Before I get into this I just want to make it clear that this isn’t going to be a blow by blow account of the route in the way I normally write a ride report. If you are interested in that sort of write up then I suggest checking out Ian Barrington’s and Dave Barter’s blog posts. This write up is really more a therapeutic exercise for myself in terms of analysing my own performance so I can learn something for next time. Hopefully it might provide some insight that others can take something from as well. Also I have deliberately waited a couple of weeks to write this, so that it can be a far more considered view of the event and not just my a knee jerk “it was bloody hard”.
A couple of weeks ago I took part in the annual BearBones200 ITT. It was a new route this year which was considerably harder than the 2013 route. To simply say it was much harder though doesn’t really explore how the challenge differed. The distance was longer and the ascent greater but adding an extra 15km and 2000ft in my opinion doesn’t really up the anti that much when talking about a route that is already 205km long with 16 500ft of ascent. The hike-a-bike sections were more plentiful and much longer this time but individually weren’t immensely taxing in a physical or mental sense. Sure the first section of tussock hopping was hike-a-bike like I have never done before, tiring at that moment and a section of “track” that I will never walk again, but it was the first section of it and done when still physically strong, mentally fresh and in the day light. In the words of Ian Barrington
No sense of humor failure was had…
You just got through it. Arguably it was a good qualifier for the rest of the route as you knew there was simply not going to be anything else that horrendous. For me personally the biggest challenge this year was the accumulative effect of the slow progress and the knock on this had on the over all time that you were out there. I went from finishing in 20 hours 21 mins in 2013 to finishing in 25 hours 50 mins this year. That is a considerable amount of extra time and to put in a stint of over 24 hours was a feet I previously wasn’t even sure I was capable of.
I didn’t have any specific low moments this time round. In 2013 there was a moment on the Rhayader mountain road that I had considerable pain in both knees and this really drained me mentally. I was happy this year that I managed to stay reasonably positive over the whole route. Even when I was hanging my arse out the back of my bib shorts at 1 am in freezing fog trying to relieve my stomach ache; I was still in the frame of mind that it was something I just had to get done and move on.
My biggest disappointment in my performance this year was not that I didn’t hit my target of sub 24 hours but more the way I responded when I realised that I wasn’t going to hit it. I was riding with Nigel and Drew on the track to the the A470 when the realisation hit me and I pretty much just stopped racing. It wasn’t like I gave up or had a low point, I just stopped racing. I walked a few climbs I probably could have ridden and just had no impetus to push myself. Nigel rode away from me and I got the feeling that Drew was really just staying with me to stay with me. Maybe he didn’t have left enough to keep up with Nigel but I felt he had more left than I did. From this point I really had just finishing in mind and any notion of completing as quickly as possible deserted me. It has been interesting exercise for me working back through why this happened.
- My preparation for this event lacked in 2 ways.
1. I had to do a last minute drive train change in the weeks leading up to the event. Unfortunately as I had been ill for the 10 days leading up to it I hadn’t had a chance to do a proper shake down ride. Only an up and down the street type test where everything seemed fine. Once on course this turned out to not be the case.
2. I should have learnt the last 20miles or so of the route more carefully… a lot more carefully. I got it wrong big time and paid a price for this.
- On what I thought was the last main climb, I ended up with some chain suck that jammed the chain between chain ring and chain stay. This was about the 17th time it had happened so I knew it was a quick fix jumping off the bike and sorting it out. In this time though Nigel and Drew had carried on riding. Thinking this was the last big climb with only tarmac left to the end I buried myself to catch up. It then turned out that the road only went half way up the climb before turning into a slimy tricky off road climb. I had absolutely nothing left and it was the moment I knew sub 24 hours was beyond me.
A badly considered decision to try to catch up with the others, made in a sleep deprived haze, that was based on bad information from poor preparation is “where the race was lost“.
In the context of the event I can forgive myself the poor decision of not just riding at my own pace and ignoring the others but the poor route knowledge and bad bike prep is much less forgivable in my view. This is certainly the biggest lesson I learnt. This sort of prep is totally under your control making the problems associated with it totally avoidable.
Stuff I did that I’m happy with
- On the Thursday before I decided to ditch my handle bar roll and carry my sleeping bag and bivi bag in a backpack. This was a good decision as it made the hike-a-bike sections far easier. Additionally it meant the bike felt pretty much as it does when not loaded at all making the handling a bit smoother on some of the rough descents.
- I’m glad I took a few minutes to “sort out my stomach pains” as 10 mins lost then made for many more hours of relative comfort afterwards. The lesson here is sorting out problems straight away and not just carrying on regardless.
- I was happy that I resupplied water when ever I had the opportunity which meant I never ran out of water. As luck would have it this meant I only ended up using taps and was never in danger of dodgy water from streams.
- Battenburg is still an awesome thing to be able to have a massive bite of at 3am when you are tired.
- Taking one pro plus during the night was exactly the right dose to be a pick me up without turning me into a jibbering fool.
Stuff to remember for next time
- Be most concerned with learning what the last 20 miles/2 hours of the route is.
- Make sure the bike is totally sorted before you start.
- Take something for trapped wind that will help settle a upset stomach.
- Peanut butter wraps go hard and dry in the cold and become inedible.
On the whole I would say I enjoyed the event in terms of the challenge it provided. I wouldn’t however do that route again. This is really because the latter half of the route was pretty much just hike-a-bike linked by tarmac. I don’t mind hike-a-bike in general when it links proper mountain biking but when it’s only there to make life difficult you start to ask why bother?
I would like to finish by saying a big thanks to Stuart for organising and a big thanks to Dee for looking after us all once we had come in, making bacon butties, porridge and plying us with cups of tea. Some thanks also needs to go to Taylor and Chew for finish line moral support.