Friday, 31 July 2009


Last weekend I raced at Twentyfour12 at Newnham Park, Plymouth, UK. The great thing about this event is that you can choose to race either 12 hours or 24 hours. I am no stranger to 24 hour solo events, but this year I decided that I would have a change and race the 12 hour event as a pair. Not only would this mean that I would have some tea breaks between laps, but it would also mean that I would be in bed not long after midnight while others continued to battle it out on the race course. Am I getting old? ;-)

I had a pretty special team mate, Myriam Saugy (BMC/Texner), who came over from Switzerland to have a taste of the single track at Newnham Park. We picked Myriam up from the airport on Friday evening and, guided by our trusty satellite navigation system, we got utterly lost before arriving at our bed and breakfast. The proprietor was pretty annoyed by our late arrival and whisked Myriam to her room before we had chance to say goodnight!

We discussed race tactics over breakfast the next day. Our plan simply comprised of us each riding double laps because this would give us enough time to refuel and rest between handovers. Oddly I wasn't nervous at all and I wolfed down breakfast. We then dashed off to set up base before getting in a test lap.

Base for the next 12 hours

The laps were approx 14km but they comprised of a fair amount of twisty rooty single track, a river crossing, and a couple of nice climbs (though ideally I would have preferred more climbing). Although it was dry and the sun was shining, the week leading up to the race had been pretty wet so some parts of the course were relatively slick and there were some slippery roots that were waiting to dismount unsuspecting riders. Unlike some other 24 hour events this one started with a mass riding start rather than a Le Mans style run to the bikes. We decided that Myriam should do the first lap because she, unlike me, loves mass starts. I have never seen the start of a huge enduro event from the sidelines, normally I am at the front pedaling as fast as possible to get away from the carnage and not daring to look back! I have to say it was pretty spectacular to see hordes of riders pouring round the start/finish straight. I did feel a little odd not to be part of it.

Myriam had a great start and she was soon back from the start loop with some of the fast guys. I had time to scoff a jacket potato, faff for a while, hand Myriam a bottle after her fist lap, and warm up before it was time to grab the baton and dash off on my first laps.

My turn at last!

It was a relief to finally be on the bike. I have to say I am not exactly a fan of wet roots, so my aim was to use the time during the race to gradually perfect my root riding skills and ride as smoothly as possible. I was barely warmed up before it was time to hand back over to Myriam - 1hour23 is the shortest time I have ever raced for! I reluctantly relinquished the baton and went off to put on some clean race kit and scoff more food: energy bars and bananas.

Sun and single track :0)

This has to be the most relaxed race I have ever done. Even Dave was chilled out, so much so that he delegated his bike cleaning duties to James Towlson before grabbing his bike and heading off for a lap on his newly assigned team, Zero Stamina.

Dave took care to warm up properly before his lap ;0)

It was a really great experience to be part of a team; instead of having my head down pedaling the whole time I was able to enjoy the brilliant atmosphere in the start/finish area and chat to people who I wouldn't normally see. It was cool! Time literally flew by and the race was going perfectly. We soon built up a comfortable lead over the second and third placed female pairs, which meant that the pressure was off and we could cruise round and have some fun. I did however fail in my mission to ride the roots smoothly when I took a bad line which gave me the chance to inspect them close up!

After my sixth lap Myriam decided to do a single lap which meant that I had approx 45 minutes before my final two laps. Dave quickly put the lights on my bike before I was out again. I haven't ridden at night for ages and I had forgotten how much fun it is, especially in the woods.

I handed over to Myriam for her last lap. When she finished we still had just under 10 minutes to start one more lap, but we decided that it made much more sense to pack up and relax :0) We therefore finished after having completed 8 laps each.

Results: Female Pairs

1st Topeak-Ergon/BMC Texner 16 laps in 11:51:09
2nd AKO Ducati 15 laps in 12:12:28
3rd Activ Lush 'n' Deb 14 laps in 12:14:28

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

'Wetter' in Bad Goisern

Last week Dave and I flew out to Austria for the Salzgammergut Trophy which was the third race in the Rocky Mountain Bike marathon series. When we arrived in Bad Goisern the weather was an amazing 32 degrees, but all that was forecast to change!

