Sunday, 16 September 2012

So...Kielder 2012!

So there I was, having puffed, cramed and generally bludgeoned my way through 98 miles of testing racing, with just a few miles left - a few miles of sweet, singletrack and for a change, gravity was on my side. On the entrance to the 3rd from last singletrack section, there was a sign that said "Enjoying your ride?" - I thought about that for .000001 of a second, and conjured up the articulate response "F*** OFF!!!!". The ride was an absolute brute! I am not sure if rose tinted glasses made me think that last year's race was enjoyable and not so hard, but this year, it was an utter brute of a race.

Having destroyed my immune system at the start of the year with the evil Strathpuffer, I was forced to have about 2 months off the bike, then I was planning to mount a comeback for the Thetford Summer Enduro, but that was cancelled. Various factors conspired against me to not do Trail Masters, then plan B, the Brighton Big Dog (not the slabable singer) was already sold out. All in all - a bit frustrating! However, I trained! I practiced singletrack technique with serious dedication, got my hill reps in and did plenty of intervals - basically the past 4 months of my life was essentially a training montage from Rocky.

For a change, we decided to do split the journey up, so we weren't thrashed on race. Norwich to Doncaster on Thursday after work, then on to Kielder Friday (with a little stop off in Hexham). Despite having one of the wettest summers since Noah built his arc, the forecast for the race was sunny. I had been watching the weather forecasts with baited breath for a few weeks. Initially, it was predicted rain, but a few days before the race, the forecasts changed and we were predicted good weather! When I see a bad forecast, I tend to look at different forecasts until I find one that says what I wanted - but this time, they all "Sunny"!! Hurrah. And...they weren't wrong!

I managed to get some quality sleep leading into the race, which has never happened to me. 7 hours Wednesday, 10 hours Thursday and a good 7 hours on Friday night (despite the alarm going off at 4AM). Before we know it, we were on the start line and I was really pleased to bump into some fellow Iceni Velo chums Alex, James and Alex's glamourous assistant, Olly (the sensible option).

Kicking off at 6:30AM, we rolled through the first neutralized few miles behind the lead car and I was just getting my warm up following the wheels. Within the first 5 miles there was plenty of frantic passing, but I wasn't really getting involved. If I saw some little gaps, I jumped through, but I was keeping my powder dry (to use a cycling commentators' cliche). The first ten miles seemed to roll by without much incident. However, as the climbs started to kick off, it felt like I was pushing some hard gears. It took me about 20 miles to realise that my rear mech wasn't shifting up to the 4 biggest cogs on my cassette. Hmmm....with all the climbing, that wasn't exactly ideal. I tried twiddling my shifter and only managed to get the 4th smallest cog, but the "friendly" gears weren't wanting to play. Bit rude. Fortuantely the Bradley Wigginsesque Matt Williams from Run and Ride was on hand at the 31 mile tech zone to reindex my gears. He is awesome and he made them worked rather lovely (and they still do).

However, riding in some bigger gears had started to induce cramp (despite refilling bottles with energy drink at every possible stop), and then I had to ride the horrific loop 6 mile loop between 33 and 39 miles. Last year, that loop destroyed me. This year, I didn't let it destroy me, but it certainly gave my average speed a thrashing. Painfully, I was dropping a lot of places on the climbs. However, I had noticed quite early on, when it was coming to the singletrack and the fire road descents, I was doing some serious damage (and clawring back a lot of the people who had passed me on the climbs - felt a bit like Vincenzo Nibali, just nowhere near as fast or Italian. As time passed, my average speed was going down on the climbs, but then giving it a hard kick on the descents, I was able to get it back up again. It became an addiction to look at the aveage speed during the descents, and taking the risks to eek out as much as possible. Loved it. Well I say loved it, it was preferable to the climbing nastiness.

The miles between 30 and 65 have always been horrific in Kielder, and this year was no exception. The low point for me was the rocky singletrack after the Stairway to Heaven boardwalk. It was horrific, and when that ended, we were in the open fields with gale force winding lashing at us. My aveage speed was plumenting and my usually bulletproof enthuasim had disappeared. I spent the next hour contemplating what I could do instead of endurance mountain biking - even toyed with the idea of road racing, "testing" or maybe I could get back into oil painting again. Hmmmm. Anything but riding 100 miles around the Scottish borders getting cramp and covered in mud....on a dry day. Basically, I was a bit ratty with myself and feeling quiet jaded. This feeling lasted pretty much until the last 10 miles when I realised if I kept pushed on, I could get a personal best.

