When Crasher Met Dorris


How often does one get the chance to interview a newly crowned British World Champion? Well, if DH racing is your thing about every 3½ minutes but in the world of endurance racing they are a much rarer breed. 

I spoke to Steve Day about the 24hr World Championships at Rotorua in New Zealand. He is not only crazy enough to race for 24hrs but also daft enough to do it on a bike with only one gear. He took a very narrow victory over Australian Ed McDonald with Gareth Weinberg, the local favourite, close behind. Even more impressively the top three singlespeeders were sixth, seventh and eighth overall!  So, who is Steve and how did his race go?

I have written down everything as he said it, so therefore any spilling mistakes are entirely his and nothing whatsoever to do with me…



You are probably best-known for your successes at Mountain-Mayhem here in the UK, winning the Nick Wallis trophy five times.


I’ve done every Mountain Mayhem apart from one when I was really ill, but it’s only in the last two or three years where it’s all clicked into place.

Were they all solo?
From 2005 onwards it’s always been solo. You know what it’s like with a team of people, everyone wants to go their own way and I wanted to go as fast as possible for the whole 24 hours so I decided to give it a crack. It’s all down to a friend of ours who used to be an army PT instructor, he’s done it a couple of times and said ‘you need to have a go at this’. His ex-wife Bev still crews for me.

So you did that last, infamous, one at Eastnor then? How did that go?
A lot of people described it as horrendous but I absolutely loved it. The standpipe was halfway between where we were camped and the finish line, so I could go there, change bikes and carry on and it would be clean for next time I came round. That was the first year the singlespeed trophy appeared, the Nick Wallis award, and I won that, which made it even more special. That was really the turning point in my racing. I started taking it a bit more seriously at that point and I’ve won that trophy for the last five years..

New Zealand 2016 wasn’t your first attempt at a World Championship. How did you get on at the 2015 Worlds in Weaverville, California? 

A friend of mine, Julian Rider, was racing in the Worlds at Fort William in 2014 and won his category. I hadn’t clocked on to the worlds at that point but at the Torq-12 a few weeks before, he was saying “you really need to go” but it was just too close, I had too much going on beforehand. But that was the start of California, he planted the seed…

I went to SSUK about four weeks before the trip to California and had a little bit of an accident and ended up quite seriously spraining the rotator cuff in my left shoulder. I went through a load of physio and I was dosed up to the eyeballs with painkillers and anti-inflammatories at the start of the Weaverville race. At 12hrs in, I was leading in the singlespeed category but at that point my shoulder went from being manageable to being not very good at all. At 16hrs I decided to call it a day when I couldn’t actually use the back brake on the 8 mile descent. So, I came back from California with a lot of unfinished business.

I was fortunate enough that work helped me out to get there, and I felt that actually I owed them quite a lot as well and hence within a few weeks my wife said “if you need to go to New Zealand, go, get that done” so I was straight back into training once the shoulder was in a position to do so. I went out to [New Zealand] to do what I had set out to do in California. Yeah, it felt really, really good to come back from New Zealand and have that title,



How do you prepare for a 24hr singlespeed race?
Jimmy Docherty at Mule Bar put me in touch with [my coach] Jon Fern at EC3 and from then I’ve had a training plan. It was initially just getting my base level up and then pushing me harder and harder. I think it was a bit of a change for him as well because there’s no way I’m riding a geared bike. He worked really hard to get his head around trying to train someone on a bike that’s only got one gear.

It was a lot of time out on the trails, between 150 and 200 miles a week on the mountain bike, I don’t know how many hours that is, mainly off road with bits of road to link the trails together. Weekend rides normally vary between 4-6hrs Saturday and Sunday, an hour on a Monday, 2-4hrs on a Wednesday and it depends what’s going on Thursday, Friday, sometimes an hour, sometimes 2hrs, it’s quite a few hours, a lot of which are early in the morning so I still get time with my family.
Also a few floor exercises, a bit of yoga. I used to go to the pool and the gym a lot but all the gym stuff has been knocked on the head because I just don’t have time to do it now, it’s all bike or basic floor exercises.

Are you missing the gym?
No, because I was only doing that to keep generally fit, now the training is a lot more focussed on cycling endurance whereas the gym stuff was a bit of this, a bit of that, a bit of spin classes, a bit of swimming whereas with the cycling my general level of fitness has increased because I’m pushing myself harder because I’ve got a goal. Obviously California was a big goal, and then New Zealand, and now I’ve got Mayhem and Relentless to think about. I think having that goal is really important, keeping that focus has been key to it, knowing that’s what I’m doing, this is why I’m doing all these hours on a bike. It’s certainly changed me, it’s been tough at times for my wife Ingrid and son Erik, but they understand why I’m doing it.

Do they think you are bonkers or are they quite supportive?
There’s no way we would have gone to California and no way Ingrid would have let me go to New Zealand if she wasn’t supporting me. She’s always been there, even when I was racing as part of a team. New Zealand was the first time I’ve been to a 24hr race and she wasn’t there. You can imagine how stressful that was, a 24hr race isn’t just me, it’s the people around me, my wife and my son, my friend Bev and to not have them there was a massive shock. I know my wife found it really stressful being at home the other side of the world, 12hrs apart and just being able to watch the timing on a screen and not being able to feed me and talk to me and understand what I’m going through. I know she found that extremely tough.

So who did you have to help out in New Zealand? I know it’s called ‘Solo 24hr racing’ but there’s usually a big team behind the ‘soloist’.
Sam Allison at Singular who set me up with frames put me in touch with the New Zealand importer, a guy called Allan Eng, and he sorted out a spare bike for me. He put a spare set of [suspension] forks on it instead of rigid which is great, I’m so glad he did that because after 6hrs there’s no way I could have carried on on the rigid bike, and he also organised for a mechanic, Murray, to be there. Murray turned up with his wife and son a great big motorhome so it was perfect, other than my wife not being there. A friend of mine, Saps, from the club that I ride with was out there at the time and when he found I was coming he said “I’ll come along”. He came with his girlfriend and it was really nice having that bunch of people there, the only reason they were there was because of what I was doing and they wanted to see me do really well.


Had any of them done a 24hr before? It can be just as tough for the pit crews.
No! They stayed up the whole up 24hrs, it was amazing. I’m so grateful for their help, unbelievable, really, really good. And I think that’s part of what made the whole thing work, was having that support. I’d never met Allan until I arrived in Auckland. He’s a really friendly guy and couldn’t do enough to help out. To be honest, everyone else in the pits was the same, one of those big 24hr things, everyone there doesn’t want to see anyone struggle, and people put themselves out for you, it was a really good experience. Nduro events even re-arranged the presentation so I could collect my medal and jersey before leaving to get the plane home.

