Saturday, 28 March 2009

The Joys of Spring

When I was just a few weeks into this job, I met a grizzled old-timer on a bench in the City, who informed me that you're not a real courier until you've survived your first winter. That was back in October, and now it's March, and London's full of daffodils and magnolia blossom, and I think I've made it.

And even though I've spent far too much time awake and outside for the past few months, I feel like I'm coming out of hibernation. The evenings are lighter, and I'm feeling more inclined to stay out a bit, and maybe even do some riding for fun, rather than just race home and into my pyjamas.

And all the couriers seem to be losing weight. This isn't strictly true, of course - it's just that the weather's warming up and they're shedding all those bulky layers of clothing. When the winter was at its coldest, I found myself shivering in five layers, whereas recently I've occasionally stripped down as far as one. I've even seen some of the blokes riding around in sleeveless t-shirts.

And I'm getting a taste of how idyllic this job is going to be in the summer. There's not much work around at the moment (I must be spending just as much time hanging around on standby as I am riding), but that's OK, because it's now warm enough for me to loiter in a park for an hour without ending up frostbitten. The other day I found a sunny corner to while away the elevenses lull, and actually ended up dozing off for a bit, until my radio started shouting at me.

And of course, now I've passed the test, earned my spurs, and I'm a real courier! Or so I thought. I was discussing this with another old timer last week, and apparently you actually have to make it through two winters, in case the first one's an easy one. Pah.


Wednesday, 4 March 2009

It's amazing how 5am doesn't seem early when you're excited!

My first race of the season took me to the Forest of Dean for the 661 Mini Downhill.

This time last year there were six ladies entered, only one year on and our numbers had doubled.

The Forest of Dean itself is a fantastic place, with a proper MTB centre and what looked like very well maintained trails.

The race track itself was mint! It started on the fireroad at the top of what can only be described as the steepest push up. Ever.

Straight into a rooty wooded section with a couple of small root drops onto a right hander and down a rocky chute. All good.
Off a little lip you could managed a bit of air time into the next chute, then it was a pedally straight with a couple of small doubles. Down again over more roots followed by another chute into a second wooded section with a nasty tree stump to avoid (more about that later...) another pedally straight, sharp right hander, drop, sharp left hander, berm, pedal to the table then a set of left to right switchbacks, mini road jump, more left to right switchbacks and finish!

I managed three practice runs in the morning and actually felt pretty good about the track considering I'd never ridden it before and most of the girls there were either locals or had spent the Saturday practicing!

My first race run came and I felt really fast and smooth through the whole top section, entering the second wooded section I somehow managed to get my line wrong and hit the tree stump I'd mentioned earlier (nice of the BC Commisiare to spray it red so it called out to me like a beacon!) off the track and down the slope I slid! Uninjured I clambered back onto the track and kept going, annoyed that I was doing so well I lost my focus (and my footing) on the tabletop and finished the run with a time of 1.17906 putting me in 7th place!
I was annoyed because I knew I'd lost a good 5 seconds on the crash and probably another 5 due to not being able to get it back together for the bottom section but I also knew I could make that time up with my second run and get a 1.7 or below which would put me in 5th place.

Sat at the top waiting for my second run I was uncomfortably nervous, I knew I needed to make this time up to get a result I'd be happy with so the pressure was on for me.
As I left the start gate I hit the first section with a good smooth speed. However, that was where it ended! For some reason I rode the remainder of the track slower than my grandmother could and finished with a 1.17428. I was still in 7th place, hadn't moved up the 2 places I was hoping to and had only improved my time by a fraction!
I was so disappointed with myself despite my times not actually being that bad, my practice runs had felt so fast I just don't know what went wrong for the race runs. My friend made me laugh by informing me that I'd picked my way through the roots near the stump I'd crashed into and did I not realise the bike would cruise over them!

All in I still had a fantastic day and will definitely be heading back to FoD for some casual riding very soon!

The journey home was a different story, I blew a tyre on the A34 by Newbury and sat there for an hour in the dark waiting for the RAC. I'd already established that there was no spare but didn't realise that my cover was invalid because of that so was presented with a bill for £220 for the new tyre. I think that's the most expensive race I've ever done!

Thanks for reading! SJ. x

Sunday, 1 March 2009

We're on Anchorage Time

So the clock's set to Anchorage time and we're counting down to the start of the Iditarod Trail Invitational. Of course Minx swore she'd never get caught up in following any endurance race ever again after last year's emotional Great Divide Race, but with John Ross, a long time friend and supporter setting out to ride 350 miles across frozen Alaska how could we not? 

 Regular followers will notice that Geoff  Roes from GDR 08 is also competing - as is his other half Jill Homer (who did the blog updates for GDR). I anticipate another podcast addiction is not far off. Click on the link to the official race website then go look at everyone's blogs to see exactly how they trained for this. But maybe not at work or that'll be the morning gone....

And a toast to John at 11.00pm tonight.