After hearing about the event we cleared our diaries and entered as the Middleden Muckers signing up to 18 miles or more of the worst Pitmedden could throw at you.
Being our local turf, we had been to Pitmedden and attempted to use our tracking skills to work out the layout of the Red, White and Blue loops of the course. We had managed to get it about 75 percent right but the 25% of the trails we hadn’t found were quite a shock.
After a gentle warm up over the red and blue loops we had 20 minutes to wash the bikes, eat and get changed into our race gear and head to the start. The rush resulted in me feeling my head when arriving at the start line and touching hair instead of a helmet! After stealing Lindsay’s helmet I discretely slipped down the side of the already vast starting line up to about 6 rows from front.
It was then that the skinniness of my tyres paid off, no one was the slightest bit concerned that I’d snuck up front as they all thought I’d be off at the first hint of mud anyhow… Our main competition came from the five mixed pairs, including a tough act from XCRacer.com and Hervelo’s Mr and Mrs Singlespeed.
BANG! were off, the first mile of course was fire road and all down hill, so the starting speed of the pack was tremendous. An outside line and the big ring all the way and with a lot of mud in my face and flies in my teeth I was about 15th by the first single-track section. The skinny CX tyres dug in through the gloop pools and I held my position to the top of the Plummet. A 300m long straight descent with a lagoon of gloop and muck at the bottom. The descent itself was about 6ft wide but there was only one line around the side of this mud obstacle that wouldn’t be out of place in Richard Hammond’s Total Wipeout!
In our preparations for the event we had picked out lines braking points etc but with the conditions EVERYTHING had changed, despite their surprising traction on the way up the wee skinnies had little in the way of stopping power, this exacerbated by the mud meant I like most of those around me completely missed the line round the Lagoon of gloop. I got somewhat close and got around the edge but one rider with huge knobbly tyres and body armour on shot past like his brakes had failed and hit the middle of the pond and sent a 7ft wave of Muck to either side! He seemed really pleased with himself until his gears didn’t work by the next bend!
Weaving our way on great single track back along the forest towards Auchtermuchty I was very glad of the fast start and good front of field position. Looking back there was a long line of riders wheel to wheel and the usual scenario of when the one on the front looses it they all had to get off and push. With the riders in front being a good bit fitter than me a gap formed and I was in a little bunch of riders of matched ability. There were numerous ups and downs resulted in an almost road peleton style of riding where when you fell off you went to the back and then worked your way up to the front again before it was your time to fall off again!
The real test of bravery came on Drop Dead Fred with an off camber line around a hillside with several large rock steps. This is where I began to associate sponsor banners with danger! It seemed from here on that anywhere there was a banner there was some of the most technical elements of the course. Needless to say Lindsay and I still had 15 miles of it ahead of us so I like most others either jumped off or slid down these sections hoping to stay vertical on two feet never mind two wheels.
As the first loop of six was nearly over, the sound of the commentator grew near and the longest of my loops was nearly conquered. Exiting the single track onto the fire road climb back to back to the start finish I did a juggling act with my water bottle and lost. With no High 5 drink I delved into my stash of energy gels in my back pocket. The motivation for the climb back into the start finish arena was assisted my smells of barbecued venison burgers and the cheers of the other team riders in transition and all the spectators who gave you the boost needed to tackle the hill up to the start of the White and Blue loops. The definitive beep beep sound as you rode over the timing mats gave you the satisfaction that at least one section of the race was now behind you. We were in 2nd place 7min 37sec behind the 1st place XCRacer.Com team and only 41 seconds ahead of 3rd place Mr and Mrs Single Speed.
The White was possibly the most technical loop with it demonstrating from the start its intention to unseat you with a steep rock drop onto a road crossing and then into a long descent into the bowels of Pitmedden. This drop off laden and twisty route took you down to a long and fast off camber section with the odd need to palm off the oncoming trees as you two wheel drifted to the lower edge of the track. From here it was a lung busting but mostly ridable ascent of the dark, dense forest climb. Across a good board walk and onto a section of fire trail before by far and away the toughest climb of the day. Hats off to anybody who rode this section. Passable barely in the dry it was only testament to Aaron and his helpers that you could walk up it at all with the new stone sections and drainage they had spent a lot of time creating. Having ascended this you were left with the much more open and lighter second section of the White. This was a long undulating and exceptionally rooty section. It was possibly also one of the most enjoyable. It had many short steep mini climbs which if you were lucky you may clear if your legs had the energy to commit to it. Otherwise it provided lots of overtaking opportunities if you looked ahead and realised that you were not going to ride it and leapt off at a pace, pushing up behind the rider in front, in the hope that when the inevitable wheel spin kicked in for them you could deviate round, pushing past and leap on for the descent on the other side. Unfortunately on one of these manoeuvres, I put the foot down aiming to speed off but caught the back wheel on a 6ft long root and was helpless as the bike did a 180 spin and before I could say anything was rolling about in the ground in a pool of Muck much to the amusement of the rider I’d just snuck past!
