Done and Dusty.

10th anniversary of the CLiC24 event is done. I am back and still fully capable of independent movement. I am also very, very tired. So here’s a summary of the good, the not so good and the occasionally amusing.

Things that rocked:

1) Atmosphere. Chilled out but superbly organised. It’s a million miles from Mayhem and a million times better for it. Full of happy people having an ace time.

2) Organisation. Astounding – great food, top beers at the bar, ever cheerful marshalls, warm showers, unsmelly loos,  great marque playing top tunes.

3) Course. 30% different and extended. Tougher but better. Fantastic yomp across the moor to finish. Fast, rocky singletrack to start. Engaging twiddly bits in between. Hard on the legs, good for the soul.

4) Charity. Probably should be no#’1. CLiC24 is the only endurance event I’ll ever ride now. Because they’re worth it 😉

5) Team Hardcore Loafing (or Lardcore Huffing as we became) putting in an outstanding first twelve hours before tapering off a bit. I blame the wine.

6) Fitness. Having some. First two laps had a feeling of what being properly fit might feel like. Was reminded how far away from that I am by soloists cheerily passing me this morning having nearly doubled the laps I’d completed.

7) Having an awesome team mate in Nig. Top man, entirely unflappable, strong rider, brings excellent wine which we decanted into plastic glasses. Class.

8) It didn’t rain. OTHANKYOUGOD.

Thinks that sucked a bit:

1) Not full. 100 entries under the 500 maximum. Everyone struggling to fill their events this year. Twice as many soloists than teams so clearly there’s a niche worth mining there for future events.  Cannot understand how Mayhem/Sleepless get so many entries when – in my wildly uninformed opinion – this is a shit load better

2) Er, that’s about it. Pretty chilly for some of the event and bloody windy for all of it. That got a bit old but honestly I’m just whinging on the periphery now.

Al’s round up of stuff that was in chucking distance of funny:

1) Attempting the erection* of the famous Leigh Family Tent/Small fabric country in a 30mph wind in the fading light. Entertainment unbounded for the increasing amused watchers who seem to be pointing and hiding laughing behind their hands. At one point I felt the whole shebang was ready to ascend to the Heavens but we wrested back control providing us with more than adequate loafing space, bar area, sleeping compartments, stove and kettle. This time around we didn’t actually set fire to anything either. Bonus.

2) “Hmmm Beer“. Nig and Al on entering the marquee.

3 “H’mm Cake“. Same, two seconds later

4) “I bet Max Mosely paid more than five quid for this amount of pain“: Al on the massage bed being given a right seeing too by a no nonsense lady who repeatedly told me it was hurting her more than me. Not unless she was stabbing herself in the eye with a fork it bloody wasn’t.

5) “I rode so slowly, I nearly drowned in the watersplash” : Nig succinctly summarises the pace of his night lap.

6) “Those are six inch travel bikes, yes? That’s about the distance you’ve travelled in the last minute, get a bloody move on“: Al on the motivational trail in the best bit of singletrack.

7) “Hear my squeeky brakes? That’s a metaphor for YOU’RE NOT GOING FAST ENOUGH“: More motivational stuff from me. I think it helped. Helped me anyway.

8) “10 laps you say? Solo? Well done” followed by  an urgent whisper “THE ALIENS ARE HERE, SOUND THE ALARM

9) “I am the kind of racing machine that needs constant oiling… get the beers in” overheard in the bar

10) “The sweatiest thing in this tent is my helmet….” pause “I’ll be off for a shower then eh?” domestic bliss in the Parker/Leigh tented village.

I forgot my camera, but many others didn’t even taking time to get a photo of yours mugly. But we were worthy, you can be assured of that. Significantly more worthy in the first twelve hours than the second twelve, but worthy nevertheless.

Thanks for those who sponsored me for CLiC Sargent. You’ve made a happy man very old.

* I believe the correct camping term is “Pitch” but where’s the fun in that?

Pack it in.

Waterproof Jacket. Waterproof Socks. Waterproof Shorts*. Waterproof Socks.  Winter Boots.  Vast Tent (waterproof). Flippers. Goggles. Canoe.  Beer. More Beer. Will To Live.

Maybe a bike.

Maybe not.

