"And so it came to pass, that the Revolving Head of Porage spaketh, and it invited the people unto Scotland and it said "Race! Run, ride and be happy." And the people heard, and ran, and rode, and raced, and were happy. And then cameth the steps..."
Okay, a slightly bizarre intro to a race report, but a slightly bizarre race to be reported upon. The Man of Porage is a bit of a strange not-quite-a-race not-quite-a-group-ride kind of thing. There's a trophy, you get invited rather than entering, the organiser changes every year, and it's quite a long way.
I've Porage'd before (see an old post for what happened last time), twice in fact, and had been last both times. I wasn't really expecting anything more this time. I knew I'd have company at the back of the peloton this time though. When the invites went out, Ross, Rachel and myself decided to ride together and make the most of it. Rachel later decided she'd rather get the nav practice by riding alone, so myself and the wee ginger one decided we'd have a nice bimble on our own.
We set off from Strathaven, starting off with a quick wee bit of street orienteering on foot, then a trio of bike CPs on the same O map, then onto the variety of scaled OS extracts towards Glassford, Quarter and Chatelherault country park. There were a series of CPs that could be gathered in any order, but there seemed to be a natural sequence to them unfortunately it involved zig-zagging back-and-forth across the wooded valley, which involved steps. Lots of them. We'd taken a different route to Rachel and assumed we were in front of her, but with the variable routes, she could have been past us without us seeing, so we kept pottering on through the park.
It's amazing what you find in these suburban woodlands and parks, and we found some steep stuff, some nice wiggly singletrack, and some steps. Lots of steps. Some ridable, some not. Them we found the M74, which was lovely. We headed underneath it for a quite round of Strathclyde counrty park, hoping for a challenge on one of the rollercoasters, but sadly not this time. A little tricky nav (car parks not quite on the map), dodging broken glass, and more fun wooded singletrack and then onto tactical tarmac!
I say tactical tarmac - our reasoning was thus: We weren't rushing, we weren't going to win, and while singletrack by the river might have been more fun, it would also take more energy. So we lapped onto the road for a while, back onto trail, back onto road. We got a bit lost around Dalzell Castle - my fault, since I was the navigator - after stopping for a bit of lunch, some suncream, and a nice conversation with a gentleman who had lost a £2,000 dog. More singletrack, more steps, more tarmac, and we got to the food stop at Crossford, and the next maps. Max and Justin were sat eating as we arrived, having already done the next stage, a figure-8 loop, so we had some food and a natter. They headed off, and Pete, Charlie and Dave arrived. Pete gave us a couple of handy hints about the trails on one half of the figure 8, then we headed out ourselves. We saw Dan on his way back as we headed out onto loop 1, then lots of climbing, lots of nettles, a fair bit of mild cursing and a lot of fun stuff later we arrived back to find Rachel sat at the give-out, so more food, more banter and another refill of bottles and we were off again. In the wrong direction, it turns out, but we sorted that out fairly quickly (Urban OS is not always the easiest to follow...)
After more woody singletrack, field edge snakey dry soil path, and some more tarmac we headed into the woods near Kirkfieldbank, following the Clyde still, towards Corra Linn, opposite New Lanark. And that was when it all went a bit wrong.
Basically, a chunk of brash, evidently wanting to pretend to be a snake, jumped up and bit me in the rear mech. My rear mech very rapidly succumbed to stick poisoning, and snapped. Being as I ride a full-suss and the stick had also managed to put a slight twist in my chain, it was quite obvious that the bike was not going to accept being singlespeeded, and was not going to be ridden any more that day. With great sadness (and possibly a little bad language) I dismantled the rear end of the gearset, taped the cable out of the way, swapped my map board onto Ross's bike and let him loose to navigate for himself* while I jogged myself and my bike out of the woods. I ran/scooted the 3km-or-so past the Falls of Clyde and onwards through the wood to the next manned CP where my race ended, after 80km, in the back of a car.
Chauffered by Martin, we headed off towards the finish at Wiston Lodge. It was a bit galling a drive, to be honest, as us short-routers were to skip the big off-road haul up and over Tinto and the last section would have just been a tarmac grind. The way I'd been riding I knew I could have completed, but it just wasn't an option. We drove on, passing Rachel and giving her some encouragement (I believe her words were "Make sure the kettle's on") and looking at the mist-shrouded hill that the long route guys would be descending off, with more than a little envy. We got back to the lodge, and I waited for Ross so we could run the last activity, a 2km orienteering leg, together.
That duly dispatched, we could shower, dine, drink and enjoy a wee camp fire to our heart's content. A bottle of Ardbeg was produced, and we made merry until not particularly late in the night, when the cumulative effects of 10hrs-or-so in the saddle made themselves known and it was time to hit the sack.
Despite the breakage and retiral, I'm really happy with the way it went. Myself and Ross rode well and had a good craic at the same time. There were a couple of shaky patches, physically and navigationally, but nothing major. We averaged about 9.5km/h for the day, which over that distance I think is respectable. I rode further than I have in 2 years (since my last Porage) and felt pretty good the majority of the way. Even just to get 75km in the legs is a good thing, to me. Ross finished in 10hrs 43min. I retired at around 8h 30min, but I'm confident I could have ridden the extra distance. It's annoying, but sometimes sh*t happens. Next time, I'll complete.
As with all things, there should be thanks. Thanks to Gary, Rich and Marty for course design and testing, Caitlin and the rest of the Tompsett clan for accomodation and food, Ross and Rachel for company, amusement, and general encouragement/abuse, Martin and Jules for marshalling, and all the other Porageers and visitors for a lovely evening out in the country.
Thanks for reading. Take it easy, and all the best to anyone else on their own adventures.
*In hindsight, this may have been a foolish option as I saw him again half an hour later, having only just worked out where he was. Numpty!