I don’t usually race in winter due a mixture of life getting in the way with children doing activities (footy) and me being rubbish in the cold weather, I don’t really do cold weather like some people don’t do hot but this year I decided to break that habit.
I had an awful 2015 racing apart from the Battle on The Beech event in March. I had intended to take a year out due to moving house and relocating but BoTB was such a great event it just motivated me to carry on, what a mistake that turned out to be . I went into all my lead events up to mountain mayhem solo feeling tired unfocused and unmotivated. When setting off from home to race mayhem I was so feared up about it I almost turned back, I put this down to nerves and needing to MTFU, anyway it didn’t go well two laps in I was hating it, I didn’t want to be there, didn’t want to suffer and just want to go home and watch telly, which I did. I vowed to take some serious down time even contemplated packing it all in I had been racing for 25 years on and off and was knacked.
A few weeks later I went to the doctors for an asthma check up and was told I had been carrying an infection I didn’t even know I then described other some other symptoms I was feeling and the doctor diagnosed me with central nervous system fatigue, in other words I was well and truly officially bolloxed
Time is a great healer though and after not riding in any serious mode and just spinning around without a Garmin or designated training plan & some running I slowly started to feel better and the desire to ride with a focus crept back into me so much so that I can fast forward to me being at a snow covered start line for a four hour XC race in January. Racing for a new team whom I had known now for a good few years was also an added bonus, the rebirth had started.
The Gorrick events are well known in the south of England XC circuit organising a number of events from short course to the very tough 100k to non competitive trail finders and the long-established Torq in your Sleep 12 hour race. They had over the recent year started a winter XC series with various choices of times races 2hr 3hr (masters) or 4hr and named it aptly ‘Brass Monkeys.
With a new motivation and focus I had entered the 4 hour vets & I got to say I was expecting a real kicking but eager to get stated again. The vets category has got more and more competitive and faster over the years and I was getting older.
The weather was shocking snow and freezing cold but at a new venue never raced before with trails on private land that have never been ridden before, I was up for it.
The course was compact so the start was almost immediately into singletrack, I have made the mistake of heading off too fast before in races and suffered later on so I got myself into my usual position near the front to be out of danger but not too close so as to confuse the leaders with “who the hell is this guy’ thoughts.
The race headed off and the lap revealed itself to almost 100% singletrack with some short but intense climbs and technical sloppy snow covered descents, I was feeling good and years of riding singletrack in Epping forest was paying dividends as I was comfortable with kind off racing. The weather took a turn for the worse and once again the previous years of being in Epping helped me out as during winter the forest is a real quagmire so the slop and slippery conditions didn’t deter me.
During the earlier stages myself and three other guys were swapping position and all felt really good until about two and half hours in. The lack of off-road riding started to take it toll I was feeling fatigued not the lungs but the legs arms and head from the complete focus needed and constant pummeling. I had done plenty of road miles to cover the distance but not enough MTB to deal with the conditions. I started to really suffer.
This is when the questions are asked and once again I asked myself those much needed choices “what do you want to do here, you chose to do this” I knuckled down got the focus back, tapped out the cadence, relaxed the shoulders and soldiered on. I know I’d lost a couple of places but I was ok with this as I knew the guys I was racing were already two events into the series so had more race fitness that me and I was in truth expecting this. I got to the last lap in time before the 4hr cut-off and managed to catch and pass one guy. I was told at the finish I was 9th vet but official results put me at tenth from 26. I was really pleased, no race legs for nearly year and at the very end of my age group I couldn’t have asked or expected anymore.