Pivot Twentyfour 12

On September 24, 2016

I was just hanging on, looking for reasons to stop. I’d thrown up and was drifting down the field, after a good start. I was only five hours into a twelve-hour race. My stomach was knotted from gels and energy drink. I’d gone back to water, bananas and gluten free oat bars hoping to settle it. I kept telling myself not to quit, but if I did, would anyone notice?

There comes a point for endurance athletes, when the people closest fall out of love with your passion as it becomes an obsession. Mountain bike endurance is a selfish pursuit, and a cruel mistress to boot, with so much that can go wrong. Maybe I should just pack it in, starting here and now? Today it’s my stomach, last race around the hills of Mont Blanc it was my bike. I can’t remember the reason before that. This was my inner monologue as I hit 100 kilometers of mountain biking at Pivot Twentyfour 12.

I’d wallowed in these doubts before. During endurance events, feeling low at some point is par for the course, and surprisingly often passes, once you keep doing the right things. If only I could settle my stomach, then I’d get back on the pace. One more lap and see how it goes, I told myself. I wasn’t too far off six hours now, which would be halfway, a big psychological milestone. Hour six and seven past, and I was holding in there in 7th place in category.

side jump

The narrative of ultra endurance events for me can be chunked into five states of mind. A great, but rare day is when you skip No. 2.

  1. Rush – adrenaline filled first 2 hours
  2. Reality – Jesus, I’m not even half way
  3. Possibility – Maybe I can do this
  4. Zombie zone – I could do this all day
  5. Final lap – I’d definitely do this again

Eight hours in and I was feeling better. Adhering to the rules, I put my lights on at 7.30pm and began enjoying how completely different the same trail rides were in the pitch dark. With my Expose lights burning a hole through the night, I was thankful to Matt Jones, who had lent me some seriously powerful lumen for the event.

For those who haven’t experienced Pivot Twentyfour 12, it is tough, but the course, atmosphere, organisation and quality of riders, make this a very special and memorable event. The course start-finish is through the campground, where kids hold their hands out for high fives, or to hand out jellies, or lollies. Hundreds of families sit track-side offering support not only to a loved one, but anyone. When you are down in the dumps, a cheer or smile form an encouraging stranger can give you just the lift you need.

The course is simple, which makes it perfect for an endurance event. The first half is mostly uphill or across woodland trails, but the second half is fast flowing single track. Then you do it all again, and again and again, but each time you know the second half is coming.

river-crossing

If you are still not convinced, then there’s also Motivation hill, where you can stop for a cream tea. This may seem unusual until you consider the lunatics doing the full twenty-four hours as a solo, or even as a pair. If that’s not enough, then there were heavy metal loving people in the woods blasting out all sorts of dark tunes into the dark hours to keep the energy levels up.

As hour ten past, I entered the Zombie zone, where I could ride all night long. I had riders on my wheel congratulating my pace, which was apparently just right for that time of night. As I hastened towards the finish, I thought I’d lost it when I saw Santa – beard, boots and all, suddenly appear. Luckily, I wasn’t hallucinating, as other riders saw this crazy supporter too.

The end was near, but at Pivot Twenty-four 12, how near was up to me it turned out. The race, unlike similar races, does not stop on the stroke of midnight. That would be too easy. Instead, if you cross the line at any time before midnight, you can do another lap. This does pose a big question to a rider who’s mental ability is limited due to tiredness. I knew I would finish my current lap just before twelve. If I did, I’d have to do another half hour lap. If I didn’t make it before twelve, I could finish. So, should I slow down a tad or push on knowing that I’d have to do an extra lap? Even after twelve hours, and in my tired state, I knew I couldn’t cheat myself now. Not after all I’d been through. So, I pressed on into the dark and another lap. At midnight the second 12 hours race, called the TorchBearers begins. It filled the field with energised, new riders, who lifted the pace and added to the excitement of the last lap.

Single track

The last lap of a long race is when I’m reminded why I do this. When I’m well outside my comfort zone, I feel such extremes of emotion. This is when I feel truly alive. As I rolled over the line in the pitch dark, I was proud to have finished. It had been a roller coaster of a ride, with the highs just tipping the lows. It had taken 12.34 minutes. I’d moved up to 4th in category and 6th overall. In the end, this half-arsed racer would settle for that. I thought to myself as I packed up, in a dark field near Plymouth for the three hours drive home, I’d definitely do this again.

Photography & blogs from the event:

Midnight TorchBearer

Dave Howard Photography

Race Results

Race Video

 

Thanks to:

Pivot Cycles

Exposure Lights

Jon at E3 Coaching

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