Glentress 7 tweedlove 2016

And so it begins… the road trip to Scotland. From lessons learnt we booked a hotel for the night before!
On the way to the hotel we stopped at Glentress and quickly bagged our solo pitch…next to the toilet. At the time it was the best location in the small area set aside for solos but we hadn’t thought about how we might regret this choice later the next day once the toilets got busy!
So the following morning, I was up bright and early and feeling refreshed… I wish! I didn’t sleep a wink due to a super snorer in the building keeping me awake( he knows who he is ;), and I couldn’t stomach breakfast which wasn’t quite the preparation for a 7 hour race I was hoping for.
We headed back to Glentress and sorted our pitch. Luckily we had already prepared everything and had our own boxes with what we needed to get through the 7 hours. My box consisted of several neatly wrapper Chia Charge peanut butter and jam sandwiches, without the crust of course! Also threw in a couple of gels, a packet of ibuprofen and 6 bottles of water.
gt7 6
On the start line I’d made the decision to try and ride with a friend for as long as I could to get a good start, then try and find my pace and keep pedalling. The first lap started on a fire road climb to string the field out, and my legs felt heavy!
After the first lap my thoughts turned to “where was I in the pack, who was I racing against and how much my legs can take!” On lap 2 I started to find my pace and allocated sections on the course where I would take on fluids, on passing through transition I was informed I had a 2 minute lead.
As the laps went on I started to gain a bigger time gap on second, but you’re always aware that a fall or mechanical could soon change things! I grabbed a sandwich and a 500ml bottle of Nutrixxion each lap, and ate before the first climb.
The weather was amazing, if not a little too warm on the climbs. The laps were around 6.8 miles with 1100ft of climbing, but there was no relief on the descents, these were brutal! My arms were taking a beating on every lap, despite riding my full suss.
In my head I’d pencilled in “ 7 laps” that’s my goal so I’ll be totally honest on laps 6 and 7 I went a little slower, no way did I want to do 8! But as I came through transition at 16:16 the announcement came that the cut off for getting your last lap in is 17:22. Our pit crew aka Deano was waiting for me and quickly updated me, I had won my category but if I went back out I would win overall female solo, …so I thought “what the hell! I’ll give it a go”.
Soon my thoughts turned to “do I have time, what if I don’t make it and my lap doesn’t count”. As I got towards the summit of the trail I kept looking at my garmin for reassurance “tick follows tock”. The marshals were fantastic, really supportive, they also remembered on lap 7 I said “this is my last one!” But here I was again! All the riders still out were very aware that time was running out, no one wanted to do a lap that didn’t count.
As I came along to the final decent I could hear everyone at the finish, quick check on the time and I knew this lap was going to count, bloody hell I’d done 8 laps! As I came in towards transition there were several riders trying to make the cut off, I kept saying “come on let’s make this count keep pedalling”
All my team and friends were there at the end, and through the crowd I could see Nigel’s face, he gave a sigh of relief:)The event and the staff, especially the marshals, were amazing and the support they gave was the best I’ve seen at any event so a huge thank you goes out to the GT7 team, you guys are awesome.
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Gorrick 100 2016

May has come around very quickly this year and the events are starting to kick off.

Gorrick 100 is an event we failed to attend last year but it was always on the wishlist, a lot of riders had said the course was exceptional so this year we decided to make the trip.

At 3.30am on Sunday morning we were on our way with our pal Dean Tempest Mitchell on driving duties with a 18-20 hour day ahead of us I didn’t think driving myself and Donna down there was a great idea! The trip down was fine and we made it to Deepcut by 7.30am.

The most surprising thing we noticed on arrival was how dry the trails were and that the temperature was almost 12c. The structure of the event means the 8-lap race started at 8.30am and the other races which ranged from 6 to 1 laps started at intervals throughout the day. So when the race began the regulars went off like it was a short xc race but this was with the intention of getting the gaps in before the other races started.

The top five riders were quickly out of sight and I was left in a small group of riders taping out a more bearable pace, the first few laps I did feel a little out of my comfort zone and cracks were showing! But I managed to pull it back together as we began to catch the 6-lap riders although this caused a few overtaking crashes within our group and became a bit stressful as I was determined to stay with Chris Noble who I know has strong calibre in this type of event.

The course was exceptionally technical for an endurance race and resembled a Nutcracker xc course at Gandale and the constant twists and turns made for a strava feed that looked like a bowl of spaghetti!

I eventually lost contact with Chris and began to question my endurance but my heart rate range was fine, it was just the constant throbbing in my quads that made me think I was pushing the limit.

