Tuesday, 30 April 2013
The last few months have seen their fair share of ups and downs...
The freakish cold weather meant that most of the trails around here were either under too much snow to be rideable or were so waterlogged that the amount of damage riding would do to the trails just wasn't worth it (not to mention the amount of mud on kit and bike that would need cleaning). This meant that riding options were a bit limited. The local trail centres at Glentress and Innerleithen were rideable for a bit but then they got hit by the snow and were pretty much off limits for a month.
Unfortunately I had also booked myself on a 1-1 skills coaching session with Andy at Dirt School, which had to be postponed because the trails were so icy that the only skills I would have learned would've been how to land on my bum after skeiting* on the ice (*Scottish for ...oh never mind).
So my plans of world domination after honing my skills were thwarted again. (I should point out that I was only planning to dominate my own world, but it's the principle.).
I had hoped to try my new-found skills at the final Innerleithen Enduro, but unfortunately that had to be cancelled too because there was just too much snow and the only real option would have been skiing!
So, instead, Chris and I headed up to Kinlochleven (one of the few places which werent under snow) at the last minute to stay in one of the hobbit huts at the Blackwater Hostel. We headed up on Saturday morning and managed a few hours of riding on Saturday evening and then a nice big day in the hills on Sunday. In glorious sunshine and with some fantastic views down Loch Leven, we rode some of the trails we'd raced at the Dudes of Hazard Enduro back in November as well as some new trails I've never had the nerve to try before. Well, I say we rode the trails...Chris rode them and I had a series of sketchy moments!
The temperature didn't rise much for the following weekend when I tried my hand at the Red Bull Hill Chaser. I rolled along to the city centre way too early on a Saturday morning so that I could race for less than 30 seconds. It was an eye popping 30 seconds mind you! Sadly, none of the amateur females got through the qualifiers, so there wasn't a female final race in the evening. The racing in the evening was pretty impressive though, with a motley crew of roadies racing DHers racing trials riders racing BMXers racing CXers. I've never seen such an impressive turn out at any cycling event in Scotland except the World Cup events at Fort Bill, so it was great to see.
I then managed to swap the freezing Scottish temperatures to fly out to Catalonia for a long weekend to ride int he European Singlespeed Champs. I'd never been to that part of Spain before, so had no idea what to expect, but it didn't disappoint! The trails were eminently singlespeedable with just the right amount of climbing and tech. The event itself was great with plenty of stops for food and wine and a great mix of folks from all over Europe. It looks like the Euro's next year will be in Northern Ireland, so not quite as warm and sunny, but also not as much travelling.
Since I'm still waiting for my rescheduled skills session with Dirt School, last weekend, I decided to go out on my own and play. So I headed up to the local woods and spent a few hours sessioning sections I've either been able to ride in the past or which have always stumped me. It turned out to be one of my most successful bike rides in ages although I'm not sure what the folks walking in the woods thought of a "mature" woman messing around on jumps in the woods. It was only those walkers who actually saw me do any of the stuff I was trying so I've got no proof at all that I managed anything, but I know I did! Whether I manage it again next time I go up there with the boys is another matter! Maybe that was my skilz for this year!
So bike wise, things have actually been not too bad over the last few months despite the bad weather. Those have definitely been the ups of the last few months.
However, at the end of March I managed to slip a disc in my back. I wouldn't mind so much, but all I did was stand up and that was it! I couldn't straighten up or walk! Luckily I managed to get physio pretty much straight away and it's more or less fixed now. My physic has been great and hasn't once told me not to ride. His only word of warning is that if it hurts, stop ....oh, and just don't go falling off. Not such an easy task for me, but I do my best.
I had thought that everything had sorted itself out, but it went again yesterday and I spent yesterday hirpling around like an old woman and actually had to abandon my bike at work because I couldn't ride home. That's only the second time in all the years I've commuted by bike that I've had to abandon my bike and the other time was because of really stormy weather.
It has meant that there have been a few days over the last month or so I've just not been able to ride because my back's been too sore, which has been pretty miserable. However, for the first time since I started riding, I've actually been disciplined enough to stretch on a regular basis and do the exercises my physio has set me. I've also finally started using that Yoga for Cyclists DVD's that's been gathering dust on the shelf. I won't lie and say that it's made it 100% alright, but it's been good enough that I've been able to keep riding most of the time. In fact, it's probably made me more determined to enjoy my bike and get out there and just have fun.
More physio seem to have made a difference already and I'm keeping everything crossed that it's back to normal before Friday because I've got the day off to go to my long awaited skills session and I'm then going to use my new skilz at the Perthshire Enduro on Saturday.
So, plenty of ups and downs over the last few months, but I think the ups have managed to outweigh the downs. If I promise to do lots of stretching between now and then, hopefully this weekend will be another up and my new found skilz will lead to world domination (at least of my world!).
Sunday, 3 March 2013
Round 1 had been a traditional enduro with 3 long, technical, muddy descents linked by 3 climbs (including a few push ups). There had been a great turn out despite cold, wet weather with some great results and much fun.
Saturday's race was a slightly different format - 2 stages during the day and then the same 2 stages at night.
Once again the guys and girls at Innerleithen MTB Racing didn't let us down with the trails they let us play on. Their reputation for fun, challenging trails attracted some of Scotland's (and the UK's) best enduro riders...Katy Winton, Joe Barnes and Crawford Carrick Anderson.
Stage 1 was long, long, long! (Longer for me than most other riders.) There was a mix of greasy, muddy, steep and rooty and saw us riding down trails most of us usually ride up.
Then for the long ride and push all the way back up to the top of the DH trails to start stage 2, which was a different kettle of fish all together. It was fast with some steep, more woodsy sections, joining up with the main DH trails right back down to the bottom again.
I was super slow, but managed to make it down both runs with only a few little sit downs on the trail. I had a few moments, popped over the top of a few berms, missed a few corners and a hugged a few trees, but managed to hang on and stay the right side up.
I'm not as fit as I should be at the moment (and a late night with a few too many glasses of wine didn't help), so I was glad of the break back at the van whilst we waited for it to start getting dark.
I've not done any night riding at all this winter, so I was pretty nervous hanging around the car park listening to all the usual excited race chat. I was under no illusion that I was only racing myself, but the trails were demanding in the daylight, so I knew I'd have to be totally on the ball. It was just too late to start making excuses, I should have gone out for those night rides instead of curling up in the warmth, indoors instead.
The first night run was due to open at 5.15, but because the day had been so clear and sunny, it didn't get dark until almost 6 o'clock. So even after a very slow climb back up the hill, there was quite a queue up at the top waiting to to get going again. Luckily the marshals up the top had a good supply of juice, Haribos, millionaire shortbread, bananas and chat to keep our spirits up.
Gradually lights started getting switched on and riders started lining up to get going again.
If I thought I was slow on stage 1 during the day, I was even slower in the dark!
The drops were definitely bigger, trees closer together and descent steeper in the dark than they had been in daylight. Although I'd managed to get a clear run down during the day, because I was so much slower at night, I had to keep pulling over to let the fast boys past and struggling to get going again. Not that it really made too much difference to my performance.
I got down to the bottom and let out the breath I'd been holding most of the way down. It had been tougher than I expected and I felt a bit disappointed by just how much mincing I'd done, but I'd made it down and there was only one more up and back down left.
The only thing that kept me going on that last climb up was the knowledge that the final stage would be fun (and that I'd be able to get a nice cup of tea at the bottom).
There was less of a queue at the top, so I managed to get a clearer run down and spent much less time sitting on the trail and much more time riding, although I hung on to the brakes the whole way down. As I hit the final few turns, there was someone right behind me but since there was nowhere for me to pull in and let him past, I had to ride faster than my terrified mind was comfortable doing, but I made the turns, made that drop, got round the roots and got to the finish line in one piece (even if I did have the look of a frightened rabbit).
My times were pretty awful, but I finished and, despite having my heart in my throat for the night runs, really enjoyed myself.
There was a really good, strong field of women riders, so I didn't get anywhere near the podium except to sit on it to have a cup of tea. Local rider Katy Winton stormed home again to take an impressive first place, followed by Fiona Beattie and Sophie Buckingham.
All the podiums saw at least one local rider on them, proving that practice can make perfect.
Round 3 is at the end of this month and reverts back to the usual day time stages. So I've got 3 weeks to practice, practice, practice. I'm not sure 3 weeks is enough to turn me into an enduro goddess, but maybe I'll be able to ride a little bit of the trail without having my brakes on and holding my breath!
Saturday, 2 February 2013
Surely that's some weird carma or other?
Anyway, teeth were removed yesterday afternoon and I now have a deeply unattractive and uncomfortable temporary set of falsers to tide me over for the week and a half until my proper replacement teeth (well, bridges) are ready to be fitted.
So on the drive down to Innerleithen this morning to do some practice on the course, I had the difficult decision to make about whether I wear my uncomfortable falsers whilst I'm riding or go gappy.
After much deliberation and advice from friends, I decided to go with the gappy Bugs Bunny look....
Monday, 24 December 2012
Sunday, 9 December 2012
An unexpected bike ride is quite exciting, so when I woke up this morning I was really looking forward to getting out and having some fun. I was even hoping for a relatively big ride to make the most of the free day.
I set off with what I thought was loads of energy, only to find my body didn't want to play.
"Maybe I'm coming down with a bit of a cold."
"Maybe it's because I didn't sleep well last night."
"Maybe it's because I'm wearing too many layers and I'm too hot."
"Maybe I didn't have enough breakfast."
"Is there something wrong with my bike?"
I thought of all the excuses and none of them seemed to explain why my legs just didn't want to do what they were told.
After a few hours, I had to give in to the fact that I was just having a bad leg day and suggested we cut the ride a bit short and head back to the van. (Luckily Chris was having an equally bad leg day, so I didn't feel too guilty.)
Never mind. A few hours of riding is better than no riding, but I do wish my bad leg days would happen on the days when I didn't want to play on my bike!
Sunday, 2 December 2012
It's 2 months since I got home from the Trans Provence and it's been a funny 2 months.
6 weeks off the bike with my hand and wrist in a really uncomfortable splint, fortnightly visits to the orthopaedic surgeon for more x-rays and prodding and poking and umming and awing....being told that "I'm not convinced that it's not broken, so we'll keep it splinted up for now". It got increasingly painful and numb, which made me increasingly worried. On my final visit to see the surgeon, a worried look came over his face when I said I no longer had any feeling in my thumb at all and was having pains from my thumb right up to my elbow. It turns out that the splint was putting too much pressure on my tendons and was doing more damage than good, so I was given the all clear to take it off and get on with things...."as long as it doesn't hurt to do so".
Hurrah! (Well, it still hurts a wee bit, but I'm not putting that splint back on!!)
So no more taking the bus to work and trying to get by with my surprisingly useless left hand.
You might think that would mean I'd be right back on the bike and making up for lost time, but my weekends have been taken up with the Scottish Cyclocross series...no, not racing...I've been working with Chris on the timing and results for the races.
So, 7 weeks after I finished the Trans Provence, I had my first free weekend and went out for my first bike ride. That first bike ride just happened to be the No Fuss Dudes of Hazzard Enduro.
The guys at No Fuss teamed up with the Dudes of Hazzard to put on an enduro based in Kinlochleven up in the Highlands of Scotland. I'd never ridden around there before, so on Chris' advice, I took the big bike as well as elbow and knee pads and full face helmet (just in case).
We headed up early on the Saturday morning to squeeze in a few practice runs and figure out whether I'd need my full face or whether I could tough it out with an XC helmet (I opted for XC, but most definitely knee pads).
The trails were fantastic fun - rocky, steep, muddy, rooty - they had it all, as well as spectacular views down the glen and Loch Leven towards Loch Linnhe.
Heavy rain and some snow on the Saturday night made the trails all the more exciting for the race on Sunday.
