On Sunday I travelled to the final race of the year, Mud, Sweat and Gears at Langdon Hills in Essex.
This was my first ever national series race back in 2012 and since then I have done the course three times and it never gets easier!
The course starts with a climb through a field and then turns into the forest for a short rest bite before turning up hill once more. The course is mainly single track through woodland linked together by open cart track sections.
I did all my usual warming up and course ride and was ready to go. I hadn’t been feeling well and this really affected my race, I felt okay on my first two laps but on lap three a mechanical and feeling wiped out brought me grinding to a halt, almost!
I had to ease off due to feeling un well and this insider ably effected my lap times adding four minutes to my lap.
Having raced this course previously and enjoyed it I was frustrated not to be able to give it my all and see how fast I could race it.
Thank you to Martyn for coming and cheering me on, Velo Virtuoso for all your support, Bounce for keeping me fuelled and Lake for keeping my feet comfy this season.
Yesterday I travelled to Shouldham Warren in Norfolk. This was a new course for the Mud Sweat and Gears series and I was excited about trying it out.
I had not been very well in the run up to the race and had doubts about competing on Sunday but decided as I had made my way half way across the country I should go and give it a go!
We arrived at the course at 8am in perfect time for practise, before the start at 10am.
The course started with a long gentle climb which turned on to a single track which led into the first bomb hole. It then opened up again on to cart track before turning once again into the forest single track. The course was very similar to Thetford in this way and also Dunwich where I have done training, in the sense that it had long sections of single track linked together by open cart tracks.
The course was relatively flat and I knew it would be a fast paced race which would suit my competition. It was quite sandy and loose in places, but because of the fast conditions I decided to stay with hard tyres and loose a little grip over soft tyres which would be harder to push. This worked well and during the race I felt happy and able to carry my speed and only had a few little slips which didn’t effect my race.
My start was not great there was too many riders on the start line and it was hard to get going when we were so tightly packed but I made my way up the hill in touch with the lead riders.
On the first lap we went straight up missing the first bomb hole this is meant to spread out the riders but it didn’t work very well in my favour getting stuck behind riders I needed to get in front of, I waited for the next opportunity to pass and took it. I now had to work hard to catch the others, this is always hard when there is no sight of any one in front but I kept pushing on and soon started to catch up and pass other riders which gave me a boost.
Half way through my third lap I caught sight of Alex Nichol from CCN she seemed quite far away but I pushed on and by the end of the third lap I was on her wheel as we went out into our fourth lap on the hill I took the opportunity to pass. Determined to stay in front I kept focused and pushed as hard as I could and soon when I looked back she was gone. I knew that I had to keep the gap because if she caught me on a long cart track with a 29er she would have the advantage but every time I looked round there was no one there. Coming up the last sandy straight I gave it one last big push over the finish line pleased with my progress and glad that I had raced.
Overall in my category I came third and was fifth girl back out of 19. A great result considering how I was feeling.
I was 14 mins behind Laura Sampson who came first. It took me 1 hour 36 mins to complete the 18 mile course with an average heart rate of 177bpm and max of 186bpm. Garmin data here.
Lap 1: 23.20
Lap 2: 24.37
Lap 3: 24.17
Lap 4: 24.06
Thank you to Velo Virtuoso, Bounce and Lake for your continued support. Big thanks to my Mum who acted as driver, support and chief photographer for the day!
I made my way to Staffordshire on Saturday for the last of the national series at Cannock chase. I arrived in time for mid day practise and headed out on the course with Jenny who I had met there. The course started with an open field section before heading down a cart track and back up into single track. Unlike most other course I had come across this one seemed to have. A lot of downhill at the beginning. Which was great but left me concerned as to what was to follow!