Fairly standard packing list for any event caught in the crossfire of English weather, riding bicycles for indeterminable hours and me.  Plan for snow and hope for the best is a tactic that served me well especially during the biblical horror of 2009.  If evolution could be morphed with always-on modernity, a new homo-wetian cluster would have emerged from the flooded bog of the West Mendips. Equipped with gills.

Raining outside now. Sky as black as a man with his head in a mucky bucket. Something I’d normally be considering channelling my Ostrich coping strategies.  And yet a peek of the  fickle forecasting interweb returns only patchy rain, a brisk wind and a little chill.  Receiving extreme sunburn is unlikely, but then again so is drowning. I’ve chosen not to believe a bloody word of it. Considering a wetsuit.

Packing has not gone well so far if I’m honest. Last night? Ideal,  write a list, locate items, wonder if “amusing elephant” has been added to list by not so amusing child. Fail to locate key items that have clearly been hidden. Will To Live on top of that particular list. Open tailgate, and – with a berserker cry  – launch multiple wheelbarrows of useless stuff into the back.  Adjust fit with handy sledgehammer, job done.

Went riding instead. Dusted off the Cove with crazy notion of deploying it as a spare bike at the CLiC-24. A second rider would be better. And a third come to that. It repaid my negligence and abandonment with a reminder that disc brakes only work when BOTH pads and disks are available to the caliper. Rear ones on the backing, front ones in there somewhere but insufficiently motivated to prevent lever banging against the bar, while arresting no motion of the front wheel.

Good brakes make you go faster apparently. I sort of get that. But let me expand the theory – no brakes AT ALL make you go very fast indeed. The last descent from the Worcester Beacon shall live long between me and my therapist.  I’m sure it’s all fixable although chucking the thing on the trailer and assuming it’ll somehow self heal is unlikely to be a successful approach.

Right,  it seems I’m nearly out of time and all out of excuses. I’ll take a camera to record the misery which – obviously – I’ll share with you sometime next week. I wonder if it’s too late to book a B&B 😉

* Kinky. I’m not sure an explanation of “yes they may be plastic but who wants a heavy gritting up the arsecrack?” helps much.

I am calm.

Brean Down Sloping

And here’s a picture of a tree to remind myself how calm I am. Because there are a number of reasons that such mental nirvana may soon be transformed into a state best described as 30% tourettes, 30% head banging lunatic and 40% roof jumping depressive.

The major reason is that CLiC24 is just around the corner. Well 60 miles due south if today’s pedantry is geographically based. Now six weeks ago, this wasn’t a problem at all; some of my confidence was based on hard winter’s riding, some good early season form, the onset of BST and drying trails. Although it was the “six weeks away” that really swung it from terrifying to something even to look forward too.

Well it’s here now. Soon I’ll be looking back on it. Possibly from some kind of medical institution. I lost two weeks of riding to a leaky elbow and seemingly two more to work/holidays and – more worryingly – apathy. Should be out riding now but pretending I’m tapering for the weekend. Which sounds WAY better than “sitting in front of a ‘puter wonder what beer goes best with nachos”.

Been flying a lot instead. Been crashing a lot as well. One model needs some life saving surgery that will inevitably end well if Carol is involved or badly if powertools are. Obviously I’m keen to get to the core of the problem by the simple application of a motorized blade. Might consider that on the bike after this weekend.

So not ridden as much as I should. Going to manage a single ickle ride which – if we’re as lucky as last week – shall end first on a rooty downhill track with cheeky steps and latterly in the pub. Where I shall talk a good game about exactly how our now reduced team of two shall storm down the leaderboard through the ruthless execution of our race strategy.

It goes like this “ride a lap, have a beer“. I feel it’ll work well for four or five laps. After which it probably won’t work at all. And neither shall I if my previous performances are anything to go by. Yet, ever the deluded optimist, I’m treating a team mutiny leaving us exactly half staffed as something of a bonus. This way I have the opportunity to ride more laps at a leisurely pace. Assuming it’s not snowing.

Great charity tho remember: I shall make sure my best – however un-best that is – is hauled round the course as many times as possible.  One final thing does worry me though, if I don’t really fancy riding at the moment, how the hell am I going to feel afterwards?

Compassion Fatigue

The Eighties were dreadful for so many reasons*, but even in that decade of pompous absurdity that phrase shines like a beacon of stupidity. Some quiff in a sleeve-rolled suit would wring their hands to a backdrop of starving African kids, and piously declare that the country had “compassion fatigue“.

