Monday, July 7, 2008

Mountain Mayhem :: 2008 report

I only found out I had a team to race for three weeks before Mountain Mayhem. It was a last minute desperate plea for some team, anyone, to want me to represent them.

In the past I always chose the solo 24hr option because I wanted to see if I could last the distance....and in many ways I thought it would be easier because I only had myself to let down. It was always a race against me...KP brain vrs KP body. For the first 6hrs my brain was always more willing to race than my legs, but then once I passed the midnight mark I found the legs would just keep on spinning like I was on auto pilot, and at times it was my brain that started to have second thoughts about the joy of riding without sleep or solid food for all those hours. I look back on those Mayhem nights with fond memories, especially the muddy ones when I caught myself having conversations with my brain to convince it to carry on. When finally 2pm on the Sunday came around I would be grinning from ear to ear because I knew I had actually achieved my goal. Full credit goes to all those soloists this year that achieved their goals and made it to the finish line.

I hope to return to 24hr solo racing in the future when the legs decide that going at a steady pace for a long period of time is far more enjoyable than pushing hard for a shorter period of time. It’s just at this stage of my life (early 30’s life crisis), I want to be fast, and the main problem I experience with racing solo for 24hrs is the slothful aftermath, when I become the ultimate whingeing Aussie (yes aussie’s whinge too:)). I hate feeling slothful and find that for 6 weeks post 24hr solo I’m constantly complaining to Ian that I can’t ride my bike....I’m so fatigued that KP’s clumsy ways are even clumsier.

Now back to my 2008 Mayhem story - I emailed friends and spread the word that the Potters would be returning to Mountain Mayhem this year and I was available if anyone wanted me....but no response, no takers, so it looked like it was going to be me, myself and I left on the side lines :( . Then my mobile rang. I brushed the cobwebs off because I hardly ever use my mobile, and would you believe Nick Craig was on the phone....I had a friend :) .

Suddenly the clouds lifted and I was asked to ride for the Scott UK Team. I was really excited about the experience, and so relieved that I would be part of a team. I was going to be riding alongside Nick Craig, Paul Oldham and Stu Bowers...then the nerves started. Since I have been attending Mountain Mayhem, as far back as I can remember, the Scott Team have always won the elite men’s category. As there was no category for the elite men this year, but only an elite mixed team category it was going to be a new experience for all of us. The boys had to deal with a woman, a faffy one at that, and I had to remember to race fast and not 24hr solo pace.

When I met the Scott boys on the Saturday morning, a few hours before the start of the race, I soon realised the team didn’t just consist of four riders. Scott UK had an amazing support crew that included men, women, children and let’s not forget baby Oldham who has a wicked smile. Everyone had an important role on the team, from fixing bikes to making pasta, to simply walking down with each rider and collecting warm layers from the pit area; there was also a little dribbler who instantly put a smile on Paul’s face....in fact he put a smile on all our faces (and no I’m not getting clucky). The entire team discussed team tactics, well little Oldham babbled his way through it, and in the end it was decided that we would race our own race. There was strong competition, including the SIS Trek team and BMC Extra, but as we all agreed there was no point worrying about what other teams were doing as anything can happen in 24hr racing.

The rules stated that each lovely lady must do a minimum of four laps. This is quite a controversial rule for the elite mixed category. It doesn’t mean that women can’t do more laps, as there were women who did do more. I for one am always willing to ride my bike and love a challenge, especially when muddy night time riding is involved....something I can’t say I’m particularly skilled at since we rarely night ride in Luchon because Ian is scared of all the animals that come out to play. However to be competitive I fully understood that we had to play to our strengths and I accepted that I may only ride four laps. So my goal was to make them four really good laps. I had to race hard, give it my best shot for the team, but I still had to avoid punctures, mechanicals or any problems that could lose the race for the guys. It was my job to be consistent and to try not to lose too much time against the likes of Sue Clarke (SIS Trek) and Mel Spath (BMC Extra), and the other elite girls out on course. However it was always in the back of my mind that one mistake and the race could be lost....so no pressure.

Fortunately the team never put me under any stress and the only expectation Nick Craig asked of me was that I enjoy myself. At 2pm Stu Bowers took off with the other riders/runners and I think there was a camel or a horse out there too. Stu had a brilliant start and before too long the boys had gone out twice, and my turn on course was fast approaching. By this point I was really excited to be out there on my bike, as I was feeling rather lazy just resting and making baby noises at little Oldham. I loved the course in practice and there were some lovely sections of single track which were new this year that I couldn’t wait to ride. I aimed for a 50 minute lap, but I didn’t know what to expect. There were alot of people on course, but everybody was always very kind if I passed them...thankyou. I returned to the timing tent buzzing from head to toe, before passing the batton over to Stu. I managed just under 45 minutes which I thought was a pretty good effort for my first lap. I was pretty stoked with that one and rushed back to find Mr Potter to see if I beat his time....doh! I was two minutes too slow.

I didn’t have long before my next lap so quickly changed and sorted my lights out. I couldn’t believe it was already going on 8pm. I was still buzzing from my effort and couldn’t wait to get going again. Nick passed over the batton and I was off, only this time I was a bit too over excited I think and dropped my chain on the first climb from messing about with my gears. I was all fingers and thumbs but soon managed to keep it on the chain ring. I had to work extra hard now I told myself to make up lost time. However by the half way point it was starting to get dark and I soon realised that it had been a year since I had gone night riding. It felt quite surreal riding at dusk and seeing long beams of light through the trees. Then the rain started, but fortunately I was almost at the end of my second lap when it really bucketed down. I felt guilty handing the batton over to Stu who had to face the sudden down pour of rain.