The first A/B line feature was a drop off which I decided to take the B line on as I still am not totally confident on my new bike. We turned the corner into the forest to be met with a queue of riders, this is usually a sign something good/technical is coming up, and Cannock did not disappoint, a rock garden appeared between the trees which looked manageable, we stood and watched as it claimed a few victims who fell hard. I decided the 15 seconds extra the B line would take each lap was worth it other coming off and spending a couple of minutes composing myself so took the B line and we carried on to the next A line a drop between a narrow tree gap this was easily rollable and was also the start of the course making its way back up hill on a trail which is part of the trail centre is was brilliant fun and included a wood section which was very similar to QE Park with large roots and a lot of off camber riding which spat you out onto a fire road briefly before winding back up through the trees. This climb seemed never ending and the small bit of reliefs that did come from a downhill section was short lived as turning out into the fire road the course once again climbed up! This to me was the most challenging section because the ground was loose stones which seemed to sap my energy even in practise this was tough, I didn’t let myself get worried about what racing it would be like I just looked for the hard packed areas and watched my line ready for tomorrow. The next section was again part of the trail centre and was a brilliant set of berms, sadly we were riding up them instead of down them which wasn’t so fun!1km to go, and to me the best 1km tight roots single track leading to a bomb hole drop which was slightly on a bend making it a little more interesting sent you flying up the bank on the other side and headed up and back into the arena.
Back at the tent we got changed and went to the rock garden to watch the open and sport category’s race, it was carnage! We met the trail builders who were beaming at how technically challenging their rock garden was, it claimed two collar bones and a nose over the course if Saturday confirming in my head that the B line was the better option, even though I felt sure I could ride the A line having ridden things like it in Scotland.
Saturday evening the wind picked up and the rained moved in, luckily by 09.00 on Sunday it had gone and made way for bright sunshine and blue skies making racing conditions pretty good.
At 10.45 I stood on the start line of my last national race in the Expert category feeling very proud of what I had achieved the year had not been ideal, with a dislocated arm meaning I missed two months racing as well as valuable training time, but that didn’t matter now, I was here fit and ready to give it he’ll one last time.
The start was fast and as I expected I found myself battling to stay with the lead riders, not having quite as much speed as they did. I worked hard and started to pull back riders, but found the climbs so tough my heart rate reached 189 and I new I needed to bring it down to last four laps of this demanding course so I eased off a little and took a gel for an added boost. My first lap felt slow and I left the arena on my second lap after 30 mins knowing I had to work hard to bring back the others. I watched the time and made assessments at different points in the course as to how fast it was compared to my previous lap, coming into the arena I was 4 mins up on my last lap and felt good as I left the arena and started my fire road decent I saw Jenny she was not far ahead so I kept pushing trying to close the gap.
The next lap and a half went by quickly as I kept my head down and kept pushing forward as I came back in on my fourth lap I could now see Helen too and pushed hard to catch her, I lost her on the fire road but was motivated by knowing she wasn’t far ahead! A silly slip coming into the forest cost me time and I had to wait at the bottom of the rack garden as three elite girls charged down it all costing me time but instead of panicking (like normal) I kept calm and worked hard coming back into the arena I had given 110% I crossed the finish line only four second behind Helen which I was very happy about.
On Saturday I travelled to my parents in Suffolk, ready to take part in round six of the Mud Sweat and Gears series. The alarm went off at 6.20 on Sunday morning and the pre race routine kicked in, oats for breakfast, packing the car, checking I had enough gels and electrolyte drinks, bike on the roof and off we went.
I hadn’t been feeling very well for a couple of days and wasn’t feeling very strong going into this race.
Arriving in time to practise the course, Thetford in Norfolk is a pretty flat part of the country and so the course was mainly flat single track through trees with a slight incline and decline in places. There was one bomb hole which had an ‘a’ and ‘b’ line, this was a simple straight in and out pit so no issue.
After practising I had a banana and cereal bar got my gels and lined up with the others. Today there was five of us in the elite/expert category. I lined up in the middle looking at the bend we had to get round out of the start thinking that would be the best place to start, this turned out to not be the case as the whistle went being in the middle and not the fastest off the line meant I got squeezed by other riders but kept my head down and pushed on. The first lap was short to help spread us out before we entered the singletrack for the second lap.
This first lap felt hard the start had been very quick and my legs felt heavy from not having a proper warm up. I came through the first lap at 17 mins way off the pace I hadn’t had a chance to drink because the ground although flat was rough and I was getting shaken about quite a bit.
Coming into my second lap I felt pretty weak my legs were heavy still and my stomach kept cramping, not a great start when there is four laps left. I kept pushing on riding my own race and trying to not panic about being far behind. To make things a bit more interesting my Garmin fell off my bike which meant I had to stop and pick it up loosing time and becoming a bit flustered about being off the front group.
