Ah, the daily check of the weather forecast, hoping that as the day draws closer, the forecast will improve. The sinking feeling as the forecast gets worse instead. Oh dear.
I very nearly bailed on Pivot 24/12. The spectre of Mountain Mayhem 2012 loomed large, with the added complications of a seven hour round trip and having to leave my son for the first time, only one week after his first birthday. What if the course was too technical, too brutal for me? What if Mr Toast couldn’t get mini-Toast to sleep? What if the entire venue was a mud bath? And camping? I hate camping!
Eventually I pushed all of those thoughts to the side.
I wouldn’t know about the course unless I tried it. Anything too tricky, I’d walk.
Mr Toast is perfectly capable of looking after his own son.
Venue a mud bath? Well, it couldn’t be much worse than Mayhem 2012, could it?
Camping? Suck it up princess.
I have to admit, the event didn’t have an auspicious start. The two hundred mile journey took five and a half hours, for a start. The weather restricted itself to a light drizzle throughout the journey … until about twenty miles out from Newnham Park, where it promptly started pissing it down. Glorious.
I met up with my fellow Chase Trails soloists. Dave and Andrew helped me set up my new tent (a ‘Fresh and Dark’ one from Decathlon), Petra provided me with food (although I’d gorged on half a massive bag of cashew nuts on the journey down – optimum pre-race nutrition there…), and we continued to check the forecast in the vain hope that it’d improve.
(Ron Howard Voice: It didn’t)
As I snuggled down for the evening, checking my phone for updates on the Toastling and listening to the rain beating down on the tent, I admit I was filled with regret. Fortunately, I slept relatively well (with the Fresh and Dark tent actually being fresh and dark), and woke up determined to attempt at least one lap, hopefully two.
Still, there was a general feeling of panic as I did the usual race preparation, and some less usual preparation – as I’m still breastfeeding but was without my darling offspring, I sat in the tent for over twenty minutes accompanied by the gentle honking of my portable breast pump. It was a bit surreal, to say the least.
Eventually I found myself on the starting line, heart racing. And off we went.
Being the consummate athlete in peak physical condition that I am, I quickly fell to the back. Petra, bless her, kept on waiting for me to catch up as I bimbled up the Clif Climb. I may not have been particularly speedy (*cough*), but I rode it without stopping both laps. After the climb it was into the woods and…
The course was brilliant. It was honestly a huge amount of fun, even in the mud. I had to walk a couple of bits, but I like to think that I could have ridden it all in the dry. My main issue was having to pull over for faster riders on their second (and third…) laps – I ended up spending a lot of time standing off to one side trying to find a gap in the traffic. I’m also terrible at maintaining speed in slippery conditions, so there were a few steep inclines that I didn’t have the momentum to ride up. With the patience of a saint, Petra continued to wait as I made my merry way along at a leisurely pace*.
Then disaster struck. Petra had a puncture. After trying for a while to sort the canister out and failing, and her pump being broken, Petra bravely sent me on to find help. What would have been helpful is if I’d remembered that I had a new shiny pump in my bag, purchased for exactly such a scenario. Sadly, this thought didn’t occur to me until fifteen minutes after abandoning Petra. Oh dear.
Fortunately her husband Dave, being the speedy chap that he is, was already on his second lap. He soon caught up with me after having helped sort the puncture. We approached the river crossing – through the water, or over the bridge? Decisions, decisions. I decided on the water, but completely messed up my approach and went over at the top of the slope, right in front of the marshal. The marshal kindly helped me up, made sure that I was OK, and then promptly started telling riders to avoid the bridge as another rider had come off at the same time as my acrobatics.
The rest of my first lap was uneventful, and I pulled off the course for lunch, because I’m basically a Hobbit. I scoffed some pizza and was joined by Abby and Andrew. They seemed quite pleased that I was enjoying it, because… well, my feelings about Mountain Mayhem 2012 are well known.
Determined to at least qualify, I set out on my second lap. The course had deteriorated a bit more by this point, so there was a bit more walking, but some of the sections were still surprisingly quick – and some had been improved by the rain, as the mud was now thin and watery instead of thick and clay.
I fell off a few more times on the second lap, but the main issue was reoccurring cramp in my left leg. Ow, ow, ow. I managed to get through most the episodes with dignity intact, but then I had a particularly bad cramp in the arena, so close to the end.
However, this episode highlighted one of the greatest things about the weekend – how bloody nice everyone was! From chatting away over pizza, to even the fastest riders waiting patiently or taking the time to say thanks as you pull over, small children giving high fives – it was a great atmosphere. And if you get cramp in the arena? Expect spectators to shield you with their umbrella, offering you drinks and waving your leg in the air in an attempt to banish the cramp!
Given that the weather wasn’t improving, and my cramping and falling off shenanigans, I decided to call it a day. I was absurdly pleased though – my first endurance race since Mountain Mayhem 2012, a year after pushing a human out of my nethers.
Sadly the race did take a bit of a toll – my shoes ended up in a skip, I’m covered in bruises, and my bike is away for a new bottom bracket. I’d do it again in a heartbeat though – let’s hope that next year has better weather!