Although I was really unfit and nervy after so long off the bike, being unsure how my slightly achy wrist would do and desperately not wanting to fall off on my wrist, I had a great time and was so excited to finally be back on the bike (even if it was a heavy beast). It's also put Kinlochleven firmly on my list of places I want to do some more riding.
The guys put on a fantastic event with amazing trails and a great vibe, despite the cold and wet weather. I'm already looking forward to next year's event.
Another couple of weekends working at cross races and then this weekend was my last free weekend until Christmas, so after being off work and ill for the last week with the lurgy from hell, today was my first proper ride on that new bike I got just before I left for the Trans Provence.
We woke up to a heavy frost and clear blue skies, so we wrapped up and headed out hoping the trails wouldn't be too icy and that the new bike wouldn't be a disappointment.
It was bliss!
Snow, frost, quiet trails, spectacular views...
Oh, and the new bike was fantastic! I've fallen in love with riding bikes all over again.
Saturday, 6 October 2012
Just over 2 weeks ago I flew out to France to ride in this year's Trans Provence. For those who don't know (or haven't heard me banging on about it), it's a 7 day enduo race from Rochebrune, near Gap in Provence, to Monaco.
It's described as an all mountain race, which means you pretty much have to ride everything...the ups, the downs, the alongs, and everything in between. Not all of the riding is racing though - each day there are timed stages, generally technical and predominantly descending, where you race for your life. In between, there are linking stages, where the riders ride at a slightly more leisurely pace to get to the start of the next special stage.
Sounds easy, eh? Well, watch some of the video footage on the website before you say that too quickly!
Anyhow, I headed out to France just over 2 weeks ago and spent a couple of days with friends in Chamonix to try to get my sea level lungs used to working at higher altitude in the sun. After 2 days of wheezing around Chamonix, I headed south with Dan and Jo (one of the race doctors) to camp 0.
Because Dan and Jo were both working on the race, we arrived a day earlier than most of the riders, so I planned to have a quiet time getting my head ready for what was ahead. What I hadn't realised was that most of the pro riders were also arriving a day early. On one hand that was great and I got to meet a lot of the very quick folks, however, it scared the living daylights out of me! I knew I wasn't really in the same race as them, but having dinner with the likes of Mark Wier, Ben Cruz, Fabien Barel and Anne-Caroline Chausson (yes! The Anne-Caro!) is pretty daunting.
Start times were staggered each morning with the mere mortals setting off an hour ahead of the pro's and fast boys (I think the idea was to give us a chance to get out of their way!). So day 1 started with an early morning uplift to the start of the first linking stage and after a few words of wisdom from race organiser, Ash, (basically don't go flat out or you'll kill yourself and don't get lost) we were off.
Although our group of 50ish riders were the meant to be the slower amateurs, the pack very quickly spread out and I found myself riding with a happy little pack of riders who were enjoying the views whilst we suffered up the first climb.
That first climb of maybe 2 hours gently broke us in and got us to the start of the first timed stage.
I was really worried about how I'd cope with the technical, fast, steep descents, so at the top of that first climb, looking at the starting dibber for the first descent, I was feeling pretty nervous and I'd been warned of a scary loose chute on stage 1, so I wasn't feeling overly confident. I'd ridden all the way up there though and wanted to get it over with so that I'd be able to get a feel for what the week was going to be like. So I tugged on my knee and elbow pads, pulled up my socks, had a gel, checked my shorts were synched up and weren't going to fall down (come on! admit it, you all do that!), dibbed my timing tag and was off.
Pedal, pedal, pedal, whoosh - drifty corner - , pedal...oh, this'll be the chute...no chance! I was off and slip sliding down the dusty trail until I could get back on again. Pedal, pedal, pedal - oh that's a really tight switchback, pedal, tight switchback...I could hear my heart thumping hard as I tried to concentrate on staying upright and focusing on where the trail went. Before I knew it, I saw a gaggle of riders and a timing guy and I was at the bottom.
I'd survived the first trail. I couldn't ride it all, but I hadn't expected to. At least I now had an idea of what this was all about.
Day 1 carried on in much the same way. Pedal hard up and down. Concentrate hard on picking a rideable line. Remembering not to slam on the brakes. Oh, and whilst all of that's happening, taking in the amazing scenery!
Day 1 done, 6 more days to go.
I started day 2 feeling really enthusiastic and excited after a great day on the bike the day before. I was tired, but looking forward to whatever the lay ahead.
However, as soon as I started pedalling, my heart sank. I was tired. Really tired. Then I saw that we had a massive hike-a-bike up to a col and felt totally overwhelmed. There was no way I could do it. I couldn't get myself up to the top, then ride down and keep going for another 6 days. I couldn't do it.
All the months of working up to this, and I couldn't do it. It was too much. I just wasn't fit enough or strong enough to be able to do it.
I felt the tears welling up in my eyes as I watched rider after rider pass me and start walking up the mountainside. I was now almost the last rider. I'd never make it. I just couldn't do it.
I sat down at the side of the trail and cried.
"Just keep going 'til lunch then you can get in the van and go to camp, but just get to lunch." It was fellow Scottish Minx, Jo. The concern on Jo's face convinced me that I had to at least try to make it to lunch, then I could pack it in, but I had to make it to lunch.
So I dried my eyes, picked up my bike and started trudging up the hill towards the ever lowering cloudbase.
I don't know how long it took me, but there was still a big gaggle of riders at the top trying to figure out the best line to take at the top of the first stage. The weather was closing in fast and it was as cold and windy as a Cairngorm mountain top, so I didn't want to hang around. I dibbed my chip and was off.
"Nice line!" I heard someone shout, as furiously pedalled down the skinny trail. Then the trail opened up...just like the stuff I ride with Ciclo.
Pedal, pedal, pedal. Wooooohooooo! This is ace! Drift....pedal, pedal, pedal....woops, that was close....oh, pants!....pedal....stream crossing, pedal, don't fall in...pedal. Timing guy. Stage finished.
From then on, I knew there's no way I could pack it in, no matter how tough the climbs were. These timed stages were just too good!