A few silly crashes later and the last few laps were the most enjoyable as the volume of riders on the course had decreased and my flow over the technical sections had dramatically improved.

The last lap included  another crash on the last single track section before the finish line allowing the 11th rider to pass me so I dug deep for a sprint to clinch 10th …

Donna had a fantastic race achieving 3rd against some strong high calibre competition including Joe Munden (who seems to win every Gorrick event!) and Amanda Brooks who has some exceptional results to her name including a 3rd place at the Cape Epic !

IMG_4140

 

On reflection I was happy with my result as the course was far more technical than any marathon. 10th place on a 63mile xc course in a open male category against National and International champions doesn’t sound that bad!

The race was predominately fuelled by Nutrixxion products to maintain our fluid levels and maintain our mental focus.

 

 

#1000milemonth…almost done

I had hit mid February with nothing to really focus on and was fishing for ideas when someone mention doing 1000miles in a month…..I thought that sounds like something to get stuck into over March !

I hadn’t realised just how many hours in the saddle 1000miles is and have since realised its a long time and a long way! But we started well with the idea of getting a 100 mile ride in on a Saturday and stretching the other 100 or so miles over the week to give about a 220 to 250mile week depending on how things go with weather and work.

To be fair I haven’t been pushing myself just trying to maintain a pace I can stay at all day long and keeping the heart rate low. I’m now at the point where the Easter weekend looms and I have about 235miles to go, the only problem I have had is all the flat riding has caused a onset of fatigue making every little incline feel like a alpine summit. The aim is to put out 205miles tomorrow and then all we have to do is a steady 30 miles one day next week ..But there is a problem for donna as I am almost 170miles in front!..

 

I’ve found a love for the flatland which I didn’t believe I had if you find a little singletrack rough road in the middle of nowhere that goes on for a few flat miles its perfect, the only problem with flat riding is the wind and the relentless pedalling.

I will be fuelling the big 205 with small amounts of food frequently like I would do on a endurance race Chia charge bars are a great source of natural slow release energy perfect for this sort of challenge and I have a secret weapon for when things get grim in the form of the Nutrixxion xx force drink which is loaded with caffeine to make the ride more bearable….come Monday the road bike goes in the shed for a month!!

 

 

Strathpuffer 24 2016

And we will go 500 miles! There’s a whopping 8 hours drive ahead of us before we land in the Travel Lodge Inverness. Things are very different this year; the weather is almost tropical at 8 degrees in late January. For the Scottish Highlands that is pretty unusual!

We know what to expect this year and the feeling is just ‘bring it on!’

Our small group have all arrived safe and we settle down to an “all you can eat ” curry night……what could possibly go wrong?

A good night’s sleep in a comfy bed and we get back in the van ready to roll by 9am.

Friday morning and the real journey begins. A quick dash over to Square Wheels in Strathpeffer to get booked on. Team Nier and the Shibden cc are first in the queue and its only 9.30 am, only 2 hours 30 mins to wait.

Time flies by as we chat about all things bike and discuss where we hope to pitch on the fire road climb. 12 o’clock looms and Donna is primed ready to dash for the van once she has signed in, pass in hand ……12.02 and we’re off on a short drive to the next village and up the fire road into the woods. We seek out the spot we were hoping for and stand guard until all our Team arrives. Next it’s a mad dash to set up camp.

team nier puffer

from left: Dean Tempest-Mitchell, Donna Waring, Richard Dobson, Michal Siemencuk, Nigel Smith

The camp takes shape – to be fair we’ve had enough practice over the past 12 months! We stand back to watch the procession of vehicles going further up the fire road- horse boxes and £80,000 motor homes – all going to prove just how far Puffer has evolved with more than double the entries at over 800 compared to just a few years back.

nier camp puffer

 

We settle down once the generator and coffee machine are set up to await the 6pm sign on.

We were very unsure of our rivals this year. The teams have crazy names but conceal some really strong riders; “2 fat ladies” translates to two really quick female riders.

We decided to stick to what we know with Nigel lined up to do two laps from the gun then sit into doing alternate laps.

We hit the sleeping bags at 7pm and as per usual Nigel was too hyper too sleep, The following morning he rolls out of the van and didn’t think he had actually had any sleep at all! The buzz around the venue was rising and quickly things got hectic as we made all our last minute tinkers, fitting mud guards and deciding what to wear because it’s already 8oc!

