I can see the flag

An entry level runner on an entry level bike…


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Fatty wins the day: Pivot Twentyfour12

We had such a good time at Twentyfour12 last year that as soon as entries opened in December we signed up again.

JB and I agreed to put in an entry for 24 hour female pair and if a team presented itself nearer the time we’d jump on board. Her version of the whole malarkey is here

As the weekend approached we (or at least I) got more and more anxious about the Twentyfour12. Plus, we’ve got That Thing In The Summer (leTITS) which is actually (OH FUCK) next week. As we have actually trained for leTITS we agreed a plan for Twentyfour12 which was to look after ourselves, make sensible decisions and come away from it in one piece.

Cut to Saturday morning when JB knocked on the door, MrJB was faithful pitcrew again along with MrH. Once again a round the clock service was on offer and I happen to know that vast amounts of bacon had been bought.

We arrived, pitched the tent, parked the van, unloaded and signed on. It was windy, and cloudy with the odd scattered shower, but generally conditions were good and the ground was bone dry.
2017 / 2018

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Anyway. We signed on and I noted that we were the only ones in our category, we weren’t sure if it would stay that way, but without giving it much more thought, we collected our souvenir glasses and beer mats and sauntered back to camp.

Then we just waited.

The start was dead on 12pm and JB had called for the first lap, which was fine with me. We found a spot and cheered her on when she went by, then back to prepare for my go.

JB and I had decided that the fat bikes were the bikes of choice for the weekend. Mainly because we have no other bikes; my hard tail needs some work, as does JB’s Strumpet, both of whom performed ok last year, it has to be said, and it was us that let them down!

We didn’t know how long the laps were this year, the course was different to last, and so after about 40 minutes I saddled up and headed to transition to wait for JB and my go. I didn’t have long to wait – JB said “there’s nothing unrideable, the climb’s a ball-ache, you’ll be fine”. She’s never said that before and it been true, so I was sceptical as I pocketed the rider’s token and set off.

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I set off from transition slightly anxious but really just wanting to get on with it. Twisted through the campsite fields and out on to the course proper. A tight right hander, there was a line there but I didn’t see it until it was too late. Fortunately it didn’t matter a shit because my Fat bike, Fatty, saw the line and all I hadta do was pedal. Phew. “You might be useful today” I told him.

On a bit, and what the fuck is this?

A rocky 90* corner straight into a rooty drop off and onto a narrow bridge. “OOOoooooooooh fuuuuuuuuuucCKKK I said to Fatty as we popped out nicely on the other side of the bridge. “well done Fatty” – I’m not stupid or naive enough to think that was anything to do with my input… ūü§Ē

We pottered on, and the course wove back on itself a couple of times, through the trees and alongside the river. I recognised one bit where I’d spent some time last year looking for my shoe when it came off in the knee deep mud. No such bother this time, a bit rooty and rocky but nothing too tricky and we were spat out at the foot of the climb.

While all this was going on fast lads and the odd fast lass went swooping by, mostly safely. And then holyhell what the fuck is this

A near vertical ramp coated in loose gravel. I said some choice words to JB in my head at this point: “the climb’s a ball-ache in-fuckin-deed” People were all off their bikes pushing, heads on saddles, wills to live long gone. I clattered Fatty into Granny gear and told him “We’ll just try and get to that tree” at about half way. We passed a couple of pushers, then another, and blow me, we made the almost top. Of course it kicked up again, what ever else would it do? We plodded on, past the motivation station blaring out the All The Choons, my timing was such that Doo Bop by Hanson was playing as I passed so¬†that made me get a move on ūüėĚ

We were still climbing, but the gradient had eased a bit, replaced by some rooty, tree-stumpy bits. The next two miles were up, but a good mix of woods with roots, some good swoopy singletrack to mince along, fire trails and The Bomb Holes which were my favourite part this year, unlike last year when I was frightened about going into one and never being seen again.

The fat was just awesome: like a surefooted (fat) Dartmoor pony, he never put a tyre wrong. He forgave me all my shit lines, gripped the gravel on the climb when the carbon full sussers couldn’t, rolled over roots the size of my legs, absorbed all the holes, rocks and mistakes; I wouldn’t want to have been riding anything else. Folk were all keen to say how mad I was riding it, and how they wouldn’t want to be me (hahaha – No. They. Wouldn’t ūüėĚ) and had the novelty worn off yet – er, this isn’t my novelty bike, he’s just My Bike… I genuinely couldn’t understand it. Also, they called me buddy, and mate. I hadta check at one point that my pigtails hadn’t fallen off! ūüė≥

Time then to start the descent back to transition and the handover to JB. I was knackered – the lap was only 6 miles but they were tough ones and there was no point where there was nothing to concentrate on, and I even struggled to find a gap for a drink! I was pleased we seemed to have decided on only doing one lap at a time.

