A shiny new bike which I had ridden for about 30 minutes and a completely new event.
The start was due at 2.15pm so I arrived with plenty of time for a warm up lap or so.
My first impressions were not favourable. This was scarier than I thought it would be. The riding off road was not on a smooth dirt trail but across a decidedly bumpy farmer’s field. The field had what seemed to be a motor cross section in the middle of it, as well as several other natural dips with steep banks for sides.
The bottom of the slopes allowed for no run-offs as they always ended in a sharp turn that took you up a different side of the bowl to exit. With no speed gained, I had to jump off the bike and run up. There were about 4 of these a lap.
A lap took about 10 minutes. At no point was it possible to coast, as to stop pedalling was to stop moving, apart for the sudden drops – at which point I was full on the anchors to stop myself overshooting the edge of the course. It was also not possible to draft as there was no momentum when you eased up on the pedals.
We lined up at about 2: 10 with approximately 160+ riders taking part. I made sure I was near the back and was going to make my way slowly up through the field. In theory.
I looked around and was heartened by the sight of heavy looking mountain bikes ( they must be slow surely?) and some of those near the back were definitely not racing snakes, nor were they in the first flush of youth. The guy next to me admitted it was his first time too. He was younger but larger than me and was riding a mountain bike. I was confident of riding away for him at the start and beating at least one person. Besides, I had done the Marmotte. That must count for something? Fool that I am.
The field moved off up a 200 meter long slope. I heard shouts for individual names, then lots of “come on dad” and even a few “come on granddad” just to make me realise that I was far from the oldest in the field and that I had no excuses.
First lap went fine. Buoyed by adrenalin, I was going past more than passed me. I hung on for dear life on the down slopes and ran energetically on the ups. On the first big down, I overshot into some tyres and lost all the places that I gained but figured that I would catch all those up in the next few minutes.
In the second lap the field started to thin and I was able to pick off one or two more, opening up a gap on those behind me. I went down to longest straight quite pleased with myself, feeling that my fitness was more than making up for my lack of skill. So much so that I failed to notice that the tape marking the edge of the course was blowing into my path. It caught my front wheel and over I went.
As I lay their contemplating why I was doing this, everyone that I was “better” than caught and overtook me. Again. Including the guy next to me on the start line.
I shook myself down, no damage done. The next 3 laps till the end were a blur of tiredness, sweat, sore hands, and concentration. As I passed the big bowl and ran up the steep side each lap I heard Garry Palmer ( my coach – yes even the back markers get coaches these days) shouting words of encouragement only to be drowned out by my younger brother shouting out that I was a big girl for not riding up the slopes like the leaders. Bless.
After the leaders had done 50 minutes, a bell went for one last lap. I would like to say this spurred me on for one last frantic lap but, there was quite frankly no more “frantic” left in me.
As I rounded the last corner, there was the guy on the mountain bike 10 yards in front of me. Recognising, with a wry smile, that he had ridden hard and skilfully for the last 50 + minutes and deserved his place, I sprinted past him and beat him by half a wheel. YES!
And then when we got home Sam got to pop all the blisters on my hands.
When I woke the following morning I was tired and sore all over.
I was 129th out of 161 finishers.
Will there be a next time? Oh, yes! I probably forgot to mention it was lots of fun. Young and old, fast and slow, and all shapes and sizes were there. Very low key but a great challenge and a hell of a work out.