Did you have a plan for the race, and if so did it go according to plan?
After having ridden on the Friday I had the inkling then that I wasn’t going to be able to ride the rigid bike for the whole time so the plan was to do 8hrs on the rigid, 8hrs on the suspension bike overnight and then get back on the rigid bike in the daytime.

It was really unfortunate that Brett [Belchambers, multiple world champion] pulled out because of his crash the week before, he hit a wallaby at 50mph, so he was in quite a bad way. [He suffered damaged vertebrae, broken ribs and, worst of all, the loss of most of his beard. However, another fast Aussie, Ed McDonald, stepped up to the singlespeed category, determined to keep the Brits at bay] I knew my pace was similar to his in California so he was going to be my target man, he was the one to maintain the gap to so any plan that I had went out the window when that happened.

I saw Ed McDonald shoot off at the start and I knew Gareth Weinberg, the New Zealander, was behind me so those were my two markers after the first lap. That was the plan, just be consistent, try not to blow, because I’d heard rumours that the local boys were going to send out a hare for me to chase, there’s no way I’m falling into that trap. That’s 24s at the end of the day, you’ve got to ride at your own pace otherwise you never know if you’re going to get to the end.

On my penultimate lap I knew that I had just over a quarter of an hour on Ed and I thought if I can push that penultimate lap and make sure that he knows that I’m not giving up, I’ve got a little bit of a chance to relax. That penultimate lap took a lot out of me and I went into the last lap thinking “20 minutes on Ed”, and I needed that 20 minutes, I really suffered on that last lap, to the point where one of the marshals on top of one of the climbs said “do you need a medic?” I was like, no way, I’ve got to finish, there’s no way I’m giving up now!

I got across the finish line at the end of the race and I basically collapsed from exhaustion. It was 28 degrees out there and really, really high humidity. Over here the last two training rides I did were at minus four and zero. It was a bit of a shock to the system.
It was a close race and I think that’s what really made it better, that Ed was that close, there was 15-16 minutes in it at the end, it was good to be pushed all the way.


How confident were you of winning before the race began?
I was hoping. I knew after California I was fast enough to do so.  I remember at the 10-11hr mark in the pit area in California I was riding out as I saw Brett and Jason Miles riding in, I had a 15 minute gap and I’d managed to maintain that for a good few hours but it was literally within a lap I went from being OK to being not very good. Leading up to New Zealand I was confident but you never know what happens, you never know where other people are in terms of their fitness, what the course is going to be like. I went out there with fingers crossed but I’ve never been so nervous before a race. The Friday night out there I must have only slept 2 or 3 hours.

Why were you more nervous about this one than Weaverville?
[Nervous laugh] Pressure.  To get out to New Zealand I did a crowd-funder to raise the money so a lot of people had put money in to help me get there. They paid for my flights, my accommodation and my hire car basically, I stumped up the money for the entry and any food and anything else I needed while I was there.

Was that friends or complete strangers?
A bit of both. I’d set up the crowd-funding thing and put it on Facebook and within a week or so I was halfway there through friend’s donations which took me completely by surprise. There was a lot of £10, £20, £50 donations in there and then another friend of mine who works at Leicester Audi went to see his boss, they gave me another £250. I think one of the surprises was Team JMC, Jason Miles’ guys, they gave me £150 as well, that was completely unexpected. But I was surprised at how quickly the money built up, and I as soon as I saw that I put my entry in, that’s when I knew I was going. There are a lot of people to thank for that, a big long list of people.

I’ve got a decal on my top-tube and everyone who gave me money to get out there has their name on it, it’s still on there, I’m really, really proud of that.


Did the race itself go smoothly, did you have mechanicals or other problems?
From a race point of view it was the best race I’ve ever had. In terms of the bikes that I had nothing went wrong, the Exposure lights that I ran were absolutely amazing. I didn’t have any offs apart from on the last lap, just from exhaustion, and my nutrition was perfect. I’ve never had it before where I’ve felt OK, relatively speaking, at the end of the race to the point where I’ve had to go and eat a meal, normally I can’t eat anything and struggle to drink anything, but everything clicked into place with this one. I know what I’m looking for for the next 24hr race, whereas before it’s always been a bit hit and miss, nothing ever goes that smoothly!

Which course did you prefer, California or New Zealand?
New Zealand was a lot more singlespeed friendly, just because you didn’t have that massive climb. The climb in California averaged something like one in ten and it was one in four in a few places, it just seemed to go on and on. After an 8 mile descent you are properly cold at the bottom and then you are straight back into the climb, there wasn’t any warm-up, it was really tough on a singlespeed. New Zealand was just amazing to ride in amongst all the trees and ferns and there’s a lot of roots which is why it was tough on a rigid bike. They had 200mm of rain in the run up to the race, on the Friday morning the pits area was ankle deep in water, the guys were all digging trenches, but out on the course you couldn’t have asked for more perfect conditions. The rain had kept all the dust down too but it wasn’t sticky or muddy, it was very grippy.

Was a lot of it man-made then, with decent drainage designed into it?
I think it just drains quick. There’s a lot of porous rock out there with it being so volcanic and the trees sucked up a lot of the moisture. It’s like a massive trail centre, but it wasn’t like a UK trail centre, there was a lot of natural stuff there and they made the best use of the terrain. They didn’t have a man-made surface, it was whatever the surface was that was on the side of the mountain. It was a hard pack dirt in places, but quite loose in others, lots of roots, difficult to describe. It was an interesting place to ride.

What did you eat during the race, is it merely a question of quantity?
Just bars, gels, electrolyte drink, a little bit of energy drink and muesli and that’s it. The muesli is the only thing I have which is not sort of condensed energy drink and bars. Over the years I’ve found stuff that really works for me, the Torq bars and the gels, it’s all just clicked really, really nicely this year. I took it all out with me, so my bike bag had my bike in it and all my nutrition, so I knew exactly what I’d have rather than get out there and then have to try to find something.

Did you have any visits from the sleepmonsters in the wee small hours?
I think when I first started doing 24hr races I used to suffer more, I don’t know what’s changed, whether you just get used to riding for that length of time or I am just more mentally prepared now. There wasn’t really anything weird going on there either, other than the disco at the top of one of the climbs, which was weird with the bout of silent heckling, smoke machine, disco lights, ‘interesting’ signage and mooning.

