Well it has been along time since I last sat down and wrote about my exploits and how Bikefood has been there by my side .
I went into this year with the support of various good people, remedy such as David at Bikefood, my local Bike shop Tri-the-Bike, and my trainer Jenny Copnall.
As I have found myself being taxi driver for my oldest son (10yrs) going to various races. I decided to go back to racing myself after some 20yrs away from anything remotely competitive, little did I know how tough it would be !
I set out wanting to race the Super Vets category of the Gorrick Spring Series XC and then to move onto the Southerns, the ultimate goal being the Montane-Kielder 100 mile race in Scotland in September. Also, try and better my 8th place at the Army Cycling Union “Are You Tough Enough” 6hr enduro event in July.
I started the year on my back foot as I realised after the 1st round of the Gorrick, I really had under-estimated the fitness level required to be competitive at the sharp end of a sprint type event, finishing a lowly 24th, 126% behind the winner. With this kick up the backside, I decided to focus on an end result and not dwell on the amount of training obviously needed to get me to where I wanted to be. It was always going to be difficult fitting in every training session, being a husband, father of two, and running a business. Needless to say, sessions were missed!
However my trainer, Jenny was very patient with me and we worked round the problems as best we could. By the end of the 5th race “Gorrick Spring Series”, we started to see consistancy in lap times and I had moved up the pecking order. Finally finishing an overall 7th with the last race moving closer to the winner, by now being 114% behind.
So, onto the Southern XC Series….
This was the next series we set a target for, with an overall top 10 position the aim. Having entered the first round at a venue I did not know, I went into it with mild trepidation. I was push hard and managed a 9th place by half a wheel. A very exciting race and despite being push to the limit, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Round two was much of the same again, this time finishing in 7th, so an improvement against my competitors! With the training that took place between rounds 2 and 3, I was looking forward to the famous Pippingford venue. Unfortunately, despite feeling confident and knowing I was in better shape than R2, I blew up on the third lap, dropping down to 8th place from 5th. A disappointing result due to not enough care taken on the hydration front due to the 34 degree heat.
Unbeknown to me, round 3 was the last I would take part in. Having a terrible summer cold I was unable to take part in round 4, and round 5 clashed with unfortunate personal commitments. Having only ridden 3 rounds, I eventually ended with an overall position of 11th! Very much a case of “if only”!
In early July, I found myself on the start line of the Army Cycling Union “Are You Tough Enough” 6hr enduro. The aim…to beat last years 8th place. The weather could not have been better, sunny but not too hot. It was a good event, and I paced myself well, with hindsight perhaps too well as I felt I had more to give at the end! The result? A respectable 5th, less than 2 minutes behind 4th ( I should have pushed harder from further out). This is probably my favourite event of the year. If you like singletrack, then you would not be disappointed in riding this well organised race, with 95% being probably the best singletrack raced on in the South East.
For the finale, the big one. The Montane-Kileder 100 mile race along the Northumberland/Scottish border. Having only been back 9 days from a three week holiday in Disneyworld, Florida and now weighing 5lbs more. This was alway going to be a tough event. I had set myself a goal of ten hours or less actual riding time. With a 6:30am start, I set off with 651 other riders.
All was going well until I hit 30 miles, of which I then had a mental breakdown for ten miles. For some reason, I felt absolutely knackered and was fearing the worst. Could I finish? Would I even make the timing cut off points? By the time I reach 45 miles things seemed to of sorted themselves out and I was feeling good again. However, I had lost time during my bad patch, and I was not sure it could be made up. Still, I plugged away tormented between going fast enough to make up time and not too fast as to blow up later on in the day.
By the time I reach 70 miles, although well within the time cut offs, it was fairly clear I was not going to achieve my goal of 10hrs riding time. The final check point came at 80 miles an I was well within the organisers time limits, but outside my own targets. I now gave it one final push, as hard as I dared knowing 20 miles left is a long way to go with 80 miles already in the legs.
For some obscure reason (probably the new Bikefood capsules – thanks David) I felt like I was flying and really found a fast rythym, so much so, only one rider past me during the last 20 miles (we ended up finishing 2 seconds apart). My riding time? 10 hours 52 minutes. Although it was outside my own target, and therefore a failure to me. I am please to say I was one of 347 who finished. A further 305 failed to complete the race for various reasons, the biggest one being fitness.
So what have I learnt from this year? I enjoy racing!!!
However, I have decided I just do not have the time to train for the ultra endurance events such as the MK100. Sure, I can ride 100 xc miles, I just can not race it in the time I would like. So next year I will be concentrating on the “sprint style” events such as the Gorricks and Southerns, maybe even take on some of the Nationals if I feel strong enough to compete without embarrassing myself.
In saying that, I am also going to ride La Marmotte, not exactly a sprint race that one!
Until next time, keep riding!