Bredwardine to Tallybont-on-Usk – MTB
Sleepmonsters in the Dark
This next cycle section proved to be one of the most difficult and stressful for all of us, especially regarding the sleep deprivation. The plan was to collect a number of additional controls on this stage. From the map they looked easy to find, most of them on or near to significant bridleways or named cycle routes. Clearly we forgot this was the ITERA and nothing was going to be easy. The weather for one, closed in and became more awful than before, if that was possible. The route finding was complicated by indistinct tracks and many of the gates or stiles blocked or made impassable, most of the bridleway signs defaced or missing. Whether this was just from lack of use or deliberate obfuscation by over protective farmers we weren’t sure, but route finding was challenging.
At one point we blindly crossed a field, calf deep in mud and in torrential rain with no visible path, it was dark and very early in the morning, sleepmonsters everywhere; to come to the field boundary, see the gate, the road, and cross roads exactly where we expected. We we’re bang-on and it stopped raining, for a while anyway. A morale boost if ever there was one.
I don’t know if it was the relief but it wasn’t long after I just needed sleep and seeing a convenient stile, promptly sat down and announced “wake me in 15”!
To this date I don’t know if the others just stood around studying the maps or sat and slept too. I was dead to the world within seconds. Studying the gpx tracker data afterwards I think this was around Llanrosser.
We continued in torrential rain and wind towards Tallybont. Once again the sleepmonsters were out in force. I was surrounded on either side by 30m high granite walls and the deja vue thing was as strong as ever. The others had their own challenges too. It wasn’t long before Steve complained of falling asleep on the bike. We’d stopped briefly at the bottom of a long fast downhill section of road near Llangors and it was clear carrying on in that state was just too dangerous. There was a big tree on the roadside with a circular bench around its base. It could have been a hotel, bikes were dropped and the bothy bag found and pulled over all of us as we huddled together for mutual warmth.
The alarm was set again and we grabbed another 20 mins respite.
Restarting again, we were now on National Cycle Route 8, there was a brief moment of confusion as the route crossed a park and bridge before carrying on the Transition at Tallybont.
Tallybont Transition was a sports hall full of the usual confusion and chaos of racers and bags and outside – bikes. Transition means there was a chance of getting more hot food, desperately needed by all and some planned rest. Steve and I seemed to be worst off and still in desperate need of sleep and with a major trekking stage across the Brecon Beacons next we planned to get a couple of hours and set off at dawn.
I seemed to bumble around inefficiently again and after getting food down and some stuff sorted for the next day I was almost bundled off by Jill and Heather, who seemed to be coping best, to my bivvi bag and get some rest. It’s against the rules to sleep actually in Transition so there was a grassy area behind the centre where most competitors were pitching tents or like us bivving wherever there was a flat space. It had thankfully stopped raining but as the skies cleared the weather was now really cold, I was glad I’d packed the down sleeping bag. My bed of choice was the bench of some picnic tables at the back of the centre. My thought was it’s warmer than the damp ground but not as high as the table itself where I might fall off. The compromise was the width of my perch, 10” at best, sleep deprivation doesn’t necessarily produce the best rational thoughts. No foam or Thermarest® and no pillow, the only comfort was keeping my helmet on. Multi-sport helmets must also have a sleep-rating as well as paddle/cycle/climb certification!
I wake feeling much better than when I went to bed and again with no need of an alarm. I sorted porridge and coffee for everyone’s breakfast, they look worse than they went to bed, Jill and Heather especially. It was good to be able to return the favours from last night.