Isle of Man End2End – Race Report
Well, I survived the Isle of Man End2End and had a really good day doing it.
As always my preparation wasn’t great. I hadn’t really been on a bike much in the run up to the event, I’d been ill a week or so before and hadn’t fully recovered from that and the the bike I’d been wanting to use was broken so I had to did an old bike out of the shed and use that. It all turned out good though.
Anna and Morgan came with me to the Point of Ayre, the Northern most tip of the island and the start of the race. We collected James (Anna’s cousin) on the way too. The weather was just about perfect, a little breezy but with the clear blue skies and sunshine the breeze just had a cooling effect.
With around 1400 starters it was pretty busy up there but the organisation was good and they had flags along the start road with predicted finish times on. The idea was that you lined up alongside your predicted finish time so that the faster people were at the front and the slower people towards the back so that hopefully no one got in anyone elses way – It didn’t quite work like that though as it was pretty clear during the day that many people who took over 6 hours to complete the course had started up near the front.
I thought I’d finish somewhere between 4.5 and 5 hours so lined up accordingly along with James. My plan was to take it really easy for the first half, enjoying the scenery and save myself for later in the race. I therefore went along the road at a steady pace. James dropped back and I didn’t see him again until the end of the race.
The first 14 miles is along undulating road so I tended to slipstream within groups and save my energy but in general overtook people and moved up through the field. We then hit the first climb which started on tarmac, but immediately people were off an walking. I have no idea why as it wasn’t that steep so I plodded on overtaking more and more people as more and more were off their bikes. The road then turned into a track and then narrowed and steepened. It was definitely rideable but with a wall of 4-500 people in front of me all slowly pushing their bikes up the hill I had no option but to dismount and become a pedestrian too. I did ride along at walking pace (1.5mph) for a while as that was easier then walking for me but in the end it became impossible.
Once up the steep section of the climb the gradient eased off a bit and the track widened into a rutted, muddy moorland track. People did start riding again but as you had to pick a rut or a rise and stick to it for a while you could really only go at the pace of the person in front of you which was for the most part painfully slow. There was the odd opportunity to overtake but most of the time it was slow, easy going.
I passed a couple of people I knew and had a chat and in the end resigned myself to the slow pace and kept telling myself that it was probably a good thing as it would at least mean I’d finish the whole thing in good shape. The course undulated across the top of the hills for a while with amazing views out across the Isle of Man and then down a rocky little descent where I overtook a couple of people on a tandem and across the Brandywell road, the location of the first checkpoint and drinks station.
Anna and Morgan had left the Point if Ayre in the car after the start and drove here to cheer me on. I saw them as I went past and said hello and that all was fine. I didn’t really stop though, just continued on and hoped to see them later on.
The next section of the race continued in a similar format but much of it was on wider, undulating tracks that at least meant I could go at my pace rather than the pace of slower people in front of me. there were a few singletrack like descents into St. John though so once again these were a bit of a procession. It was then a short flat ride along the old railway line into St. Johns and the halfway checkpoint and feed station.
I grabbed a banana and a cup of water as I went past and continued on my way. Next was a bit of a climb out of St. Johns, again it started on the road and before it has barely pointed upwards people were off an walking. I made up lost of places here riding past people who just didn’t seem to like going up hill. I was still feeling fine and certainly didn’t feel as though I’d ridden 25 miles. In fact, the slow pace meant that I felt as if I’d done about 10 miles so had plenty left in the tank. The road climb soon turned into a narrow rocky track and once again i was forced to plod along in the saddle at walking pace and eventually to join everyone else and dismount. This climb wasn’t too long though and soon we were into a slippery, muddy, rooty, winding singletrack descent through a conifer plantation and then another nice steep climb.
This climb was on a wider track and people were thinning out by now so I was able to gain quite a few places up here as I passed people pushing their bikes once again. We then dropped into another plantation where I spotted Anna and Morgan cheering me on. I swapped a water bottle with them and continued on my way. I had recce’d this part of the course the day before so now knew where I was an to a certain extent what to expect. Another climb along the road and then a steady climb along a track before descending into Port St. Mary. I really enjoyed this next climb. It wasn’t too steep so most people were at least riding this time and they were all keeping to the left so I went to the right and went flying past them all. The best bit was towards the top where there were loads of people lining the course cheering us on. They were crowding the course so as I came along on the right hand side they all had to move back out of the way to let me through – It felt like the top of a mountain stage on the Tour de France – Brilliant!
Next was a section up over some moorland and then a descent along fast, flowing singletrack with a few bits of raised boardwalk. At least, it would have been fast if it weren’t for some really slow people in front of me. I did manage to get past them in the end, only to be held up by someone else, so I just sat there and enjoyed the views out over Castletown.
After this the course went into open field and at last I was able to fly. Downhill across open fields on wide tracks with no one else around, I felt as though I had been released and flew across the fields, getting air off the little humps over the walls between the fields.
We then came out onto the road with just a short section into Port St. Mary and then the final climb to the finish line. I saw Anna and Morgan again on a roundabout just before the final climb and stopped to say hello. I knew that this climb was going to be a bit of a sting in the tail, but I was still feeling fresh and ready to go so as soon as I hit it I put in a bit of effort and started flying past other who were struggling on the climb. I even overtook Anna and Morgan in the car as they crawled up the hill in a bit of a traffic jam. As I went past Linda’s house I saw James sat on the wall – He had obviously pulled out somewhere around the course and had made his way here by some other means. I overtook a couple more people on the grassy field up to the finish line and eventually crossed the line in 309th place in a time of 4:48:57. Pretty much the time I had predicted.
I reckon I could have saved half an hour out there though if I hadn’t been quite so held up, but there is of course always a chance that the slow pace worked in my favour come the end. I certainly found it easy and didn’t suffer at all either during the day or with any aches and pains afterwards. The bike held up well and most importantly I had a great day out riding from one end of the Isle of Man to the other, and Anna and Morgan enjoyed chasing me across the island as well.
The course itself was good, well, signposted and marshalled and the organisation was perfect. I’m not really sure what the organisers can do to prevent slower people holding up faster people. If all the riders actually started in the correct position then I’m sure it would be OK, but they didn’t. I know for a fact I overtook people who then wen ton to finish in over 6 hours but muist have started up towards the front. It only takes a few people doing this to cause bottlenecks and slow everyone else down.
The other people I knew who were taking place were James who I started with, Andy and Neil Clague who I’ve windsurfed with in the island before. James pulled out at St. Johns but had never really intended to go the whole way I don’t think. Andy suffered with cramps and finished in a time of 6:32:40, Neil finished in 6:25:01. The last person across the line took 7 hours 52 minutes to complete the course, but as she was in position 1001, there must have been close to 400 people who didn’t make it.
The winner, professional cyclist Nick Craig did it in an amazing 2:57:20. Click here for full results.
I’ll be back for more another year.