Having competed in the first two Exposure 24hr events I felt a bit sad that I didn't have the fitness and wouldn't be riding this year. After a conversation with SIP events I was instead going to help at the event and at least be there. Well that was the plan anyway but as most plans, this didn't quite go to work out.
The start of the week went really well. I picked up my new Moda Canon MTB on the Tuesday afternoon and headed up to the Scottish boarders to get some riding in before the weekends event. On the Wednesday I headed over to ride Delbbeatie for the first time with some of the local guys. The guys warn't exactly the fastest but they had bags of enthusiasm when it came to the descents and we had great fun pushing each other on the descents and the techy black sections that the trail had to offer. I'd definitely recommend Delbbeatie if your ever in the area and worth spending some time playing on the rock / skinny log sections dotted around the course.
On the Thursday SIP events had organised a 4 mile hill climb in the afternoon so in the morning I headed out around Newcastleton to ride a lap of the race course for the coming weekend. I only ever ride the area once a year on the event and it was really good fun getting to know the descents again and riding what is one of may favourite sections of all trail centres which is a nice single track decent with cool swooping corners and little jumps. The kind of trail that you just can't help smiling all the way through.
In the afternoon I took the full suss canon down into the town ready for the Hill Climb. This was 4 mile on the road straight up out of the town into the country side. It's hard to imagine 4m up but I figured it can't be that hard whilst at the same time secretly hoped that most people would be riding a MTB not road bikes. That wasn't't to be as a few had brought the road bike along and looked keen and up for the win. I set off 6th man and soon caught both my minute and 2nd minute man. It was not long after that I started to realize quite how far 4 mile up was. Everytime a thought I'd done the last section it went up and up and all this time I could feel my minute man catching me. Eventually I hit the top, rang the bell and waited to see if I'd managed to hold the minute... NO. 3rd place for me in the end, but at least I was the first MTB :-)
It was that evening that I got talked into riding the 12hr event. Well I wouldn't exactly call it talked, more of "why don't you ride the 12hr?". Me, "OK then" Friday was a bit of a panic, me and my super-helper girlfriend driving round trying to find the equipment and food ready for the long event the next day. I must say a big thanks for the guys from Exposure who sorted my out with Lights and Luke from Velobrands who sorted some kit, bits and bobs so I got ride.
So Saturday midday their I was, on the stat line ready for 12hrs of riding! I'd offered to carry the video camera for Joolze on the first lap which was quite fun and I started to really get into doing a little running commentary as I positioned myself mid pack from the start. Once I'd got the first lap out of the way and the camera had been removed I started to think about the race and the rest of the 10.5hrs ahead of me. This where I'm quite good by at first letting the eager guys go, second setting myself a nice rhythm and third breaking the hours and course down into working sections.
The second and third and forth laps went by quite quick. I'd started picking my way through the pack and I'd started to find a good system on the climbs where I know what gear I could ride without going to much into the red and focussed on riding the same each lap. Further to that I was starting to feel the descents and railing the corners having fun.
The one thing I suffer from in these events is the feeding and drinking. It's a real fine balance for me between getting the food in and going too far with sugar which makes me feel ill. I had a good mix going on with gels, bars, water and energy drink along with a bread roll now and again for something a bit more solid. The problem I think started when I had my first Caffeine gel. It worked a treat after about 5 - 6hrs but I hadn't anymore so I'd planned to ask Luke from Velobrands for a super shot when I pass through the pits which I could use later in the race. Luke was quick on it and met me with the shot but he'd removed the top so I had no choice but to neck it back. I'd now taken up to around 250ml of caffeine within 30 minutes and whilst I was wide awake the last thing I wanted to do was eat or drink.
This asn't a problem for another couple of laps but as I came through to complete 6 laps and put the lights on I knew I'd have to get some food inside me or face trouble. I tried to eat a couple of rolls and force down the drink and whilst I managed it I never felt comfortable. I'd also moved upto 6 place and was starting to worry about getting caught whilst at the same time thinking about where 5th place was. As I finished the 7th lap I was starting to feel tired. I tried to force down more drink and opted for a 15 min break before I headed out for another couple of laps. A quick break can make all the difference and I headed up the first climb feeling good and catching a couple of guys. I felt like I was back in the game and got another gel down me... that was where the feeling good ended. I don't normally have a problem with Torq gels but as soon as this one hit my stomach it felt wrong. By the end of the lap I felt sick, empty and in trouble.
I was still in 6th and with just under 2hrs to go all I had to do is get out and complete one more lap. Thinking it can't be that hard I headed out and as soon as I hit the first climb I knew it was going to be a long long lap. I just hit the wall, and nothing I could do or think was going to get me through it or round it. My mind went, I started seeing things and hearing stuff. I couldn't of told you want was real and what wasn't and all the time I wanted nothing but to stop but I knew as soon as I did I wouldn't't start again. I convinced myself that if I could get to the top of the final climb I'd stop eat if possible before the final section. I had to shout myself to the top (if anybody had been there they would of thought I'd been nuts) and once I got there I lay on the bench I pretty much passed out. I was only woken by the 7th place riding asking me if I was OK! I got back on the bike and got myself to the finish. It was the worst lap I have ever done and never want an experience like it again!