Wild Boars

MAC's First Race!

Well, it finally happened. The dozy management of MidAirCrisis/NMBC caved in badly after months of pestering and allowed "his" riders to represent the Club at the inaugural Wild Boar 24 Hour Race (yes, RACE!) over the weekend of Saturday/Sunday 17th and 18th May 2008 at Grizedale in Cumbria.

Participants were as follows:

MidAirCrisis One: Steve Bowden (Captain), Jason Keith, Terry Hewison and Tim Burdett.

MidAirCrisis Two: Steve Wilkinson (Captain), Kevin Burdett, Ian Anderson and Terry Kirkup.

Got loads of thanks to dish out, but the first set goes to our very own Speedy, Ian, who stepped in at the last minute to fill our empty space in MidAirCrisis Two. Not only did he fill a gap, but he also performed brilliantly and really put himself out for the sake of his team.

Next up for praise is Kevin, Tim's Dad, who hauled himself all the way up to Grizedale from his Norfolk home just to represent us. Not only did Kevin slot himself perfectly into MidAirCrisis Two, coz he's a great character, but he's another out-and-out nutter on a bike like the rest of us! He also shrugged off a really nasty fall that smashed his right eye pod and wrecked his shoulder but he continued like nowt had happened.

And now my thanks go to Stevie W, MAC 2's Captain, who made it possible for me to miss a possible final scheduled ride by taking a double run very late in the competition on Sunday morning when everyone was well and truly knackered. After my "slight trauma" in the wee small hours of Sunday there's no way I could have done another loop around this place. Cheers Steve.

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And, as illogical and alien as it seems to me, Mr "I'll never race again" Gollum, I've got to thank Skippy, our very own Stevie B, for getting everyone geed up for this and setting Team One up with a scintillating run up Horrendous Hill and a blindingly rapid first lap. As the night and next day wore on you could see how committed they were to each other and to success. Barmy tw@ts! Not only that, but some of it rubbed off on Team Two and their performance was pretty remarkable, although at a much lower level, given the traumas they suffered just getting a full team out, and also during the thing.

If I remember the others I'll mention them somewhere below this but in the meantime here are the Skippers - Mr W and Mr B on their, er, American bicycles with their ages displayed on the front.

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I'll fit in as much of the weekend's malarkey as I can remember, but before all that I have to say this:-

TEAM ONE, you were PHENOMENAL! They really banzaied some big names when you look at the final results table!

We began to congregate at the campsite at Bowkerstead Farm, just south of Satterthwaite on Friday, when Kevin and Tim arrived for a sneaky tour around the trail. Next to arrive were the rest of team One and the Gollum around 7:00pm on Friday evening. We were pleasantly surprised to see our old pal Willie Coatsworth from Morpeth (he of Reivers "first up every hill" fame!), wife Julie and their mate Mark. We were going to pitch up behind them, but Tim and his Old Man were already ensconced in the overflow field so it made sense to join them. We ended up with quite a big patch of our own anyway and it wouldn't have fit behind Willie's rig. Great to have a natter with them, and as it turned out they were to be vying with Team One all the way as the race went on! We'd started pitching our little tent village by the time Steve W arrived late evening and he joined in the fun as we got everything ready for the start the following day.

MAC Village

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With a cafe van set up on the camping field (muesli at 3 quid for a titchy bowl!), together with stands from a handful of sellers and manufacturers and an entertainment marquee, there was no need to stray from the site, so we sat in the marquee with a hot drink to watch whatever video they were showing, but it turned out to be "Roam" and we had that back at the van anyway, so we shuffled back to MidAirCrisis Town and settled down on our deck chairs for a few MBUK DVDs on Golly's little cinema screen. We stayed there 'til it's battery went flat, right in the middle of "how to do a drop-off", which didn't suit Team Two skipper Steve W as he'd always wanted to know! Ian was the last link in team Two's chain and he managed to find his way early on Saturday morning around nine, pitching in between the other tents before being hauled away by the others for a reconnaissance lap before the closure of the course at 11:00am. Later in the day a few of us could legitimately claim that the recce lap was a bad idea as far as overall performance goes. We dashed back for the rider briefing at noon before sorting ourselves out for the start at 2:00 pm.

Two Terrys Tenting

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And crikey, what a course it was! Just as Tim and Kevin had suggested from their tour around it, it was all hill, and all up! There were only four sections of note as far as spirited mountain biking goes - a very rocky singletrack with a couple of North Shore timber runways but only 50 metres long (the wooden bits); a decent half kilometre of very fast, straight  and narrow singletrack through the trees; a short kilometre-ish roller coaster single leading to a couple or three steep chicken-stopper drops, and finally the lumpy two-part rock-garden dual run-in for about a kilometre to the finish. Almost all of the rest was fireroad, and a lot of it heavily gravelled. One or two of the seemingly pointless but very fast fireroad descents could have been killers, including the first bend a few hundred metres downhill from the start line. Mucho dodgio if you got your speed too high or your line slightly wrong. The overbearing feature, however, and the one which all of the riders we spoke to and overheard condemned, was the amount of boring uphill fireroad stages.

Oh, I almost forgot! The aforementioned "worst" feature was in fact overshadowed by the trek up the track to the start line, which carried you up an extremely lumpy ex-river bed for the best part of a MILE. That was universally cursed by all, and would have caused many problems for riders trying to figure out exactly when to leave the camp site to take their turn on the trail. Just as well the weather was kind or there could have been real problems with people waiting around up there for goodness knows how long. Apparently the organisers were forced to make sweeping changes to the route, and starting point, when rare nesting birds were found close to the trails at the last moment (according to the goss). I'm sorry, country lovers, but I don't like birds much. In fact, I now hate everything that flies with a vengeance.

