It’s been a bit quiet on here for a while – mostly because the weather, somewhat unbelievably, has been really good for a while here in the south of England & I’ve been riding my bikes a lot. However, I’ve stayed relatively close to home (within a couple of hundred miles anyway) and have been riding at places I’ve been to before, so there haven’t really been many stories to share or any new photos.
Consecutive weekends riding in Wales (a bit wet, with disappointingly short rides), Somerset (another short ride – but my biggest crash in years, nothing on a dislocated shoulder though) and the Isle of Wight (a small group from the local MTB club & actual heat) were leading nicely up to last weekend. For some reason, I thought it would be a good idea to enter a so-called MTB Marathon in Shropshire in the middle of summer – back on Long Mynd, where I rode at the end of May. Mainly I think it was because I’ve been riding increasingly long distances to keep my riding interesting & challenging on the local terrain – but I find that I know few people around here with the free time or inclination to go out for long rides. So signing up for a 75 km event seemed like a good idea – a ready made route & people to ride with/near.
Not being a bank holiday weekend, it only took four hours to get to Shropshire & I was setting up camp in the late afternoon – with twenty or so groups of campers. By the time I got back from the dinner at the pub at the bottom of the hill, I was astounded by how much the field had filled with tents. This event was clearly a lot more popular than I was expecting. By half-seven Saturday morning, I was baking in the tent (I was pleased I’d impulse-bought a super thin & small sleeping bag for the summer) – but I managed to drag myself back down the hill for a Full English to fuel the first few hours’ riding.
Ten o’clock seemed to be a bit late to start such a long ride (there were shorter options – 25 & 45 km – that started at the same time) as it was already a scorcher. Having ridden here recently, I knew the first climb was a long drag up a bit of seal & then forestry roads – so I was happy to start near the back & just spin. That was a mistake, as I forgot I “just spin” on a 1×9 quite a bit faster than most. The first descent was a little unnerving as I still don’t trust my bike completely after the crash two weeks ago – no sooner was that over, the second climb started with a real kicker & just kept going in the sun. There’s always a lot of satisfaction to be had riding past most of the field walking up a hill.
On the long course there were three feed stations & they were fantastic. Plenty of bananas, biscuits, energy drink, water & home-baking (mmmmm – Welsh cakes, & flapjacks). The second was just past the halfway point after a really sweet few kilometres of forested singletrack that was off of Long Mynd & a joy to discover. It was quite tiring, but nice to be out of the sun. Things got a little easier through the third quarter & the climb back up on to Long Mynd & the highest point of the day was only about half of the gradient earlier in the day. By now, I was just trying to get to the end & drink plenty of water. Sunburn wasn’t really a problem as the sunscreen I applied beforehand was now covered in dust & I actually looked tanned – I say tanned, in the cold light of day I probably just looked dirty.
As we’d lost all the shorter distance riders, things were a bit more spread out & I got talking to a couple from just down the road in Poole – mostly because Rachel was wearing a New Zealand riding top & both she & Andy seem to get up to plenty of adventures. Andy managed a puncture on the last descent off the mynd – I thought that was one of the best downhill sections of the day. With a couple of kilometres to go, my leg tried to cramp – but not so much that I couldn’t ride through it. I was pleased to ride off the camping-hill down to the finish line through some technical switchbacks in one piece & get home in less than five & a half hours with no signs of heatstroke.
So much for a post that said: “I went for a long ride up some hills & it was very hot”.