I don’t think there is any substitute to getting ‘race fit’ by simply doing a load of races. I’ve had a fairly hectic winter so haven’t managed to get quite as much squeezed in as usual but that’s OK as there have been lots more exciting things going on. So my getting race fit by racing is a bit more condensed this year in the run in to the UK 24 Champs on the Isle of Man in a few weeks time.
First up was the Gorrick 100 which was a last minute substitute for the Dyfi Enduro which was cancelled at late notice. A good quality field turned out in the baking heat, I got my drinking a bit wrong and also had a momentary brain failure when I thought it would be a good idea to wolf down a whole protein bar on lap 3, queue stomach soup, bit of mouth vom and generally dying a death. It was good to get a longer race in though and catch up with some buddies. I ended up 10th after losing a few places on the last couple of laps but fared better than some who succumbed to the heat in various ways.
Next a double header weekend (I said I was cramming) with two not races but we all know they are races Heaven of the South and the Wild Boar Chase. Weirdly both events were 44 miles with almost exactly the same climbing on the same weekend. Heaven of the South is more about the cider drinking for most with a cider stop near the end but I was pretty head down from the off with a few other keenos who weren’t hanging about. The course is an old skool bridleway sort of affair with lots of road sections but mostly steep climbs which isn’t all bad. There was some lovely twisty singletrack in amongst that lot and I didn’t actually get horribly lost like a couple of years ago which was a bonus. I did however suffer from a slipping seat post so lost contact with the front man David Beskeen (who was disguised with a dropper equipped bike and baggy shorts) fairly early on but I felt better finishing 2nd rider back after noting his top 10 finish at Battle on the Beach! It was the first of two absolutely booming weather days to ride on.
We had taken the caravan for the weekend to Minchinhampton as a base between the two events and for some much needed R&R in between. It was Rory’s first outing in the shed on wheels and all went well which was a bonus! Possibly helped by the weather and availability of locally made cake and ice cream. We almost didn’t make the whole weekend though with the caravan needing a call to the AA to get the car electrics sorted where it turned out a fuse had blown making the caravan brake lights etc not work. It was not a good few hours as I tried to figure out what was wrong and given some recent shitty events, like my gran dying, meant I was pretty relieved when the AA man did the business and got us rolling again. The beer tasted sweet that night at the campsite!
Back to the racing. Day two was the Wild Boar Chase organised by the Lions Club in the Forest of Dean. An event I hadn’t done before but another fast blast was good to get in the bank after the day before. Again I found myself with a handful of keenos at the front. Jared Linden disappeared up the road never to be seen again but 4 of us rode close together for the first couple of hours including Huw Thomas who was clearly the strongest rider on the day, towing half of us along the massive fire road time trial fest that the ride mostly entailed. I managed a few stints on the front of the group and Huw and I would often drop the two other guys on what few technical descents there were before reforming again. It was a bit peloton like at times which I never really like as it just seems wrong in mountain biking. The legs felt pretty decent considering the 171bpm effort the day before and we were clocking a ridiculous average speed of about 16mph!
I was a bit miffed to get left behind at the dib station whilst the lovely marshals tried to unsuccessfully scan my number board at the checkpoint – not sure why we needed a check point if it wasn’t a race? By the time I got going again the remaining group of three were up the road and pushing on. Whether I could have continued at their pace anyway who knows but I couldn’t get them back in sight despite some deep digs. I think I just didn’t have the beans left. Still I was glad to push hard right to the end and not sit up like it was tempting to do. Kit and body all in good order. Onwards to the last of the race cramming next weekend with the MTB Marathon at Wantage. Then we’ll see what’s what on the Isle of Man smashfest!