Red Bull report

OK, here’s a few random witterings about the weekend…

Got up nice and early Friday morning. All excited. England vs Brazil.
Hmm, not a good start. Went to work. Things are going downhill.

2pm, time to go. Collect Joe and Penny from the station. Head home to
collect my gear and caravan. Number 2 daughter demonstrates the ability
to fall asleep while standing. Hmm, she’ll be a natural unicyclist when
she’s older. Anyways, we load up and we’re away, pulling a caravan
across some of the less scenic parts of Birmingham.

We arrive at Sandwell Park - we know we must be in the right place as a
couple of unicyclists ride across our path. We head for the agreed camp
ground and find that Alan has earmarked a nice patch of grass for us. As
we get sorted, others arrive. We registered, claimed our free puncture
repair kits and gear cables. Most people then gave their gear cables to
Leo in the hope that he could do something useful with them.

We have…

Joe (solo, mad bugger) and support crew Penny

The Factory Team (fairly mad buggers who want to beat bike teams)
Roger, Leo, Tall Paul, Paul, Sarah

The Workshop Team (only slightly mad buggers who want to survive)
Other Joe, Mark, Rocket, Claire, Alan

We didn’t bother with a recce lap - half of us were certain that we knew
the course well enough that we didn’t need one. The other half knew we’d
be dead enough doing the laps we had to do. :wink:

2pm, time to go. Roger and Other Joe take the first lap for the teams.
Nobody else in the teams claimed to know how to run for the Le
Mans-style start. I certainly don’t do running.

Roger gets to his unicycle ahead of most of the bikers and he even looks
like he’s enjoying himself. Weird. Joe comes in just a few minutes
later. Yup, I reckon he’s smiling too. Hmm, best head back to camp and
get sorted - I’ll be taking over from Other Joe.

All kitted up, sitting there waiting for the phone to ring…


The phone rings. It’s my wife. Oh. Don’t get me wrong I’m always happy
to hear from her - but the timing could’ve been better. :slight_smile:


The phone rings, Other Joe’s at the Priory. That’s about 15 minutes from
the end. Time to go. Bid the others farewell. I could be some time.

Other Joe comes in - he took a bad fall quite early and managed to
bruise his shin even though he was wearing leg armour. Ouch. Didn’t seem
to slow him down much. He hands over the baton and I’m away faster than
you can say “she sells sea shells on the seashore” or something. Off up
the first hill. It’s a big grassy, lumpy, bumpy hill. OK, probably not
much for most of you but for me, it’s a big hill. I ride halfway up and
decide it’s time to save my legs - yes, 200 yds into the course I’m
walking. Interestingly though, I keep up with most of the bikes while
I’m walking. They didn’t seem to cotton on to that little ploy. Their
poor little legs spinning round using the lowest gear they could find.

Towards the top of the hill it flattened out a bit so I mount and I’m
off again round the top and down the other side. This is where Cokers
are bad. Not the fact that this was now downhill. Oh no, that bit was
OK. Alas, it was downhill under trees - most of my concentration is on
the bumps and roots on the ground, keeping a little in reserve for
monitoring the bikes now whizzing past me. What I didn’t take account of
was branches and the fact that I’m now quite high up. Hmm. Helmets are
useful. Wearing glassses was useful too in this instance.

Out from the trees and along a mix of gravel paths (all of them going
up) and field edges (all of them bumpy). Every so often I pass groups of
spectators. They seem surprised to see a unicyclist on the course. Each
biker that passes (and there were lots that passed) praised the
unicyclists for having a go.

Eventually I come to a path covered in bark chippings. I can see a bike
travelling slowly ahead. Slower than me. This is my chance. I don’t want
to kill myself by going too fast at this early stage in the lap but I
can tell that I’m catching up. Nearly there. “Passing on the right” I
call out. Yes. As I go past, I turn to the luckless rider and say “I’ve
always wanted to say that”. Victory was mine. Of course they passed me
again as soon as the path levelled off but I didn’t care. :slight_smile:

Next came the singletrack. I remembered some of it from last year so I
had an idea of where it was worth riding and a where it wasn’t. This
year the ground was a bit softer so it was getting churned up by these
bikes using brakes. Wusses.

Over the first motorway bridge to the easier part of the lap - more
field edges, more singletrack, more hills - but closer to home. Halfway
through this section is a ride around the lake. The only flat part of
the course. This bit always cheers me up - a nice rest and only a few
miles to go. I was a bit disconcerted by the markings on the only patch
of tarmac - little dayglo bikes had been painted on one side of the path
for the riders and little matchstick people on the other for the
pedestrians. Where was I to ride? I rode along the dotted line in
protest. Then, at the far end of the path I had a chuckle. Where the
course turned off back to the singletrack, they’d painted a dayglo
unicycle instead of a bike. Yes!