Rolling down the Bit Before The Cottage Return my blood ran cold. It was this bit again, that I couldn’t ride and could barely walk last year. Fatty drifted right… and before I knew it he’d rolled right down the drop off’s AND kept enough speed to get out the bomb hole the other side! I almost went weeeeheeeee! Then the cottage return, I enjoyed this one last year and this year in the dry it was even better: just enough to keep you on your toes but nothing scary then spat out onto the field and round and about to transition. There was no one there!

I found JB at the tent, almost ready. She announced that she was going to do a double lap and disappeared into the drizzle and wind.

Oh yeah: the weather. There was some by now, a bit of drizzle and the wind was warm but strong.

I settled into the campervan and MrJB threw sausage rolls, pork pies and crisps at me, along with a piece of flapjack which was the best flapjack I have ever had. As I drank about 20 litres of water he gently persuaded me that a double lap was the best approach, although it was hard, it meant that we had double the sitting down time, and a 3 lap stint would be counterproductive as it was too hard.

Soon enough I glimpsed JB go by for her 2nd (3rd) lap and I knew I had about 40 minutes before I needed to go to transition. I started to think that MrJB was right, I was starting to feel human and ready to go again.

I shan’t bore you with lap by lap detail, we did doubles twice, they were tough and I deliberately backed off as much as I could, leTITS always in the back of my mind. JB reported the same, 2 laps was a big ask. When we handed over for what I had already decided were to be my last laps before I got some sleep, JB said she was done with the doubles and we’d revert to singles as and when we could. Fine with me.

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I had my light for the last of my doubles. Setting out at around 7:30pm I was pretty sure I was going to need them and I was right. The first lap was ok, but in the woods and whatnot it was definitely dimming and I had the light on for the majority of the second. I’d forgotten that I love riding in the dark, and actually, had the much promised yellow warning weather not arrived I’d have been very tempted out again. As it was, when I rolled into transition JB was waiting and said she wasn’t going out again. Protected out in the woods I hadn’t realised how heavy it was raining and how strong the wind had become. I was so relived. Now we could get a decent night’s sleep and regroup in the morning. Plus, with no one else in our category, the prize was in the bag.

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A bite to eat and we turned in. MrJB decided that he was going to bed down in his van, leaving JB and I on our camping mats in the tent. We put the Fats to bed, jammies on and earplugs in and went to…. Wait. No. There was no sleep. It was like lying in a crisp packet on a washing line. The wind was so strong you couldn’t hear the lashing of the rain. Luckily we knew it was there because the side of the tent slapped each of us soggily around the head with every strong gust.

We lay there and maybe lightly dozed until it was time for MrH and MrJB make us coffee. I switched on my phone and realised that I must have had some sleep as I’d missed a message from MrJB telling us how warm and cozy and comfy he was in his van. *sigh.

When we emerged from the tent the field was at least half as full as it was when we went to bed! WTF? CH (also there, riding a mixed pair combo with IC) said that she hadn’t seen a rider go around in the longest time. A bit of arsebooking and some head scratching and it emerged that because of Conditions the organisers had felt they had no option but to stop the race at around 7am. Trees were falling down in the Bluebell woods and they had to consider the safety of the marshalls and riders. The easy rolling, tinder dry rock hard campsite field looked like this:

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I had to try really hard not to cheer; even although we’d already decided that we weren’t going to ride again, because leTITS, at least this way, it was out of our hands.

We lined up for the podium presentation, went and collected our winners bag of shit, I mean prizes. Here’s JB reverting to type and trying to leggit with the loot:

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We said last year ‘never again’ but this year I think I mean it. The riding is really good, and it’s a great event, but the camping? Not so much. In an event like that you need to maximise your down time, and in those conditions a tent is not the place to comfortably do that. If I were to do it again though, I’d take Fatty. He was the real star of the show.

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Fatocks

When the message came through at 8 am on Saturday morning from JB that she was cancelling the Saturday Social ride because Conditions, I was a bit disappointed but on putting in my contact lenses it was clear she had made the right decision. The roads outside the house were sheet ice. Her counter offer was Quantocks on the FATs. I put on Normal Clothes and replied: no matter, I’ll potter up the towpath later when Conditions are better.

I didn’t want to go to the ‘Tocks cos I hate it there. We hafta go in the GFW (Great Fuckin’ Woods) and I always fall off or hafta take my bike for a long walk; but also cos The Others were going. The Others were Missy (twentyfour12 team mate), MrJB (who was on a top secret mission) and MrGotANewToy. They are SO much faster than me and I didn’t fancy a day of them always having to wait for me, and slogging my whossits off trying to keep up.

Then MrMegster said to man up, and so I changed my mind.

