Singletrack SITS 2012 Sleepless in the Saddle report

Aug 04, 2012

Pete Crawforth wins Singletrack Sleepless in the saddle 2012 24 hour solo.

After completing 21 hard laps around the very muddy catton park.

Well it’s been just over a week since sleepless in the saddle and today was the first time I went out on a proper bike ride since the event.  I can feel that my legs are feeling pretty strong and my mind and body is starting to feel like it wants to push some pedal around again.

I’m not going to lie or try and sugar coat it, my 2012 singletrack sleepless in the saddle race experience hurt, it hurt a lot.

I was pretty happy with my preparation since I had managed to put in more hours in the gym and on the bike than I have ever managed in any of the previous year’s. Good race performances at Erlestoke and Bontrager filled me with a lot of confidence and in the run up to the event I started to believe that I had enough in me to replicate last year’s performance.

This year’s course had the makings of being probably the best ever at Catton Park with the race organizers putting in a lot of work constructing two new wooded sections which added some good flowing singletrack. All of which were a very nice surprise to find when I completed a practice lap on the Friday afternoon.

We were all greeted to warm sun and a blue sky on the Saturday morning, which made all of the last minute preparations all the more easier. Time to eat, drink, check bikes over, eat, get a sports massage, eat a bit more and then line up on the start line ready for the 800m ‘fun run’ start.

To be fair the weather was lining itself up to be a pretty nice warm day though the commentator did keep warning us of what was to come and even went as far as saying ‘perhaps it would be an idea to start fast and bag a few quick dry laps’.

Anticipating a relatively fast start I didn’t want to be part of dictating the pace of the race. Therefore, my tactic was to just match the pace of the leading riders for the first half of the race ensuring I never lost more than 30 minutes on the leader.  I had hoped that this would allow me to stay out of the red and keep well stocked up on food and drink and from around 11 when its properly dark put in a series of fast laps… Nice plan I thought but when has anything ever gone to plan in race!

After a reasonable run and steady first lap the pace began to increase and after 3 hours racing I began to feel terrible.  Blurred vision, throbbing headache, shaking hands and almost feverish cold sweats. Pretty much the only part of me that was feeling all right was my legs. I began to have the defeatist thoughts justify why I should retire… “I’m ill… I don’t want to make myself ill.. if I stop now no one would say that I shouldn’t have stopped.. this isn’t fun.. I should stop..” but then all of the other thoughts began to shout louder.. “in a weeks time how pissed off will I be if I stop? Tour riders ride with broken collarbones, fevers and illnesses.. so can I.. Lets see how bad I can get..” All of these thoughts lasted for good few laps and without my knowing my support crew were having very similar thoughts.. “the next time round, if Pete’s looking worse or is not feeling better, we will pull him out of the race”

Fortunately when the sun started to dip and the temperature began to fall my head started to feel a lot clearer and a smile returned to my face, I wanted to race again.
“how far off first am I?”

Chris Edmondson was riding really well and over the first 6 hours had managed to edge out a considerable lead of 30+mins over the next group of 4-5 riders that I was part of.  Racing my own race, I was able to keep up a steady consistent lap times. My biggest worry though, was that I didn’t feel like I had anything extra, the illness throughout the day had put extra strain on my body and I could feel that I was missing that kick that I had hoped to use.  All I could do was maintain this pace and hope everyone else around me would begin to crack.

And then the Rain came!

This was my 7th Sleepless in the saddle (5 racing as in pair, 2 solo) and the majority of those races had been wet ones. So when I saw the forecast that informed us of the certainty of another soggy race I was very well aware of what was to come.  Catton Park boasts a very special kind of peanut butter mud that can break even the strongest of minds. The slower you move through it the more gets deposited onto your frame filling the rear triangle and jamming your rear wheel, this can turn the lightest of race set ups into 30+kg lumps of mud.  My sympathy goes out to the folks who were riding low clearance full sussers and/or people with v-brakes without mud tyres…. It was grim. I would often turn the corner out of a section of singletrack to find a line of ‘racers’ by the side of the track all with a trusty stick that they found and they would be excavating their bike through the thick wattle and daub that was coating all the moving parts.  People say that it is only when the conditions get really bad does it really turn into a true test of endurance and that may well be true, but we all long for dry and dusty trails..

