After visiting the club guys who had entered the Bontrager 24/12 event I was adamant the pootle crew were putting in a team for the next 24 hour event. So after little arm-twisting Carol, Phil, Keith, stAn and I were in.
(Text in block quotes written on the day with weary fingers through bleary eyes.)
The Night Before
Taking leave from the daily grind, Mrs. Fat Lad and I loaded the car to it’s gunnels and with the statement “if I’ve forgotten it now, tough!” ringing in my ears we were away. Cruising down the dual carriageway to fuel up I ran a grubby hand through my long hair with a knackered sigh. “Bollocks!” I cried, “We’ve forgotten to shave my head!” Mrs. Fat Lad muttered something unpleasant under her breath and after the diesel purchase we about faced to trim my head.
Running late (for a change) we arrived at the camp site a few hours drive down the road with Phil in convoy. Sarah (not my Sarah a different Sarah… not going to get confusing this at all is it?) had already marked out a huge area for us all with red and white stripy tape and tent pegs. Chip and Amanda had made it there before us too and were busy erecting gazebos. Mrs. Fat Lad and I made a start on pitching our new tent and it was abundantly clear despite the engrish instructions we had no idea what we were doing. Amanda and Chip mucked in and we were soon settled in. Well not quite. We have bought an airbed. With a built in foot pump. It wouldn’t inflate. Soon there was to be several members of the club, a track pump and a still un-inflated air bed an hour and a half later. I gave up and we wandered over to the registration tent to sign in. There was no turning back now.
The setup was pretty good; there were plenty of trade stands and a few shops offering fairly decent discounts. Signed in, carrying my envelope containing my number and timing chip we sauntered back to the campsite to dress for a practice lap.
Chip and Mick (Carol’s hubby and a regular club rider) Pit Bitches for the weekend, joined us out on the very dusty course to spin out too. Earlier in the week my old Hope Minis decided that this week would be the perfect time to disintegrate. After a mad dash round Thursday afternoon I managed to get a good deal on some Avid Juicy 5’s. This practice lap was the first proper ride out on these brakes and the new 8” front rotor was taking some getting used to in the corners of such a dusty course. Piers clocked the route at seven miles-ish. The route consisted of a lot of riding over fields, some challenging singletrack climbs and a couple of fun singletrack descents. Back at the camp I moaned to Mrs. Fat Lad about sore nipples from the cheap jersey I decided to wear, while the girls broke the good news about our airbed. It was fecked. Marvelous, night before a 24 hour endurance event was to be spent sleeping on the hard ground of Derbyshire. Amanda bullied me into getting into warm clothes before I cooled down too much. Stomping into the tent with a sulk I exited it quickly. “You wind up bastards!” I cried with the fully made up and inflated airbed at my back.
The rest of the teams arrived and darkness soon fell around us. There was an interesting interpretation of the no camp fire rules (we used a portable barbecue) and while another barbecue did some actual cooking there were many beers drunk by all late into the night.
In our campsite four teams pitched up together for the upcoming pain and joy.
For the Bad Brains Pootle Crew we had: stAn, Phil, Keith, Carol and the Fat Lad.
For the Bad Brains team we had: Glen, Piers, Jonny and Dan
For Return of the Black Sheep we had: Phil, Aid, Wayne and Keith.
And finally the fairer sex had West Yorkshire Rough Riders with: Sarah, Cazza, Claire and Joolz.
So there were a few of us about… Mrs. Fat Lad got her David Bailey groove on getting photos of the Pootle Crew team and the club members that were riding.
Finally getting my arse into gear I set about emptying the junk from my camelbak trying to bring it below the metric ton it normally weighs. (Later when one of the girls tidied up the camp site they thought it was rubbish and only Mrs. Fat Lad’s quick thinking saved it).
After the rider briefing Phil kitted up for the race start and we all wondered down to see him off. The event was to kick off with a Le Mans style start with all first lap riders having to run 1/2 mile from the start line to their bike in the coral. Democratically everyone but Phil decided he was our man for the run as the only Pootle Crew team member who rides on flat pedals.
At the start the atmosphere was festival like with an undercurrent of tension and nervousness of the unknown ahead. The air horn cried out and the riders were off, the sound of hundreds of stiff cycling shoes echoing that of any equestrian meet. Phil made good time in the run and was out and away quickly. Lap order had been agreed earlier as Phil-stAn-Carol-Keith-Fat Lad and everyone was putting in quick lap times in the dry conditions. Already the Pit Crew were establishing themselves as the vital link in the endurance chain as I prepared for my first lap. Camelbak filled, club kit on and with the asbo style timing chip strapped to my ankle I was ready as I was ever going to be…
Feck me I’m nervous, nausea, I must have pissed 20 times by now. I go out in ten minutes and I’m not at all mentally prepared. The fast guys in the club are pulling 35-40 mins I’ll be happy to bring it in under an hour.
