It’s only been a couple weeks since the start of the Pan Celtic Race and it already feels like a distant memory. From what I can remember though, I think I had a good time?
I made my way down south for the sign on, excitement started to build when I got to Maker Heights and all the team were there welcoming riders in. It was all pretty chilled until I got back to the hotel later that evening when the if-and-buts and pre-race nerves started to surface. Checking over my kit again and again to make sure I hadn’t forgotten anything, which was a pointless act as I wouldn’t have been able to do much about it at that time anyway.
Morning came and I hadn’t had the best of sleeps. The weather didn’t seem too bad at first either but once the ferry had made it’s crossing over to Cornwall the heavens opened and it started absolutely lashing it down. By the time we’d made our way up to the start line everyone was soaked through. Riders huddled under whatever shelter they could find waiting for when the race was going to start as the weather was causing some setbacks.
The race had begun and it was time to ‘crack on!’ Tackling the ups and downs of Cornwall for the first few hours whilst bumping into other riders and having a quick chat, you’d kind of forget you were even in a race. The rain started to clear and it was time to take some kit off. Reaching the first stop of the race, I was panicking to get back on the road...the faff was upon me!
Food was something I had to get right, and what do you know on the first day ‘I f****d up!’ I knew I had to eat a lot more than usual in the race but I didn't realise how much. At one point I missed a food stop and thought I’d be okay but the next place to get anything was over fifty miles away and I only had snacks and no solid food. This had a knock-on effect as I stopped earlier than I would have liked on the first night and following onto the second day I felt really sick. The following days I managed to put more food down. I started feeling a lot better on the bike and could push a bit harder, this came to a swift halt because out of nowhere my stomach turned and I was having to get off the bike to have a few nature poops. The funny thing is some of these stops were the only time I got a chance to take in the views.
Sleeping in the race went pretty well, I think I had my choice of kit nailed and used it so many times before the race I knew exactly what I was doing. I stayed in a Lidl car park, pub smoking shelter, hotel, sports field and half way up Bwlch y Groes (don’t ask!). I overslept a few times but felt like it wasn’t a bad thing in the end, the extra hour I’d make up for it riding harder and to be fair when I overslept at the hotel it meant I got a hot meal in the morning which came with the cost of the room.
It’s been hard to really pinpoint all the highs and lows of the race because everyday posed new challenges. That being said I think crossing the Clifton Suspension bridge in Bristol was a highlight as the weather was so much better that day. Getting back into the hustle and bustle of a city was quite welcoming which is weird as I wouldn't of thought this would be the case. Just as I was coming up to cross the bridge, Toby Willis pops his head out screaming ‘DANNY M***** F****** LANE’ so I stopped and had a good chat with him and Jack, expressing my (delusional) high hopes I’d be able to ride through to check point two by riding on overnight non stop. After parting ways a guy from Friction Collective (sorry I've forgotten your name!) rode with me for a bit and then a parked camper van started honking their horn giving me a wave. Looking back at the bridge as the sun was going down, I decided to turn back and ride in the direction of the setting sun and my eyes welled up a bit. I guess that was probably the ‘moment’ of the ride for me other than my shifter breaking about one hundred and twenty miles from the finish but I'm not getting into that.
So after five and a bit days of being on the bike I’d made it back up to North Wales and did a lap of the Great Orme before finishing at Matt and Rebecca's house. It was a pretty odd feeling finishing the race, kind of underwhelming. It wasn't that I hadn't enjoyed myself but it's all a bit much to take in at the time and processing what you've just done isn't easy. You’ve spent days riding along the route and that’s the only thing you’ve had to think about, ride, eat, sleep, repeat.
Now a couple of weeks later I've had a chance to reflect on it, I'd go back and do it all again. Little details keep popping into my head, nothing really worth writing about but they put a smile on my face nevertheless. Learning from this year's race I'd like to see if I could go that bit harder and push myself further on the bike, say that though it’s all relative to the situations presented at the time and overcoming them as best you can. Who knows what could happen on the road next time.
I’d just like to give a massive shout out to everyone that raced this year and of those who I met along the way, the Pan Celtic Race team, race partners, volunteers, dotwatchers, family, friends and the Restrap team. The Pan Celtic Race is a truly unique event and I urge anyone with that slight itch to try something like this to give it a gp. It doesn’t disappoint.