I have carved out words and meanings, phrases and fables of pain and suffering from the No Fuss tree of Relentless 24 racing. My initials have been blindly hacked into its hard tartan spewed dark shadow of a trunk. Its dark thick skinned bark bending my blunt blade of hope and fulfillment. These manic actions only leave fragments of failure and broken dreams in the shadow of the Ben and on its slopes of discomfort. I have grabbed and reached blindly in many a frenzied attack trying to gain a grip on its slimy branches hoping that I can scale its mighty heights to see the view from the top. To look down on heads and be blinded by stars. This is how the dreams are started and forged. It’s why I put aside my beer and pedal in the rain. Unfortunately I am always found floundering on its rock kissed dark and broody underbelly. Scrambling around for scraps all Sméagol like. This year was no better.
I had come to this year’s Relentless feeling under-prepared and unfit. This due to study, lack of confidence and launching my own clothing brand “Steely Eyed Biker” (shameless plug sorry) I decided to treat this as a big away day training ride. As the day drew closer and the eve turned into race day I could not suppress the racing instinct that pushes from within and engages my brain. I might be slow but I am competitive. That equals everyone is fair game even if on paper I couldn’t lace their boots. They are still ripe for the picking if their race goes wrong. As the wind and rain swirled through the spokes and whistled through the cranks the riders kicked off another Relentless 24 and the chase was on. As the first laps started to erode the daylight hours I started to think about racing this rather that just taking a back seat and cranking out 10hrs on the bike then bed. I already had a mental battle on just trying to get my head around racing for 24 hours and completing the job. But my biggest mental and physical battle was yet to come. At 3am I basically got the crap kicked out of me. Sparked out to the count of ten. This was a big learning curve and the teacher draped in a long black flowing forbidden gown and mortar board handed over a shovel for me to dig my own grave whilst they silently watched. Their eyes reflecting my pain. Their smile celebrating my weakness.
I had basically run out of energy and in the small wee hours I could not eat, I was sick and I kept on falling asleep. Game over? I was quickly bundled in the van, wrapped up and left to die. As the night vultures surrounded the van eagerly waiting for my angels share to pass from my lips my fighting consciousness kept on waking me up and directing my eyes to the few riders that were passing in the distance. Their lights like distant shooting stars were trying to kick start my cold and dead engine. The moving lights were taunting me. Trying to awaken my spirit. The whispering in my head, the voices telling me to move, get out, ride my bike. If they are doing it. I was trying to move but my body was shackled with the chains of pain and guilt. I moved. I had sat up. The lights like orbs of glowing energy gently and rhythmically transported me out and into the cold. I was alive and the dawn was starting to prise open its beautiful day for all to see.
I refueled and hopped onto my bike. I had a lot of work to do but as always the team pit had been fantastic. Bike ready, food ready and encouragement in abundance ready. As I rode into the changing light I was ready. I knew that the distance that I had raced for was out of reach but if I could stretch my Mr Tickle arms just a wee bit farther then I could end up with an acceptable ( to me) distance covered. As the light erased the last clinging shade of blue the sun became my companion I knuckled down to completing the last remaining hours available. As the final laps evaporated and my energy stocks became depleted I was still trying to push hard and get my 20th lap. I had swapped bikes as my Cube AMS had decided that the rear mech was now an unfashionable accessory and ditched it. Lucky this hiccup occurred at the start and not halfway around. As the wind blew me down the last section of blue I dibbed in for my 19th lap. I had saved a couple of gels and half a Torq bar in case I had the chance of getting another lap in. Sadly I was too slow but I gave everything in trying to get around in time.
So another Relentless squeezes the last drops of biking goodness out of October and gives me another lesson in endurance racing. One day I will have the perfect storm but until then I will wallow in the dark shadows counting calories and chasing shadows whilst contemplating my future in riding these events.
Once again great riding from Team JMC at Relentless and a huge thank you to the pit team Mel, Sally , sometimes Budge ( if he was not out on the course) and my long suffering wife Lisa who inspires me to do more even when I can’t.