Monday, 23 October 2006

...and that's it, season over! Dusk Til Dawn was the usual customary end-of-year ball - I'm sure something will happen one day to make it less than perfect (raining frogs? plague of locusts?) but it just goes from strength to strength and is probably my favourite event of the year. Over 500 lovely friendly riders, a fantastic course (and I mean *really* fantastic - the Thetford singletrack is just perfect, all polished berms and swooping, sinuous trails through the trees), spangly 'mood lighting', one of the best thought-out solo pits I've seen (no tedious schlepping of kit across a field - just park up and work from the car), gallant work from Timelaps in the face of twelve hours of trying to read number boards behind blinding HIDs, just enough trade support to keep those not riding amused, fed, and spannered throughout, and above all the loveliest small-town atmosphere that no other event seems to manage to replicate. The Thetford MTB Racing crew work so hard and achieve such great things; a huge, huge thank you to them for all their tired, tireless efforts and the plentiful original thinking that makes Dusk Til Dawn so special.

The ladies solo field was the biggest of any ultra-endurance event this year (did you know that any evemt over 4 hours long is classed as ultra-endurance? No, neither did I - I've done commutes that are longer than that!), and it was great to see all 14 grrrls complete at least the required 2 laps to finish. For various reasons I'd really wanted to win this one; I don't usually get all fired up and aggressive about a result, because I'm mostly racing against myself but I decided to change tack from my usual softly-softly approach and ride very hard indeed hard from the off. Suffice to say, it worked - after red-lining for 3 laps, I settled into a slightly more sustainable pace but still found myself attacking all the singletrack sections with gleeful fury and going far, far, far faster than I ever have done in an enduro before. The threatened rain never materialised and we rode the whole night long under starry skies (with the occasional stray one shooting overhead); it got very cold indeed (but then it wouldn't be Thetford if it didn't); first a battery and then a light failed (the latter through numpty user error); the iPod threw a gurgly fit at being asked to cope with twelve hours stuffed down my shorts and the whumps made eating near-impossible but heavens, was it fun. At one point I dropped into a particularly swoopy bit and suddenly lost all sense of direction; like being thrown into a tumbledrier, there was no up, no down, no left or right, just the faith that if I followed the swirling ribbon of dirt it would take me where I wanted to be going. And it did - twelve hours, 138 miles and nowhere-near-enough-food later I spun over the line to a beer, some terribly unflattering photos and a finish as not only first solo woman, but also third in the solo men. That'll keep me quiet for a while, then. Rock on...


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