Monday, 25 June 2012

Skedaddling Around Eastnor Castle - 3rd at Mountain Mayhem

Womens Open Podium - Saddle Skedaddle in 3rd
This is a bit of a long one, but then again, this was one EPIC race! I have finally found a MTB race that leaves my legs feeling properly tired!

In the middle of a looooong 14hr day of work a few weeks ago I found out the name for our mountain mayhem team 'Need a Skidaddle Holiday Now!'. Quite fitting  really!

Last weekend I raced for Saddle Skedaddle with Steph Fountain, Iwona Szmyd and Emila Zielinska in my first 24hr MTB race - Mountain Mayhem.
There have been a lot of firsts this year, but this one was the one I had least clue about. I knew I could keep going for a long time, for days in fact, but going, then stopping, then going again was a new concept. How fast could I push it and still be able to get out of the tent in the middle of the night to ride again? That was what I was about to learn!

One thing I had learnt from BUCS however was that muddy conditions really do require mud tyres, so I made sure I had some fitted! There had been ample rain in the last week or so and the weather forecast was for rain from 10pm to 4am...lovely

After a brief discussion about who could run, it turned out I the decision on first lap rider was sorted. I set off without knowing exactly how far it was, but knowing it was long enough to not be a sprint. I felt comfortable with the pace, but glanced at my watch after a while and was suprised to see I'd passed through a mile in under 7minutes, in a swamp, with a hill, in bike shoes! Too fast?
No, I jumped on the bike at the 1.2mile mark and felt good, phew. Also, I assumed job done as far as getting a reasonable position to avoid queueing at the single track goes, as Nick Craig was announced as crossing the start line as I reached my bike, 100m from the line.

I was 1st woman after the run but lost a few places on the stretch over  to the 'Kenda Klimb' and was sat just behind the first womens open team at this point. I was pleased to stop the flow of overtaking and take a few places back up the steep climb, staying with the woman ahead. The first bit of single track slowed everything down a bit, but the queueing wasn't terrible, I have now officially learnt where to start in a race after Kielder 100 - not at the back :-)!

Mountain Mayhem Route for reference:
This was going well, it was good fun! Then we hit 'Wiggle Woodlands' and I wish I'd never thought that....Here I found the 'Mud of Doom' which clogged my wheels. No worry, I scraped off the mud with a stick and set off running again, keeping the bike to the side to avoid the mud. 10m later I cleared them again...10m later I cleared them again and snapped the stick....10m later I cleared again...'insert rude word here'.

I shot backwards down the field, unable to move more than 10m in one go. The one womens team ahead turned into ALL the womens teams ahead, anyone with 1.95 tyres or less could still get by riding, riding with 2.1s like me and you were screwed! I slogged on thinking 'what if it's all like this, I am literally going to be here all day and be writing the whole race off'.
Thankfully it wasn't, I got out of the woods eventually, cleared the wheels one last time and got back on the bike, hooray!

I came through half way in 65mins including the run and headed off up the 'Niterider Grinder'. Legs back in it now I was on the bike I overtook and overtook again all the way up :-), this was more like it! The descent from 'Hope Shit Shifter Summit' was ace! The 'Weldtite Washout' at the bottom was a different matter and here started the chain suck of destruction...

One bottle of water over the chain/mech  later and the situation had not improved for more than a minute at a time. Water gone I was on the hunt for puddles to avoid snapping my rear mech. With none in sight I did a fair bit of pushing again. After a couple of puddles in the woods at the top I attempted to ride again. A badly timed bit of chain suck on a corner then saw me do a super man into the brambles much to the amusement of everyone behind me - I like to keep people smiling! Eventually I reached the final descent and had great fun down that and into the finish in 2hrs4mins! Wow that was a long leg!

Whilst Steph, Iwona and Emila rode I hunted down some thinner tyres and the wonderful Saddle Skedaddle support team had them fitted in no time! Iwona had flown round in 1hr36 and there were rumours it was getting nicer to ride...then Emila handed over to me with the words 'OMG, its horrible!'.

So off I went with no expectations on my second lap at all. Reaching 'Wiggle Woodlands' again I took a deep breath and got ready to dismount. Then turned the corner and found it rideable! Go 1.95 tyres! And thanks to all those nice people with wider tyres who suffered with me on that first lap, removing the worst of the mud and taking it with them!!

This made life much faster! I was through half way within 45minutes and off up the hill, where I even had enough time for a short chat with Rickie Cotter.  Then I found out what Emila meant....this side was definitely not as nice as before. Still, for a while I was moving well and it looked like I'd come in in a similar time to Iwona's last lap, but the chain suck of destruction hit again, earlier this time. The water ran out. By the end it was 5 pedals forward to 3 back to try and keep moving...however still a BIG improvement on the first lap (1hr48)! By now we were no longer last and were in fact 3rd! All to play for!