Are you sure you weren’t imagining stuff?
It’s not really something I suffer with. You didn’t notice them in the day but at night but as soon as you put your lights on there were silver ferns everywhere, which looked quite spooky. But there weren’t any night gremlins or anything.

How long does it take you to recover from a 24hr?
Normally I’ve ridden to work the next day but that’s only across town. In terms of feeling OK that normally takes a couple of weeks. To be able to push it, probably four to six weeks.  I’m hoping to go to race at Relentless up at Fort William… I’ve not put my entry in yet but that’s the plan – I heard lots of good things about the event and the course.


24hr racers usually get all kinds unpleasant afflictions, everything from the squits to constipation and nappy rash. Are there any you would like to share with us?
Riding a rigid bike, more so at Mayhem than New Zealand where I was on a bike with suspension forks for 18 hours, numb hands is the worst one and tingly feet.  The tingly feet go a few hours after the race but the numb hands can hang around for a while. Even wearing two pairs of gloves doesn’t always cure it. I’ve got a pair of old Scott knitted fingerless mitts that are really, really padded on the palm. I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have those.

Maybe you would have to try suspension forks?
Tell you what, it was a bit of an eye-opener as to how good they are now compared to the last time I rode suspension forks so I will be getting a set. I just really like riding rigid bikes though, they make you think about what you’re doing. On one of the laps in Rotorua there was a local guy following me and he was saying ‘Mate, I’ve never seen anyone take that line’, it was because I was looking for smooth lines where ever I could see them. But yeah it was a revelation to see how good suspension forks are now.

Are you a convert?
I wouldn’t say I’m a convert, I’ve seen the benefit. I’ve got a Swift that a set of forks would go nicely on but my race bike and my 29+, I’ll still keep those rigid.

Is that for the sake of weight or reliability or do the ludite tendencies extend beyond gears?
My race bike is Swift geometry but it’s Columbus tubes and based around the Niner RDO fork and it’s just a really, really sweet ride. It’s light too, really light. There’s nothing to go wrong, on a fully rigid bike there’s nothing to think about other than your lines. I just like keeping it simple, less stuff to fix and maintain, I’ve got other things to think about, I can be training or working or being with my family rather than being in the garage tinkering.

Even though it’s a singlespeed race you are allowed to change gear, as long as there is only one on the bike at any given moment. Did you have a shorter gear for when fatigue started to set in?
Both bikes were on the same gearing. I took a load of cogs out to Rotorua with me and after the Friday I knew what I needed to be able to get through 24hrs and make sure I could ride all the climbs rather than have to get off and push. 33:21 [on a 29] If I’m going to get cramp it’s going to get triggered getting on and off normally, so the aim was to try to stay on the bike for as long as possible.


Do you prefer a bar light, helmet light or both?
One of each, and both on at the same time. An Exposure Six Pack on the bar, it’s just amazing. You can set it on a six hour mode which is enough for a race really. Particularly out in Rotorua, the helmet light (Equinox) was really good because there was some nice twisty stuff and you needed the light to see round the corners. So a bit of both, but you don’t need a lot of power on the head torch, although the Exposure ones are super-bright. Really nice lights. The higher power settings were really good out in California because the descent was 8 miles of disconnect your brain and hope your balls are big enough not to do something stupid, it was properly fast and you certainly needed the depth of light to keep the speed up.

Mr Wiggins won a big race a couple of years ago and became Sir Bradley. Were you disappointed not to get a mention in the Queen’s birthday honours list?
That’s not why I’m doing it, I’m doing it for me. It’s just one of things, mountain-biking had been part of my life for years, since I’ve been at uni, push bikes or motorbikes have always been there. It’s a bit of fun at the end of the day. I don’t like the publicity stuff.

{His wife’s voice drifts through from the next room}  You love it!

It’s flattering, the stuff on Facebook and whatever is really flattering. One of the best bits at Rotorua was about midnight, I didn’t know I’d taken the singlespeed lead at that point until I pulled into the pits and Allan looked at me and said “Mate, Facebook’s just gone mental.” It was close for a good few hours but that was such a mental lift to know that people in the UK were following me and when I got home it took me more than 3hrs just to go through my Facebook page, all the messages that people had been putting up, a really, really, good feeling.


Have you ever fallen asleep on the bike?
Yes…

Tell us about it then, nothing to be embarrassed about, we’ve all done it. [Have we?! Are you sure about that? – Ed]
That was at Mountain Mayhem, one of my first solo 24hr races. It was on the fire-road in the first bunch of trees. I was coming down there maybe 1 or 2 in the morning and it’s one of those points were you could just relax. I relaxed and then woa! I woke up and I was just completely out of it, that was proper scary, knowing that I’d fallen asleep. It can only have been for maybe fractions of a second, it was quick, but you were properly motoring down that bit of trail. It wasn’t a nice experience.

Finally. you have mentioned that a lot of people helped, both to get you out there and during the race itself.
I’m just so grateful for what they’ve done to allow me to do that, I was just pleased that I could come back with that singlespeed title. Firstly, my wife Ingrid and my son Erik for putting up with me for the last 18 months. Jon Fern at E3C who’s been my coach for the last 18months, he’s been a massive part in making sure I’ve been fit enough to put myself in a position where I knew I was in contention, likewise, he is good at pulling me back in line when things get a bit wobbly mentally. Sam Allison at Singular for his help with frames and for sorting out the second-best pit crew I have ever had the pleasure of knowing, Jimmy at Mule Bar, he was fundamental to putting me in touch with Jon and encouraging me basically. I’ve known Jimmy since Mule Bar first started up and he’s played a big part in this as well. Wayne Elliot at EDS bikes, he’s helped me out with tyres and other bits and pieces this year. Fibrax, I’ve been training for two winters and destroyed so many sets of brake pads, they’ve been amazing, a really big help. The guys at Torq. The guys at Repack who’ve helped me out this year with clothing. Exposure Lights, the guys at Leicester Audi, the guys at JMC. And Hope – great British kit.

Thanks very much for your time Steve and well done!.
Thank-you

I Like Shiny Things

It’s a bit tricky trying to think of anything even remotely interesting to say about a pump. It’s probably the least glamorous piece of kit I have, the one I will be cursing having to use at all. It will inevitably only ever be required when it’s -3° and the howling wind is driving the rain hard into my face and increasingly numb hands.
 
