The 2012 National Marathon Champs took place this past weekend in Selkirk, Scotland, after a two part journey we arrived at the venue midday Saturday. We signed on, tried to figure out the feed zone locations and then went to practise the lower loop of the figure of 8 race circuit.
This weekend I was travelling with Mountain Trax team manager John Newport, and Cannondale rider Tim Dunford. Whilst Tim and I went riding John went to buy a map of the area so he could have a better idea of where each feed zone was. The course was either climbing or descending, 4 big climbs were to be ridden over what was supposed to be an 85km course. On Saturday we rode the first of those climbs and the final descent, it was a worthwhile ride as it gave us a good idea of conditions.
Sunday morning the race began at 10am behind a pace car which led us down the tarmac road at the start until we turned offroad through a private estate. Having practised this section I knew I wanted to be on the front just so I wouldn’t get soaked by the rider in front flicking up water from the waterlogged trail. I stayed comfortably within the lead group to the top of the first climb, down the first descent and along the tarmac road to the first feed zone at 16kms.
Going into the next climb the group split through a slippery singletrack ascent, the rider ahead of me let a gap open between him and the front 3 riders, with nowhere to pass it allowed Dan Fleeman, Nick Craig, and Lee Williams to break away. As the climb opened onto the moors I was forced to chase but these three leaders weren’t going to let anyone ride back to them.
I chased hard and the legs felt great but on the descents I was losing time and the time gap would increase again. Entering the first of the technical downhills I crashed twisting my handlebars and landing on my ankle. The pain from my ankle was pretty bad and I was shaking so much I couldn’t undo my stem with my Lezyne multitool. After a few deep breaths I was back on the bike but had lost 3 minutes and slipped from 4th to 7th place.
It didn’t take me long to catch back up and overtake 5th place but I didn’t catch 4th place until just before feed zone 4 at the 60km mark, he’d used too much energy early on in the race and was now suffering. I still felt strong and was flying up the hills, but still felt out of control on the descents. I recognised the top of the last climb where we’d ridden to on Saturday, I increased the pace still hoping that I might be able to catch 3rd place on the descent back to Selkirk.
Unfortunately the gap was too big and the race over all too soon. Crossing the line after just 71kms and 3hrs25 seemed like more of a sprint than a marathon. Having trained for a 5 to 6 hour race I was left disappointed that the race was over, I still had more to give and could have kept the same pace going for another few hours.
The front 3 riders were deserved podium finishers but I think the result would have been different over a more suitable distance and that I could have achieved my goal of a podium finish. As usual the Santa Cruz bike performed perfectly, the bike was a pleasure to ride even if I had pumped the tyres up too hard using an unfamiliar and inaccurate pump!
4th place is my best Senior National Championship finish so far and I’m hoping to build on the form I have now for my next big targets, the European Marathon Championships in June, and National XC Championships in July.
Thanks to John Newport from Mountain Trax and Vermont Images for all his help and support.