Posted by: Stu | August 13, 2010

Enduring Selkirk again… Part 2

Final Descent MTB Marathon, originally uploaded by StoooPotter.

Following on from Yesterday’s report on the CRC Road Sportive (Selkirk round) 2010, here’s the run down of the the rest of the weekend… the MTB Marathon.

Not disheartened by the puncture ridden disaster the day before, Mike and I were keen to make this a good day. I was fresh in the knowledge that some cheap dodgy rim tape was to blame for the let down of the previous day, full up on carbs and eager to go. We loaded the van and left the house with ACDC as the warm up soundtrack. The plan was to ride gently, with an aim to finishing the 84km long route, without any injuries or mechanicals.

It looked like much the same fantastic route as last year, with a couple of wee variations, so I pretty much knew what to expect. The mass start was busy and everyone began to string out a bit along the 2 miles of road before we hit dirt. Strangely though, there seemed to be a lot of folk eager to get up the front and the atmosphere seemed a wee bit less sociable than last year.

Once we got to the first climb, up through Bowhill, we tried to hold a nice steady pace… unlike some riders who kept sprinting past trying to get some space up front, then discovering they’d used all their energy in the sprint, immediately slowing down again, getting in the way. We were determined not to let this spoil things. Mike seemed to be in good rhythm and managed to get a bit of ground on me while I bided my time…. hitting the top and trying to pin it past the perma-brakers on the first descent to try and catch Mike before the first feed station.

Unknown to me, Mike had stopped to use the facilities (bushes) at the top of the hill and shouted me to stop. I’d not heard this, being too obsessed with finding a place to get past people on the descent. Mike, eager to catch me on my mission, leaped back on his bike and got some speed on. Unfortunately, he lost his front wheel down a rather nasty rut, which flipped him off his bike and pringled his rather posh Crossmax SLR front wheel.

Mike at Selkirk

Meanwhile – further up the road, I’d stopped at the feedstation wondering where mike was. He arrived, a bit muddy, about 5 minutes later… with said pringled wheel just about still spinning. With the help of the event mechanic, we managed to secure his popped spoke and decided to push on…. there was another 70km to go and mike seemed confident his front wheel would hold and get him through, if a little wobbly.

With all the faffing, we’d let lots of people get ahead again before the second big climb up to the Three Brethren. This had some nasty steep grassy sections which had folk off and walking. Brilliantly, they saw the best place to walk was on the only bit of rideable trail! This held up the few of us that were keen to try and ride to the top and made the last super steep rocky section a nitemare. I managed to trackstand for a few seconds near the top, letting the walkers get out the way, before pedalling to the summit with only a couple of dabs. This was a tough climb, but I really enjoyed it, however, it had taken it’s toll on my legs.

Next, a wicked wee descent down into Yair Forest… I managed to get through the traffic and had a fairly clean run, which made the last loose switchbacks before the fire road a wee bit less sketchy. Mike wasn’t so lucky and got stuck behind more perma-brakers. Once he’d caught up, we headed, gingerly, down the fire road where I had my spill last year. All was going OK… apart form the traffic… and the rather irritating squeal my front brake seemed to have developed.

Rather than getting progressively more irritated by the noise, we stopped to adjust my brake, letting more traffic past just before a superb techy descent. Now, I don’t regard myself as a great descender… but I’m not bad. One thing I don’t do too much is brake… however, it seemed the rest of the folk in front of us thought it best to keep their brakes on for the whole descent … to make sure they were working ?? I don’t know. I do know this was getting irritating.

Back onto more fire road, a bit of a climb, and suddenly my legs were feeling a bit dead. Mike was drifting away in front of me and all I could think about was the other 50km we had to ride. Another techy descent followed before a gentle fire road section then another feed station down near Caddonfoot. I figured we should stop for a bit and get some nutrition before heading back on a wee road section along the south banks of the tweed. Another quick brake tuning stop before heading again… there seemed to be a lot of faffing on this ride. It was losing us quite a bit of time and also giving our legs time to warm down between sections. My legs much more than Mike’s it seemed.

We turned off the road just before ellie bank and headed up a relatively tame fire road climb… or at least it would be if I was feeling normal. Unfortunately, I was feeling a bit out of it. Energy levels were way low and Mike ordered me to stop and neck a Gel. We looked up at more climbing ahead as the fire road headed right and Mike joked about how cruel it would be if we turned off the road to the left, up the nasty steep looking hill side… 100m further on, that’s exactly what happened. When you’re tired, the last thing you need is stuff like this… it’s not just a steep climb, it’s the steep climb I’d all ready decided I really didn’t want. Mike vanished, charging up the climb, leaving me in a wake of dust and tire tracks (may be over dramatising this… but I was tired!). There was nothing I could do but trundle up what would otherwise be a superb single track climb, hoping that energy gel would kick in soon.

