As previously promised the race report from wildboar 24;
The day started early with a 7am start from Newcastle picking up the first pit bitch on route, a good friend from Uni ( Thanks Rich).
The race start and camping was located and top racing fuel was sourced to kick of the day, sausage cob, Pretty sure that’s how Chris Eatough starts every race morning and who am I to argue.
As I had been informed by race manager, Charlie, the race started at 12 so I was ready and kit sorted to get going… only to find out it didn’t start till 2pm, thanks Charlie.
I wasn’t that keen on pre riding the course as I was sure I would see enough of it during the next 24 hours, and as many people know that race the first lap is generally a procession unless you’re very lucky to get a flyer off the start. We are used to trails changing from day to day and always looking for the quicker line so its adds spice to not know what’s round the next corner.. Well most of the time.
I occupied the extra time I had been gifted by the later start with my feet up, eating and drinking and listening to inspiring tracks on the mp3 player… still a little unsure of what I had let myself in for or how to approach the task in hand.
First little shocker of the day was the location of the solo pit lane and start/finish… over a mile from the campsite up a rocky bridleway! Not the best situation as everything we needed for 24 hours then needed to be carted up to the top.. Luckily wheelbase boys were shuttling the bikes and kit of solo riders up to the top. Downside is I had no bike to warm up on… so a lot of stretching was done.
1.50pm made my way to the start of the run to the bikes… a tradition on 24hour racing I still don’t understand… in this case it was over a mile long and up the aforementioned rocky bridleway… as I looked around the start line I saw 90% of the guys wearing trainers…. Me still in my mountain bike shoes… possible schoolboy error.
As the race was started the usual crazy running pace started, not for me I settle into a fast jog knowing that with 24 hours of riding ahead of me how much time would I lose over a mile of running… in reality very little. I made a few places on the run then made the most gains as people had to change into their race shoes. As I got to the top of the run I spotted Charlie grabbed my Superfly and got trucking.
The plan was to ride the first 14 hours steady…. That went straight out the window as the racing red mist descended… I knew Tom Owen (Edinburgh UNI CC) a good 24hr rider with some tidy results already under his belt had gone off the front, I thought Richard Rothwell (Ironhorse Extreme) was also in front of me too… at that point of the race I was unsure who else to be looking out for.
During the first couple of laps I got to ride with Iain Payne, another solo rider, holding a great pace and looking super strong, he was a good bet to follow for a few hours. As it happens Richard was behind us and as he caught us up on a charge we tagged on for the ride until he pulled us to being insight of Tom Owen. At that point he rode away to Tom’s wheel and I reigned back not wanting to use any unnecessary energy.
Within a couple of minutes we passed Richard again punctured, we wouldn’t see him for another couple of laps.
Myself and Iain rode out the first 4 ish hours together until I stopped for the first hot feed... I thought I would have a nice sit down… no chance... the pit bitches were on my case with an eye on the clock and getting me back out as soon as possible.
The lap itself was a mix of fire road and singletrack sections… it seemed mostly uphill with a loose steep descent mid way which required attention and some rear wheel steering and then a rocky descent to the start finish … by 6 laps I knew the course well and knew exactly where to place the effort, where to recover and where to pay attention.
As the daylight ran out the boys attached the batteries to the Ay Up lights and we went towards darkness… I always say it after every night race but I love my Ay Up lights…. They are so light that you don’t notice the weight and the light they give is more than enough for flat out racing.
The hardest part of 24 hour racing I think is getting your head around the timescale involved… it sounds stupid but when you have been riding for 14 hours and you still have 10 to go things seem a little grim.. So I work on laps and I count them off… for some reason it seems easier to swallow than time.
As the night rolled on I resorted to the Mp3 player for company, with a large 10mile lap and not many racers things were quiet out there… I hadn’t seen Iain since my hot food stop and so there was no one out there at a similar pace to ride with.
Big thanks to Jeff Buckley, Jose Gonzalez and Ray Lamontagne... all on repeat to get me through the night.
As I was told the greatest part of a 24 hour race is the day break…. Riding into the daylight is a great feeling…. Really does feel like the worst is behind you and you get a massive lift... pedals definitely go round easier.
I don’t remember exactly what lap it happened on and I don’t remember being lapped but it happened… Tom and Richard were both on top form and going well…. I was feeling okay but the relentless intake of sugary calories and drinks were taking there toll on my stomach.
The laps were going by quickly and it seemed like there were more people on the course… in fact there actually was as the trails were still open to the public so it wasn’t uncommon to encounter large groups of the general public.. I remember on one of the loose long climbs not being able to catch quickly a women on a £100 bike wearing some joggers and trainers and laughing to myself that maybe it was time to hang up the wheels... or maybe it was just that this was her first time up this climb and it was my 18th hour of riding and probably my 15th time up the climb.
Eventually with 4 hours remaining I was caught by Iain in 3rd place, with a few more 24’s under his belt his strategy was a little more organised than mine and he took a lap.. Well at least now I had my riding partner back.
We rode the last 3 laps together…. After 2 last with some careful calculations it worked that he had a lap on me and I had 2 laps on 5th place so we only had to do a final lap and there was no way that any places would change… so we did the ‘granny ring’ lap, a whole lap in its entirety in the granny ring.. Which disturbingly was not that much slower than a normal lap...
So I ended up with 4th place, possibly the worst place to finish as its so close to the podium but not quite… another life experience under the belt... and I wasn’t short of finding people to tell that I would never do it again.
But this is the strange thing about racers... we say after every race no more, never again, last time… during every race we are planning to sell up and take up knitting or lawn bowls but less than a week later.. Sometimes even the same night we are looking for the next challenge...