Friday, 29 June 2007

itch scratched

By contrast, my seventh twentyfour, and my last, for a while at least. I'm not going to talk about the mud - because I loved it. Mostly. And the rain, too. Which, apparently, makes me weird. There are other things to remember, though, important things...

" 'AVE IIITTTTTTTTT!" (My friends the DJs set the woods alight with their cheers and their music. They made me laugh and cry on every lap, mixed Shaft into Star Wars and were polite enough to pretend not to notice whilst I crashed my brains out in front of them.)

"It's wearing thin now, isn't it?" (Heckler's Corner. More friends - encouragement of the very best kind. Sadly they all went to bed too damn early.)

Giggling out loud at the rain on my face, knowing that for a while at least pushing through the mud would be easier...

" *plink* " (The sound that broke a thousand hearts - a Lupine becoming a very expensive paperweight. Hurrah for the trusty Dinotte and the immense kindness of friends who ran around beg/steal/borrowing an assortment of lights to save the day.)

Climbing out of the darkness into puddles of light, watching huge black riders break and shimmer on the trees.

"(sound of tyre on gravel...gravel...gravel....grass...) WAKE UP!" (Forgot the magic caffeinated stuff. Will never forget it again. Falling in the river a good substitute.)

Daybreak, greyly. Tears trackside from Minx. Withered but purposeful.

Weathering the rough patches with little notes ("you know how to do this") and an everlasting cup of tea.

Giraffe envy.

"Fancy a shag?" (I've been riding my bike for eighteen hours - no, thank you, and I don't think you would either.)

Finally catching Fi, after three hard laps in which I wondered why tactical racing feels so damn wrong. White-faced and monosyllabic, and not a little scary. The girl has fire - look out world...

Staring down at the campsite from the heights of Sunday morning, knowing we'd done it, knowing it was nearly over, and feeling so utterly at home, sad to be leaving, elated to be there.

"Shoudn't you girls be racing?" (Last lap, sun coming out, walking and talking with the ever-smiling, ever-lovely Kate and a finally glowing Fi, quite possibly the best last lap in any race, ever.)

There isn't a thank you big enough for all those who work so hard to make Mayhem what it is. All those behind the scenes and there on the day. All the people who smiled and cheered. All the riders who joined in with the banter that keeps us awake in the darkness. All the other soloists who went round and round and round and round, gritting their teeth til the end. All the racers who took the time to pass safely and politely, all those who took the time to let me pass safely, all the marshalls who never stopped encouraging. Everyone who remembered that it's not the podium we're after but the achievement of finishing, the certainty that you've done your absolute best and that every pedal stroke was just one more towards winning your own battle. Everyone who has let us ride incessantly for the past year with one eye on the challenge, unbearably tired at times, and equally unberably euphoric at others. And everybody in the solo tent who stared worriedly at me before taking my bike away and cleaning it despite the fact that they were there for other riders, offering me food and tea, patting me on the back when I wobbled a bit and sent me out again to do one more lap to ensure that I would not, this time, start perusing lap times within moments of being home, looking for the bits that went wrong, looking for some way to squeeze another one in... Nonsense. Of course I did.

A final word from William.

"You're all winners!

...except you."

The end :o)


Monday, 25 June 2007


My first 24 hour race couldn't have been more special. I cruised the first 14 hours and felt lovely- the course was still rideable and swoopy and fun. Then it rained and some the course became an off-camber slippery bog and I got tired and leant more and more heavily on my support team (the Extreme-Endurance team). They were amazing. Indescribably amazing. And seeing Minx's face smiling worriedly at me through the rain was wonderful.

But the most special moment for me was sobbing my way through the first mile of the last lap and then meeting Jenn and Kate Potter in the woods (they were having a chat with the DJs at the 24hr party tent) and having these two incredible riders chaperone me around most of that last lap. It was great and looking back at the photos of the podium I still can't believe I was even part of a race with such a galaxy of mtb stars!

The atmosphere at Mayhem has to be experienced to be believed. It rubbed off on us all - even my bike-phobic boyfriend who stayed awake all night feeding me soggy cake and wiping the mud out of my eyes.

Thanks everyone and well done Jenn for a well earnt 3rd.


Sunday, 24 June 2007

OK. I promise to stop crying now...

I never imagined Minx having what I always considered to be a 'grown up' race team. Then I had a happy meeting with Jenn who seemed to embody everything that Minx meant to me - someone who just loves to ride a bike, and it seemed right to support her in the small way we can to fulfill her race and riding dreams. That was last season.

Now we have acquired another rider (more happy meetings), Fi, who came to mountain biking just a year ago via adventure racing and as a newcomer with a passion she fitted right into our little group. Having a pair (does that make a team?) of riders I thought that made me an old hand (if not quite a grown up yet), and that I might relax a little from the emotion-fest that was last year's Mountain Mayhem.

Erm...... no. The fact it was the tenth anniversary of the event came with poignant overtones as it was. The relentless overnight rain and hellish conditions were making heroes of everyone there anyway. I mean, you can see my problem can't you? I cried after consoling the girls through day break wobbles, cried (more happily) when I saw Jenn back to her old self a couple of laps later. I wept all over Helen from TF Tuned (sorry Helen) after being part of coaxing a sniffling limping Fi back out for one last lap - desperately wanting to make her stay in, knowing full well she'd be a a pain in the arse for a month, and probably hate me forever if I had.

