The event was based at the familiar Coed Trallwm trail centre with another variant on the route. The wet weather warnings meant that the upper section of the trail centre was used in place of the tight singletrack that’s been a feature of many of the races. The cottage loop was included but with a short cut near the top.
I’d ridden 20km on Thursday and 30km on Friday and then had a day of rest on Saturday to go Christmas shopping. After a 1am bike maintenance session I managed a few hours sleep and set off from Stroud at 8am. I had a two hour drive ahead of me. A lot of rain had been forecast but I saw none of it in south Wales. After observing a stunning rainbow near Abergavenny the clouds opened and I wondered if the car was any good at floating. The rain stopped by the time I reached Crickhowel and it I was treated to a beautiful morning. The journey took longer than expected and after stopping to move a disorientated pheasant out of the middle of the road I arrived with 10 minutes to spare. The race start was delayed by a few minutes to allow me to register.
Thirty seconds later we were off. As usual a group of riders shot straight off up the hill into the distance and I settled somewhere in the middle of the race procession. The damp and muddy track was very draggy to pedal through so I concentrated on finding my comfort point and erased any thoughts of pain or tiredness from my mind. The familiar top of the hill was now a false summit. A short descent on a slippery track lead to a power sapping ramp and then a climb to the highest point of the trail.
The upper section of the descent is actually pretty good as long as you’re aware that the last jump delivers you into the bottom of a ditch. The kicker jumps were a blast in the dry and when I was riding my Stump Jumper. In the wet and on my Camber I wasn’t enjoying them so much.
I passed a guy having mechanical issues and one rider moved over to let me past on the descent. Unlike many of the previous races I hardly saw any other riders after that. I occasionally caught sight of the rider in front but I wasn’t gaining ground on them. The mechanical guy caught me up, introduced himself and shook my hand. After following me down the cottage descent he powered off into the distance. I passed him a few minutes later as he grappled with a stuck chain. A few laps later he passed me again.
I wasn’t in the mood for beasting myself so I very carefully adjusted my pace so that I was working quite hard but I wasn’t grinding myself down. The best thing about this was that I actually felt really good!
I was very encouraged that I had balanced back ache. Often my left side will start hurting and limit how hard I can pedal. Today I had an ache on both sides and I was able to push on anyway without any worrying pain. This was very encouraging and hopefully means that I’m building strength.
My bike maintenance session had been well worth it – the gears worked perfectly. For about five minutes and then were back to over eager shifting in one direction and a lack of interest in the other. Considering I had a new chain, cassette and cable I wasn’t impressed. I think the wobbly jockey wheels are to blame.
Despite the extreme weather warnings no rain fell for the first hour and a half of the race. Then an icy sleet fell from the sky. I contemplated stopping to put my anorak on but decided to brave it out.
The lap times were 29:50, 32:46, 33:37, 35:03 so there was a steady drop in pace as the race went on. Neil from Red Kite events told me that the fastest lap times were significantly down on normal – confirmation that the conditions were heavy going.
The squiggle analysis below is very promising. If I knocked a few minutes off my average lap time of 32m:50s then I would be close to 5th place overall. I know that sounds like “if I was faster then I’d do better” but it means that better results are within grasp.
Stats for this and the previous races are shown below.
|Oct 2013||Nov 2013||Dec-13|