Mrs. Fat Lad and I wandered down to the coral, I mumbled something about needing yet another piss but my better half said it was just nerves. I propped up the bike and walked into the coral to wait for Keith. After a short wait Keith rocketed through the timing tent to me, handed me the baton (fancy name for a lanyard with a wristband attached) and I was off.
So, I’m back. Managed 58 minutes, it might have been quicker if I hadn’t needed a piss on the second climb. Sat drinking PSP and have just polished off some rice and chicken. Phil is out now and it’s 6:55pm
A distant rumble became a roar as Pete rolled up on his motorbike to see us all in action and offer any support he could. Phil wandered in from his lap with a split in his pedal casing as wide as his grin. Ambling back from one of the shop marquis later with some v8’s Pete and Chip got stuck in fitting them while he rested up. The rest of the laps were going well in the increasingly dusty course with no major headaches or upsets and the routine of ride-eat-rest was becoming the norm. Before my first lap I’d laid out all my clothes ready and I did the same in preparation for my next one. In my head it was the shining beacon of organization and order. Mrs. Fat Lad said it was something more akin to the results of a whirlwind in a tent. The collected consensus was for double laps at night so we could get some kip in and I chilled out by the fire as I waited for my go. Carol returned from her first night lap telling us how the dust at dusk (I know, I can’t believe I wrote that either) was just reflecting back the light from her lamp in the haze. We wandered down to the coral again and before long Keith was at the handover prompting my double lap start as Sharon and Mrs Fat Lad cheered me out.
Second and Third lap
Oh my word that was tough. First lap I was going strong middle ringing most of the climbs and feeling good. Three quarters round it started raining. Really raining. I’m piss wet through (even my arsehole is wet!) and the bike quite literally has about ten pound of mud on it. I had to stop several times to try and clear the tyres and a lot of the descents are unrideable. Sarah has just forced me into more rice and chicken and I’m finding keeping it down difficult. It’s now 1:45 am.
When I went out for my double night lap the nervousness of my first lap had been replaced with an eagerness to get out there and get the miles in. Taking over from Keith the need for the usual couple of miles to get my legs in had gone and I was in my own chunky way flying round. The atmosphere out on the course was still superb and I chatted to a few on climbs, flat and descents alike. I really was going strong and as the first few drops of rain fell I remember thinking “If we have this for ten minutes this course will go from being dusty and a little sketchy to being a superb grinfest.” It wasn’t to be. The rain just kept coming and I had to laugh as one of the RAF team guys rocketed past me with a fine rendition of “I’m singing in the rain…”
Getting within striking distance of the timing tent I heard the all too familiar “on your right” and as I wandered over to let the rider past I slipped on a root and hit the deck. My relationship with the ground is hardly a distant thing but to fall off just as a female pro rider who I admire rolls past me was just a bit much for my fragile male ego. It was clear as I wandered through the timing tent and back out for the second lap that the rain was not going to cease anytime soon and even if it did the course was going to be slimy for a good while yet. In the wet; challenging climbs had become impossible and some of the descents just plain dangerous. The wide grass tracks that made up the majority of the course were slippy yet rideable but the sections of wooded singletrack were becoming pockets of guerilla madness destined to break bones and bikes alike.
Around half way through that second lap I passed a stationery girl on the trailside and asked of she was ok. Her light had died and in the true spirit of these events I stopped to give her a hand. With my limited technical abilities not helping any I gave her my backup commuter light to get her back to the start, wished her good luck and set off again. By now the course had become a heart breaking fight with the elements and mother nature was winning with ease. I was having to stop fairly regularly to clean the gloop out of my stays and the summer tyres orbiting my rims were next to useless. After what seemed an eternity I made it back to the coral and offered Phil the baton with words of: “No heroics Phil mate it’s f*cking madness out there”.
My spirits were lifted by the sight of Mrs. Fat Lad stood in the pouring rain waiting for me to get back. We wandered back to the camp site and my better half prepared some more carbs and protein for me as I stood by our makeshift fire trying to get some warmth back into my bones. Fed and watered I wandered down to the shower block for the lottery of warm water. I lucked out and the joy of washing the grime from my body was beyond words. Back at the camp I crawled into the tent to try and get some much needed sleep.
Meanwhile out on the track Phil was having a bad time. His first lap went well considering the conditions but on the second lap he bonked. Once again the kindness and spirit of this sport shone through as some riders stopped, donating energy gels/drinks to get him going again. Back at the ranch the grim reality of the conditions were fed back to those still awake.
I awoke a few times from my intermittent sleep with churning guts and had a few dashes to the toilets. I wonder now if I’m not used to the energy stuff or if the early nerves in day were catching up. Thankfully, the toilets were quite simply out of this world in terms of cleanliness, presentation and still having loo roll at ungodly hours of the morning.
