Monday, August 04, 2008

2008 Bontrager 24/12 Report

I should have written this ages ago but work has been busy... Anyway...

In 2006 I took part in a race ran by Epic called the Epic Blast, I wrote about it before but it was basically a sprint run down a long downhill course that also had XC type sections. The reason I bring this up was that this was the most fun day I had racing since I started... Bontrager 24/12 has given that day a run for it's money!

It all started a few months earlier when Matt from TorQ asked us if we would be interested in taking part in the mixed pairs category of the 12 hour race. Apparently, this was going to be the 'big' category as most of the UKs leading couples were going to take part. The sound of all this (and the fact that it was not 24 hours) intrigued us so we agreed to take part.

Roll on a few months and Mel and I found ourselves outside Plymouth on the grounds of Newnham Estate in glorious sunshine. A preride of the course brought huge smiles on our faces so no matter what happened, we knew we would have fun. (It also helped that if it did rain, the course would be pretty weather proof – unlike Vietnam... I mean, Mountain Mayhem...). After a few false starts we eventually found some accommodation (don't even ask about the original one we booked) and ate a great Indian meal.

Birds eye view

Morning arrived with blue skies, a bone dry course and a high probability that we wont get rained on. (There was a deep river crossing to keep the dust down though!)

At the start, Mel and I decided that I would do double laps and she would perform single ones until I started to slow. This would hopefully equal out our energies over the event (having done a couple of adventure races, one of the most important things is to always make everyone equally tired). That didn't mean Mel got to chill out for an hour at a time though, as we had no support, she was going to be prepping for me as much as she could when I was riding, the plan being that all I had to do was sit down when I got back, eat and before I start my next lap fix anything on my bike (mostly, this was just oil the chain... but I'll get to that later) grab the bottles she prepped and go.

Ian and I at the start of the race

At 12pm the race start. A short start loop brought us around onto the lap proper. I spent most of the first lap telling myself to take it easy – it's easy to get carried away but when I'm going to be riding close to 8 hours I had to really hold back at the start. My plan was to ride well within myself for as long as possible and much further into the event (8 hours or so) put in a few fast laps if needs be. I have done a lot of long races recently so I thought that I should be strong enough at the end as long as I take care of eating and drinking. I also knew that Mel would be fresher so that we can also switch to single laps.

Coming around after the start loop - Ian on my tail

Our competition in this race was going to be tight with Kate and Ian Potter, Jenny Copnall and her partner Richard as well as Phil Morris and Madie Horton. The four main teams stayed pretty close throughout the first few hours but it was the Potters who we had the main tussles with. (They were having there own inner competition too to find out who the fastest Potter is – Kate's blog has all the gory details :)) There was never more then a minute or so between us and 6 hours in, I was really starting to wonder if they would ever slow down! Kate was as fast as normal, but Ian was really pulling off a blinder. I was most impressed with Kate in one of her laps though, I started a little behind her and caught her on the climb, I contemplated in trying to get her to hang on to me and then try to up the pace and get her to follow but I threw that idea out and rode my own lap. I arrived into the arena after my lap to turn and see her just behind! Impressive stuff.

Fortunately, we didn't have any mechanicals that caused major problems but I didn't get away scot free. I started my 3rd lap (about an hour into the race) and noticed I had very little travel on my front fork – as the next few laps progressed, very little turned to none. So I did another 5 laps without any travel – although the course was not technical (and my high volume Racing Ralph tires were amazing) my hands and wrists were really starting to get sore. This was until I rode through the bomb hole section and heard a massive pop and loads of liquid in my face. My heart dropped thinking that I just sliced my wheel and the liquid was the Stans fluid in the wheel. The feeling of riding on the rim didn't arrive but the front felt spongy – I looked down to find a chunk of the left leg of my fork missing – I actually felt relieved – I was 5km from the finish and didn't fancy running or changing tires. The compression and lockout adjustment was gone (litrally) but I now had a full 100mm of bouncy travel again! (Oh, and a fresh oil shower every-time I hit a big bump)

Anyway, back to the race – everything was neck and neck until around 8 or 9pm when we started to edge ahead of the Potters, not much, but a minute or two per lap and we also switched to single laps. The night laps came and I got to do some of the most enjoyable night riding I'd ever done – it was my first time using our Exposure lights – they were amazing – so light and bright. Mel seemed to be buzzing after every lap too (according to the people at the TorQ stand).

I finished my last lap (13) at about 11:50pm to find Mel waiting to go out on her last lap. We probably had enough time that we didn't need to ride another lap but Mel had the biggest smile when I seen her that I knew she wanted another lap. I handed over the baton and headed to the TorQ stands were Matt and Sasha prepared diner (YEAH – real food - thank you, thank you, thank you!). Mel finshed her lap (8th for her) and we all sat around chatting, eating and enjoying a glass of wine till late. The end to an amazing day of racing. Perfect weather, competition, course, organization and company...

With a little bit of sleep, Mel and I got up the next morning to blue skies and decided to head out for another 'recovery' lap (you would think 21 laps between us was enough!). The fact that we were doing that, after so many laps really shows how much we loved the course – it was so fast and so much fun, the weather was perfect and we got to cheer on the 24 hour folk.

Mel the next day when we went out on a 'recovery' ride

I know I have gone on a few times before about this but the TorQ nutrition products are simply amazing for this type of event. I've raced a few long races recently and know a few things about nutrition but I was still amazed that I came in after my last lap feeling better (with more energy) then I had 12 hours earlier – incredible.

The mixed podium (Maddie and Phil had to leave early)

Both of us have to thank TorQ for their support and encouragement during the event, our competitors (especially Kate and Ian) for giving us such a nail biting race and Martin (InEvent) and Keith Bontrager for putting on the event – you'll see use there next year.

There are lots of photos available here and here and some we took here as well as some reports here and here. Results are here. As usual (and she beat me to it this time) Mel's report can be found on her blog...

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