“There are only 5 miles left, that’s 3 miles gone, keep going “
It was 9.30 pm in the dark of Minley wood on Sunday night. Matt had talked Daryl and myself into the “TORQ till you sleep “ 12 hour mountain bike enduro event, and the couple shouting the helpful news to me were trying hard to be encouraging.
Matt is an old hand at these enduro events and has organised a semi regular mountain bike evening at work over the summer. He had urged Daryl and I to join in the race whilst on one of these evening bike rides,
In the warm evening sunshine on Tuesday evening we’d gently rolled around the Minley course, as Matt explained what was involved in a 12 hours race. “Oh it’s easy” he’d said, “the laps take about 40 minutes, we won’t be going for a win or any sort of prizes and it’s just a bit of fun”
“But I’ve never entered a mountain bike race before, I’m far too old for that sort of thing” I’d replied. “Don’t be silly, you’re never too old for a bit of a laugh” he joked, “besides which, you only have to do a minimum of 2 laps. There’ll be four of us my mate is a pro he and I will do most of the actually racing”. I looked thoughtfully at him and replied “two laps .. That sounds easy” and we were in.
That conversation returned to haunt me on my third lap. It was dark and the light I had borrowed wasn’t doing the job. I was having to rely on Jedi senses and the numerous serious riders passing me with their gazillion watt lights to illuminate the path. My lungs were bursting, I‘d lost my water bottle avoiding a tree root that had leapt out at me, and I wasn’t sure where the trail went next.
“There are only 5 miles left, that’s 3 miles gone, keep going “ the couple shouted out of the darkness at me. “Cheers” I managed to puff back in reply. “Okay only 5 to go, that’s up the big climb then and through the technical single track section” I thought.
I was sort of enjoying myself. The first lap had been nothing but pain to a body used to a gentle roll though the countryside. The second lap had been easier as my body knew what had been required of it . The third however was proving difficult. Delirium had set in from lack of water and talent and I was talking to the bike, urging her to get me home and not let me injure myself. The light on the handlebars flicked and bounced around just catching the board to mark the end of the seventh mile. Even in the cool darkness the sweat was running off me in rivulets, blinding me as it ran from my forehead into me eyes. “Come on, its all down hill from here Julian” I huffed. “Just that vicious little climb before the finish line” I gritted my teeth and dug deep.
The tree must have been waiting for me. Round the corner I came, thoughts of the finish line and a drink coursing through my mind, when my shoulder thudded into the tree trunk and I was knocked sideways. Time slowed, images flashed through my mind, my wife fast asleep at home, my son waiting for at the finish line to cheer me. Matt telling me how easy this would be. Then the second tree lunged at me, knocking me upright and I wobbled on my way bruised but still on the bike, riding through the night.
I finished my last lap at 9.50pm. I was sore, bruised, tired sweaty but really happy that I’d made it. There were still 2 hours to go but I wasn’t going anywhere near the course again, my job was done. Three 1 hour laps was more than enough for me, I handed over the wrist band to Daryl and waved him off into the darkness.
“See that was fun wasn’t it” Matt beamed at me, “Now how do you fancy joining a 10 man team for the 24 hour next year ?”
We eventually finished 30th out of 43 team, only 6 laps behind the leaders. But I like to think we had more fun then them.