I was inspired by a blog written by a team of 13 year old girls who completed ‘the Strathpuffer’ last year. This is a 24 hr mountain bike race in a forest in the North of Scotland, held in January. My rationale was that if they could do it so can women who are over 50. It will be fun, something different and a bit of a challenge. That was July, in the hottest summer for years.
January 2019 and I have a team of women, and a fear monkey. This is supposed to be a little bit of fun but my head as gone into overdrive and is hiding in a black hole somewhere. It quite often does this before races. Eating gets harder, my head is convinced I’m ill, it’s normally lying. It’s trying to protect me from myself. After a week of this I decided this is ridiculous and we sit down and have a big talk with each other.
What is the issue? There are several – as someone very close to me pointed out I am a lousy mountain biker, I hate being cold and get cold very easily and I can’t function without sleep. Ideal! And all of those mean I might let the team down and that isn’t OK, So how do I get out of this hole? Find the evidence to convince myself these problems aren’t problems….
Cold is easy – remember I’m warmer now I’m fatter. Keep eating! That generates heat. Take lots of clothes – five sets of biking gear and three coats each takes up a lot of space but worth it. Order a heater, but don’t despair when the delivery service doesn’t deliver! Sometimes there are angels and someone lent us a fire and gave us wood. Coldest temperature was minus ten and from the start on Saturday morning the temperature didn’t rise above freezing until Sunday morning when rain fell and instantly turned to black ice. Everything froze – stove gas, water bottles, wet wipes, batteries, dropper posts – except me! I was warm, great stuff adrenaline. Well, maybe not warm but ok.
Sleep? I didn’t and somehow I managed. Perhaps with a little help….
My response when anyone asks about biking is to say I’m a lousy mountain biker, I like road biking. Well that wasn’t doing me any good. This was one self fulfilling prophecy I really didn’t need. For this I needed to be a REALLY REALLY good mountain biker. Hum. My last mtb ride before the event was in the sunshine on New Year’s day and it felt great so I refused to go out again – I held that feeling and kept looking at photos of it. I can do this. I also looked back at my training diary and realised that I was first vet at Kielder off road duathlon, 1st (with a friend) at Dean Barwick, 3rd female in an Open 5, I’d ridden the Sam Haughton, Gisburn and Whinlatter. I’d done night sportives and trailed all over the Shap fells in the dark. Time to really acknowledge what I have done, stop ignoring it and own it. I bloody well can ride a MTB! I wrote these down a few times and shared them with my coach who laughed – a lot – great, just what I need.
And how was it? A team of four riders and two support who didn’t know each other set off for an adventure and had a blast. I haven’t laughed so much that I’ve cried so often in years. The first lap I rode I was totally out of my box – ice, ice and more ice, adrenaline junkie, heart rate through the roof. After that I settled down a bit. Between us we managed 18 laps, 9 falls, about 900 bruises and as many laughs. In the scheme of things we were 4th out of only 9 female teams. We rode about 124 miles and climbed over 20,000ft. We were happy. Our race aim was to have a good time – nailed it!
And did I mention it was icy?