Day 2 was a tough day for all the riders....our bodies were still protesting against being made to ride day after day, the weather was properly bad (the heaviest rain I've ever seen combined with wind, thunder and lightening...it was pretty scary, especially for those still up on the mountain top when it really closed in).
When Jo rolled into camp 2 at the end of the day, I think we were both pretty emotional...we'd conquered the demons and the weather....we were both going to do this thing!
As the week rolled on, my body finally accepted the fact that I was going to be trying to break it for 6 hours a day. The general pattern emerged...3 hours of climbing / hike-a-bike; ride a bunch of the most exciting, scary, demanding trails you've ever ridden; stop for a baguette for lunch; another couple of hours of climbing / hike-a-bike; more epic techy descents; back to camp for shower, organise kit for tomorrow, dinner, share tales of near misses, then bed.
I managed to find myself a little group of riders to ride with for most of the week - Team Scotland of Andy, Kenny, Jo, Chris and I as well as our honourary Welsh guest, Aimee and an occasional English, South African or Aussie guest) and we kept eachother going when times got tough...and they did at some point pretty much every day.
There really wasn't a day that went by where one of us didn't have some challenge. Whether it was bike or kit related or mental or physical, we all had demons to contend with during the week, but we knew that we were all going through the same thing and we all worked hard to keep eachother going.
I was collecting bruises and scrapes by the bucketful, but was surviving and having nothing more than silly little off's. I wasn't quick on the descents, but I was making it. Jumping off and running sections which were just too big for me, but I was riding far more than I thought I'd be able to.
In general Team Scotland were being caught be the quicker of the pro riders at the top of the final timed stage, so we were lucky enough to see some of the quick guys riding stuff. They were quick. Very, very, very quick. And smooth! Their times were about half of mine if not even quicker!
It was really refreshing, though, to hear the pro's commenting on just how tough the race was. Everyone from Scottish Minxes to pro DH and XC racers were commenting that the race was epic and one of the toughest things we'd done....but we were all loving it!
Day 6 was the first day we saw the Mediterranean. After a 3 and a half hour climb and hike a bike on a very crisp morning, we reached a col and had a 360 degree view of the Maritime Alps and all the way down to the sea in the distance. It was a massive milestone. We were nearly there - the end was almost in touching distance.
Riding along the narrow ledge with the Alps to my left and the sea off somewhere on my right, I finally knew I was going to do it. It was the first time I let myself believe I could actually finish the race.
With very bad weather forecast for day 7, we had to set off earlier than usual and started the climb up to the first timed stage in lashing, icy cold rain. The trail conditions turned from buff rocky to slippery, muddy and quite sketchy! I had a stupid off at the top of the first stage and landed on my thigh...it ached, but I had to keep going. My body was cold and soggy and achy, but we were nearly finished.
The first 2 staged on day 7 were probably my worst of the whole week. My legs didn't work; I had no co-ordination and I just couldn't pick a line. At the bottom of stage 2 I was really frustrated with myself and the demons had started to come back to tell me I couldn't do it.
A hug and a kind word from one of the honourary Team Scotland riders convinced me to get back on the bike and keep turning the pedals. Then the sun came out and we started the final climb up to the final mountain top before our long descent to the coast. 2 more stages to go!
The last 2 stages were back to being loose and rocky with no mud, but they were very loose and very fast. Although my body was screaming, I was pedalling my heart out, breathing hard, my heart pounding in my chest. I was going to finish this!
Pedal, pedal, pedal. Heart pounding. Drift. Ace! Fast! Pick the right line, Don't touch the brakes. Big drop. Phew! Made it. Pedal, pedal, pedal...drop...woops...oh-oh....oh no! Bang!
I'd lost my front wheel on a stupid little drop and flew over the bars (again). I had landed with a real thump but, learning my lesson from last year, put my hands out to avoid smashing up my face again. My right hand ached, but I only had a little bit further to go, so I jumped back on the bike and pedalled hard to the finish.
I got to Ed, dibbed my timing chip and sat down and cried. I had to convince Ed that I was crying with joy and not anything else (the blood and mud and scratches all over my body didn't look good).
I had done it!
Chris came down just after me and gave me a big hug. We'd done it!
After a few photos we hopped on our bikes to roll down to the timing tent. It was then I realised that I couldn't grip anything with my right hand...not good!
We were joined the rest of Team Scotland at the timing tent for a celebratory beer, but had to drink quickly so that we could get off the hill before the storm hit...this was a proper storm with lightening hitting bits of the hillside all around us and plumes of smoke and flames and the smell of burning right by the trail.
Back at the campsite Dr Jo examined my hand and said with an apologetic sigh that she thought I might have fractured my scaphoid, so she bandaged me up with strict instructions to go to A&E as soon as I got home to get it checked out properly.
Sore hand aside, I'd done it. All of Team Scotland had done it and all of us were in awe of what we'd just been through.
It was tough. Very, very tough. But it was also the most incredible week's riding I've had. My race times weren't great (in fact I came dead last!), but I had finished which was what I had set out to do.
And I made some great new friends along the way.
So, before I get all emotional again (I can feel the tears welling up again), I really want to thank Andy Lombardini, Kenny Alexander, Jo Cardwell, Aimee Dix and, of course, Chris Marquis, for being the most fantastic riding buddies who kept me going and were top company for an amazing week of riding! Thank you!
And also a massive thanks to Ash and all of the Trans Provence team for putting on an amazing event and generally being great!
Oh, and quote of the week from Fabien Barel when asked for tips on how to ride the trails faster...."Don't brake!"
Sunday, 16 September 2012
So my plan to take it easy today went out the window as the boys took me out to "bed in" and "check the set up" of the new bike. What that really means is they made me ride up lots of big hills, ride down them again really fast, then ride back up them again. Why is there always more up than down?
2 minor sit downs on the trail, but aside from that, big smiles all round! Oh and it only rained once!
Now frantic bike cleaning and packing for TP. The new toy will have to wait until I get back for it's next outing.
Friday, 14 September 2012
Why the panic? I'm now on the final countdown to the Trans Provence...the race starts in just over a week and I feel completely unprepared.
