Category Archives: Racing 2015

End of season review

It seems a very long time ago that I was lining up at Battle on the Beach for my first race of the season.

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I went up to elite this year which was a bit of a baptism of fire! My first nationals were a real eye opener to the speed needed to be competitive in cross-country. Although the race was really hard I learnt a lot from the experience. I went away and worked on my technical skills.

Over the winter I had been doing some longer rides and found these suited me. I have always found the power and pace of cross-country a challenge but this year decided to try endurance racing.

My first six hour solo was tough but showed me that I could turn to endurance racing. I worked hard to improve my endurance building up from 3 hour nonstop rides to 5 hour nonstop rides. These were hard but I enjoyed pushing myself in a new direction and worked hard on my fitness.

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The next challenge was a 24 hour race with Martyn where we got an unexpected 3rd place.

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After Mountain Meyhem I had my own time of mayhem with buying our first house my training was disrupted. I decided to use this time when I was feeling rather stressed to concentrate on training and getting used to being on my bike for long periods of time and perfecting my nutrition during those rides.

I entered the last round of the Southern XC series and was happy that my training had paid off when I managed 3rd place.

Hannah Attenburrow

My next priority race was Torq in your Sleep, my first 12 hour solo. I didn’t really know what to expect but I had a plan which I stuck too and that paid off. I learnt so much from this race like make sure you eat little and often so that you don’t get stomach cramp, don’t take the dodgy head torch light out as coming back to change it costs a lot of time (20 mins to be precise).

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The next few months I will be working on my endurance and stamina clocking up the miles and building a good base over the winter.

My aim for 2016 is to race the Trans Alp and continue to improve on my endurance results from this year.

Thank you to my coach Mark at Velo coaching for your help with my training.

Thanks to my sponsors Grip Grab and Bike Fixers. Thanks to Silverback for my brilliant Syncra which has kept me competitive all year.

If you would be interested in supporting me in 2016 please contact hannah@peal2pedal.co.uk

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Torq in Your Sleep 29-31st August 2015, Minley Manor – Race Report

No race would be complete without a bit of drama! Torq 12:12 was no exception. On Saturday my newly tubeless tyres decided they were not happy with this arrangement and both went flat! Mild panic set in as I considered getting a flat tyre in my first ever 12 hour solo race on Sunday. So I popped in some tubes to keep punctures at bay.

Arriving Sunday morning I was eager to ride the course and face the much talked about Minley bombhole! I was accompanied on my practice lap by super star of the hour Fred who won his race the previous day in the under 7’s and Seb, feeling the need to be talked through the A lines it was nice to have some company!

The course was brilliant, singletrack linked by fire roads. It was mainly flat with 3 good climbs, the first was a short sharp up, a long gravel road climb and the worst one of all was a grassy climb, which considering it was not steep or long seemed to suck energy out of my legs! Considering the level of rain there had been the course was pretty dry with a couple of ‘sticky’ patches. Arriving at the Minley bombhole I rode it twice and was happy with my line choice.

After rider briefing I was feeling nervous but had prepared well so tried to relax before the mass start. Karen and I lined up together and it soon was time to begin our epic ride!

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I got a good start and was not caught in too much congestion going into the singletrack.

The first three laps were good fun I pushed it on the climbs recovered on the downhills and ate on the flats. The singletrack was really good fun, especially a section with some off camber turns through the trees.

After the third lap I had a pot noodle break, this was the wrong time to stop as I got held up behind the six hour race in the singletrack which was frustrating, as soon as we got out of the first section I worked hard to pass as many slower riders as I could before entering the second section, however this high burst of energy with a half digested pot noodle made me feel rather sick and I got bad stomach cramps afterwards.

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Lap five and six passed quickly I rode consistently picking up a new bottle and small snack. After lap 7 I stopped again for a porridge pot, it had just started to rain. I then felt a bit better so had a slice on banana bread and a packet of marmite crisps as I was craving savoury after so many jelly babies and sweet energy drinks.

