Ah, Mountain Mayhem. You may recall that last year, I had a slightly tough time of it, struggling with the inclement weather, the climbs, and my lap clocking in at over two hours.
Well, if last year was inclement, then this year was, if you’ll pardon my French, fucking unholy.
But let’s start at the start. We bowled up at Castle Eastnor on Friday with Jag, Xye and young Benny Lava in tow, ready to rock. It was raining, and the campsite was a bit moist, but no fear! We decided to go to the catering tent to sign in before putting the tents up.
Well, the arena area was muddy, to put it mildly. As we signed in at the catering tent, one of the admin staff went arse over tit in the mud. Yes, not even the interior of the tents were immune to the horror. Certainly added an element of peril to eating – can you get to a seat without slipping and dropping your curry? LET’S FIND OUT!
Fortunately the answer was yes.
Any illusion that this was going to be a jolly weekend camping in the sun with the dog had completely gone out of the window. Poor Benny looked frail and up to his armpits in mud, and seemed decidedly unimpressed with the proceedings. We decided that the weekend would be fairly nightmarish for all involved if Benny stayed with us, so off I went back home, where t’boy could spend the weekend in comfort, starting with a warm bath. You would have made the same decision. I mean, just look at him. LOOK AT HIM.
When I returned, Camp Chase Trails had been firmly established. Yay!
First night was nippy, but the tent was actually quite comfortable and roomy, and infinitely improved by not having a miserable soggy Tibetan Terrier glaring at us folornly. We tried to mentally prepare for the forthcoming race.
Aside from the evidence of our own eyes, the first indication of the horrors to come in the race briefing. Team members only had to do one lap, not two. For elites, it was cut down from four to three. Teams wouldn’t be disqualified for members having to abandon their lap due to mechanicals. Repeated references to endurance. Erk.
Young master Jaggy was first up on our team. Rather entertainingly, he had somehow interpreted “Yeah, last year’s run was a mile and a half, it’s going to be shorter this year” as “The run is only 500 metres”. Oh, how we laughed! Well, we laughed, Jag seemed slightly less amused.
Toast’s plans assumed that we’d be taking about two hours per lap, so we dutifully waited for Jag to come in. We waited, and we waited, and we were getting slightly concerned. Had he fallen off? Had he broken his bike? Fortunately, he was fine, but he came in forty minutes later than expected. Can you imagine that? FORTY MINUTES!
It became clear looking at the laptimes that we would have to re-evalute our estimates. I set out just before 6pm. I’d be back about 9pm, I thought. Maybe 9.30pm.
Well, the first half of the lap went relatively smoothly. Well, apart from when I fell off almost immediately in the first wooded section. I rode most of it, although had to spend a lot of time pulled over to the side to let people pass on the singletrack. Last year’s resolution of being a bit more forthright and assertive dissolved under the weight of shouty men that were far better riding in the mud than myself. Still, the last woody singletrack section before it rejoined the fireroad was actually nearly enjoyable. I made my way back down into the arena, feeling fairly pleased.
Then the true horror began. The ground became more boggy. Given that I struggle with long steep climbs at the best of times, at that last year I’d found it horrendous after a couple of hours of rain, the rest of track was a nightmare. I think I actually pushed my bike for 90% of the second half, and, as the light began to fade, I realised that there was no way I’d make it back in time. I tried to phone Mr Toast, but there was no signal, so I plodded on. Hilariously, the same condition that makes it hard for me to ride a bike uphill also makes it rather awkward to walk downhill.
I asked a marshall if I’d be disqualified for being pulled off the track, and he said he didn’t know. As I didn’t want to risk disqualification for the team, and I’d already done seven miles and it seemed stupid to give up, I decided to continue on. The off-camber section was possibly the worst, struggling to make my way whilst also keeping out of the way of everyone else – who were also pushing or carrying their bikes, just considerably faster than me.
I genuinely, geniunely hated that second half. There was cursing and there were tears, and a solemn vow to myself that not only should I never, ever, EVER entertain the notion of doing Mountain Mayhem again, but I should probably give Sleepless a miss too. However, as I made my way back into the arena, my spirits lifted. The end was in sight!
Mr Toast and Xye cheered me in, and I passed the finish line at five hours and fourteen minutes. Mr Toast was relieved – as I’d been engaging in my act of ultimate stubborness, the rest of my team had been running around, desperately trying to figure out what had happened to me. The notion that I was still out on the track was, I’m informed, ‘inconceivable’, such was my husband’s faith in my ability to finish at anything resembling a sensible time. Being told by a rider that a woman in a blue top had been seen being carried off by a quad earlier didn’t ease their worries either. I supposed two hours twenty-or so up to five hours fourteen is quite a leap, but, well. It was muddy.
After escorting me back to the tent, they tried to find Jag, who was on a bold quest to find out if I’d died. Eventually we all came back together. Because everyone had been waiting for hours for me in the open, in the pouring raid, running backwards and forwards between the medic tent, the control tower and the Chase Trails camp, no-one really felt like going out that night. The next day, both Mr Toast and Xye felt ill (poor Xye had been recovering from being ill a week previously, Mountain Mayhem isn’t a particularly effective remedy…) , and the course looked considerably worse for wear, so they didn’t go out. Because I ruined everything.
Still, Jez called me a legend, and I still got a medal, apparently. I may give Mountain Mayhem a miss next year in favour of being Mr Toast’s pit bitch, as he’s considering going solo. We’ll see!
And now, for your viewing pleasure, here are things that amused me in between the tears and the tantrums:
BEING OVERTAKEN BY TEAM SUMO (AGAIN)!
BEING OVERTAKEN BY UNICYCLISTS (AGAIN)!
Admittedly, it was a teammate (I’m assuming) of the chap above. He passed me on the way up to the Obelisk, and gave me a liquorice allsort and words of encouragement. Good lad.
BEING OVERTAKEN BY TEAM ISLABIKE…TWICE!
This was a new one. Ridiculously speedy on a tiny Islabike, although they did have the advantage in the unrideable sections in that they could pick up their ride and swing it about their head if they so desired.
This poor sod totalled his bike fairly early on, with the rear mech being pulled into his wheel. OK, this one was more amusing when we first saw him in the sheep field, with the sheep scattering away and bleating. It was a fairly random sight. Slightly less amusing when we realised it was because he was completely out of the race less than two hours into it.
Also nice was the small child who high fived me and gave me a Pringle, the random dude singing “Country Road”, the guy who helped me onto more solid ground on the off-camber section, the chap who offered me his lights (before realising we had no way of attaching it). Here’s to you, Mountain Mayhemers.