Sunday, 21 July 2013

Ups and downs of the amateur racer

It's been an interesting couple of months on the ''trying to train'' and ''trying to do well in races''. June was not a bad month with a 3rd in the Eastbourne Duathlon and then following it up with a 3rd the following weekend at the Bexhill Duathlon. 

Not exactly two places that you would immediately associate with the fast and frenetic pace of duathlons, maybe the breathlessness aspect that goes with it given that the average age is around 80 in these coastal retirement havens. This made for interesting racing on the Bexhill road circuit. Let's just say I'm not entirely convinced by a circuit that winds it's way on open roads in and around the houses on Bexhill seafront, with Sunday drivers deciding to stop whilst going round a roundabout to discuss directions with a marshall, and all this while contesting a gale force 9 headwind for half of the 4 road laps. And in an evil twist they put the long run leg at the end. 

So while the week before at Eastbourne I was trying to chase down 2nd place this time I went into the run leg 2nd only for my legs to reply ''actually I think we would rather call it a day now so we're going on strike''. It was painful, especially with a hill to circumnavigate twice. So 3rd it was then and missing out on a chance to get a prize presented by Graham Norton. Yes you did read that right.

I haven't done much running since then especially as the duathlon season won't kick in till September time. Work as well has been busy along with trying to do the house up, sell it, move in to the other house so back to sporadic training it was. I did manage to fit in the 2nd round of the WSS MTB series at Gravesend Cyclopark with it's two short races format. That was hard I have to admit. The legs and lungs were questioning whether it was October already and the cyclocross season had kicked in given the frenzied pace for 45 minutes each time. I'll be honest, my legs aren't used to that and I got my 4th and 5th places more by default of people having mechanicals or puncturing rather than my sheer race pace, but hey, I'm easy I'll take the points how I can. Unfortunately my hopes of all the people ahead of me puncturing didn't quite come to fruition.

Since then it was a ride a week if I was lucky until at last a new gym opened near to where i work, (despite the best efforts of a 'corporate gym' complaining), giving me the opportunity to cycle into work so that I can at least have a shower when I get there and at the same time get in a nice 26 mile bike ride.

It was back down to earth with a bump though as despite having entered the Etape in Annecy and meeting up with friends down there arranged, everything conspired against me to the point where I had to cancel going......that still hurts. A 3 hour ride round my local roads didn't have quite the same romance as doing the Etape, especially as it involved 2 punctures and more potholes than you could wish for. Since then the puncture pixies have been hard at work as it has been a been a puncture on every ride be it road or mountain bike up until my ride on Friday night.

Still at least I managed to get round the course with no punctures at the 3rd round of the WSS Mtb series at Wrinsted Court. This was despite 2 excursions into the bushes on the first 2 laps on an off camber corner, which was slightly embarrassing after telling the chap next to me on the start line who had never ridden the course to take it easy on that section. Not content with this, i decided to find a conveniently located hole after the bombhole section hidden by some weeds which meant the bike stopped but I didn't making for an over the handlebars incident. Not good as i was in pursuit of second place at that point.

By the start of the 5th and final lap second was in sight and I managed to catch him on the last hill. I caught him and attached immediately but I could see his shadow on my wheel as I glanced down. It was then flat out to try and drop him, I could have done with another hill to be honest but was left with a small section of single track with a bombhole before the tracked opened briefly uphill. I knew that he was going to counter attack here so went as hard as I could to get the all important hole shot before the last single track section before the final corner before the line. 

He got me though out of the bombhole so we came round the corner with a bike length between us. I went for it, but sprinting is definitely not my forte. Still I gave it a shot but not quite enough in the end so 3rd it was. A good result you say, well there was on 4 finishers! Where are all the racers...we need more people to attend this event otherwise it will not be around next year at this rate. You can't tell me everyone was up at the Nationals in Glasgow or do people just not want to race XC anymore.

If only the finish line was a bit further up the hill!
All i know is that I think the time has come to purchase a full suspension bike. My body aches after these races now, so I look forward to another painful session of physio to free my back, neck and ribs up. I love the One One Race 29er but for recovery and less stress on my body I need a full suspension.....all donations gratefully received!
Saturday, 13 July 2013

Testing? On a mountain bike? In the woods?! Yes please!

I've had the Kings Lynn CC mountain bike time trials on my radar for a while. Unfortunately I missed the first race through stupidity, then the rest of the races were either when I was racing other events, or a day before I was heading off for other events. Alas! However, this Saturday, I finally got to give it a try. I had thought the race was Thursday this week, but at the last minute (despite having my bike packed in the car), but I still ended up going there for a recce. Looking at Shouldham Warren on Google Maps, I was starting to get interested.

Thursday nights ride turned into a longer-than-usual evening ride for me, and ended up doing over 2 hours of tempo riding, with a few tear ups. Took quite a bit of effort to find the trails, but eventually I had the basics of a loop together. As it turned out, wasn't quite the loop, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. I was feeling pretty good on the bike and enjoyed the trails. They had turned to sand dunes in a few places, but there was always a solid line (except a few descents, but they could be controlled easy enough). The trails were pretty similar to the Brandon Country Park stuff in Thetford Forest, but they had quite a decent bit of gradient.

The TT arrives, and my preparation was a whole 3 hours sleep. Been having a bit of insomnia recently, which is very unusual for me. Got there and had a good chat with Chris from EHF Racing and got started with my warm up. The TT starts on a fireroad climb, then hits some singletrack. The first half of the course was the main part I had trouble locating, so some of it came as a bit of a surprise, but before long, I was settling into my own pace and chugging along. As with mountain biking - every ride has a story! And this morning's story was a bit of a treasure hunt. There were 3 times on the course where I ended up either taking a wrong turn or was really confused about what direction to take. But that wasn't really a major concern - I was just happy to be out pushing a hard effort and enjoying the ridiculously hot sun. For some silly reason my white CycleAid top was unwashed and stinking, so I thought I would wear a black jersey instead. On the hottest day of the year, that wasn't the best decision I have made this week. That will teach me!

Thanks for the organisers for putting on these events. I loved it, and am really looking forward to the next one. There is even talk of holding XC races in the future, and I was pushing them on doing evening night races in the Winter - now that would be ace!

Happy riding!

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