Half way through lap two my Dad popped up at one of the cart tracks full of support which spurred me on. Going into my third lap he told me I was gaining on another girl ahead and kept talking to me at the gates on the way round, it was so encouraging to know I was gaining on her and getting faster, my legs had eased up and I had been able to drink and had a gel which gave me an energy burst I desperately needed!
I caught up the other rider and over took which again was a big boost, I kept pushing forward riding as fast and as faultlessly as I could. After a while I felt I had lost her enough to start enjoying the race a little more the single track sections through the trees where brilliant and although it felt like you were a rag doll being shaken about the down hill sections were fast as the trees seemed to fly by. Coming into the last lap I felt good and decided to put everything into gaining on the others. The last singletrack section on this lap my legs started to feel a bit tired but I pushed on determined to finish fast.
Crossing the finish line was a brilliant feeling I felt at home on my bike for the first time since getting it and everything flowed together (once I got over the first heavy legged feeling)
I came third in my category and fifth girl back out of 14 which I’m very happy with.
My next challenge is Ride London next weekend and then the last nationals of the year in Staffordshire.
My lap times were;
Lap 1: 17.07
Lap 2: 22.17
Lap 3: 22.45
Lap 4: 21.49
Lap 5: 21.46
Thank you as always to my sponsors and support. Especially to Velo Virtuoso and Geared Up Cycles who keep my bike in brilliant condition, even after I crash it!
On Saturday I travelled with Jenny from Mountain Tracks to round four of the National series at Sherwood Pines in Nottingham.
During the day Saturday I ran a cycling event at Surrey Sports Park which incorporated mountain bike coaching, GoRide races and an event village, this was a brilliant event but not the best race preparation as it meant Jenny and I arrived in Nottingham very late.
After putting the tent up it wasn’t long before I was asleep only to be rudely woken up by the torrential rain!
The morning brought cloud but at least it wasn’t raining. We went out and practised the course, it was a good course with lots of twisty singletrack sections through the forest linked by cart track and open fields, feeling happy about swapping my wide handle bar for something a little narrower I felt confident in the trees working the bike around the corners.
There was only one technical section, a log which you had to drop off onto an off camber log with a drop off the end, we didn’t get to ride this at practise but from looking at it looked manageable.
The course was quite short and was going to be a fast paced race. I knew I needed to have a good warm up so started warming up early.
It wasn’t long before gridding started and we charged off I got into the front couple of riders for a while, I felt good so pushed on trying to stick with the group, as we came out of the single track and onto the cart track I was over taken by a couple of riders, Jenny included and tried to stick with them, I managed to do this until the end of the first lap when we entered the arena but the grass field portion of the course seems to sap energy out of my legs and I had to slow to take a gel, the technical section went well dropping off the logs happily which spurred me into my second lap.
Frustratingly nearing the end of my third lap my legs felt tired and with two laps to go I dropped off the pace to try and recover, but the damage was already done. Jemima and I kept swapping positions me leading through the singletrack and her powering past me on the cart tracks only for me to catch her again in the singletrack and over take.
In my fourth lap I picked the pace up again and was planning to get ahead of Jemima and stay ahead this time! Sadly that didn’t happen after I had to stop on the technical feature to let the lead elite girls through, however I think getting pushed off the course for a Olympian to go through is not so bad!
However this meant I had lost Jemima and didn’t have the energy to catch her up. I finished feeling totally exhausted I had given everything I could but it hadn’t been enough today, I made some mistakes that cost me time and will be able to take this into my next race and learn from those.
I came 11th overall 13 minutes behind Hollie Bettles who won the race. It took me 1 hour 45 mins to finish the 17 miles.
From this race I have taken some positives, I do love racing! After my last race I felt deflated and had fallen out of love with it but this race confirmed that I do enjoy it and that it is about having the right mental attitude as much as it is about having the right physical preparation.
I need to work on my pacing and stamina and plan to do this over the coming months.
On Saturday I travelled to Margam Park in Wales to race the next round of the National series. It was a long drive, but when I finally reached Wales the weather was great and although the nerves were bubbling away I felt positive about the weekend ahead.
