It’s probably about time I write some non-openstreetmap stuff!
Last weekend was the Dusk ’til Dawn overnight mountain bike race around Thetford Forest. 844 competitors in a couple of hundred teams (with some idiots doing a 12 hour solo race, and more sensible people like us doing relays in teams of four), and a course just under 12 miles long winding around the forest – some single track (fun, but tricky for overtaking), some fire road (i.e. forestry track), and the occaisional “bomb hole” thrown in for good measure. We came 32nd in our class (full timings) with me doing the first, seventh and final laps of the night.
The first lap had an, umm, interesting start. Grimey was doing the first leg, but came running back into the camp half an hour in with a UST flat that he hadn’t been able to fix. So I piled on my bike and rattled off round the course, in solitary bliss, 30mins behind everyone else. With the fastest expected to complete the laps in around 45 minutes I knew they’d be bearing down on me by the time I made it round – practise laps had taken over an hour during the week. About two thirds of the way round I started to catch the very back markers and fly past them, and from the timing and speed differential some of them thought I was in the lead and lapping them! They might have noticed that fast as I was, it would have been nothing compared to the steam trains that were following.
I made it round about 30 seconds before the first placed team crossed the line, and then had several hours off whilst Gary and Ade got into an alternating pair routine. Next time, I need to remember ear plugs to get some sleep without the noise of all the generators around the campsite. I got no sleep at all, and eventually got up and played at team manager for both our team (“Bowl of Petunias”) and the B team (“Cambridge Consultants”, 46th overall), trying to keep track of who was out, when they left, what their ETA was, and who needed waking when to take over. Oh, and arguing with the guys in the charging tent who couldn’t seem to cope with the idea that everyone else in the teams were either cycling or asleep.
My second lap was during the witching hours, and it was quite quiet. I think any team that wasn’t cycling for the full twelve hours was probably taking a break, so my lap was again fairly empty, but this time with the nutters overtaking me. I thought my pace was dropping hugely (the adrenaline of the frantic first lap was sorely lacking) but from the timings it was actually pretty good. The dense fog was a bit disconcerting – blasting along at up to 18 mph with about two bike lengths of visibility in some places. And getting quite cold, too.
Everyone had another go, and the timings fell for me to do the final lap and take us over the 12 hour mark. By this point it was daylight, and as much as I wanted to keep using the headlights (4 x 5W LEDs, sweeet) they weren’t having any effect. It was quite weird doing it when it was light, but by that time I knew the route off by heart, and the track was somewhat wider, smoother and firmer than when we’d started practising three weeks ago.
Great fun. Highly recommended.