After a summer of riding round the edges of fields, getting more and more bored, combined with dropping out of a couple of big races that I had been looking forward to, Relentless24 was to be a new beginning. I had two aims for it:
1) Finish. I’d not finished Mountain Mayhem or SITS, so needed to just get through the event.
2) Not race. It wasn’t a race for me, it was a start (albeit a les than usual one) of training for the Strathpuffer.
With these aims in mind I told Angela – who was getting back in to the swing of hanging around the start/finish area with half a ton of kit in plastic bags, in case i felt like i needed it – not to update me on how the race was going. Not to tell me what place I happened to be in, or how well in comparison to everyone else I seemed to be doing. I didn’t want to know, I was to take it steady, ride my own ride and finish, irrespective of whereabouts in the field I came.
She did brilliantly and I never knew how I was doing – even though at times she looked like she might explode, having given in and started watching the live updates. In fact it wasn’t until after the race, while we were sat in the cafe chowing down on cheeseburgers that she finally lost the battle to keep quiet and blurted out how I’d done and in her defence it was at least partly because she thought I’d have to go up on the podium, so I would have found out anyway.
I stopped on pretty much every lap for a quick bite to eat – there was no way I was going to run out of energy and blow up on this event – and, as it got colder overnight, I started having a Lovely Cup of Tea at each stop. This reinforced the “I’m not racing” strategy and gave me something to look forward to each time round…though I was a bit sick of tea by the 11th time!
I managed to eat right through the event, not loads ( I never manage that) and stopped eating/drinking while riding when I got sick of the taste of energy drink/gels (something to remember for the ‘puffer – carrying water and drinking it is more useful than carrying sickly energy drink and not being able to stomach it), but didn’t come close to blowing up and even enjoyed demolishing a big cup of porridge in the early hours of Sunday, rather than feebly nibbling on the edge of something tasteless while retching, like I normally do.
The ride, generally, went well, the course was a lot of fun – the first ‘semi-lap’ to spread the field of riders out a bit worried me as the vast majority of it was fireroad, but the first proper lap (and, obviously, all the other laps after that…) had plenty of swoopy singletrack, some nice techy rock sections and a few fast rocky descents.
The bike felt ace right the way through – in fact it encouraged me to go a bit too fast during the night and I ended up sliding the rear wheel sideways into a big pointly rock at full pelt, snapping a spoke, cracking the nipple of another spoke and taking a big chunk out of the rim. Oops. That took a good 10 minutes or so at the side of the trail, fettling by the light of my dinottes, to get the wheel straight enough to spin through the frame without the tyre hooking up on the chainstay. Immediately after which the remainder of the spoke – still attached at the hub – unwrapped itself from where i’d tied it and jammed itself into the cassette and chain. More fettling ensued, though I kept telling myself I wasn’t racing anyway and that I could take as much time as I liked as long as I got it fixed and didn’t drop out.
Apart from that the bike was faultless – fast on the descents (I had fun riding round with terry, chasing each other down the drops for a coupe of laps while chatting away inbetween), comfy over the bumps and sprightly up the climbs. Sadly the saddlebag gave up and launched itself into the undergrowth towards the end of the event, never to be seen again, but that was on it’s last legs before the race, so I wasn’t too gutted about it.
And that’s it. I finished. It didn’t seem like a ‘biggie’ or anything special (certainly not worth writing some existential epic about anyway, so sorry if you were expecting one!) and I was about ready to pack up the tent and head off for a couple of days chilling out in the highlands when Angela gave in and told me I had to collect a trophy for coming 3rd in the senior men’s solo (which equalled 6th overall solo), only 1 lap down on Josh Ibbett, who won (and 3 down on Alex Slavin, who rocked a nice 24 laps and took the overall). In fact I finished a measley 5 minutes down on 2nd placed Dave Buchanan, without ever knowing I was closing him down in the final few hours.
This bodes well for a more successful winter I reckon. I’m up for some good hard training and am feeling much more motivated than I have been over the summer. Bring it on I say, at the next 24hr I WILL be racing