Seriously need to go shopping for a new bike..one with dual suspension! I didn't realise how tough this race would be. The track is one tough mother...unrelenting and torturous on the bony arse if you have a hardtail like me.
My brother-in-law Ian and I entered this race a while ago. It seemed like a good idea at the time but we both knew we were using it as an excuse we could give our wives so we could go out on the weekend and bash around the Shire. Running every day is one thing but training for a 100km mountain bike ride through mountains on filthy, muddy, rocky, sandy, slippery track is another. To summarise, I finished, I managed to add an extra 10km onto the ride and I even managed to turn it into a triathlon of sorts!
We made it to St Albans the night before at around 11pm and I slept in the back of my station wagon (very comfortable) and woke to a very cool morning at 5am. Sorted out the equipment and race package and we made our way down to the start area for a 6:30 start. Being stupid enough to believe I could match it with the best of them, I convinced Ian to start in the second wave (wave 4 probably would have been more appropriate like Ian was saying!) Going up the first hill and beyond we were being passed by heaps of riders all on duel suspension bikes, it was then I started plotting how I would convince my good wife that a new bike was in order!
And it was cold! At about 30km I actually started to get in a good rhythm as I was warming up...it was so cold condensation was dripping off my helmet. I Was tackling the drops and jumps and uphills quite nicely and although my speed was much slower than other riders, I knew that I would make the 100km at that pace and not be too taxing on the body. I was giving it my best go without being stupid.
Until about 35km when I finally dropped far enough back in the pack (or is it they caught up with me?) where there were other riders of similar speed around. I was trying to weave in between two large rocks on the side of a trail as a massive puddle was taking up almost the entire width of the trail. As I was pushing out of it my pedal clipped one of the rocks and sent me sideways almost into the puddle. Being clipped in - my knee and my pride took a knock as the riders behind me took off.
Not to be. At about 60km a giant stick poked out from the depths of hell and got sucked into my back wheel and 'snap' there goes my end bit (the 'bit' that holds the derailleur to the frame). I thought my race was over. I really didn't know what to do...except walk back about 5km to a checkpoint and wait for a lift back to the marshaling area. The lovely SES ladies manning/womanning? the checkpoint didn't really know what to do so I just sat down and contemplated my first DNF while watching other riders cruise past.
Lots of riders showed concern and offered to help but not much could be done (not many people keep spare welders in their back packs!) so I just decided to lay back and soak up some sun while waiting for Ian to come past and tell him I was pulling out and I'd see him at the finish. I was there for about 40 minutes until a rider who asked what was wrong with my bike told me there was a workshop set up at the 50km checkpoint, about 10km back the way I had come. I guess I should have known that so I will be reading the race instructions more closely in the future!
Thankfully the 10km back to the checkpoint was mostly all downhill and I ran/coasted my bike down there in double time (the run leg of my own personal triathlon). On the way down I met another guy who had the same damage to his bike so we both limped into the workshop and in unison asked for the same thing! About 3o minutes later I was back on my bike so to speak and redoing 10km of uphill that I had already done.
Riding past, I said a cheerio to the lovely ladies who kept me company in my enforced break and not long after was riding in virgin territory. Just on a side, the countryside around here is absolutely beautiful; so lush, green and untouched-and some of the views are breathtaking.
The next 10km was easily the hardest riding I have ever done.Just loose rocks, sand and boulders everywhere. There is absolutely no good lines to take and if you have a hardtail bike - good luck. I was spending 90% of the time out of the saddle which is incredibly tiring.
At 70km there is a river crossing that is a makeshift bridge (about 40m) made up of metal planks (about 1m wide) being floated up by ropes and canoes. Other riders were walking their bikes across but I was at the stage now where I had to find the funny side of things so I decided to give riding across a go. After calling "all bets in" to other competitors and marshals I headed across. Hello swim leg!!
It was actually quite a good dive, many said it was worth a 8.5 for sure! It was refreshing to say the least. Following this section was some road riding and then the last 15 or so km back on the dirt. But first, of course, the sadists in charge made us climb another monster set of hills. About 5km up later I caught up with Teeds who was suffering a bit with cramps and fatigue. We stayed together for the rest of the race.
So 9 hours, 16 minutes and 29 seconds after we set off, we crossed the finish line, arms raised together in triumph. We had done it and it felt great! (until we had to line up to get over at Wiseman's Ferry for 2 hours)