BMFW put in a fearsome 1:16 for his 2nd lap. I didn’t realise how much of the course had been bypassed on lap 1 until he growled that I hadn’t mentioned that the “hill of c**t-ery” was back. Oops! Never mind, feeling okay with things, I headed out again. This time, the Steps of Doom weren’t an option, they were the one true way but with riders strewn down them, I had little option than to suitcase down. That’s my story, at least.
The back of the course was literally deep mire by now, to the extent that it was near-impossible to get a decent run before unclipping or simply being halted in deep filth. The photographer was still at the big water splash and must have been as oblivious to the elements as I subsequently realised I had been. While the fire roads were still uphill, they had one saving grace in that they weren’t muddy and offered traction and again I was never in too much difficulty here. The real difficulties were starting to appear descending from the top as the quagmire simply worsened. The massive bruise on my left side I now realise was from when I (not the bike) fell on my backside whilst slipping and sliding my way down the second muddy section, colliding with the end of my bars. The language at the time did justify the pain and subsequent disfigurement.
Back onto flatter stuff and I passed Big Col on the trail to the Hole in the Wall. He was having a torrid time on what was his second and final lap (Etape duties beckoning the following day) and I could only mutter a few words about keeping going and how it was only 15-20 minutes to the end. The run up to the photo-op descent followed shortly thereafter and I was aware of another rider breathing down my neck although with no overtaking place available. Oh well, that’s racing. However, as I rode up to the turn which drops you onto the rocky descent, the guy cut the corner on the lower line, emerging onto the boardwalk mere feet in front of me. I gave chase until the camp site where – bizarrely – he stopped to swap the timing chip with his team mate. Twat.
40Something was stood at the entrance to transition and pointed me down the far end to where BMFW was waiting to go. I’d posted a 1:30 on that lap, losing nearly exactly 10 minutes. My legs were starting to go but I’d need one last push in just a wee while…
I’d felt my legs cramp a bit in the final sections of that second lap but they seemed okay back in the pits. Getting some pasta and salty crisps down my neck helped a fair bit there. Of more concern was the cruel realisation that I was without a decent mid layer of any sort and was shivering as my body cooled and the latest band of rain came scudding in. That alone first let me entertain the treacherous thought of not doing a third lap, as Big Col arrived back and cheerfully began his post-race refuelling. The lucky get.
BMFW was back in another consistently quick time so I didn’t have too long to ponder the unponderable. I was back out and it was pissing rain once again. Again the first sections held no real demons but the run towards the auction mart seemed like a struggle with the wee climb up from the foot of the Steps of Doom seeming particularly arduous. Uh-oh. Nevertheless, I was round the back of the course again and heading up the fire road climbs before I started to worry too much. I was now using much lower gears on this section and was also using the granny gear at times. I was easing the suffering slightly but still suffering for longer. However, I made it out of that depressing section mentally and physically unscathed and – more importantly – without stopping. My climbing style was ragged to say the least but it had worked! Pushing up the hee-uge climb (again), I was in good company this late in the day and even the whippets were binning it on the upper slopes. A long, lazy spin took me slowly up to the top of the course where the fun and the mud would begin one final time. I took the opportunity to stop briefly and get some fluids and a gel down, hoping they would help my cramping thighs and knees.
At the bottom of one fairly fast descent, I spotted the unlikely figure of Stevo Lambie, sitting chatting to the marshals. Asking if he was finished for the day, he simply replied happily that he was “resting”. I was slightly alarmed to see a first aider coming up the hill as I passed but re-emerging on the other side of the marshal’s post after some singletrack fun, Stevo was gone. No one’s quite sure what happened but his team mate Alan’s seat post is apparently involved. You can make up your own tawdry tale from there…!
On the boardwalk and gentle-ish climbs from thereon in, I could feel my legs were going. I took the lower option at the photo-op descent, having ascertained that the photographer wasn’t there! The last km or so through the camp site seemed interminable this time and I simply shouted that I was “totally fucked” to BMFW and 40Something as I crested the fire road for the final final wee section. My stop watch told me I’d lost another 10 minutes on that lap. I guess you could call it consistency…