I had totally gone off mountain bike racing, preferring to ride rather than race, but always do Bikefest because it's my local event on local trails and the banter is always good. I had a brilliant weekend - caught up with loads of old friends, soaked up the excitement and generally chatted away to heaps of lovely people.
The riding was great, too. The trails were harsh, dry and fast, just as I like them. Brutal on the body and needing good lines and good technique.
The racing, at least for me, was a catastrophe. I 'mixed-paired' on Saturday and we kept it fast and fluid until my partner cramped all over (including his chest!) and had to pull out. But still, 9hrs of interval training can't be bad! I had Sunday's solo 6 to redeem myself, too, so I didn't really mind. I spent the remainder of the time cheering on my boyfriend who won the Old Gits Male Pairs with some panache!
I wasn't exactly looking forward to Sunday. I haven't solo-d a mtb race since 2008. Not with some great announcement to 'retire' or 'hang up my wheels'; just because I've been doing other stuff which has been really good fun. The thought of riding round in circles for 6 hours didn't fill me with excitement and I was really pleased to have battled with my demons over night and arrived at Ashton Court feeling strong and ready. Relaxed but nervous. A good combo.
The start was clean and calm and I decided to settle into a 29-30 min pace and do 12 laps. If that meant I won then so be it. If not then, whatever - I was tired from the day before and didn't really care.
The first two laps flew past and I had a big gap on the girls behind already. I set off on lap 3 feeling pretty happy with how I was riding. My quads were tired from all the flat-out the day before and I was pretty sure someone would be climbing faster than me (I was right) but the singletrack was flowing well and my body felt surprisingly good considering my little stack the day before and the Ashton Court Battering you always get in the dry.
Then, out of nowhere, my front wheel whipped from under me and I crashed hard on a flat piece of gravelly singletrack. I still have no idea why. I quickly stood up, straightened the handlebars and jumped back on. Auto-pilot. A hundred or so metres later I stopped because going over the bumpy rocks was wobbling the hole in my knee too much and hurting like hell. I stopped, started crying and then couldn't breathe. I was having a panick attack from the shock. Great.
Luckily my friend Jez (you'll know him if you do enduro racing - he has 1 leg) stopped and calmed me down. For a few minutes he just made me breathe deeply. Once I was breathing normally I decided to carry on riding. I still hadn't really looked at my knee. I struggled round the rest of the lap. It hurt. I was caught and overtaken by Sarah Forbes, the eventual winner, but couldn't have cared less, as I pulled into the pit where I saw Andy and Jenn and they took my bike off me and packed me off to A&E immediately.
So I am now recovering from 2 layers of stitches in my knee - to patch up a hole that goes bone-deep. I'm hoping there was no bone damage - at the moment it's too swollen to know. I've had 2 days off work and am bored senseless, but still keep feeling dizzy and drifting off to sleep mid sentence.
But so what? This is an occupational hazard, right? Right. Mel Alexander has a broken pelvis. I have a cut. (Mel is on the road to recuperation and is being amazingly strong about it - I wish her all the best and look forward to her whipping my butt again very soon). In the mean time I'm planning what I'll be doing the moment my stitches come out. There's nothing really wrong with me and I have realised, despite and because of all this, that I do actually enjoy mountain bike racing and want to do a little bit more. Maybe. Between adventure races and road racing, and running and kayaking (and recovering from injury).
Stay safe people.