When the Galloway Hillbillies resurrected this racing format from No Fuss Events I promised myself that I would return. I was at the 2009 No Fuss event and after every rain drop known to mankind and beyond fell on that course it became a big sloppy, slow and dangerous mud bath. The course was shortened midway through because of the trail conditions and weather. It was also cut short due to darkness that occurred when riding the newly cut wooded trails. But it still stuck in my mind as one of my favourite but toughest short endurance races that I have ever done.
Roll on 6 years and I am returning with a wife (Lisa), 2 dogs (which I have roped in to help on the short pitting duties) a comfier bike and a willingness to have another crack at this Kirroughtree 10hr endurance event. This year the weather gods were kind and bathed Kirroughtree in a warm and lazy sunshine haze that suited the pit crews and supporters but captured the energy and determination of the riders and drained it with its pulsating rays and heat. Cocooned in your own little heat bubble the claustrophobic helmet sieves the salt from the strap and massages it into your face and down your neck. I can’t think of anything better as, coming from the rain lashed central belt of Scotland, the sun is a rare beast in my neck of the woods.
Suited and booted we all cracked the whip at 8:30am and we were off. As I travelled through the pack of riders the course was alien to me. I have not ridden Kirroughtree for a long time and, with not living local to do a course recon I am riding blind for the first lap. This feeling of apprehension is short lived as I take a sharp left into some woods and it all comes back. The woods, the roots, the descents, the rocks, the climbs, the pain, the fun and the realisation that this is going to be a hard and technical course, but one with the smile factor to make you want to ride it again.
The first couple of laps in the woods still had that dark menace about them. The exposed roots and rocks on the descents and climbs were painted with morning iced dew that glistened with the early shoots of the morning sun. This is what I call the devil’s slime as it makes rocks and roots very anti-rubber. Hurtling down a root strewn descent I made the cardinal sin of slightly squeezing my front brake and I was immediately rewarded with a face full of dirt and pine needles, a throbbing ankle due to me not clipping out fast enough and a bike which had landed several feet away from me . After a quick meerkat impression checking that no one saw me I dusted myself down, coughed up a lung and set off gingerly into the woods again. This 10-mile course engaged every aspect of mountain biking. Be it the flowing rocky Kirroughtree red trail, the off-piste trails in the woods, the short and sharp little inclines that make your thighs pulsate and your lungs burn, the little rock gardens that appear out of nowhere and yes there was the obligatory fireroad climb that I was happy to use as my refuelling zone due to the course keeping you on your toes most of the way.
As the day wore on the lap became a lonely place. The silence of a warm, hot day was only broken by the crunching of gravel, the odd hello and the squealing of brakes. As the day dipped into early evening I found myself slowly weaving through the pine trees marveling at the shafts of light piercing the canopy above. The feeling of “this is why I bike” engulfed my senses. Even when they were dulled by a muscle stretching short climb. On my 8th lap I stopped my twin peaks dream sequence to race back to the start and see if I could get one more lap in. I dibbed in and was told I had 1hr 10minuites to complete the final lap. My last lap was 1hr 13minuites and to be fair I was totally cooked. I made the decision to quit on 8 laps, but as I look back I wished I had just pushed myself that little more. Just to see how the body would react under more pressure.
So be it my road of learning is far and wide, I am getting there. I was riding for 9hrs and 26 minutes with 24 minutes used on pit stops, sore feet stops and a crash. I was 9th in the overall solo rider category and 6th in the vet category. I got 8 laps in and climbed 3030 meters. I have to say that this course was brutal but worth the wait. I would recommend this event to anyone who loves a challenge and loves to mountain bike as it has everything. Big shout out to Jon Entwistle who is making me believe that I can do it. I will break the magic 9 lap hoodoo that I seem to have!!!
Big thanks to Lisa for the support. I have not had a diva strop yet!!!