Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Race Report: Mountain Mayhem

For the last month i've been looking at the weather forecast around the area of Stoud in Gloucestershire with much anticipation. Mountain Mayhem could be fun in the dry, but if it rains forget it, 24 hours of broken bikes and misery (remember 2012?) awaits you...

Thankfully the only thing I had to worry about was seeing through the dust, the sun was out, it was hot and dry. In other words perfect conditions for a solo attempt at Mountain Mayhem.

After leaving a busy London on Friday afternoon, I arrived at Kemble (by train) in just 1 hour 15 minutes, was then picked up by Jack (who had a team of 4) and then drove to Gatcombe Park. Camp had thankfully already been set up, and after unloading my kit and bike we settled down to eat Chilli and chat about the race! Early night was on the cards I think.

We woke up to beautiful blue sky and sun pouring into the tent, so it was time to get up and start the endless faffing, tyre changes, bike fettling, worrying and eating that comes before a 24 hour race. By chance we had pitched up next to my usual team of 4 (Bolsover Cycling Club, of which I have two friends in the club) Pete, having done every single Mountain Mayhem, and many as a solo rider had some good tips for me, the main one being get yourself set up in the solo tent and drink and eat loads!

Doing MM solo, and usupported will be hard, but i don't think I fully appreciated just how hard it would be... especially as the solo tent only had me and two others riders setting up for the race (and it stayed like this) Everything was now in place and ready for the 12 noon start, which consisted of a 1k run to separate the field.

On the start line and the  claxon went off. Obviously doing solo I wasn't going to sprint off at 6 minutes miles, especially as running in carbon soled cycling shoes isn't that easy, or indeed comfortable. We all then arrived back to the start and collected our bikes and I was off. Each lap was 7 miles long on a mixture of double track, grassy fields and tight singletrack, however in these 7 miles there was 1,000ft of climbing! Yes 1,000ft... My tactic for the race was to break the 24 hours into 4 lap chunks, so 28 miles. With the aim to then quickly get into the solo tent at the end of lap 4, grab some gels, refill bottles, eat something and then head out again for another 4 laps.

Out on the first lap and apart from being dusty it was clear that the course was very different from last year, and actually very fast. The first few miles were mainly double track descents, and small climbs with a timed Red Bull section towards the end of the 3rd mile. However after the Red Bull section the course changed and you were either going up on grassy climbs, or going up on double track, so fair to say the second half or last 3 miles were quite tough. Although it was dry and dusty some of the climbs had loose rocks and stones, which as the race progressed will be easy to lose traction on. However the section along the lake was brilliant, fast and narrow singletrack, which then ended with a tough singletrack climb, when you then hit the final two climbs before the Kenda decent. They were tough, with a loose double track climb, followed by a steep, loose and potentially muddy singletrack climb, if you got up here you were very nearly home... The course then wiggled it's way up through a grassy field, along teh edge of a hill before making it's way through the campsite and around 0.6 miles from the finish. My furst lap was 48 minutes, with a 5 minute run at the start, I felt good and pushed onto my second lap with no drams and clocked a 40:54 lap. At this point i was starting to think, first of all, maybe I was going to quick, and secondly can I really keep doing these climbs for 24 hours! To make matters worse I snapped a spoke and lost a chainring bolt on the first lap, not quite sure how this happened, but I just decided to push on and not worry about it... 4 laps done now and I was out of fluid, bananas and gels (as predicted) so I pulled into the solo tent to stock back up. Off out again for another 4 laps. I was now slowing down purposefully, and clock a 42 on my 5th lap, with my 6th, 7th and 8th all roughly being a further 2 minutes slower, which I was fine with. 8 laps done and it was now about 6pm, so back in again for more food and stock back up on fluid. I had instructed Jack to drop my lights off around 7pm, along with 5L of water, so unfortunately on my next 4 lap session I had to pull in around 8pm and out the lights on the bike, it was starting to get dark in the woods, and under race rules lights had to be on the bike from 8:40. 10 laps done, lights on, and out for a final 2 before a 9pm (roughly) and 12 laps big bowl of pasta. Lap 12 hurt, I had lost my energy, ran out of water and on the climbs I had nothing. I wasn't stopping though, and I wasn;t getting off my bike, just stand up and keep pedaling. You can do it, I kept saying to myself, trying desperatly to look forward to cold pasta and weetabix, not very inspiring at all...

I needed that food! Ate load and instantly felt better, legs had energy and was looking forward to now cracking on with the night session! Another 4 laps in the bag now, with my first lap being a 46, and remaining 3 a 51, 53, and then a 2 hour... 2 hours you say! Well what happened was during my 4th lap I hit the wall, I was just under 12 hours in now, being on my 16th lap and up to this point feeling strong. I slowly wound my way up the final climbs and heading to find my tent, I just needed to sit down for 30 minutes! I sat in the tent, cold and wrapped in a sleeping bag, unable to sleep, but unable to get on my bike. It was a dark moment, and one all 24hr solo races will understand... After giving myself a talking to, getting some knee warmers on I unzipped the tent and headed into the darkness for another 4 laps, these will hurt, but I told myself that the next time I went into the solo tent, roughly 4 hours time it will be daylight, and you'll have survived the night! My 17th lap was ok at around 52, but it then hurt and my 18th was nearly an hour, 19th was not fun, and again I hit the wall, and had to venture back to the tent for another sit down. It was now getting light, and after another talking to I headed out, no lights, no knee warmers and Oakleys on. It was nearly the end (well kind of) My target was 24 laps, and I was all set for 25 laps, potentially 26 (what a horrible thought) As is often the case I was running through various scenarios in my head, and based on my current lap times after my 20th and 21st lap I was looking to come in just before 12, so that means 26 laps! HOWEVER laps 24 and 25 were hell. I was now going so slow that these were just over the hour mark, and I knew as I completed my 24th lap and headed out for my 25th i'd have to post a 58 minute lap... I tried, but to be honest I just didn't have the mental capacity to do this. I was exhausted, having only "slept" (you never really sleep) I knew this was going to be slow, but I also knew that I wasn't getting off my bike, I will keep going and will ride all these climbs like I have done for the past 24 bloody laps! I was VERY happy to finally get onto the grassy final climbs, having managed to negotiate all the climbs and descents upto this point with no liquid or zero energy... Riding through the campsite and the clock struck 12, it was over! I crossed the line about 2 minutes after 12 having completed 25 laps! I just stood there, tired, unable to sit on my saddle, and soaked it all up. Kind of sad it was done.

Throughout the race I didn't really know how I was doing, and not seeing anybody I knew for 12 hours was hard. A few people told me I was 7th, which was encouraging, but I knew those 30 minute breaks will have lost me a few places unfortunately. Results however confirmed and I came 10th having done 25 laps in 24 hours and 2 minutes, which is....

175 miles
25,000ft of climbing

Overall very pleased, I learnt quite a lot for my next solo 24 race, mainly I need a support crew, I think I could have potentially pushed myself a little more, but hindsight is often a wonderful thing. Thanks to Pat for organising the event, great course and venue and thanks for the weather! If it had rained i'd probably still in out there, lost in a bog or trying to pick up bits of broken bike.

Thanks for reading if you got this far!

Strava Links:

No comments:

Post a Comment