Once showered and fed it was time to try and sleep until 4am. This proved rather difficult because the rain belted our little tent and the wind was very strong. I had horrible thoughts of the tree beside the tent falling on top of me. Then I kept hearing voices outside describing the muddy conditions out on course and I wondered if I should be helping clean bikes or ready to ride in case there was a problem for one of the guys; But then another part of my brain reminded me that they are the Scott Team and know a thing or two about 24hr racing, especially in the mud. Just as I was drifting off Mr Potter, who was wet and muddy to the bone, stirred me as he needed some dry clothes. Ian told me to be very careful out on course, which meant it was truly tough as Ian loves riding in the mud and is never fazed in slippery conditions.

I couldn’t stay in my tent any longer and raced back to the Scott tent to find out how the boys were doing. I was due to go out around 5am, but their laps were much slower now due to the conditions, so it looked like it would be around 8am before I could head out, but I wasn’t going to go back to sleep. I sorted my bike out and changed tyres. The guys looked like they had seen a fair share of mud, but fortunately no broken bikes or bodies. Considering how exhausted they looked there was still plenty of team spirit and entertainment as the three of them couldn’t help but be funny even in the grimmest and muddiest of circumstances.

Once I was out on course I decided to run the muddiest sections. I saw too many people walking back with broken bikes, plus I overheard Paul saying that he ran certain sections to avoid a mechanical. I didn’t want to risk a mechanical either so picked the bike up and ran as fast as I could where the mud was at its most menacing. I knew I was losing time and cursing myself for not being a cyclo cross racer or having Paul’s long legs. I finished just over the hour, but was really annoyed with myself because I wanted to finish within the hour. I felt like I let the boys down because we knew the TREK SIS team were so close. There was about 15 minutes in it, so we had to keep pressing on. I had one more lap and I wanted it to be a good one, as fast as I could go, but with no problems along the way that would cause me to lose time for the team.

I was due out on course in the next few minutes and the nerves were really building up. Joolze Dymond was trying to make me laugh and I had some lovely people including Kate George giving me loads of encouragement (thanking you both it meant alot). I had the Scott ladies also wishing me a good ride before Nick passed over the batton. Perhaps he could see the KP nerves shaking all over, but he encouraged me to enjoy the climbs and to go and have some fun. After all that’s what an event like Mayhem should be all about. I suddenly felt alot more relaxed and couldn’t wait to attack the single track. The course was still muddy in sections, but I didn’t fear it this time as the Soda didn’t appear to be collecting any mud and the gears were singing sweetly. Suddenly two of my dearest friends appeared out of nowhere to cheer me on (that be you Abie and Jon). I then became more aware of other racers on course who also had positive words to say and I in turn (when I could actually breathe) wished other riders all the best. Friendly voices could be heard from start to finish as I did my best to get around the course as fast as I could. Hearing these encouraging words, at times from complete strangers, brought a smile to my face and made me realise what the spirit of Mayhem is all about. Though the conditions were tough I will be back next year just to be part of this atmosphere again and to feel like I’m part of one big happy family on two wheels....or even one wheel as the case maybe.

Finally my laps were done, but the tension was still high as the boys still had at least one more lap to go. Stu and Paul finished on a high, both storming up the climbs, though physically and mentally wrecked they were still going strong. Then it was Nick’s time to go out for what we thought would be the final lap if all went well, but there was still no guarantee. A race is a race and anything can happen. If it were me I would probably be a jabbering wreck, but for Nick he looked completely at ease with the situation. He was still joking around with the team minutes before he was due to race and you would be forgiven for thinking he was about to go out for his first lap.

I waited with Ian by the finish line as 2pm ticked by. There was still no sign of Nick. It was great to see all the soloists and team riders smiling and celebrating their finish. After such a difficult Mountain Mayhem everybody finished winners and were worthy of a podium....finally Nick Craig crossed the line and the Scott Team had made it to the finish line. It was a hard fought race for everybody out there that weekend, but hopefully everybody finished with a smile on their face and their own story to tell.

photo By Joolze Dymond, click to see bigger

I would like to say a very big thankyou to the Scott Team for giving me the opportunity to ride my bike at Mayhem this year. You all made me feel such an important part of the team and I had so much fun along the way; A very special Thankyou to all the support crew who were amazing and worked solidly over the 24hr period, and who should have been up on the podium as well.

As always Special thanks to –
Cotic – www.cotic.co.uk
Bontrager – www.bontrager.com
A Quick Release Holidays – www.aquickrelease.com
Torq & Torq Australia – www.torqfitness.co.uk
Magura Forks – www.magura.com
Hope – www.hope.com
Skins – www.skins.net

And co-sponsors Crank Brothers, SRAM, Catlike Helmets, Lumicycle, Bigfoot bags, 661 gloves, Sundog eyewear, Ergon bags and Purple Extreme Lubricants.

4 comments:

cy@cotic said...

It might be worth mentioning that your team actually WON Kate!!

kelvin said...

I've added that cheery podium photo (thanks Joolze) that reminds be why anyone would want you in their 24hr team Kate. Keep on smiling Kate!

Graham said...

Hi Kate, Well done. Now you are mixing with the cyclocross boys why don't you have a crack at the Nationals this year, I'm sure you would win.

Graham said...

Kate further to my last comments, come and do the National Cyclocross Championships here in Bradford on the 10th and 11th Jan 2009, your bound to win the ladies if you start practicing some cross skills NOW, I will be marshalling somewhere on the course it would be great to see you ride here, I'm sure Paul Oldham and the family would love to see you ride at his local race. Come on DO IT.