For a while now I’ve wanted to ride an endurance event solo, but having ridden Mayhem in a 4 for the past 5 years and the Enduro 6 in pairs the past 2 I’ve always told myself that it hurts in a team so to ride solo is just plain stupid.
I’m not quite sure how I ended up entering solo this year. I think I got brave, alcohol may have been involved and I might have been encouraged by a fellow Mayhem competitor entering as well. It’s an itch I’ve been wanting to scratch for quite a while and it’s now all over.
The build up
I’m often nervous before events, making sure the bike(s) are in ridable shape, getting clothing and other kit sorted but not for this one. I only needed one bike, and a bit of food and enough water. Easy.
It was a noon start so I got up at normal time and arrived in plenty of time. It all seemed too easy.
I’ve learned my lesson with LeMan starts. I start the run slowly at a gentle jog and make sure I don’t go too fast. I’ve no pretensions of doing well so no point in killing myself on a run with so much riding to do.
The plan was to ride hardish for a couple of laps and see how I felt. I’ve been feeling strong and fit the past month so decided to hold back and try and ride consistent laps rather than set out too fast and die later. In previous years as a pair we did 2 laps before switching as it’s a shortish course so I promised myself a short break after every 2 or 4 laps depending on how I felt.
The weather was perfect, the trails were dry and it was a cracking course. I felt fine after the first 2 laps, had ridden well within myself and set of to do another pair of laps. At this point(ish) my mate Nigel had caught up with me and it was a slight surprise. We did a lap and a bit together and I wondered if he planned on making a break to drop me as he’d clearly done a lap or so faster to catch up. He seemed to be working harder than me but the climbs felt a bit harder and I dropped him on them when I rode at my normal pace. At the end of lap 4 we were still together so I decided I couldn’t stop as I’d be a few minutes behind him and having to chase, so I decided to ride until I ran out of water,
At some point during lap 5 I noticed he wasn’t with me and halfway on lap 6 I was out of water. I stopped for a refill and grabbed a banana. As I was setting off for lap 7 Nigel entered the pits so I pushed a bit to try and make a gap. I soon stopped and decided to pick a pace I felt I could finish the race at. I figured I was lapping at just over 40mins a lap and would have to do 3 more so I was 2/3 of the way there already.
On lap 8 I rode for a while with the (eventual) womens solo third place finisher, Jo Holden. I passed her on climbs and she passed me on the fireroads. It was great to have a chat and I picked up my pace in the singletrack to keep up with her. She dropped me before the end of the lap and I settled into a pace to get me to the end. As I went out onto the last lap I noticed another solo rider stop ahead of me for water and as we’d both been very close the past few laps I decided to ride the same pace to try and beat him back. It was good motivation to keep the same pace and not to slow down with the end in sight.
The last lap was a bit of a blur as I tried to remember where I was on the course and to try and work out how far I had left. My garmin battery ran out and for the life of me I couldn’t work out which parts of the lap I’d ridden ans which were to come. I just rode each section in front of me and enjoyed the experience knowing I would complete it.
I rode 9 laps and finished 35th out of 72 male solo riders. A top half finish in my first solo is the best I could have hoped for. I beat Nigel by 11 mins but the thing I most pleased with is that I rode for all of the 6 hours apart from the brief 5 mins I took to re-fill with water.
I had an aim to try and ride consistent laps and looking at the results I did pretty well. My lap times were :
The first 4 laps were all around 38 mins (lap 1 faster but had the run), I must have felt the pace at lap 5 as I was 2 mins slower and then I seemed to settle into 42 min laps (lap 7 includes the 5 min water stop)
All in all it was an amazing day, the bike worked well, I felt pretty good, rode the longest I’ve ever done without a break, probably the furthest on a mountain bike. The course was fantastic and the weather perfect. It’s days like this that make the dark, cold, wet rides worth it. Now it’s 40 days until Mayhem and I can’t wait.