Kielder 100 race at Kielder Forest.
Felt really good at the start, climbing well and yoyoing back and forward with martinh, catching him on the climbs but then losing him on the descents (he had bigger wheels, boingy forks and a slightly bigger gear). At the first food stop, we were averaging 9mph according to Martin's computer, which meant we were up on the 8mph needed to avoid the cut-offs.
Round about mile 30 I stopped being able to ride harder. As soon as I went anaerobic, there was no power and I was off and pushing on the steeper climbs. Strangely, as soon as the gradient dropped enough to ride again I was climbing faster than everyone else around me, but I just couldn't access any power. Very strange and not had that happen before. When this happened, I couldn't catch Martin and rode alone for a while, albeit with the same riders passing me and then being repassed.
Just after a water station (mile 42?), I was caught by Kate, who was also riding a singlespeed, and we rode together over the border into Scotland, past the piper on the border. Kate paid the piper for me, as I had no change. Thanks Kate!
Some time before the hot food station at Newcastleton, I bonked and could barely keep the pedals over. I really struggled with the easy blue grade singletrack and had to stop to eat a load of jelly sweets and Tunnocks before continuing on the last mile or so to the hot food station at 65 mile.
Vicky from Hamsterley Trailblazers was at the feed station, waiting for her son James, who'd given me a lift up and who I'd thought was ahead of me; unfortunately, he'd come off after 40 miles or so and bent his brake lever so had dropped out of the race. At the feed station, I had the most welcome lentil soup I've ever had and hung around inside the visitor centre that had been turned into a cafe for the race. if there had been chairs to sit in, I'm not convinced I'd have set off again. Chatting to Paul, it sounds like Martin had left there not long before I arrived.
I left at just after 3 o'clock, well ahead of the 4:30 time cut off, and set off into the really fun red grade singletrack at Newcastleton feeling much better.
That didn't last long.
The ride from there to the final food stop at 88 miles is a bit of a blur of pushing, riding, pushing, riding and being convinced that the mile markers must be wrong because there was no way 10 miles too that long!
I arrived at the 88 mile feed station just before 5 o'clock, and only then found out that there was a third time cut-off at 5:30. Close!
Leaving the last food stop at 5:15, I was reassured having been told that the last 12 miles were down hill or flat. they were not. The final 25 miles (the route was 103 miles, not 100) were a death march. Climbs that went on forever and ever and ever, and still not being able to put any power down on anything remotely steep and far more climbing than I thought possible.
Eventually, I reached the final downhill, with my brakes barely working and the light going. Several people passed me on the final few descents and I had to keep my speed down or I'd never stop. The final couple of singletrack descents were done with the motorbike tail-end-charlies riding behind us with their headlights on. Interesting.
I was offered a lift down to the finish line at the start of the very last singletrack, because it was pitch black under the trees, but I said I'd walk down if needed and rode down to the finish, where there was a warm welcome from the marshals. I was the last finisher in, in a little over 14 hours.
I headed back to the castle, following the woman who finished just ahead of me (we only got lost once). I'd missed the prize-giving, but found out there was a prize for being last and was handed a USE Exposure Joystick light!
The race was brilliantly organised, the marshals were all friendly and encouraging (not easy in a forest full of midges), the course was great (even, looking back, the bits I was cursing at the time).
A big thank you from me to the organisers, marshals, people I rode with and to James for the lift.
Easily the best and hardest thing I've done on a bike and I'll be back again next year!
(Thanks to Vicky and James for the photos.)
Distance: 103 miles
Time: 14 hours
Weather: Warmish, no rain but very wet ground.
Bike: Inbred Singlespeed (32:17, with 2.2″ tyres)