Sometimes it's good to do something new, it shocks the body and mind and gets you out of a rut. So it was that I decided to enter the Kielder 101. That's kilometres not miles. It's a mountain bike race in and around Kielder forest with the "unique feature" of heading over to Scotland for part of the route.
Registration is on the Friday night so after that and something to eat I turn in for the night, kipping in the car - the campsite was full though apparently they were letting people pitch up without having booked.
I wake at 0400 with the arrival of more cars and having failed to get back to sleep get up at 0600 and make a brew and have breakfast. More people arrive and bikes are removed from cars and assembled and tested. The start is at 0730 with a final briefing at 0715.
Like a pro road race, the start is neutralised behind a vehicle for the first couple of kilometres then we turn off the Forest Drive and it's every man and woman for themselves. The first mile or so is uphill so everyone gets strung out before the first bits of singletrack.
The nature of all open races like this (fell races are similar in that you can be on the start line between the national champion and someone who is in their first race) is that you pretty soon get in to a group of riders that you pass, get overtaken, pass again. So, at least as far as the first border crossing I'd keep seeing the same people.
Apart from the first couple of kilometres and two road crossings the entire route is off-road, a mixture of fire road, single track and event specific sections that cut through virgin terrain. The first of these was a "short cut" between two fire roads and mainly consisted of picking your way through moss covered tree roots.
The second food stop was at Newcastleton in Scotland, one of the options was being able to pack a bag with your own food and have it ready for you there, so savoury food rather than sweet was in order plus a restocking of my on-board supply then it was off again.
The rider I was with at this point would pull ahead for a while then stop and try and stretch his back - "Pilates on the bike is hard work!" Eventually on a climb I think he stopped for longer and I didn't see him again.
By now everyone was well spread out and between the second and third feed stations, 30Km in distance I saw only six riders - two passed me and I passed four more. I didn't stop at the third feed station just got my timer clocked, I'm well inside the cutoff, and then on my way. A long drag uphill then bits of singletrack descent to the road. Just one uphill to do.
Marked on the map as "Scorpion, the sting in the tale" it seemed to drag forever, just when you thought you were heading downhill you'd be taken in the opposite direction and yet more climbing. Eventually there's basically no more up and it's a case of sweeping down the singletrack descent. At one point there's a marshal who notes the two technical options ahead. I get off and walk, "Good choice!" says a voice behind. A rider catches up with me but declines to pass. The last technical section is down two sets of steps then a roll in to the finish and a "well done" and a handshake.
My official time is 6hrs47, I'd been aiming for 7hrs so am pleased with that.
No photos or video but here's the Strava trace.