It’s at times like that, when everyone else is standing waiting for me, huddled down inside their jackets as best they can for what little protection they offer from the elements, moaning loudly and vociferously at me for making them even colder, that I need something which I know will just work.

 
The fact that it will work perfectly after spending two years strapped to the side of the winter bike through all the rain, mud, grit, road salt, jet washes and splatted cow pats I just take for granted. It must be at least six months since it was last removed from the bike, never mind used, but work perfectly it does. This has lasted longer than any other pump I have ever had and, apart from the scratches and a slight dent from a rock strike inflicted upon it, is as good as it was when it was new.

I had always struggled finding a suitable pump for my road bike. The little tiny jersey-pocket size ones just don’t cut it when you need to get over 100psi, whatever the manufacturers claim, the only option is a folding track-pump. However, I have found that most of these also struggle with that sort pressure and quickly succumb to the elements once you attach them to the side of a bike and submit them to a 50+ mile commute five days a week through a Scottish winter.

The Lezyne Micro Floor Drive is simply in a different class. The build quality is top-notch, I don’t know what is different about the seals on it but they seem impenetrable. The pressures it can achieve are far greater than anything else of a similar size, I now stop pumping because I have reached the pressure I want rather than because the pump simply can’t give any more. Lezyne claim up to 160psi for it and I actually believe them, it feels like there's still loads to give when I stop at 120, it's not at all laboured or stiff at that point. Even the part which attaches to the valve is better than any other I've tried, a proper screw-thread rather than a clip which pops off seventeen times during the pumping process. It’s also a lot lighter than it looks, just over 5 ounces (yes, really) which is pretty impressive for any pump of this kind, never mind one made of lovely shiny aluminium rather than cheap plastic. It can do Presta and Schrader, the hose is nice and long and, when attached to the bottle cage bosses, it leaves loads of room for the bottle and cage and a reasonable amount of space for your foot to come passed on the upstroke.

Luckily I have only used it myself twice in the last year or so but I would never leave home without it. I have however lost count of how many times I have lent it to others to help them out when their own pumps have proved to be much less effective. It is an item which can help you make friends, there is nothing like the look of relief on someone’s face when you find them in the middle of nowhere, the swearing only partially drowned out by the hissing sound which has caused it, and ask if they would like to borrow a track pump. They will recognise you and stop for a chat when they next see you six months later, which is nice.


The only time I won’t take it is when I’m racing, any pump Is going to be (relatively) slow and cumbersome if it’s needed in those circumstances and so I take a gas canister instead. I generally don’t like using disposable items of any kind and so take the pump for everything else.
 
Overall
I like – everything. The pressures it can achieve, ease of use, reliability, weight, shininess
I don’t like – erm… I probably should write something here just to try to look balanced but I’m struggling. Maybe the folding foot-plate thingy could be a bit bigger, but that would add weight so maybe not a great idea.

The retail price is about £35. If it were twice that I would still buy one.


It's That Time Of Year Again


It comes around so quickly doesn’t it? It barely seems two minutes since the last one but here we all are, talking about the big day like a bunch of excited five-year olds. Who’s coming? Do we think it will snow this time? How much will we have to eat? The count-down has begun.

 Me chased by Les Corran, 2013
Yes, it’s that time of year when Nigel really starts drumming up interest in the Manx 100. At the time of writing there are only 233 days to go until 31 July 2016. To be fair he does this all year round but he gets more insistent as the event draws nearer - his efforts do pay off though and the entries have trebled in the time that I’ve been making the annual journey out to the island to do it.

So what is it? Well, it’s a 100 mile, single-lap race over a very wide variety of terrain, exactly none of which is in a neatly manicured trail-centre. Oh, and there’s something in excess of 16,000ft of climbing too. There is a 100km option for those keen to see what all the fuss is about but less keen to commit to the big one until they know what they are letting themselves in for.

 Not a lot of flat bits...

There is some support out on the course (lots of marshals and a couple of bag-drops) but for the majority of the event there is a real sense of being in the middle of nowhere, be it open fells and moorlands, dense forests, old quarries or disused mines. It is signposted but an ability to read a map is useful, especially if it's really, really, really foggy, which it won't be, it will be lovely and sunny. As an extra-special-added-bonus you even get to begin on the start line of the TT which almost makes up for having to get up at silly-o’clock.

San Kapil, who I think had entered the 2016 event even before he got on to the ferry to return after the 2015 race, has made a video to give you a flavour of what it’s all about


He also has an interview with some of the brains behind the event, Nigel Morris, Guy Whalley and  David Kelly.


Entries for the 2016 event are open on the Manx 100 website. It's cheaper if you get yours in before the end of the year. Go on, you know you want to.

I've collected together a few blogs from the event if you want to have a read and see what it's all about. Every single one of them is saying positive things, and it's not because I've just picked out the favourable ones, there simply aren't any saying anything bad about it.


2015
Andrew Howett

2014

2013
Richard Rothwell
Rob Arnold

Despite the big banner saying 'Finish' this is the start line on
the TT Grandstand - 2015


Relentless - Living Up to It's Name


I had a score to settle with the course at Aonach Mor near Fort William. Last year Relentless had hosted the 24hr World Championships where I had done spectacularly badly. I had been suffering from tonsillitis and had limped round in 77th place, pushing the bike more than I was riding it. I had only managed to get as high as 77th by virtue of the rather high rate of DNFs. It was certainly the hardest course of the ten 24hr races I had done, and by some considerable margin, and even those without throat infections had said as much. This year Relentless was hosting the British 24hr Championships and I had decided, for reasons now lost in the mists of time, that it would be a good idea to do it on a singlespeed. How hard could it be?

 
I have ridden a singlespeed quite a bit, the lack of gears isn't really a problem back home in south Lincolnshire, somewhere so flat that the locals have been known to get altitude sickness if they ever venture into their lofts. In contrast there would be well over 1,000ft of climbing on each and every lap at Relentless. I had however only raced an SS on three previous occasions, the most recent and longest of those races being the Keilder 101 where I had finished second behind Saul Muldoon. I had changed my gear specially for that race, from my usual 32-14 (yes, Lincolnshire really is that flat!) to a more suitable 32-17 but was worried that even this may be too big a gear for the 24hrs, which would be over four times as long…

The advice I received on the subject ranged from 'fit a much bigger sprocket, you'll get much less fatigued if you just spin a low gear' to 'fit a little sprocket, you'll be pushing up the climbs anyway so you might as well go quickly on the bits where you can actually pedal'. Hmm.