 

Nigel comments: ‘It’s 10am and I’m in the lineup for the start. The brief has ended and we are 2 mins to go. I realise I’m a long way back!  On the gun I try to wind my way through the masses to get a decent start, and after collecting my bike from Donna, I run about 50 yards before jumping on the bike. I knew I needed to keep ahead so I put the hammer down to get towards the front and quickly rode into the top 15 on the fire road climb then eased off. There’s a long way to go ! Each lap is around 6.7 miles of sloppy mud greasy rocks and around 900ft of climbing.

Donna adds: ‘With the dibber round my neck I set off for my first of many laps, picking through the many riders on the track. I knew once the darkness kicked in there wouldn’t be as many out, and I much prefer it that way! I tried to drink at least 750ml of fluid after each lap and tried to get food in, mainly chia charge rice cakes, bars and my favorite chia charge  peanut butter and jam sarnies (without the crust)! And with a comfort break I knew my fluid intake was ok…………. My makeshift ensuite did the trick!’

Nigel continues: ‘I was having gearing issues with the intensity of the sticky mud and the only way to keep the transmission going was to jet wash the bike down after every lap. Dean was king of the pit and dragged at least 15 barrels of water up the hill to keep the jet wash going. Without his consistent maintenance I’m unsure we would have got through trouble free!’

‘By lap 12 we had made a significant gap on 2nd by being 1 lap up. Now it was all about sustaining the lead through the dark hours into early morning. At midnight I rode a double to give Donna a longer break but after this we were on back to back laps again till dawn.’

Donna picks up the tale; ‘My darkest moment was when Nigel went out on a double lap. I sat in the van after refueling and must have had a slight doze. Dean knocked on the window and said, 10 minutes! As I got out of the van I said “don’t think I can! Not really sure why I said this as I knew I would never give up. Dean looked at me and said come on you can! And I did 🙂

‘We were well into the night and on every lap my thoughts turned to the mudfest on the final section and having to get off and run. There was no way through that sinking feeling as the mud sucked your feet in and I struggled to even push my bike. On the final down into transition I made the decision to run this on my last 4 laps as I saw one too many go over the bars trying to ride. Then it was transition and the slog back to camp with 4kg of extra mud on board!’

‘I really appreciated the chats with a number of riders, giving each other the encouragement to dig in. I also rode alongside Guy Martin on the first fire road climb, both heads down until we reached the top when he turned to me and said “are you going first lass or do you want me to go?” referring to the bridge and rocky section at the top of the climb. I said ‘Go on I’ll let you go Guy; I will follow your line……. but don’t fall off!’ He replied ‘can’t promise that lass!’ and off he went, with me following.’

Nigel adds: ‘Our exposure lights were faultless and really made a substantial difference to the cheap Chinese options we had last year.  The conditions were far harder but I was determined to do more laps, and although we could have eased off at 26 laps, we were a lap and 30mins up. As I went out with 55mins still on the clock I thought that maybe I would go out for a 28th but …on the first moorland rocky section I managed to burp my rear tyre reducing the pressure dramatically which meant either stop and put some air in or ride out of the saddle to reduce the weight at the rear. I chose the latter.’

‘This also slowed me down and I missed the cut off for another lap by a few minutes so 27 laps it is! Every lap ended with a major mudfest which meant it became almost unrideable in the later laps. I chose to run this section for maybe 8 laps, but I’m not complaining – it all adds to a 24hour race which is meant to be extremely tough.’

We both love Puffer and the people who run it are just amazing. The event’s atmosphere would definitely take some beating; it’s competitive but everyone is supportive of each other.

Our journey home on Monday was not a pleasant one as you can imagine following one night’s sleep after being awake for 36 hours. Would we do it again?….YES! Bring on 2017!

 

 

Big thanks go out to all involved in the Puffer trip. Dean Tempest Mitchell you really are a star, none of this would be possible without you, and pitting for 4 people was a huge ask and you did it without complaining, taking a nap or getting into a flap!

Michal also rode solo achieving 13 laps and Richard Dobson achieved 16 laps both on their first 24hour solo – a great one to choose as your first, mental!

Huge thanks goes to Tim at chia charge who has supported us with fantastic products to keep us going. Nutrition is a huge part of performance in a 24hr and I think we are getting there, although at times you have to force yourself to eat.

Gorrick Brass Monkeys

A little Monkey Business – Merida Brass Monkey series

 

Where do I begin with the series……. Cold, muddy, damp and lots of fun!

