Race Report: 14 Hills Killer 2014

Go big or go home. That seemed to be the mantra for today's 14 Hills Killer. In truth, the reason I chose to do the 14, rather than the 7 this year, was just because it started closer to home; it saved me riding out to Freshwater from Sandown to start! Turns out the 14 was one hell of a challenge...

Conditions were near perfect; it's been dry for a long time in the later part of the summer, and it's left the Isle of Wight trails as dusty as I've ever seen them. With a decent easterly wind, it looked like we'd have a helping hand on the outward leg to Freshwater as well, countered by a nice headwind on the way home!

Pre-event involved a fair bit of faffing. The checkpoints are normally in pretty similar spots, but my old riding buddy Jamie had laid them out yesterday and hidden them in rather different locations. I'd decided not to take a map, but on finding the "fresh" positioning of the marks, rather wished I had. Photos on my phone and scribbled notes with a chinagraph pencil on my handlebars ensued...

After the start it all blends into one a bit to be honest. The first few checkpoints were a bit tricky to find, but things went smoothly enough. The one in Brighstone forest was the real killer, and involved me taking a rather inefficient loop through the forest to eventually regain my bearings.

From Brighstone, it was up and over Mottistone, including a dog-leg to get to a hidden checkpoint; then up Freshwater Down and down the rapid golf course descent.

Freshwater was were things went a bit dodgy... using the photo on my phone to guide me I managed to go down the wrong road for at least a mile, turned around, and then proceeded to go down another wrong road for another mile. Eventually I found the checkpoint. A bit flustered, I raced up Freshwater Down, but then realised halfway up that I had forgotten to go to the furthest checkpoint at the 7 Hills Killer start! A painful decent back into Freshwater, a desperate race to the checkpoint and a rather adrenaline fuelled re-ascent of Freshwater Down followed. It must have cost me a good 30 minutes in total. That will teach me to study the map a bit more carefully.

After the Freshwater mishap, it was a lot smoother on the way back. The legs were beginning to feel heavy and the building headwind wasn't doing any favours either, but it was just a case of churning away, on what were now fairly deserted trails in the West Wight.

I rolled back into Lake feeling pretty out of it, in a time of 5 hours 11 minutes. Despite the Freshwater drama, that time was enough to earn me the top spot on the rankings; 40 minutes ahead of Jamie in second place.

The 7/14 Hills Killer really is a great event, every time I do it (even the time it involved completing it in the tail-end of a hurricane) I find it really enjoyable.

Today reminded me how tough mountain bike racing can be: sitting at 82% of max heart rate for over 5 hours is a good indication. It's made me keen to do more of it again though; the search for a carbon 29er hard tail has begun!

Blood, Sweat and Gears (and a very nice pair of GripGrab gloves)
These notes were not quite enough to keep me on course for the whole time...
Shattered, but smiling.

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