I kept the familiar 32-17 on my main bike but removed the gears from my hardtail to use as a spare bike and fitted that with a 32-19, just in case. That already had bouncy forks but in a small concession to sanity I also fitted some to the main bike. I had also heard of singlespeeders suffering with their backs due to the endless gear grinding so I had one bike with riser bars and one with flat bars and bar-ends so there was plenty of opportunity for me to change position when things got too painful. As well as never having ridden a singlespeed for that length of time I had also never ridden a hardtail for longer than 12hrs. What could possibly go wrong?

 
The first thing which went wrong was the van refusing to start again after we had filled up at the petrol station in Edinburgh at about 1130 on Friday morning. There wasn't nearly enough electricity in it to turn the starter motor and there was a big red warning light on the dashboard, although the light had actually been there ever since we set off that morning, a picture of a battery illuminated against the black of the instrument panel. After spending a lot of time uttering some very rude words and checking that it wasn't something quick to fix, like a snapped alternator belt, we found that it started fine with a jump start, having been towed off the forecourt by a very helpful chap in another white van. In the extremely unlikely event that you are reading this, thanks again.

We decided to press on to Fort William, this was the National Championships after all, we weren't going to let something like a poorly van put us off. We had broken down next door to a shop which sold car batteries, and even better, sold them fully-charged. I left the engine running and went in to buy a spare. Being very careful not to stall it we left the car-park and headed for the motorway.

We had passed Perth before the next warning light came on, the one for the ABS. Convincing myself it was only the sensor lacking power I ignored it. The next one came on just after Dalwhinnie, the airbag one this time, and I ignored that too. How much power does illuminating all the warning lights use?

We were wondering whether we would be able to get there before dark, there was no way we would be able to use the lights, that would kill it pretty quickly. We were being hampered in our efforts to do this by the very large lorry with the very large digger on the back which was doing 35mph all the way along the A82. I'm just guessing at the speed there, the speedo and rev counter had long since died. The engine was starting to splutter but kept recovering, although we now had yet another warning light on the dash, a big red exclamation mark. How close would we have to get before we could reasonably call someone there and ask for a tow? Would the lorry ever pull over and let the queue of traffic passed? It was dusk  and we were running out of time.

There was a very big splutter in Spean Bridge, the van almost stopped, that really didn't sound good, so we dived into a layby and got the new battery out. We would have been there already if it wasn't for that lorry. The brackets holding it in are a bit of a faff and so it was pretty dark when we finished. It started on the button, which was a relief. We limped along for the last few miles using only the sidelights, not daring to put the headlights on despite the conditions. I was also trying not to brake unless I really, really had too, the brake lights were another electrical thing over which I had very little control, short of removing the bulbs, and I didn’t think would be a great plan.

We made it eventually, arriving well after dark, and set up our pits across the course from Nigel and Guy, our hosts from the Manx 100. It was too late to go for a practice lap so we had some dinner and generally faffed about before heading to bed for an early night, listening to the wind howling and the rain battering on the roof of the van.

Before

It was still raining when we got up on Saturday morning but the forecast was for it to stop at about midday, just as the race would be starting. It actually eased off a little before then but didn’t stop completely. I had two breakfasts, one of porridge and a fried egg sandwich and then another of scrambled egg about half an hour before the race began.

I did a quick lap of the car park to make sure that the bike was working properly, or at least better than the van, and then headed over to the start line. There was no gridding, or if there was I had missed it, but as I only had one gear I was quite happy starting further back, I wasn’t expecting to be troubling the front-runners.
 
We were lead away from the start by a motorbike or a quad-bike or something, I could hear it but was too far back to be able to see it. The first lap was a little different to all the others in that it missed out the first singletrack climb, instead taking us straight up the fireroad climb to the tunnel at the top.

The start line, just before noon.

I was feeling good in my one gear and was passing more people than I was being passed by. Whether I would be able to keep that pace up for the remaining 23¾hrs was another question entirely.

I overtook Richard Rothwell about half a mile in, which was most unexpected. I knew that he had been injured a few weeks before and had been playing down his chances but even so… It turns out that he had unintentionally joined us singlespeeders, almost as soon as the race began his rear shifter had decided that it wanted to play no further part in the event and had called it a day. He was using some very rude words in an effort to coax it back into life but none of them helped much. I resisted the temptation to be all smug and extol the virtues of intentionally starting the race with only one gear and left him to it, he had a spare bike in the pits so would only have to do the first lap stuck in one gear, although he could at least change it by fiddling with the limit screws on his rear mech.

The next person who I found myself riding next to was Saul Muldoon, who came up very fast behind me and then slowed for a quick chat. Oddly enough he wanted to apologise for beating me at Keilder, which was lovely but unnecessary, it was a race after all. I think he just felt a bit guilty because I thought I’d won until I found out that he had already finished. He had taken second place in the singlespeeds on this course at the World Championships last year., and had spent a lot of that race causing concern in the Belchambers camp, so he was definitely the favourite for this race. Nice guy and bloody quick (actually that applies to both Brett and Saul). He didn’t stay long before he disappeared off into the distance at a speed I just couldn’t match.

This must be the first lap, I'm still (just!) ahead of Saul. That didn't last.

The track deviated from the Worlds course at the top, after the tunnel we immediately turned right and down the first singletrack descent, missing out the final bit of the climb and the huge berms, which was a shame, I quite like that bit. The majority of the course was familiar to me and so I wasn’t having too many problems as a result of missing the Friday practice, I could remember where the tricky bits were and most of the lines.

The lap was a little shorter that it had been for the Worlds but seemed to be more fun, maybe just because I was feeling much better and able to enjoy it more. The rain had also stopped by the time we finished the first lap which helped a lot. I grabbed another bottle of Torq and headed out again.

By lap two I was already starting to struggle with the gear. I had the other wheel with a sprocket two teeth larger but hadn’t been planning to use this until the wee small hours. I was reluctant to swap so soon, worried that if I went for it two laps in I would have nothing left to fall back on when things began to get really hard in a few hours time.