Riding at night was a really cool experience. Under the tree canopy with only my headlight beam in front of me I felt like I was the only one out on the course, with only the sound of the ground under my wheels for company. Every now and again a shimmer of light and the sound of others would catch me up and then usually over take! Other riders where so supportive giving me encouragement which kept me going. Sometimes I felt like I had been riding alone for nearly a whole lap and then in the distance a carving beam of light would appear, this was really uplifting and gave me a target to aim for and catch.

At one point the course opened up into a field and through the trees I could make out tiny lights shimmering through like stars.

Near the end of the lap through a dark section of forest the organisers had put loads of glow sticks in the trees it was really pretty, like entering a magical forest and with the music from the disco pumping in the background I had a surge of energy and felt happy with my progress.

As I went out for lap 9 I had a technical issue as my head torch stopped working, I cut off the track and picked up a new one but had to then re-do part of the course again, this cost me valuable time and I felt a bit flustered and came off on a silly root.

Going back out for my 10th lap was the hardest I was cold, my knees ached and I just wanted to curl up and sleep. Martyn was an amazing support and convinced me to do another lap or two! I managed to do one more getting in just after the mid night cut off.

I felt pretty overwhelmed with what I had achieved coming third in my first solo 12 hour race was something I had never expected.

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I want to say a huge thank you to Martyn who was an amazing support keeping me going every lap.

Thank you to Mark my coach who has helped me with my training.

Thank you to Silverback for my amazing bike, Bike Fixers for keeping it in tip top condition and Grip Grab for keeping my hands and feet toasty in all conditions!

Read the Pedal 2 Pedal team race report here.

Southern XC – Checkedon

Pedal 2 Pedal travelled to the last in the Southern XC Series at Checkedon. I have been working hard on my endurance ready for my 12 hour solo next week and have not raced a cross-country race since June.

I was feeling strong and enjoyed my practise lap. Arriving back in time to see Fred take 5th place in the under nines and Ollie take 11th in the under 11’s. Well done boys! Head over to Pedal2Pedal for their write up.

As I have done no technical training for a couple of months I stuck with the B line even though I knew this would cost me time.

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It was soon time to grid and I lined up on the front line with four other elite girls. When the whistle went I got squeezed and was not fast enough to react and lost my position. I have always found grass energy sapping and today was no exception the short grass loop to spread out the feel was exhausting I went into the single track struggling to stay with the group.

The singletrack was made up from lots of rooty corners and long fast straights I enjoyed the twisty tight singletrack and on the long straights pushed as hard as I could. My heart rate was averaging around 162 which is low, compare to what I know I can handle but I just couldn’t push any harder.

After the first lap the rain was really starting to come down making the roots slippy, I had to slow down on some of the root sections as I had quite hard tyres which did not grip as well, I had decided to keep them harder to stop the possibility of getting a puncture but now doubted this decision!

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I worked hard for the next four laps catching glimpses of the other girls as the singletrack traversed through the wood.

After five laps I had consistently kept my lap times around 19 minutes which I am pleased with. I was frustrated that I lost the rest of the field and need to work on my speed ready for next year.

I surprisingly took third place which I was happy with but disappointed not to be able to close the gap.

Thank you so much to Bike Fixers, Steve has kept my Silverback in tip top condition. Thank you to Grip Grab and Dog Tag for supporting me and the rest of Pedal 2 Pedal.

Hannah Attenburrow

100km Marathon

Yesterday I rode my first ever mountain bike super marathon, 100km. The Scott MTB Monster Marathon in Wantage, Oxfordshire. I had not had the best start with a few weeks of bumpy training and no time for long rides. I was hoping that the short sharp vo2 sessions which have helped improve my fitness would be enough to pull me through. To add to this it was my Dad and Sarah’s wedding on Friday so after a wonderful day and long night I hadn’t had a lot of sleep and had a belly full of cake and wine!

I drove up to Oxford apprehensive about the distance, the furthest I had ever been on a mountain bike but excited about the challenge.

The start was delayed by 15 minutes as people got stuck in London because of Ride London. Which reminded me of the absence of Martyn, who was meant to be accompanying me on this latest adventure…

When the horn finally went my relaxed start meant I was quite far back, I worked hard through the field to try and get in a good spot before the single track. I managed this relatively successfully and turned into the singletrack in a good position.

