Monday, 13 October 2014

The WEMBO 24hrs Solo MTB World Champs

With the Xterra World Champs in Maui crossed off my calendar, I had no races on the horizon. Being a competitor I struggled with that idea and started to think about how I could really challenge myself to finish a not so great season. Mountain bike star Kim Hurst inspired me to give it a go, since being held only 2hrs from where I live it would have been rude not to. That’s how I ended up signing up for the WEMBO 24hrs Solo MTB World Champs. I needed the mental as well as the physical challenge in order to try and turn things around for me this season. I discussed the idea with coach Nico Lebrun, and he warned me that it would be mentally very tough, but that at the same time he thought it would be good for me. I felt I had nothing too lose and the simple fact of managing to finish a 24hrs race would be very satisfying for me. I knew I could do it physically, but the mental challenge was what appealed to me. With 4 weeks to go before the big event held at Fort William in Scotland my training began.
Finding new terrain to train on : MTB heaven
I loved being able to spend lots of time on the MTB and in the process I discovered endless amount of trails very close to home. My 5hrs long rides turned into 7-8hrs long rides, after finishing a ride like that and then realising I had to do that 3 times during the race was quite an eye opener!! I would set of late at night or early morning to get used to riding in the dark and as the weeks went past I started to feel more and more prepared and was looking forward to my new challenge. I emailed Australian friend and mountain bike champ James Downing for some more race advice, he had been in the sport for a long time and with his positive attitude towards things I knew he would be able to help. I can’t thank him enough for the effort he put in regarding helping me with my bike set up, nutrition plan, and mental focus. With one week to go my bike was in the best condition thanks to Colin Murray from Nicholson Cycles in Dundee, and I was mentally and physically in probably the best frame I had been all season.
Cake saving the day when Michael joined me training
Nico’s warning words to me “you can’t race this" he said, first you have to learn how to survive one and then you can build on that if you decided to do another one, don’t try to race, you will die” 
I was very nervous for the unknown and very lucky to be able to share a serviced tent with great chick Clare Townsend, whose boyfriend was racing. Clare and I met in Singapore years ago whilst working with race horses and somehow we ended up reuniting in Scotland at a mountain bike race, what are the odds? These guys were experienced and I felt I was in the best hands for support! Michael and dog Fynn were there to help also and I warned him there could be swear words through the night, hoping I would still have a boyfriend on Sunday afternoon!
Nico told me not to ride the course the day before the race, “Your first laps are for sighting” he said, I think this was his way to make sure I wouldn’t start fast. I took the bike and Fynn for a little spin on part of the course to get a feel for how my body was and I couldn’t be happier. I felt ready for probably the biggest sporting challenge to date.
Kim Hurst showing what she is made out of

Welsh girl Ricky Cotter was picked as the one to beat, but I knew they were wrong there. I had been following my bubbly friend Kim Hurst’s progress since 2012 and how she had become stronger, faster and more confident over the last couple of years. Something had to go really wrong with her race for her not to take the title. Her determination and strength was second to none. With an elevation gain of 450m per 13km lap and some real technical riding this course had her name written all over it. It was great to watch her smash the race and not only win the females but also come 12th overall. Watch this girl; I believe we will see a whole lot more of her in bigger things to come.

The race started in true Scottish style with bagpipes playing and off we went. Interestingly Kim let all the girls go at the start and for a while I was riding on her wheel climbing up with Ben Nevis in our sight. I was very happy, my legs felt amazing, I kept an eye on my heart rate making sure I wasn’t racing hard and loved the course. It was tricky in parts but on the 2nd lap I had mastered the technical descents and felt in control. I was having fun. The climbs were steep in parts but gradual, the way I like them and on the third lap I started to get into a nice rhythm and I was feeling great.  Unfortunately just before finishing the 3rd lap it all went horribly wrong. I am not sure what actually happened but I believe I must have looked at my watch when my wheel hit something and I got face planted into rocks. I hit my head hard and felt blood streaming down my face, I tried to get up. “finish your lap, and we will get first aid” I was told. I rolled back through the pits. I couldn’t see, everything went black but I didn’t want to stop, I knew I must have been quite comfortably in 6th or 7th place and although it was still a long way to go I didn’t want to lose time. I got checked over and the cut got sutured up. The medics were reluctant to let me back on the course but I didn’t give them much choice. “your lips are blue” I was told as I was rolling out.
Concussion, sprained wrist and a bruised knee finishing my race
On to my 4th lap, I couldn’t see very well and kept blinking to try see normally again. I was ok climbing but once the downhill started I couldn’t focus properly. “My left wrist must have hit something also” I thought to myself as I struggled squeezing the brakes. I kept on trying to get my vision back but the rocky trails were unforgiving and every bump worsened  my head ache which now was accompanied by nausea. I am not entirely sure how I finished the 4th lap, like a true girl I cried the whole way around. Not because I was in pain but because I came to the realisation that I couldn’t continue. This was not a course I could ride without being able to concentrate on what I was doing properly. It would be dangerous to keep riding and I knew that my race was over. I reached the pit and fell apart.
I know things could be much worse, I was still in one piece and I hadn’t really lost anything. However it didn’t change the feeling of disappointment. Not only about this race but about the whole season. Nothing went according to plan and the feeling of failure overwhelmed me. I have no choice other than to ride through it though.  Forget about 2014 and try again in 2015.
Worthy World Champs Jason English and Kim Hurst
A big thank you to Fiona and No Fuss Events for organising and awesome race.  Thanks to every one for all the supportive messages. How lucky am I to have so many loving people around me! Especially my two favourite boys Michael and dog Fynn for putting so much effort in to making me smile again!

“it ain't about how hard you can hit but about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward”



















1 comment:

  1. I should have find you a full-face helmet maybe... ;-)

    Have a good recovery, tommorow will be better... and next season even better! :-)