Depending on what you are doing, 10 hours can be the blink of an eye or an endless chasm opening up before you. 10 hours at Kirroughtree, part of the NO Fuss '10 at..." series, is the jewel of 1/2 day/lap races as far as I am concerned. The course is mostly singletrack. 70% would be a conservative estimate. The short sections of fire road barely give the rider enough time to sup some fluid and take in sustenance. The sharp rocks claim tyres and tubes with abandon and I have seen more snapped chains than all other races and rides combined. With ~300m of climbing/descending per lap, the real difficulty is the jack-hammering your body gets as you throw the bike into the superb downhills trying to eke out the last bit of momentum to make that next sharp climb. Awesome stuff, and a massive undertaking as a solo.
VC Moulin arrived in force under a cloudless sky. Once the tents were set up, John MacCallum, Dean, Trina and myself joined the Singular squad, avec good man Craig F, to have a few quiet beers and get some fueling done. Somewhere amongst the attendees was Neil Dryden, who was also set to go in solo.
The customary police escort led us to the road climb that allowed the field to spread out. As ever, there are far too many people who are optimistic of their chances jostling for start line position. Fortunately the wheat is quickly separated from the chaff. Having decided to use a different feeding strategy I was a little nervy in the early stages. I had seen Deano and John take off at the start and despite taking a lot of places early I knew they were well ahead. The course rocked and all the fun buttons were pressed as I railed the new Jones around the twists and turns. Somehow the traffic seemed minimal and I caught Deano just before the end of the lap. We took the last downhill by the scruff of the neck and flowed in a white, black, red and yellow blur through the forest. As Deano headed off to refuel, I cruised out for lap two fairly comfortably.
The second lap allowed the sun to take its toll. I knew I wasn't getting enough fluid on board, and the gels seemed to be a struggle to take with any regularity. Still, the legs felt good and it wasn't until the step up climb towards the end of the lap that both Deano and John found me. Somehow, Deano had the legs of that climb despite the singlespeed and I knew it was going to be a yo yo battle within the war.
Lap 3 was also fast. A beautiful moment came when John and Deano (both of whom seemed to be stopping to fuel) passed me on a technical singletrack downhill trail clinging to the edge of the hill. For 30 seconds, we were a VC Moulin train. Awesome! then they left me in the dust as we hit the step climb again. At that point I knew I didn't have their legs and I was going to have to find my own rhythm.
I ticked off a couple of laps in a blur, desperately trying to get calories and agua on board, finding nice lines and enjoying the course. The forecast rain didn't materialise and all was good. Then I had the most ridiculous thigh cramp. My legs resemble oil rig legs, not gazelles legs, so when I cramp (which is seldom) I know about it. As I tried to stretch off the thigh, the hamstrings went for broke and I had a comical moment of being unable to pedal or get off the bike. Within seconds the other leg was spasming, threatening to cramp up too. What was going on? Regardless of the fact I was dehydrated, I had never had cramps like this in my life! New riding position? gels? Something else? I had no idea, but for the rest of the race any serious effort led to a cramp.
On one downhill, I overtook a rider who through no fault of their own slightly swerved sending me further off trail, CLUNK! as my pedal interacted with some rocks, sending me over the bars. I landed heavily on my shoulder and knee. Blood dripped as the bike picked up its first battle scar. I spent the remainder of the 5th lap at hour 6 suffering. I wasn't even sure if i could go on at this rate, I kept riding off the trail and missing the apices of corners. Fellow racers kept asking if I was alright as I lay on the ground stretching various limbs off.
After stopping at the Singular gazebo for 15 minutes, with Sam giving me the benefit of his sports massage skills, I decided that no matter what, I was getting back on the bike. Call it bloody mindedness, pride or perhaps the influence of Andy Cathcart, who had raced stupendously last year despite having bad guts. I got back on the bike. Something had to give though: snarfing a cheese roll, and changing back to a Hammer nutrition Perpetuum bottle was all I could think to do to stop my energy levels bouncing all over the place.
Occasionally I saw other riders I knew. I was aware that Deano and John were going great and Neil too, spending the last lap riding with John it seemed they had had a ding dong battle between themselves and were well up in the field.
Singular claimed 2nd in seniors trio.
John 7th overall?
Deano 8th overall?
I was just glad to finish.
Time to get those muscles ironed out and some kip.