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
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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