We spent most of the day before the race looking for feedzones, and although Dave wouldn't be able to access all of them we planned four feeds along the course. The weather was great and I slapped on the suncream and drank loads of water to make sure I was fully hydrated for the race the next day. I always do a 30 minute ride with some race pace efforts the day before a race and I planned to do this on the last climb of the course. When the sky started to darken with big black low clouds we decided to abort this mission. I jumped out of the car and onto my bike and began to ride immediately in the hope that I could get the 30 minutes over and done with before the storm set in. I'd been on the bike exactly 6 seconds when the rain started to fall. I headed up the nearest mountain and Dave followed in the car behind. The rain gradually got harder and harder and it got darker and darker, but luckily the car headlights lit up the fire road in front of me. I like rain and I was quite happy getting wet, but I'm not so keen on thunder and lightning. After about 15 minutes I decided that being pelted by grape sized hailstones was enough, I stopped. Dave left the safety of the car and took a few hits (and yelped) as he stuffed the bike in the boot and we legged it back to our apartment.

The forecast for the next day (race day) was for rain, rain, and more rain. However, later that evening the rain eased and the sun shone again. This led me to believe that the forecast might (perhaps) be wrong........that night we were kept awake by flashes of lightning, thunder, and very heavy rain. At 6am I looked out of the window and the mountains were nowhere to be seen....they were shrouded in veils of cloud. The thought of hiding crossed my mind, not because of the rain but because I hate being cold, and it looked and felt very cold! I checked the weather forecast on TV and a few of the web cams across Austria showed that it was only 1-4 degrees even as low as 1500 metres, and some of them showed snow. EEK! Luckily I had packed for bad weather. I pulled out my neoprene overshoes, thermal base layer, arm warmers, waterproof jacket, and winter gloves. I also gave Dave some spare gloves and another jacket to take to the feedzones.

I normally warm up for 20 minutes before, but I didn't have rollers and I decided that getting soaked and then standing at the start for 10-15 minutes would probably be worse than no warm up. I waited in the start pen to be called to the line. The rain continued to bounce off the roads and I was getting wet, fast. I started to shiver. I was pleased to finally hear the start gun and set off towards the first climb up to 1500 metres. My cold muscles screamed as the gradient started to increase and I gently tried to ease into the pace. Male riders started to pass me but I figured that I'd warm up soon and be able to pick up the pace. My race head wasn't on.

As we got higher the temperature dropped and bare legs started to turn red. I was amazed to see that some people were just wearing shorts and race jerseys. Brrrhhhh, they must have been frozen. I was wrapped up in my arm warmers, base layer, jersey and waterproof jacket and not once did I wish I wasn't! I knew that the descent would be bitterly cold and that my biggest problem would be my hands. When we reached the top after more than an hour of climbing the rain turned to snow. I was shaking uncontrollably on the descent and braking was difficult because my fingers were numb. Each time the course flattened or climbed I cranked up the gears and rode hard to try and get warm. Now I look back I realise that the descent down to the town was actually really nice and there was a mixture of rocky single/double track and the iconic cave pass, but I didn't appreciate it at the time! All I could think about was getting some warmer gloves from Dave at the first feedzone.

Trails became rivers

The next section of the course ran alongside a river for approximately 20km before heading up the next mountain. I thought that it would be warmer and that my hands would defrost. They didn't. There was a small section of the course that went through a tunnel alongside the road. It was dry and I didn't want to come out the other side! When I met Dave at the second feedzone just before the next big climb I stopped to put on a warmer jacket and some super thick winter gloves. The next climb went up to 1800 metres and I wanted clothes! This stop took a little longer than I expected. My fingers were so numb that my little finger kept going into the same hole as the finger next to it.....arghhhh. I willed my fingers to work, and after several attempts I managed to push them in and get on my way.

I had lost the group I had been riding with but I eventually caught up with some of them. A few people spoke to me in German and I asked if they could speak English. They couldn't, but I figured that something was wrong. We climbed a nice steep trail alongside a venicular railway. The course then descended a little before starting to climb again. We were just about to start to climb when we were stopped by a marshal. I couldn't understand what was being said and part of me wanted to dart past him and carry on with the race. It was a race after all and we were losing valuable time! The marshal spoke English and informed me that the race had been cancelled because there was too much snow at the top of the next climb and we wouldn't be able to pass. Ughhhh??? Cancelled???? Really???? But I was leading the women's race after 66 kms....I couldn't stop.

Snow in July

We were redirected back down to the town and into a lovely warm fire station. I couldn't quite believe it and neither could Dave when I called him from the control room in the fire station. A nice fireman gave me a rubdown to warm me up ;0) and we were given fruit tea.

Only a minority of riders made it to the 66km timing zone so the results were taken from an earlier one at 30km. The organisers decided that because this constituted less than half of the 114km course that the results would not be official and there would be no rankings or podium. That was it.

The sun came out afterwards!

The next day I stood in dog poop and we both got food poisoning just in time for the flight back home. Yay!

It wasn't all bad though. The sun shone again the next day, the snow melted and I got chance to go for a quick spin while Dave enjoyed a pint (or two).