SUN KISSED RIDING FROM THE LAKE OF FIRE
The sun dipped its head into the descending darkness like a golden coin slipping into a warm dark pocket. The tranquil bell ringing village of Minchinhampton soothed me to sleep with a gentle breeze and a false hope of cracking the whip at the last ever Mountain Mayhem. As the Friday night settled into the woods the flames of pain and suffering were being fanned and stocked for the upcoming race.
I have competed at a few Mountain Mayhems and always encountered a relaxed party atmosphere and good solid warm weather. But as I stood at the starting line preparing to ride a bike for 24hrs a bead of hot silky sweat headed south down my neck and onto the fat motorway of my back. The hot sticky blue tar sky that pushed down a layer of pressing heat to crush the waiting riders had got me thinking. Sod this!! Let’s hit the bar.
As the race unfolded and the pulsating heat waltzed with the shade of the forest I made the mistake of racing through the heat and attacking the course rather than waiting for the night. The course was a cracker with a nice collection of short, sharp hill climbs that suit a rider of my build. Also riding on the hard, dusty trails was a pleasure. For a bit. I had not really recovered properly from a serious stack that popped my AC shoulder joint, bruised my ribs and sternum , cracked my back teeth and gave me a wee bit of whip lash.
After 5hrs of hard riding I could feel the injuries starting to niggle. Especially my shoulder which was starting to really hurt with all the braking divots that had appeared. The cooler night brought slower laps, bouts of sickness, longer faffing time and a realisation that I had been affected by the searing heat. I rode some of the night with my team mate Tom Hodgkinson who had also suffered in the heat but was mentally shutting down. After a bitch of a high speed crash (I thought he was a goner) it was like someone had switched him off. Fair play to Tom. He rode through the night beating the 24hr demons but that will be his story to tell.
As the morning light breathed in the dark warm night I pushed on and on and I was struggling to hold onto my right side of the handlebar with the pain that my shoulder was giving. As the morning heat settled into its daily baking routine I came into the pits on my 20th lap. I had plenty of time to spare and should have cracked out 2 more laps but as I sunk into my chair, took off my helmet and kicked off my heels I had no want to go out again. Usually I am buzzing to push the time limit and myself but I wasn’t bothered one bit. I loved that course and the whole ethos of Mountain Mayhem but I did not enjoy the race at all. I wanted to bin it at 9pm on the Saturday night. A bit of a strange one that.
All in all I finished 13th overall solo out of 200 with 20 laps and according to the vets category (if I have worked that one out right) I was 2nd in the male vets. I also made some new friends which is for me what this is all about. Made of the right stuff too those boys!
As always big thanks goes to Jon Entwistle for the guidance and support. Next time hopefully. Mel for looking after myself whilst sorting out Tom and Lisa. Team JMC for the collective wisdom that comes with years of racing and experience and finally my lovely wife Lisa for just being her and passing me and Tom on a climb riding her SS whilst calmly telling us that there is a rider coming through. Amazing.