The first hour passed quite quickly, I thought the feed zone was at 21km it turned out to be at 17km which had taken me an hour; this worried my slightly as I had planned my own rations around when I could replenish. I picked up half a banana and re filled my water bottle.

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The next couple of hours went by without a hitch I was happy I put more air I’m my tyres as I flew by lots of people with punctures.  The hills were easy climbs but in the heat felt hard.

The views were amazing up on the ridgeway I could see for miles which took my mind off how long I had been riding for. The ground was chalky and rutty in most places with some loose rockie climbs and descents. A few road sections linked together the mainly double and single track course including one road through a valley where the wind seemed to be pushing me backwards.

The first 70km I felt happy with my pace and progress. I had a slight head ache due to the heat and being slightly dehydrated. At 76km I reached the final feed station snacking on peanuts and bananas I was starting to feel tired. Luckily I met a fellow cross-country racer and chatting about racing helped the time to pass quicker! When the 10km to go sign came I was really excited to be so close to finishing but also sad that my first 100km was coming to an end.

Crossing the finish line was a relief and being able to grab a cold drink felt very rewarding!

My first 100km was a great experience and I learnt a lot. I think in reflection maybe I needed to drink more in the first two hours. Also I think I would have been better with a more salty snack. Malt loaf was great but I craved salt so would try something savoury next time.

 

Mountain Mayhem, Blog from midnight to morning

It’s 23:51 and I am waiting for Martyn to finish his first double lap. I don’t usually start blog posts half way through a race, but then my races are not usually in a pair, for 24 hours, so why the hell not! Plus there is so much to remember I need to start now as I fear my brain will not be the same come 12 noon tomorrow!

Today started in the usual way me making breakfast for me and Martyn, the difference today being we would be sharing in this adventure together. After practising the course together yesterday I was excited about racing as a team but hadn’t really considered the fact when one was riding one would be resting so actually apart from the hand over the baton there would not be much ‘time together’ never the less I was excited about the race, along with those beastly pre-race nerves I always get!

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At 11 we went to rider briefing followed by a Le Mans style start, I pulled the short straw and started which meant not only would I be riding the first lap I would be running the 800m to my bike! Not one for running I wasn’t thrilled by this idea.

I lined up helmet on bike parked behind me and when the horn sounded slowly crept forward into a run all the time being mindful not to trip or twist my ankle! The first lap went without a hitch and I passed the baton over to Martyn ready for his first lap and headed back to camp.

Now an hour is usually a long period time, but for some reason these ‘resting’ hours seemed to go very quickly compared to the time spent on the bike.. Anyone who can explain this please do!

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We had decided to do one lap on one lap off until 6pm and this worked really well I got in some fast lap times, perhaps getting a little over excited!

Each rest stop I would have a small carb snack mainly malt loaf or porridge seemed to be my nutrition of choice, also yoghurt coated peanuts and raisins so scrummy!

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6pm arrived quickly and I headed out on my first double lap of the day, half way round I felt like my pedal stroke had become a bit jumpy so stopped and got off and wriggled my crank arm, sure enough my bottom bracket had come loose I gingerly completed the lap, luckily as I came round to our base Martyn was standing on the side line ready to cheer me on so I pulled in after a quick decision Martyn sacrificed his two hour break to go back on the course so I could get my bike fixed. As expected I couldn’t get a new bottom bracket so had to do with getting it tightened.

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Once Martyn finished his lap I went back out on my double lap just as the sun started to disappear the forest was so dark I was a bit shocked by how much the tree canopy sheltered the forest floor. It seemed like double laps were becoming my nemesis as this time my headlight gave up on me, so again I pulled into camp which and grabbed a new light before heading back out for my second lap. It now seemed pitch black in the woods, the wind seemed to have picked up and every tree branch now resembled some scary monster trying to pull me off my bike! I worked hard to stick with people not really being a fan of the dark! Especially at the Skratch laps lakeside trail!

