life already quite busy with a full time job & two young children.  Lunch breaks were no longer about food, but rather about that extra 15 miles & 1,000 ft I could squeeze in before the next work meeting.  Meals were generally eaten at my desk (and this month I ate a lot of them!).  Sometimes lunch break rides weren’t enough, and another 20 or 30 or 40 or 50  miles would be required after work, often once the children were in bed.  In the second half of the month I shunned my mtb riding buddies & instead opted for the necessity of longer & hillier road rides.  I had to get creative with local routes…how much climbing could I squeeze into a ride of x miles that I needed to do that day?  It resulted in beauties like this one, my “Chadlington Fingers of Fun”…  http://app.strava.com/rides/6540276.   It’s amazing how one’s perspective can shift so quickly.  Just riding once in a day began to feel like a rest.

Of course, the main feature of April 2012 was rain.  Rain, rain rain rain.  I suppose we’d been spoilt over the winter, I could hardly remember the last time I rode through a proper downpour.  The heavy rain & high winds were a feature on many many rides over the month, and if nothing else, it taught me that with the right motivation, conditions really don’t matter.  And of course I got to (repeatedly) test out my waterproof kit…

Winners:  Gore Fusion jacket;  Altura Pocket Rocket softshell;  Gore Alp-X GT shorts.
Losers:  Sealskinz “waterproof” cold weather gloves (hint – they’re not waterproof);  Any and all chain lube – does a lube exist that doesn’t disappear after a single downpour?

As tends to be the case with me, things went right up to the wire at the end.  The plan for the penultimate day of April (a Sunday) was to ride with Rob Lee & a few others on a 100 mile 10,000 ft route round his way down in Somerset/Dorset.  I’d planned it so that I had about 96 miles and 8,600 feet to complete both challenges, both to be achieved during that ride.  The weather forecast that day was approaching biblical.  40 mph winds with 70 mph gusts, along with heavy rain and cold, but Rob & I needed the mileage so there was no wimping out.  Now, one or other of these weather conditions in isolation is generally ok, but longer rides can present a problem.  If you get properly wet and have a constant cold wind hammering you, you’re not going to warm up very easily.  For an hour or two that’s not so bad, but this would be a 6-7 hour ride in good conditions, let alone today.  There were four of us at the start… Rob, Matt, Pip and me.  Four experienced and, I’d like to think, not too soft cyclists.  In a nutshell, we sacked the ride off after 40 miles.  At about 30 miles Pip was clearly in the early stages of hypothermia.  There was simply no way to stay dry, and therefore warm in those conditions.  One of the riders (will remain nameless!) resorted to peeing in his lycra in an attempt to get warm.  I was wearing full-on frogman waterproofs and still most of me was saturated.  Progress was just too slow, and Pip’s condition too dangerous to continue, so the decision was made and a bee-line back to Rob’s house was taken.

Of course that still left more than 60 miles and about 5,000 feet of climbing to do, in 24 hours and in the pissing rain & wind.  And I was working tomorrow.  So, I drove the 2 and a half  hours home, then got onto the bike again for another wet & grim ride.  Then went to bed, then got up at 5am and rode some more until both challenges were finally completed.  A fitting end to a big month on the bike.

April numbers
Week 1 –  230 miles 21,328 ft
Week 2 –  251 miles 20,748 ft
Week 3 –  245 miles 17,165 ft
Week 4 – 281 miles  19,263 ft

Total = 1007 miles  78,504 ft (105,547 from March 15th)

Apr 032012
 

Getting out of a nice warm bed at 4am isn’t usually my idea of fun, but today it was easy because I knew I had to.  I’d carefully calculated the logistics of the day & they demanded a 4am alarm, 4:30am in the car, 6:30am reach destination, 7am start riding, 7pm finish riding (worse case), 8pm at bunkhouse with tired legs and pizza.  In theory this would give me sufficient time at either end of the day to minimise the need for lights and also to avoid any extremes of temperature (we’re currently seeing sub-zero nights and mid teens days).  Most importantly, this would mean I could carry less stuff…no heavy lights, no bulky cold weather gear…less stuff = faster (in theory).  I’d actually planned to do the ride today at fairly short notice.  Having felt good after an 80+ mile, 10K ft ride in the Beacons the previous week I was feeling strong & confident, and most importantly the weather forecast was looking favourable for a TCW attempt.

