Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Southern XC Round 2 - Crow Hill - 19th May 2013

Mummy not too bad!

Southern XC Round 2 – Regional Championships – Crow Hill
19th May 2013

OUCH! Mountain-bike racing hurts. I forgot.

Thank you, Southern XC, for the relentless and unforgiving course that was the Regional Champs and Round 2 at Crow Hill; and it certainly reminded me of what I had missed.

Yes, it hurt but I had so much fun doing it!

Owing to a few seasonal, physical and organisational mishaps, this was my first competitive MTB race for 2013. It was also my first since 2009 ... (except, the National Champs at Wasing last year, where I had done a 24 hour event prior to actually lining up, thanks to a toddler.) Sherwood had snowed me off and the first Southern XC round coincided with a Majorca trip.

But, third time lucky, I reached Crow Hill.

Having been kind-of out of XCO racing since pre-pregnancy, I had no idea how fast (or slow) I would be. I ride with Mr Collins, weekly, and he makes me suffer, but he’s not close to his pre-Willow levels of fitness either. I knew I could sprint. I knew I could go uphill. I knew I could be pretty darn good for 5 minutes or so. Perhaps a hill climb would have been a better event. BUT, I had an enthusiastic  Vitus Rapide 29 encouraging me off-road.

Crow Hill. Relentless. Not hilly. More than 5 minutes.

With a 10am start and a 3 hour drive away (yes! Ashford is miles from anywhere but France;) and with Nick racing the SE Divisional RR Champs, Willow was to spend the day with my sister. We were up and away by 5am: I won’t go on about what time we were up really. Did I say, I have a toddler ...?

However, I was at the venue and had pre-ridden the course by 9am, so I was feeling fly.

The course was exactly Crow Hill: I’ve raced here several times; it’s rooty and physically demanding. It hadn’t changed. Except, I had a great bike on which to ride. With a carbon 29’er, what are roots and bumps? And, on a flatter course, the bike’s rolling willingness was a huge advantage to me.

Although the course was familiar, the number of women starting was not – the last Southern XC I had raced, I was one of a few in the Elite/Expert category, along with several Masters women. Sunday’s race had 10 elite riders and many more numbers filling the categories behind us. A true representation of how popular cycling is becoming for women. Not sure how many of us were mums, though: something we need to work on!

And, as 10am ticked over and the whistle was blown, we were all hurtling around the field and towards the first part of the singletrack. And, following Sally Bigham, Emily Iredale and Carla Haines, was me! Yes, me! I was somehow, 4th off the start.

I was conscious that I had to be careful: not to go too hard. I wanted to last the full 90 minutes – quite ironic when Sally reminded me that the last time we met racing was 2009 British Marathon Champs. Today, I wanted to finish – my only aim of the weekend. But, despite my head trying to be sensible, I found myself becoming quite twitchy seeing Sally ride away from us and me unable to follow her. Of course, had I chased, I wouldn’t have lasted: Sally looks and rides as the World class athlete she is; I felt more akin to Iggle Piggle. But, I would have had a go! So, as soon as I had a clear path, I made a move and settled into Gemma-racing: on my own, at my speed, happily admiring the bluebells while breathing my lungs out and spinning my legs off! The bike wanted to ride fast too and it rolled over the course, carrying speed and me with it. I do think I may have been a bit too tentative with it but I am sure I will learn to let it go with a bit more racing.

Photo from Southern XC

Laps 1 and 2 were great. I was enjoying the variety of the roots, steep little climbs and descents, sweeping trails and pushing myself. It was really great. However, as I crossed the line into lap 3, I began to cramp. Nick and I had joked that I had no endurance and would be ok for a lap or two but I had secretly hoped we were wrong. I have no race fitness; my longest rides are 2 hours, usually; and I hate hurting myself! I knew I wouldn’t last. Not for race one.

Therefore, laps 3 and 4 were spent pedalling as softly as I could and gulping my Torq juice as often as I could without risking my 2nd place position but I knew Emily would catch me. She had to. I was in the Elite race and riding my last two laps at tempo. I was lucky not to be caught by the whole field as I coasted around lap 4 watching my heart rate drop but feeling my legs deaden. I reminded myself that my sole objective was to finish and that sprinting too hard and causing the cramp to seize me would have risked a finish at all.

Emily caught me. If only the race had been 10 minutes shorter.

-          I set out to finish – I did.
-          I set out to achieve a benchmark and test myself – I did.
-          I set out to have fun – bloody hell, I did!

In doing so, I finished on the third podium! And, unless Sally and Emily are hiding a little person somewhere, I think I may have been 1st placed mummy! Willow, be proud (she’ll be at Wasing, balance-bike racing!)

Thank you to all those who helped me:
PMR@Toachim House/Vitus/CRC pit-stop crew (aka Sophia, Craig, Emma and Jack!)
Vitus bikes at CRC
My ickle sis and her hubby for Willow-sitting.
Southern XC for a great course and event (as usual.)

And, in tribute to Richard Wood - he told me I pedal fast years and years ago. Today I had to. RIP.

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