Monday, May 12, 2008

2008 British XC/Marathon NPS - Drumlanrig

8 hours of suffering (and loads of driving) – that was my weekend – but I loved it!

It all started on Friday morning when Mel and I packed up the Silver Bullet (my little car) and headed to Belfast to catch the Ferry over to Scotland. We left with loads of time so our trip to Drumlanrig Castle was pretty chilled. This trip was for the second round of the British NPS Cross Country and Marathon series.

A slightly damp course (but warm humid weather) welcomed us on our preride. The track was basically 90% twisty, rooty, rocky single track with about 180 meters of climb per lap. The Elite men were to do 5 laps of the 7.5km course but with an hour to go, it was upped to 6. (Dohh) The course is very similar to the Epic Club Course except a lot longer and a little more technical.

Mel riding a particularly beautiful section

Race morning arrived and I felt pretty good – my legs felt fine in the warm up and my heart rate was responding. After the last gridding nightmare I was at the start with lots of time and had as good a position as I could ask for without being officially gridded – all good so far. The race started fast up the hill and from the start I felt pretty good – my legs were working and half way around the lap the leaders were still well within sight. Now comes my unlucky (stupid?) bit. On one of the fast fireroad sections I was passing another rider on the inside (I let him know where I was, lots of room for both of us) and some how my front wheel slid out – I couldn't believe it. I was unhurt (slight cut) but the front rotor on my bike was taco'd. I could see it swerve horribly and knew it was taking away all my power. (I guess a mistake I made here was not to calm down and try and fix it properly – it was so bad, you would try to spin the wheel as hard as you can with your hand and it would stop in a quarter turn!) I rode on anyway and caught a few that had passed by but coming into the start/finish area, another spill – I just couldn't believe it – I picked myself up and then suffered through the next two hours of the race. I wish I took my spare wheels with me (didn't think I would have room as I was picking up some new equipment from the UK) and switched them as I genuinely felt very strong but I think the wheel robbed a lot of the power. Two crashes in the first 7km of the XC race (neither were after hard efforts, I was pretty recovered/concentrated during each crash) and 0 crashes in the remaining 137km of racing I did during the weekend...

Second lap - still hammering in groups

See the slight cut? Picture from here

So that was Saturday, a 19th place and my body felt toast. I was really wondering how I could do another 100km the following day. Regardless, Mel and I went back to a Thai restaurant we found the previous night and filled up on rice.

I awoke on Sunday to a pretty sore back and dead legs but as the morning progressed they seemed to loosen out. Unfortunately, Mel and I seemed to mess up our timing a little so I ended up rolling up to the start line of the 100km Enduro without a warm up – ahh well, at least I was on the front row. I knew it would be more the 5 hours of riding so lots of time to get warm during the race – besides, I was saving energy! :)

We did 8 of these 12.5km laps

The race started and for most of the first lap a lead group formed with Nick Craig, William Bjergfelt and Duncan Jamieson with myself and Stuart Bowers just a little back. I didn't feel particularly bad but I knew I had put in a hard effort the day before. I let a bit of a gap open to Start towards the end of the first lap and from then on I mostly rode by myself (except when lapping). The course had more fireroad then the previous day but a few really nice additional single track sections. I actually enjoyed this course more (maybe it was all the extra power I had without the rubbing rotor!) and felt that I got a lot of single track riding practice in. In the end, I rolled in 15 minutes behind Nick Craig (the winner – he didn't race the XC race the day before) but a little over 4 minutes off a podium (damn). The race was really long at 5 hours and 29 minutes but I didn't suffer nearly as much as the previous day – I didn't (couldn't?) push as hard and my average HR was really low for a race – it was over 5 hours though so I guess that can be expected. It was amazing the amount of drink that I went through during the race – 8 gels and 8 550ml bottles of drink – no cramps and I felt okay when I finished (it would have taken a very very big stick to make me do another lap though!)

After all this – the worst bit was still to come – the drive home. A two hour rush to Stranrear, then a relaxng ferry ride, then another 3 hours from Belfast. I woke up this morning and I felt like I was hit by a train.

Thanks to Rachel Wisdom for doing the feed on Saturday's race (I need to find someone for the Marathons, stopping 8 times does not help your racing much) and well done to Robin for coming 3rd in the XC race.

Mel had an interesting weekend of racing too, but I'll leave her to talk about it on her blog (posts up soon)

Results are available here and there are reports/photos here and here.

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