I was disappointed to miss the 24\12 this weekend. In my view it is the best 24 hour mtb race in the country and I am delighted the field has grown in depth since last year. The course is always fast and fun and the atmosphere fabulous.
However, this year I decided to head north to the Cheviot Hills in Northumberland to support my boyfriend Andy in his own 24 hour effort. He was racing the Open 24, a 24 hour adventure race involving mountain biking, trekking, running, kayaking, canyoning and abseilling. Oh, and of course navigation. You collect as many checkpoints as you can in each of the stages, timing each transition according to your route book and trying to gather as many points as possible.
I am out of running-action thanks to a nasty ankle injury back in April, so thought I'd marshal and then drive the boy home. I racked up a 13 hour training week on the bike in prep for the Trans Wales and was dead tired as I scraped myself out the tent on Saturday morning for the marshals briefing, (leaving Andy to repack his transition box for the nineteenth time and make final preparations to his race pack and scour the maps one last time).
But as I hung around the HQ drinking tea a friend appeared looking lost and sad. "My partner's dropped out. He's got swine flu. I really want to go and race with someone. Do you think any of the marshalls would do it with me?" I laughed and replied, jokingly, "well if you can put up with someone who can't run, I'll come and race with you!" Wry smile, twinkly eyes. Oh dear.
Fastforward an hour and a half and i've swapped my yellow marshall's bib for a numbered red one and I'm lining up with 100 other competitors under the start arch, race pack filled with borrowed food and inappropriate clothing.
So I raced my own 24 hour race this weekend. No laps, no commentary, no pit - just wilderness, tired eyes scouring the map, the satisfying beep of the dibber, the breathless fear after a 20ft jump into a plungepool, giggles as we abseilled down the wall of a castle at 2am, the Farne Islands at dawn, snatched sleep in a campsite laundry room, climbing without a granny ring, evil armppit-high bridleway grass and the ache of my feet as I drank coffee at the finish, under the incredible towering grandeur of Hogwarts (Alnwick Castle).
Then came the prize presentations. I suspected, but did not know for sure, that Andy and Kim had won the mixed pairs. They raced non stop, hard and adrenaline fueled for 23hrs, 59 minutes and 34 seconds. They never said 'it's only worth 5 points so let's not bother'. They raced intelligently and fast. They deserved their win and I had to choke back tears when it was announced. There are 3 races in the series and they have come 2nd in the first 2 (5hrs and 12hrs). This was a well-deserved and hard-fought moment.
Alli and I managed 5th in the mixed pairs thanks to the bike-heavy nature of the event. We had some strategical 'issues' which left us without any point collection for 4 hours (but lots of sleep!)Nevertheless we were both delighted with our result and thoroughly enjoyed being in such a staggeringly beautiful part of the world.