I was surprised by how the dark changed the perception of the course, a course I would say after riding it several times I knew well… But things seemed to have moved the smooth line through now had a tree stump and the more technical sections felt hard, I didn’t seem to be able to find the nice flowing lines I had enjoyed earlier in the day. When I came back into the arena this time close to 11pm I new I needed that good two hour break my legs weren’t that tired but my arm and back muscles were sore and I was craving hot food! Meatballs and pasta sorted out this craving and to make sure I was properly re-fuelled I had a porridge pot for good measure!

So I am now sitting in camp waiting for Martyn to get back and the plan is a few hours rest before starting again.

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At the moment we are lying in third place and have completed 13 laps so far not bad going for our first 24 hour race. I am very impressed with Martyn’s stamina he has not had time to do much training but seems to be breezing round.

Dawn Raid.

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After a well-earned and needed sleep I woke at 5 (slightly later than planned) and got breakfast ready. I had been having some bike issues so Martyn took the first lap. The last couple of hours went by in a blur of eat, ride, repeat. We decided that if I put in a fast last lap and got in just before 12 Martyn could then go back out, this worked well and I completed a fast lap feeling exhausted but proud to have finished as Martyn headed out for his last time. Meanwhile I started to get camp packed down, a little while later I looked up to see Martyn go charging through, sadly I missed his big finish (I’ll be there next year).

We sat down and had a well-earned rest Martyn had a celebratory beer or four! We had held on to our third place even with a 4 hour nap! So felt really happy with our achievement. Going up to collect our trophy from Princess Anne, who owns Gatcombe Park, was a moment I won’t forgot she shook our hands and asked how we divide the laps and I said I did the lions share! Actually only two laps more than Martyn so hardly the lions share but Princess Anne found it amusing. As you can imagine he won’t let me forget this!

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Thank you to Pedal 2 Pedal sponsors, Bike Fixers, Dog Tag and Grip Grab. Thank you to the organisers who put on an amazing event it was our first Mayhem and I am sure we will be back!

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My first six hour race, Summer Monkey

Yesterday was my first six hour endurance race, The Merida Summer Monkey, run by Gorrick.

I was quite nervous and not sure what to expect as I lined up with Karen ready for the mass start. I had in mind than I wanted to get a good position going into the singletrack. I got a good start passing other riders and going into the singletrack in a good position.

We were not allowed to pre ride the course which was something I wasn’t used to so I took the singletrack steadily to make sure I was ready for what was coming up!

The course was fantastic made up of twisty singletrack with lots of roots to tackle linked together by fire road, it seemed most of the climbs were fire road too which made them easier, but the chance of being overtaken was increased.

The weather was over cast and there were spots of rain at times, riding for such a long time I was glad for the shelter from the sun, it would of been a lot harder had the sun been out!

I had a plan for my nutrition which was too keep fuelling every 30 minutes, this worked really well I spent the first 3 hours eating real food (malt loaf and bananas) and then moved to energy gels this combination worked well and I felt strong through most of the six hours. I kept my bike bag fully stocked with jelly babies and munched them in between.

As I came into my second lap I had made good time, completing it in 44 minutes, but wondered whether I could sustain this pace. I decide to keep pushing and eating, keeping an eye on my heart rate. I had decided that as long as I stayed aerobic for the majority of the time I would be able to keep going.

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The first 3 hours were good fun and I enjoyed learning the course, unlike a cross country course which are short and easy to remember this long circuit kept catching me out as to how much was left to go!

Hours 4 and 5 were hard I spent a long time without seeing any riders and when I would it would be passing them or them passing me too fast for me to stay with them! Having done most of my training alone I am used to my own company luckily. I always find it interesting the places your mind drifts to when you’re in that zone where your feet keep turning and the bike eats up the ground and yet your mind is in a totally different place.

Coming into the pit I was relieved to find out this would be my last lap as my body was starting to feel tired, I ate my remaining jelly babies and pushed on. Half way through the lap was a sharp right hand bend which had caused me no problems for the 7 previous laps but being tired a lapse in concentration sent me sliding along the bank, I didn’t hurt myself but it made me panic I felt sure that I was going to be over taken and after having worked so hard for the last 5 hours and stayed in the lead the last thing I wanted was to blow it now!

I pushed on composing myself, it was just after this I decided I wouldn’t have an energy gel because I was so close to the finish…. This was potentially the wrong move.

