Well I did it! I completed my first ever race.
I set off with friends in convoy mid Friday afternoon, a jolly down to Newnham Park. I had never been to Newnham before and I was quite surprised how big the place is. Ideal for a MTB event being flanked by woods, a river/stream. Plenty of hills and challenging enough terrain to keep you on your toes.
The course had been changed compared to previous years due to one area being set aside for mining. This meant that laps were going to be just over 7miles per lap. This was going to be a fair bit more hectic than I thought. We set up camp with our vans and had a nice chill out getting our race numbers and having a natter around a BBQ. Time for a few hours shut eye as we knew there wouldn’t be much of that for the following 24hours+.
Our team Goober was all set on Saturday morning with our 5th and fastest member Jim. I’d not met Jim but knew of his pace.. He was the man to make up mine and another team members lack of pace!
There was a rider brief at the start by the organisers and then a peace by the man himself.. Keith Bontrager, he had come over for the race and over the weekend showed to everyone that he’s a really down to earth guy who has a real love and passion for the sport and for this I can but applaud him.
We sorted a running order.. Jim, Steve, Matt, myself and then Dave. The start was tense as Jim lined up to get a good spot many sponsored riders pushing past, jumping over to get at the front. Unlike mountain mayhem there’s no running start involved. The junior national xc champ did a short loop to string the field out which then sent them back over the start for the first full lap. The fast boys (including Jim) were seriously shifting!
We went back to our camp for Steve to get kitted up and to get ourselves fed and watered. By the time Steve went out I was a bag of nerves, Jim had been on a flyer doing 1.5laps in sub 40minutes, Jesus I’m certainly in no physical state to do that (maybe next year.. More of that later).
Once Steve had finished his lap (our first real time bench mark for a standard lap) Matt went out for his first. I was a bit of a mess by this point not really knowing what to expect. Jim said just to take it steady and enjoy it (that was my aim anyway I think). I went to the transition ahead of time not wanting to leave Matt waiting. Bike at the ready and I saw Matts bright green bike come around the corner. That’s it.. Heart rates up let’s get going. The first part leads you out the campsite and up a grassy hill to then take a sharp right onto a Tarmac climb.. This was reasonably steep but I had expected a fair bit of climbing. Some people had been out with the chalk with words of encouragement on it (Beerbabe for one!) this first part was a slog.. The course then opened up to some glorious singletrack (with space for the quick boys to get through at times). I wasn’t fast but I definitely enjoyed it.. The proceeding few hours until nightfall seemed to fly by! We were either riding, getting changed, washed, bike checking or eating. For my first night lap I was a little apprehensive and knew my lap time would drop off somewhat with the darkness and the added fatigue of my previous couple of laps.
I managed to only drop 3 minutes compared to my daylight laps.. Even with a diversion into the undergrowth (ooops!).
My next night lap was at 1:45am. I had stayed awake up to now. By the time I was 3/4 of the way around I knew I was struggling. I managed to stay reasonably close on time but I said to the others I was going to try and snooze.. I got in my van and flaked out for an hour or so… Steve opened the door and gave me a nudge.. It was 5:15am and I was up next! I got back into my riding gear. Slightly shakey from just waking but I knew I had to sort myself out. Check the bike over and get my fluids topped up ready for my lap. Matt came into transition with a warning the the morning dew had made some of the roots a touch slippy. At this point it definitely felt like I was going to be well over the hour mark for the lap.. I played it safe for the more technical parts and tried to make back the time up on the easier climbs and fast descents.. It kind of paid off. The sun was just coming up as I got to the second half of my lap and this spurred me on.
I got back to camp with a time some 5minutes slower than my previous daylight laps. I was reasonably happy with that. I had found a couple of the slippy roots on my way round but nothing I hadn’t managed to keep under control, I gave Dave a heads up as I came back in anyway.
At this point I decided to have a wash, have some breakfast and try and sort myself out ready for what would be my last lap.
My final lap was a blur, enjoying it and a warm fuzzy feeling that it was almost over! I was still enjoying it but knowing the end was near was definitely of comfort.
I got back in at 10:45 and at this point we all decided Dave would do our teams final lap and we wouldn’t bother pushing to squeeze one more in. We had all done 6laps.
Dave went out at 11:15 and said he was aiming for leisurely pace. The rest of us got showered and packed up to wait for Dave at the finish. He came through at around 12:15 to a hand shake from Keith Bontrager and a glass of Ale. We’d all completed our commitment to ride.
As we sat with a cuppa and a pulled pork bap from the food bus it all sank in what a great weekend we had all had. Great company, lovely venue and riding bikes.. What more could we of asked for?! (The weather was even good). Matt turned to me at this point… “Next year?”… “Hell yea!” Was my response… Oh.. Hmm yea I want to do it all over again.
Having since had a weeks holiday and recovered I’ve mentally set myself some more goals.. Keep loosing weight and keep improving fitness… Twentyfour12 our team will be back!