El's Belles at Relentless 24

Fort William last weekend was Scotland at it's most beautiful. Clear skies with views of Ben Nevis and no midgies to send us cowering inside the tent. Mountain biking and birthdays are two of my favourite things and with cake being the common denominator (provided by the lovely Elspeth) I knew it was going to be a good weekend. Relentless 24 is a mountain bike race where you do as many laps of a set course in 24hrs. We'd entered as a team of four, calling ourselves El's Belles (Elizabeth, Elspeth, Elsie and Lisa). Some nutters do these types of races solo (normally Lisa) and there's also a pairs and trios category. We were there to have a laugh and enjoy it and in typical 'no fuss events' style, we were reminded at the briefing that 'anyone taking themselves a wee bit too seriously will be sent home'. I really like the ethos of these events. If you want to race hard, you can (and there was some very impressive cycling going on even in the wee hours) however that's not to be at the expense of people who are there to have fun and just enjoy the trails and the chat.
For Elsie, it was going to be her first experience of cycling at in the dark at all, never mind entering a 24hr race so we tried to plan things to make sure she wouldn't be doing too much night riding. We were going to do one lap at a time in a relay then do two laps in a row at night to give the others the maximum amount of sleeping time.

I had the pleasure of the first lap which was pretty fast and furious, without the massive crowds and pile-ups you sometimes get at the larger 24hr events. I really enjoyed the course and there was enough technical stuff to make it interesting without any long horror-shows of bike carrying and still plenty room to pass people. I had an inkling that cycling up the bottom of the downhill course might get more difficult as the day went on. It's very steep - Lisa says she thought she'd misunderstood when they said in the briefing we'd be cycling up it!

One by one we all went out for our first lap and then for our second, each time returning, with smiles on our faces, to dig into pasta and cake back at the tent. As it got darker, we started on our double laps and also trying to get some sleep (not easy when you're excited and full of sugar!). It's always really difficult to know what to wear at these things as it's always cold at the transition line, especially when you've just stumbled bleary-eyed out of a cosy sleeping bag to put on a wet bike helmet and gloves. . In a eureka moment, I remembered I had a hand-warmer in the car (one of the gel ones that you snap to produce heat) and I clutched that gratefully at the transition during the night, as I chatted to the one or two other competitors who were also waiting.

During one of my rests between laps I'd been hearing a lot of nasty coughing coming from a nearby tent. As Elsie came into transition after her third lap, which had taken her much longer than the other two, I knew she was really quite ill and the coughing had been her's. Soldiering on works fine up to a point but eventually your body demands you stop and I think Elsie's had given up on her about half way round that lap. I urged her back to her tent and then carried on with the race. Sadly, it was over for Elsie but as daylight approached it got a bit easier again for all of us and our lap times increased. We all had a bit more work to do but the course was quiet and still really lovely in the morning light.

Lisa even impressed us all by managing to pull off a double lap at the very end (by this point I was already changed out of my biking clothes and munching a well-deserved roll and sausage in the hope that she wouldn't finish in time for another lap to be squeezed in!)

As we climbed onto the podium to collect our second place trophies it was disappointing to see there were only two all-female teams in the race. Where are all the girls at these events? I promise they're not as hardcore as they sound and can be a huge amount of fun. The other girls were super-fast but I don't think we did too badly either and I definitely enjoyed it.


kate said…
good work! i think the team thing is actually harder but the 'fun-ness' is more. keeping smiling and laughing for 24hrs isn't easy, sounds like you had a great time.
...lisa is pretty hardcore isn't she! any of you doing 'puffer?
Elizabeth A said…
I'm sure Lisa will be a solo puffer if she gets a place. Too hardcore for me!!

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