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Just as I was approaching the last singletrack drop and hard uphill part, a girl came hurtling past me I shouted to find out what category she was in and thought she said 6 hour solo, my body filled with dread and suddenly my legs seemed to have been sapped of energy, I gave it everything I had left to stay with her and although I couldn’t over take her I did manage to stay with her, just about!

I finished the race really happy with my achievement but slightly annoyed at being pipped at the post with so little of the lap to complete. It was then that I found out she was in the 4 hour category solo so I had kept my win.

It wasn’t until podium that I found out I was the only girl in my category so had been competing with girls in other category’s but this didn’t matter, I had worked hard for 6 hours given it everything I could and had consistent lap times.

I came 2nd girl overall for the 6 hour race completing 8 laps which was a total of 56 miles in 6 hours 7 minutes.

A huge thank you to all my supporters including Silverback, Grip Grab, Bike Fixers Portsmouth and Dog Tag.

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Lap times:
Lap 1: 44.56
Lap 2: 46.30
Lap 3: 46.27
Lap 4: 46.40
Lap 5: 45.12
Lap 6: 45.35
Lap 7: 47.17
Lap 8: 44.59

 

National Cross Country Series Round 3, Fforest fields

This weekend I travelled to Wales for the third round of the British Cycling Cross Country Series. Arriving at the venue on Saturday it was clear there was going to be some good climbs ahead! I set off on my practise lap eager to get in a couple of practises, as the course turned out of the arena you were it with the first climb the first section was a bit muddy this crossed a fire road where it then opened out and started to climb more steeply after the second bend my body was ready for some down! The next section was good fun singletrack weaving through the trees to an A/B line. I felt good so went for the A line it was steep and twisty but as long as you looked ahead and kept the bike moving it was manageable, I made a note to come back and practise it again!

After this came an open fire road and then more climbing! After the second climb came my favourite section a fast descent through the trees with some technical roots and steep off camber sections. The next part included obstacles such as a stream crossing, log jump and a little more climbing!

I felt happy with the course and went and chilled out with Vanessa from Arrow Cycles.

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Race day came quickly and I was soon being called into grinding in between Mel and Vanessa on the back row. I got a good start as the riders in front piled into the tight grassy bend I followed Vanessa on the outside, thanks Nessie! I pushed hard on my first climb but as always found this first explosive start left me with a bit of an energy debt which I needed to pay back and climbing this monster hill was not helping me do so!

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The singletrack came as a relief and I worked hard to catch the rest of my category with a few riders in sight I kept pushing on, my first two laps seemed to go in a daze, I worked hard to catch and pass Emma and new I needed to get enough distance between us on the climbs as she was fast coming downhill. On the third lap in the final section a girl in the expert category crashed badly in front of me and after moving her bike out of the trail and looking at her knee I decided I had to help her to a Marshall, a few riders including Emma passed me and said they would go get help, thanks to those who did! Heulwen who had crashed and I made our way gingerly down the trail using my bike to support us both until a Marshall came running towards us, I left Heulwen and got back on a little cold but glad she was now in good hands and could get some proper first aid. I carried on but new my next lap would be hard as I felt like my body needed to warm up again!

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Overall there were lots of positives from my race, my climbing improved as I went on, where I sometimes find steep off camber turns hard and enjoyed the challenge and felt faster in technical areas.

Also my nutrition was a lot better than usual I managed to eat more pre and post-race and benefited from this.

Thank you Emma for talking to the marshal’s and exchanging places!

Thank you to Bike Fixers for keeping my Silverback Syncra 2 in tip top condition. Thanks also to Grip Grab, Dog Tag and Arrow Cycles for once again adopting me!

Lap times:

Lap 1: 00:25:56

Lap 2: 00:24:43

Lap 3: 00:26:32

Lap 4: 00:26:28

Southern XC Regional Champs Wasing

Southern XC Series Round 3 Wasing

After a not so successful round last time I was feeling a little apprehensive about my next race. After spending three hours working on my manuals on Saturday with Scott form Fit in No Time I felt a lot more confident and went out to practice the course on Sunday feeling more confident in my technical ability.