I was red eyed as they finished and positively damp with emotion as they stood on the podium in third (Jenn) and fourth (Fi) places, and had to keep saying 'shut up' in a faux-gruff voice to everyone who was taking the mickey. It's an incredible result from two girls who aren't pros and struggle to get the ride/work/pay the rent, balance right, just like the rest of us.

They both rode for 24 hours solo with no rest and no sleep. The conditions were unbelievably bad. Is it any wonder I'm still welling up with pride? Thank you both for being the best riders a team mum could hope for. You'd better be sleeping right now...


Thursday, 21 June 2007

The night before the night before

The fridge is full of sandwiches, fresh pasta and scotch eggs. Boyfriend is cross he can't eat it all. It's Mayhem food.

Spare room is full of bags labelled 'Fi's socks' and 'Fi's shorts' and stuff. Bags full of spare chains, tubes, pain killers and baby wipes. Boyfriend amazed that so much stuff is needed. Hopefully it won't be. But it is raining as I write this.

There is something odd here. I race all the time. I love it. It's a chance to get excited, look forward to the weekend, hang out with friends, laugh and chat and collapse on the sofa on a sunday night feeling lovely and warm and exhausted with the drama of it all.

But this feels different. I have never wanted so badly to be part of a something than this. I am excited about lining up next to some of the most incredible cyclists in the world. I am in awe and excited and petrified.

I am just desperate to finish. I can not imagine the feeling of knowing I will finish. I have pulled out of 2 races already this year through injury and illness and I warn you now... if that happens this weekend I will be utterly inconsolable. I want this badly.


Monday, 18 June 2007


Hot, hot, hot. Dust on and in everything (water bottles, gloves and shoes, chain, eyes, mouth nose and ears). Too much fast/stop/fast/stop/fast/stop/fast ripping the legs apart. We won, not only female pairs but also soundly beating all the other women's teams; but I rode badly. This makes it less of a victory, and more of a worry; didn't eat right, bonked every third lap, pulled a muscle, couldn't fix a puncture in a rush without recourse to swearing and fury. Crumbled under the pressure of coming back every lap to a team mate who didn't seem to be suffering at all in the heat and the hurry of hard racing. Kindly words from friends helped tidy up the mess, sometimes it's just a case of picking up the pieces and attempting some approximation at normality until the world rights itself around you. Late night, early morning, a different atmosphere, still sleepwalking. A fifth and final shot at the title, quietly emotional at the end to know that it marks a begining as well as an end, that next year I will be somewhere far away from these friends and relations who make me a home of sorts. I will miss it.


Sunday, 17 June 2007


The GDR has started. If you don't know what the GDR is, go here for information:
And if your curiousity then manifests itself as more than idle, veering via astonishment that there is a race that runs the length of America and the merest hint of excited butterflies, towards something which could optimistically and quietly be labelled as a 'vested interest', then go here:
and read about the endeavours of those who make up the biggest field yet as they're happening. And then bookmark the page for next year... ;o)


Monday, 11 June 2007

Bike Fest Glory

Two showers and a hair wash later and I can still feel the dust and slight stickiness that comes from standing in a field under a blazing sun all weekend. MUST get knee better and start racing again as team mum nerves are SO much worse that actually doing it yourself. Jenn (fresh from winning the UK Singlespeed crown on Sunday morning) and I watched nervously as Fi led for most of the six hour race, only to be passed in the last hour by Charge pro rider Abi Greenaway. It was a great tactical race by Abi, but strong and brave riding from Fi, and we're all very proud at Minx Towers today. Proud and still a bit dusty.


Thursday, 7 June 2007


I have just returned from a week in the sun in Menorca. I (obviously) took my bike. Only my road bike as it is less precious than my newish Giant Anthem but a bike nevertheless. I managed to get out everyday and explore the island. It's an odd place and it's odd riding on holiday. I felt vulnerable riding on the 'wrong' side of road in a place with hardly anyone going anywhere with 2 wheels.

That said I did see a few roadies. And that itself amazed me. Menorca is 26miles long and 9 miles wide. That ain't big. And there aren't huge numbers of roads either. In fact there are 3 main roads and a few smaller lanes but to some of the villages on the coast you have to drive to the far end of the island to the capital and get on little lanes to them. There is no 'coast road' so loops were impossible. I spent the week riding up and down the main road from East to West, West to East.

Sounds like madness but it's all in a good cause - training for Mayhem. Only 3 weeks to go and we (both Jenn and I) admitted on the quiet to each other that we are terrified. That terrifies me even more because she has done it before and I'm a newbie.

But Menorca was surprisingly fun. The roadkill is different - snakes rather than badgers. And the whistling road workers are a lot sexier. So it had its perks. But it was still road riding and it made me realise yet again that mountain biking is the sport for me, particularly as I passed by intriguing looking tracks and wondered where they led to... Frustrating!