The usual faff, some rushing around, bike issues and half a day spent on a visit to the passport office for a fifteen minute long meeting all finally dovetailed into a hassle-free trip southwards to Peebles. Its just a shame we forgot to pack the camping chairs.
James, legendary pit manager, was on hand to run things with his usual clockwork precision, I was stressing about nonsense not worthy of the effort and somehow, almost inexplicably, the sun was out.
We arrived in plenty of time, set up in the solo pit area and got ready for the day. We ignored the racket from the louts a few spots down, had a final check of the bike (still a PITA) and I started to warm up.
After the race briefing, people started to suit up and congregate so I thought I should join them. Pink seemed to be the right colour, it feels more like a race jersey as I’m always wearing the black ones plus it matched my new socks.
I was all ready and with some final words of encouragement from the legend, it was time to go.
As usual, I ended up in the back third of the pack and incapable of allowing a sensible photo to be taken……and the the gun went and we stood still for a while until the pack moved.
The first climb saw the usual race tactic – picking off riders one by one as we ascended. Lots of them, indicating how far back I must have started. Never mind, its always this way. The furst lap went right up the fire road, to break up the field, so I took full advantage, hoping to avoid one of those annoying Selkirk-style bottlenecks at the first singletrack section.
We hit the Buzzards Nest car park then shot down the blue rout to join the singletrack and the queue. Bollocks. :-/
I made a smart arsed comment about Selkirk and the rider next to me smiled as he clearly understood….
Once past, it was onwards and upwards again, picking off some more riders then back onto the singletrack for more smiles and a dodgy root that I had a feeling would become an issue as the race progressed….
It wasn’t long until I was heading back down towards the arena and I found myself wondering if there wasn’t going to be more climbing from lap 2 onwards……..
Ooooh, I was right. Lap 2 saw us heading off in a different direction from lap 1, climbing up the singletrack ascent parallel to the fire road, then dropping down over the road and up another to Magic Mushroom. Big smiles, boardwalk at speed. BOOM.
We joined back onto the fire road to the Buzzards Nest car park for a bout 3 seconds and headed straight up a different climb. A bit of a drag, but over soon enough. We then joined the singletrack climb to the car park then the rest of lap one’s course from there.
I wasn’t getting into a rhythm though. My back was aching a bit and things weren’t helped by being blocked by a rider on the final descent who ignored all polite requests to pass, kept stopping and dabbing on corners and seemed to be completely out of her depth. I remained calm though, any attitude wouldn’t solve anything and once we were out of the trees, I could get back up to speed. I’d worry about how much time I lost there afterwards….
Things were not going to plan. I started the lap with a longer stop than planned, for a pee, grabbing food, popping some painkillers and rubbing in some voltarol gel. I eventually got back out and started back round. As the lap progressed though, my back continued to ache and I was starting to worry. No, really worry. In the space of ten minutes, I had talked myself into and out of bailing, cancelled Selkirk the following week, uncancelled it but generally, I was starting to freak the fuck out.
As a friend pointed out to me afterwards, it was as if I was having a condensed version of a 24 hour race and the ups and downs usually spread out over that longer experience….
I rolled back in, popped more pills (bad me!!!) and slowly rolled back out, pausing to avoid some idiot who had left his bike half-in the lane .
Suddenly, as I climbed back up to Magic Mushroom, everything clicked. My rhythm appeared from nowhere, my legs decided to pay ball and back issues faded.
Things were now fun, something which, if you had asked me about 40 minutes before, I’d have denied the possibility of ever happening….
So, i was up, round, back and smiling. Well, on the inside anyway.
Lap 5 was a carbon copy of lap 4, all the way round to suffering road. That climb was starting to get hard, so I decided to walk the top half, like about 75% of the other riders around me. I slowed, lifted my leg over and was suddenly stricken by spasms and cramp in my thigh. This was new….it was also a Very Bad Thing. I stretched it out and got to the feeding station. The lovely marshall offered me a banana….now, I hate bananas with a passion, but needs must. I wolfed it down, ate some cake then pressed on. I had been at the feeding station too long and vague attempts at mental arithmetic were coming up short. My aim was 7 laps, maybe 8 at a push. 8 was now impossible, but 7 was well in reach – I’d just take stock at the end of the lap and take it from there. If there was more cramp, there could be issues but I decided to not worry about that quite yet……
Lap 6 flew by. My brain was functioning again, I took a note of the time I passed the feeding station and concluded that, if everything went to plan, I had loads of time to get 7 laps in so knuckled down and got on with it. just one more lap to go. Fingers crossed….no issues, no blockers, no cramp, just riding….
My mental ariithmetic told me that I had about 1 hour 20 left to squeeze in a final lap and lap 5 was just over the hour mark. Ideally I wanted to be at the feeding station before 5, giving me loads of leeway for the final burst towards the arena.
I didn’t stop as I went through and just rode on, upping the pace a tiny bit as I headed upwards.
I reached the feeding station with time to spare and flew back down to the arena, arriving 15 minutes before the final cut off.
I was done. Finished, burst and happy.
The weather had behaved, the bike had grudgingly played ball, other than the squealing brakes and BB creak. My back hadn’t behaved but I had dealt with it. I got the planned 7 laps in.
I had ticked this box now, there was no need to do it again.
Although….I could always come back and try to get in 8 laps next year…………………… :-)
Thanks then….James for another legendary performance, the 99% of riders that smiled, enjoyed the day and didn’t have an attitude problem, all the marshals but in particular the lady at the feed station and lastly the organisers for a great event. There’s even an ace wee video here: http://vimeo.com/67756730
Now, who wants to organise FifeLove? :-D