Inevitably then, the outside temperature for the start of my Trans Cambrian Way ITT at Knighton train station was a bone chilling minus 2 degrees C.  No matter, I’d been watching the forecast like a hawk for the days running up to the ride & knew the temperature would rise quickly once the sun rose fully.  With that in mind, I kept to my plan of just a jersey & arm warmers, a light gilet and showerproof jacket and some of those marvellously cheap but actually not too bad PlanetX gloves.  Oh, and summer bib shorts.  My hands would eventually stop hurting after about the first 90 minutes or so.

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After a quick faff, I set off at 06:56…in the wrong direction.  Fortunately (this time at least) I noticed my mistake within 50 yards and turned around.  Despite there not being a soul around, I still felt rather embarrassed.  I wondered if the gps track would pick up that little error at the start for people to see?  [yes it did!]

The start of the route is really quite pleasant.  Two miles of smooth minor road gives the legs at least a fighting chance of getting the blood moving around before the inevitable hills arrive.  Having read up on the route, I knew it had quite a reputation for steep, tough climbs.  The hills looming above me in every direction brought that home rather quickly.  They always look so small & easy on the map don’t they?  After that brief stretch of road, things move off-road and upwards at the tiny hamlet of Knucklas.  That short bridleway climb is just a warm-up for the one that follows, westwards up from Lloyney, a 17% grassy climb that provided my first push of the day.  Walking up that hill gave me some time to look around and really start to appreciate the beauty of this area.  It’s a striking landscape, very different from the long sprawling hills of say the Brecon Beacons (one of my favourite places to ride).  The Cambrians are more a collection of mounds.  Very big mounds.  At the top of that first big climb, the enormity of the route starts to hit home.  Gaining altitude around here, all 15,000 feet of it, was not going to be easy.  The sight of a bird of prey circling nearby & the dawn sunlight rising over the hills won out though and at that moment I just felt thrilled to be there.

The other reputation the TCW has is that of how tricky it is to navigate.  There’s the odd yellow arrow or dot on a tree or gatepost here & there, but other than that you’re pretty much on your own.  I did have a gps with me, which helped enormously, but even so some tracks were hard to spot.  You know you’re in trouble when the official IMBA route directions contain instructions such as “drop L down hill on faint track“; “you’ll spy a faint track“; “bear L on track less travelled“; “bear left on faint path“; “though not marked on your map…“; “do not follow the obvious track“. You get the idea.

Ithon Ford at llanbadarn fynydd was running low enough to cycle through with dry feet, and thus avoid losing a bit of time on the detour.  Nevertheless of course, my front wheel caught a rock in the stream which brought me to a dead halt…right foot down…saturated and freezing cold, just 16 miles into the ride.  I think it took a good couple of hours to dry out…at least until the next time I stood in a river.

I lost a bit here & there due to navigation errors but nevertheless made decent time (3 hrs 22) into Rhayader, officially the end of “Day 1″ (the route is touted by IMBA as a 3-day tour).  After a few hours of the closest we still have to wilderness, the roads, people and building of Rhayader are actually quite jarring, though the nice fast cycle track that follows was most welcome.  This is where a singlespeed loses a bit of time as I can only max out at around 15mph on the flat.  Still, stretches like this are few and far between on the route.

Through Rhayader,  the climb up from Elan Village was right up my street, a smooth 8% gradient that matched perfectly with the 32:19 gearing on my 29er.  After the steep climbs of the first “day”, it was refreshing to to know I could stomp up a climb like this all day long without raising the heart rate too much.  Inevitably of course, it didn’t last long before the route took a turn off the road & onto a track, steepening up to 15% and a walk/push for me.  Some more grassy climbing, followed by descending, then led to the run-in to Claerwen Reservoir.

In my mind I had the reservoir as the approximate half way point, and as I’d ridden it a couple of times before I had an element of comfort zone there.  I knew I’d be able to switch off my brain & just pedal for a while without worrying about navigation.  The bit I hadn’t done before however was the track south of the river leading up to the reservoir.  Whilst most of the track had been fairly dry, this stretch was still really quite muddy & wet, requiring a lot of stop/start gloop avoidance.  Rather sadistically, there’s a perfectly good paved road just the other side of the river, running perfectly parallel to this energy-sapping mud & rock fest.  Clearly the designer of the route had a sense of humour.  There’s a ford to cross at the end of this stretch, but it was too high today so I took the slightly longer way around via the bridge & a short but tricky steep bank.