No it bloody had not. The ones who could see further than their own self-importance measured by cars, cash, being a fuckwit that kind of thing continued to give what they could, while everyone else – from governments down to those believing AIDS was a solution made excuses.

The problem wasn’t people not caring, it was the explosion of the global coverage of dreadful poverty set against a pot that wasn’t getting any bigger. None of this was helped by a Western approach that patronised rather than listened, gave the money to the wrong people, and were somehow surprised when the misery continued after the cameras left.

I remember this making me quite angry at the time, and – even nearly twenty years on – the dying embers of when the world was black and white still burn a little. Good job as it was about the only thing keeping me going, as the rain charged in one way and my motivation slunk off in the other.

Neil (Organiser, all round top man, poor bugger whose wife died last year from Cancer) told me that while all the entries had been sold, only around 2/3rds of the riders had turned up. I have no issue with serious athletes using the CLIC24 as perfect training for the upcoming 24 hour race season. But what does piss me off is when they can’t be bothered to earn their sponsorship** because the weather is a bit shit.

And shit it was. I arrived early enough to sound out the perfect pitch at the foot of the big camping field. Perfect in terms of being well drained and flat, also geographically spot on for funnelling freezing winds into the nether regions of team “hardcore loafing“. After Nig and I had done our damnest to be fatter piggies than the hog roast, the temperature had dropped to the point of “is it me or is it fucking winter?

We gave up with outside and cracked a middle aged bottle inside the back of my truck. A truck full of many things, which now included red wine stains. but sadly not my lights***. At least it was warm although I cannot imagine what our neighbours thought of a ton and a half of metal rocking in the stiffening wind. Honestly it was nothing more than “to you, to me, can I just stretch that leg out,? okay Dave you can come in now but you’ll need to leave at least one arm outside

Last year Dave cleverly avoided the first lap by inflicting £200 work of crank based damage on his bike. We all joked that this time around no one could possibly trump that. But come a morning punctuated by squally showers and clamped in ball freezing cold, Jason put the Hardcore into Loafing by completely failing to turn up AT ALL.

CLIC24 - 2009 (9 of 26) CLIC24 - 2009 (7 of 26)

Dave was so stunned by this ballsy race craft, he barely objected to being sent out first although – in the spirit of loafers everywhere – we turned up ten minutes late for the start, even after arriving some sixteen hours before. We’re all understandably proud of that.

CLIC24 - 2009 (2 of 26) CLIC24 - 2009 (11 of 26)

The clock ticked on, the rain sheeted down, blue sky occasionally appeared before being distainfully swept away by a stormy wind in league with the God of Precipitation. Dave’s course report was largely irrelevant since Nig and I were instead checking out the state of his bike.  Brown and Wet were the key indicators of trail condiitons and that’s never a good combination in almost any life experience.

CLIC24 - 2009 (14 of 26) CLIC24 - 2009 (20 of 26)

Jason joined us half way through the next lap, showing a worrying confidence in the future performance of his lovely new Titanium hardtail. Worrying as I’d built it three days before utilising the experimental technique of fitting everything with the largest hammer. Still it looked okay and with 14k of mud, rocks, stream crossings, fast descents and gurning climbs, what could go wrong eh?

I worried a bit for him as a displacement activity during my first lap. Because as quick as the course was drying out, fat rainclouds threatened to submerse it under the water table. And when those clouds did explode, the next fifteen minutes of my life were the ideal preparation for reincarnation as a trout. I was beyond wet and had entered that transcendental state known to riders everywhere as “four quick beers, a warm shower, B&B and a hot meal and I may live”

My team mates were waiting for me in the transition area. Well waiting to laugh anyway, which is the kind of team spirit that sustains us during the bad times. Of which , we were about to have another as a fierce gust dispatched the gazebo in a scream of tortured metal and extreme flappage. I watched Nig and Jas embodying this extreme flappage from the inside of the truck.

CLIC24 - 2009 (3 of 26) CLIC24 - 2009 (17 of 26)

Revenge is a wonderful thing. Still to ensure that team spirit wasn’t affected I made sure my laughing and pointing were delivered in a motivating and positive manner. From there until enough was more than enough, we greased our way round an every more comedic course, between hiding from the wind in any location pedalling food and beer.

