My now annual pilgrimage to Builth Wells for the early season MTB Marathon double of the 40k night ride followed by the 65k Marathon the next day as ever didn’t disappoint with some epic trails and challenging conditions.
I just about finished building my bike back up from scratch Saturday morning with the usual lack of time to decide on clothing options resulting in the good old fashioned pack everything approach. For one overnight trip, the car was stuffed full.
The showground at Builth is a great venue with one of the cattle sheds hosting lots of trade tents. It was good to see a few new trade stands pop up as well as the usual’s from Torq, Fibrax and of course Exposure Lights were on hand to loan out lights and talk people through new shiny products. Awesome catering and well stocked bar round up a quality setup. A kids skills area and free excellent camping facilities always add to the family feel.
The relaxed atmosphere is always a nice touch at these events and lots of returning customers show what a popular series this is. Entries were up again for both the Exposure Lights Big Night Out and Marathons the next day. There is clearly a demand for events that can cater for everyone from the beginner to elite marathon racer, more of these please!
I saddled up for the night ride with the industry benchmark Exposure Maxx D and Diablo combo knowing they would see me right on the fast wide open moorland descents to follow. The temperature was due to drop but it was relatively balmy on the start line so I went for some Tenn waterproof arm and leg warmers, overshoes and gilet type of setup. I always enjoy the lead out chat and a chance to catch up with riding buddies. The course profile included one massive climb to start, along the tops then down to the bottom and a time trail back along the road via a couple of cheeky short sharp climbs and short singletrack sections through the quarry.
The first climb as usual blew apart the pack with three riders out front holding a small gap back to another string of 3 riders including me. I was feeling good and some recent strength work helped keep the wheels turning on the steep road climb. We soon got up on the tops and the wind really picked up. This part was really hard work as whenever you looked ahead you could see another fluorescent marker sign somewhere in the distance, always in an uphill direction! I went back and forward with another chap for a while and then pulled out a small gap on a decent. I could see a couple of sets of lights right behind and knew Phil Simcock would be one of them, a guy I know is similar pace to me. I was keen to get to the top of the descents first so I could hopefully make the gap bigger on the descent which worked well as I slid left, right and sideways down the wet grassy double track plummit. At one point a front wheel drift at 25mph made my heart stop I think, that would have been messy!
It started getting really cold, someone said -1c apparently so I made sure I put in lots of effort to keep ahead of the chasing pack and most importantly to keep warm. As ever the spaceship lights helped spot any hidden dangers on the moors. Riders were teased as distant signs on hills far away showed the direction of travel. Once off the tops I looked over my shoulder and knew I had a decent gap but after being caught on the road last year I put in a time trail effort on the undulating return to base. I came back a chilly 4th rider having put in decent ride. The free exposure lights mug was quickly charged with Tea to warm up followed by a plate of pasta and hot shower then a cold night sleep in the car!
I woke up early a bit chilly in the back of my car knowing the 65k MTB Marathon would be tough given increasing winds and tired legs from the night before. I shovelled some porridge down with a splodge of protein powder in to help recharge the legs. Very quickly the start came round and more chances to chat with friendly faces. The announcement that there would be 65k of tail winds was met with nervous laughs.
The course again offered up a pack sorting climb that seemed to go on forever. My legs were a bit fatigued but was I able to stay somewhere in the top 30 riders whilst I tried to warm up the legs without overdoing it. I tried to ride sensibly knowing that I wasn’t going to be on top form. Once we go up on to the flat moor tops the winds became really challenging, sapping energy levels. I found myself alone on these sections which is never a good place to be in the wind. The wheels fell off at this point big time and I wasn’t able to push on as I would have liked. Crouching out of the conditions I plugged on and stopped at both the well-stocked feed stations to chug some fig rolls and reload with some Torq drink.
A few riders came past me gradually but then a missed junction by a few riders in front meant they had to re-overtake me further up the hill. I wasn’t in a position to put up much resistance but took the chance to take in the amazing views and not worry too much about position or if someone came past. The descents were much easier the next day as the wind had dried out the grass quite a bit. Charging down these at scary speeds is always fun, particularly when overtaking fellow riders and gaining some free time. Seated climbing was still the order of the days as wheels slipped in the damp conditions.
I don’t seem to recover too well from double days rides despite doing the ‘right things’ but it’s something I’ve worked on a bit over winter and I ended up picking off a couple of riders on the long road drag back to town. This meant I was a pretty respectable 26th man back from 230+riders. The mini league of marathon double riders put me about 2nd placed rider overall of the tired legs gang which was good and a significant improvement from last year in both time and overall positions. Good news for upcoming events and looking forward to the European 24hour championships in Davos in June.
Thanks to Exposure Lights USE for their continued support, looking forward to the next double weekend later in the year.
For the data geeks here are my training peaks files:
MTB Marathon http://tpks.ws/UZCA
Great Video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BbkqfgKfQAE&feature=youtu.be