Monday, 23 May 2011

30 second update

I've been very quiet on this blog since I got back from racing the Patagonian Expedition Race in February. Well that's because a combination of the arduousness of that race (a word?), going out there with a virus and training very hard for it for a very long time, has left me with chronic fatigue syndrome. Rest is good, people. Rest up and rest well!

It has 3 months of grim days when I couldn't lift my head, good days when I thought it was all in my head and mediocre days when I would get overtaken by the old granny on her shopper on the way to work.

Then gradually things started to change. I have been eating well thanks to my nutritionist Jamie Richards, exercising well thanks to yoga, my new-found obsession, given up racing (other than for tea and cake) and don't train any more. Ever. I ride a bit, run a bit, kayak a bit and do a lot of yoga.

And now I feel good. I managed a 5 hour adventure race on Angelsey with my boyfriend on Saturday ( and my first Ocean Kayak Race yesterday in our beautiful double sea kayak. And on Thursdsday I'm off to mountain bike around Mont Blanc. 40k a day. A proper holiday. None of this flogging-yourself-til-it-hurts business. Those days are over.

I celebrate the return of my health. Every day that I can pedal, can smile, can put energy and vigour into my life is a good day. Long may it last.


Sunday, 22 May 2011

Jumps and Drops (Scary Skills Day)

Friday saw 7 girls turn up at Gisburn Forest for the scary skills day, sorry, Jumps and Drops day, with Ed from Great Rock.

I was a bag of nerves on Thursday night - how gnarr will the day be? What if I'm the most chicken? What if everyone else is really good? Would I be able to commit or would my hands involuntarily grab my brakes like they usually do? It wasn't helped by Ed's e-mail telling us all that if we want to do the 4 foot drop on the DH course, we should bring a full face helmet. Eek! 4 foot drops are way beyond anything I've even considered trying to ride, so this was going to be way beyond me.

By the time I arrived on Friday morning, I'd convinced myself that I'd be happy just to listen, take it all in and watch. I'd just never be able to do any of it, but I could still learn stuff. So I was more than a little bit relieved to hear the other girls say they were nervous too.

After some nervous laughter, we set off to learn scary stuff.

We started off with manuals (controlled wheelies for those of us who don't do techy speak). I think it's fair to say that none of us were particularly stylish or controlled when we started, but after some practice, Ed had us all doing manuals.

Maybe I can do this then, I thought.

Then we moved on to rear end lifts (endo's without pulling the breaks) which proved to be a bit more of a challenge, but again, Ed managed to have us all doing it in no time at all.

Next, we had to try to combine the manual and the rear end lift to do a bunny hop. I've only ever managed bunny hops by yanking the bike up with my pedals before, so this was a bit of a revelation for me.

After stopping for lunch to dry off a bit and warm up (the weather had been pretty grim all morning), we set off to put together all the skills we'd learned in the morning and try manualling and jumping off drops. I'm always being told to lift my front wheel when I'm dropping off stuff, but never been able to do it, so I didn't have much confidence that, after just a few hours, I'd be able to "get air" off a drop like the boys do when we go riding.

We started will a drop I'd usually roll off, so it didn't seem too scary and after just a few attempts, we were all managing to manual off the lip of the drop and some of us were even managing to jump off the drop. This was a massive step forward for me and I already felt that I had achieved loads (no more being told to lift my front wheel!).

Next, Ed persuaded some of us move on to the next drop. This one was a lot bigger. I'm sure it wasn't quite as big as it looked, but it looked like it was about 3 foot tall, built from stone with a concrete slab on the top.

Jenn, Cat, Ros and I spent several minutes walking round the drop, looking at it from the top, then from the bottom, then further back up the trail, then back to the top of the drop, but all we were doing was making ourselves more nervous. So, Jenn decided just to go for it. Unfortunately, because it was quite a short run up, she didn't manage to get quite enough speed, tried to stop at the top, and somehow managed to roll off the drop.

Then it was Cat's turn. She managed to get speed up, got off the drop really nicely, but then when she landed, her forks compressed and it all went a bit wrong. By the time I rushed over to the top of the drop, she was lying in a heap on the trail looking pretty beat up. Luckily, she got off relatively lightly with a grazed and bruised chin and a bashed shoulder.

After that, Ros and I decided that the drop wasn't for us, so we suggested to Ed that we move on to something else.

Ed's choice of taking us to the quarry didn't seem like an easier option to me! Then, when he pointed to a big rocky drop, I really though he was kidding, but he was serious!

I could swear the drop was about as tall as me (although I'm sure it wasn't really) and it was narrow with a really short run out, so I really couldn't see how it could be possible for me to ride this.

As I stood at the top I couldn't figure out how I could possibly ride down it, but Ed was confident we could all do it, so I decided to at least try riding up to it to see what it was like. Jenn and I took our bikes further up the quarry and took a few deep breaths. Jenn decided to go first and rode it like a pro!