Wandering back from my second squit trip I decided to put some warm clothes on and join those still up and about rather than struggle for more shut eye. stAn was up and waiting for his lap wandering round in circles. “Which direction do you walk in to cure nausea?” he queried. “Doesn’t matter mate” I replied. He stopped fairly soon when he then realized it was a Fat Lad thing and nothing scientific.
During the course of the event Mrs. Fat Lad had been in her element pootling round the venue with her digital SLR pointing it at anything that moved or not. A selection of her pictures can be found here. To enter an event like this you have to be a little bit mentally deficient, however to enter on a unicycle… Well you’ve got to be missing some fairly large chunks of grey matter form inside your skull.
Phil made it back to crash out in his tent and stAn shot out for his double laps. In these early hours of the morning with the rain still bouncing down around us the talk inevitably turned to thoughts of calling it a day. Fairly quickly we decided that we’d got this far and we would see it to the end. Waiting for my turn to come round again Mrs. Fat Lad and I queued for an hour to use the jet wash. Rant mode: seriously people, just clean your drive chain and wheels then feck off! Your not presenting it for inspection for the Queen are you? Really…
The rain just kept on coming and so did the consequences. Johnny returned from his lap with his XTR mech hanging limply form the bike with one half of the hanger still bolted to it. Carol was soon out on her lap and Keith and I started to discuss the plan for last laps of the day. It was about now as Carol was out for her last lap that the previous day’s started to catch up with me and the doubt started to creep in. Keith made his way down to the changeover for the last time as I wrangled with myself over my upcoming last lap. Talking it through Mrs. Fat Lad made the decision for me stating I was in no fit state for my last lap. I’m told I’d gone drip white and had difficulty following events happening around me (no change there then…) I gave stAn my final lap and he ran off to get ready giddy as a dog with two dicks. He fired down to the coral to let Keith know he would be replacing me and I went to get some more warm clothes on.
With a huge amount of relief I had some normal food (there is only so much rice and pasta a man can eat) and a hot cup of tea; thankful for the warmth penetrating my bones making me feel human once more and returning the colour to my cheeks. Watching the girls work their magic for the guys still racing I caught up on non-pootle crew happenings while munching down a bacon sandwich. Team Black Sheep had abandoned (quite understandably) the race during the night, and the girls from West Yorkshire Rough Riders had one member down but had decided to carry on anyway with some of the finest displays of superhuman effort to be very, very proud of. The girls had been 3rd place for most of the event in their section but slipped to fourth with the demise of a team member. With Jonny’s mech no longer attached the other Bad Brains club were also down to three men but were cracking on too.
The rain was finally easing but not before Mrs. Fat Lad had run out of dry clothes. We wandered over to the course to shout on the remaining riders including stAn and James. James rides with the club on a lot of the main club nights and was riding the event solo. The timings showed him still in the lead on his final lap. As they past us individually we gave them a huge shout and a cheer. Throughout the entire event all the spectators had been superb really encouraging every rider pedalling away. The mental lift a few happy words give you beats a quick shot of testosterone any day! After watching the guys pass we wandered to the coral to see every one in for there handshake from the event organiser Pat Adams. Pat has an amazing reputation for organizing an amazing event and he had proven his reputation was well deserved once again. James rolled past and once more we shouted him on. Watching him shake hands with the big man the disappointment of not being able to do my last lap sank in and despite all I had accomplished that day I couldn’t help but feel a bit pissed off with myself.
With all the guys we were supporting back in we sauntered back to the camp site to start dismantling everything. Despite everything the pit crew had managed for us they still all mucked in to get the campsite away and tidy with startling speed.
We made our way back to the coral for the prize giving and while we gave every team/rider a hearty round of applause when on the podium we shouted our throats raw and sent our hands as sore from the vigorous applause we laid on when James was announced winner of the solo category. Poor lad didn’t know where to look.
The final places were as follows:
Bad Brains Pootle Crew: 48 out of 96
Bad Brains team: 25 out of 148
Return of the Black Sheep: 67 out of 148
West Yorkshire Rough Riders: 4 out of 9
I’m proud of that. And so should anybody who even entered the bloody event!
All dismantled the only thing remaining was to cram everything back into the car…. After loading the bikes onto the back of the car (and remaining injury free for the entire event) I managed to then twat my forehead on Mrs. Fat Lad’s spiky pedals… Muppet!
First I have to give the credit to the real superstars of the weekend. The Pit crew (colloquially known as the pit bitches…) went above and beyond anything that could be expected of them. Coming back to a warm fire, good food and smiles kept us all going with something amazing to return to. I am told of Chip, chief spanner bitch, getting out of his bed early in the middle of the night, getting dressed, ready and waiting to change peoples tyres over when the rain first hit his tent. That people, makes me feel very fecking humble indeed.
I could have slept for a week after once done and though I was pissed off with myself for the last lap I genuinely feel like I accomplished something riding what I did. I’m immensely proud of all the guys who entered and I swell with pride to call them all my friends.