Now another apology, if it's needed, but there aren't many action photos here. That's down to the distance we were from the trailhead and the simple fact that we were never a full collective after the start. And worst of all, after Steve B's stupendous run up that hill when the gun went off, where he arrived about 15th at the start, the pesky standby camera didn't fire as he got close to me! And it must be something about the name Steve or Stephen that stops my little digital pals functioning properly, as I also missed a close up of Steve W, but at least I got this distant, somewhat blurred image of him (centre) as he left the start, again well up in the pack.

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The whole squad went up to the line to witness the start of the event. While the two Captains, Steve and Steve,  readied themselves in the bunch for their mile run up to their bikes, the rest of us took their bikes, bags and shoes up to the line and waited for them to appear.

After that it was a case of planning, as accurately as we could, our strategy for each team as first the afternoon turned to night and sleep deprivation and bad eating habits crept in. There wasn't much chance to sleep soundly, and we were all concerned that we shouldn't miss our deadlines. That awful drag to the start became a nightmare, especially alone and in the dark. It got so bad for me that I took the law into my own hands to a degree when I decided I couldn't face 4 or 5 of those treks from and back down to the camp site, so I doubled up on my night stint with a two-lapper from about 3:00 am on Sunday morning.

Team One figured a two lap strategy might pay dividends in relation to maintaining your rhythm and thus keeping your speed up once you were on the trail and buzzing, but they changed their minds after sampling a double each. It's hard to say if they would have fared any better in terms of gaining places if they'd stuck to single laps, but I doubt it. Anyway, they've got nothing to blame themselves for, their performance at the first time of asking was, to me at least, simply stunning.

We all had a tale or two to tell at the end of each stint, but there wasn't always anyone to listen, especially in the small hours of Sunday morning as the tents got used a bit more. It's certainly dark here after sun-up, but during my second lap on the trot at 4:00am ish I managed to grab a great view of the Moon rising behind the evergreens when I pulled over and sat on a wooden viewpoint bench and it did feel a bit special seeing so many stars up there, and being alone (until overtaken by half a dozen real racers!) in the eerie blackness.

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Rider Rundown

Our Tim finally revealed his secret identity when he took off his Clark Kent disguise - Zoooom - SuperHero! Fantastic performance from the real quiet one of the tribe.

Steve W always appears laid-back and nonchalant when he's riding, but this brought out the monster in him aswell as he turned in some great laps, as well as becoming my hero and worthy Team Leader in the darkness with that double lapper.

If Steve's laid back, then Jason's a stiff! But he really showed what he's capable of after laying off the pop for a week or two beforehand - he was really flying like the rest of Team One.

We were warned in advance that Kevin was a bit evil on two wheels, and he promptly went looking for rocks to head butt, and didn't even cry when he found one. His efforts in a) volunteering in the first place, and b) just getting here and then c) continuing after his demolition job are really appreciated by the whole squad, Cheers, Kevin!

Terry H has always been one for the climbs, so this crappy trail must have been heaven for him - couple that with a total lack of fear on the downs and you have the ultimate Cross Country whippet, as he proved here, but if you take his "Elderly Statesman" status into account aswell, he sh@t all over the youngsters with astronomical lap times! And all on his rarely-used standby bike after a last minute mechanical.

Ian A, The Speedian, hadn't relished the idea of taking part here, and volunteered just in time to save Team Two's skin, but when he got here he treat the place like he does Gosforth Park and kept his pace up even on the gnarly bits where his forward stance on the bike scares us stiff! Great fun to watch descending, just wish we could have seen him on the steepest drops here. He also ignored the fact that one of his finger ends was hanging off after using it a s a brake on one of his rotors!

Skippy, aka Steve B, mounted an immediate attack on the opposing teams and blitzed that run up the hill. Not only that, he maintained a scintillating pace all the way through the event, leading from the front like a true Skipper - what a dark horse!

Finally the Gollum, Terry K, who from the very start was only there to make up the numbers, did just enough to support his teammates and luckily kept the pair of closely guarded broken ribs, created here on the North Face Trail a fortnight earlier, away from the hard landing he suffered mid-morning. Enjoyed it? I suppose so, if you press me. No, DON'T PRESS ME T-H-E-R-E!

Nobody forgot to hand over the baton!

Only small glitch - when Jay overslept a few minutes before one of his stints - but ultimately it didn't cost the team anything as they were a bit more than that behind the team directly ahead in the results.

In conclusion, I hated it (well, maybe not hated, exactly) but whereas before we were  MidAirCrisis the XC MTB Club, I am now more than happy to be known as a member of Team MidAirCrisis - with a whole host of superb individual performances being drawn together into a real Team effort - thanks, fellas.

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Next Sunday Ride (plus other odd days) - See our Facebook page.

Next Night Ride: Thursday as usual.

Thursday nighters are 10-25 milers, 7:00pm start at ASDA East car park, Benton, 3-3.5 hours and generally OK for fit new riders but you need decent lights you can see with, NOT CANDLES. You MUST wear a cycle helmet.

Sundays are generally much longer, 8:00am to 10:00am starts from ride venue ending around teatime, and much harder rides.

Other ad-hoc rides are always being organised, see our Facebook page. Gloves, waterproof coat, snack and drink recommended. Carry basic tools.

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The bigger the group, the louder the laughs!

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