I always get myself worked up before a big race, but this time I feel a lot less prepared than I'd like to be and a lot less fit than I'd like to be so I've been getting myself into a bit of a panic. Hence Chris' words of wisdom last weekend.
Did I take heed? Hell no!
Instead I tried to break myself this week and took the long, hilly, off road route to work each morning and then the longer, hillier, off roader route home. To spice it up, I decided to use a range of bikes over the course of the week.
On Monday, I used my usual commuting clunker. Not ideal with semi-slicks, ten tonne weight and shonky gears, but all good training. And on the plus side, I discovered a new, freshly tarmaced bit of bike track on my way home.
On Tuesday I used my singlespeed for a bit of comfort riding and took a trail that I've not ridden since the start of the summer. It was quite overgrown because the entrance to the trail is now blocked off, putting most people off from using it, but the wet summer means that the nettles and thistles have gone into overdrive. I charged part way along the trail at speed hoping that I'd be able to charge my way through, but came to a sudden stop because it was so overgrown. Unfortunately I had to get off my bike to be able to turn around, so ended up getting thistles and nettles all over my legs and arms. Not nice!
On Wednesday I used my big boingy bike to try to get used to my new uppy downy seat post and monster truck tyres (apparently I need chunkier tyres for the TP). The tyres are taking some getting used to and were a bit sluggish on the final road section in to work, but they were ace on dirt.
Then on Thursday, to recognise the fact that the cross season is fast approaching too, I used my cross bike. I quickly realised that I've forgotten how to ride my cross bike as I took a corner too tightly and ended up plunging face first into a hip high patch of nettles. These were nettles like no others and left very angry welts all over my knees, arms and face. To make matters worse, the crash was on the way to work, so I had to spend the whole day suffering from nasty nettles! (It seems to be the theme of my week!)
Then I managed to take a cheeky last minute day off work today (well, I figured that it was work that meant I had to go out to India and not ride for 3 weeks and then it was because of work that I got Delhi Belly and spent more time off the bike so surely I was due a day off...okay, it was just a cheeky last minute day off!). So I headed down to Innerleithen with the intention of "beasting" myself. After riding up to the top and back down 3 times, sessioning a few bits which have troubled me all summer then riding back up for some final playing on the DH trails, I'd succeeded in beasting myself and just couldn't pedal any more.
So tonight I treated myself to a soak in the bath with some special arnica bubble bath.
Why all the frantic riding? Sheer panic. With a week to go, I just can't help but panic, but my bike gets cleaned and packed up after Sunday's ride and I need to get my kit all packed up, so I've only got 2 more panic days before I have to stop.
It's like Christmas, but more scary! It'll be fine though...won't it?
Tuesday, 28 August 2012
I've kept this one pretty quite this year to avoid my nerves getting the better of me, but it's now too close to keep quiet much longer....
Towards the end of last year, Chris and I both got e-mails confirming our place on this year's Trans Provence . When I had submitted my application for a place on the race, making it clear that I wouldn't be a real competitor in the race and that I'd probably be dead last, but that I'd really enjoy it and be a cheery rider, I hadn't expected to hear any more. Don't get me wrong, I know that I know how to ride a bike, but the TP? It's not one for the faint hearted!
Our friend Dan won the first TP and had come back tanned and smiling with lots of great stories of the trails. Jenn has also worked on the TP a couple of times and had equally good tales to tell. In fact, it's probably Jenn who first sowed the seed in my mind about doing the race...I got an e-mail about this time last year from her telling me that some spaces had become available on the race and asked if I'd be interested. Although I was very interested, I couldn't get the time off work, so had to let the opportunity pass.
But the seed was sown, so after checking out the details of the event, watching some of the footage of the race, I decided I didn't have much to lose by applying for a place. Chris had been riding with Ash and Dan in Basel a few months before, so he had already decided to apply for a place. The chances of us both getting a place were slim, but I figured it was worth a go and if I didn't get a place and Chris did, I could always volunteer to help out.
A day or so after submitting my application, an excited text from Chris told me that we'd both got a place. A quick check of my e-mail confirmed it.
Not much work got done for the rest of that afternoon!
That evening Chris and I giggled a lot and looked at the list of riders to see who else was going to be racing... there were plenty of big names as well as a few more familiar ones...Jo Carwell, fellow Scottish Minx! And Dan and his fiancee Jo were going to be working on the race too. So at least there'd be some familiar faces.
I set about planning my training, in so far as I ever really plan any training, with lots of big rides planned for the intervening months after the end of the cross season. However, as some of you will already know, things didn't quite go to plan when I managed to smash myself up riding at Innerleithen and spent almost 3 months off the bike.
I planned to start the year a-fresh and get out riding in as many different places as possible to get myself out of my comfort zone. The mild, relatively dry winter meant I was able to get out lots early on in the year, followed by a really successful trip to Ciclo Montana in May where I learned lots of new skills.
A trip to visit Dan and Jo in Chamonix helped boost my confidence too, but there was still a lot to do.
After winning some elbow pads at the POC King and Queen of the Hill at Tweedlove, I spoke to the lovely people at 2 Pure and they agreed to help me out with a few POC bits and pieces for the TP to help me stop breaking myself.
Then, unfortunately work started getting in the way (why does it always do that?) and I had to go off to India with work for 3 weeks with no access to a bike (mind you, it was so hot and the roads were so insane, I'm not sure I would have wanted to ride). The closest I got to a bike for those 3 weeks was the static bike in the hotel gym and the rickshaws I saw on my way to work. Then, disaster struck and the day before I was due to leave, I got the dreaded Delhi Belly!
So although I had timed my return home so that I arrived home on time for the August bank holiday weekend, my plans for 3 days of riding bikes back home were scuppered and I've spent the weekend feeling quite poorly.
Now I can see on the TP website that I've only got 26 days to go and I'm getting more than a little bit nervous. I know I'll be able to ride the trails (maybe not all of the trails all of the time, but enough of them), but I'm not as fit or strong as I'd hoped to be by this time. Although I know I'm not really a competitor in the race, especially when I look at the other girls who are riding, I'd still like to feel confident that I was at my peak.
