Tri-Trail Foxlake and Bowhill medium duathlon
Two race reports for the price of one!
I did the tri-trail event at Foxlake a few weeks ago. In some ways it was very good, in other ways it was very disappointing! It was a 14km trail running race along the coast near Dunbar (East Scotland). I entered late but got a lift with Anne in her red sports car 🙂 . Four of us headed over together, nattering and telling stories all the way.
It was a very brisk morning, hard frost everywhere. In short, the race was flat and fast. My disappointment was in coming 11th … my worst result and the only one outside the top 10 in well over a year. Excuses? Hmm … it was too flat, too dry, too short, too … in fact, there were just a lot of faster girls than me there! Not even a mis-navigation by a group in front helped my position – they still beat me even though they ran further!
On the other hand, it was a pretty route and my time was quicker than I thought it would be. The best bit of the day was the camaraderie and banter, and a trip to Mimi’s on the way home for some rather gigantic French toast. Perfect post-race refuelling!
I suspect this was a classic case of misalignment in expectations and commitment between my conscious (I want to do well! I always want to do well!) and my sub-conscious (this is a training run, it is practice for bigger things).
Bowhill Medium Duathlon
Fast forward a couple of weeks and it was time for the second event in the Bowhill winter off-road duathlon series. This was the ‘medium’ distance. These races are supposedly short, medium and long, but these terms are all relative. To my mind they are very short, short, and quite short.
Anyway, on race morning it was raining. On the way over, it turned to sleet and the temperature reading from the car thermometer dropped by a couple of degrees. It was also very windy. We arrived later than usual but I was organised and didn’t need or want to hang about in the rain anyway.
After getting ready I stuck to my plan of keeping my waterproof on and riding in my giant lobster gloves. I had a number belt though – couldn’t believe some people were putting pins through their waterproof jackets – surely that can’t be good for them?!
It was a mass start on the bike. I planned to be about row 2 but end up right at the front with Jo (super fast girl) on my left and Chris (super fast guy) on my right, 3 of us from the same club lining up! On the horn, off we went. There were a few wobbles and people were rushing past me. I had to hold my nerve, but was soon heading up the hill in contact with a front group of about 15. Up and up we went.
On the first down a couple of people passed me and Jo disappeared. ‘Usual story’, I thought. Second downhill something took hold of my brain. I kidded myself that the new tyres and tubeless set up would ‘make me go faster’ and started hammering it down a very stony, bumpy fireroad. Rain and sleet were falling from above, whilst mud flew up from below. The occasional coniferous tree branch took a swipe from the side. I couldn’t see a lot and just hung on and hoped for the best. At the bottom I popped round a corner and there was Jo just in front again! I caught up and followed her through the trees. Every time I attempted a pass though, she accelerated, so I just sat in behind all the way to transition. Same situation again, I might try something different! However, this was an awesome bike ride and I knew it would be the highlight of my day.
Even though I faffed a bit changing shoes and getting my coat and big gloves off, I was first lady out of transition!
Then reality struck. We were on foot and Jo came past and whizzed off. She is a class runner. I gritted my teeth and got stuck in. The run was much less exciting than the bike. For most of it I could see almost no-one ahead or behind. I just kept going and hoped I wouldn’t be caught. In the end, my cushion from the bike was enough to see me keep 2nd place, though I still have a lot of work to do on that run! I was 21st overall, maybe I can break into the top 20 next time?
At prizegiving I managed to collect two beers – one for the Glen (the driver) and one for Andy. Along with the finisher’s (veggie for me) haggis, it wasn’t a bad morning’s work! 😀
Thanks to Bob Marshall and Zupix for most of the photos.
Making a habit of night riding?
I started out riding my mountain bike off road in the dark when I decided to do the Strathpuffer some years ago – what an introduction! I’ve been out sporadically since, either training for the occasional race, or just for fun. It is possible to get up into the Pentland Hills outside Edinburgh from work, ride and get back without a car – though it’s always further home than I expect!