The new arrangements saw me collect JB and MrJB went ahead to collect Missy and MrGotANewToy. We arranged to meet them in the carpark, and JB and I decided that we would potter ahead if we got there first. They’d soon catch us up.

I shan’t bore you with the logistics, we got there, they got there, off we all went together. JB, MrJB, and I had our FATs, MrGotANewToy had his¬†new¬†FAT and Missy had her… I didn’t even get a chance to notice what Missy had.
Conditions, I may add were different to those at home. Conditions at home were mainly black ice on the roads. Conditions on the Quantocks consisted mainly of gusty freezing cold winds and freezing fog. Still, we had on all our clothes, nothing could go wrong.

As we set off from the carpark in to the fog, Missy appeared from nowhere alongside, murmured about ‘fuckin’ cold’ and pedalled off into the fog. This wasn’t the last time we saw her, but it nearly was.

When we got to the first ‘junction’ we pause-… Missy paused to let the rest of us catch up. There was a which way we gonnago type discussion and we all agreed. JB went for a quick whassaname behind a tree, I waited and the others went on.¬†THAT¬†was the last we saw of them.
When we got to the junction about half way down the hill we couldn’t decide if The Others had gone that way or not, so we decided fuckit and kept going. At the bottom, they weren’t there either.¬† So we climbed back up again, deciding fuckit – lets just do the ridge ride, at least this way we don’t have to go into the GFW. But we do hafta get back up this bastard hill. 450 feet in 1.2 miles with up to 12% in places, and we were back where we started.

The ridge ride is lovely. It’s about 7.5 miles from one end to the other, and then the same back again. There’s nothing technical, no roads, just undulating moorland trails, rooty tracks, some quite deep mud, and some rocky descents. I rode more of it on my FAT than I ever have my hard-tail – it’s made me an excellent rider you know¬†;-). Having said that, JB and I both got pitched off, almost at the same boggy bit. As I picked myself up, outta the bottom bracket deep mud I glanced up to see JB do the same. Well, that bit is obviously unrideable¬†:-O.

With no one but ourselves to please, we stopped to take many, many pictures. The Quantocks were stunning. The freezing fog came out brilliant in the photos; no! Really, it did! There were loads of MTBers out, they all gave us a chirpy ‘hello’ and then a double take… You could see them thinkin’ ‘look at the size of them birds’ tyres’, but not being quite sure if it was ok to say it out loud!
We had our chocolate break at the far end of the ridge, took a couple more pics and u-turned for home, feeling pretty smug and¬†actually enjoying¬†the ‘Tocks. The hill we’d just descended looked steeper from the bottom than it had done at the top… but off we went, almost chirpily. It seemed to me that it was becoming harder than it ought to be, and JB¬† was beginning to scamper off into the fog…

A glance down explained it…. “bird….

Bird….

BIRD!!!!!”

When I caught her up, I explained why she’d been forced to stop in the -2¬į: Puncture. Well, it had all been going rather too well…

“Lets see if we can get to the next car park before we change the tube” JB suggested. We were about as far from anyone or thing as we could be at this point, and if we’d thought the fog was lifting we couldn’t have been wronger. I tiptoed on as far as I could but JB called a halt cos the tyre was close to coming off the rim. We were atop a hill and could see about 30 yards in any direction.¬† It was so fucking cold, but proved almost impossible to change the tube wearing gloves, let alone the two pairs I was wearing!¬† So we, sorry, JB set to work. She’s better at doing these things than me, cos she’s had more practice.

We found the thorn and used our special tools* to remove it.¬† Then we just had to pump up the new tube. The FAT runs on around 10 psi – shouldn’t take a jiffy should it, to get that pumped up? We took it in turns to pump the tyre for around 2 hours. Well, maybe 5 minutes. We had to take it in turns: a) to keep warm; 2) cos I forgot my (ahem) gas; and III) have you seen the¬†size¬†of a FAT inner tube? It’s pretty much an airbed.
Once on our way, the remaining ride was a doozy. We were back in half the time it took us to get out, mainly cos we were cold and there was far less twatting around (there was still¬†some¬†twatting around). Also coffee and cake awaited in the car…

The Others were gone by the time we got back. A later stalk on Strava showed they did 8 miles and around 850 feet of climbing. Not bad you say? We, the slow, did 15 miles and 1600 feet of climbing. I do know it’s not a competition, I do. But this still raised a fist pump on the way home. I am entirely at ease with being childish.

From a ride that nearly wasn’t, it turned into a brilliant day, again: Conditions were definitely far from ideal, and circumstances didn’t exactly all go in our favour, but it was such a good day, we’ve even said that we’ll go try the GFW next time. But on our own, when no one else is watching, and when no one can hear us scream.

*teeth

Photos are all JB’s, I take no credit for that part of the twatting around…


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FAT seaside

There were two options for today; well, two viable options anyway.  My purchase on Thursday narrowed that to one option:

23760309_10156966774164129_1321264824_o.jpgMine’s the red one – he’s a Charge Cooker Maxi, and I already love him.