The course was a mix of singletrack and fire road with technical bits dotted through the trees. The first technical A/B line I decide on the B line not too convinced in my ability to manual for the double log drop. There was then a sharp left hand bend to a fire road climb which I found tough but manageable. After the climb the course worked its way back into the woods and soon the next technical feature was in sight this was a series of log steps, after watching someone roll over them I had a go and found, as with most technical ground, keeping momentum was the key to success! I had another go to make sure I was entirely happy and found a slightly better line straight down the middle which felt a bit smoother.

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The next A/B/C line which had been heavily featured on social media and was interesting to say the least! I decided the B line was the best option and had two goes to make absolutely certain I was happy.

The rest of the course made its way through the forest with a couple more A/B lines to choose from. I enjoyed the course and felt happy. Lining up on the start I got a good start leaving the arena in 4th place, the first climb was hard on me as it always takes me a while to kick into gear!

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I was at the back of the field and got over taken by a few riders, I worked hard to pull them back and by my third lap had overtaken four people (not in my category) my plan was to keep consistent lap times which I accomplished.

I had a slight dilemma on my third lap when I reached for a gel to find they were all gone! They must have dropped out around the course. I had a little bit of a panic but new that all I could do was keep going and just drink more of my High Five 4:1.

Lap times:

Lap 1: 22.24

Lap 2: 22.37

Lap 3: 22.42

Lap 4: 23.14

Lap 5: 23.35

I finished happy with my progress finishing only 12 mins behind Cat Ross which is a huge improvement on two weeks ago! It would have been interesting to see if I had been able to have another gel whether that would of made the difference in my final lap times however, my lap times are a lot more consistent than usual which is one of my targets, so overall my best race so far this year and looking forward to Nationals next week!

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Thank you to Southern XC for putting on great courses. Thanks to Karen and Fred for picking me up and cheering me on, well done to Fred who came second in his race Karen who came sixth in hers and Edith who started her first race. Great progress all round for the Pedal 2 Pedal team

Thanks to Grip Grab, Bike Fixers and Dog Tag for your support.

Southern Cross Country series round 2, Crow Hill

Today was the Southern Cross Country series at Crow Hill, in the New Forest. This was my third race in 3 weeks. So feeling a little tired and having  done nothing all week due to a swollen ankle, preparations were not their best.

I had been unsure all week if I should race and finally decided on Thursday that as the race was only an hour away it was worth a shot and hopefully I would gain some more points towards my ranking.

Arriving at Crow Hill I felt relaxed (unusual for me on race day) as I had taken the pressure off by saying just go along and ride.

Practise went well and my ankle felt alright and as long as I clipped out gently,  it didn’t cause too much agro. The course at Crow Hill is great, relatively flat with twisty sections in the forest, tied together with fire road. It was rather slippy in places and a few tree roots were already starting to lose their bark and reveal white flesh which was being polished under so many people taking the same line!

I finished my practise lap in time to see Fred, who I coach and who now races for Pedal 2 Pedal, ride home to take third place in the under nines race. After watching his podium, feeling very proud of his achievements  I went off to warm up.

Arriving on the start line I still felt calm, which was a nice change from my normal nervous feeling!

Start of the cross country race at crow hill, new forest

The race started on an incline and I got a great start, unlike last week in the Nationals and left the arena in fourth position. This huge burst of energy cost me though and as I recovered in the single track and the path opened up I was over taken by a couple of riders but kept pressing on.  A silly mistake on a corner in my first lap ended my grip on the group and cost me greatly in time.

I pushed on and felt okay during my second lap, even enjoying it to a certain extent. I hadn’t managed to take on as much water or food as I would usually, but as I was taking it slightly more gently than usual I thought I’d be okay. This was not to be the case and as I pulled up the hill ready for my third lap I knew my pace had dropped to a crawl! I pushed on the pedals but my legs had nothing left in them. My heart rate had dropped to around 166bpm so I knew I had loads more to give,  but my strength had been sucked away and my tired legs felt heavy.

Someone once told me that when things are tough, all you can keep doing is the right thing, so today that’s what I did. I kept turning the pedals and pushed as much as I could making the most of the downhills to recover and altering my cadence to ease the pressure on my legs and ankle which was now starting to feel a bit sore.