Three things stand out; the brilliant organisation, the fantastic atmosphere even when it’s pretty miserable, and a whole bunch of riders on the course trying their first event. I lost count of the number of low cost bikes with nervous riders trying their best to stay onboard in increasingly difficult conditions. And when I came out in admiration they were giving it their all, that’s where we came in with compassion fatigue.

Everyone out on that course had a story to tell, a scary moment, a grin at the silly mud, a determined expression on the never ending fire road, a look of satisfaction on completing the lap and a smile at the shared sillyness of what we were doing. Oh sure, there are those occasional aliens who enjoy this kind of thing, but I’m not one of them and neither were any of the people I spoke too.

CLIC24 - 2009 (18 of 26) CLIC24 - 2009 (19 of 26)

But they carried on because they’d promised to earn sponsorship for CLIC Sargent, and I was very proud to be riding with them. It was hard enough when you’ve ridden a bit, it must have been bloody dreadful if this was one of your first experiences trying proper MTB off road. But I couldn’t help thinking about those who couldn’t be arsed, who decided being dry and war was better than being co-located with a moral conscience

Sorry if I’m going on a bit, I didn’t realise how much it pissed me off until I sat down to write this. It is not as if we did a million laps like the hero soloists or serious teams. But we gave it a good go, and while it wasn’t really fun, the worse times were not while you were out on the course. I quit after a dawn lap as I really wanted to be there when Verbal opened her presents, and  the morning downpour doused what little motivational fire I had left.

Not Nig tho, he was kitted up and ready to go as I squelshed back in. And one lap in the seemingly unending rain and cold deterred him not at all. As we were herding flywaway tents into wet cars, he set off on a seconds lap clearly having imbued madness by a process of trail based osmosis. Although when he finally gave up, my suspicion is his tactic had been merely to lie face down in the mud for an hour before riding back to the start.

CLIC24 - 2009 (23 of 26) CLIC24 - 2009 (22 of 26)

He denies it, but I think the pictures tell the true story.

So that was CLIC24:2009. Bottom line is it’s upwards of £30,000 to a charity that clearly invests every penny it receives in making tragically shortened young lives as good as they can be. And somehow giving parents who are doomed to outlive their children, a reason to go on. I cannot imagine what that must be like, but while I can still turn a pedal, I’m bloody determined to make sure they have my support.

Talk to those people about compassion fatigue. I have a feeling they might not get it.

* if you were there, you’ll know what I mean. If not google “puffball skirts”, “Athena posters” and “everyone being a dickhead”

** Assuming they had any. And assuming they didn’t just collect it whether they rode it or not. I know this isn’t a perfect argument. but I was having it at 5am in the freezing bloody cold, and I wasn’t thinking entirely straight.

*** Or so I thought. I found them in the muddy sweepings of a forgotten spares box this evening. A serving of double numpty with a side order of dimwit for Mr. Leigh please.

CLIC24: 2009 – 24 hours of wet.

That is a picture of the 15:35 unscheduled departure of the “Team Hardcore Loafing” Gazebo. It was last seen heading towards Bridgwater, traveling at thirty knots and still accelerating.

More on this, and many other references to “cold”, “windy”, “Muddy” and “generally unpleasant” when I can properly use my fingers again. Chill Blains in mid May? You betcha!

Let us not forget what this is all about though. CLIC24 supports CLIC-Sargent and that makes a weekend of extended misery absolutely worthwhile. And, for the first time ever, my fitness outstripped my motivation – so setting the high water mark for my ability to go back out again onto the storm tossed course.

The organisation was superb, the food and beer tent fantastic, the number of “recreational” riders a real joy to see – let’s hope the conditions don’t put them off cycling forever – and the general ‘vibe’ properly not racey laid back.

Sure the weather was shit, and waiting around for the next lap became a study of chilly tedium, but my team mates were – again – properly ace, and the course held up remarkably well until the last few hours. At which point, islands of trail would occasionally protrude into the fast flowing, ten mile stream.

More soonish… until then I’m just glad to be unbroken, dry, warm and having full use of my legs. Oh and relaxing in the glorious knowledge I’ve turned down Mayhem, Bristol Bikefest and SITS again this year 🙂

Happy Murfday

I remembered the dog’s birthday, but somehow managed to book a weekend of misery – where the Holy Trinity of riding horror: wind, rain and mud shall converge on a sodden field full of hollow eyed idiots – when Verbal hits double figures.  A masterly oversight that would normally offer a perfect excuse to stay warm and dry inside, but your sponsorship means that is not allowed to happen.

