I arrived at around 10:30am and began by walking up the paddock to sign on. It was a fair old walk from the back! I'd turned up by myself this time, so I had to make several trips up and down - 5 in total! I wouldn't normally mention this but carrying the fuel up was a real slog, I need to get myself some wheels for that.
Anyway, after I'd signed on and got the bike scrutineered, I returned to the car to get kitted up. There was a chap opposite me doing some last minute maintenance, so I went to help out and lent some tools and an extra pair of hands.
The start time of 12:00pm soon came around and we were all sat on our bikes with hands on heads, ready for the organised chaos that is the mass start! I rode in the clubman class, so we were second away behind the experts.
I set off at a steady pace, trying not to get roped into the fast pace that the other riders set off at - I wanted to get a feel for the track on the first lap. About half way around the lap was a very steep downhill section through the trees, when I got there I could see spectators everywhere - that's when you know there's something tricky coming up! Finding the balance between letting the bike run and locking up the rear brake, I made it down there each time without any problems.
I told myself before the start that I'd put in 3 laps before I came into the pits, so that I could properly warm up and get into a rhythm. Those 3 laps went well and I felt OK when I came in, pretty tired, but I knew I was getting into my rhythm so I was fairly happy. The course was great, with a lot of technical riding through the trees and lots of tree roots etc. I fell foul of said tree roots once or twice, but they became more predictable once you knew where they were!
I was riding fairly well, and was on course to complete 9 or 10 laps, when on lap 5 I got tired and made a really simple mistake which ultimately ended up costing me a finish. I was in a deep rut and I caught an edge with the front wheel. I jumped off to the left and let the bike fall. Unfortunately, the rut was the perfect height so that the bike landed square on the left hand radiator. At the time I didn't notice anything and carried on, but a few hundred yards later I noticed the bike was steaming (it does sometimes but I know when to expect it), so I stopped to check it out. Then I noticed that the radiator shroud was bent in about 2 inches and I knew my race was over. I got off the bike and had a look around the radiator - it was leaking onto the exhaust.
So that was that! I waited for some marshals to come along and they escorted me back to the pits. It was a disappointing end to the race for me, but that's racing and sometimes these things happen.
These Hare & Hounds events aren't normally something I'd do, I was always planning to do them to keep my fitness up over winter, but it's incredible just how intense they are. Hopefully it will pay off next season!
That's the last race of 2014 for me, now it's time for some training, bike maintenance and modifications. The first of which is going to be replacing those oversized radiators with standard ones and fitting some braces!!!
Many thanks to Garry Barnes & co who were out there taking photos and videos.