I met up with Vanessa and Arrow Cycles who kindly ‘adopted’ me for the weekend to ride the course. As with everything in Wales you have to go up before you come down, this course was no exception! The course started with a long climb on fire road which then turned into a single track climb through the woods. Then the ‘fun’ started ! A steep, loose rocky shoot ended on yet another climb, shorter but sharper up a sandy track, before turning into another loose, steep shoot. This carried on for long enough to get your heart racing for the right reasons before turning back on itself with a sharp right hand bend to work its way back up the hill.
The technical part of the course started with a muddy drop into the woods which as long as you kept off the back brake to stop your back wheel sliding out was fine.
After this there was a choice of the ‘A’ or ‘B’ line. Vanessa, Danni and I hopped off our bikes and explored the ‘A’ line on foot. It looked pretty rideable, apart from the end which looked a bit hairy, so we trekked back up to give it a go.
Having a new bike is great, having confidence on a new bike is something that I believe comes with experience and confidence in your own ability. Today, my confidence was being undermined by not feeling totally at home on my new bike.
I watched as Vanessa and Danni made easy work of the ‘A’ line but couldn’t psyche myself up to get around the corner into the drop! Every time I got to the top of the drop I just felt like the angle was all wrong, even though Josh from Arrow cycles who I was with, said the line was fine.
I tried again from a different angle and caught my back wheel on a root, sending me and the bike flying! The bike landed upside down, back wheel held in place by the tree and I landed on my left shoulder. Shaken up by this I tried the ‘A’ line again straight by hanging in the tree to clip in I rode it straight twice and felt happy enough with the drop but couldn’t link the angle and drop together! Seeing my frustration Josh said maybe we should crack on, I agreed! I chose the ‘B’ line on the next bit whilst Josh aced the ‘A’ line. The next part of the course was great and reminded me of why I love riding in Wales. Some quarry switchbacks, a little drop off, more uphill and some flowing wooded single track finished off the course. All together this course had a little bit of everything and should of suited me to the ground, had my head been in the right place!
Sunday came around quickly after a bad night’s sleep going over and over the line in my head. With an aching left shoulder I wasn’t feeling on top form for the impending race! Warming up with Vanessa and Danni helped and I started to feel a bit more relaxed. This turned out to be short lived as soon as I arrived on the start line my legs felt like led and my nerves were taking over.
I knew it was all in my head and that I was capable of everything on this course, but mountain biking is a physical and mental game. To be good on your bike you have to be physically but also mentally up to it as its when you doubt yourself that it tends to go wrong.
In competition you are always going to have a bad day. It is taking those bad days, seeing the positive and learning from the experience. That is my plan.
After five races in the Expert category I am sitting in fifth position nationally and looking to close the gap down on the leading four.
Today I raced at the Southern cross country series round five at QE Park. Racing so close to home was great! The alarm went off at 07.00 which was still early for a Sunday but no way near as bad as the usual 5.30 starts on a race day. The race start was at Head Down near to QE Park in Buriton, 10 minutes from our house. We left at 8.20 to give plenty of time to ride the course and warm up before the race start at 10.00. I was excited and nervous about riding my new bike as I hadn’t had a proper opportunity to test it out on single track yet.
We arrived at the venue in the middle of the woods. My practise lap went well and I was happy with my choice of tyre leaving a Maxxis Ardent on the front and putting on a gripper Mavic Roam on the back.
The course was good, although starting with a long slog up a fire track onto uphill single track was a tough way to start! The trail meandered through the woods mainly off camber, switch backs and roots where the obstacles in this part of the course. It then led out onto a fire road ascent which seemed to go on forever!
Getting off this track and back onto the wood single track was a relief, as it soon turned back down hill crossing another fire road onto the last descent of the course, which was a triple arrow down, with a tight right hand bend and a jump at the bottom. I tried going to the right as it was dry and less sloppy, this was not the right line, as I could not make the corner. I went back to the top and tried staying high on the bank to the left which meant having to pop over a ledge, this worked a lot better as the angle into the corner was easy from here and although the jump/step was big my new Silverback with its 130mm of travel seemed to make light work of popping down it.