By lap three I knew that I had to give in and make the swap, climbing in the bigger gear was really taking it out of me. While singlespeeds are of course bikes with only one gear the rules of the race do permit gear changes, as long as only one is on the bike at any given moment. Changing gear is quite a manual process and took me nearly a minute, somewhat longer than pressing a button on the bars. Neither of my bikes were designed as singlespeeds with things like sliding dropouts or EBBs, they both have vertical dropouts and had been converted by fitting a tensioner in place of the rear mech. This gives me the advantage of being to fit different ratios without having to adjust anything, so it could have been worse.


The shorter gear helped a lot, I was going much better after the change but just had that nagging concern that less than three hours in I already used my plan B. There was nothing I could do other than press on. There was no plan C.

I had set myself the rather ambitious target of getting on the podium in the singlespeed race. Although it was a small field what it lacked in quantity it more than made up for in quality, along with Saul I had the likes of Dave Glover, Ed Wolstenholme, Simon Halsam, Thomas Howarth, Neil Scott and Andrew Beever to contend with, it was not going to be easy. The singlespeeders tend to be a fairly self-selecting bunch, anyone who is contemplating 24hrs in one gear probably knows what they are doing, they can’t all have just been muddling though like I was. I got the first update on my position from Gina at the end of the fourth lap, I was 21st overall. I was really pleased with that, much better than I was expecting. I was however 5th in the singlespeeds, that was much less satisfactory but I think just emphasises the quality of the field and made me realise the scale of the challenge I faced, there were four singlespeeders quick enough to be in the top twenty. Saul was flying and was second overall at this point.

Saul Muldoon going very quickly.
I had no idea that the rules permitted singlespeeders to race without beards.
 
The next lap didn’t go at all well for me. I wasn’t doing anything unusual in terms of my eating strategy (lots and often) but my stomach was all over the place, gurgling away to itself and leaving me feeling rather queezy. The final descent was interesting, I was paying far more attention to clenching my buttocks to prevent any ‘accidents’ than I was to the lines I was riding and was in danger of having a more conventional accident. I dropped my bike at our pits and ran to the portaloos, it was a huge relief but I was cursing the time it was costing me, time I could not afford to waste.

The relief was short-lived and the feeling returned on the following lap, my tummy making all kinds of odd noises and threatening to expel it’s contents at the most inopportune moment, and so I was forced to return to the portaloos, loosing yet more time.

I’ve had a dodgy stomach a few times in races, but it usually feels like things are about to come out at the top, rather than at the bottom (yes, terrible pun intended) Eating some crystallised ginger would normally settle things but there were two problems with this, the first was that it was untried for this particular sort of problem, the second was that in all the confusion of just getting to the race we had forgotten to get some.

We did however have some ginger and pineapple Torq bars so I ate a couple of those, and also some ginger oatcakes, dipped in milk to make them less dry and quicker to eat, and they seemed to help. While I was swallowing them Gina was busy with my bike, clipping the Exposure MaxxD into place and giving my chain a quick lube before sending me on my way again.

 
The race was a couple of weeks later than usual in order to avoid clashing with the World Championships at Weaverville in California, which meant that it took place after the clocks had changed and so it got dark even earlier, about 5pm out in the open, before that in the trees.

Despite the darkness it stayed relatively mild and I was able to keep my speed up and my lap times down, until about 10pm when I had to have yet another trip to the toilet. The battery on the MaxxD was getting quite low by this stage and so while I was doing that Gina removed it and attached my spare light.

This spare light was not an Exposure but was a slightly more complicated affair with the head unit on the bars and the battery at the back of the top-tube near the seat-post, joined by a cable. I still had my Exposure Joystick on my helmet as a back up, I don’t like to go out with only one light, just in case something happens, as it did half way through that next lap.

 
The course was a wiggly figure of eight and passed the pits a couple of times, going passed the timing section twice but each person’s pit only once. The course skirted the edge of the arena when we first came into it after the logging road next to the river. I made a slight error and hit my front wheel on a rock, bringing me to a sudden halt, obviously tiredness starting to show. The impact caused my front light to go out, plunging me into darkness. That was strange, why would that happen? I turned it on again, it seemed fine so I carried on but it went out again as I went into the dip by the tractor. I reached up and clicked the Joystick on but couldn’t see anything wrong with the big light, it came back on when I pressed the switch. I left the Joystick illuminated and carried on, up the little rise, across the fireroad and up the rocky section, where it went out again.

I removed the cable to have a look, the plug at the battery end came apart as I took it out, there was a funny noise and a bright blue spark. That at least answered the question about what was wrong, but then raised another as to what I could do about it. The Joystick is good, but I would probably struggle with it as my main, or even only, light. I don’t think it would last anyway, not turned up bright enough for the singletrack, there was still 9hrs of darkness left. My MaxxD had only been on to charge for less than an hour, that wouldn’t yet be ready to go again.

I set off up the climb wondering what I was going to do, missing the obvious before my addled brain finally remembered that Exposure were actually sponsoring this event and had a wee tent with charging sockets for everyone to use over by the start/finish line, maybe they could help. I came down the 4X track, the 800 lumen Joystick coping surprisingly well with that, not bad for something so tiny. As I came into the arena I dumped my bike and leapt over the barrier, running over to the Exposure stall.

John was there and saw me coming. He asked the obvious question, ‘Is everything OK?’ to which I gave the equally obvious answer of ‘No’. He already had one of the distinctive red and black boxes in his hand and was undoing it as I was starting to explain that my main light had gone out. He thrust a Toro at me, asking what modes I wanted programming into it. ‘Erm, very bright and medium?’ I needed it bright enough for the techy stuff and a lower setting to allow me to save the battery a little on the fireroads. It took him about three seconds to program it. ‘That’s it set for 4hrs and 12, the gauge on the back is hours and minutes left.’ I said a very brief thank-you and ran back to the bike, clipping the light into the bracket vacated by my MaxxD. That’s what I like about the  Exposure stuff, no faffing, it just works. The whole process had taken about a minute and a half.

 
The big climb on the second loop would normally be a descent but as the trails were closed for the event they could be mean to us and make us go up it. Last year I had really, really struggled there but this time I was flying up it, despite the fact that I only had the one gear, I overtook loads of people there during the race, I have no idea how. A quick splash through the mud at the top, a reminder of Friday night’s rain, and then down the swoopy descent back into the arena and passed my pit. Gina had some hot soup waiting for me, I got as much of it down me as I could while she removed the dead light from the bike and lubed the chain. I was still 5th but the race was less than halfway through (don’t worry, this write-up isn’t!) I can just about fit a whole Torq bar in my mouth so I crammed one in as I headed out of the pits and back onto the course, the phrase ‘Bitten off more than I can chew’ probably being applicable there.