Claerwen Reservoir followed, and I was happy to be able to switch off a bit & just pedal, enjoying the increased speed and the views of the huge reservoir to my left.  At this point I picked up what would be a significant feature all the way until the end of the ride…a headwind.  There was nothing a-typical about it, a NWN wind is perfectly normal around here and I knew it was coming, but it did turn out a bit stronger than I’d expected, and due to the mostly exposed nature of the route, there was little respite from it other than the brief & occasional wooded areas the route runs through.

The rest of “day 2″ went fairly smoothly.  A few more wrong turns lost me some time, along with the odd steep climb that was beyond my legs & gearing.  The stretch through the forest near Llangurig made for an interesting change of scenery, along with a steady climb & fast descent on the other side.  “Day 2″ was done with a total elapsed time of 8 hours 9 mins.  From being on target for a 10 hrs 30 mins finish at about half way, I was clearly slipping a bit but at this point still fairly confident of an 11 hour finish.

Stuart from Bearbones Bikepacking / Forest Freeride, and the “owner” of the Trans Cambrian Way ITT website had planned to meet me out on the trail somewhere around Foel Fadian.  I knew that’d be somewhere around 90 miles in, and for the previous 30 miles I’d been counting down (hey it’s something to do).  The run up to Foel Fadian (at least I think it was, it’s all getting a bit blurry at this point!), included some proper hike-a-bike up a track that was frankly only suitable for a mountain goat.  That led into an exposed stretch where the headwind really started to beat me up.  Stuart later told me that he’d been up there with gusts of 90 mph in the past.  I can well believe it.  Anyway, shortly after, I crested a rise to see someone in the distance pointing a camera at me.   Considering there could be no other possible reason for someone to be here in the middle of nowhere, I concluded it must be Stuart.  I stopped for a brief chat & another photo “for the fans” joked Stuart!  Just a couple of mins chatting definitely perked me up & I went off fairly confident that I could make the remaining ~10 miles or so in about an hour & make a sub 11 hour finish.

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Unfortunately things then got a bit tricky.  By now my GPS had been warning of low battery for quite some time.  Eek!  I’d forgotten that having map view on display all the time (as I needed to on this route) really sapped the battery, as usually a ride of this length would be well within the battery limit.   I knew if it ran out I’d have to resort to the paper maps which would be much slower.  In order to save battery, I disabled the heart rate monitor (which was no great loss as it was over-reading anyway), and I switched the main view from map to statistics.  This meant that I was reliant on the “off course” messages from the gps when I went wrong, rather than being able to know which route to take ahead of time.  Straight away this had an impact on my speed of progress.  I started to take more frequent wrong turns.  As the route seemed to become more convoluted, the minutes were slipping by far too quickly and the miles far too slowly.  I had read on Jason Miles’ blog write-up of his TCW attempt that the hills just kept on coming near the end, so I knew what to expect, but it didn’t make it any easier!  Just when you’re getting tired, this trail chucks yet another climb at you, then another, and another.  By now 11 hours had come and gone, and a bit of disappointment set in.

The route is generally accepted as being around 100 miles.  I recalled from Tracklogs that it was around 103 or so, and yet my gps was now telling me I’d done 106 miles and I was still climbing!  Clearly I’d taken a lot of wrong turns!  And then the gps batteries ran out, with 11 hours and 21 minutes gone.  This was the first point at which I thought I might not even make a 12 hour finish, which I would consider a complete failure.  After all this effort, that was just not an option!  I took out the final sheet of (badly) printed OS map, had a quick look, pointed bike in the correct direction, put map in between teeth and pedalled for all I was worth.  This was repeated for the next 15 minutes or so.  Each potential change of track meant a stop, remove map from teeth, assess, insert map and pedal like crazy.

Mercifully, it then became clear that I was on the final descent to the road and my destination at Dovey Junction station.  As I sped down a final fire road descent, I watched a bird of prey flying low just above the river below & to my left, it’s fresh prey wriggling hopelessly in it’s claws.  I thought there might be something poetic there but frankly my brain was too full of mush by then to work it out.  Even the gravel track to the station platform required a double-take on the map as it seemed such an odd way of approaching a station.  Fortunately it was correct, and as I finally reached the platform I glanced at my watch…18:40.  I knew I’d started somewhere close to 07:00, so it was mission accomplished, albeit with a slower time than I’d hoped for.  I quickly took out my phone & captured the obligatory pictures.

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So that was that. Or, at least it would have been if I hadn’t then cycled the wrong direction on the A487 for 25 minutes before having to turn back & then onwards to Machynlleth & my bunkhouse for the night, giving me an extra 13 miles of riding!

