And so Friday finally arrived, and Gav, Jamie and i high tailed it off to Snowdonia for a weekend of mountain biking!
We made a stop for some great Mexican food at the legendary Honey Cafe in Brecon to fuel us for the long trip and finally arrived at our accommodation at around 9.30pm.
We were staying at a little self catering house (which used to be the High Sheriff’s Cottage apparently) in the market town of Dolgellau, which was very pretty indeed.
After securing our gear and bikes, we popped next door for a welcome pint at the Royal Ship Inn and then retired to bed for a god night’s sleep.
Not for me however, as i found out my bed was about 6 inches shorter than me and when i slept on the right hand side of the bed, it dipped considerably!
Saturday morning we awoke to scattered clouds and sunshine and after a hearty (although not entirely flavoursome) breakfast at the cafe next door, we headed off to Coed Y Brenin to pick up the lime green Specialized Enduro SL Comp i would be riding all weekend.
And so we began to attack the Beast of Brenin trail; all 38km of it. It followed pretty much the same route as the MBR trail we did in March but then it wandered off on an entirely different route.
It had a bit of everything: single track, fire roads, technical sections, rocky sections, hairpin bends and stream crossings. Suffice to say that as the trail progressed and got more difficult, the more tiring it became, but hey, i like a challenge.
So, all was going well until about 15km in and then something happened to me that has never happened to me before. To use a runner’s expression, i “hit the wall” or to use the hilarious cycling term i got “the bonk“.
The cycling phenomenon known as the bonk is no laughing matter. Deriving from the original meaning ‘to hit’, the bonk refers to that catastrophic moment when there’s suddenly nothing left in your tank; when your legs turn to jelly, and getting to the finish becomes an altogether supreme effort of will. The simple explanation for its occurrence is that long-endurance exercise depletes your store of glycogen, which produces the energy required to maintain performance. When the glycogen depletes entirely, the body has no more fuel and instead burns fat, resulting in a surge of fatigue and a performance collapse.
And that is what happened -complete loss of strength in my legs, acute agony in my knees and even standing upright was a challenge. Having done the 15 Peaks and a Rat Race without any hassle, i couldn’t believe how i felt. Despite resting and taking on lots of fluid when it hit, i could barely even manage pedalling on the flat, downhills were OK and on the uphills…i got off and pushed!
So we continued (me in acute pain and with a grimacing face) and then about half way round the trail was a little oasis; a glorious tea shop!
I lay down on the bench and tried to stretch/not cry out in pain, while Jamie and Gav got squash, fudge and flapjacks. The food was good and everyone there was a biker including the gaggle of Kiwis who were there and who were in cheerful mood.
I wasn’t sure what to make of the large amounts of cuddly toy monkeys that were hanging from all the trees though…
I was also amazed by just how many expensive mountain bikes there were attached to the rail outside like horses. Judging by there being about 25 or so bikes there, i would say that theer was at least £50,000 worth of bike on display. Orange and Specialized were very well represented although Giant and Trek were not far behind. There was also the odd Merlin and Ellsworthy on display as well as Santa Cruz and Iron Horse.
After resting and taking on extra water, we left the cafe and then headed up an incredibly steep hill on the trail and my pain returned. And stayed with me for the rest of the trail-another 19km of it.
Despite the pain, the scenery in Snowdonia was gorgeous, the sun was shining and we got to see kestrels flying. I was taking it steady, way behind Gav and Jamie and pushing my bike on pretty much the last few miles of the trail.
Finally we finished and i was very glad it was over although sad i hadn’t enjoyed it as much as i had planned. That evening, us boys had a wild party night of chinese takeaway, crap tv and some games of pool!
As i went to bed, my only worry was, would I suffer the same fate the next day at Penmachno?