As with all the races in the series it started with an early night in preparation for the drive to the venue, up at 4am ready for the tiring 8 hours round trip, and yes you may think why bother but RD1 was all about Nigel receiving the trophy he deserved for 3rd place male solo at 12:12 Torq in your sleep

torq podium2

Although it looks a little awkward, what you can’t see is the 200+ riders at the start line in front of him and the strong gust of wind that nearly blew him off the box in front of the crowd, which would have made great viewing!

 

The course on RD1 had been moved to a new location…. Shorter and flatter which wasn’t ideal and didn’t mean easier. As we lined up for the 4 hour race I really didn’t know what to expect, you tend to do the glance around to try and spot your competition but it’s hard to spot your female vet competition amongst the crowds.

The course was a total mud fest and quite windy which made for an interesting race! After the second lap I rode through transition and spotted another female going through ahead and as she did the announcement came, “1st female vet closely followed by second place Donna Waring”, so not too bad but then she pulled up to the pits and I rode past her so I knew I was in first position, just need to hold onto it!

After what felt like a 4 hour cyclocross race the end was in sight, 1st female vet, quite chuffed with that;)

And round 2, well after my first win thought I may as well finish the series something to keep me going through winter in preparation for Strathpuffer in January. This course was longer as I had expected with a few more little kick ups and technical descents, after a good start I surprised myself by hanging onto first position, so all to do on the last round!

 

Round 3 brought its own problems for me, the main one being that due to the weather it had been postponed for 2 weeks which at any other time would be fine, however the week before Strathpuffer didn’t fill me with joy!

As we set off at 5am for our now regular trip south there was a common theme on the way down.. snow everywhere. In my head I wanted to win but I knew I just needed to podium to win the series and take no risks, puffer was more important….ha until I started! It was a cold start and with the combination of hail, snow and rain it wasn’t the most pleasant conditions but I plodded on, in the hope that the weather would force some to quit. I had no idea throughout which position I was in as there were no announcements through transition which was a little frustrating if not annoying to start with, but I thought no risks!

On my last lap I looked at the time and in all honesty I could have got another lap in, but I really didn’t want to. And where was Nigel? I was quite used to him passing me towards the end but he hadn’t and I couldn’t see him anywhere, a fall possibly! As I approached the last slog to transition there he was stood on the side, so I pulled up to ask what was wrong. Nigel had a fall around 3 hours in and decided not to cause further injury and pulled out……. Wise decision. What can I say I loitered around the finish until 4 hours had lapsed then rode through the finish to take the win, and the series:)

Nigel came 5th overall in the series which is a great result for us both in our first winter series

brass monkeys donna

 

 

I want to say a huge Thankyou to our sponsor Chiacharge couldn’t survive the race without them, just having the bar in my rear pocket and getting the calories/ nutrition in has made a huge improvement and weaned me off energy gels.

Also I want to give credit to the organisers of this event as they have been so supportive from dealing with the incident at Torq in a professional manner to give Nigel his podium position and also offering somewhere to camp if needed knowing the long journey we had been making, Gorrick Team you are Fab!

A year of endurance racing

 

 

2015 has been the first year Donna and I have channelled our cycling energy into riding 24hour endurance races with the intention of getting on the podium.

All the races are on the mountain bike and consist of multiple laps around a cross country course of approximately 7 miles, with a fair share of steep technical climbs and descents.   When riding as a pairs team we generally ride a lap each and swap in the transition area. But tactics do come in to play in the latter stages and 18 hours is generally the make or break point as the consistent darkness and fatigue begins to break people!

To be fair for a first year of attempts we managed some great results with the only real downer being we never hit the top step!

A lot of this is down to the calibre of the athletes who compete, at Puffer we were up against the infamous Lee Craigie who showed her true class outperforming most of the men! At Mountain Mayhem again it was more about the strength of the women involved as we were up against Chorley on the drops who have a reputation for strong female riders.

Then at Bontrager 24 we got stung again by another super pairing of the Hortons who have many years’ experience in mountain biking; I believe Maddie Horton narrowly missed out on representing team GB at the 2012 Olympics so you could say she’s pretty good!

Our final pairs event of the year was Relentless 24, a no fuss event at the Nevis range where there was a last minute sign on in mixed pairs for Rob Friel and Lee Craigie which sealed the top spot! But to be fair we were not on form and failed to podium due to many factors….mainly lack of sleep!

But we did both podium at Torq12 as soloists so not at all a bad year. And we had some real laughs with the Team NIER crew so all’s good leading into 2016.

Now we start to make the adjustments for the year ahead. Torq 12:12 proved to be my standout event, basically because nothing could really go much better. I had my hydration and nutrition nailed and was strong all the way through and only dropped 6mins in 12.5hrs.

