I thought I’d die on my arse at (the final, ever) Hit the North, what with not doing much in the way of riding since Mountain Mayhem. Not that I minded, I was looking forward to using it as training for the “big” races on the horizon and I knew it’d be a good laugh, so I turned up suitably unworried, planning on finding out what state I was in over the 8 hours and what my body would put up with.
After meeting up with Wayne and Jenny (first time endurance racer & pit crew), doing the sign on thing and instructing the ever helpful Angela in the fine art of mixing half a bottle of fruit juice with half a bottle of water I waited for my turn in the changing room pop-up tent I’d bought the day before – while Wayne discovered the delightful sensation of applying chammy cream before a long ride – before wandering over to the ‘le-mans on acid’ style start.
We ran down a ditch, up a slope, along some wooded paths, down a bigger ditch, back up a bigger ditch and (now thoroughly lost) back out onto the start/finish straight to grab the bikes and head out onto the course for the race-proper.
I set about finding a pace that was somewhere just below XC race, but well above 24hr, speed and got to grips with the slippery-in-the-rain course.
It was great fun; slipperly singletrack, followed by fast fireroad, followed by cyclocross style grovelling about up unrideable slopes, followed by purpose-built bermed-up trails, followed by more clambering, more fast bits, a looooong cobbled climb, some fast gravel tracks through a park and more groveling on foot meant there was something for everyone (to hate*) and kept the laps varied enough to remain interesting for the whole race.
The pit-crew-ettes of Angela and Jenny kept the supply of gels and chocolate buttons I needed to keep riding at a decent pace coming and even found time in their busy schedules…
…to keep me updated on how I was doing, race wise. After a few laps I found myself in the lead and, obeying the HRM, rather than various people telling me I could slow down as I was riding away from everyone, I kept the pace about the same for around 6 hours before beginning to ease back a bit and enjoy the trails.
The implosion I expected my legs would make didn’t happen and I finished the race (after a couple of minutes lurking with Wayne at the end) feeling pretty fresh, before having one of the best at-a-race showers ever, a top notch pint of ale from the beer tent and some tasty food from the caterers (who looked like they often sampled their own wares ).
After which it was podium time (because I won, y’see, in case you hadn’t figured that one out..), where I failed once again to look in the right direction while people took photos. Oh well. At last I was smiling and not covered in mud for once
Apparently that’s the last Hit the North.
UPDATE: OR MAYBE IT’S NOT!
Ever. Excuses like “Our families don’t know what we look like ‘cos we’re never there” and “We’ve gone grey/bald/got wrinkles trying to get this event going” were bandied about, but between you and me I think they just want to have a go at racing rather than organising but whatever the reason – good effort chaps, it’s been Awesome!
*Joking! I didn’t hear a bad word about the course – or anything else about the event (except maybe the weather) – from anyone.