So, overall it was a successful outing, and officially the fastest time on the route to date, but I know I can do it quicker. I’m confident that an 11hr finish is possible now that I know the route, especially if I can choose a day with less of a temperature range and headwind. Unfinished business then, to be revisited in the summer I hope…

GPS track of the route. The batteries ran out 3.3 miles from the end:  http://connect.garmin.com/activity/164156538

Trans Cambrian Way ITT website:  http://transcambrianitt.blogspot.co.uk/

IMBA Trans Cambrian Way website:  http://imba.org.uk/where-to-ride/trans-cambrian-way/

 

Mar 202012
 

Well this should be “fun”.

Take the spring classics…

Milan-San Remo – 6,260 feet (1,908 meters)
Tour of Flanders – 5,709 feet (1,740 meters)
Paris-Roubaix – 3,259 feet (993 meters)
Liège–Bastogne–Liège – 10,883 feet (3,317 meters)
Amstel Gold – 8,993 feet (2,741 meters)

…add up the total cumulative climbing…35,104 feet

… then TREBLE it…  105,312 feet

Now go & ride at least that much between March 15th and April 30th.

Yikes!  Needless to say, I already have a spreadsheet with proposed rides & associated climbing figures laid out.  I’ve missed the first few days but I *think* it’s just about doable.  I’m planning a Trans Cambrian Way end to end in 12hrs on April 21st, which will help (15k feet there).  I need to aim for about 10,000 on each Saturday ride (that’s about double what I do at the moment, but I’m ready to step it up anyway).  Weekday rides can pretty much stay the same, just need to ensure around 1k ft per Monday morning, Tuesday and Wed lunchtime, then at least 2k ft on Thursday evenings on the Chilts, and maintain the approx 1500ft on Tuesday evening social rides.  I think the turbo will be out of the equation for a few weeks :-)

As I’ve missed the first few days of the challenge, I’m only starting from 6508ft from this morning, but I think I can make up for that.  After all, a free water bottle is a free water bottle, isn’t it!

http://app.strava.com/challenges/specialized-classic

Jun 232011
 

4th June 2011, Bristol Bikefest @ Ashton Court, Bristol.

Last year was my first time riding at Bikefest, and indeed the first event I attended with my then quite new Dreaming Tyres chums.  As a typically fairly unfit weekend warrior type rider, my lap times last year were, to be kind, rather average.  But then, that wasn’t the point.  Having pretty much not a competitive bone in my body,  it was all about riding with new mates around a really enjoyable course, drinking beer and sharing a fantastic BBQ, and it was a super enjoyable weekend.

So, it was pretty much a given that for 2011, Dreaming Tyres would be there in force for some more fun riding, beer drinking and BBQ’ing.  Except, I felt a bit different this time.  Having stepped up my distance riding quite a bit over the winter, I figured having an early summer goal would be sensible, and so I entered the solo singlespeed category.  When I booked my place back in February, the furthest I had ever ridden off road was about 80 miles, and that was at a relatively sedate pace involving friends and cake.  By my calculations, the 12 hour Bikefest race would involve riding somewhere in the region of 120+ miles, at race pace.  If I’m honest, I rather doubted I’d even be able to finish it, but what’s the point of having a goal if it’s easy?  In the run up to the race, I figured I’d better do at least one long-ish ride, so I did the Swan’s Way & back from Watlington.  At 112 relatively flat miles, and about 10 hours riding, it was in the ballpark of what I was to expect from Bikefest, but hardly in the same league of technicality.

And so it was that I approached Bikefest with the simple goal of finishing.  I figured by this point I was ok at riding a steady pace for a reasonable length of time, so my realistic goal was not to come last in my category.  Having never really ridden competitively in a race before, I thought I’d play to my strength of being a “plodder”, and would try not to stop too much.  Maybe if I just kept going without any breaks I might be able to gain a place or two by virtue of other riders stopping for comfort/stretching/food breaks.  To facilitate this “strategy”, I planned to exist for those 12 hours on nothing but energy drink and gels.  Fortunately, my wife had agreed to be my “pit angel” and spent the day dutifully furnishing me with drink & gel when needed (which was quite often!), which meant the minimum time possible would be wasted refuelling as it could all be done on the bike.