Skedaddle Corner! Beautiful conditions....
Dusk had hit as Steph went out and the heavens opened not long after. Met office was spot on with the forecast!
In a way this was a blessing in disguise. The whole course became wet mud and my 3rd lap at 2am was probably the easiest to move through. Slower on corners but a welcome relief from the treacle during the day!

I had a sing along with a guy in the woods and heard him move on from 'if your happy and you know it' to 'wild rover' at a doubling back of the course later on.

After coming through half way in an hour (which I was a little disappointed with) I suddenly realised why I was dropping off the pace. The tell tale signs of bonking arrived, I couldn't really concentrate on anything and keeping my legs moving was an effort, let alone engaging them in a coordinated manner. All I wanted to do was sit down. I stopped and crammed half a bag of sweets in my mouth, sit down? What was I on about, that was a bad idea! I then started pushing my bike, hoping my legs would follow. I'm not sure how long this lasted but  I managed to get back on the bike at some point and ride most of 'Niterider Grinder', even if my vision was a little bit wonky..whether due to the lack of blood sugar or lack of a left contact lens I just don't know! But I do know why the grinder name exists now.

I stopped half way up to eat the other half a bag of sweets. By the top they kicked in and I was away, enjoying the downhill, getting through 'Weldtite Washout' and up the hill without incident as long as I remained in my granny gear, loving the night riding! Given all of this, this was my slowest ride yet (2hr9) but it was great fun!

I finished at dawn, just as the rain stopped :-). This was where it all got interesting. The commentators announced us as leading, none of us could work out how? We checked the leader board, it confirmed it! Had both the teams ahead had mechanicals? An hour later we were demoted back to 3rd....our chip had somehow registered twice for Stephs

While Emila was out we worked out it looked like Iwona would get back at 11:40 after her 4th lap, so here came the decision - who to do the last leg? Neither me nor Steph were that keen so we left it to the brake pad gods. If a new brake pad could be found for Iwona's bike then I would ride the last lap. If not, Iwona would ride my bike and Steph would ride the last lap.

The brake pad stall was shut - yes! The saddle skedaddle team produced a quick fix - doh! At 11:58am I set off on our last lap still in 3rd. If either of the two teams ahead didn't complete this 14th lap, we'd move up! Always worth a shot!

With Mandy Faint from Big Bear Bikes and the quad bike back marker hot on my heals I rode through the wet mud after a quick manual gear change (front mech useless for changing down now) and up 'Kenda Klimb'. The first bit of forest we hit, which had been fine earlier, was now aweful! Mud clung everywhere, clearing it was impossible, my wheels didn't turn, 1.95 tyres now no longer doing the trick. I dragged my bike through the forest and attempted to clear it at the other side. I asked the quad bike driver what the second half was like, the reply: 'I don't want to tell you'....great! Nice then! He also confirmed these were the worst Mountain Mayhem conditions ever! I decided grudgingly that it was time to head back...

Then Mandy appeared having corrected a slight route detour...and when I asked if she really was going all the way she didn't even blink and replied 'yes, theres no rush for me to be back!'. Ok I'd carry on! It takes a lot for me to quit!

20m, 3 attempts as breaking my rear mech and 2 attempts at clearing my wheels later, a guy emerged from 'Wiggle Woodland', the worst part of the first lap, yelling 'Don't do it! It's not worth it!'. Alright. I turned around and straight lined it back, crossing all my fingers that the other two teams had completed 14 laps....

They had, we finished 3rd with 13 laps! Woooo!
Thanks to the great team of Steph, Iwona and Emila and team 'I'd rather be on a Skedaddle Holiday' for making my first 24hr MTB race a memorable and enjoyable one! What an epic introduction to 24hr MTB racing! And thanks to Saddle Skedaddle for all the support! It would have been a whole other story without their bike washing/mending and rider feeding facilities! 'I'd rather be on a Skedaddle holiday', including adventure frog, finished just behind us in 4th, so a great weekend all round!

Mandy rode in during the prize giving after an incredibly long lap! Hats off to her, I thought it was actually going to be impossible! (I think somebody needs to tell her that its ok to not finish a lap if you already know your position on the podium is not going to be altered by it :-P). Edit: Worth the effort to make sure they secured 3rd!

Adventure Frog

I can't finish without mentioning Julia Hobson winning the solo women's race. Amazing riding, 11 laps in 24hrs, with time to spare! The mental determination to do that in those conditions is astounding! Well done Julia, I would have sat down in the mud and not got up again well in advance of 24hrs!

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