Erm, yes, this is a round up of my early season. It’s been fair to middling results wise but one thing it has been is FUN! (Well, when you take out the near death experiences anyway).
I had high hopes for the Whinlatter Challenge after having a good ride there last year. However, my confidence took a huge hit on a practice lap with Ant the day before as I suddenly and inexplicably crashed really hard. Completely out of the blue. One minute I was riding a tame bit of trail, the next I was on the ground and the world went bright white. For about a minute. Scary stuff. I’d hit my head pretty hard and put a good hole in my knee cap (It’s still not right even now). I just don’t know how I crashed.
The day of the race it rained. Non stop. And it was freezing cold. I was full of pain killers. It was one of the those days when the thought of racing really didn’t appeal… Descending wise, my confidence was on the floor and I picked my way cautiously through the slippery rocks and tree roots. The climbing legs didn’t really get going going either but, like many others that day, I was just glad to get round the loooong laps unscathed. 7th overall and 2nd vet behind a well paced Roy Davies.
Next up was the Fred Whitton Challenge. I was really looking forward to this as I had missed it last year due to illness and had raised over £500 pounds for MacMillan Cancer Support. I had a duty to complete the ride. Despite missing a hook up with Ant on the start line I got with some good riders including Greig Brown, Adam Nolan, Rob Glaister, and Grant Law. We worked well together, with the group occasionally changing composition but a solid pace had me set for a good finish time. Then the weather hit out towards the coast. It rained hard. I got VERY cold. My legs stopped working and I dropped off the group. I started to shake uncontrollably… my vision started to go. Hello Hypothermia! I was really in trouble and I had no bail out. Hardknott and Wrynose stood between me and relief from the excruciating cold. I was, of course, not too excited about the route home…. but I limped to the first ramp of Hardknott, a ‘good time’ no longer of interest. I got the blood flowing again (note: Hardknott is NOT the ideal location for a warm up). And by the time I hit the second steep section I was back on it again. From the base of Wrynose it was just an ‘easy’ climb back up and over to Coniston. 6:28 disappointed to loose a chunk of time at the final hurdle but a great day out nontheless. I’ll be back next year for sure.
First weekend in June was one of my favourite ever events: The Glentress 7. A 7 hour endurance race with ‘proper’ trails. Huge climbs and cracking technical and super fun descents. I really wanted to do it solo but with the National Marathon Championships the next weekend I didn’t think this would be a good move. So I paired up with Scottsh Masters xc rider Martin Graham (Dirt Wheels) and got social for a change. What a brilliant day! His dad helped in the pits, I caught up with old friends between laps, the sun (mostly) shone, and racing was fast but friendly. I was climbing and descending well; such a relief after the nervousness of Whinlatter. Martin was a great partner and we ended up third pair behind Rob Friel / Allan Clark and Douglas Shearer / Jack Richards. Special mention must go to Greig Brown for a superb solo win; he hit the pace hard from the start and hit the ground hard a couple of times too but still hung on for the solo win. A very gutsy ride.
This weekend just gone was a big focus; the National Marathon Championships. With Nick Craig in the Vets, the race was for second place. What followed was a four hours roller coaster of incident and accident. I started well and decided to not overcook the first climb. Ant got a small gap and I (foolishly in retrospect) let the gap go. Greig barrelled down the first big descent and punctured between Ant and I at high speed. The gap grew and this time I couldn’t close it down Ant got away a bit and crucially out of my sight on all but the odd long climb. Plenty time I thought as I felt strong. Nick Craig yo-yoed past me a couple of times due to punctures. I knew I was climbing well because I kept Nick in sight pretty much all the way to the top of Caddon Bank but Ant was nowhere to be seen; he was clearly flying! then I made my crucial error; head down on a man made descent, I missed a turn. I realised there was a problem when I saw Ben Thomas and Lee Williams climbing back UP towards me! It appears several people took wrong turns that day, and many more punctured or crashed. I knew I now had little chance of catching Ant. As it turns out Nick Craig DID catch him on the final descent. And then punctured again! (I won’t complain about my mistakes!) So there you go; 3rd vet at the Nationals and 15th overall; not a bad result, especially considering the start list. And I’m delighted for Ant; he really deserved that win. I’ll be back next year for another crack at it for sure. I really enjoy the Marathon discipline and wish there were more Marathon events in the UK.
Apart form a road sportive, next big one up is the Manx 100. Now THAT is sure to be packed with incident… : P