26 days is still 26 days though and there are still 3 weekends of riding as well as evening rides to be had between now and the end of September. I've also managed to arrange to head out to France a few days early to ride with Dan and Jo in Chamonix before heading down to Provence (and Dan's assured me he has trails already planned out for me).
So now all I need to do is shake this Delhi Belly and then ride, ride, ride for the next few weeks... what could possibly go wrong?
Friday, 27 July 2012
Last weekend I discovered that the ribs I'd broken when racing in Chamonix weren't quite ready for mountain biking. However, the boys at Ronde were putting on a summer cross race, Haughcross, on Sunday evening as part of a local festival week and Chris was doing the timing, so I figured I'd join the fun. Afterall, cross isn't as bumpy as mountain biking...is it?
I spent the afternoon helping out with sign on and being quiet impressed with the number of quick riders who'd turned up for this, non series, race...James McCallum of Rapha Condor, Davie Lines of Endura Racing, Craig Hardie of Hardie Bikes and Helen Wyman...yes, the Helen Wyman!
We closed sign on just in time for me to quickly get changed and grab my bike for a lap of the course and then I had to get straight to the start line.
I didn't ride much cross last winter because I was still recovering from my nasty face smashing incident, so the racing I did do was a bit disappointing. Although I've done tonnes more riding this year, I'm still not really feeling as fit as I'd like, so I expected the race to be 40 minutes of pain and not much fun.
There wasn't a huge field of women unfortunately, but since we were racing with the vets and juniors, there was a reasonable turnout on the start line when the gun went and we charged off.
I managed to get my elbows out and through the bottle neck on the first corner. Since the event was part of a local festival, there was quite a crowd outside the beer tent all cheering us on (or sometimes giving us abuse for riding like a girl!).
After the first 4 laps, the stream crossing had turned into a bit of a muddy slog and the big puddle at the top of the course had turned into a proper cross style bog, but, since it's summer, the rest of the course was dry (ish) and fast....very fast! But the 3 sets of hurdles per lap were starting to make my broken ribs pretty achy and I knew the grimace wasn't fooling anyone.
As luck would have it, that's when I found out there was a whisky shortcut!
Now, I'm not a whisky fan at all, but I figured it was a fun event and it might just make my ribs a wee bit less achy. So, as I approached Jim the Whisky Man, I got a shot handed to me, which didn't quite reach me in 1 piece ... whisky flavoured gloves, tried to take a slurp, whisky dribbling down chin, all down my front...but the cheer and the laughter from the crowds watching my face screw up with the taste was a bit of a giggle.
Whether that tiny dribble of whisky helped or whether it was just my imagination, my ribs were a little less achy for that next lap, so when I got back round again to Jim the Whisky man, I figured I'd try another one...less successful this time and more whisky smelling gloves and jersey, but I managed a wee slurp.
Not being a whisky drinker, those two slurps did the trick! My ribs weren't as bad, but the hairpin corners were more challenging!
The finish came round quickly and I realised that I'd really enjoyed the race and I actually felt that I'd raced pretty well. I felt strong and comfortable (which apparently means I wasn't trying hard enough!).
The final race was the open race, which Helen had decided to race in, so as not to show the rest of us girls up too much! The racing was as nail biting and exciting as any series race with the top 4 places changing almost every lap. There were also far more people taking the whisky short cut option, keeping the crowds entertained!
I'm sure whisky shortcuts aren't going to make an appearance in the British Cycling rule book any time soon, but I reckon they'd be a welcome sight at some of those cold, wet, winter cross races and they'd provide a little bit of entertainment!
Monday, 16 July 2012
1) do not get overheated
2) do not let HR get over 145 for extended periods.
The likelihood of me being able to get up Cols without ignoring either / both of those bits of advice was looking somewhere between slim and bugger all. So we left my bike at home. SOB.
Now THIS, I thought, would be the perfect answer. I had visions of sitting, feet on handlebars, teasing and chivvying the boyf as he sweated alongside as we went up a Col. I would beat him to the top, comfortably, for the first (and only) time in our relationship. It'd be brilliant.
Only, of course, the reality didn't quite live up to my dream. The man in the hire shop explained that :
- It's "assistance electrique" i.e. it assists you, it doesn't replace you. Bang went my dream of feet on handlebars and smart remarks a go-go.
- Whilst the range said 98km, it would reduce depending on how much assistance I required.
- The bike weighed 25KG and thus I would be wise to never run out of assistance.
Friday, 13 July 2012
Last weekend Chris and I headed over to Chamonix to visit Dan and Jo. The plan was to ride Dan's new local trails and get some sunshine, but a few weeks before we were due to head out, we got an e-mail from Dan asking if we fancied doing a race while we were there. The race was an enduro in the proper Euro style, which formed part of the VTT MB Race, a weekend bike festival of races.
It sounded interesting, so we figured we'd give it a bash.
Unfortunately, the race website was all in French (obviously) and neither Chris nor I speak French. We could see from the website that there was an enduro, a street race, a 25k, 50k, 100k and 140k (with 6,6oom of climbing - eek!), but when we tried to find the right entry form, we weren't quite sure if we entered the right race!
The weekend finally rolled around and Chris and I flew out to Geneva with the DH helmets and pads, which are obligatory for French enduro races, as well as our XC helmets...just in case we'd entered the wrong race (and we were planning to do some normal riding too...if we survived the race!).
We arrived in Chamonix late on Friday afternoon to weather not to dis-similar to home, drizzly and grey, but quite a lot warmer. So we unpacked bikes and Dan took us out for a quick ride before tea.
2 minutes from the front door and we were on some lovely rocky, rooty singletrack and I had already hit my max heart rate! The mixture of trying to keep up with Dan and Chris so that I didn't get lost and the altitude and heat were playing havoc with me!
Anyway, the trails were too much fun to worry about my body not coping, so I just wheezed my way along, taking in the fantastic trails, just minutes from Dan and Jo's apartment. Lucky things!