I added a couple of layers of clothing as the night wore on but was still feeling good, apart from one more emergency trip to the portaloos at about 1am. There are some conversations which would only be appropriate in a race and I remember having a discussion with someone in front of me about the relative length of our toilet stops and the consistancy of the products thereof. I had a slightly more savoury chat with Simon Bullock when I passed him on the logging road at about 2am, a quick reminisce about the last time we had been at Fort William together, the West Highland Way Race last year and how lucky we were that the weather was so different this time.


The flip side of the clocks changing and giving us a very early nightfall is that dawn comes that bit earlier. Sunrise is a huge psychological boost, even though there is still over five hours still to go there is a sense of being nearly there. I had spoken to a few first time 24hr racers during the night and had told them all the same thing, something someone had told me before my first 24hr many years ago, just concentrate on getting through to day-break, everything else will take care of itself after that.

I kept my light on for a lap longer than necessary, I had the chance to remove it in the pits but it was still a bit dark in the denser bits of the forest. I had the MaxxD back, having been recharged by the Exposure guys. These lights do come with a USB-charger which can be used in my van but this does rather rely on the vehicle having some electricity in it and mine was sadly lacking in this respect. There still appeared to be enough juice left in the Toro but I had changed anyway, better safe than sorry. I had been yo-yoing between 21st and 18th overall during the night but by this stage of the race was up to 4th in the singlespeeds. So close to the podium, and yet so far. Contrary to my expectations I was still feeling fine though, and was still able to push hard, surely I should feel worse than this, regardless of the number of gears? I wasn’t complaining though, the sun was back and I was going to make the proverbial hay while I still could.

 
The track was coming alive again, I’m not sure how many people had stopped and grabbed an hour or two of sleep but there certainly seemed to be more circulating now than there had been in the middle of the night.  Listening to the radio later on Sunday night I found out that this had been the warmest November day on record, I could see the clear blue skies and the sunshine, perfect conditions for racing.

At 9am I was up to 3rd but it was close. Saul was miles ahead in first but the next three or four of us weren’t far apart. The trouble was that the positions and time gaps I was getting were as they were at the end of the previous lap, over an hour ago, and so were at best a rough guide and could be completely wrong by the time I got them.

Next time round I was 2nd and things were a bit more spread out, I was still way behind Saul but at least had a comfy-ish gap over 3rd. Second at the National Championship would be great, better than I had dared hope for. The next lap was one of those ones where because I am doing quite well I start to get paranoid, thinking can I keep this up, every little noise is the bike about to grind to a halt, every slip of the tyre a puncture. It’s probably just because I’m not used to it but being at the front is quite stressful.

This wasn’t helped when someone on a singlespeed came passed me on the trail by the river going, very, very quickly and just disappeared off into the distance. I knew the numbers of the guys I had to beat but he came passed so fast that I couldn’t even see it. I tried in vain to catch back up but he was gone, barely seeming to slow as he dived off the road and into the trees ahead. Who was he? What was going on? I was thinking of my last race at Keilder where I thought I had won, only to find out that I hadn’t. That was annoying but not a big deal, this was the nationals, I didn’t want a podium snatched from under my nose here of all places.

I came round again just after 11am, time for one more lap. I was too far behind Saul, I knew I couldn’t win. I wasn’t sure how safe my second place was though, or even if I still had it, Gina had no idea who the unknown singlespeeder was either. I had however noticed that both he and his bike were much too clean, he could have been a team rider out on a spare bike I suppose. I hope that’s what he was!

I spent the final lap wondering just how safe my podium place was. Had we missed the mysterious singlespeeder in the standings? If we had missed him who else had we missed? Had he simply overtaken me? Was anyone else about to do that? Had someone already passed me and I just hadn’t seen them?

I kept my speed up as best I could, even on that last lap I felt fine and was climbing well, overtaking people where I really shouldn’t have been able to do so. That was really bizarre. I’m certainly no fitter than I have been in recent years, quite the opposite in fact, having moved house recently I have been spending far too much time on various aspects of building work and not nearly enough time riding bikes. The only explanation I can think of is that riding a singlespeed forces me to pace myself better, there are no mad charges up the fireroad climbs, no hunting down the rider in front just to see if I can, only a steady, consistent effort and I think it works. I was expecting a course like Relentless to be hell on an ss but it wasn’t, it was brilliant, huge fun.

After

Even better, I managed to hold on to my 2nd place, the best result I have ever had at a National Championship, and had even moved up to 14th overall be the end. I am really, really pleased with that and, more importantly, had thoroughly enjoyed it. Saul Muldoon had taken the win, by quite a long way, and an even more impressive 4th overall, with Thomas Howarth 3rd in the singlespeeds and 28th overall.

Lisa Scott won the women's singlespeed race, Peter Nadin was first overall and Rachel Sokal was the winner of the women's event. Rachel was so quick that she was 11th overall, no shame for me in being beaten by a girl, she was absolutely flying.

Saul and I on the podium. I have no idea where Thomas was.

I would like to say a big thank-you to a few people – Spook, Fraser and all of their team, XCRacer/Scimitar, Mt Zoom and Torq obviously, John from Exposure for being very helpful and in the right place at the right time, the man who jump started us in Edinburgh, but most of all to Gina for everything she did all weekend. They call it solo 24hr racing but it really isn’t solo, it’s one person riding but it’s still a real team effort.

The pictures are from Sportograph and Gina.

A Winter Training Run (A Run In The Winter Which I Really Should Have Trained For...)


Another late one for you, this is from last November. It’s coming up to winter training time again, just Relentless left for me now, unless I do something really, really stupid, like enter the Stathpuffer.

Anyway, here it is:
 
 

Winter is generally rather cold and wet so if I’m going to be racing in the winter I might just as well embrace cold and wet and go for it.

My former house-mate Pete had decided that it would be a good idea to try one of those running/obstacle course races which seem to be getting increasingly popular and had selected The Suffering at Rockingham Castle for us to try.

I had done a couple of these before, The Hellrunner at the end of 2011 where I came twenty-somethingth and then The Legends of Sherwood, which was similar but in the dark, in early 2012 where I had been really pleased to come third.

However, since then I had fractured my kneecap and had barely run at all in the following two years, it would be interesting to see how I would get on.

