The weather forecast for the 2012 Mega Monster Enduro looked pretty good and it didn’t look like long fingered gloves or wind vests would be required. I decided to pack them anyways and I am glad I did. When I got up at 5:30 am it was raining but I thought this was just the remnants of last nights showers so I didn’t worry too much. As I drove down to Paicines I encountered some pretty heavy bouts of rain and even when I got there it was raining.
Being allergic to the rain, since moving from a very wet part of England, I sat in the van until the last possible moment and didn’t do any sort of warm up. When I hit the start line the rain had stopped but just 1/2 mile down the road it was coming down strong. My plan was to ride fairly steady for the first 5 miles but try to keep my average above 20MPH. I managed to do this but the rain was miserable and the wind did not seem to be helping much. Visibility at times was atrocious and I was riding along expecting to ride over something and get a flat. I kept going over in my mind that if I flatted I was going to call it a day but that never happened.
Around 9 miles in comes the biggest climb on the course and one where I knew the Bacchetta was going to be at a bit of a disadvantage. The rain eased off on the climb but my glasses fogged up so visibility was very poor again. I was caught and passed by a team of 3 guys on the climb but I resisted the temptation to up my pace and kept rigidly to my 160BPM max effort. I thought I would bring these guys back on the run in to Bitterwater but they kept pulling away. I actually caught a few teams and many solo riders in the next section up to the highest elevation and even passed a few on the climbs.
The drop down to the first checkpoint at Bitterwater was a miserable affair with strong winds and driving rain. My inner monologue consisted of thoughts of bailing out or just carrying on as everyone else must be suffering too. Even though it was wet and windy, my legs felt good and I was pretty warm, so I decided to press on. I had a pretty good speed going down but I could feel the winds tugging at my disk wheel so it kept my concentration up. I slowed down to shout out my number at Bitterwater check point (Mile 32) but didn’t stop as the next few miles are amongst my favorite on the course.
The section between the Bitterwatter CP and the turn is a mixed bag consisting of fast open roads followed by rolling hills which get progressively worse as you near the turnaround. The hills are just big enough to loose your momentum and cause you to have to shift chainrings. The rain actually let up for this bit and I managed to catch quite a few more people and one team but I didn’t catch the three man team that passed me at mile 9. There was a bit of a tailwind but I didn’t push too hard as I knew the way back was going to be really hard. I probably wasn’t drinking enough but I got to the 50.5 mile turn on one drinking bottle and half a Cliff Shot block packet so I decided I was going to push on through without refueling.
I was pretty slow on the outbound leg with a split time of 02:27:00 (20.8MPH) in 5th place. The quickest rider was Peter Merril in 02:21:00 (6 minutes quicker than me). In hindsight perhaps I should have pushed harder on the outbound leg (particularly the first 5 miles).
The return leg to Bitterwater was really windy and I started to push harder as I was a bit worried I hadn’t gone hard enough on the way out. I could see a few people ahead and finally managed to catch the team of 3 who were not enjoying the headwind. The funny thing was that on this section I was catching people on the climbs which is contrary to what you would expect on a recumbent. Despite my best effort my average speed was beginning to slowly ebb away and I began to realize my goal of beating 20MPH was out of reach. I felt really sorry for the guy working the Bitterwater CP as on the return leg it was still raining hard and blowing a gale. I slowed and shouted my number but again opted not to replenish my fuel. It was very wet here and I needed the bathroom but I didn’t want to get off the bike. I caught Peter in his Mango velomobile on the long climb out of Bitterwater and he gave me some great words of encouragement.
Up the Bitterwater climb I had a cyclist in sight so I concentrated on keeping a good tempo on the smallest chainring with a view to blasting away on the descent afterwards. All went to plan and I thought I was going pretty well but was caught and passed by a team of very strong triathlete guys on full aero bikes and we exchanged pleasantries about the weather. Little things began to start niggling me after that like the fact that getting to my Cliff Shot Blocks was really difficult with a windvest and soaking wet gloves. I finished off packet number One but couldn’t get packet 2 open.
Although the last 20 miles are supposed to be predominantly down hill they certainly don’t feel like it. I think it is a combination of the wind and rough roads that makes this section so tough. The miles seem to creep by incredibly slowly and for the first time I started to feel some fatigue in my legs. I was also getting a bit of a headache which was probably the onset of dehydration. I finished up my second and last bottle just before the killer descent with about 11 miles to go.
This final descent was horrendous, my brakes simply weren’t working and my glasses were badly soaked by the driving rain so I couldn’t see very well to miss the potholes. The roads were also very wet so what should have been a chance to get some time back actually became an ordeal. I could see that Bill was behind me in his van on this descent and was really grateful that he gave me loads of room. I hit some big holes on the way down and was shouting loudly at the road and the foul weather.
[Thanks to Bill Bushnell the Electric Assist recumbent master for his kind permission to use the above Picture]
As the clock passed my goal of 5 hours at somewhere around mile 95 I began to feverously calculate in my head what average speed I needed to achieve to beat my personal best. It’s funny when you are tired how hard even simple maths can be. The roads were completely deserted for the last 5 miles with the exception of hardy motorcyclists and I pushed hard to try to keep my average speed up. The head wind uphills were particularly challenging and I started to feel the miles in my legs (especially on the last few rollers) but the finish finally came and I could at last relax. My return leg was 02:45:45 which was the fastest by just under a minute.
My overall time was 05:12:45 which beat my previous PB by 6 minutes and was good enough for second fastest solo overall. Despite the rain it was a really good event and I am impressed that just two bottles of Hammer Perpeteum and a packet of Cliff Shot blocks was enough to fuel me. It was a risky strategy and one which would no doubt of left me in a sorry state if I was riding a double century. Next year sub 5 hours 🙂
- 2012: Bacchetta Corsa: 5h12m45s
- 2011: Klein Quantum Pro: 5h18m54s
- 2010: Bacchetta Corsa: 5h28m50s
- 2008: Catrike 700 Trike: 6h24m40s
By the way the new Citrus Shot blocks are awesome tasting.