The weather gods decided to make us feel at home by treating us to a monumental down pour. Within seconds we were soaked to the skin and at the furthest point. Hey ho...once you're wet, you're wet.
We knew we had an early start to get to the race on Saturday morning, so we bimbled back, ate tea and had an early night.
Luckily, we had all signed up for the right race (luckily!) and with a little help from Jo, I managed to sign on, pick up my goody bag of swag, and get my start times for each of the 6 stages.
The rider briefing was all in French so we and the handful of other British riders just smiled and nodded each time everyone turned round to look at us. Then I heard my name called and I was whisked off to the uplift bus and the day started.
Stage 1 maybe lulled me into a false sense of security with its trail centre feel, but stage 2 gave me a bit of a wake up call when I took the first 2 of my crashes of the day and managed to do a bit of damage to my shoulder and ribs and lose my bracelet (I was more concerned about my bracelet being smashed to smitherines all over the trail than myself at the time). But the first 2 stages went okay and I was comfortably in the middle of a very small pack of female riders.
Stage 3 didn't go quite so well...about 2 minutes into the run I got a puncture in my front tyre which sent me flying into a tree. The crash wasn't a biggie, so I dusted myself off and decided to try to run the rest of the stage since the other two had been pretty short. Unfortunately I was still running 35 minutes later! It was the longest stage of the day!
So my race was over, but there were still 3 more stages to ride, so I fixed the puncture and pedalled as quickly as I could to get to the next chairlift (yes! lift assisted enduro racing is the way forward!). I expected all the other girls to be gone by the time I got to the start of stage 4, but the whole race had been held up, so I hadn't lost my slot after all.
Stage 4 was super short and I was back in the lift again before I knew it. Then one of the marshalls shouted on myself and one of the other girls to hurry up to get to the start of the next stage, so we pedalled off in what we thought was the right direction...unfortunately it wasn't and we ended up riding up the 500m climb to the start of the next stage, when everyone else took the lift up AND got lunch! So we missed lunch and were slightly pooped from the heat when we caught up with everyone else.
Stages 5 and 6 took us back down the mountain towards Combloux with stage 6 finishing on the town's BMX track and then through the streets to the finish in the town square with masses of people cheering us on.
Chris and Dan rode in to town an hour or so after me and we all collapsed with a beer and recounted tales of crashes and heroics with the new friends we'd made during the day.
My puncture and decision to run rather than fix it cost me 3 places and put me into last 8th place, however it was a great day and a fantastic experience to ride some new trails.
On Sunday, since we were all nursing wounds of some shape or form, we decided to go for a local ride, taking the cable car up to a col and riding back down in time for tea. Dan and Jo had only ever skied the route we were planning so we weren't sure how it would work on bikes, but it turned out to be a great ride over the border to Switzerland and back barely seeing another soul. Jo and I both surprised the boys by riding bits of trail they didn't think we would want to try, so it was pats on the back all round by the time we got home.
Then it was Monday and time to come home, but not without one more ride in the morning on another of Dan's local trails with a 45 minute climb from the road followed by a 30 minute descent right back to the front door.
Riding in new places is great, but now I'm back at home, nursing sore ribs and shoulder from the race and looking out the window at the Pentlands wishing they were just a little bit more like the Alps. Time to start planning the next adventure.
Wednesday, 27 June 2012
Saturday, 9 June 2012
In early May I went out to Spain for a week of riding with Ciclo Montana . Chris and I usually go out there for a week of fun, techy riding each spring, to set us up for a summer of riding, but Chris couldn't get the time off work this year. After much umming and awing, I decided to head out there on my own.
I've never been on holiday on my own before, so although I knew where I was going and I knew Mark and Jacky would take good care of me, I was pretty nervous. There would be another three people out there at the same time as me who I didn't know and I had no idea how they rode.
A brief chat with Jacky, which was meant to be reassuring, made me even more nervous because the other 3 sounded really experienced and really fit. So I convinced myself that I'd end up spending the week riding at the back on my own and maybe not having much fun.
Well, that couldn't have been further from the truth!
Nicola, Steve and Alan were really experienced, really strong riders, but they were also really keen to help me improve my riding and learn new stuff too. Oh, and they were pretty good company too!
By the end of the week, I had found my inner monkey (apparently to tide techy stuff you need to throw monkey shapes on the bike...I laughed too at first, but it worked!) and I was riding trails faster than I've ever ridden them before and clearing trails I've never even attempted to ride before.
When I got home, nicely tanned and desperate to get out and try out my new found skills, Chris was only too happy to oblige. So we packed up the van and headed up to Perthshire to ride from Bridge of Tilt. It was a ride I've not done for years, but I knew there was one loose, rocky, techy, exposed descent that scared the living daylights out of me last time I tried it and I chickened out at the top. This time, it still scared the living daylights out of me, but I rode it and was smiling at the bottom.
Then last weekend, Chris and I both rode in the POC King and Queen of the Hill event which was part of the Tweedlove Festival .
We were super lucky with the weather...dry dusty trails at Glentress is almost unheard of! And there was a great turnout of almost 200 riders.
The event was a timed stage race (2 ups and 4 downs) using a combination of trail centre trails, natural trails, some fresh cut trails and some slightly cheeky trails.
My new skills stood me in good stead and I found that I was able to ride trails faster than I'd been able to ride them before and with a lot more confidence. Only 2 crashes (one when stationary with one foot on the ground and one when I decided to take the racing line and hit a hidden tree stump and supermanned over the bars!), but given that I was riding stuff that even just a few months ago I would probably have made excuses to avoid, that's pretty good going!
We didn't manage to hang around to see the prize giving, but the e-mail I received yesterday told me that I have a plaque waiting for me to collect for placing 3rd!
So I really do need to thank Nicola, Steve, Alan and of course Marco from Ciclo, for those skills sessions!
Next adventure? Chris and I are heading over to Chamonix for a weekend in July to visit some friends and we've been talked into doing an enduro event while we're there. I'm sure those French folks will put me well and truely in my place, but it'll be quite exciting to see them ride!
