This will be a bit brief, expect more with photo's from DH & DP, and I'm only going to talk about my experience (seems a bit misleading to call what I did a race).
I'd been looking forward to it for a while, until about midday on Saturday when it hit me what was to come and I lost my appetite - and started about 3 hours of faffing around the house, getting bits & pieces of equipment/ batteries/ clothes/ food sorted out. In the morning I'd managed to change my rear disc-brake pads, but in the process had lost some brake fluid. The brakes worked, but they were pretty spongy. Good start.
However, we got to Thetford & got set up, gazebo for humans, clever half-gazebo thing for bikes & kettle. Race start was 8pm, and on the whistle I made sure I was right at the back - I've done enough races where I've spent a lot of time being overtaken, I wanted to do some overtaking. I think I managed about 5 people... My game plan had been to set off at a pace which left me breathing hard, but no more, as I felt that'd give me the best chance to last all night. I set off to plan, but most people seemed to have a very different plan, and if it hadn't been raining so heavily I wouldn't have seen them for dust. As it was, dust wasn't the issue. The first 2 miles were straightforward firetrack, then the other 8.5 miles were through Louisiana Mangrove Swamps. The first lap was OK, I managed to pass a few people, and felt good, until just before the end when the front runners lapped me. Stopped at the Solo riders tent to refill my water bottle & met DH who offered some words of encouragement, and let me know DP was on the course - they had decided on a 1-lap-switch gameplan. I then set out on the 2nd lap, at about 9:30, when it had been raining by then for about 3 1/2 hours...
Bike control through mud has never been my stronghold, and I proved that again on Lap2. Lost count of the people who passed me - I think I managed to pass a couple who had come through while I'd refilled my bottle, but that was it. One lovely lady came flying past, shouting out to everyone she went past 'Good work Bloke'. The laughter rang out for micro-seconds...
I eventually finished lap2 at 11. My original plan had been to do 2 laps per 3 hours, hopefully giving me some time to eat & rest at the end of each 21 miles. As it was 11, I should have been heading out for my second set of 2 laps. That wasn't going to happen. I picked up my food & slowly went back to camp, thinking about calling it a night, exhausted & soaking. Met DH back at camp & after a while he shamed me into going back out for a third lap at about 11:40. It still hadn't stopped raining...
This time the first few miles were again fine, but ominously quite water logged. The final 8 miles were hell. I felt like I had no control over the bike, the steady stream of riders going past was demoralising (although everyone who went past was incredibly polite, there was no crowding me out), and I'd forgotten to take my water bottle out with me. In my 'sensible' head I knew I didn't need any water, it was only 10 miles in the pouring rain. In my 'tired' brain it was a huge issue, and I was about to collapse from dehydration. I swung into the finish area & met DP, who told me it was 2:10am - that lap had taken about 2 hours 20! I decided to call it a night, maybe to see what the conditions were like in the morning. I went back to the campsite, had a drink of water, got some dry clothes on, and went to sleep in the car. It continued to rain all night, and when we woke up the thought of doing a 4th lap was abhorrent, so we went for a cup of tea and a bacon & egg sandwich at the finish line.
While filling our faces DP found the results board up, and as many solo riders had finished after only 2 laps I wasn't last by a good few slots. Suddenly that missed 4th lap became important, and from 'never again' I talked about 'next year'.
For me, solo was the way to go. I'm aware that a lot of prep was wrong, my food strategy was wrong, and the wet weather was a pain, but now I know what to expect, I reckon I can beat 3 laps next year.
I have just seen my speed profile though - I think I need to take up running... ( the fast spikes are at the beginning of each lap - the first lap had a longer fast spike, designed to spread out the field).
Huge thanks to DP & DH for all of their help & support throughout the night. Results now in as per DP's post above, interesting ones: