I never meant to go solo Endurance MTB racing, but when racing came to my home town of Brighton in 2008, in the form of the Long Good Saturday, an 8hr race in some of my favourite trails Stanmer Park, that I ride most weeks, I had to go and race.
Earlier that year I'd "trained" to ride the 101miles of the South Downs Way in a day, that seemed like the ultimate can-I-do-it challenge and with this goal accomplished I set off on my first solo endurance race
It wasn't racing like I know it now. I set off safely mid-pack, determined not to blow up before the 8hrs was up. Despite having ridden the SDW in one go, with only a handful of stops, every lap I stopped, put a new, full bottle in the frame, occasionally stopping to refill the 3 bottles I'd brought with me from the back of the car. Yes, that's right, off the bike and wander over to the car every lap, an unrecognisable approach from today's rolling pits for a 24hr race!
I was having a great time and, after a few laps, had settled into a good pace with another soloist who was good and fast through the singletrack and we paced each other up the climbs. At half way we agreed to both stop and have some food. I put the bike down, sat in the car and, at a leisurely pace ate my food of choice - a giant sausage roll and a gingerbread man. Probably not what the TdF riders were using back in 2008 eh?
Refreshed, or rather full up and with a stomach full of nice fatty foods! I collected my new friend and we rolled around for the final 4hrs, battling out the last lap as if our lives depended on it.
I crossed the finish line a broken man, but with a huge smile on my face. Doing the SDW had made me want to ride further & faster, to see what I could achieve. After this race, I knew I wanted to try and do this whilst solo racing, pushing my body harder next time, improving the pits, the eating, hydration, pacing, battling with my head to keep pushing. I never dreamt I could get a top 10 finish, let alone in my first race, and I wanted to go again.
I was hooked... and I'd only turned up to go for a ride on my local trails.