TUESDAY, AUGUST 11

Posturing, Pestering, Peering and Humbling.

Sleepless turned out to be quite a race, but I wasn't really a part of it, this year.

A tight twisty course, with plenty to keep the mind occupied, and some passing places just where you thought there weren't any.

Jo and I pulled up on Thursday night and set up camp.

Friday was a chilled out day- she went to buy a car and I kept well away. I just did my practice loop and fiddled with bikes, listened to music and met up with some friends.

Friday night and the other racers started turning up, all eager to impress and also to check out the competition.

James Leavesley popped in for a coffee and a good chat. But he was digging, cheeky boy. "How much training have you done?" etc.

"Tonnes."

He then told me how he's 10 years younger than me. Do I still like this guy?

I'm not sure he saw me as a threat as such, but he was checking me out. I found that to be a bit of a confidence boost, as nobody was ever bothered about me before, really. Well, no, that's wrong. James has always been interested and supportive.

Rob Dean turned up too. He's a big bloke, and recently completed the South Downs' Double in under 20 hours. He WAS a big rival. He was a bit like me, keen to say that he was here to win, but nice and non-threatening if that makes sense. Exposure lights have sort of taken him under their wing, so I knew he'd be ok.

Saturday morning and one of my inspirations turned up for a wee chat. Steve Heading is a monster mile muncher and well respected by all who know him. He doesn't stop riding, he doesn't have to. He just keeps going, super steadily paced and annoyingly quick. He gets it done, whatever it is.

Keep an eye out for Steve and his input into cycling progression.

So I pop my head out of "Blanche HQ" (my gnarlavan) into the solo area, to view the delights before me. Most of the "threats" were hanging about each other, and sort of applying friendly posturing techniques during their pre-race conversations. Invisible heckles were being exhibited purely in the body language. These guys were going to go out and knock hell out of each other. I could just see it happening.

Jo then remembered that our team name hadn't been on the start list, so I asked her to make sure that Vince Cox the commentator had some details about me and the team so he could say hello as I rode past.

Vince is going to ride around the world, next year.

Gulp.

How's that for inspiration? What's more is that he's planning on arranging a race around the world, to finish at a point that coincides with the Olympic Opening Ceremony in London.

Wow!

I wonder if I could get 5 months off of work...

Anyway, Jo went up to talk to him and tell him about...

...He knew all about me, the 7DS and had followed our progress before and after the rides. He knew about the 7DS. He knew I'd been I'll. He knew more than me.

I'm not used to that sort of thing, and although we sing and dance on these blogs, in a self-obsessed manner, about what the human machine can do and what we plan to do, you are never sure if anybody is actually listening.

Vince was genuinely interested.

The reasons for the 7DS came flooding back to me: If one person has found any form of inspiration from what has been done on this website, or others, then we're doing the right thing.

When Jo came back to say what he had said, I was humbled. I really felt like, I don't know, a very minor ambassador for the sport or something like that. It made me feel somehow how smaller, but with the possibility of a growing presence within racing.

We are all ambassadors when we don a team jersey but I felt out of my depth, a bit.

Never mind. Back to the task in hand.

15mins before the start. Pre-load drink in hand

Line up on the start line. Right at the front.

There are a lot of photographers about, try not to look too nervous.

Looking back, all the solo guys are behind me, and James winks at me as if to say, "You're in for it."

"Ignore it Dave, ride your own race", says Coach Chris Eatough in the back of my mind.

Vince looks at me and starts to talk about the Coast to coast over the Tannoy, to all the folk that came to watch the melee that is the start of a 24hr race.

He walks towards, me.

I smile, and shrink behind some other guys on the start line. If he had been coming up for a chat, which I doubt, he changed his mind when he saw the fear on my face.

The hooter goes off, and the run starts. James runs past and pinches my bum! I had planned to follow him on the run anyway, so that I got the right pace as the last time I did a Le mans start I was 2 stone heavier.

Jo Reckons we were back with the first 20 runners.

Crikey.

