When Andy posted on the Combe Raiders page some time ago, I thought doing my first MTB relay solo was a good idea. That was mainly because it was only six hours (on the Sunday, twelve on the Saturday) - not the much more ambitious twelve or twenty-four hours that I'm used to such events being. Saturday was a cracking day - even on Andy's patio on (almost in) the Avon at dinner time it was 30ºC; thankfully it was a little cooler on race-day.
I really wasn't all that prepared for such an event - treating it as a normal ride really; at six hours that is about normal now - although this time with almost continuous riding. But with Andy's help I managed to ditch my camelbak for the ride and with faith in tubeless, I rode the whole day just carrying a water bottle & hoping no mechanicals would appear - riding so light was quite nice for a change. The event started with all the first riders (there were also teams & pairs in the six & three hour events) about two kilometres from the start-finish and a few hundred metres down a hill for a chaotic Le Mans start (where you run to your steed & then race from there). Mindful that I had six hours in the saddle ahead & with my general aversion to running - I took it pretty easy & ended up near the back of the field, but there was hill to a start so I could pass people up there easily.
The course turned out to be the most fun course I've ever done in such a relay event - with some really nice singletrack, four hills that weren't killers but enabled passing, and plenty of shade. So as I'm completely uncompetitive it turned out to be a very fun ride and there wasn't anything too draining. There were some nice technical drop-offs that I rode most of the time, but tended to avoid later on when I was trying not to do anything stupid as I tired. With the extra distance at the start I thought I was doing close to forty-minute laps & would comfortably fit in nine laps, but after my first pit stop for a Clif Bar & water top-up I realised I was lapping a lot quicker than that & would probably be able to fit in ten laps if I didn't blow out. So that's what I did; with a bonus third pit stop I finished with about five minutes to spare without any really pain - although a little tired as I paced myself to make sure I finished. I had some aches in places I wasn't expecting - upper arms & just below my neck at the top of my back, I've never had any biking induced discomfort there before. Incidentally, I was decidedly mid-field finishing seventeenth out of thirty-one (the winner did twelve) - but mostly pleased with riding ninety-six kilometres/sixty miles offroad with only about ten minutes of stopping.
So a very nice day out on the bike on some well designed singletrack - Andy & Chris also did ten laps between them, finishing a quarter an hour or so before me. They had done the twelve hour last year, but got a bit bored. I tend to concur, as fun as the trail was - after about eight consecutive laps it was getting a little boring. So while it'd be nice to challenge myself & do a twelve or even twenty-four hour solo - I think I'd get too bored going around & around the same course for such a long time (not too mention I'd actually have to think about preparation, nutrition & other such things in more detail, when all I really want to do is ride). One of the things I love about riding is exploring places - something a lap-based race doesn't really encourage.
Unfortunately this post is even more verbose & picture light than normal - this is the only one I have from the day, I didn't even carry a camera. The day was topped off nicely by visiting my cousins five minutes down the road, lying on their new lawn (the lawn's not new, they have recently moved there & didn't have a lawn before) stretched out in the sun with a beer. I shunned the longer, but quicker, motorway route home & went cross-country home on the A-roads - just stunning in the evening light across the pretty countryside.
10 hours ago