I’ve never had a red bike before, moreover, I’ve hankered after a FAT since I rode MrJBs around the Devon Dirt earlier this year.

Today’s options were: tandem ride with the tandem club and a lunch, or take the FATs to the beach, and get chips at the seaside – it had to be the FATs.

Getting them in the car was the first thing, wheels off, upside down and wedged in with blankie and kitbags.

JB has ridden her FAT on the beach before and had it all planned. ¬†We set off to Darts Farm, a farm and whatnot shop where the only thing we could afford was to park – so that’s what we did.

We took the Sustrans route from Darts Farm to Exmouth, through Exton, Lympstone alongside the estuary and the train line, and yes – we *may* have waved to the odd train. On arrival in Exmouth there was no messing, and we headed straight for the beach. ¬†Unusually, we’d done our homework and knew that low tide was 12:29pm, perfect. ¬†These things don’t happen by accident you know.

It was a cold day and the winter sun was milky and pink and we might have spent more time than strictly necessary taking photos and trying to write our names in the sand so they showed up on Stravia.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the FAT or how it would behave on the soft sand and anticipated a dig in and a quick exit for me out the side door. ¬†What I got was easy rolling, no digging in: this is what the FATs are made for! Absolutely awesome, it turned where pointed, rolled where pointed, smoothed out lumps and bumps and just rolled and rolled. ¬†There are some rocky outcrops which it rolled up, sploshed into puddles and out again, there’s no way my hardtail would have coped as well, if at all.

We made it to Sandy Bay at the far end of the beach and decided to have our light, pre-chips snack. ¬†After we take some pictures. ¬†And after we ride over there. ¬†Actually, we’ll just ride over there for our snack. ¬†But first we’ll ride here and take some more pictures. And.. ooh look: ponies! Lets just ride over there…

Us, just riding over there…

And ooh look again – the sandbar’s uncovered, and that dog has run all the way to it: it must be rideable.

JB decided she’d go first and I’d film it. ¬†Which is exactly how it happened, except, that dog? It musta had¬†really long legs, cos that sea came right up to the bottom bracket of JB’s bike and proved how waterproof her shoes were. ¬†Still, we got the film made ūüėČ I decided that I was quite happy with her starring in the movie alone, and, after a loop of the sandbar we did more meandering up the beach.Screen Shot 2017-11-18 at 18.40.34Here’s what Stravia thinks we did, and I think it’s fairly clear where the sandbar is!

Once back on the pavement we set off to the LBS Knobblies where JB’s friendly bike man had promised us a coffee if we showed up with my FAT for them to critique¬†see: they were good as their word and couldn’t find much bad to say about my FAT, especially when I told them it was half price!

JB has been promising me battered chips since I first got my bike and today was to be the day. ¬†Just up the road from Knobblies is Krispies – one Large Portion please? ¬†Box in hand ūüėČ we made our way to the seafront again and the feast began. ¬†We made a new friend – a friendly dog mixed us up with People Who Share Food.

23732307_10156966775749129_448501344_o.jpgA glance at our watches told us that we needed to be heading for home, plus, the sun had gone in and it was getting chilly.  So, straight home, no messing.

Yeah, right.

“Now”, said JB, “some folk who are Not Reliable to Make Safe Decisions told me that we can ride all the way back along the shoreline. ¬†We probably shouldn’t do that”. ¬†I asked “is that the shoreline that we decided against riding on when we were on our way to the beach?”. ¬†“Why, yes!” said JB. ¬†We decided that it wasn’t a Good Idea, and then did it anyway.

This part of the coast is unvisited really, by people.  It started off well, it was a bit unkempt, bigger rocks, seaweed, but thanks to FAT it was all completely rideable.  Well, except this bit:

23768775_10156966776149129_453399686_o.jpgWe slipped and slid across in our usual dignified manner!  We knew to be cautious though:

23759943_10156966775989129_1332657884_o.jpgAfter we crossed the shoreline, picking our way over The Place Where Pottery Goes To Die, and past the place I thought we were aiming for… Huh? ¬†“Lets just see how far round¬†here we can get” said JB. ¬†Meh, in for a penny…

We eventually left the shortline at Lympstone and mooched back to the car…

“Where does that go?” I asked JB. ¬†“Just the Goat Walk, at Topsham” she answered, breaking hard. About-turn. ¬†Into glamorous Topsham (or Topsam as the locals call it). ¬†The Goat Walk is a walk-way along the edge of the estuary and was full of folk out walking in their Weekend Clothes. ¬†It’s safe to say that we weren’t what they were expecting to see. ¬†You’re not allowed to ride on the Goat Walk, so we didn’t. ¬†We pointed the FATs at the estuary shore and rode the length of the Goat Walk, popping out through deep sand at the end, much to the surprise of a smart looking family out for a Saturday afternoon stroll. ¬†Quick photo of the FATs leaning against the ‘No Bikes’ sign and back the way we came.