Nutrition has paid a major role in our performance and the addition of Chia Charge products to our calorie consumption has been a fantastic choice with high quality slow release energy. Gels have gradually faded out of my routine as I find they generally upset my stomach and are an unsustainable energy source over long events. I am finding that the Chia Charge bars are great for me as a back pocket snack and have been using Chia Charge Nut Butter in our rice cake mix.

 

 

 

Rice Cakes Recipe we use

  • 500g Sushi rice, and don’t wash it. I use Yutaka Sushi Rice 500g – Sainsbury’s
  • Cook with 1 litre of water, two table spoons of granulated sugar, 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon, vanilla, or nutmeg for flavor.
  • Cooking time should be about 20 minutes, making rice that isn’t too soggy. Don’t take the lid off during cooking. Leave the rice to rest for five minutes.
  • Add two tablespoons of coconut oil (which, despite its name, is a solid substance and not an oil) I use KTC Coconut Oil 500ml – Sainsbury’s
  • 250g of cream cheese ( Philadelphia) and Chia Charge Nut Butter
  • Mix well.
  • Lay out on cling film on a baking tray. Fold the cling film over the slab of rice to create a parcel – fold while the rice is still hot so it stays sterile.
  • Leave the tray to cool, then put in the fridge overnight.
  • The next day, chop the parcel of rice into energy bar-sized chunks. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Do not reheat the rice cakes.

 

 

These endurance events were not our only focus in 2015 as we also took part in other fantastic events all around the UK including super tough sportives; the Fred Whitton and the Etape Du Dales, and we returned to Kielder 101 (which Donna won!)

Then there was a little cobbled climb event ‘Up the Buttress’ in Hebden Bridge which was in torrential rain! Again Donna won first place… are you starting to see a pattern from Donna?

I’m so proud of her this year – when she gets the game face on she is unstoppable!

While I’m being thankful I would like to thank the supporters who make these results happen with constant support as pit crew and good friends. We will never be a pro team but good things are possible with the right people pushing you forward. Thank you to Chia Charge for supplying us with fantastic products to keep us going. And thank you to my fellow NIER teammates – it wouldn’t be the same without you!

Mental attitude

It’s great to see so many people enjoying big 24hour events and when things get tough and you begin to think “I’ve had enough” that’s when you have to pull yourself together and seeing pensioners riding the Strathpuffer course at 4am makes you think “have I gone soft?…if he can do it surely I can!” I’ve even crashed into trees and laid on the floor for a minute…. Then managed to pull myself round so the mental attitude is a huge factor and to be fair Donna can be mentally tougher than me which in turn makes me reassess the situation and dig deep.

 

Roll on Strathpuffer 2016…

 

Relentless 24 hour pairs 30/31st October 2015

Donna and I set off on Friday 29th at 4am to travel the 7 hours up to Fort William. We’d been looking forward to this race as we hadn’t competed in pairs for a while after doing some solo competitions recently. It was pretty poor weather and over the first few hours’ the journey started to get worse with major road works and worsening driving conditions. But as we got into Scotland the weather improved and was better than expected although we had packed for whatever was thrown at us!

We arrived at the venue just before midday a little tired but immediately began setting up our camp in the large hard standing carpark. Michal arrived about an hour or so later as ‘Mr Support Crew’ and we finalised our camp setup. The weather was surprisingly warm at 12 degrees and the wind was non-existent!

gazebonight camp

We decided to do a recce lap before dark, which lived up to the reputation of long climbs and techy descents. The terrain was all-weather but there had been some forestry work and parts of the route were chewed up and covered with sloppy mud, not only was there this to contend with but there was an added uphill Northshore. On returning to Camp we were told a random gust of wind had flipped the gazebo and had trashed a few others in camp where many people were caught off guard! We were starting to get the impression things were not going to be that straight forward.

The night that followed was a bit of a “nightmare” with severe wind causing devastation in the camp and some people had abandoned their kit in favour of a Travelodge and not pegged owt down! At 4am the large gazebo at the side of us had flipped and was on its way towards my van so I had to get up and remove the canopy to avoid any damage. So that was my sleep ruined as I never really got back to sleep and eventually got up at 7am. The next few hours flew by with breakfast and last minute bike prep, then a briefing at 11.30am and at 12 o’clock I was on the start line chatting to Rich Rothwell when he told me Lee Cragie and Rob Friel were riding pairs. I knew that meant 1st place was gone and Donna and I were now riding for second!

