Selkirk mountain bike weekend: Part 2 = SMBO 3h score orienteering
After 6 hours of hilly, off road riding on Saturday, I woke up from a good sleep on Sunday morning. The sun was shining and I was ready for more!
What I had in store was a 3 hour MTB score orienteering event. As I had been ‘staying with the organisers’ I knew they had worked hard to make sure the control checkpoints were accurately placed and marked on the map, and they had done a lot of pre-riding. I was looking forward to a good event.
I was joining forces with Jon, who is one of my teammates for the 5 day expedition race in August, called Itera. We haven’t raced together for 3 years though we’ve shared a few long car journeys since then! The map was printed on A3 paper, which is quite large and means you need to refold once or twice during the race. This was because it was on a 1:25k scale. This is a bit unusual for MTB events, but definitely necessary for navigating the intricate maze of tracks on the Bowhill estate.
As usual (for me), we set off at the latest possible time. 200m later we made a slight mistake, but hoped that would be our only navigation error for the day! It was soon righted, and we find ourselves riding along a fun trail through the trees alongside the river. The controls came quickly enough as we skirted round the edge of Bowhill, picking out a route that was easiest to follow.
My legs were complaining a bit from the day before, and I gratefully tucked in behind Jon as we rode into a headwind. I knew I could carry on like this if we didn’t go any faster, of if my legs didn’t get any worse, but I was slightly worried I might not keep up 🙂 .
After about an hour, we paused to consider our options. Time was passing faster than we had hoped and it was quickly becoming obvious we wouldn’t be able to get everything. In the end we stuck to the plan, looping round to the back of a big hill with controls worth lots of points at the top. Our alternative route still had all the climb in it, so it seemed best to carry on via the most number of controls.
In retrospect, this took a bit longer than expected, but was definitely worth it for the views! Up by a gigantic cairn, we could see for miles and miles all around. The route up had all been entirely rideable and was quite rewarding. From there, we passed a milestone with a control attached to it and started a fabulous fast descent back to the forest. We got straight to the highest scoring control of the day, in a small quarry in the middle of all the criss-crossing tracks. Getting out was a little bit trickier, but we escaped without incident!
As we turned onto a minor road, we realised we had only half an hour left and were heading in the wrong direction for home. An about-turn saw us considerably shorten the route, dropping more 25-point controls than we really wanted to. My legs got a new lease of life as well – and suddenly it was Jon who was working hard to keep up instead of the other way around! Unfortunately, the final kilometre along the Borders Abbeys Way was not nice easy double track as suggested by the map. Instead, it was grassy, slidy, bumpy and punctuated with numerous stiles. Progress was much too slow! We skidded back to the finish nearly 9 minutes late.
It was enough to win the mixed pairs, but only just! Marc and Ewan planned a very good event, with some challenging decisions to make about where to go, great riding (and not just a repeat of yesterday’s routes) and awesome homemade cake to finish off with. I was happy 😀 .