Friday, 13 April 2012

24hrs Of Exposure 2012 - Not The Start To The Season I "Knee"-ded

In the same event last year, I set out to secure a steady ride to set my season off in the right direction. This year I had slightly grander plans after what I hoped had been a really good winter for me where I have remained free of injury or illness and kept the miles ticking over regularly. Starting with the 2nd seed board and with Santa Cruz & The North Face stablemate Josh Ibbett alongside me on the start line billed as 4th seed, and with several of the usual suspects opting for the 12hr event, I was hoping for a strong ride to launch this year with a bang. 
24hrs Of Exposure 2012 - I had a lot of fun while it lasted
Pic: Joolze Dymond
Unfortunately, my knee let me down. It's off to Active Physio Clinics for me to get myself up and running again. No permanent damage done thankfully, and after a bit of moaning about a sore knee and a touch of physiotherapy magic (and tape!) I'll be back on the bike in no time. Just a whole bunch of frustration, disappointment and a feeling of having let down sponsors, friends and family who have been amazingly supportive to me over the winter to deal with. I guess there's always next year..... And now, onto the next race :-)
Having fun in Newcastleton on the new bike
Pic: Joolze Dymond
Here's how my whole weekend went:

Unpacking and nervously
inspecting the bikes after the journey
After an epic drive from the South Coast to Scotland we arrived at the race arena on Friday with plenty of time to unpack, set up the pit area, check out the opposition, try and work out who to watch and fettle with bikes before the rain came and cancelled the pre-race lap of the course for me. This was Scotland after all. There would be plenty of time to learn the course on Saturday I hoped!

Once the bikes were assembled, checked over, re-checked and a huge amount of pasta & dinner had been consumed, it was off to bed for me for a last good night's sleep before the race.

Despite the race starting at midday, the morning flew by as final preparations were made, re-made and checked again just in case. All the time, taking care to stay off my legs and to keep fresh & hydrated. The new North Face kit had arrived only days before and this was to be its first outing (apart from the shorts which I had made sure to get early to be sure they were as comfy as last year before riding in them for 24hrs!). I was delighted to find that the kit colour co-ordinated with my bike splendidly! I did manage to take the time to pose for a terrible pre-race worst kind of catalogue shot before sitting down to relax before the start with Josh.
First moments in the new kit with the new bike
A pleasing colour match I hope you agree - 2012 should be a good year then!
As close to a "team" shot as you'll ever get with the solitary beasts that are soloists
Sitting down to share a few last minute plans with TNF & Sana Cruz stablemate Josh Ibbett
The start of the race is always an enjoyable affair, as the town of Newcastleton welcomes the race with open arms. First up, the top seeded riders are called up to sign onto the start board. All very grand, and particularly this year as I was seeded 2nd in the Open Male category, with Josh alongside me 4th. This ensured that we would both be at the very front of the field for what can be a very crowded, narrow and time consuming first climb through a tricky & slippery section in the woods on the first lap.
As the field lined up behind us, there was time for a couple of relaxed minutes, as we were led out of town by the local club "The Copshaw Common Riders" accompanied by a piper
I'm not trying to get a head start, honest!
Copshaw Common riders complete with Piper ready to lead out the race start
Looking very serious in the moments before the race start as we roll out of town
The race start was a nervous affair once the lead out turned off and we were left to our own devices. No-one took the race on and a, unusually large bunch of riders emerged at the top of the first climb. Not for long though, as good bunch of the 12hr riders made a break for it. I was determined to make a steady start and to push harder through the night, and it took all my self control to not push too hard when I saw Josh, Dan Treby, Huw Thomas and Szabi Bandli, all of whom I had made a note of before the race, ride away with the lead 12hr riders. I was sure they wouldn't all survive a fast 12hr pace and had to keep reminding myself of this. After a little while I was pleased to find myself with a hard training Jason Miles, who was unfortunately struggling with both the snuffles and a new bike setup.
It can get very lonely and isolated out on the course at times
Jason soon swapped back to his old faithful, rigid forked, bike and pushed on hard. I let him go and settled into riding with Luke Morris, also doing the 12hr. I chatted a little bit with Luke, but was feeling fresh so pushed on. I started to struggle with my stomach at this point. but this is not unusual for me so I ignored the slight nausea, went by the feel of my legs, made sure I kept eating (and kept it down!) and pressed on. 
Working hard, but not too hard
Not long after this I was surprised to see a familiar silhouette coming back toward me; Dan Treby. Dan was not having a good day and the early pace hadn't helped. All I could do was offer a few words of encouragement and try not to look back. I'm not sure whether I was terribly delighted a couple of laps later when he came back up to me looking fresh, but as I was still losing a little bit of time per lap to the lead trio, it was good to have someone immediately around me to focus on rather than the 12hr racers I had been riding with. It wasn't long before Dan got out of the saddle and attacked. I was pleased I managed to keep my head and let him go. Stick to the plan now.
Lapping other riders provides useful hares to chase throughout the race
My stomach was still playing up, but my legs felt good. I took a little something to help the nausea, which helped immensely but it wasn't long before I had something altogether more serious to worry about; my right knee was becoming increasingly sore. I tried to stretch it out, but nothing would work. The painkillers & anti-inflamatories went in in various flavours, but nothing worked. I could feel myself slowing on the hills & tried to spin it out gently to let it recover. Nothing. Darkness had now set in, so I put a jacket on to keep warm as I could no longer work at such a hard rate.
Managing a smile for Joolze' Amazing Bridge of  smoke & lights
By my last lap I could no longer descend out of the saddle, nearly crashing twice as my leg bucked under me on the bumpier descents. My knee felt like someone had stuck a red hot poker through it. After only 11hrs my race was over.

This was additionally disappointing as it is the re-occurrence of a previous injury from several years ago. After a long winter of big miles it has showed no signs of even thinking about raising it's head this winter or at any time in the past two years since I believed it was healed. It's back to the physio table for me once I have licked my wounds and (being honest) had a bit of a sulk. We know how to treat it and I'll be back on the bike in no time, getting ready for my next challenge. My 2012 plans remain unchanged, but they will now include a good amount of tape on my knee in training and a few more hours of exercises and stretches.

Thanks to Sara and Paul at SIP once again for a great event. My plans for 2013 are taking shape unexpectedly early already.


  1. It was a total shame your race ended like it did, was hoping you could win it! Was quite surprised when I checked the lap times to see you only a lap away, and for this to be comfirmed as I rode by your pit to find no one there. Hope the rest of your season goes well.

    Injuries are odd things, I redisovered all the ones I'd got through the winter during my race (knee and elbow)I'll probably not get them again for ages now!

    1. Thanks Jez, it was great to see you still going round and looking strong in the morning. I hope you enjoyed it. See you on a race course again soon I hope :-)

    2. Yep, certainly did enjoy it (in a strange sadistic kinda way). Certainly got the bug, and perhaps some direction for future training. Hopefully see you soon :)

  2. ahh race day excitement! Nothing like it. I hate being sidelined w/an injury its so hard to listen to the Dr.!! smoke and lights? I think I need to take up cycling, that's way better than cowbells along the way....

    1. We had cowbells too. Did you notice the bridge handrails were draped in fairy ligths too? Earlier there had also even a Gorilla playing the drums in the woods when it started to get dark. Yes, really!

      Bike races can be funny places, the super enthusiastic support isn't just limited to that guy in the devil costume who comes out at the Tour de France every year ;-)

  3. Thanks so much for the post! It's amazing to me what people can do with the help of physiotherapists. They can help people bounce right back from injuries!