Last year, howies entered a team for the Mountain Mayhem 24 hour race. Myself and David Hicks from the office went along with our friends Tom 'carbon-monkey' Johnstone and Xander. It was our first 24 hour race, and I think it's fair to say we went into it a little nervous.
We needn't have worried though, it all went well. We managed to keep a man on the course at all times, we rode to the limit of our fitness, our bikes held together, we didn't get any punctures and by the end of 24 hours we felt that we had presented ourselves well for a newbie team. And as an added bonus, it was sunny, dry and windless on the course.
After that, we took the same team to Relentless 24 hour up in Fort William and had a repeat of Mayhem's success. It was darker, colder and hard, but we had gotten fitter, faster and stronger.
Then early this year, David and I teamed up with adventurer Alastair Humphreys and a 'cloud sourced' 4th rider, Hazel, a sportswear designer. This time we were planning to take on a much bigger challenge - the Strathpuffer 24 hour race way up north in Scotland, in the middle of January. Strathpuffer bills itself as the hardest race of it's kind, and not many people would argue that point after having ridden it. But again, everything went well for the howies team. (..unless you count a a couple of damaged bikes and the broken hand and torn ligament that I took away!)
Following Strathpuffer there was the small matter of the 24 hour race over in Italy which you can read about here.
So with this much 24 hour race experience under our belts I think it's fair to say that we went into this year's Mayhem with a certain amount of confidence. I was quietly expecting a place in the top 25 teams. And that, maybe, is why things didn't go quite so well this time...
After an OK run and first lap for me at the start, Xander took over for the second stint and that's where our bad luck set in. Xander's chain snapped repeatedly, finally tearing his rear mech off. After a short stint riding singlespeed, his rear spindle sheared and left him with a long hike ahead and a bike to carry just 20 minutes into the lap.
By the time a tired, injured and thoroughly disheartened Xander made his way across the line some 2 hours after we had expected him in - the rest of us were just happy to see him and that nothing worse had happened.
It left us with a bit of a dilemma, though - how would we keep running the team, now down to three riders? Tom went out for his lap followed by David... then I went for my second run, coming in to hear that the others had come up with a plan to double lap for the night as a trio. I went out again, handing over to Tom after my lap before crawling into the van for some sleep.
After that, things went a bit blurry for me. I slept, Tom came back not long later with a broken chain, Dan took over Xander's place and rode a couple of laps, David felt ill and declared himself out (he later discovered a tick bite several weeks earlier had left him suffering from Lymes Disease). People were talking about no one being on the track, we didn't have a rider out there?! At some point I was back out in the dark, it got light, I came back in and collapsed in the van again. Rune was riding now, the original team had unravelled. None of us were up for it.
By the time the 24 hours were up, none of us were sorry to be able to go home. It was good to have the team back together, but it had been depressing to see how unprepared we (and myself personally) had been to deal with disaster. Once the team order had broken, my mental state began to unwind and I could not refocus fast enough and deal with the new situation.
At least we all survived to ride another day - although I'm not sure how keen we are to ride again just now!