Muddy story Part 1
Having bought myself a new light set for Mountain Mayhem back in June, I thought I’d try and justify paying heaps of cash for it by doing a couple of 24hr races a year instead of just the one.
Sleepless in the Saddle (SITS or Sleepless as its known) was to be the other. For the last 7 or so years we’ve had unicycle teams entering Mountain Mayhem, but this would be the first year unicycles were to enter the slightly tamer 24hr race at Catton Hall, Walton-on-Trent in Derbyshire, UK.
One difference with ‘Sleepless’ was the fact that you could enter as a team of 2, which was something you couldn’t do at Mountain Mayhem. After posting on these pages for riders, we soon had 6 including myself. So we had our team of 4, plus a team of 2. Sam Wakeling and I opted to enter in the pairs, while Paul Royle, Joe McLean, Tue Johansen & Rob Northcott entered as a team of 4.
Wendy, the kids and I arrived there early Friday afternoon so that we could set up camp and fence off an area large enough for all our riders. In addition, we were to be joined by Deadly Des (& Gemma) and Keith Griffiths (& kids) for the weekend. There were also a couple of other unicyclists to join us who were to try this event on 2 wheels instead of one. I’ll leave it to them if they want their names to be disclosed (the shame of it).
The camp site was a large grassed farmer’s field with portable loo’s and shower cabins at one end. I don’t think it had rained in that area for quite a while as the ground was unbelievably solid. Even with the aid of hammers and mallets many tent pegs were bent trying to erect our tents. With our boundary fence secure we waited for the others to arrive. This happened over the course of the evening and into the following morning. It seemed that our hot summer weather of a few weeks ago had deserted us, as things were rather chilly, overcast and windy that Friday evening.
As usual, these events are great socials and we sat around putting the unicycle world to rights, eating pasta and drinking beer. Joe had phoned to say that he wouldn’t be there until the following morning, while Tue & Rob were due after midnight. It was after midnight when Gemma pointed out that we were the only ones still up on the campsite – Oh! It seems that everyone else was taking this endurance thing a bit more serious than us unicyclists I guess. Most of us headed to our tents just before Tue & Rob arrived at 1.00am ish – well we did need to get some sleep, as we wouldn’t be getting much (if any) the following night.
Saturday morning’s weather wasn’t any different to where it left off the previous day, i.e. a little on the miserable side, but DRY. The last thing we wanted was it to be a scorcher - no chance of that! During the morning Sam & Des did a lap on their Cokers to see what the course was like. Reports for the first half of the course weren’t good, as they re-told how bumpy things were. I was pleased that I opted to ride my Coker for this, instead of my 29er, which I rode at Mountain Mayhem. I had brought my 29er with me, just in case things were muddy, or the course too steep. Anyway, late morning we all headed down to the registration tent where we were given our race numbers and electronic tags (to be worn on our ankles).
Basic outline of how this 24hr race works: the race runs from 2pm Saturday to 2pm Sunday and is in the form of a relay, unless you’re doing it solo (there were about 100 riders doing it solo – MAD LOT). You have teams of 1, 2 & 4 riders in each. If you have a female in your team then you can enter as a team of 5. Each lap was about 7.5 miles long and each rider has to complete at least 2 laps to qualify. The race starts with a ½ mile run without your uni/bike to separate the riders a little. The start/finish line has a timing tent over it that detects the electronic tag on your ankle. As you go through the tent the timing computer knows who you are and stops your clock for that particular lap and starts the clock for the next rider. Once that rider completes their lap and goes through the finish, the computer knows who has just completed that lap and stops their clock and so starts it again for the next rider. Once you’ve gone through the start you cannot go backwards – you have to complete your lap, even if you have a mechanical failure and can’t fix it (in some extreme cases this might mean you carrying your uni/bike). You can only receive assistance from other riders on the course if your uni/bike has problems (no outside help is allowed). So that’s it - you ride your lap, hand over to the next rider, get a little rest, then go again when your turn comes around, and again, and again, and again, etc, etc………… Just keep this going for 24hrs and you’re done. Easy!!
With a team of 4 it’s possible to get some rest, albeit short and possibly still not enough. With Sam & I doing it as a pair we were destined for even less rest and so it made more sense for us to ride 2 laps each before handing over. As long as each rider completes at least 2 laps, then it’s up to you and your team mates how you want to manage your laps.
Sam started for us on his Coker, while Tue started for the Unicycle Madness team on his 29er. Incidentally, in total there were 1450 riders at Sleepless this year, made up of 317 teams and about 100 soloists. With one member from each team, plus all the soloists on the start, it meant there were over 400 riders on the course for that first lap.