I seem to have spent most of my time catching up lately. Its been a busy month, and one that seen my first two races of the season.
The first round of the National Marathon Champs was on April 7th at Thetford. A week of good weather leading up to the event produced a super-fast course through Thetfords not-particularly-technical-but-nice-and-flowing singletrack. Crucially for me, my rib was more or less better, and although I was still getting some discomfort I could propel myself along at race pace without too much pain (from the rib at least). The previous 10 days off the bike while the ribs mended meant I was well rested for the event, though at the expense of doing any speed work. Speed? Well, there was plenty of that. The starting pace was really fast – elites, expert and sport riders are all in the same category in marathon racing, so while the elites powered away at the front, everyone did their best to keep up behind. A puncture on the very first lap saw me loose touch with a nice fast bunch of guys, and I never managed to catch up the 2.5 mins I lost fixing it. The first 2 hours was full on XC race pace for me, but despite that I felt pretty comfortable. I worked well with Alex Pettett (Leeds Uni/Torq) for a three laps before I lost touch with him on a pitstop. I kept a solid pace going on my own to the end to finish 35th overall with a time of 4:41 for 96km (according to my GPS). An average heart rate of 165 bpm gives an indication of the unrelenting pace and flat nature of the riding at Thetford that offers little in the way of respite anywhere on the course.
The following week was the first round of the Merida enduro series in Builth. A highly uncharacteristic spell of warm and sunny weather produced another fast and dry course that was a delight to ride. The new forest sections in Llaneglwys are really beginning to bed in now, and in the dry were riding as well as I ever seen them. Another puncture on a road section saw me loose touch yet again with a fast group of 4 guys, which results in more time lost that it took to fix a puncture. The course was tweaked slightly over last year, with a new section east of the Wye over Llandeilo Hill. A spectacular 2 mile descent off the top was the reward for a long gruelling climb in a mid-20’s heat that was a shock to the system. I finished 34th, with a time of 3:18 for the 61km course that produced 1400m of ascent.
Overall, I’ve been pleased with the first two events this season. Disappointed not to have finished higher at both, but the underlying efforts have been pretty solid, so it provides a good platform for the rest of the season. Its the Niterider 12 at the end of the month, where I’m pairing up with James D’Arcy.
That’s it, I think I’ve caught up now.