Anyway, the Newcastleton feed station eventually arrived. And I was greeted by Olly, as well as Alex's parents. Was really nice to see Alex's mum, as we had occasional Facebook interactions regarding her daughter's mountain biking adventures. This gave me a good boost, as well as a bit of banter with the time checking people about the lead group having only just left and if I pushed hard, I could win the race. Of course, the leaders had probably finshed by now, but it gave me a smile. And with that, I kicked off again! The first bit of singletrack after Newcastleton was hell last year, as it was pure thick mud, and a steep gradiant. Needless to say, I pushed my bike, and I am pretty sure mo(i)st other people did too. Fortunately, in the interveening 12 months, stones had been used to make it a bit more friendly - thanks ever so much to the lovely people who organised and made this happen. Once through this, I knew the rest of the course didn't really have any nasty surprised (just sloggish climbs, and some swift descents). Starting from about mile 69/70, there is a sapping fireroad climb that seems to go on for about 4 miles. Having endured some horrific head wind over the past few hours, we were now pointing in the right direction, and were able to kick it! A chap on a Giant 29er had been swapping places with me for a lot of the course, came steaming past me on this section - as it was effectively a false flat, I jumped on the back. We got chatting and he said "this is my type of riding!". "Oh no, not a roadie?". "Yeah, time trialist". With consent, I sat on as long as possible (about 3 miles) before I knew I was in the red, so I just eased off, bid him fairwell and watched him ride off into the distance. At mile 74, there are some vicious little steep climbs, but I managed to clear them for the first time in the 3 years of riding the event, so I was rather chuffed. Another little bit of climbing, then it was fireroad descents for 4 miles to the final check point. I gunned it! This managed to knock my average speed up by 0.3 mph, so I was back in the game. Got my feed bag, then pressed on as soon as possible. Downed 500ml of energy drink, then refilled that bottle (as there was 22 miles, and no more water - I didn't fancy refilling my bottles from the Kielder reservoir or any of the numerous puddles along the course). The last 22 miles were interesting. I basically was back on it. Think I've rambled enough, but managed to keep the wheels rolling and finished with the decidedly average time of 11hrs 30 minutes. Despite my disappointment, this is still just under 2 hours better than my time last year. This put me in 108th place (bit better than 177th last year, and 208 the year before.

Doing the Kielder 100 is like being in an article in Singletrack magazine. Which, obviously, is ace. Marshall were amazing, and they have such a lovely, jolly approach which really made the day for me. When you're filfty, tired and in pain, having a little joke with somoene goes a really long way. So if any of them are reading this, thanks - you're awesome people :)

Thinks I learn't today:

1) Don't loose lots of weight, then go to watch the Tour de France and reacquaint yourself with cheese and chocolate.
2) Singletrack and descending skills let you claw back a lot of time on the roadies.
3) Missing out on 4 months of training at the start of the year destroys any endurance you have. Therefore, never, ever, EVER attempt to do Strathpuffer solo. Or certainly don't attempt it as your first ever 24 hour race, unless you have an bulletproof immune system or are certifited insane.
4) The best way to start a race day is hearing owls twitt twoooing in the car park. I wonder if they made the final cut off......
5) Kielder is hard. However much you train for it, and however well you do, you go away feeling rather thrashed. Anyone who does, simply didn't ride hard enough. So well done to every sngle person who has attempted the race over the past 4 years, and anyone who managed to win it clearly has super powers.
6) Hope brakes immortal. One set of Dean's brake pads have now survived Strathpuffer, 24 hours of Exposure, Kielder, South Downs double(ish), hours and hours of muddy mountain bike miles around Norfolk. SO if you want to do endurance racing, but don't want to change your pads - get Hope X2 Evo brakes with Hope sintered pads. Mine are rather happy too :)

Things that hurt:

1) Knees - I am not sure if this is just because it was hard, or my cleats needa tweak.
2) Hands and wrists - descending fast as it's drawbacks.
3) Face! - dehydration, but I physically couldn't have drunk anymore fluids. I refilled bottles at every feed stop, used energy drink sachets to make sure my body took on the fluids, but I still got dehydration.
4) And let's just say sitting on a saddle for over 11 hours turns your skin to the hardest of leathers.

Will I be back next? Hmmmmm....

1 comment:

  1. Great read...take.. that which ever way...both work for me :-)


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