Monday, 21 May 2012
... summit sunshine not included ...
Sunday, 13 May 2012
I consulted my GP, who said road cycling was fine up to about six months, after which time I might find myself having problems with balance, so the boyf (also a keen cyclist) agreed happily for life to continue as normal with me cycling to work.
On announcing our news to family, colleagues and friends, however, there's been a general reaction of :
"Congratulations. I take it you're not cycling any more?"
"No, I'm still cycling."
[face of horror]
"But you could get knocked off. And kill the baby"Sigh. I try to explain that me keeping fit is important. And non-weight bearing exercise is good. And cycling (even in London) doesn't necessarily mean you will be knocked off and/or killed. But suddenly everyone has an opinion and everyone thinks I'm wrong. I find it exhausting (and somewhat annoying) to have to defend our decision on a daily basis. Surely if both parents and the doctor believe it to be a reasonable risk, it's fine? Not to mention the fact that plenty of pregnant women in other countries continue to cycle, like these gorgeous ladies from Denmark.
b) not to feel sick when I get there after hot and smelly train carriages
Apparently this makes me a reckless and selfish woman though. So did you / would you cycle when you were pregnant? Or would you head to the swimming pool instead?
Friday, 4 May 2012
Don't get me wrong, I don't mean I haven't been out for a big ride this year yet. What I mean is that because we had a pretty mild winter, we were able to keep riding and going for big rides in the hills for much of the winter. In fact, at the end of February Chris and I went for a big mountain ride in the Cairngorms which is currently covered in snow and unrideable!
Already this year I've done more riding in new places places than I did in the whole of last year. The flip side of this is that I haven't been near a race at all this year (unless you count the birthday cycle speedway back in February).
It's not that I haven't thought about racing, because I have, but the mild and relatively dry weather have meant that trails are rideable, but still pretty quiet because it's still early in the year.
I say relatively dry weather, however, Chris seems to have dragged me out on more bad weather death march rides this year than he has over the last few years combined....
Carrying bikes through the Chalamain Gap (over a kilometer of unrideable boulderfield which would have been challenging even without a bike) with a nasty storm chasing us off the hill...
Pushing bikes up to the top of Lowther Hill in zero visibility, driving rain and sleet and no sign of the next marker post (somehow, Chris actually picked up on the tune which was going through my head on that ride...that old Tammy Wynette song D.I.V.O.R.C.E...I swear I didn't sing it out loud!). In fact, the weather was so bad that day, even the lambs were wearing raincoats!
But then we've also had big, open mountain rides, so early on in the year, that there hasn't been a soul around.
The great thing about all this riding so early in the year is that I'm finally managing to get some of that lost fitness back and I'm getting back all that lost confidence too.
On Saturday, I went out for a ride with the big boys and actually rode some of the big boy stuff...they were there to coach me and encourage me, but I rode it, overcame the fear of crashing and ignored the little voice telling me to slam on the brakes and get off and walk this bit!
Then on Monday, I had a lovely day off work and decided to headed off for a ride on my own (I had the trails all to myself...bliss) and managed to ride lots of bits of trail that I've never been brave enough to ride before and I didn't even hear that little voice telling me to get off and walk. Okay, so maybe it wasn't the smartest thing to try riding big, scary things I've always been afraid of when I'm out on my own, but if you're feeling confident and riding like a goddess (even if I do say so myself...of course there was nobody there to see me and tell you otherwise), then why waste all that good feeling by not pushing the limits a little bit?
I don't know if I'll be able to ride it all when I go back to it next time, but I've ridden it, I've finally got over the nerves left over from my crash last October and I'm starting to push myself again and feel like my mojo has finally come back.
My lack of fitness is still really frustrating, but I'm enjoying going out to play on bikes again and looking for excuses to go and play, whatever the weather ...Chris would say that's because of all the death marches he's been taking me on...all good training apparently!
So no real FBROTY this year, but lots of BRs so far and a promising summer of lots more BRs pushing myself and having fun again. I don't really have many race plans until the end of the summer, so that leaves a whole summer for playing on my bike and riding in new places. What more could a girl ask for?
Friday, 20 April 2012
Wednesday, 28 March 2012
I've been more ill than not so far this year. It has seriously hindered bike riding, running and general enjoyment of life. Two weeks ago with the help of a general anaesthetic and a lovely surgeon me and my gallbladder parted company.
Ten days of proper convalescence, some serious blanket action, 22 episodes of The West Wing. Then the sun came out. Two days of deck chair and the latest Haruki Murakami book. Today...... I rode!
Only four miles, but enough to induce a grin. Enough to finally start feeling like I'm on the mend.
Tuesday, 20 March 2012
I’m sure Daniel Goleman, he of ‘Emotional Intelligence’ best selling, book fame - if you can remember that far back to the mid 1990s - would have had something to say about the interplay (or maybe the disjuncture) between the messages you get from your head and the ones you get from your heart.
You see, I have a bit of habit of coming at stuff, including my riding, with my rational, switched on, ‘thinking brain’, all fired up and ready to guide me through the rocky stuff (literally and metaphorically speaking). Tricky root fest adorning an off camber drop in? … no problem, adjust speed, roll in, lay off brakes, look ahead to exit point, allow the suspension to do its thing ... job done.
Ah ha! my clever head says, ‘you see’, knowledge applied correctly means that your brain chemistry is coordinating your body mechanics and all is well in the world of off road riding stability. It’s all nanosecond stuff; but it’s still a triumph for my thinking brain.
But you know what? My best moments; the times when I genuinely experience that magic dust stuff that the journos call ‘flow’, when my bike and body work seamlessly together. Well I don’t ‘think’ that stuff at all. It’s my pure, base evolutionary brain synapses instinctively creating movement and anticipating the trail ahead. You’ll know it when you feel it, cause you’ll be darned if you can describe what it was you just did … you just know that it felt right.
Which says to me that maybe there’s a time to switch off the busy mind and let it go; that’ll be riding with your heart.