When I set up the MarathonMTB.com website in late 2010, it was only because I had countless hours of help from a friend. By help, I mean he built it, designed it, and continues to look after the site to this day. I just had a concept. After working, riding, racing and travelling for the past 3.5 years I’d never truly found a good resource for marathon races and stage races. So we set about building one, and then created a team that could help tell those stories. It all started in a basement in Primrose Hill where he was housesitting, and I was finding somewhere to stay for free after a racing sojourn.
We’ve had great contributions along the way, with many people giving their time to really help build a resource. And I have travelled to plenty of places to make it happen, and I’m lucky to have done so not just for the experience, but for the people I have met. Mountain biking has given me some of my dearest friends, and I’m sure it will continue to do so.
There are many shortcomings with our site, and trust me I’m acutely aware of just about any you can think of. But a glaring one is that I haven’t been doing many new things myself. When I’ve got leave or funds for a break, I love to return to places I know. I want to put together the ideal race, the perfect big ride, eat my favourite foods – take the best selfie! So I go to Livigno, to Scuol, to St Moritz – just about anywhere around that area, plus other alpine places.
Last September, during the Crocodile Trophy, I was having a pretty rough time. For the second day in a row I was going backwards. Fast. I wasn’t fit – and I was ok with that. I just wanted to get through each day and finish – something that my coach at the time (also my wife) was pretty dubious about. So a few stages in I was really low. Moving towards the back third of the field until a buzz of optimism caught be. It was Haley Smith, the sole elite woman in the race who was chasing back after an untimely puncture early in the race. We rolled turns. I pushed hard. Haley pushed harder. I suffered. Haley chatted. And we were catching people. Then more. Then the group got whittled down. And finally we finished 125km not too far off where both of us would liked to have been. And I realised something – that’s what I live for.
Don’t get me wrong, I like success. And I chase it daily in the work I do, although it is measured in a completely different way to a bike race. So when I have a number on my bars I want to feel like I’ve done the best I can then and there, knowing full well that I don’t have the discipline for structured training. But I’ll still get everything out of myself that I can for that day – I love digging deep, and I love racing. The Crocodile Trophy was delivering that for me day in, day out. So I committed to finding some new stage races to do in 2018.
One was the Snow Bike Festival in January – the next was what’s on the imminent horizon this week – Rumble in the Jungle in Sri Lanka.
I knew little of the race when contacted by race organiser Phil Evans. I knew Cory Wallace had raced it, and Yuki Ikeda. These guys like an adventure. It looked like there would be plenty of climbing, and the MTB Worldwide event group are known for putting on good races in remote areas, like the Yak Attack. So I was in, thanks in no small part to the generosity of Phil and SriLankan Airlines.
For me, Sri Lanka is all new. I’ve done very little travel in that part of the world. In fact – none. No bike racing there either. And that is exciting. While part of me is drawn to the high mountains of Graubuenden and the Alta Valtellina (flights were booked today for August, by the way), heading to Sri Lanka will be a totally new experience. There will be past friends and even a past team mate, and likely about 60 other people who have a similar passion.
With 5 days of racing, plenty of big hills to climb and descend and some fast men and women, this is a challenge I can’t wait to line up for. It is a new experience for me, and let’s our site continue to expand as a resource with more event insights to guide you. Still, wish me luck!