And back to the car, right? ¬†Ooooh look – cows! ¬†“What’s he looking at” asked JB. “I think it’s the llama”, I told her. ¬†The what?? We were back at Darts Farm, they have 2 cows and a llama. ¬†It’s a funny kinda farm. They also have acres of Expensive Things, so we went and took a picture of some cabbage:

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and a picture of my FAT by the electric car chargey-thing.  Charging the Charge. Geddit?

23668927_10214696254262688_1183940356825902767_oExperts now, we disassembled the bikes and wedged them in the car.  Quick coffee and flapjack and homeward bound.

A most excellent day. ¬†The bike is just amazing – it would have been nightmarish on my hardtail, the FAT doesn’t turn it’s nose up at anything, but better than that, it makes it all so much quirky fun. ¬†It’s a hellova piece of kit and I can’t wait to get out on it again… Am making lists of beaches and signing up for tide-timetables as I type.

I also have¬†everything crossed for snow…

 


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Twentyfour12 – a tale of Two Fat Two Furious

“You’ll be on the team won’t you? Good, that’s that settled then” said JB, and apparently it was. We decided on our team name, the entry was placed and we began our ultimately fruitless search for a 5th member for team Two Fat Two Furious for the 2017 Twentyfour12 – a 24hr ‘he who rides the most laps wins’ race. Our team consisted of me, JB, CH and XP. ¬†Quite a line-up I’m sure you’ll agree (and no, really – there is no need to spot the weakest link… ;-)) MrMegster set to work on the t-shirt design and how exciting it all was. If only we’d known…

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Fast forward to Last Friday, when we loaded the car with all the camping stuff and bikes and set sail for Newnham Park, the setting for Twentyfour12 and our home for the weekend.

We pitched up next to CH and MrCH who had blagged a family motor home and filled it with All The Good Stuff. Spirits were high as JB, CH and I set off on a practice lap. CH set the pace, or at least I think she did- we’d lost sight of her by the end of the first climb as she refused to be overtaken by our rivals, who had just ridden past JB and I. ¬†We knew 3 teams had entered the Female 24hr category and JB and I readjusted our expectations to “2nd place would be really good” at that moment.

The lap itself was confidence giving, nothing too technical, a couple of walks for me, and a couple of parts that would remain unrideable for the whole weekend, but more on that later… JB rode Twentyfour12 last year and although the course was different (and longer) there were familiar bits… “look out for the old man that lurks there in the dark” she told me as we went down the Cottage return – you what now?? “It’s ok, he’s not really there…” “Oh! Well that’s ok then” :-O

As we neared the end of the reccie the rain came. And stayed. The course was already muddy, it wasn’t going to improve – at this point though it didn’t dampen our spirits, even when the motor home awning fell down, nearly taking me out with it. “Well” we laughed, “if that’s the worst that’s going to happen…”

We had decided on our running order, and just before 12pm on Saturday JB positioned herself mid start pack, a brave move, and then the off. 700+ riders swooshed around the grassy start, through the campsite and out on to the course proper. Nothing to do now but wait. So we meandered back to camp, MrJB and MrCH got busy making teas and coffees. MrMegster turned up with all the stuff we forgot, including DryRobes, sandwiches and MrJB’s special chair (don’t ask)… We killed some time and wandered across to see JB go by, estimating about 20 minutes ’till she made it back to transition. She had a blinding lap, handed over to me and I was off!

I set off in the rain, with JB’s advice of “ride it as you see it” rattling round in my head. Stuff was slippery but all very rideable (well except the bits that I was never going to ride). The Cliff Climb came and went and I rode past some riders pushing their bikes – in fact as conditions worsened I began to look forward to the climb for its lack of mud and slippy. Onwards and into the Bluebell Woods, issuing instructions to my bike and self, “look up…” “FFS look up!” (to me), and “roll…” “c’mon, roll you little fucker…” “atta boy” (to my bike) – no foot down, straight through. I’m not scared of roots anymore, although there’s plenty that’s taken their place! :-O The lap was, by later standards, uneventful – I even bagged myself a couple of Stravia PRs for my efforts and I handed over to XP feeling pretty chipper, although it has to be said, soaked to the skin and covered in feckin mud.

Down time was spent washing my bike, drinking coffee and eating everything, with bouts of cheering in XP and, when it was her turn, CH.

The rain was relentless but my little antique tent kept everything dry including the tshirts for at least 6 laps (haha) that I’d packed. Dry socks and wellies made the waiting bearable, and we bantered and joked about the conditions, if we hadn’t I think we’d (I) have cried. Even the walk to the porta-loos was getting tricky!

