Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Goshawk Challenge

Sunday 6th March saw the first time out for a new event in South Wales, the Goshawk Challenge, based in the huge Wentwood Forest.

I'd heard about the event somehow and had quickly got my name down for the 50k option.

In the build up I think everyone knows just how much training I somehow managed to avoid doing, never mind though, it's only 30 miles or so.. not that tough really is it?

I think this chart sums that thought up best.

I knew that I didn't have enough long rides in my legs, but I kind of got to thinking that the running I've been doing would  see me through.

The event started with a good 3 or 4 miles of road riding to get into the forest and the start of the MTB section proper.

I have to say, at mile 9 I was unimpressed, nothing I had ridden was giving the buzz that I was hoping for.  We arrived at a feed station and I was impressed and chuffed to see piles of bananas and Torq tubs for restocking our supplies.  I grabbed a banana and inhaled it whilst Rex took a few minutes to stretch his back - he'd injured himself a week or so before and it was starting to give him a bit of stick.

Back on the bikes and we finally start getting some decent and enjoyable singletrack.  A road crossing gets us into another part of the forest and, although the seemingly continual climbing continued, the singletrack rewards were starting to get better and better.  We both felt pretty knackered and, to add a bit of extra fun to the mix, my brakes were really playing me up - no power and requiring a full hand grab rather than a subtle pull like normal.

The course required that at the 25km cut off point, those doing the 50k challenge received a yellow zip tie, from here a there was a 5 mile loop to get back to the same point, where a blue tag was picked up.  Another 6 mile loop led to a red tag and from there a 7km road / singletrack descent beckoned to the start / finish point.

Arriving at the 25km point I felt exhausted, breakfast felt like an awful long time ago and I knew it wasn't long before I was going to be experiencing the dreaded 'bonk' - the horrible run out of energy feeling that runners call hitting the wall.  I felt empty and I now knew why I should have got bigger mileage rides in.  The 25km point however, was an oasis appearing out of the desert.  On a laden table was a tea urn, bananas, more of Torqs finest products and a stack of both bought and home made cakes.  Coming to a stop the look that passed between us said - 'We need to stay here.. for at least as long as it takes to empty that table'  so about 2 minutes then.

Three pieces of cake and a sweet tea later we set off again, I was starting to enjoy this now, climbs were still coming thick and fast but the quality of the descents was increasing all the time.  It was only now, during some great little gems that I was starting to appreciate how good the new Bontrager Mud X tyres were.  Far from being overrated, they were allowing me to corner like the bike was on rails, holding lines and angles that my old trailrakers would never have let me get away with.  The area has a lot more rocky sections than my usual haunts and so I normally approach such obstacles with a certain amount of trepidation, not today though, even with a lack of fitness, I was attacking trails and coming out the other side smiling.

Pulling back into the tea stop for the second time, we devoured more cake and tea before collecting our red tags and pushing on for the final 7 miles before we could get into that 5 mile descent..

From here, the trail was getting better and better, big descents, more often than not littered with caution signs were dispatched with increasing confidence.  The fun was repayed in spades though, with a few (for me) torturous climbs, the pain was lost at times due to the stunning views on offer to those able to lift their head and take in the surroundings.

Worth it.. Number + Tags
We had overheard that the final climb up to the refreshment point was a real dog, it had been sat in my mind over the past 10 miles and I knew that although I normally enjoy climbs this one may prove the exception to the rule.  Turning onto it, I was disappointed, that was steep!  Somehow I dug out that extra bit of energy and finished the final climb strongly.

A pause to chat to the ever-friendly Marshall's we clipped in and pointed ourselves downwards.  Even by halfway I knew that all the pain and pushing was worth it, what a stunner.. even a close call between me and the over sized bonnet of an X5 couldn't dampen my smiles.

Would I do it again? without doubt.. Would I do more training next time? Hell yes :o)