Friday, 22 January 2010

Road Trip

Did I say no new projects for this year?! Well that could be all set to change (as is the Surf's Up! way!) A chance meeting got us thinking and it could just be that a bit of luck and timing may well take us down a route that we've wanted to go down for ages, but just haven't quite got our heads around how to do it. Until now. We'll mull things over for a couple of days and come up with a plan. It's the next natural step for us.

I gathered the boys together for a road trip on Thursday of a different kind! All over 40 (!), we went mountain biking up at Gawton Woods near Tavistock. They've got three man made downhill tracks that are amazing! We stuck to the one marked as 'difficult' (which is the easiest) - we left the 'Extreme' and 'Very Extreme' routes to the young lads who presumably had spent their college grants on serious bits of kit! They were getting big air!

Poor Old Mikey - I have yet to go on a ride where he hasn't had a puncture (I think he does it on purpose). The HSD trail took about 4 minutes to go down and about 20 minutes to get back up again! Nick's main bike was out of action so he brought along an old one - but he was seriously under-gunned. You really can't be taking on these trails without brakes! You need brakes! Three spills later, Nick made it to the bottom - alive but bruised! We did some bike swapping and I got my dirt bike out as an experiment. Turned out it was just the ticket - the perfect machine. Except that it's a single speed ie no gears, and it's heavy. This made for a big push back up to the top! Anyway despite some initial bike and tyre failures we had a great time. we headed home pretty shot!

I went back up again there yesterday on my own. There's another wood nearby that has loads of tracks some of which were super extreme. Being the only one there was bit intimidating! And going nervously down trails is not the way to do it! On one run, the track drops off steeply into a banking turn. Half way through the turn I was surprised to see another drop off. I got it all completely wrong and the front wheel dug in, at which point I made the amateur mistake of reaching for the brake .. the front one. I went flying through the air, my feet fully clearing the handle bars - it was like slow motion running in the air. Fortunately the landing, a good distance further down the slope was soft and the only damage was to my self esteem! In the past there's no question that an accident such as this would have resulted in a pulled hamstring and that's what was going through my mind before hitting the ground. I've done it so many times and each time really gets me down. I'm hoping that all this cycling has actually strengthened all the bits that need strengthening and maybe, just maybe this achilles heel will be a bit more resilient. Fingers crossed. I dusted myself off and headed back to Gawton Woods, a couple of miles away to the HSD track. Great, great fun ... and a great work out.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Soggy Bottom

The last time I raced on a mountain bike was some 20 years ago in the Quantocks - and I did really badly! I led up the first hill and then slipped and fell off, rejoining at the back of the field. I can't say it got any better after that! Yesterday, I lined up in the Vets category for my first race since 1989! And remembering my one and only previous mountain bike racing experience, I made a plan to start last! It was obvious that these boys were seasoned racers and were here to 'race' - I just wanted to see if I could finish it and in doing so, keep out of their way.

The first hill was wet and muddy and pretty impossible. Everyone was off their bikes and pushing their machines (some very expensive machines at that!). At the top it went into single track. I was following this old chap who was taking it pretty easy, and I could see the rest of the pack moving clear. When I did eventually get passed, the pack had disappeared into the distance. So the chase was on! Pedal to the metal, I went as fast as I could, testing out my new biking fitness gained from hours and hours out on the road and on the turbo at home! The course itself was challenging. There were tricky bits - one very steep grassy bank had me flying over the handlebars on two consecutive laps! And mud in one place came up to the knees (that was a get off and carry bit!). On the single track there were slippery wet roots, and trees tight to the side leaving little room for error. But overall it was a fun route.

I crossed the line in 16th place - totally stoked. Having started at the back and battled through the traffic (about 100 of us all went off at the same time) - I was really, really pleased with that.

So it was a vast improvement on 20 years ago! I'm going to train even harder now and come the next race I'll start near the front and see what happens! You can't beat a bit of competition to light the fire!

ps. doubly stoked this morning. Entries to the Dragon Ride Sportive are like gold dust but this morning they released 300 additional places..... and I lucked out and got one!

Surf looks great today - 3ft clean, a few people in. The sun is out - what a lovely day!