Soon enough I headed to the soggy transition for my second lap. My dry t-shirt soaked before I’d even racked my bike. JB came in and handed over – something had gone wrong, I could tell, but there was no time to find out what.

This lap was no worse than the first for me, the rain had washed some of the stickier mud away and bits that I’d slipped and slid on were easier riding, although other bits, like the campsite loops on the grass were, well – frankly fucking awful. Every pedal stroke made your back wheel spin or try to overtake you. The only rideable line was along the tape, and it just slid you down into the mire. Still, I finished only a couple of minutes down on my first lap and so was quite happy with that.

On my return to camp, a plan had been hatched. We would ride into the night until the end of JB’s next lap then all get some kip, and I would resume at 3am. A good compromise, giving us all some sleep and each a dark lap. After not much longer, around 10pm I went to bed optimistic for a few hours sleep. Decided against ear-plugs cos I didn’t want to miss the alarm. All cozy and dozy in my tent till something went twang and someone tripped over my guy-rope and gave me a proper fright. ¬†I *may* have shouted something rude… ¬†I later found out that it was XP’s parents arriving to support us, hmm not at all awkward…. ūüėČ

So I slept not a wink, too much noise, adrenaline, caffeine, anticipation about the night lap, and of course, needing a wee. Twice.

At about 2:50am I gave up, popped in my contact lenses, pulled on dry gear and went out into the night. Transition was deserted, bar some light from the solo riders slowly going around. Garmin on and I set off. Got to the first bank, easily rideable on previous laps, now ankle deep in sticky mud – some of which went straight in my eye. I gave it a cursory rub and my contact lens fucked off. Shit. Now the sensible thing would have been to go back for another, but my sleep deprived brain didn’t offer me that option and I carried on, alternating between blurry (2 eyes open) and focused (one eye open ;-)). It was SO muddy now and with impaired vision I couldn’t even ride the easiest of paths, nervous and twitchy, confidence shot to tatters, I even started to do the maths for how long it would take to walk back pushing the bike :-O Blundering over the roots, seeing things that weren’t there and not seeing stuff I needed to, it was the stuff of nightmares! I had Dory from Finding Nemo in my head the whole way “just keep riding, just keep riding”… “get out of my fucking head, fish” I shouted! “You alright love” some bloke asked… “why yes of course, why ever wouldn’t I be?”…

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Made it down the Cottage return thanks to my one good eye and then my feckin chain came off. I unclipped my emergency light – I really needed a light to see to unclip my light, it was that sort of dark… put the chain back on and arrived at the river path. Tight bend into a puddle, wait, that’s no longer a puddle. I’m up to my axles in mud. Slid off into it and heaved my bike out and began to shove it along. Then the mud took my shoe. Have you ever tried to find a fuckin’ shoe, with one seeing eye and no light? Unclipped my emergency light, again, shut the ‘bad’ eye and began scouring for it, eventually spotting it, about 3″ down in the mud. It was such a relief – I didn’t want to get muddy feet on top of everything else ;-)

I eventually finished my lap, having had another chain off moment in the campsite, this time, thankfully, stoping next to a tent who’s owners were made of angels and had a water squirter and a light. The lap had taken me an hour and 50, 40 minutes more than my previous effort. Felt like crying but manned up enough to hand over to CH who was taking XP’s lap as she was struggling with a really painful back. Into my tent to try and get warm and some sleep, unsuccessful again, for now the campsite was coming to life. I was so cold and pissed off I think I was probably mean to everyone. MrJB made me a coffee which thawed me a bit. Then I remembered the Pro-plus and Dextrose. Half an hour later I felt tip-top (relatively, you understand) and although my vocabulary was reduced to “fucking cold” and “fucksake” I was ready to face the world and a bacon sarnie.

When JB went for what was to be her last lap we were met with the news that we’d moved into the lead overnight! WTAF?? The team in 2nd didn’t want to ride again because of the conditions, but stood to loose 2nd if the team in 3rd went again! Suddenly it looked like it could all be over! And we were the winners! Yeah – cos our luck goes that way doesn’t it..?! JB and I agreed we would both ride again if we had to, plus, I really wanted the chance to put my nightlap right. ¬†When 3rd went again, so did 2nd and so, so did we.

JB did another cracking lap under extreme conditions – well the sun had come out you see, and made the mud even stickier and revealed all the things in the puddles that you’d have never ridden over if you’d seen them!

She handed over to me, I had 2 and a half hours to get round, and we would still have time for CH to go again if we needed her to.

My chain came off AGAIN before I even left the campsite.

