I clout a mound of earth at the side of the track with my front wheel, temporarily stalling the bike and pitching me forward across the saddle towards the bars. Sweat, flung from the pads of my helmet bounces off the front tyre, splashing onto the baked, white newly constructed singletrack before almost instantly vanishing as the sun burns it away.
My eyes are stinging as more sweat pours down into them. My face contorted into a roasted looking grimace as I try to force more power down through my legs. Even the deep, lush scent of pine from the trees around me seems to have been heated by the piercing white sunlight, turning my gasps for breath into just another way to drag my body temperature up to boiling point. I push down as hard as I can on the pedals to get going again and somewhere buried within the mass of tendons and muscles in my left leg, something twangs. Something devoid of salts, electrolytes, water even, spasms and contracts, leaving me flailing at the side of the course in a vain attempt to catch the cramp before it engulfs my entire body.
Patches of unhindered sunlight, blasting through the gaps in the foliage above, leave me sweltering as I try to stretch out the muscle, currently trying to curl up and die in my thigh. There is no respite from the heat, the breeze only just strong enough to gently push leaves glowing almost fluorescent green under the gaze of the sun above my head, the shade that survives beneath the firey canopy nothing more than warm, dry darkness, encircled by blistering white shafts of unhindered daylight.
The parched dirt under my feet seems to incinerate upon touch, bursting into plumes of dust and ash that settle in a fine layer on my legs, clogging pores, suffocating like a blanket as I scuffle while remounting the bike. The tyres roar across the gravel as I heave myself back into a state of movement. The friction fires sparks out as each and every moulding on the tyres tears at the tinderbox ground, setting light to withering plants, cowering at the side of the snaking trail. The whole forest catches instantly. A seething, shimmering mess of flame, scorching skin and boiling the blood scalding it’s way through my veins. More gasps for breath, more desperate tearing by my lungs for respite. My eyes feel welded shut with sweat, my throat is blistering and burning, the air itself seems too hot to touch, every movement scorches flesh.
I unclip, lean over to the side and throw up hot, sickly sweet energy drink and gel, before crawling off the bike into a heap in what little shade exists.
Minutes later, Jason rides past, stops and drags the smouldering carcass that once was me back to the pits.
Results spreadsheet available on the race website.
(Now hoping that Mountain Mayhem is a bit cooler…though I do have some plans to help me cope, should it get hot again)
All credit for the piccies goes to epiccyclo – who didn’t catch fire and burn to death like I did.