Returning back to the arena it was time to grid. I felt so nervous as I lined up with Jenny and Flo in my category, two very competent riders. We were set off in a mass start and I soon found myself stuck as we entered the single track behind people I needed to be in front of. I worked hard to get to the front of them, and soon found myself, where I wanted to be, on the back of Flo’s wheel who was on the back of Jenny’s wheel. I kept looking to over take but the track was tight and this made it hard. Going into the downhill part of the single track Jenny clipped a root which took her off and Flo went into her, I took the opportunity to zip round the side and pushed the pace to get some space between myself and them. I was happy with the way my bike seemed to hold its own on twisty single track and I soon passed others. On the fire road I pushed as hard as I could to keep the gap. Frustratingly Flo got in front of me and I couldn’t stick with her pace on my 27.5 against her 29″ wheels. (and the fact she is a very strong climber as I found out)
The next bit of single track I worked hard to pull back the gap and had Flo is my site, but annoyingly a guy on his practise lap came off in front of me on the big descent which left me no choice but to hop off and run down. This lost me precious time and although I gave it my all I couldn’t regain the group.
Coming back into the arena after the last climb I felt pretty shattered I pushed on and as I disappeared into the trees caught sight of Jenny behind me. I knew I had to get a large gap between us before the fire road as this would be where she would be able to catch me.
I had a couple of silly errors as I battled to keep second place but lucky by the time I went into my third and final lap I couldn’t see Jenny any more. I knew she wasn’t too far behind so I kept pushing on and gave it 110%, I was relieved when I crossed the finish line in second and felt proud to of kept going even when I felt so tired.
My new Silverback bike performed brilliantly and I can’t wait to race it again next week at the Nationals! Bring it on!
On Sunday the alarm went off at 5.30 ready for the drive to Codham Park in Essex for round three of the MSG series.
It was my first MSG of the year on one of my favourite courses, Codham Park. I arrived at the Park in the bright morning sunshine, the car was already registering 16 degrees at 7.30!
I have found racing in the heat challenging before so I took a bottle of electrolyte drink round on my practise lap and kept sipping to stay as well hydrated as possible.
The thing I love about Codham is the variety of terrain, the course starts on open cart track which tracks through a farm over fields and into a woodland where the single track is tight and twisty, it doesn’t leave much room for overtaking so I made a mental note of where I would be able to over take if I needed to. The course pops out of the forest and continues up and then straight along a field into more forest which then brings you out into a ‘sand pit’ area with some great switch backs and drops. After the final switch back the course climbs steeply out of the pit and onto a BMX track which is often loose and sandy.
I felt confident after the practise lap, there was one ‘A’ line which was an off camber shoot down a grass bank which I decide after much deliberation I was going to do, as I was worried about falling on my bad elbow, the price for not taking this was an extra 45 seconds each lap which was going to be hard to make up but I was determined to do my best!
It was soon time to grid and I waited eagerly on the starting line ready to race. The heat was already burning down and I wished my it wasn’t so black! The whistle went and I got a great start hanging onto another riders wheel the first corner I turned well and the terrain turned to grass I dropped down a gear, which was a mistake as I lost speed and a couple of riders past me. We came to a long grassy climb and this is where having a 29’er would of been ideal, they seemed to glide past me as I grunted up the hill my 130mm travel 650b not working to my advantage!
I had lost the front riders by the time we got into the wooded section as I got caught behind someone going slightly slower than I would have liked this cost me time and once I was out of the forest I worked hard to pull the gap back, unsuccessfully!
My ‘b’ line decision was costing me time and I felt frustrated so on my third lap I decided to bite the bullet and take the ‘a’ line sadly a rider had come off quite badly and it was closed so I couldn’t take it.
Donna Dale a veteran rider and I spent the next two laps pushing against one another it was great to have someone to push against and it gave me a new lease of life!
Entering the final lap I felt good and pushed on determined to make this my best lap I worked hard on the field to get in front of Donna before the wooded section and succeeded this was where my decision to have 650b wheels really paid off! My Silverback Syncra glided effortlessly through the tree and felt so comfortable to ride and turned carrying speed which was a real advantage.
I entered the technical section for the last time and pushed as hard as I could coming into the finish line I new I had given it my all.