And again on the Cliff Climb. And again at the top of the Cliff Climb. And again and again and again. Still at least I could see this time, fresh pair of lenses and sunnies! I used all my drink spraying the chain and chain ring to clean it, only for it to be clogged seconds later. I lost count how many times it came off. I opened a hole in my finger and my pedals twatted the back of my legs from all the pushing! When I got to the river I waded in and dunked the bike, hoping that I could wash away my sorrow… I mean the mud…

I eventually got back, with 20 minutes to spare, JB was waiting at the finish: “we’ve done it!” We’d won. I got off my bike and abandoned it. Just relief, no elation or happiness just pure relief.

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We waited until the end, packed our tents and hosed off the bikes. MrJB, with not much effort, was easily able to diagnose what was with my chain, the mud and grit had eaten my front chain ring. It’s razor sharp in places and the pointy bits have all gone. I suspect that’s the tip of the iceberg too, and there’s going to be a maintenance bill when I am brave enough to get the bike outta the shed… I’ll need a hearty breakfast before that though.

Never ever again.

So, next year, there’s talk of entering as pairs, although someone’s just asked if she can be our 5th team member…


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When it all comes together

MrMegster announced mid-week that he and TheBoy were going away for the weekend to help SiL move into her new place, however, JB and I were paid up for the Scott MTB marathon on Sunday and so I couldn’t go.

So, suddenly I found myself with a ‘free’ Saturday and in need of an accomplice. Luckily JB and MrJB seemed willing and we settled on a local(ish) MTB route called The Herepath. JB and MrJB have ridden it before 3 or 4 times before but it was to be my maiden voyage and so I wasn’t sure what to expect. MrJB had also invited a couple of chums along, making me the most inexperienced (you could say entry-level :-O) MTBer going and slightly apprehensive about holding the lot of them up…

Anyhoo, MrJB and JB picked me up and we met the chums at the arranged spot and off we went. ¬†Straight down a gravel track, wide and swoopy, this was fine – nothing technical and I have new brake pads so all was well! The boys swooshed past but I’d have expected nowt less, and I prefer to ride with no one behind me.

The trail is 13 miles of a mix of wide fire tracks, fields, and woodland single tracks with a small amount of roads joining it all together. For the first 7 or so miles the bits that weren’t flat, were downhill. Nothing tricky, couple of rooty bits, a rocky step or two but all rollable and the only time we had a foot down was to open the gates (and take photies of our lovely bikes leaning on them)!

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The second half, well, it pretty much mirrored the first: what goes down and all that :-O. From mile 8 to 13 we climbed 1000 feet, with bits of it, according to Stravia clocking 17% (I think she‚Äôs lying ‚Äď bits of that climb felt more like 27%!). The steepest bits seemed to come at the end and on tired legs there were some pretty bad words… but no walking ūüėá

89825This is me, looking for my Will To Live.

The boys did some bike swapping and with an e-bike in the mix one of MrJBs chums won the lucky dip as the rest of us did the hard miles! There’s a lot to be said for them there e-bikes… Still, I had a rucksack full of sweeties which hit the spot, and we refueled at the end with standard after MTB fare of cheese topped and filled rolls and mint tea ;-) A great ride round a well signposted and maintained route, sunshine the whole way, in the best of company. NOT however, ideal preparation for Sunday’s Mountain Bike Marathon! Ho-hum.

Sunday’s excitement began with an early start – JB picked me up at 7am and we headed to Minehead for a MTB event organised by Scott MTBs – they deserve a name check here because it was a fantastic event from start to finish. The entry fee was pretty steep at ¬£28 but JB and I are suckers for the promise of a t-shirt and goodie bag!

Unusually *cough for us, we were early. We registered and got our personalised (totally love them) numbers and them it was time for a cuppa. I declined a coffee having experienced the porta-loos, I didn’t want to take the risk of having to go again… “I put lots of sugar in your coffee” said JB – “I hope that’s ok? Me: “but… but…” After we re-aligned out sarcasm filters and drank our tea and coffee and went to the *holds nose, loos again it was time for the off.

700 riders filtered through the funnel, all doing one of the 3 distances on offer. We’d opted for the short one – we were looking for a confidence boosting enjoyable ride and this looked the best option. We joined the steam of MTBers lining the seafront at Minehead, briefly pondered switching to plan B and having a day at Butlins… ha, yeah right…

The road ran out and 700 MTBers filed onto a single track climb: the bottleneck was exactly as you are picturing it. The climb went up the side of a mountain, no really, it did. Mile 1 & 2 were lovely pan flat seafront cruising, mile 3 was a single track zig-zagging up the *mountain* to the top of Exmoor. We gained around 500 feet in mile 3 and the same again in mile 4. ¬†JB said when we got out of the trees and atop the moor we’d stop for photies, and so we did. Seems like lots of folk were keen for a breather ‚Äď we were inundated with offers from kind people keen to take our photo, and I’m not surprised – looking out to sea we spotted a helicopter and remarked that it’s not often you ride your bike higher than helicopters!!

