The Deadwater Dirty Dozen was a one off 12-hour lapped mountain bike race to celebrate the Tour of Britain using a similar course to its big brother the 24hr Kielder Chiller. The lap was fast and had plenty of climbing attached to it. Six days earlier I had tackled the 10@Kirroughtree with its more technical demanding descents and tough climbs. These two races were of a night and day scenario. But as always with High Fell Events there would be a good twist of Northumberland bitter racing lemon squeezed and added (usually with a touch of ice) then dipped into the days racing. This was apparent at 6.30am as we all trundled up to the start!

A very cruel start indeed. We were all heading up to the top of the Deadwater trail which is the highest man-made trail in Britain. With that heart awakening climb disappearing into the thin wispy clouds in a blink of a watery eye I was careering down the uneven and fast 3km rocky descent and on to the red and marked course to complete a lap, that they didn’t even count! Still all around in one piece.  Then it was time to kick start them old legs and bury myself.

This was a fast course as it was dry. A real bonus considering  it was Kielder. The wettest place known to man! I started to tick the laps off and settled into a pace that I could manage for 12-hours. I do struggle in keeping a fast pace in the shorter endurance races. Built for plodding not speed I was starting to struggle 5 hours in. Forgetting to take my water bottle for one lap would not have helped. Then not hydrating properly on every lap after the “bottle incident” made the race fold into a slow motion struggle for a few hours. On one lap I was convinced that someone was rewinding time as I crawled up a new climb that was introduced for the race. When the legs are lost to the hollowness of the self harming cycling pain and the climbs are stretching out and beyond your front wheel you have to just grin and bear it. Take it on the chin and ride it out or fold like a deck of cards as you have created this carousel of stingy pain and discomfort.

As I started to enter the twilight era I began to feel slightly better. My hydration colour was getting back to the normal solo endurance race colour of dark yellow and not that deep dark brown. I started to feel stronger and the final laps became easier and not as laboured. As I dibbed in on my (official) 13th lap I had 50 minutes to get back around the course for 14 laps . My last lap was bang on 50 minutes so I had a choice.  My choice was to hand my dibber in. I did not have the faith in myself to complete the final lap in time. I feared the failure without even trying to live in the fear. There are always slots of regret when I race on decisions and actions that ultimately make me snarl after the dust has settled. Lessons in the school of endurance racing. Forever learning.

So after 150km and 4132 meters of climbing I managed another 8th placed finish. Happy with the result but there are many lessons learnt and taken in. I hope this race comes back as the 12hr race format is tough but very enjoyable.