Tribesports Weekend Warrior
After months of preparation, training and seeking sponsorship, it's rather daunting to say that Cape Epic is just around the corner. This week, in fact!
And although I'm about to go on one of my greatest adventures and toughest challenges, I'm feeling somewhat up against the clock. There is so much to organise for a race of this magnitude.
Last week Runner's World asked me if I would go down to Devon and take part in a race called the Grizzly with the view of writing the lead Race Report feature for the June issue. Not one to say no to a commission, I then found myself trying to coordinate a weekend of mountain biking and racing.
So, I rang up my Cape Epic partner, James Heraty, and headed down to Bristol early on Saturday morning in order to go on a training ride with him. However, I didn't have a clue where to ride, so I recruited fellow Team Tribesports member and adventure racing expert, Piers Stockwell, to guide us on a 3hr route that would take in the newly developed MTB trail in Ashton Court.
It's somewhat ironic bearing in mind what I do for a living, but I'm rather risk averse. The technical element of mountain biking that causes me to ride like a granny. So, whenever I can, I try and embrace my fear.
It's lucky, therefore, that Ashton Court has a purpose built MTB trail with drop offs and..., well other technical MTB type things. It was really good fun and well worth a visit if you're in the area.
However, the route that Piers took us on was even more fun. He warned us that it might get a little muddy and wet, but that was an understatement. I soon discovered that bridle tracks where cows have been create a quagmire for mountain bikers. And there a few hairy moments as we careered down some steep paths with a lot of rocks and small drop offs.
We covered about 30 miles - so a pinch of what we'd have to do during Epic. But probably a good thing we didn't go too far, because of what laid in store for me down in Seaton.
Once a year, Seaton becomes unusually busy. A charming seaside resort set on the Jurassic Coast, it becomes the epicentre of a race called The Grizzly. It's 20 miles long, over mixed terrain, taking in mud, too many hills, beach, water obstacles and lots more. It's basically 'nails'.
Despite having the London Marathon coming up in April and the bigger Challenge of the 230km Jungle Ultra in May, I've not done as much running as I usually would. Riding a bike as seemed more important. Indeed, I'd not done a 20 mile run since the beginning of December.
So, it was with a little trepidation that I stood on the start line, with 2000 runners behind me, as I contemplated what lay ahead. Once the signal was given, I sprinted off like a gazelle, immediately regretting the decision the moment my feet hit the 1/2 mile shingle beach we had to run across.
I knew that it had about 1400ft of ascent, but what I subsequently went through felt like double that. The first five miles were uphill - which would indicate a gradual climb - but it wasn't. It was relentless until we hit the top where we then plunged down a steep descent before hitting a water obstacle and another beach run.
Fast forward 2 hours 43 minutes and I cross the finish line in 15th place. Despite having cramp for much of the latter part of the course, I loved every minute of it. There was a marshall on every corner, guaranteeing you wouldn't get lost and handing out very desirable jelly babies. There were random people playing bagpipes and even the didgeridoo.
And once we'd finished, we were handed a handmade 25th anniversary cupcake, a banana and a rather cool technical t-shirt. In all, it was a brilliant race. But I was knackered and had to then drive 150 miles back to London. Not ideal.
Over the last few days, I've been doing last minute shopping for spare parts for my bike: Spare chain links, chains, tyres, inner tubes, tubeless repair kits, gloves, bib shorts and no end of other bits and bobs. James and I have also been trying to get logos printed on our jerseys.
We've each got to take 4 complete changes of riding gear, food for each day, suitable clothing for the evening, and the rest of the IT paraphernalia that I'll need to update the tribesports.com blog. I'm not sure my bag will be big enough!! It's epic just getting there!
Make sure you keep an eye out on the Absa Cape Epic Challenge for updates on our progress.
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