The gun went off and my 2 lap stint began! The laps were no easy task, there was plenty of climbing and some serious technical sections and just to kick you in the teeth the last few miles consisted of an extra loop from transition area with uphill switchbacks.

Donna and I pushed through going one lap each for 12 or so laps but now I could see we were slightly drifting and the gaps on second and third were increasing so I put in another double which brought us into 3rd which was 2mins down on second and that’s how it played out over the next few laps with only a few minutes between 2nd, 3rd and 4th. The top spot was as I expected sealed on the start line as the only way ‘sponsors nightmare’ were going to lose was by accident or major mechanical.

 

Even though we had done little prep for this event the force was strong until Donna, my long term suffering partner, was hit with her reoccurring vertigo and was struggling to carry on, and I was beginning to develop severe stomach cramps…. we could see our chances of a podium spot drifting as the gap on 3rd was up to 20mins even though our lap times were quite consistent and conditions never really changed and I was still in short sleeves well gone 1am. By lap 18 our morale was at a low and my mind was telling me “what’s the point”. We decided it was over in favour of our health, Donna’s laps were becoming dangerous for her as feeling punch drunk with the vertigo and riding down fast flowing technical descents don’t mix!

When I look back I just think my mind set was all over the place and I had given into our problem instead of using my head to think about keeping moving, but on reflection it was a lost cause at this point and trying to maintain a good pace to keep in contention against such strong riders was not going to happen.

We sat in the cosy gazebo with the fire blazing and that’s all I remember until waking in a sweat thinking “What have I done! We don’t give up!” It was about 9am and I quickly jumped up and into some fresh clothes with a new lease of life! There was no real pressure on me but I managed to push out four continuous laps to leave us on a more respectable 22laps. Not too bad after falling asleep for 5 hours!

We learnt a great deal from this event, most of all don’t underestimate your competition and nutrition is king! I found it very difficult to get enough calories in with the stomach cramps. So even though I managed to get through a fair few Chia Charge bars I eventually ran low on energy and in that situation the mind then goes offline!

don relentless

 

I do think a major factor in how we performed was the lack of sleep on the few days leading up to the event and maybe we would have been feeling better if we had stayed in the comfort of the local Travelodge the night before the event.

Relentless is definitely the toughest 24 hour race in the UK in regards to the course and the amount of climbing involved; we covered 22 laps and 24,000ft of climbing and that was nowt more than an average attempt in comparison to the ‘sponsors nightmare’ pair who managed 33 laps!

We will definitely be back but much better preparations are required… note to self: don’t underestimate 24 hour races!

tired

Bit tired on the way home!

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Torq 12:12 Minley Manor 31st August 2015 first solo!

torq start

Last year my partner Donna and I competed in the 6 hour solo category at this event and we both finished in second place, plus I was the only single speeder in my category.  We had high hopes for this year but stepping up to a 12 hour solo was stepping in to the unknown!

ready to go torq

We had a great little support crew with us; Dean Tempest, Sally Hatfield, Monica Simenczuk, and the mighty Matt Wilson who always intended on racing even though he said not.

The NIER team (Donna, Michal and I) were all racing as 12 hour solos and as the start time arrived I was feeling great but eager to get a good start so I gradually worked my way towards the front. Due to the volume of racers I was only able to move forwards enough to get about 10 rows back which put me within the top 50 on the start line.

The whistle blew and we were off! I needed to improve my position so I battled through to the top 20 within the first lap but witnessed some devastation along the way, I went strong for the first three laps, hoping to have gained a good position but none of the team had managed to clock who was in which place so I just tried to keep a steady pace and keep hydrated as it was really warm.

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It was during lap 8 when I heard the message over the loud speaker that I was in 4th place but I knew the guy in 5th was in hot pursuit so it was on with the lights and keep moving… despite the competition I had promised myself a coffee on the next lap as motivation so as I came past camp on lap 9 I pulled in and passed the bike to Dean and made myself a coffee. This probably lost me a few minutes but the motivational boost made up for it and I headed back out.

I passed Donna on maybe lap 6 then again later on and seeing how strong she looked gave me another mental boost, she was leading the vet female category and looked like she could keep going for 48hrs!

My coordination had recovered after the coffee and the next few laps seemed to pass by without any real issue then as I got to lap 12 it was time for my “dark moment” which is when my mind is saying “why are you doing this?” and I have to say to myself keep going your tougher than you think. Strange but I can have a bad lap crash a few times and then just pull myself back together, and that’s what I did even though on lap 14 I was like a pinball bouncing off every tree or rut in my way.