So, there I was back to singletrack, across the field of treacle, more
singletrack to the Priory. Not far now. Time to call Rocket. The phone’s
in my CamelBak. Do I stop and get off or do I try a Houdini-esque
attempt to retrieve the phone while riding a Coker in a mountain bike
race? I think spectators who would’ve been surprised to see a unicyclist
in the race were shocked to see one apparently wrestle a CamelBak while
using a mobile phone. I’m sure somebody said “Hey, aren’t you a
co-founder of the Unatics” at one point. Ahem. :wink:

Call made, heading for home. The last bit takes you around the edge of
the camp site. Loads of support and cheers here. Really spurs you on
round to the final downhill to the start finish. Just enough energy to
hand the baton to Rocket and collapse - happy in the knowledge that
there’s a few hours before you have to do it again.

Rocket completes his lap without incident, Claire likewise. It’s going
well. Ah, but it’s getting dark. Alan gets the short straw of doing his
first lap in the dark - but he’s got good lights and he’s done lots of
night riding. Alas, he sometimes tends to suffer with his back. This was
one such time. Not just a twinge this time though, oh no. Full on spasm.
The doctor tells him to leave the course - but what do doctors know?
He carries on - but soon decides that doctors know quite a lot actually.
:wink: Alan heads back to base, gutted. Not all is lost though, with
some rest and waiting for daylight maybe he can still complete his laps.

Discussion - do we say sod it, it’s dark, let’s get some rest or do we
battle on through the night? Other Joe and I decide to try to notch up
another lap each during darkness then pass the baton to Alan for him to
head out as soon as it’s light. Riding a night lap is, er, interesting.
You get more warning of approaching bikes because of their lights but
you get very little warning of approaching bumps.

Not many supporters around at 2am but the bikers still shout
encouragement as they go by. I managed to pass another bike on the bark
chippings. I’m getting good at this. :wink:

Heading along the singletrack (mostly walking), Paul from the Factory
team catches up with me. I’d had prior warning from a bike that there
was a unicyclist not far behind.

After a while I came across a walking biker - his lights have failed. He
follows me for a while, glad of the benefit of my slow moving light.
Then we get out of the singletrack and I’m away down the road - leaving
him stranded once again in the darkness. Oh I can be cruel sometimes.

No need to call Alan from the Priory - it was quite nice not having to
wrestle with the phone this time. Round the sleeping camp site and down
to the start finish. As I head back to camp, the horizon is starting to
brighten. It’s 3:15am and it’ll be light soon. I wake Alan and hand him
the baton. Off to bed. Not my bed though. That’s occupied by an
injured Joe. Off to the backup bed. It’s useful having a caravan.

When I awake, I find that Alan completed his lap safely and Claire is
out there having fun. The plan is for Alan to get his second lap in when
Claire returns. That’s ambitious after such a short break but he’s up
for it.

Claire phones in and Alan heads off. He completes his second lap without
problems. There’s time for one more lap. Oh goody.

I head down to the handover point at 12:45pm. It’s hot. As I set off I’m
determined to take my time. I’m here to survive. Nah, gotta beat last
year’s time. But it’s hot.

Everybody’s spirits are up. It’s the last lap. About half way round I
was surprised to be passed by a totally naked rider. Male unfortunately

  • otherwise I’d’ve broken the lap record. Ahem. Anyways, I hope he had
    plenty of suncream.

The bark chippings. My best bit of the course. This time I overtake
two riders. A new record. Yeah!

I continue my dogged route around this godforsaken patch of scorched
earth. Er, OK, it was a warm ride around a park just outside of
Birmingham but you had to be there. As the finish line approached, my
spirits were lifted again. That final long downhill is just so much fun.
Loads of people gathered around now that it’s the end of the race.
That’s it. I’m done.


Fujitsu Telecom Europe Ltd,| o
Solihull Parkway, | In the land of the pedestrian, /|
Birmingham Business Park, | the one-wheeled man is king. <<
Birmingham, ENGLAND. | O

Congratulations on the ride and an excellent write up Mark you sound as though you enjoyed yourself (especially on the bark chippings).

I may have a go one-year when I’ve lost my marbles, which may be sooner rather than later if this viscount seat has anything to do with it. :astonished:

Cheers, Gary.

Fantastic description of a grueling ride. Thanks, Mark, and congratulations.

Re: Red Bull report

A nice write up, Mark.

The most amusing aspect of the whole back episode was the
radio conversations between the cadets on the checkpoint
where I stopped, and their adult commanders. The kids
kept playing with the radio to talk about the world cup, tell
jokes, etc. with other checkpoints. When my condition had been
reported, the adults kept demanding radio silence because of
the medical “emergency”. The kids were totally unable to respect
this and the demands got a bit frantic.

The doctor eventually turned up on a quadbike with a siren and blue
flashing light - the works. The cadets were a little concerned
that I wasn’t ill enough (e.g. unconscious or something) to warrant
such attention - they advised me to make more of my condition. :slight_smile:
I didn’t. I got the distinct impression that the doctor thought doing
Red Bull on one wheel was a stupid idea. I wholeheartedly concur!

After some consideration I’ve decided to try to better my pathetic
lap times next year, if the team will have me. I will require back
replacement surgery though, or a pretty masseuse (I favour the
latter), to make sure I don’t wimp out again.

I walked an awful lot of the single track, mostly because
of an inability to mount on it. I’d like to try the course on
munis before Unicon, to see how that goes…

Arnold the Aardvark