By the end of this succession of ups and downs I couldn’t wait to get to transition and pass the timing chip on to Lindsay. The battle with Mr and Mrs Single speed was intense and they pushed on to overtake and develop a 26 second gap dropping us to third. Team Blue Arsed Midges were hot on our tail in 4th, 2min 23sec behind. Through the timing mats once more and up the hill, scanning the line of riders and spectators at the side of the trail for a fellow Middleden jersey. There she was ready to go to tackle her nemesis… the Blue loop or as we had been calling it in training “The Deadly 60” With the timing chip now attached to a fresh set of legs Lindsay made off with good speed on what was the shortest but most fun loop of the day. A rooty descent followed by a long section of grassy singletrack took you to another array of sponsor banners and we know what this means… After this Mukin Mud Slide of a descent and the subsequent uphill, ( you never have one with out the other at Pitmedden!) there was the short Pitmedden Slab and narrow and twitchy descent to the road.
A short climb from here lead Lindsay to the start of the long descent down to the Abernethy road entrance to the forest. Starting with a small drop into the woods you then weave down through the trees to the top of a large bomb hole. No braking here or you’ll be tasting Muckmedden long after the events over! As the race went on, a boggy pit developed at the base of the bomb hole just to unnerve you further. Having successfully overcome this challenge Lindsay then headed down and across the burn on the new wood bridge, round narrow rooty bends and through a few Mukin Mud Pools to be thrown out at the bottom of the road.
A long climb up to the 2nd transition area. Just before this if you were only doing one lap you would have continued uphill to the start finish. For Pairs and Mental Muckers another lap of the Red White and Blue are still ahead. Lindsay’s was doing the Blue Red sections combined, so it was straight on for her ! Having blasted down the plummet she faced the same challenges I did on my outgoing loop. Meanwhile I dashed back to the car and de-gunged the gears and re-oiled. A peanut butter and Jam sandwich later and it was time to be back in the transition area.
Meanwhile the Middleden colours were flying around the Red loop in style with Lindsay completing her Blue Red section in a time which would have seen her in the top half of the Male Mad Mucker field. Coming back into transition Lindsay had maintained our 3rd position and put an astonishing additional 4min and 7sec between us and 4th place.
Back out on the course it took a little minute for the legs to get going again, but it was mostly downhill for the start of my 2nd journey around the white loop. The 2nd time up the dark forest climb was just as unforgiving as the first and I added 2 min to the time I recorded on my first dash around the White, but as I had had an hours recovery I was still moving at quite a quick pace and was moving up through the field of riders who were tiring from having ridden solo from the start line. Taking motivation from this I was spurred on and recorded the 5th fastest time out of the 15 pairs riding this stage. It was good to know that the final Blue loop would be the shortest and most enjoyable. Blasting across the plateau of woodland and down to the start of the Blue, the end was in sight. By this time there were half the number of riders on the course, the rest I rode past envying them tucking into the goodies of the catering stands.
The fun twists and turns of the Blue passed all too quickly and I was spat out at the bottom of it with the longest continuous fire road climb of the day ahead. As I rode up the main path I kept spying through the leaves and branches at the side to see if I could hear or see The Blue Arsed Midges descending behind me. Looking ahead there was no sign of Mr or Mrs Singlespeed, but it was knowing that the finishing line was at the top that kept the legs pushing. Finally on approach to the finishing arena they foolishly persuaded me to get in that big ring and push for the line..
After hobbling about wondering what I’d just done to my quads I was met by an abundance of friendly faces, people who I’d clashed or crashed with on my way round. Lindsay was there and we celebrated achieving our ultimate goal which had been to finish and do the best we could. We had definitely achieved that. Both the bikes had worked flawlessly apart from a burst seal on my forks, but we had no complaint, were covered in Muck from head to toe, had kept a good position throughout the race, but where had we come? We had no knowledge of any of the timings that are included here, during the race. We had just pushed as hard as possible on each loop and lap.
At prize giving we were not surprised when the lightning quick XCRacers.com took 1st place and the tough Mr and Mrs Singlespeed took second. In an effort to make Lindsay laugh I took off my warm coat to be in Middleden colours teasing Lindsay that we must have come third.. She wasn’t convinced and then low and behold she had to strip off quickly as we had!!
Many thanks to Aaron for organising the event and to all who assisted him and made it happen.
Keith and Lindsay Leinster