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We followed the coast path for a while then dropped down into the valley. The descents were as steep as the ascents in places and we proceeded slightly cautiously aware that an error would be painful if we were lucky… Another climb, slightly less severe than we’d had previously experienced and we were into the food station – lovely cake, peanuts, drink re-fills and jelly bears :-) We duly abandoned the bikes and tucked in.

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As we paused (briefly) for breath between mouthfuls we became aware of a very battered and bruised looking lass. JB came right out with it “what happened to you then maid?” She had ridden the ladies only ride yesterday and had come unstuck descending – she was black and blue and scraped from head to toe. Her confidence had taken a huge knock and, as we rode away we agreed that there are times when caution is better than brave.

A grind of a climb followed by a short descent and we were onto the last significant climb for our route – it pretty much mirrored the first one, slightly less steep but we regained the 600 feet or so that we’d lost in about 2 miles, thankful we‚Äôd made the most of the food station!

At the top JB was waiting for me, again, and a lass on an e-bike cruised past. We had a little “that’s the way to do it” moment with a chap and his son who had stopped to get their breath back, when JB issued a battle cry “after her!” The man chuckled. I knew better and after her we went. And we caught her. And we overtook her. And she stayed overtook!

Then it was time to go back to sea level, descending from 1000 feet in 3.5 miles. Some of this was really steep, JB recognised some of it from Days Gone By, and issued a warning about what happens when brave doesn’t listen to caution. I gave her some space. Then I let two chaps go by – I *really* don’t like folk behind me – and down I went. It was steep, dark, and with sunlight flashing through the trees it was difficult to spot holes and rocks. Then I came upon JB parked up and had a little “oh fuck, what‚Äôs happened?” moment :-O, but it just turned out that her Will To Live had won the battle over her Hold Your Nerve at a particularly jaggy rocky bit. We both agreed that caution was the order of the day and rambled the little section, before remounting, smiling for the camera and finishing the hill.

Then a short burst along the road and we were back at race village choosing our t-shirts :-)

All in all a cracking weekend. We tried to rationalise why we enjoyed the weekend – for me the sunshine helped. The routes on both days were challenging and tough but do-able; we decided that it was just one of *those* weekends when it comes together in the right way :-)

Except, when the training log was consulted later, turns out we were short in miles this week and we *really* should round that up. ¬†Crossers out, off we went, in our new t-shirts, determinedly not getting sweaty, but rounding up to the ‘just over’ 100 for the week.

Aaaaaaand relax.


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FAT – Devon Dirt

I’ve had an excellent day.

A couple of weeks ago, JB asked me if I wanted to ride the Devon Dirt with her. I’d tentatively agreed to this a while ago, so readily agreed. Then she said she’d booked us in, and we were doing it on her and MrJB’s FAT bikes. Whoop! I’ve been secretly hanging for a proper go on the FAT for ages. She’d also agreed with the organiser (who she knows from Days Gone By) that we only had to ride the first half, to the lunch stop. 17 miles on the FATs – how hard could that be?

I was duly collected at 8am (well, 7:45am – we don’t do late), and we were off to Ashburton, the start was set for 9:30. At 8:45 we were parked, the bikes were unloaded and we had our helmets, camel-baks and arm warmers on. We were ready.

So we had a coffee, and then got ready again. ūüėČ

We aimed for the back of the start pack, knowing we were slow, mainly due to our engines, but partly because the FATs take some effort on the tarmac uphills.

Once we were off there were a couple of miles of quiet Devon roads, and then a pile up. Well, not a proper pile up. But lots of ‘normal’ MTB-ers stalled at the start of the first trail, which had an exposed rock slope to go up. We let the way clear a bit, pointed the FATs upwards, found a nice low gear and we were off. How easy was this? I couldn’t believe it, the FAT just rolled up the difficult stuff, the only thing I had to do was pedal, the bike took care of everything else, amazing. I was baulked about 20 meters from the top of this first climb by someone tipping off sideways, clipped in. Were it not for that I’d have made the top, something I am pretty sure I couldn’t have done on my hardtail.

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This was the theme for the day, this bike surprised me time after time, it just rolls. It rolls over rocks, mud, puddles, steps… you name it. Where the track was rutted and the wheel caught the edge of the rut, which at best would have been a foot down on the hardtail, the FAT just rolled up it, no bother. Awesome.

The payoff for all this awesomeness is getting them uphill on roads, a small pice to pay (and I think, were I fit, it may not have been such a struggle)

The ride itself was everything I love. Green lanes and bridleways, linked by short road sections. Were I not completely bolloxed come the end, I’d have happily gone around again. Stravia says (and she never lies) we climbed just over 2,000ft in 17 miles, over a well signed and brilliant route.

And I wouldn’t have wanted to ride it with anyone else .