Mountain Mayhem, a survivors’ tale.

25 06 2007

There is an old military saying that goes “no plan ever survives first contact with the enemy”, well the trip to Mountain Mayhem kind of went in a similar fashion.

The plan was that we would aim for 20 laps in 24hrs, each rider doing 5 laps with a double night stint so we could all get about 4-5hrs sleep. Last thursday Ben, the number two rider admited that his training actually had involved going down the pub, drinking and smoking rollies instead of actually spending the last 3 months doing some exercise, Paul “hadnt really had the time” but had done some cycling with his 2 yr old son on a child seat, Steve, was Ok ( hes fit anyway and does loads of cycling and er, golf). I’d started to get a bit concerned, had I done enough running, road cycling, pilates stuff, stretching, off road etc.?

Well, after friday night of setting up the team HQ at Eastnor castle deer park and getting the massive Spag Bol and salad dinner with wine and beer out of the way, saturday started in earnest with the 9:00am course recce. the first half of the course was fun: out of the start/finish arena, round a lake, up a grass slope with a couple of switchbacks, climbing on fire roads to the start of the forest section ( and the DJ…) and a mile or so of fun ST, then a couple of miles of flat then climb then DH on grass back towards the arena. Well, thats 4miles of easy fun route. Then there was a water crossing ( 2m drop down, 3m wide, shallow stream and a climb out) which I was sure would look pretty horrible after a few hours of racing. Then its a climb through the campsite and the real bit of the course begins: from Buffera bridge on to The Kenda Climb…the main chunk of climbing on the cours, about 1.5 miles and 200m of climb on GRASS! ooh joy, and its been raining too. Paul bugged out here and took his bike to be fettled by Shimano (any excuse for free kit). At the top of this climb, Ben looked a bit Ill: red faced, puffing hard, tears in his eyes…he’d pushed his bike most of the way, Steve and I exchanged concerned looks: we hadnt noticed he was having problems as we’d been climbing ahead, chatting and enjoying the view. Then the real fun began…for the next 2.5 miles the course had been cut through bracken in a sequence of up and down, zig zag swichbacks and off camber straights, all muddy, no grip and challenging, then after another climb going into a muddy, rooty forest, then another climb through bracken ( no grip again) to the highest point of the course to a fun(at the time) single and double track, slightly muddy, zig zag forest trail back down to the campsite and the arena. In all 8.6 miles and 350m of climb.

At the finish of the recce Ben looked really concerned whilst I, in my motivated gung-ho state, merely felt that the double stints might have to go and we’d be looking at 16-18 laps as a do-able ammount unsure.gif

So, mud tyres were obviously the order of the day so the Trailrakers were fitted and the bike given its final prep. A big plate of pasta eaten back at the tent and I finally bought some decent energy/electrolytic drink (Torq lemon: its ace I can highly recommend it)

At start the guys from Singletrack were passing around a big bottle of Beer on the startline, I decide not to ask for a swig of dutch courage. The Mountain Mayhem start is a big group run of half a mile or so from the Start line archway across the course around the lake back to the arena, I try to remember where I left the bike on the finish straight along with the 800 or so others, get on the bike and join 800 people all trying to cycle up a grass hill and go round the three tight switchbacks.

My view was to go at my own pace so I did. I Got OVERTAKEN angry.gif by some bloke on a unicycle so I up my pace a bit ( and burned him off… laugh.gif ) and cycled on for the next few miles in a long, big train of people to the water crossing where a large number of people were falling in and getting cheered by the crowds who had gathered there. The big hill was dispatched and the bracken sections allowed me to display mud riding skills gained in Tilgate and Whiteways, I stared to overtake some people ( still getting fast riders going past though) and get, if not cocky, then at least a bit more confident. Down the muddy last decent into the arena and hand over to Ben, having done a 1hr17min lap including the run and all the stops and starts of a mass group ride. No bad but not great as one of the pro riders does a 36min lap and laps me…oh I dream of being that fit.

