Wayne Jackson’s Solo, Mountain Mayhem, 24-Hour MTB in the Malvern Hills

Wayne Jackson is having a Great Year and this is his report:

“Now the biggest MTB endurance event in the UK and celebrating its 14th year since the first Mountain Mayhem took place at Trentham Gardens in 1998. I journeyed down to the larger venue of Eastnor Castle near Ledbury in the Malvern Hills with my camping gear packed, two mountain bikes, plenty of food, clothing and a sense of trepidation. With the weather not looking so good for the weekend I was expecting mud, and lots of it. For this course has a reputation of being un-rideable in places with steep drops and off camber sections, exposed roots and trees lining the single-track. When its soaking wet this course is tricky.

 Thankfully the showers that came were pretty light and the course held up well against the onslaught of team and solo riders (around 2700 entrants in all) battling it out for position whilst climbing 1500ft for every 10 mile lap. The format of the race is split into various categories with male and female teams of four, mixed teams of 5, and male and female solo categories. I raced in the Men’s Solo category.

 The Le Mans style racing format began with a count down and the toot of a horn on Saturday 18th June at 12 O’clock noon. It started with a 2km run to spread out the pack before collecting the bikes and finally heading out onto the course. At the end of the first lap, riders hand over to their next team mate to complete their lap and hand over to the next, continuing until 24hrs is up. The winning team will have completed the most laps in the least amount of time. Overall team winners were the Expert mixed team of Hope Technology who drafted in British Olympic mountain bike hopeful Liam Killeen, completing 29 laps in a time of 24hr:16mins:51s with 2nd place going to Scott Cycles with 29 laps in 24:41:21 and A. W. Cycles finishing 3rd with 27 laps in a 24:29:52

 The Solo race was hotly contested amongst the top 2 with Ant White defending his 2010 title completing an impressive 21 laps with reportedly only 5 minutes spent off the bike. Breathing down his neck all day was David Powell with an equally impressive 21 laps completed in 24:50:52. Behind this pair was Jason Miles a lap adrift in 24:24:40.

 After a promising start I was going okay unaware that I was holding 6th position after 8hrs of racing and feeling pretty good enjoying the course and styling it up for the cameras on course. But night time was looming. Was the bubble about to burst? 

 Yes. I lost about one hour (almost a complete lap) owing to a head light unit failure – so back to the pits for the spare which later failed, leaving me with no light for the last two miles of that lap resulting in a few slips and slides and a close encounter with some bracken off to the side of the course. Whilst fumbling around under the pitch black canopy I’d considered jacking in the night phase. But I finished the lap and visited the pits where I diagnosed a faulty battery connection and with a spare battery I was able to get going again. I soon started to feel the dreaded BONK owing to not consuming enough food during the first 8 hours as well as sleep deprivation starting to take its toll now at around 4 a.m.

 Whilst day-dreaming of soft pillows and warm duvets I got a wake up call as my front wheel washed out on the sides of a muddy rut, dumping me and the bike into a load of brambles. Finishing the lap I headed for the pits to refuel and rest, gobbling up whatever food I found palatable at the time whilst practically falling asleep in my chair. After a coffee I got going again and felt myself gaining in energy as the new dawn broke with clear, red skies promising good weather for at least the next few hours. Hoping to hold on to this new lease of life I sought to eat and drink what I could but to no avail. The remainder of the race my energy levels fluctuated from sugar high to sugar low.

 I battled on and with only 3 hours or so remaining having completed my 14th lap I had started to workout how many laps I could fit in. Having estimated completing 19 or even 20 laps based on my early pace during the first 8 hours I realised with my slowing and erratic pace that I had to settle for either 16 or 17. Completing the 15th lap and feeling bad again I ate and rested, keeping an eye on the clock. I’d intended to stay in the pits a bit longer to ensure i finish the 16th lap AFTER the 24 hours were up. This meant that I would not have to go around for the 17th lap. As I set off on the 16th lap I found myself wrestling with that inner voice that nags you. And it was nagging me during the first half of the lap. Are you going to settle for 16 laps if you can get 17? What if it gains you a position? What if not doing it loses whatever position you currently have? I could feel myself feeling better. “50 minutes to go” a spectator called as the 2nd half of the course snaked it’s way through the main campsite, guiding us up the steep grassy slope on the opposite side of the valley that hosts the Mountain Mayhem event village. I was being talked around. I chatted to some riders on the way up the climb many content to ensure the lap they were on would be the last. But I was still being nagged. I knew that with the distance left to go I could cover the ground with minutes to spare.

 I finished the 2011 Mountain Mayhem with 17 laps in 25hrs:10mins:38s in 9th place – well chuffed with finishing in the top ten in this event.”