Riding through the thunder and lightning storms with torrential rain definitely offered a new challenge with the conditions quickly changing.  With super thin 1.5 inch mud tyres most sections remained just about rideable. The very slick surface layer of mud felt just like riding on black ice, which kept things entertaining when hitting the downhill sections at speed. When encountering traffic it was generally easier to get off and run, as long as you kept your wheels turning the mud wouldn’t jam up the frame.

Hats off to the race officials for taking the right move and cutting out the new section of singletrack, this allowed the lap times to remain reasonably consistent.

With the night drawing in, the intensity of the rain showers began to reduce and I might be wrong but I think the rain stopped completely at around 11.  Though with a cool night and with water still falling out of the trees the mud was here to stay.  No chance of a dry racing line forming!

1 o’clock was my toughest lap. I found myself pushing my bike through a particularly thick peanut butter section, my legs stopped and my eyes closed. Now I don’t know how long I was stationary for, probably only a second, but when I realized what I was doing I for some reason started shouting very loudly (With a few more swear words) ‘Don’t stop! Don’t you dare stop! Don’t stop! Don’t stop!’ so sorry to anybody who might have been near, I’m not crazy honest!

Pulling into the pits I started on the caffeine, ate some nice food and I was back awake.  A friend racing in the team category passed and shouted something along the lines of ‘catch me if you can!’  This was just what I needed.  Chasing him down and then following a steady paced wheel managed to rescue the lap and prevent it from turning into a 2+hour nightmare. From then on I started receiving news that I had taken first place, but when you still have 8+ hours left you know the racing isn’t over.

I felt strong, my legs weren’t fatiguing. I was eating well and keeping on top of my fluid intake. The bikes where performing brilliantly. Chainsuck was an issue for quite a few gears but if I kept off the shifters and concentrated on pedaling smoothly the bikes just kept on rolling.

Dawn broke with one of the best sunrises that I’ve ever seen at a race; this gave me a much-needed boost.  Throughout the night I had managed to get a 1lap lead over second place.  The weather had managed to hold off throughout the night and with the blue sky over head it was shaping up to be a pretty warm and sunny morning.  In the wooded sections the mud began to thicken up and became very sticky and slow but in some more open places a dryish line had begun to form.  With 3-4 hours to go it became a case of counting down the laps, I had got into a nice steady rhythm putting in consistent laps, I knew which sections were quicker to push and exactly which gear to be in on the climbs.

Starting my last lap felt amazing. I had done enough; it was just a case of completing, I was going to ‘enjoy’ this one! Taking it easy on the climbs, looking at the view, blasting the down hill sections, having a chat with other racers.

Completing the final lap was a relief, I had done it. My first solo 24 hour win. I feel it was fitting that it was at sleepless and it had been wet and horrible.

Writing this report a week later I can now say that I did enjoy it. It was extremely tough going at the start and I finished feeling totally wasted.  But that’s the point. We don’t do these things because they’re easy.

Safe to say though that I wouldn’t have been able to achieve this win without the support from my pit crew, who have to go through as much of a test of endurance as I do.

As a team we’ve learnt a lot, with every race we’re working out new tricks with food and drink and pit tactics.

Many thanks to Pat and the rest of the race team for another high quality well organised race.

Thanks to all my friends and family for their words of encouragement and to the other racers for creating a friendly atmosphere.

A huge thank you to my very loyal support crew for their commitment, this win has been many year’s in the making.

Many thanks for the continued support from my sports and conditioning coach Tim at Kinetic three sixty his individual focused training programs have given me greater focus during training sessions and very importantly aloud me to train harder minimizing the risk of injury!

Also a shout out to The Bike tree a great friendly independent bike shop in Sheffield, it was a pleasure to represent you guys at another successful race!

I won’t be defending this win next year, time to give sleepless a rest for a little while, this will give me time to concentrate on a few other races in the calendar… I will be back though!

results can be found here…

Here’s the strava log for those who are that way inclined…
The first 18 hours before the Garmin died!

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