“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…
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”
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! 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…. 😉
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 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?”…
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.
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…