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Coming into my fourth lap knowing I had two more to go was hard work. When you have lost touch with other riders it makes it ten times more difficult to push on because you have nothing  in your sights to push on to!

As I was coming back round to cross the arena Cat Ross (Specialized Ruslip) over took me, I felt a wave of disappointment at being lapped as well as a tiny bit of relief at not having to do a fifth lap.

Every race I learn something different. Today I learnt that a big sprint start will cost me dearly in energy so to make sure I am fuelling well.

Thank you to Bike Fixers for making sure my bike was in tip top condition, Grip Grab for keeping me warm (I needed my leg warmers today) and Dog Tag for your support with Pedal 2 pedal.

Newnham Park Round 2 Nationals

It doesn’t get easier you just get faster!

This quote rings true each time I turn up to a race, it never gets easier I just hurt more efficiently!

Practise at Plymouth on Saturday with Nessie (Arrow Cycles) was far from ideal, after hearing about how ‘knarly’ the course was going to be I wasn’t quite expecting what I was faced with! The course was full of rocks (a rare sight on the trails in the south east of England where I live) loose sandy turf and roots (roots I can deal with). I had watched people come down the first ‘A’ line and thought yeah I can do that! Well from the top I changed my mind and decided to come back to it…

Round the corner and over some gravel humps came the third ‘A’ line where the options where three tree stumps then to jump off the end of a large slab of rock, to ride along a plank and off the side of a rock or a rock followed by three tree logs, I went for this option and got over it, more by luck than technique so went back for a second go, this did not go as well! A lack of momentum sent me flying ending in a rather painful left leg as I couldn’t unclip. I got straight up and did it again to not let any negative demons put a proverbial road block in the way! This time I made it over although wasn’t feeling 100% confident but I managed it.

The rest of the course practise went okay although with a confidence dent each ‘A’ seemed more impossible than the last!

Race day.

After a good night’s sleep I felt more positive about racing. I knew what I wanted to achieve and felt happy with my objectives for my first elite national race.

Arriving at the venue my nerves were bubbling under the surface and I tried to distract myself whilst warming up. Time seemed to speed by and soon we were gridding, the man over the loudspeaker announced that on the grid of 30 elite riders 25 had UCI International ranking! I felt very proud to be on the grid with so much talent, and slightly nervous about how I could compete…

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The gun went off and the field sprinted away, a crash at the first technical area meant a bit of a pile up which I ran round and down the B line to stay out of the way. I continued on reaching the first climb still in touch with the rest of the girls, I passed a few riders and kept pushing on the climb which was dusty and energy sapping, I couldn’t imagine being able to climb in five times, by the time I got to the top my mouth was dry and I felt like all the water had been drained from my body.

The first lap was hard work, the B lines seemed easier than on practise and I enjoyed the descents especially cottage carnage.

My second lap felt easier and I was thinking about trying an A line to make up some time, that was, until I saw a girl walking along the track with her rear mech swinging in the breeze! My new plan of attack was finish and have a clean race with no more injures for me or the bike. By the end of my second lap I was really feeling a sharp pain in my left ankle when I had to apply a lot of pressure through the pedal.

On my third lap Annie Last passed me just before the first big climb, it was inspiring to watch her make her way up it so quickly! Note to self, practise climbing!

Every lap my confidence grew and I became quicker down the B lines as can be seen from my lap times.

Lap times:

Lap 1 22.37

Lap 2 25.13

Lap 3 25.41

Lap 4 25.26

Overall Newnham Park was a fantastic course one which I would love to ride again as it was so far out of my comfort zone, it pushed me technically and mentally as the descents were as taxing as the climbs.

I have come away feeling determined to improve my technical ability and improve my 22nd position from my first elite national race.

Thank you to Bike Fixers for making sure my Silverback was fully prepared for Plymouth it worked well and I was lucky with no mechanicals! Thanks to Grip Grab for making sure when I did come off that my hands stayed unscathed great gloves cheers guys! A massive thank you also to Arrow Cycles who adopted me yet again helping with bottles and making sure I made it to the start line and supplied ice creams at the finish! J