My lap times were relatively consistent although dropped off slightly, this is something I need to work on. Compared to last season my lap times at this course have got quicker by 5/6 mins really showing that my training is working.
Last weekend Martyn and I traveled down to Cornwall for my second race of the season in RedRuth. This was the second race in the national series and I felt quite excited about being back on a course I new and had enjoyed last year. Or so I thought!
We arrived late on the Friday evening and set up camp. I had borrowed a Silverback Syncra 650b bike from my club, having only ridden it on the road once before I was excited about trying it out on the course.
The big wheel debate at the moment is 29er or 650b, I have not purchased a new bike for this season yet, because I have been waiting to try out both to see which suited me best. I had read so many reviews about what was best for the type of riding and racing I do but until you try it’s very hard to know what is going to suit.
Saturday, Practise Lap
I went out onto the course full of nerves and anticipation, having been here before I new it was tough.
The course had changed from last year the start was totally different with a technical section to start, the ‘A’ line jumped over some roots while the ‘B’ line scooped round the bottom of a tree, this seemed tough, but not unmanageable.
The next section was a steep single track hill followed by a path through heath steeply down into a wooded technical section.
The course carved a path steeply down into the next technical section, I had taken the ‘A’ route last year so decided to have a go but only got half way along before nerves got the better of me and I bailed out, feeling slightly shaky I made my way back to try again but the same thing happened.
This confirmed in my head how I felt, I wasn’t ready for such a challenging course after hurting my arm and that maybe I shouldn’t have come. I looked at the ‘B’ line but it looked so steep and I had so many negative thoughts in my head I just couldn’t do it. I was so worried about coming off I couldn’t do it. I walked back up and along to a straight part and looked down on the rest of the course, I remembered it being tough but today it seemed impossible.
I re joined a different part of the course and continued on, by this time I was ready to go home, I didn’t feel up to it my head was just not in the right place. I managed to finish the course walking most of the ‘B’ lines and feeling totally out of my comfort zone!
It’s not whether you get knocked down it’s whether you get back up that counts.
I arrived back at my car pretty deflated and not sure what to do, so I rang my Dad who was very supportive and said you can only do the best you can do on the day he said to try and ride the course again but as if I was out with friends to take the pressure off the idea that I was going to be racing it.
I came to the first technical section and made the ‘B’ line which helped the next drop had people looking at it so I jumped off and ran down past a girl who said she wasn’t having a good day, I could emphasise with that as neither was I!
Sometimes all you need is a little support and nudge in the right direction.
We rode the next bit together, as the next technical section approached I felt the tension growing my muscles felt like they were locking and I wanted to stop but this time I had my head in the right place, I didn’t give myself a choice of bailing and pointed my bike down the ‘B’ line, it flew effortlessly springing over the rocks and felt so easy, I wasn’t sure why it had seemed so impossible earlier!
The next part of the course was steep single track, switchbacks which I remembered from last year once you had made the first turn these were easy and you got spat out at the end like on a roller coaster.
Next came the long slog from the bottom of the quarry onto the next technical section, loose rocks and gorse bushes made this a tough but pretty climb!
At the top the course made its way back down through some more switchbacks and then onto a loose rocky cart track which travelled down to the next technical section, one that I decided along with Jemima that it would be best to walk, after seeing a girl land in a tree!
I remembered this one from last year as it’s the line that I fell off at and broke my gears so I made a plan to run it, if I raced tomorrow.
The course then climbed up before dropping down into the quarry this section was fast with a few big loose rocks as you approached the next technical section, a horse shoe shaped wall ride, or a long sprint down a track were the ‘A’ and ‘B’ options, I took the B line which added 30 seconds per lap, but today the wall ride was above what I felt happy with!
The course then continued as double track back up before the last rock shoot ‘A’ line or loose rocky ‘B’ line, both we’re challenging but the ‘B’ line added considerably more time but I decided this was the line I would practise getting the line right to make it as quick as possible so not too loose too much time when racing.
I arrived back at the event area feeling relived to have made it in one piece and ready for tomorrow, my attitude from the first lap was vastly different I felt in control and confident in my ability to race tomorrow.