I hope you’re happy 😉

Anyway the dog is now a year old and in the eight months he’s been a member of the Leigh-pack, he’s grown into a much loved, if slightly destructive family pet. The wear and tear on shoes and bins has come as a bit of a surprise, as has the worrying prospect that he still has some way to grow.  Unfortuantly this is unlikely to be in the much shrunken areas of his stubby ears amd stumpy legs. As all the growth genes have been seemingly directed to his head, nose and stomach.

And yes he smells a bit, his attention span can be measured in nanoseconds, he’s not terribly obedient and his drool can be a bit embarrassing. We’re still talking about the dog here, ok? Last night he demonstrated all these qualities on being asked to “come” from some major sniffage action he’d undertaken a hundred yards or so away.

His response was unusually immediate and, as ever, enthusiastic. I watched in dog training pleasure as he arced round a clump of trees and turned onto an intersect trajectory. What should happen now is the well trained dog will slow, sit in front of you and be rewarded with a treat.

I have to mitigate what follows with the rider that he tried. He really did, engaging full reverse 4 paw thrust about twenty yards out in the expectation of stopping some two seconds later. What actually happened was those big, fat paws merely aqua-planed on the wet grass, and – if anything – 35 kilograms of rock hard dog began to accelerate.

The last thing I remember was seeing a look of some shock on Murf’s fizog before the world flipped ninety degrees and I found myself lying winded, face down in the long, damp grass. I thought I’d stay there for a while to mentally prepare myself for the CLIC this weekend*. Lord Smelly of Dog had other ideas and I received the “slobber of life” which is a medical triumph in terms of immediacy of response.

Within a second I was back up with a “Geroff, yuk, ugh, horrible animal“. I was wet everywhere, especially where slob-o-dog had gone straight for tongues, my good knee now hurts like the bad one and my elbow is making a strange clicking sound. It’s probably some kind of water diviner which could be useful for tomorrow. In case I cannot work out where the h20 is by following the stair-rods of horizontal rain.

Anyway, wish me luck. Or just point and laugh. I don’t care, I couldn’t be more miserable. The only thing that has cheered me up is the reinstatement of the “TOOL WALL” after a year abandoned in various lofts.  Tune in over the weekend – not for some twatter/mobile phone picture update – but for some OCD type images of the half finished workshop.

I am going outside. I may be some wet.

* I made this observations last year. And it was fantastically sunny over the whole weekend. I’m thinking of it as my lucky joke. Let’s hope it works eh? One the one side “my lucky joke“, on the other a million weather computers predicting conditions ideal for submarine exercises. H’mm.

CLIC24 – Help

I’d be eternally* grateful if any of my long standing suffering readers could either:

a) Develop a Sun-O-Matic device by Saturday to be tested on the area of Shepton Mallet, or more specifically over a middle-aged, balding man being drowned in a hail of trout. If that’s too big an ask, send umbrellas, or an amphibious vehicle.

b) Donate anything you can to my Justgving page

If I can get it up to £500, then the firm will match it, and that’s another £500 to this fantastic charity.

I’m scared by the way. I was feeling quite fit riding home last night. This is sure to be a trigger for a leg falling off or my bike exploding or some such. The dog ate my helmet** last night, so I suppose that’s the start of the comedic trip of mechanical misery which must surely follow.

* well not quite. But until next week.

** Steady. It’s before the watershed.

CLIC24: 2009

After my fantastic performance last year, how could I pass up another opportunity to suffer in exactly the kind of event, I’ve come to loathe. I used to dislike 24hr racing on principle, but now experience has allowed me to really properly hate it.

Obviously I’ll be sharing my innovative training regime*, pre-event excuses and pointless bike preparation with you all. In return can you take a look at the Clic-Sargent site, and then if you feel – as I do – that it is worth supporting, my justgiving page is right here.

The event is the same format as last year. Although I expect this time it’ll be raining if we’re lucky, and hailing if not. But Neil – who runs the event – nearly didn’t run it because, tragically, his wife Helen died of breast cancer late in 2008. He’s a bloody hero for dealing with that, and organising this.

Which makes me doubly determined to raise as much money as I possibly can, even in these financially troubling times.

* Currently categorised as “cold, dark and grumpy”