Well, I'd paid my entry fee so no backing out now, despite the snow, ice, rain and wind.
I've ridden at Tong lots of times and tried some of the more tricky stuff there so I had a fair idea of what to expect from the course. The main problem at Tong is that there's very few places to have a breather, throw into this the fact it was a hard course and it really gets to you.
Without wishing to sound big headed there wasn't anything I struggled with to ride, it was the constant, hard nature that got to me. My arms were definately on the knackered side which made it that much harder. Slowing in pace you then struggled to get through the ruts and slop. It's a vicious circle and very hard to escape.
The race started ok and as we were flagged off in small groups of five or six we soon caught the tail of the previous groups and all filtered along. You'd get past the odd person but we were all in the same boat of finding our way along. After a slick downhill and ride down the river we climbed out and up onto a highish bank. The first tricky bit was to cross this off camber bank. With no rut yet there were already people at the bottom wondering how to get out. A small bit of winding through the trees and another stream crossing then took us to the first climb. It wasn't quite carnage when I got there but not far off. I picked a line and got up fairly quickly really, we then doubled back down the hill into the river via a very slick decent and then out onto some easier tracks. Everywhere was slick and muddy and hard to ride but you kept going. The track then worked through the trees and you got a very quick respite.
You came out onto a small section of road being used and the next hard route was on the right. A very hard climb with no run up, there were people stuck on it and I decided to go the easier route. These were tracks I've ridden before so I got along them with no problem though it was a fair detour through water filled sloppy ruts. More small nadgery tracks in the trees with ruts and slop worked us along to the next hard section. I could see more people stuck and bikes revving hard so went for the easy route again. This was only a very small detour and could be ridden easily so I used it every lap. More snotty going in the trees took us to a stony climb out of a ravine. I got up this every time without issue which is more than can be said for others.
More snotty going took us through lots of little bits, logs to get over, ditches and rutted tracks to cross. Then it was a major spectator area. Three routes were on offer here. The hardest was beyond me in these conditions, the stony steps I could do but there was someone stuck so I took the easiest route, it put about five seconds on for the extra distance so I wasn't too worried about using it.
After this the track was a touch more flowing (I use the term in a fairly broad sense here) in that it wasn't quite as snotty as other bits. We worked our way through the trees and down to one final ditch and climb. It wasn't very hard but there was always people there revving bikes and spinning their tyres. The final hard route was the massive slab climb but I didn't see anyone doing it and did the easy route along with everyone else! The final stony track took us to lap scoring and the pits.
I have to be honest here and say that I just wasn't fit enough. My arms really let me down which slowed my pace and affected my result. Admittedly I'd never be fighting for the top honours but you like to ride the best you can and I just wasn't able to. I only fell three times and my legs held up well but I spent way too much time sat down. I managed to fall in the river and the bike was a sod to start after that. I must have spent five or six minutes kicking it over and laying it over to empty the float bowl. But I managed to finish and came ninth in class so not too bad. I missed a sixth lap by just over a minute and had a few issues on my fifth which easily cost me a good few minutes and the extra lap but that's racing.
I think the course held up pretty well considering how wet it was. It was raining when we arrived and only stopped just before the off which was delayed for half an hour. The ice melted to slush during the race and the only real problem was the water which was pretty deep in places. There were plenty of helpers around and the event was well attended by spectators. Watching the fast lads in the PM race showed me how it should be done. I'd do another hard event there but would need to improve my arm strength to get the best out of it rather than just getting round. The next round is at Cowm. Now there's some VERY hard stuff there and unlike the soft ground at Tong it's rock so bike damage is far more likely. Time to start doing press ups if I'm going there!