Then I rode at it, all the time, the little voice in my head was screaming "Don't touch the brakes! Hold on to the bars like your life depends on it! COMMIT!", whilst I kept muttering under my breath "Come on! You can do this!". Then I rode off the drop and found myself riding away from the bottom, in one piece!

I made it!

Just a few hours earlier, I wouldn't even have considered riding to the top of something like that to have a look, but I'd just managed to ride the biggest drop in the world (well, it seemed that way to me).

Just to prove to myself that I really had done it, I went back to have another try and again, found myself riding away from the bottom in one piece. If I could do a backflip, I think I would have!

So, maybe I hadn't managed to ride that first big drop, but I did manage to ride something I would never have dreamed of riding before and that's a huge step forward in my book!

I'm not sure I'm a gnarr rider yet, but if nothing else, I've found a new way of looking at trails and have a bit more confidence. I'm already thinking about my local trails and how I can ride them differently, better and maybe smoother. I can't wait to go out for my next ride and play!

Can we go out for a ride now?


Monday, 16 May 2011

saturdays are for riding

Just a quick reminder that this coming Saturday (21st May), we're hosting a ride from Hebden Bridge.

If we end up with a very large group of ladies then we'll possibly split into an easy and harder ride but nobody will be left behind. We have all sorts of trails here - not all straight up - and the only requirements are a working mountain bike, helmet/gloves, a spare tube and food/drink to keep yourself going. And yes, there will be cake.

Coffee Cali, Hebden Bridge. 10.30am to ride at 11am.

(Blazing Saddles are just around the corner if you need to shop but as there are likely to be a fair few of us, a larger meeting point was needed - the fact that it's a coffee shop is purely coincidental, ahem...)

Fingers crossed for less of this...

And plenty of this...!


Monday, 9 May 2011

24 Solo (and more short stories)

This weekend was the European and UK 24 and 12 hour solo champs. It was the same venue as last year, Newcastleton, Scotland (just down the road for me), but with some upgrades to facilities and slight changes to the course. The weather conditions, though, couldn't have been more different from last year - blazing sunshine and dry dusty trails last year v biblical rain and wet muddy trails this year. So it was quite a different race from last year.

I had entered the 24 almost as soon as the entries opened, but then did nothing about it. No training, no real thought to how I was going to do it, I just put it to the back of my mind until a month ago I realised it was almost time and I was not ready by a long shot!

So, as you can imagine, it didn't really go quite as I hoped, and the biblical rain and horrible mud, didn't really help my cause.

From my very first lap I was battling with my usual dark thoughts of throwing in the towel, but because my towel was already covered in mud and soaking wet, that wasn't an option (our tent had a huge puddle in it when I woke up on Saturday morning and a bunch of my things were lying in the puddle, including my towel and some of my riding kit!).

For the first few laps, the course was really busy because of the combination of 12 and 24 hour riders, but as time went on, it got quieter - the bad weather was taking it's toll on riders and bikes and several riders decided to call it quits early. My lap times weren't great, but I was managing to keep consistent times and was starting to enjoy the trails, but then I had a bit of a of the fun, if a bit sketchy, muddy descents had got a bit muddier since my last lap, so I decided to try a different line...bad idea. Wobble, don't touch the brakes, oh, avoid that tree, thump. Bike flew over the top of me and I was in a very muddy heap on the ground with my bike on top of me. Luckily a marshal was at the top of the hill and came rushing down to get my bike off me and off the trail. I stood up and checked the bike, which was fine, but I realised that I had ripped a huge hole in the bum of my shorts and an equally huge hole in my bum cheek! I didn't really want to lose a lap, so I decided just to finish the lap with my bum hanging out the back of my shorts. Not very lady-like I know, but it was dark by this time and not many people on the course, so I figured nobody would notice (and if they did, they'd be in an equally bad state, so probably wouldn't pay too much attention).

Then the rains came, and I mean proper rain. So after my next lap, I know I shouldn't have, but I decided to take refuge in my tent until the rain eased off a bit. The next thing I knew, the sun was up... I'd managed to doze off and sleep for several hours and I was more than a little bit cross with myself!

So, having missed the dawn lap, my favourite, and now being several laps down on where I should have been, I went back out on to the, now almost deserted, course. I managed to ride a few more laps, but by the finish, I was quite a few laps down on where I'd hoped to be (as well as being another pair of shorts down!).

Despite all of that, it was another great event and the support and encouragement from my shared pit crew, other riders and other support crews managed to keep a smile on my face even when I really should have been crying.

Now that I'm home, clean, dry, rested and the sun's out, I'm taking stock of the weekend.

1. The massive black bruise on my right bum cheek has reminded me that I must remember to take arnica to events.
2. I must take a waterproof with me if I think there's even a remote chance that it'll rain (so that I can't use being soaked through as an excuse for stopping for a bit).
3. I need to find the time to train. My next big event is a month from now, so just enough time...maybe, if I really, really try.


P.S. I'll try to find some pics of the epic muddiness and pop them up.