It’s been a mad year of races races races. At the start of the year I had loads of stuff I wanted to do and I knew packing it all in would be tough. With the last race of the year, the UK 24 hour solo champs just round the corner I decided to go three weekends back to back endurance racing to get some good hard miles in the legs.
First up was Torq in your Sleep where I wossed out and entered the 6 hour event given the weeks of training and racing ahead. It was awesome to be pitting with the E3 Coach gang and a good chance to catch up with buddies.
I went of pretty hard at the start with fast lad Scott Cornish knowing the fast and flowing singletrack fun of Minley Manor which I was riding for the first time could easily see you slip back if you got caught in traffic. Sure enough, I got caught in a bit of traffic but in fairness Scott was too quick for me anyway. I didn’t really know who else I was racing so just cracked on and enjoyed the tight singletrack and reminded myself I should practice more riding this sort of stuff as I struggled to keep smooth and solid momentum at some points. After a couple of hours having settled in, splat I found myself face first in the dirt with a hefty OTB, looking back down the (flat) trail in wonderment I spotted the offending stump I had caught a pedal on. I dusted myself off feeling some pretty sore ribs only to find that I had snapped my carbon railed saddle (ouch on body and wallet!). It was only a third way round the lap so I stood up for the rest of it. Fortunately I had brought a spare bike so my stand in pit crew (thanks Ingrid) and coach Jon quickly helped me hop about back up bike.
I got going again and pedalled through the pain to a reasonable 4th place. Hey ho, it was the second fourth in a row after the Manx 100 but it was onwards next weekend to my old stomping ground to the Kielder 101. Kielder was a great weekend and truly epic scenery, you can read about that one here: https://www.ukxcnews.com/rider-blogs/matthew-jones-kielder101-2016/
After another 4th place at Kielder but having had a great day out I was looking forward to finishing things off at the MTB Marathon Ruthin weekend where I would do the usual double night ride and marathon the next day. This time though I had planned to do a double lap of the long course on the Sunday for good measure and to round of the three hard training weeks. After great fun on the night ride testing out the new Exposure Lights Six Pack and coming in second rider back on the shorter course I still felt relatively fresh the next day and was ready to take on a big day out.
I had laid out all my nutrition and clothes ready for a quick turnaround once lap one was complete. Lap 1 didn’t go to plan though. After feeling good and solid on the first few climbs I was ploughing down a wicked fun rocky descent when I cut my tyre a bit on a sharp rock. After a while faffing with tubeless worms and CO2 I managed to make it down to the road crossing where I stopped to find that the slash was too big for the tubeless stuff to work so I popped in an inner tube and started pumping away with the marshall’s track pump. Up she went, down she went. I love the fact that in every MTB event you learn something about yourself or the kit you are using. The lesson here kids, check your tubeless tyre for thorns before putting an inner tube in…
I then had to patch the tube which was now covered in tubeless gunk, by which time all but the back markers had trundled past. Ah well still plenty of daylight left as I wizzed past hoards of riders enjoying the day out to make some progress again. I stopped to recharge at the food stations for much longer than normal and eat loads of fig rolls to cheer me up and give me a boost for lap 2. About half a mile up from the last feed station, that sound appeared nobody wants to here, gush another puncture on the now tubed tyre, FFS. Walked back down to the feed stations, bought a tube, debated how much a lift back to HQ would cost, more fig rolls, carried on again. The day was getting on by this point and given that I would want to sort the tubeless setup out again for lap 2 I was rapidly thinking I should change plans or quit before anything more drastic happened. Still debating what to do on the final road decent, a wasp sting on the face made my mind up, this wasn’t my day! Philosophical I returned to base and after chatting to the organisers earlier about my plans they were keen to find out if I was on for another lap, talk is cheap so I headed back to the caravan for some ponderance and called it a day. We then had time for a much more socialable walk back in the woods where we had ridden through earlier which was a nice change of pace.
Matt vs Ruthin wasn’t entirely over though and I got up at the crack the next morning to do most of Lap 2 which turned out to be great fun on the excellent course with a real variety of terrain.
So the triple header weekends were completed and I was relatively unscathed (despite sore ribs from Torq) getting some decent miles in along the way.