My plan was simple, leave work at 4, drive down the road at a steady pace to get to Heysham about 11, sleep for a bit, get on the boat, sleep some more, drive off and see the island before pitching up and going for an easy road spin...
So there's me driving over the Tay Road Bridge in the motor home at 6pm, having left work an hour later than planned, lost half an hour after putting one of the bikes on the rack wrongly. Mistakes 1 and 2.
I still got to Heysham just after 11 though, great still time for a snooze... When are we loading? Did I bother to ask? Nope. Sleep? Better not risk it... Mistake 3.
Once on the boat I like to stand on deck as we pull away before settling somewhere to sit and hopefully sleep, unfortunately unless you've paid a lot of money for a cabin or loads for a seat in the bow lounge then you're lucks out if you can't sleep just anywhere. In the lounge next to the funnel (yes it's noisy) lucky people were sleeping sitting up, lying on the floor etc. In the café and bar there was others dotted around, and me dotting around all over the place trying to find somewhere I could get comfortable, the best I found was an Andy Capp position wrapped round the seat arm rests and balanced precariously on the edge... It didn't work. Mistake 4.
As I drove off at Douglas I decided I had to find somewhere to snooze for a bit and eventually found a parking area on Marine Drive where I managed enough sleep to feel sort of alive so went for an 8Km walk (Mistake 5) before taking a lap of the mountain circuit on the motorhome (involving Mistakes 6 and 7 (navigation)) and then pitching up at my campsite.
Then just to make it 8, I looked at the map and decided on a loop of the South of the island, heading into Douglas, along Marine Drive, down to Port Erin and then back up Via Round Table and Foxdale, doesn't sound bad at all does it? And it wasn't until I started the climb to Round Table... the vast majority of this 72Km route's 1000m of climb being there.
I get up early and spin down to the sea terminal, the marshall tells me I'm first there as we wait for the lorries arrive to take the bikes to the point of ayre (the buses are already there), the first bus turns out to have a bit of a problem with 2nd gear as we clunk regularly on the way up the mountain, at the point of ayre I retrieve my bike and go and take some photos of the lighthouse (Mistake 9), by the time I get round to the start area there's about half the field in front of me. Eventually we start moving forwards, at first slowly and then speeding up as the funnel effect runs out, as I cross the line I know there's 24Km of road section before we hit the off road, I've got my tyres pumped right up for this and I'm off like it is a road ride, drafting some unsuspecting riders, being drafted by others who very much knew what they were doing. I spent a long while sharing the wind with a local before I lost him on a hill I thought I'd run out of steam on and expected him to fly past. The locals were out in force cheering us on as well, some guy called Steve even had banners out for him. At Ballaugh (home of the famous bridge) a sharp left took us onto a dusty gravel track, some riders stopped early to drop pressure, others hadn't bothered with that roadie nonsense, the air was thick with dust on this flat section and it was getting tricky to see too far ahead, but as the road ramped up it was clear more and more riders were walking, eventually my hard tyres became a liability and I span out on a rock, coming to an abrupt halt I took air out the back and started walking, it's not that I wanted to walk, it's just there was no time to get back on the bike between other hike-a-bikers, there weren't many cyclists here.
My calves were aching from the push up, and then my inner thighs started screaming as I got back on the bike near the top, the trail reduced from a rough dusty road to a single track snake running along the hillside towards the Brandywell descent, keeping going with the cramp wasn't a problem, but whenever I had to move on the bike it got tricky, on the Brandywell descent there's a series of "speedbumps" taken at some speed, on the first a photographer was waiting to catch jumpers, on the 2nd I rolled it, on the third I got my weight balance wrong and thankfully caught my forwards weightshift in time, continuing to roll these bumps at some speed was painful but then we hit the road thankfully, another big crowd out in support, Steve's supporters there again, and then after only a few meters we were onto another dirt road, this time rough flinty, slatey double track with a clear line showing from previous run throughs,
This continued for a while before descending through plantations, to St Johns where I stupidly didn't take on extra water before being ramped straight back up to another Plantation and then along the hill side to descend through Arassey Plantation which met the hype I'd heard and read about it. More climbing followed though to a road summit where we quickly returned to a track, my lack of water really showed now, and I stopped for a rest and liquid at the water stop before the start of the descent on "An Sloc"
On such a clear day the end at Cregneash could be seen from the hill side, hurtling down a narrow twisty flinty track; it was fantastic, a couple of riders had falls ahead of me and I had to slow to get past, the path disgorges you onto tarmac and a final road blast over the St Mary's railway crossing and onto Cregneash where a brutal final hill stopped me in my tracks, only a 70 Km ride but the climbing had taken it out of me.
Despite a time of 4hrs 31mins making me 400th overall I missed a Bronze award by 6 mins, probably the time lost at that recovery stop having not taken enough water when it was available. The winner only took 2hrs 44mins...