It Weren't Half Hot Mum!

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BY: Louise Robinson

Published: 28th July, 2014

Oh my god! How hard was that.
Its not often I complain about it being too hot - in fact I am not complaining, I would rather be too hot than too cold but it does make for some seriously hard racing.

Sunshine essentials for a 24hour race

I decided to enter 12 hour solo back in January in order to give me a goal for this summer and reason to train. It al sounded so good at the time. The reality of family life and a professional job however did cramp my training plans somewhat. I usually get about 6-8 hours training in a week, and I had great plans to increase that gradually over the months before the race. I had intended to put the extra hours in on the turbo trainer, early morning and late night sessions instead of sitting on the sofa and watching the telly. The reality is that pretty much the only telly I watch is on the turbo trainer anyway, so any extra training time was directly deducted from my sleeping quota and this was not a recipe for a happy mummy. Oh well, it is only a bit of fun. Isn't it?.......

I arrived at Newnham Park on Friday afternoon in the glorious sunshine with my hubby Jason who was also soloing in the 12 hour event. With the kids deposited at cub camp and Grandma's we pitched camp in double quick time, went for a pre-ride together and were able to peruse the trade stands at our leisure.

Cycle Surgery provided mechanical assistance and Rotor showed off their new ovalised mtb chain rings

There was even time for a pre-ride massage thanks to the girls from Revolution Sports Physio which loosened me up nicely for the onslaught that was about to come.

Although we were without the kids, a lot of other racers had bought their families with them and it made for a really relaxed atmosphere in the campsite. The kids kicked off the start of the racing on Saturday morning with the 12 and 24-minute races. This is just a fabulous format for children's racing. Using a small part of the adult course, the route took the kids through some tricky bomb holes but once the grown ups got the hang of pushing where required the whole thing flowed very nicely. The fastest lapped like Trojans and the littlest got round on Daddy power but because they all kept going round until the hooter blew no-one got the "I'm last" feeling and they all enjoyed themselves immensely.

Pushing is absolutely allowed when you are riding those bomb holes on anything smaller than 26inch wheels!

The littlest members of the XCracer team Halie-Ray and Riley set the bar high with gutsy efforts in the kids races

At about 11.30am I found myself lining up on the start line ready and eager for the off. My garmin hit 34oc as we stood in the sunshine and I was thankful for the lashings of factor 50 sunscreen I had smothered myself in. My race plan was simple. Get a good position on the start grid, ride a fastish first lap to get ahead of the traffic and then drop into 12 hour pace. Aiming to keep lap times consistent and stops to a minimum. As I was completely unsupported this meant preparing 14 bottles of energy drink, an assortment of race food and a couple of camel-baks of water plus a whole box full of just in case items like spare gloves, spare socks, ibuprofen, extra chamois cream, and of course bike spares.  Together with a second helmet already set up with lights. I stuffed myself full of porridge and pasta thoughout the morning and drank as much as possible.

Its all in the preparation

My first lap was great. I resisted the urge to hammer round the course (which just begged to be ridden at XC pace) but was far enough up the field not to be troubled by traffic in the single track. The heat was oppressive. I took every opportunity possible to drink and took on an additional bottle every lap. After about 4 laps however the stomach cramps began. My usual cast iron stomach was really struggling with the full strength energy drink and in hindsight I should have prepared it at a much lower concentration. However, with the damage done I picked up a camel-bak of water and plugged on, willing the sun to go down and the temperature to drop. By 8pm the temperature had dropped but my mojo had disappeared with the sun. Having not ridden for more than 7 hours in about the last 3 years it was probably not surprising that my endurance fitness started to fade at this point. But I wasn't the only one. I was passing soloists and team riders alike and even the fast team riders seemed to be passing me a little more slowly (well, except for Rich Jones and Phil Morris who each passed me multiple times going at light speed). My absolute low came at about 9pm, with 3 hours and 4 more laps to go I didn't think there was any way I could make it. I made myself a bargain; walk up the big climb, stretch out the legs and ride the rest. It worked and got me round another 2 laps. Then with only 2 laps to go the end really was in sight. My last lap I gave everything until I realised I was on course to cross the line before midnight and this would  require another lap. That was until I saw the Sumo boys at the top of the final descent, having a rest and a cider. So after a friendly chat (well it would have been rude not to) I rolled over the finish line at 12.02 completely spent. 

12 hours 2 minutes total time, 11 hours 52 minutes riding time. So my aim to keep stops to a minimum was pretty much achieved. Helped massively by the weather. My bike didn't miss a beat and I did absolutely nothing to it for the entire ride. I finished in second place, behind the amazing Ricky Cotter.

Team XCracer - 2nd placed mixed 12 hr team and 1st placed mixed 24hr pairs

Massive thanks to Martyn Salt and the whole Bontrager team who put on a fabulous event with smiles on their faces. The race course was ace (as usual) and I thought the shorter lap distance worked well in the hot weather. Thanks to the kids who spayed us with water throughout the campsite and all the spectators who cheered us on for hour after hour. Also thanks to The Low Down Mechanics who made themselves available to the XCracer team all weekend. Thanks to my XCracer team mates and my friends in the AQR team who kept me updated with race timing, and the biggest thanks to all the riders who were friendly and patient and sporting both out on the course and in the pits. A cracking weekend and now time for a well earned rest.

The Low Down Mechanics - and Paddy!

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Louise Robinson

Mum, Pharmacist and XCracer Team Rider

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