Today was my first mountain bike time trial. It was the last of three races in the Innerleithen winter series. The race is run in a typical time trial style - riders are set off at 1 minute intervals to ride a fixed course. Today's course was a 25k loop using a combination of the red xc course, combined with bits of dh and some random brand new trail cut especially for the race. Of course, being Innerleithen, there was a fair bit of climbing...actually, there was a lot of climbing!
The weather's been pretty bad up here over the last week, with quite a bit of snow falling over the last few days. Luckily though, most of the snow had melted on the trails, but it was still pretty cold, so I had to ride with a few layers on.
The race started at the bottom of the first big climb up from the car park, so there wasn't much of a warm up before we were right into it. I'm not very good at climbing at the best of times, but with no real warm up, I'm pretty rubbish, so I was passed by a few people pretty quickly. But my theory was that this was quite a long race, so if I managed to keep a steady pace, then I'd be fine.
I managed to keep that steady pace up the first climb and was looking forward to the first decent (which was the first decent on the Enduro I did at the end of January). Then I started going down and realised that the snow melt had left the trail very, very muddy and very,very slippery! Although I didn't exactly crash, I didn't spend much time on my bike - most of it was slipping off the trail and landing on my bum. I knew I should be able to ride this section, but ended up having to get off and run / stumble with my bike a lot of the way. I managed to get back on just before the bottom of the first section and got on to the fire road.
I knew there were a few folk just ahead of me so I charged off along the fire road hoping that I might be able to at least get them back in my sights, but I didn't see a soul. My heart sunk...how could they have managed to create such a big gap in such a short time? I pushed to try to get up the hill a bit quicker to try to make up some more time, but still no sight of anyone. By the time I got to the next marshal, I was feeling pretty down. Then the marshal told me that I shouldn't be coming up that fire road...I should have gone back down the hill and come up the trail through the woods to where he was.
As I turned back to try to find where I'd gone wrong, I really didn't know if I wanted to keep going. I knew I'd lost a lot of time, done several extra kilometres and extra climbing, so there was no way I'd manage to make up the time now. I eventually managed to find the trail I should have gone down, carried on and got back to that marshal about 25 minutes later.
By this time, I had decided that I wasn't racing any more. I was just riding the trails, on what had turned out to be a sunny, if cold, spring day and enjoying being out in the woods riding on some brand new trails. So I managed to settle back into a good steady pace and started having some fun.
The trail wound up and down the hill, using mostly single track, made much more techy by the muddy conditions...proper mud that'll take several washes to get out of my kit and made my tyres completely useless! The freshly cut pieces of trail were a real challenge. They were often almost fall line and very loose and greasy and more often than not I ended up slipping off the side of the trail and hanging on to the nearest tree to stop me slipping all the way down the hill.
The last part of the course combined trail centre trails and freshly cut trails which were fast and flowy, and despite there being 90 odd riders, surprisingly quiet (maybe that's because I'd gone the wrong way and had been passed by loads of folks whilst I was charging off up the fire road!). I managed to talk myself into riding some of the rocky stuff I wasn't sure about, only to realise there was another rider just behind me listening to me telling myself "Don't be such a girl! Everyone else can ride it. Just pay attention." I just hope he didn't think I was talking to him!
I finally popped out at the finish to a big cheer and with big grin on my face.
It might not have been my finest race, but I ended up having a lot of fun and getting pretty mucky in the process. Despite that, I managed a double podium! Third in the senior women's race and winning the overall series!
Ah, yes. The paw of guilt....knowing that we were racing today, I made one of my post race fav meals last night so that we could heat it up when we got back. So I made some tasty meatballs and a nice thick tomato sauce to go with them. Unfortunately, I had put the tomato sauce out in a tub, but hadn't put the lid on the tub properly. So when we got back and I went to start heating things up, I noticed that the lid wasn't on the tub...then I noticed that there were specks of tomato sauce all over the kitchen worktop, and some on the floor. Then our lovely, but very inquisitive cat, strolled into the kitchen to welcome us home. As I crouched down to say hello to her, I noticed that she her paw was very red, tomato-ey you could say...There goes the fav post race meal.