What a fantastic weekend. As a family we’ve been coming to event for the past 4 years but this was by far our most successful year. We all achieved podiums!
Fred aged 8 led from gun to tape in the U12s race and Edith aged 7 was a solid 2nd place in the U8s race. Mr Price gained 3rd spot in the open men’s 24hrs team race and I won the Female Torchbearer race.
So why the Torchbearer? Unfinished business. Last year Mr Price rode 12hr pairs and I looked after the kids until he finished then started the Torchbearer BUT I didn’t finish. Gave up 10hrs in – too cold and too wet to complete. So back this year. Mr Price in the team 24hr this year and kids a year older so more self-sufficient – so long as someone in the team around to buy them ice cream and hot chocolate every now and then they were happy messing around on their bikes or in the river.
So how was it won? I’ve tried a couple of 12hr solos before but never got beyond 10hrs so it’s been interesting reflecting on what was different this time. I had a new bike – a Torus – titanium – light which is important for me as I am not weighty. I had a solid winter of soggy muddy hours of single-speeding suffering in my legs. I had a good feeding strategy – I am gluten and dairy intolerant and have often struggled in the past with fuelling on long races – Honey Stinger gels and Skratch Labs hydration are working well for me now, supplemented with jelly babies, dates and bananas. But the biggest difference by far was mental attitude. I was here at midnight on the start line with the opportunity to ride for 12hrs – we are a very busy family and I work long stressful days in Central London managing a construction project on site bookended with a long commute – training rides are short affairs snatched late weekday evenings or early weekend mornings before ballet, shopping, kids xc races etc demand my time and attention. But here was my chance to ride free and unfettered for a whole 12hrs with no other demands on my time (kids exhausted and asleep after their day of racing, ice cream eating, cheering and messing around in the river).
So everything was in place for a good race. And it was a great race. 5 women on the start line was great to see. I chatted briefly with Jo (Hitchen) WingsForLife admiring her lovely titanium Travers bike and then on our shiny bikes we were off into the darkness.
The field started faster than I wanted to but I didn’t panic and kept my own pace. Rounding the corner to the base of Clif Climb for the first of what would be (unknown at the time) 15 times I caught up with Jo and the other girls again. I am a good climber (and an awful descender!) so I managed to keep pace on the hill and through the lumpy singletrack. I picked my way cautiously down Cottage Return aware I was holding those up behind me a little. Jo got past me on the left hand bend and was off out of sight. It was too early to chase so I settled into my own rhythm down by the river and around the campsite – 1st lap done! Mr Price was between laps in his team event and waiting for me in our pit. Brief chat, a cheer and then off out on lap 2. I paced it steady again up the Clif climb and through the woods where I managed to nip past Jo. I consciously decided to push on a bit to try and establish a gap but got a bit sketchy in the bomb holes and came off on an off camber section. No serious harm done but a warning to ride within myself in the dark and damp conditions. This was my mantra for the next few night laps – careful, steady concentration to avoid silly errors. 4 laps in it was still dark and felt far from dawn. I was low and I was cold and wet. I decided to be kinder to myself. I skipped the water splash this time and took the bridge. The motivation station at the head of Clif Climb raised my spirits and I concentrated on maintaining flow through the singletrack to gain some free speed. Coffee at the next pit was a noticeable pick up and then dawn started to break. It is amazing how this lifts the spirits – and also the welcome news I was in the lead with a 12min gap. It felt fragile so I consciously shortened the stops and the chat and pushed on. Clif Climb was getting more painful (in hindsight my 1 by 9 was a bit under geared for it) but I made it my aim to ride every time as far as the tree with the arrow and beyond if possible before hopping off, pushing to the flat section, hopping on again and then wellying it out the saddle to the motivation station where there was always a cheery welcome (thanks for that!). The early daylight hours were steady and mentally I focused on trying to keep even paced – my thinking being that I still had a lead and if I kept at the same pace then my rivals would have to speed up if they were going to catch me. I didn’t want to lose it – I wanted to force them to win it. So on I rode. The bike started to get squeaky – pedal bearing gone – but that was a good topic of conversation with those I encountered on course – my bike sounded like we all felt……on and on, round and round, squeak squeak. And then by some strange turn of quantum physics I started to speed up – the pit team didn’t have the coffee ready – I was 3 mins ahead of schedule. The kids were up now too and excitedly handing me bananas and jelly babies. It was getting clear I might just win this. So off I sped, took the water splash at speed and headed up the Clif Climb again. Through the woods, down Cottage Return and through the start finish arch – 11.30 – no thoughts of lurking. Quick glug of coffee at the pit – and last lap sprint was on. I encountered Jo in the woods, so gave her a cheer and pushed on – out the saddle up the short climbs and sprinting down the fire roads. What a feeling – I was flying – or at the very least going a wee bit faster than I had been. One of our team riders passed on the fire road approach to final riverside singletrack – he pushed on – they were in 3rd – awesome effort. Over the bridge, through the campsite one last time and sprinted for the finish. Beer….handed over with the question how many laps did you do? I had absolutely no idea……Turns out it was 15 laps in just over 12hrs. Jo came in a few minutes back with 14 laps. And Katie with 13 laps in 3rd. It had been a good race to the end by us all. My first 12 hr race completed and my first win. Thanks to my kids, my husband and the New Mills Massif team in the pit. And to the Pivot TwentyFour Twelve team – thanks for giving me the opportunity to play on my bike for 12hrs on a great course in a fab setting at Newnham Park. Awesome event. We’ll all be back next year.