I found myself mixed up with the elite racers…Rob Lee, the Singular riders etc as we waited for the Le Mans style start.  Even at this point I wasn’t really very nervous as, with suitably low expectations of my potential in the race, I figured it didn’t matter what kind of start I got.  So, as the race started we all sprinted to the bikes waiting up the hill. Clare hoisted our daughter’s Peppa Pig umbrella high so I knew where to aim…perfect.  I got onto the bike relatively near the front & didn’t seem to get troubled with bottlenecks in that first lap (which I had heard could be a problem).  Those first few laps were an exercise in trying to pace myself.  I knew I shouldn’t go off too fast as this was a looong race, not a sprint!  As everyone seems to, I probably went off a tad too quickly, but nothing drastic, and soon settled into a regular groove.

A few laps in and I had no idea where I was placed.  I just kept my head down & turned the pedals.  After 3 or 4 laps, Dan Treby came flying past me.  At this point, I figured he had already lapped me as of the two other people of whom I was aware in my class, I knew he was probably the favourite.  As I later found out, he wasn’t in fact lapping me, but simply overtaking.  Dan had had a problem with a broken pedal, during which I had overtaken him, but as he was off course I hadn’t seen him.  The other racer of whom I was aware was Dr Jon, a chap I knew from some results I’d seen from another event online.  I also knew of Jon from his lovely custom Vertigo 29er, which I had coveted for some time!  Sometime after Dan had passed me, I rode past Dr Jon, who was lying on the side of the trail having a rest/stretch.  Again, I figured I was just unlapping myself.  Not long after that, he predictably flew past me again, re-lapping me (or so I thought).

The race trundled on a further few hours.  I kept stopping every 2 laps for a new drinks bottle & more gel, perfectly provided by Clare.  My average stop time must have been no more than 15 or 20 seconds…just what I had hoped for.  Occasionally I would meet another singlespeed solo competitor out on the course…often riding alongside for a while & chatting.  Perhaps if I’d known I was in third place from a fairly early stage, I might have chatted a little less.  Every other lap, I didn’t need to stop for refuelling so sped straight past Clare as she sat in the pits watching the race.  I don’t remember when she started letting me know, but somewhere around the middle of the race, as I sped past one time, she held up three fingers and shouted “third place”.  Third place, how the hell did that happen?  Well, being an extremely non-competitive person, I was surprised at how I felt at that point.  Third place, in front of my friends and my wife…bloody hell I could get onto a podium for the first time in my life!  At that point, my race started.

One lap rolled into another lap, and another, and another.  I got tired, then I recovered.  A few times. Every time I stopped to refuel I asked where the fourth place rider was, how far behind.  I wasn’t concerned with first or second…no chance I’d catch them I thought, I just want to stand on that podium.  14 minutes ahead of fourth place I was told at one point.  Ok, that’s a decent cushion but not enough in a 12 hour race.  Disaster struck on lap 14 when I put two tears in the tubeless Crossmark rear tyre.  Damn that thing, I knew it was made of cheese and certainly wouldn’t have been using them if I thought I could have been competitive.  I rode the rest of that lap with a soft tyre, losing a few minutes.  I stopped in the pits & asked Clare if she could find some of the other Dreaming Tyres guys for help (I was a bit delierious at this point, actually asking for a new bike!!).  I rode another lap with that crappy soft tyre, having to stop and apply some air mid-lap.  Once back at the pits, two of my mates were there, ready to swap out my rear tyre for me.  Excellent!  I took a break for a few minutes as they battled to fit my crappy spare, ripped but just about funtional, Race King tyre.  Fortunately, Ainsley had the presence of mind to check it for thorns first…finding two in there!  That episode lost me about 8 minutes, and apparently this allowed the fourth place rider to get within a few minutes of me.  Fortunately, the replacement tyre held for the rest of the race, albeit a lot less comfortable than the Crossmark it replaced.

After perhaps 8 hours or so, I rode past Dr Jon again.  He was, again, lying down looking a bit wrecked, and again I thought I was just unlapping myself.  Next time I rode past the pits, my wife put up two fingers “second place”!  Apparently, my look of disbelief was a picture.  From that point, I gave it everything I could.  I managed to keep it going, putting in a big push at the end to finish my 23rd and final lap just a few minutes before the end of the race.  At the end I was, frankly, pretty wrecked.  The protein-packed energy drink of which I’d consumed 10+ litres was extremely gassy & I was feeling the effects big time.  As soon as I dismounted the bike, my left hamstring cramped up, and all I could do was just lie on the ground to recover for a while.

So, rather a long winded way of describing my first 12 hour race, but I’m quite proud of what I achieved, although admittedly I did benefit from Dr Jon getting his nutrition wrong & hitting the wall, allowing me to pass him.

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Nearing the end of the race - not pretty!