This year Andreas, a friend from work and the bike club, has decided he wants to ride his mountain bike more. The only time to do it is after work, when it just happens to be dark. He has a car and needs someone to go with – I am happily obliging 😀
The trails are almost deserted and are more interesting than they are in the daylight. I have been testing out the head light I won at the Trans Wales event – an Exposure Diablo. It’s an awesome light; bright enough to ride with on its own, providing you’re not out for too long. And a good job too, since my handlebar light detached from the bracket and stayed that way (new part ordered)!
Andreas seems keen on animal spotting. This week we got:
- Rabbit – 5 points
- Bats – 10 points
- Squirrel (unverified) – 3 points
- Small amphibian – 7 points
- Large OWL! – 20 points
- Black beetle – 6 points
- 4 other humans – 0 points
Total: 51 points
We’ve already headed off to Glentress twice recently, so it looks like this might become a regular thing. Fits in very well with my plan to ride my mountain bike more, but not so well with my plan to do the club running sessions more, since the evenings keep clashing! Since one is more fun than the other, I can see which might end up winning 🙂
* Picked up a team jersey from Ronde today. Very exciting!
Big wheel convert
I have spent the last 3 years thinking about getting a new mountain bike, but 3 weeks ago I finally collected my shiny new steed from Moonglu in Ripon.
Here’s a picture of it:
The two most important features of this bike are:
- It is a 29er (i.e. it has big wheels!)
- It is made of titanium
After spending a long time thinking about investing in a full suspension bike (everyone said it would be more comfortable and I would ride technical trails more easily), for some reason I made a sudden switch to insisting that my bike had to be a hardtail, with big wheels and made of titanium.
My logic was that it would be lighter, need less servicing (no rear shock) and that the big wheels would be faster over non-technical trails (like roads (!), fireroads in the forest and some bridleways). A skim through a few forum posts convinced me that those same big wheels combined with a titanium frame would give me a plush ride.
So without having ever ridden a 29er (it’s hard to find demo versions at all, let alone ones in a women’s size), the decision was made. Sometimes you just have to have faith!
I am not the sort of person who enjoys trawling through Bike Radar and assessing the pros and cons of ever new bit of bike kit that comes out. I really only want my bike to ride well, and not wear out at the merest hint of a bit of mud and water. So with some help from my friends a starting spec was assembled and sent over to Neil Dunkley at Moonglu for him to make sure everything would fit together, source the parts and turn it all into a bike.
If you really want to know what went on it, you can see the full specification here.
It took a while for everything to arrive, but I collected it just in time to test it out at the Trans Wales, a week-long mountain bike event riding over just the sort of terrain and distances I often face when adventure racing. I’ve heard there’s some sort of rule that says you shouldn’t use untested kit for the first time in a race. 😉 I ignored that and arrived on the start line fresh and ready to go, having practiced on my new bike all the way home from the station and back again. That’s about 7km, but there were a few potholes to negotiate!
First I should say that this bike replaced a much-loved 10-year old Cannondale F500, complete with V-brakes and a Thudbuster suspension seatpost, which saved my posterior on more than one occasion.
But this bike is AMAZING!
After a day or two, I found it inspired confidence on the steep downhills (maybe that was the new disc brakes), whizzed down the long straights, was more comfortable than anything I have ever ridden before and was especially good at rocky stuff. I noticed this most when we had to do a whole series of river crossings. On the occasions when I accidentally came to a near-standstill in the river, just a little push on the pedals and I would pop over the rocks and onwards. Much better than falling off and going for a swim!
I think the bike has had an unexpected side benefit to my riding. I started to approach tricky looking sections thinking ‘well, my new bike will be able to ride that!’. I’d then cheerfully set off and clear the obstacle. I put this entirely down to the investment in a new bike 🙂 (though I’ll secretly admit that perhaps the little extra dose of confidence meant I rode things I always should have been able to).
The sealed gear cables did the business – perfect shifting for 7 days through muck and water. I just couldn’t get used to gears that worked! My only small niggle is that they don’t go low enough – I want to spin up those hills! With a 2×10 set-up I might be able to adjust this next time I get a new cassette, but I’ll see how it goes. Maybe I can just learn to ride faster?!
Only a whole load more riding will tell me how well the components stand up; how soon until I need to change the brake pads, replace the headset bearings or get a new chain?!