We race off on the bike and up the first climb. I let all the solo riders rip off, and watch as they keep looking back at each other to make sure that they stayed in front.

I sat back, and let them push on. I had time to work: 24hrs to be exact(ish).

At the end of the first slippy downhill, there were bodies everywhere. Then one of the solo riders rode past and smiled at me as he shouted, "C'mon! This is the easy bit!"

I let him go on too. These guys seemed to want to race right from the start, and I only know 2 or 3 people who can actually do that. James is one of them, and I'm not.

The hours run on, and the gap grew between me and them for about 4hrs or 6hrs. Then it started to shrink, and people in front started to drop out. At 8hrs I was 9th, I think, and felt well and truly settled into my rhythm. I was keeping my lap times to within a minute of each other and was reeling them in, and enjoying it.

My nutrition was bang on. I'm a liquid diet man, on a bike, and it was working nicely. I had no stomach issues, so my pace was just about bang on, too. The long haul was upon us.

At 12hrs in (lap 14?-I'm not sure how many I did) I slipped on a root and had to put my foot down to stop me falling. There was a little twinge in my back. It was the only discomfort I had had at all up to this point, which is a major plus, so I kept going and ignored it.

15mins later I got to the stupidly steep second to last climb and walked it as I had done for most laps, to keep my heart rate down. My back felt a bit tight.

Rode back to the pit, and the feeding zone. I couldn't get my bottle out of the holder and so I said to Jo, "I'll keep going around to the solo lane, I may have a wee problem."

I was 4th and 12mins behind 2nd, who was the main concern for me. 1st was going too fast, I hoped.

Jo and Rich Holmes, a good friend from my local mtb community, were there. I stopped, and nearly face planted. My feet were stuck in the pedals.

Concerned looks.

"I'll ride to the caravan, but I think you may have to catch me, there."

I stop at the predetermined place, and Rich grabs the bike and helps me get a foot out. I try to stand up and immediately collapse against our car, in the shape of a bike rider. I was stuck.

Pain.
Hmm?

I'm sure I didn't swear, but my back and leg/glute hurt a lot. Where was my right foot, and had I wet myself?

They dragged me to the inside of the awning, bike shaped, and lay me on my side with my legs bent at 90 degrees.

Luckily, Jo is a physio. So she started trying to bend and knock 10 bells out of me and get it so that I could move my legs and back out of the shape I was in.

She gave up after 20mins, and decided to try and get me into the bed so that I could lie straight and flat.

It took her about 30mins to lift and assist me into the caravan. Rich had had to go to help his mate on his own solo ride.

At one point, I had jo's pink and girly hat on my head, and was being pushed along the floor of the caravan with my arms stuck under my body and face rubbing on the floor. The hat had been pushed down over my eyes, and I couldn't do anything about it.

My bum was still hanging out of the caravan door and was stuck up in the air as if it was a bike stand.

"Park HERE!"

Jo asked me to look at something as I was being moved.

"I can't see anything, Jo"

She saw my predicament...

...and fell about laughing.

After I got over the shock, and agony, of her dropping me I saw the funny side and sort of joined in. But it hurt to laugh, so I laughed some more.

Obviously I didn't get out again, but once on the bed I was able to carry on with some gentle mobilisations and she also got the dreaded tape out.

With my back taped up and supported on a proper bed, I returned to Earth from my low orbit.

That is not my foot, promise

All I could do was mull things over and keep relatively still.

In the morning I could just about stand, but I couldn't reach my knees. Jo got the flannel out and helped me clean myself.

"No, I can't reach below my waist sorry, Jo..."

I had a look around, got dizzy a few times, felt sick, and then came back to the van to do more mobilisation/stretches and extensions. Things were easing slightly.

At the end, I was lucky enough to watch Rob Dean ride in for his first ever 24 solo, as the winner!

He was the number 2, that I felt was a real threat. Number 1 did stop, but I'm not sure why.

Lots of positives, one piece of bad luck.

A humbling but fulfilling weekend.

And a free flannel wash.

And Rich's rider, Rik? He came 4th after a stunning upping of his game at solo 24!!!
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