Trail traffic had eased now with the majority of riders taking the shorter 45km route at the last feed station, and the folk left seemed united in a shared appreciated for the quality of route and a similar tired feeling in the legs.

Next came a super wet and slippy descent which was made all the harder by the fatigue. It’s moments like this when mistakes happen and you risk a nasty fall. Somehow though, perhaps it was that Gel kicking in, I felt OK… I knew I’d have to take it easy on the climbs, but I suddenly felt like I’d be OK to the end. I knew exactly what the last big climb involved… it was up the main red route climbs at Innerleithen, I knew it like a detailed map of the back of my hand. A sharp turn, directed by a big yellow sign saying “Caution” led us down a steep chute to the next feed stop… where a far too happy fellow waited for us wielding a spray can of the red paint of shame… We’d missed the cut of time for this stop, meaning we’d be diverted onto the 70km route.

We were gutted. 70km is still a really good ride, it still covered some superb bits of single track, but the build up to this meant we were massively disappointed. I thought we were doing pretty well, but it seemed that all the faffing and my tired legs had held us up too much. I felt pretty bad. Still, we had a ride to finish, all be it a shorter one than intended.

Another uber techy bit of singletrack followed. This bit was superb! Rock, rooty, slippy, steep, brilliant. I got caught out on steep corner when the rider in front of me tumbled and I had to try and sneak around the inside… it didn’t work. No injuries and the bike was fine so I leapt back on the bike down the rest of the rock strewn singletrack. Fantastic, I am really impressed with the course designers for this event. It’s pretty brave to put this much technical stuff in a ride this long with so many participants. Some of this stuff was very definitely black grade. Bravo!

Another lengthy fire road climb followed, but I knew this was headed back up to the last summit of the day. I took my time, letting Mike and his magical Cannondale push on ahead. I just had to sit at my pace and get up the last hill, a solid, regular pace. I picked a gear and stuck with it. Miraculously, I was passing riders, each one filling me with a bit more confidence and energy. It was like I’d got the magic pill in Pac-Man and the nasty scary ghosts that were quicker than me earlier could now be eaten up for bonus points and extra lives. Eventually I reached to top to find Mike and a couple of other tired looking chaps sat in the sun… did I mention the sun? The weather for the day was brilliant despite a nasty forecast. I was exhausted, but full of appreciation of the moment. I felt like I might pass out, but was loving every minute. Everyone looked tired, but everyone looked happy. People were laughing about the nasty techy bits and commenting on the quality of the route.

More people stopped, all looking shattered, yet all full of the feeling that the end was nigh. Sat on some logs, with a perfect view of the next wee climb to the southern upland way, along the ridge, back to the three brethren, we relaxed for a few moments, no more time limits, just a bit more pedalling before a final descent back into Selkirk.

With all the contemplation, and recuperation, we’d all somehow missed the fact that the last feed station was literally around the next corner, about 20m away. We didn’t care, we didn’t need to stop now, we needed to finish, so pedal on we did. Everyone now finding there own pace, Mike still had the edge on the climbs, but I knew I could catch him on the descents, we should be together to the finish now. A great bit of trail took us to the last sting, a wee steep bit of track back up to Three Brethren, then a super fast and loose descent back home.

The techy trails and trail traffic had taken there toll on my brakes and I went through my rear pads on the last bit of this descent, shredding the spring in the calliper. My brakes made a horrible noise so I stopped and with a bit of poking with the multitool, and some swearing, I got the jammed spring out and got the bike rideable again. This gave Mike chance to catch up and we rode back to Selkrik.

With the finish in sight, I found a last bit of reserve energy and sprinted for the line, pulled a flash stoppie, picked up my free T shirt and got off the bike… relieved. We’d finished. It was disappointing not to have completed the big route, but we’d still managed a 70km ride, without any major incidents (apart from the mess that was Mike’s front wheel) and we’d discovered some more great single track to check out on later local rides.

Not quite according to plan, but a great day all the same. So, next year… another chance to try and complete the whole weekend and the Kielder 100 coming up in a couple of weeks. hmmmmm

Here’s Mike’s take on the day… also worth a read.


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