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Malmesbury 24 hr MTB relay

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Notes from a back marker


One of the things which amaze me most is that I never learn, and I still lend out my ears to others!


Ernest and Grant had entered the 24 hour mountain bike relay as solo riders, which they had done before. They then tried to convince me to enter as well (probably so that they would not finish last in the event!).


So I entered at the last minute, thinking that Iíll do one lap and then go home, keeping them quiet in that way. I shouldíve known myself better than that. So off we went on Saturday morning to be in Malmesbury (about an hours drive) for the 12h00 start.


By this time I was becoming a little nervous as I know that Iím not particularly good on a mountain bike, and that Iíve hardly been on the bike this year. The rest of the competitors looked lean and mean with all the latest equipment, and there I was with my takkies. Too late to change my mind!


At the start I nearly lost it going out the gate, but stayed on miraculously as into the bush we went. Single track with switch backs around trees and through sand, and eventually down the other side of the hill. I thought I could hear some people laughing as I pushed my bike down the tricky bush exit onto a dirt road. Back on the bike again and up a slight incline I could see the last of the main field disappearing in the distance down a fast downhill stretch, which takes me longer than the uphills as Iím vrek bang for the downs. Of course, there was also a sharp sandy bend at the bottom of the hill!

Soon we left the dirt road for a steep path through a field with anti-erosion walls as high as the Eiffel Tower. I found myself slamming on brakes and holding on for dear life, bum and feet flying in the air. Along another section of path, and we were back in the bush with the sharpest corners imaginable. Up and down and up and down, and around and around, and eventually 7 km later I was back at the start. With a sigh of relief I left the gate again, just to start round number 2!


By the third lap I was starting to get the hang of it. I was still no faster than before, but at least I wasnít as nervous anymore. So it went, just a quick stop for a drink after every lap or two, and then back on the bike again. Well, it didnít take long for the aches and pains to start setting in.


By 6 oíclock it was time to get the lights out as the sun was starting to set. The dark was a totally different game, damn, and I thought I was getting into this thing. Now I was even slower than before, and the rest of the field was flying past as though I was standing still. By midnight the little inclines had become serious hills, and the sandy bits were now serious sand patches (new sand pits were appearing with each lap).


I knew I shouldnít have listened to my two so-called "friends", one even claiming to be my "boyfriend" (now I was certain that he was trying to get rid of me). But I soldiered on, and by 02h00 the hills had become mountains. With both my "partners" taking a nap I put my head down for two more laps. By 03h00 the course had become extremely quiet, and I also decided to take a rest.


I woke at 05h30, and decided it was time to get up and hit the track again. After a Red Bull and a cup of coffee it was back on the bike again. Ouch, there are a couple of sore bits now, especially the backside! I seemed to have lost the last bit of energy I had, as now I was moving at a snails pace. I just couldnít believe I still had to keep going until 12h00. By now Iíd lost my sense of humor as well as my common sense. Just staying on the bike was a feat in itself.


Eventually it was time for the last lap, and I noticed it wasnít only me who was hanging out time in the bush to avoid going around again (every finisher has to complete their last lap after 12h00). By this time just about everyone was dragging their feet, as it had been a very long 24 hours.


Surprisingly, both Ernest and I had completed enough laps for gold medals. Besides resting, sleeping, and taking photoís, Grant surprisingly managed a silver medal.I have vowed never to do this again, but for those interested parties I do recommend some training. Another good idea is to go to bed early on Friday night, and not at 02h00 after plenty of red wine. Also, take adequate food with (not just a packet of crisps and 4 red bulls!).


Needless to say, that Sunday afternoon I arrived home starving and dead tired. Next year Iím going to do some training, go to bed early and take some decent food with (oh yes, I vowed not to do this thing again!)


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