As I hit lap 15 I knew this last lap would secure my position and I had to push on, the two-mile marker was a happy sight as I knew it was all nearly over! On crossing the line my fellow NIER teammate Michal shoved a glass of Leffe in my face (not really what I want after a 12hr ride) I looked destroyed and had finished in 4th place which was a little disappointing for me… but as it turned out the following few days revealed that the winner had actually cheated!  It turned out he hadn’t been completing the full course so his lap times were significantly quicker than everyone else’s. Luckily this had been spotted and reported and he was disqualified a few days after the event finished. A few days after the race I was notified by the organisers that indeed I had now finished 3rd and that podium position was mine J Thanks Gorrick.

My partner and fellow NIER teammate Donna was so strong at this event and I was very proud of her, she was first female vet and 1st overall which is a great achievement in her first 12hour solo.

Our other NIER teammate Michal did far better than last year and looked much stronger and achieved 11th position.

Our pal Matt Wilson was 1st in the 6hr vet category (even though he never went to race!).

And the little Gaby got a podium in her race

michal and gabs

I was very happy with my first 12 hour and to only drop 6mins in total was credit to a great pit crew and I hope they know how valuable they are to the team – many thanks to all of you… until next time 😉

Torq in your sleep- Blog de Donna

I really didn’t know what to expect at this event, it was my first 12-hour solo and my head was spinning with thoughts of “have I done enough training? What if I’m too slow? What do I eat? Drink?”

After giving myself a talking to I decided that I would get the first few laps in and then settle into a pace and try not to stop too much, only for a refuel and a visit to the ladies. This meant relying heavily on our support crew but as they had previously supported us through a 24hr mixed pair event earlier this year they knew what to do.

I attended the race brief 30 minutes before the start and this is where the adrenaline kicked in – with all the women eyeing each other up second guessing if you are racing against them, looking you up and down and trying to figure out your category from your race number……..  Guys just check out each other’s bikes!

I took on a little more fluid then rode to the start line, which again is a tough decision, do I get to the front or try to blend into the pack and risk getting caught up in the carnage of the first stretch of single track, I opted for the latter. As the whistle went all the fast teams and pairs raced off, it’s really easy to get caught up in this but I needed to remember I was solo 12 hours not a team, so I held back a little, which worked out well as the field split naturally as we went around the field.

Lap one was quite tough as the mixture of abilities made it quite difficult as I often got stuck behind people and the single track made it difficult to overtake, but once the first lap was over I started to settle in for the long haul.

It was as early as lap 2 that I passed the start line and they announced over the loud speaker that I was in 1st position in female vet….. So no pressure!

On lap 4 there was another female in my sights so when I caught up we exchanged a few words, she was in the 18-39 category and this was her first 12 hour solo event, she expected to do okay and told me her friend was a great endurance rider and she expect her to win… it was at this point I pulled ahead of her and didn’t see her again.

I tried to drink a bottle on each lap and I used the same stretch of track on each lap so it became the norm and I got myself into a routine, I know from previous experience dehydration isn’t a good place to be. As I passed our camp there was no doubt our crew were tuned into what we needed as my bottles and my peanut butter and jam sarnie with the crusts cut off were ready ……… it takes too long to chew a crust! One of my biggest challenges was how to lose as little time as possible but be able to go to the toilet, which is where a bucket and our awning came in handy… it certainly made for a quick turnaround! Please don’t be fooled the Minion was a motivator and for Michal the alcoholic beverages were inspiring!

torq minion

Lap 5 saw my first break from the race which I fully deserved as I took a different line and hit a tree root coming off, but I jumped back on my bike and carried on. It wasn’t until near the pit I realised blood was trickling down my leg, so as I enjoyed my crust-free sandwich Sally mopped the blood from my leg and off I went!

On lap 6 I glanced behind and realised my partner and NIER teammate Nigel was coming up behind me, he was looking really strong and way faster than me. We exchanged a few words then he was off, I did mention I was in the lead and he said “you’re doing well keep going”… I intended to!

Lap 8 proved to be quite a good lap as I caught up with the women in 2nd and 3rd position, which was slightly awkward but also gave me a boost. The chats along the way were very pleasant but clearly we were checking each other out and how we felt, both told me they were finding it difficult, they were tired and I wasn’t! Maybe a little naughty of me but when they asked how I felt, I replied “feeling really good” which was not what they wanted to hear!

