Last Instalment of Andy Marks’ epic adventure, including some top tips.
We woke up on the third and final day to a few spots of rain in the air. However by the time we’d eaten our porridge and arrived at the start line at 7:10 the rain had stopped and the sun was out.
We were told it was 15km to the first water station and then another 17.5km to the lunch stop. I queried why the lunch stop was only 20 miles into a 60mile day but was told it was what it was. We set off and found the first water station at 15miles and the lunch stop at about 33miles… They’d got their units mixed up, not a problem for me as I’d carried enough water anyway, but I know a few other people came up short and struggled as a result.
It was hard going from the start, mostly off road with steep climbs and fast technical descents on single track through the trees. A fantastic mornings riding but I was starting to struggle by late morning so didn’t enjoy what should have been some of the best bits as much as I could have. I wasn’t the only one, there were some big crashes brought about by people being tired, not concentrating and making mistakes. I spun out on a root going UPHILL, didn’t get my foot down in time and toppled into a barbed wire fence. Fortunately I managed to catch the fence post and avoid the worst of the barbed wire, so carried on. Others weren’t as lucky, there where people at the lunch stop with ice packs but they had got this far and weren’t going to stop.
I came across 2 lads about 10 miles from the lunch stop with a broken chain and absolutely no idea how to fix it. I stopped and helped but, as with the puncture on the first day, I couldn’t believe people come on this sort of trip without even a basic idea of how to maintain their own bikes. We got it sorted but it had seen better days. I was quite relieved when they arrived at the lunch stop later and took the bike to the mechanic station to look at it.
By late morning I was starting to look at my watch and for the first time all weekend I was concerned by the cut off times. We were supposed to be in Scarborough by 4pm and I was beginning to push it a bit – I hadn’t come this far to get a DNF (did not finish). Upon arriving at the lunch stop I realised how many people where still behind me and was then informed 4pm was a target time and not a strict cut off – panic over.
Once again we came out of the lunch stop and started climbing. Surely it can’t be far to Scarborough now? A marshal on the side of the trail told me this was the last big climb – she lied. There where at least 2 more after that. More fantastic riding over the rolling hills, very similar to the South Downs Way now, some of the views could easily have been in Sussex.
We finally descended down through the town and onto the seafront at Scarborough, across the finish line at about 3:30 – so I’d have been alright even if it was a 4pm cut off. Today we’d done 63miles and 6100ft of climbing. I saw a lot of people at the finish line that I’d ridden with at various points over the weekend, it was nice to see how they had all got on and see that they had finished. We took the compulsory photos by the sea, had an ice cream and headed off to our hotel where a hot shower and sauna awaited. While sat down having dinner in the evening we talked about maybe going out and riding the Dalby Forest trail centre the following day. It was on the way and we reckoned we could manage an hour there before carrying on home.
As we stood up to walk back to the hotel any idea of getting back on a bike the following day went out the window – I think it would be fair to say we were all finished.
The following morning we headed for home after breakfast and as we sat in the car it started raining. We couldn’t believe how lucky we had been, it was raining when we arrived at the start line and it was raining as we drove away from the finish – but we’d done 3 days riding in the shirt sleeves and never even had to put a jacket on! It had been a fantastic weekend and we are all very glad we did it.
And as for next year The Crossing 2018 – No chance! Been there done that, I’ll find a new challenge for next year.
My top tips if you’re thinking of having a go
- Train – I can’t overstate this enough. I managed it but I definitely didn’t enjoy the last day as much as I could have. Don’t worry about speed but the fitter you are the more you will enjoy it when you get there.
- Get a toolkit, and learn how to use it – You’d be very lucky to do a trip like this and never need to do anything! Letting the shop set your bike up is OK, but make sure you know how to do the basics on the side of the trail.
- Get off and push – Unless you have legs (and drugs) like Lance Armstrong you aren’t going to be able to ride all the hills anyway. So be prepared to get off and push, especially on day one. Save your legs for when you can actually enjoy the riding rather than burning out early.
- Sports massage – If it’s available, use it. I’m convinced these 20 minutes at the end of each day where what kept me going for the following day.
- Eat and drink – I haven’t done the sums on calories burnt and so on, but you need to eat and drink a lot. I used High 5 tablets in my water and at a mixture of energy bars, gels and chocolate brioche rolls which made a nice change. I find proper food rather than just energy bars and gels work better on longer rides but whatever you do practice before you go, try things out while training to see what works for you. Don’t try anything new while you’re there. It’s worth finding out what the event organisers supply so you can try it in advance, then if it works you don’t need to carry as much of your own stuff.
- Ride on your own – If you can’t keep up with the people you set off with let them go. You won’t really be riding on your own as you soon drop in with another group travelling at your pace. Meeting new people this way was one of the most enjoyable parts of the event for me.
- Slow down – They call it the Rat Race. But it isn’t really a race for most of us. Slow down, look at the scenery, take pictures, talk to strangers and enjoy it.
- Sign up – If you wait until you are ready before you enter, you never will be. Sign up and then start training. You won’t regret it. http://www.ratrace.com/thecrossing