Ben crashed on his first lap having been clipped by a faster rider and pitched down a slope. came back pretty distraught, talks about giving up there and then. Over cups of tea and food we persuade him not to but he wont do the night riding. Steve is next out and does a 1hr, 03 lap and comes back with a big grin on his face, obviously enjoying himself and says the course is drying out. Paul goes out and does a 1hr 07 and I’m back out and put the hammer down to try and beat Steves time.

Halfway round I pass Anna, aka Dirt Diva, and yell Hi but I dont know if she notices me ( Hi again Anna if you’re reading this, hope you did ok), Up the hill, through the bracken section, tear through the now dry singletrack forest descent and I get back to the start finish in… 1hr, 03 mins and wonder how I can ever go faster than Steve. rolleyes.gif

Ben goes out and laps in 1:17 and gets back feeling better but says hes done for the day and its now pretty much night anayway. Steve, Paul and I do our night laps, My night lap is q. long at 1hr15m as I push the bike up some of the main hill and have a chat with Jenn Hopkins (also pushing her bike up the hill but shes done 10 laps at that point…) who is doing the singlespeed solo race ( and, I think, winning it) and say thanks for all the work she did on my bike at Quest earlier this month. At the top forest section you can hear Screech Owls (spooky) the occasional grinding of gears and the far off noise of the DJ on the other side of the course.

I finish my lap at about 1:30am and find that Steve is not at the changeover (he had threatened to go and get some sleep) point and one of our laps hasnt registered so we are down at 8 instead of 9, hmmm. Demoralised I returned to the tents to find all the lights out so I go scoff some more food, shower and go to bed for three hours. It starts raining at 2:00am… sad.gif

5:15am and I get up very loudly so I wake Paul in the next tent, prep the bike, scoff some more banannas, notice that the rain seems to have eased and get out and do my 4th lap of the race…the course now is a mist shrouded quagmire. the upper section has been renamed the Somme and some of the competitors are packing and leaving. Paul is waiting to take over at 7:30, I go back and get 45mins of sleep, Steve goes out at 9:00 and I do the final lap at 10:45.

The final lap is really muddy, I mean not just a bit gloopy but the singlespeeds are clogging up, £3000 carbon race bikes are dying, new XTR and X0 mechs are being torn off, chains and broken and riders are pushing bikes downhills as well as up. The people who insisted on using semi slicks are all look semi sick 🙂 and the weight weenies’ 22lbs bikes now have 40lbs of mud and bracken as ballast. 2.1 tyres now look like massive rings of heavy, cloying, gloopy mud blink.gif

The final decent is a riot. I loved it. My narrow mud tyres dont clog as much as other people, my Marin seems to have loads of mud clearance in comparison to other bikes ( british design you see) and though the drivetrain seems to have dissapeared under the gloop I still seem to have both gears and brakes. I find I can use the deep tyre grooves in the mud and rail through the corners. I start overtaking people again, I dont fall off ( well, thinking back I did actually but not badly) but do do some tree hugging on the more challenging cornersand get back into the arena in a group of 4 or 5 similar bike/mud monsters all laughing manically. biggrin.gif

I go back to the tent and find that the guys have started to pack so i get cleaned up and go with them to see the finish of the race at 2:00pm and collect our medals cool.gif

So at the flag we did 13 laps, I did 5 and didnt get cramped up (which was one of my problems at the D2D) I feel ok today (monday) actually so I guess the moderate amount of training I did helped. I havent looked at the bike yet but I fear for my brake pads and 3-week old drivetrain. As a team its obvious we are not a well oiled machine but we did go to the MM for fun and that is what we had. Next time we will (probably) train harder, Ben might even train a bit… laugh.gif

I am still totally wired from having drunk about 10 liters of energy drink, energy bars, loads of friut, pasta, burgers, scrambled eggs, bacon butties…, tea, coffee, red bull in a 24 hr period but I slept like a log last night for a good 9 hours and will probably do the same for the next few days as I have some time off work to recover.

As an experience it really has to be done at least once for a dyed in the wool mountain biker, if only to see just how fast and fit the pro guys are in comparison to us mere mortals…

Someone did a 31minute lap…

Blimey!

Guy’s Photo’s

Submitted by Guy, the helmet cam guy.

Original forum thread and comments here

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