This was my third Hallocross. A night time cyclocross race on Halloween with fancy dress strongly encouraged. After my friend Elizabeth put me to shame last year with her bumblebee outfit, I made more of an effort this time. Various parts of my fancy dress arrived the week before so that I could line up resplendent as a ladybird! In an effort to get my legs ready I had also done two spin classes. Teaching my legs that not every ride will go on for the next 5 hours or more is hard work.
I don’t normally do cyclocross, but this one is local and in the dark and there are lots of silly costumes, so it is worth going! Although I got there in plenty of time, it still seemed a bit rushed. I couldn’t find anyone I knew so had to ask for help for my numbers and left my bag full of warm dry clothes in the easy up. There was just enough time for a steady practice lap with Elizabeth, who had emerged from somewhere out of the darkness!
At the start I managed to squeeze in not too far from the front. We all charged for the first lap. Suddenly everyone was jumping off and I wasn’t sure why as I hadn’t remembered there being a log here. Turned out it was just a load of mud, but with everyone slowing through it was easier to jump off and run too.
For the first couple of laps people were occasionally passing me. But then I started to pick up and pass other people. On lap 3 I also got enough courage to ride up the two steps, which turned out to be fairly easy on my big wheeled mountain bike! I kept thinking I should try and get over the logs too, but I didn’t want to risk falling tonight. The course was pretty straightforward and less technical than last year. As I warmed up and got used to the best lines I was enjoying myself.
On the last few laps I started catching people at the back of the field. I was definitely one of the middling people – being lapped by the leaders but lapping others myself. I noticed after a while that there was someone holding a board up as we went through each lap, telling us how many more to go. After “2” I went a bit faster. If the leaders lapped me again I’d have to stop! Everyone stops after the winners have finished their last lap, regardless of how many they’ve done themselves.
I got through before them though, so had one more lap to do. It was fun as I caught a couple of people who had passed me on the earlier laps. It was no surprise when the results came out to see that my last two laps were easily my fastest, and my first three the slowest – with a difference of over 30 seconds per lap 🙂 . Full lap times below.
I had almost got to the end of the lap when I passed a rider in a skeleton jersey. I shouted ‘on your left!’ and, as I passed, I heard back ‘hello Rosemary!’. It was Paul, Itera team mate. Last year we were almost the same pace. At the Singletrack Stramash he’d out-ridden me and he also likes to start fast. So I assumed I had caught him up after he’d been in front. Turned out I had just lapped him though, which I enjoyed ha ha! Maybe my fast cycling legs are starting to come back.
There was a strong field there, and I hardly practice for this sort of thing, so I was more than happy to find I’d finished 4th (again).
Next up, the first Open 5 of the winter series. To say I am nervous about the run part of the race would be an understatement. 70 minutes of running in 6 weeks, and an injured and slowly recovering hip for the last three and half. The start of the run will be a step into the unknown! But at least I can be fairly confident in the strength of my bike leg if nothing else 🙂
|Lap time||Difference with last lap||Difference with best lap||Speed|
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!
This time last year I decided to do a few things to try and get faster and better at adventure races. After a couple of average events, I had a fantastic time in a truly wild, wet and windswept event in Kirkby Stephen, which also really inspired me and gave me bags of confidence. So, what did I do?
- Lost a bit of weight
- Learnt to run further
- Trimmed down all the unnecessary kit I was carrying
- Consistent race practice
- Lots of map study
I had a brief spell feeling that I could have done better on the run during the Ben Nevis Triathlon a few weeks ago, but then remembered that this time last year I could barely manage 8km, and now I think 20km is about the limit.
Race practice is invaluable – you just can’t get better at strategy and decision making under pressure without actually doing it. Even if it is sometimes a disaster!
With two individual event wins and third in last year’s Open 5 series, plus three podium places out of my four big events this summer, I feel quite happy with how this plan worked out 😀
What next? Well, here are some ideas I have:
- Get super new bike (start lists with something you can already tick off…)
- Ride off-road more often
- Start going to the club running sessions consistently
- Get more recovery
- Eat better
- More map study … well, it’s fun, like curling up with a good book!
It sounds obvious, but it was only at the Trans Wales event that I realised by going mountain biking every day, I was getting better at it. With the new bike there’s no excuse, and anyway, it is such fun to ride that this one isn’t gong to be a chore. Last night I went to Glentress after work with a colleague. We had the trails all to ourselves, the woods echoed to my whoop-de-woops and night riding is great for technique! You’re forced to look round tight corners and I find myself riding trickier stuff because I’m there and going over it before my brain whispers ‘you can’t …’. I’m also finding new people to ride with, like the girls at Hervelo and a fledgling team at Ronde.
As for recovery and eating – in a week’s time I will officially be a part-time employee. Not by much, but every other Monday I will be free to relax after the weekend’s exertions and catch up on everything that currently gets ignored or crammed into the late evenings when I should be going to bed. Things like planning what to eat for the rest of the week and going shopping so I have food in the house. Plus all the boring stuff like ironing and housework, mixed with interesting stuff like writing race reports and doing my Italian homework.
I’m really quite excited by the prospect. My challenge will be to avoid the temptation to fill up the time with new things 😀
Next race: Open 5 at Staveley in the Lake District.