On my 10th lap I figured I would have to either pick up the pace and aim for 13 laps or take 12 laps at the pace I was going. That’s when my pit crew came in, not only to support with food and drink but to keep tabs on the position I was in, my view is there’s no point killing yourself if the person in 2nd has no chance of catching you. The news was good for me – the girl in 2nd place had fallen to 2 laps behind me so I didn’t need to go on for a 13th lap.

My last lap was a very steady one. I knew I had won and didn’t need to get a rush on. I rode the final lap with a guy I got chatting with, I didn’t ask his name and I can’t remember his club, but he was very encouraging and on a couple of the climbs when I thought “doesn’t matter if I walk these now” he said “come on you don’t need to walk – push through!” and I did. We rode the whole of the final lap together just chatting away, I also followed his line as he was local and knew the course. This was great in the final lap as tiredness equals mistakes.

As I went through the finish line I felt really good (I could have done even more laps if needed which was a shocker to me) but no matter it was over! I said goodbye and thank you to my last-lap-buddy and he congratulated me on my win, then it was off to find the rest of the NIER team and crew.

nier torq

As you can see I looked okay at the end, but the beer was merely for show there was no way I could drink it!

don torq

Hmmm, not sure what the caption is here but I was being nice, I think! My first 12 hour solo and a win! No one was more surprised than me at the result but I’m now asking myself if I can push further… well I’ll give it a go… 24hr solo it is 🙂

torq podium

 

I think this goes for all the events I have participated in recently, my result would not have been possible without a fantastic pit crew and we have the best! The NIER team are lucky to have a great support team behind us whether it’s feeding us, motivating us, taking care of our bikes and most of all our sanity!

And it helps they are all mad as hatters!

sal battenburgvan crewtorq pitbattenburg

 

Bontrager 24hr 2015

Race Report: Bontrager TwentyFour12 Celebrating 10 Years

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August 11th 2015

By Nigel Smith

This event is probably the most renowned 24hr mountain bike race event in the UK due to the continued sponsorship from Mr Bontrager and the quality of the course; approximately 12-14km entirely off road. I was racing in a pair with my Partner Donna and this year’s race was on 25th and 26th July.
Support CampOn Thursday we arrived at Newham Park in Plymouth to find nice sunny conditions to set up the trackside camp and await arrival of our support team. This type of event relies heavily on a strong support crew as when riding in pairs you have very little time to take on food and make running repairs; plus the fact you become extremely delirious at 4am so assistance is a must!
At 2am on Friday morning the heavens opened and the torrential rain didn’t stop until 5pm. This changed the course massively and whilst the outlook for Saturday’s race start was fair weather, to some degree the damage was already done!
At 12 o’clock the race start was chaos with over 200 riders fighting for a good line and there were a few broken bones for a R.A.F rider within the first mile of racing. Once we hit the first climb the pack split rapidly and I ended up in the top 25 going through the first lap, but I had to monitor my efforts as many of these “fast lads” were riding in teams of 4 or 5 and I was in for probably 3 times as many laps as them!
I went out for another lap to give us some chance of opening up a lead over the 8.3 mile course and on hitting transition and passing the baton to Donna we were up by 1 minute!!
This was short lived as the calibre of the multiple TwentyFour12 champions, Jay and Maddie Horton, began to show and they quickly wound us in and by 6 hours in they were over a lap up.
All went to plan as Donna and I continued riding back-to-back into the darkness, then the rain began to fall much heavier than I expected which turned the whole course into a river. Some sections of routes were now crazy to ride and a few over-the-bars moments occurred!!
As we hit daylight at 5.30am we assessed the situation. We were clearly in second place and had very little chance of chasing down first place as the pair ahead of us were three laps up. So I went out to do a double lap and gave Donna some rest time. On the second lap my energy reserves had depleted and I felt like I was crawling round. The track was at its worst and I was extremely cold and wet! I called at the track side camp for a quick drink of coke and the decision was made at 9am that we could finish in a secure second place and there was no need to ride the last three hours as we had put enough in and I was at the point of “I can go on but I’m on my knees”.
The Hortons (fully sussed) continued for another hour then called it a day with a clear win and third were nowhere to be seen… we came second… job done!
On reflection we learnt a lot at this event:
1 – xc/24hr/12hr champions take some beating
2 – Weather can be really grim down sarf
3 – When you’ve burned over 10,000 calories you must keep eating and drinking
4 – Our support crew are the best!!!
Next for me is the 12:12 TORQ on 30th August at Minley Manor in Hampshire. This will be my first 12 hour solo effort and I’m really looking forward to it.