One thing I had remembered is how important it was to get a good start and miss the crowds which would form at the first few obstacles. As I had entered us, Gina and I found ourselves in with the ‘Elite’ runners , with Pete and Will starting in the second waves 15 minutes later.
 
Before
(Left to right) Pete's friend who's name I have forgotten, Will, Pete, me, Gina


There was a short sprint from the start before we dived under the first obstacle, crawling under the netting through the mud, Pete and Will shouting encouragement at Gina and abuse at me.

This served to spread the runners out before we sent of across the field and through the woods. We were soon into a selection of what looked like horse-jumps to go either over, under or through.

One thing which sets this race apart from the many similar ones is that the marshals are all army people of one sort or another and can pounce on any runner at any time and demand various numbers of press-ups, sit-ups, squats, burpees or whatever else takes their fancy. Those of us near the front were immediately singled out, I think to stop us getting too far ahead. I was somewhere at the back end of the top-20 at this point and so had to do my fair share of press-ups before I was allowed to cross through the pond and set off back into the woods.

It was rather difficult to keep any sort of speed up while running along a deep, narrow ditch and dragging myself out of various deep pits on the ropes, pausing only to complete a dozen press-ups, but I managed to maintain my position.

I lost a few places at the jerry-cans at the top of the hill. Bike racers aren’t renowned for our upper-body strength and so trying to run while carrying a jerry-can full of water and then heaving it over a wall before scrambling up and following it over wasn’t going to go well for me.

Pete and Will making the jerry-cans look easy(ish), certainly
struggling less than I did

From there we launched ourselves down a properly steep hillside, made extremely slippery by some wet plastic sheeting. I hit the straw bales at the bottom in a tangle of limbs with my fellow competitors and, after the required number of sit ups, set off back up the hill.

Pete and Will missed this section, which was one of the most fun, by the time they got there it had been closed to allow the medics to extract a broken body from the straw at the bottom.

The part of the event which I found the hardest was at the bottom of the next hill. After the required number of burpees I collected another jerry-can and dragged it down to the pond at the bottom, through the water and then up the steep bank under the netting. With loud and vociferous voices shouting at me to “Get it over your head!” “Higher” “HIGHER!” I struggled back up the hill with it to the far side, put it down and then launched back into the pond and out the other side, my arms and shoulders stinging, before emerging through the nets on the other side to complete yet more burpees.

I can’t recall every obstacle in detail, and I’m pretty sure that you wouldn’t want me to go through them all one by one, I probably go on a bit too much as it is.

I have no idea what Pete has just seen, but it can't be good...

Probably the hardest mentally was the zigzagging up and down the very, very steep hill for what seemed like hours and hours and hours. Basically this was a really steep embankment which we made our way along by running up and down, up and down, up and down. It was nice to be able to see the leaders again until I realised despite how close I was as the crows flies just how far away I was as the pig walks. I am trying to introduce a new phrase to the language to express something which travels much less directly than airborne members of the corvidae family, I wonder if it will catch on?

I could actually do the running bits reasonably well, far better than anything where any strength was required, and made up quite a few places here. By the time we eventually finished zigzagging and climbed the fence into the nettles I was at the back of the top-ten.

The nettles and the following bog (I have no idea what was in there, and hate to think, it stank to high heaven) were followed by yet more opportunities for me to display my total lack of any upper body strength, running yet more zig-zags up and down a hill, this time with the castle wall at the top and a pair of old car tyres to carry. They can get quite heavy after the first few hundred yards. There were also the monkey bars, something with which I struggle at the best of times, never mind over an hour into a race. The marshal there informed me that the penalty for failure was 50 press-ups. I knew I wasn’t going to make it and so rather than waste any effort trying I just got down and paid the penalty straight away.

More ditches, more mud, more water and many, many more press-ups, sit-ups, star-jumps and burpees later the finish line eventually came into sight. This was most welcome, having not run for ages I was knackered and my arms and shoulders were really aching, they certainly weren’t used to that effort. I was also soaked and freezing cold.

I ran passed the finish line, tantalisingly close on my right, following the course for another mile or so, more tyres to carry, more sit-ups to do, more ditches, more mud, before finally looping back and heading towards the line, only separated from it by half a dozen 10ft high wooden walls. Rather annoyingly they were about 6inches too tall for me to be able to reach the top by running and jumping at them, and both they and I were covered in far too much mud to allow me to get any grip on the front face
 
 

This posed a bit of a problem. I was in 9th place, and quite keen to hang on to it. The guy in front was long gone but the guy behind was only about a minute back. I tried the first wall in vain again. And again. I had no choice but to just stand and wait for the man behind to catch me up.

He didn’t take long, and could immediately see the problem. We worked together, he lifted me up, I climbed onto the top of the wall, reached down and helped him up, then we both jumped down and ran to the next one, repeating the process again and again.

The thought had occurred to me that on the final wall I could just leap straight down and run for the line, abandoning him on the far side and taking the place, but I didn’t quite have the heart to do that and so I helped him up for the last time, we jumped down together and ran for the line, finishing just after the netting where we had started.

 
I might have been slightly quicker had this not happened to my shoe.
The fact that I didn't notice until after the race probably indicates that it
wasn't slowing me down that much and so I can't really use it as an excuse.

That was without doubt the slowest 10k I have ever done, and not only because it was actually a lot longer than the 10k they had promised us, probably nearer to 10 miles. 1hr46min might look quite slow, but I was really pleased to cross the line in 9th, although this then became 17th once they had counted the times from the other groups, 300 runners in total. Will was 22nd, Pete 57th and Gina a very impressive 8th in the girls. Despite everything it had been surprisingly good fun.

 

I had brought a change of warm clothes, all kinds of lovely warm things, and a flask of hot chocolate which were waiting for me in the back of my van. The only problem was that Faye, Pete’s wife, had the keys for safe keeping and was nowhere to be found, she was somewhere out there on the course cheering him on. It is amazing just how cold you can get when you stop racing. I had thought I was cold before but this had definitely moved up a level or two, the biting wind now really hitting home. I searched hopelessly for Faye before deciding to head back to the finish to take shelter in the marquee which, with it’s two open sides, just served to funnel the wind through it at an ever increasing speed. The others had finished, had a shower, got dressed and warmed up before they eventually found me huddled in a corner under a space-blanket which someone had given me, blue with cold, shivering uncontrollably and not really able to talk. I was still shivering when we got the pub.
 
After.
This photograph was taken while I was still wandering around looking
for everyone and slowing but surely freezing to death.