Counting up over the years it appears that somehow I’ve ridden at total of 13 24 hour races before this years UK champs at Fort William. Unbelievably I’ve managed to finish every one of those. 24 hour races are like jenga, things can fall apart very quickly! As everyone knows there are massive highs and lows associated with these things but I’ve been very lucky indeed to have had the chance to avoid major injury, mechanicals or total what the fuck am I doing syndrome preventing me from finishing. So sooner or later by the law of 24 hour racing averages I was probably overdue a DNF. So spoiler alert…. at the UK Champs this year I was a big fat DNF.
If you care to read on this is what happened…
Thanks to new coach Lee at Transition Cycle Coaching I’d managed to build a good recovery from some hospitalising illness in the summer to start to feel on point again before the UK Champs.
Given some time off the bike earlier this year with nerve damaged hand I was pretty pleased coming in thinking I could do alright.
Fortunately I managed to book our accommodation for the right weekend this time and the JMC pit row setup and pre race day prep was incredibly smooth. No panicking like normal. Long suffering pit bitch Rich had even gone to the effort of obtaining a driving licence to ferry himself north which further reduced logistical faff to a breeze with mate Dai commandeering a work van to load us in to for the long trip north. We made sure the apple pie was securely down properly this year…
The teamsheet was missing a couple of fast boys but there were still around 6 people more than capable of winning this thing. The gun went and those said people shot up off the hill with enthusiasm only matched by the fastest team riders. Young gun Kyle disappeared like a bolt perhaps temporarily forgetting he wasn’t on a hill climb race! The rest of us then more or less maneuvered for a couple of laps before gradually Max slowly pulled ahead in pursuit of Kyle. It was all fairly tight for the next few hours and I managed to settle in nice and quickly whilst finding time for the odd chat with the likes of Keith who would normally be up the road by this point smashing it out full blast. The usual pattern of yo-yoing with Michael was in full flow as well, all familiar territory. Pit stops were fast, legs were feeling very good and nutrition was on point. Darkness fell quickly and the night riding fun began. The new bike was lapping it up! The weather was a bit rainy occasionally but nothing that caused too much bother. Caffeine time was about the commence.
After about 10 hours I started to feel an ache in my right hand. The same one that had been subject to 7 months of hospital appointments for ulnar nerve damage earlier in the year. At first I was just hoping it was something in my head that might fade but compared with my left hand that was feeling absolutely fine it was definitely not feeling quite right. At this point I had a massive decision to make, carry on and hope it didn’t get any worse or stop and pull the plug at the risk of flaring up past injuries. Loads of questions were going through my head at this point and I didn’t say anything to the pit guys for a couple of laps, ‘is this just a weakened hand and normal from past injury, is this caused by a slightly sticky shifter, what would happen if I carried on, if it was the same thing how long would it take to recover if I carried on, how would I feel if I stopped, what would I feel like if I stopped but it turned out not to be the nerve damage just a weakened hand’. I think one motivation for not having DNF’d in 312 hours of 24 hours riding has been fear of letting down those who stand in some awful conditions handing up bottles to a one syllable grumpy zombie for hours on end. Also the lead up to these events are stressful and the recovery afterwards takes a lot out of family time. So in short stopping just because you don’t fancy it or without making sure you’ve done everything to carry on isn’t really an option.
The final decision to stop was based on that even if I continued I would have the horrible prospect in my head that with each hour I was perhaps damaging temporarily or even permanently my hand. So this just wouldn’t be a fun way to ride for another 12 hours. I felt really disappointed at this point. After a shower and chocolate feel better scoff fest as partly a way to distract myself from self pity and partly because I was still buzzing and full of energy I decided to help out fellow JMC riders and buddy Oli for as long as I could stay awake. As it turned out I really enjoyed doing this and it was a real insight from the other side of the tape. I clearly owe some pitting hours kudos to the cycling community so it was good to be of use at least.
I did also have a little chance of revenge on the infamous painful course creator Barry of Cold Brew Events as he rolled in towards the latter stages asking whether he needed to do another lap to hold position. I quickly opened my phone and pretended to open the timing website to say with affirmation, yes you definitely do. Fair play he probably knew I was blagging but off he popped on his silly pain creating fully rigid singlespeed! I think that one might come back to bite me! Seeing others finish and missing out on that feeling of relief and joy was a bit hard but its only a bike race after all.
I’ll also take some positivity that I was feeling comfortable and running 4th on stopping and had ridden really consistently so had a good chance of cracking on to a decent result all things considered. #shouldawouldacudda etc
I nervously awaited any change in feeling in my hand around the nerve damage for the following week but nothing really appeared. Not sure if I’m relieved or more annoyed now that I might have been able to carry on. Hey ho, it was just perhaps just my turn to dnf.
The course was it’s usual banging goodness that No Fuss events put on although we didn’t get to go right to the top. My new full susser prepped by Taylored Cycles was definitely a massive bonus for the rough stuff as well making laps even more of a joy. So it was 12 hours of great riding either way. The biggest disappointment is not having another 12 hours of calories burnt to replace!
Thanks to my buddy Rich and JMC gang for all the support once again. Mega special mention to Budge who not only helped in the pits after riding for a long stretch himself but also loaded in all my gear and housed it for a week as I was flying directly off on holiday the next day! Mrs Budge even washed my gear, bloody amazing!
And as ever to all my sponsors this year for the mega support I get and especially Taylored Cycles for the bike prep support, they worked sweet as anything.
Unforuntately the sick note theme this year continued with a missed everesting attempt early December due to lurgy but mate Alan smashed it anyway to keep the Lap of My Mind baton lit in the darkest month of the year.
I’ve definitely got a 24 hour race left in my legs still so I’m booking in the Kielder Chiller 24 early 2020 to get back in the saddle.