The first half of this season has been very enjoyable; a nice mix of distances and courses. The first ‘major’ race of the summer was the National Marathon Championships at its now regular venue of Selkirk and the surrounding hills. Yet again, I felt emotions of love / hate whilst standing on the start line. It’s such a great course and day out, completely ruined by everybody ripping each other’s legs off. Which is bad. And good. All at once.
Despite being off my bike for almost a week prior to the event with a virus, I was pleased with how I rode (2nd vet and 11th overall) in what turned out to be a very tense and hard fought 75km. No need to recount the (actually very interesting) details of the race here: Scott Cornish, who was there all the way wrote an excellent blow by blow account of the scrap amongst our competitive yet very civil group. Read it here:
Next up was arguably the best endurance course and event in the calendar: the Glentress 7. I paired with Martin ‘Honey Stinger’ Graham who was in excellent form. The solo category had filled but to be honest, I am glad I did not get a place as the virus I had suffered before the nationals had been agitated by the 4hrs+ of breathing out my ears with Marc, Ant, and Scott and I was still suffering. But the sun shone, the atmosphere was amazing and the trails were ’sweet’ (I believe that is the correct term).
I got a good first lap in but as soon as I stopped and handed over I was coughing my lungs up and felt like I was choking. Martin was flying and the pattern repeated itself; cane it. Stop. Choke on throat lining. Cane it again. We had a good tight race on our hands and we were winning, so despite the discomfort there was no way I was stopping or compromising Martin’s great riding. As the race progressed, we slowly eased away from the Felt pair and won with 11 laps. A brilliant day and I’ll definitely be back up there next year.
Next up was a rather novel bash organised by High Fell Events. a single 47 mile lap of my local (pretty big) hills. 2,300 meters of climbing is not to be sniffed at anywhere, but in the Cheviots, I knew from experience of the relentless, steep and long draggy grass, that this would be tough. It wasn’t a ‘race’ but with Mountain Mayhem the following weekend and a handful of guys pushing at the front, I wanted to make this a tough day. Even with my local knowledge, I hadn’t bargained for how tough it would be! I’ve never ridden these hills at race pace and it was entirely different to your normal steady endurance ride. I pulled way from a couple of determined chasers but riding at pace on this terrain was tough.
The stings came in the second half of the course; a bottom to top ascent of Windy Gyle is enough to test any rider! This is the longest granny ring climb I’ve done in the UK (or maybe even beyond). It took 23 mins of carefully balancing on relentlessly steep grass and peat before I scrabbled over the top. I rode this as a yoof, and even now after lots of miles and training, it’s still the same…. ‘just’ make it without putting a foot down from the sheer effort.
So, I cruised in after a couple more of the hardest climbs in the Cheviots in 4hrs 10 or so. Stood and chatted to the organisers, blanked out the option of a return lift from Steven Hope, who had kindly driven me to Alwinton on the morning, and headed off for a 30 mile return leg over the Simonside Fells. This was super tough as the lactate had really built in my legs after stopping for a while at the finish. It just wouldn’t clear and every mile hurt. I was sitting on a big rock in the pain cave. Ideal training for the next weekend! The big one! Mountain Mayhem pairs!
Once again in 24hr, I paired up with Team JMC’s Phil Simcock. This was the first year they have ran pairs at Mayhem. We were determined to win and we work really well together in this format. The other great thing about Team JMC is you get plenty for your money! Friends and family just keep on coming by Friday evening we had a small commune pitched up including the late arrival of Jason’s Caravan Crew.
It was great to have Charlotte and James at the event (James’ first camping trip – he loved it!). On the Saturday morning James took part in his first mountain bike race – Mini Mayhem. He reckons he won. I didn’ have the heart to tell him…
The race itself went brilliantly. Phil and I were consistent throughout with no mechanicals. I had a dodgy period through the night when I made some nutritional mistakes but didn’t loose too much time. Early morning I was back on it and feeling strong (well, you know, relatively). We had a good gap and were delighted to win the first Mayhem Pairs event. The weather had generally been fantastic, the course was relatively non-technical but fun when ridden at speed, and the event was superbly organised. We even got our presents from Princess Anne which was nice.
It really was worth the monster drive south for Mayhem; if you want to take part in an event with history and atmosphere this race has it by the load; that buzz far outweighs the relatively simple track. It was an amazing all round effort form Team JMC, taking 3 pairs podiums all together! Jason and Beatte (Singletrack) won the mixed pairs followed by Jacqui and Andy in second. World domination is just round the corner. Once again thanks to JMC for taking me into the fold and helping me smooth over some slight pre 24 planning ‘issues’ I hadn’t quite addressed