The next day Martyn dropped me at the race, I met Vanessa from Arrow cycles and we went out on the road for a warm up. The time flyed by, soon we were being gridded, the starting gun went off and I sprinted off the start getting a good position going into the single track and the first technical decent frustratingly the person in front stopped at the drop after the tree which pulled me off too so I ran down and got going again.
The first lap seemed to go in a blur and I felt good chasing the leading riders, into the second lap. A silly mis judged angle on a tree route pulled me off and onto my bad arm, I panicked for a moment as I dusted myself off checked my arm was okay and carried on. This had cost me time and
I worked hard on the uphill to catch up, it was a hard climb to the top and I tried to take a Zip Vit energy gel at the same time but it was so sticky I had a hard time swallowing it!
The rest of the second lap went well, at the hard technical ‘A’,’B’ line I ran down across the slab through the lake and up the other side this lost me a couple of seconds but I was keeping up with others riding it, however it was exhausting!
Lap 3 went well I was ahead of Mel Paddington from EHF and worked hard to keep the gap knowing how strong she was. On the forest track back up to the finish line Mel passed me I worked really hard to stay on her back wheel until I had my second issue of the ride an elite girl turned to pass me on a narrow single track section pulling me off into a fence when I got going again I noticed the Boa system on my shoe had come undone so I had to get off and sort it out, these two problems cost me at least a minute or two and meant Mel was well ahead going back out onto the single track as I came into the event arena for the last lap
I pushed on working hard at every opportunity to close the gap, the descents by now felt like so much fun and I reflected as I pushed myself and my bike to the limit what a difference a day and a change of mental attitude had made. Coming into the finish I felt an amazing sense of pride and accomplishment I had come back from an injury which had knocked my confidence bad over come my demons from practise and raced a really good race, feeling relaxed and confident in my ascending and descending ability.
Getting my times I was happy to gave kept a constant pace, where last year my lap times dropped if by a minute or two by the last lap today they were all constant with my mast lap being the fastest. I think what this showed me was my ability to fight back when I was in the right frame of mind, the ability to push on even when it’s hurting and close the gap in another rider.
4 Laps: 01:45
Lap 1: 26:06
Lap 2: 26:42
Lap 3: 26:20
Lap 4: 26:00
After dislocating my elbow five weeks ago I have only been out on proper single track a couple of times. I have had to re build some of my confidence and realise that my elbow is not just going to pop out of joint again!
So today was my first race of the season and my first race in the Expert Category, The Southern Cross Country Series at Crow hill. Arriving at Crow Hill near Ringwood in the New Forest the rain seemed to have cleared, but it was evident from the drive in, that the ground had been saturated making the conditions less than ideal!
My practise lap didn’t go great. I felt tired and my nerves were really affecting my performance. The course was roughly a 5 mile lap of undulating single track with two cart track sections linking the forest trail together. The course was interesting, twisting and turning through the trees, but the saturated ground did not make for easy riding! In places the puddles on the course had turned to bogs and it was hard to tell what was muddy puddle and what was tree route! There were some technical sections where the ground was off camber which, with so many tyre tracks made it hard to find a good line through the mud resulting in everyone sticking within the tracks of the person in front of them.
I got back after my practise lap with 10 minutes until my race started at 10, not the best of rests !After a quick banana, change of top and loo stop and I was on the starting line.
We were gridded in categories and then all sent off together, I did not get a good start ! The start was open field which narrowed quickly onto single track due to my hesitation I didn’t attack to get a good place going into the single track which left me behind people who I could of been riding in front of.
After a little while I had overtaken a couple of riders. I couldn’t see the two girls in my category though which was a bit disheartening, but worked hard on closing the gap. I felt nervous because of my elbow and especially through the thick mud sometimes it was hard to tell the ground from the tree roots so I never felt like I could go totally flat out.
Overall this race was not the best start to the season! My lap times were slow and my confidence was not great which made me lose focus on riding. On reflection I could have ridden more aggressively but at the time was riding defensively to protect my arm, which in the circumstances I had decided was the best thing to do. I went to collect points and achieved that, so mission accomplished.
Drawing from the experience I was able to gauge where my fitness level and race readiness are and more importantly that my elbow was not an issue. Over the next few weeks I hope that my confidence will return and that the courses get dryer!