By contrast, my seventh twentyfour, and my last, for a while at least. I'm not going to talk about the mud - because I loved it. Mostly. And the rain, too. Which, apparently, makes me weird. There are other things to remember, though, important things...
" 'AVE IIITTTTTTTTT!" (My friends the DJs set the woods alight with their cheers and their music. They made me laugh and cry on every lap, mixed Shaft into Star Wars and were polite enough to pretend not to notice whilst I crashed my brains out in front of them.)
"It's wearing thin now, isn't it?" (Heckler's Corner. More friends - encouragement of the very best kind. Sadly they all went to bed too damn early.)
Giggling out loud at the rain on my face, knowing that for a while at least pushing through the mud would be easier...
" *plink* " (The sound that broke a thousand hearts - a Lupine becoming a very expensive paperweight. Hurrah for the trusty Dinotte and the immense kindness of friends who ran around beg/steal/borrowing an assortment of lights to save the day.)
Climbing out of the darkness into puddles of light, watching huge black riders break and shimmer on the trees.
"(sound of tyre on gravel...gravel...gravel....grass...) WAKE UP!" (Forgot the magic caffeinated stuff. Will never forget it again. Falling in the river a good substitute.)
Daybreak, greyly. Tears trackside from Minx. Withered but purposeful.
Weathering the rough patches with little notes ("you know how to do this") and an everlasting cup of tea.
"Fancy a shag?" (I've been riding my bike for eighteen hours - no, thank you, and I don't think you would either.)
Finally catching Fi, after three hard laps in which I wondered why tactical racing feels so damn wrong. White-faced and monosyllabic, and not a little scary. The girl has fire - look out world...
Staring down at the campsite from the heights of Sunday morning, knowing we'd done it, knowing it was nearly over, and feeling so utterly at home, sad to be leaving, elated to be there.
"Shoudn't you girls be racing?" (Last lap, sun coming out, walking and talking with the ever-smiling, ever-lovely Kate and a finally glowing Fi, quite possibly the best last lap in any race, ever.)
There isn't a thank you big enough for all those who work so hard to make Mayhem what it is. All those behind the scenes and there on the day. All the people who smiled and cheered. All the riders who joined in with the banter that keeps us awake in the darkness. All the other soloists who went round and round and round and round, gritting their teeth til the end. All the racers who took the time to pass safely and politely, all those who took the time to let me pass safely, all the marshalls who never stopped encouraging. Everyone who remembered that it's not the podium we're after but the achievement of finishing, the certainty that you've done your absolute best and that every pedal stroke was just one more towards winning your own battle. Everyone who has let us ride incessantly for the past year with one eye on the challenge, unbearably tired at times, and equally unberably euphoric at others. And everybody in the solo tent who stared worriedly at me before taking my bike away and cleaning it despite the fact that they were there for other riders, offering me food and tea, patting me on the back when I wobbled a bit and sent me out again to do one more lap to ensure that I would not, this time, start perusing lap times within moments of being home, looking for the bits that went wrong, looking for some way to squeeze another one in... Nonsense. Of course I did.
A final word from William.
"You're all winners!
The end :o)