Sleepless in the Saddle

Sorry about the delay, but finally you will know the answer to the question you’ve all not been asking: Did we  win Sleepless in the Saddle.

The unsurprising answer is ‘No’.  We came in the bottom ten, I think.  But not last! \o/

Thankfully Sleepless was infinitely more enjoyable than Mountain Mayhem (which wouldn’t have been that hard, admittedly).   I was out third for the Chase Trails Pixies – after Mountain Mayhem’s epic five hour plus lap, the team decided to give me a fighting chance of coming back in daylight.  The weather was decent, our first riders out seemed to be enjoying themselves, and everything looked so promising…


I’d been somewhat hesitant over Sleepless – after Mayhem, I was worried it was going to be another horrible, muddy slogfest.  I consoled myself in the knowledge that, as Sleepless laps were shorter and flatter, they couldn’t possibly be as horrendous.  Fortunately, I set out in glorious sunshine, and my first lap was genuinely enjoyable.   I’m fitter than I was last year, and I found the woodland sections really good fun.  I even overtook a couple of people.  HA!  And, for the first time, I was captured in my full racing glory, which revealed that a) I’m as pink as a flamingo, and b) the older I get, the more I look like my nan.  I think the Dame Edna glasses help that…


Camelbak, MP3 player, and a full susser – I think I scored highly on the Weekend Warrior scale!

However, as was expected, the rain came during my lap.  Just before the off-camber section, the drizzle started, then turned into a full scale torrential downpour.  The off-camber section had been described to me by my teammates that had already gone out as being ‘very loose and dusty’.  By the time I got to it, it was a mudslide.  I was in the process of trying not to slide off the track when who should come a-riding, but THE HUSBAND!  He checked that I was OK, and cheekily declared that he knew he was getting close to me when the rain started.  Feeling somewhat superstitious about my ability to destroy the weather, he sped off into the distance, sans wife.   The course fortunately stood up to the sudden downpour a bit better after that point, and I finished my first lap with a big grin on my face.  Huzzah!  I clocked in at 1 hour 24, which I’m fairly certain I could have done faster if it hadn’t have been for the meddling weather.

My second lap was due at around 10pm.  Despite the fact the one hour downpour had turned the track to sludge, I didn’t feel too apprehensive.  After all, I’d spent hours sliding around Mountain Mayhem in the dark, so I was used to this kind of nonsense, but this time I would have lights!

However, Mr Toast was a bit more concerned, and was trying to persuade me not to go out, pointing out that I’d already proved my stubbornness and stupidity at MM. I was fully reared up and ready to go though… but as I waited, I saw bike after bike being pushed or carried over the finish line.  Petra, a better rider than me, wasn’t back, obviously ‘enjoying’ the course. So yeah, maybe another muddy night lap wasn’t such a great idea.  Back to snuggling in the tent then.

The next morning I got up early (miracles do happen) and set out on my second lap just after Bruce came in.  Again, it started of relatively well – I flew down the first descent at speed, not through any sense of skill or fearlessness, but because I knew that with the mud I’d probably lose control of the Professor if I braked.  I managed to stop at the bottom, just ahead of the fence that hosted a bunch of slightly startled-looking spectators.  The short climb that followed was a mud pit, but the first couple of sections were fine.  Then it all went to hell, and became a muddy, unrideable mess for a fair few sections.  I stopped frequently to scoop out the mud that was collecting in my frame. It was a bit of a slog, but still more bearable than Mountain Mayhem, and the last section was fine – I was even able to get up some speed on it, flinging the mud off my tyres.  It added an hour to my previous lap time, but I wasn’t too fussed.

So, this year’s 24 hour racing has been somewhat of a disaster.  Sleepless was good fun, but it was gutting how one hour of (admittedly very heavy) rain trashed a good chunk of the course, even leading to one section being closed.  I would have like to have done a night lap like last year, but not in this year’s conditions.  Not sure what we’ll be doing next year – I might give Mayhem a miss and sign up for Sleepless nearer the time, and give that a miss if it’s been raining for two months beforehand!  People can be a bit smug and dismissive, but I ride to have fun, and walking through mud pushing a 50lb bike isn’t fun for me.  🙁

Still, got a medal and a couple of race numbers out of it! \o/


July: North of the border

This month we made our annual pilgrimage to Glede Knowe in Innerleithen to celebrate our fourth wedding anniversary.  This year was a little different, as we were in a different room from usual (which was also lovely and slightly bigger) and had Benny Lava in tow.

What wasn’t different was me displaying my usual knack for dates and awesome organisational skills – we turned up on the Saturday.  We were booked in from the Sunday.  Ooops.  As there were three weddings going on in Innerleithen, everywhere was booked out, and it looked like we were going to end up spending the night in the car.  Fortunately, Bill, the B&B owner, was an absolute hero, and found us some really nice accommodation for the night in neighbouring Stow.

Well, as per the rest of the country, the weather was fairly terrible, especially for the first three days.  The trails in Glentress are built to withstand such nonsense, however, and the blue at least rode perfectly.  I was fairly chuffed – this year my fitness and confidence has improved , even if my knees are not the best.  On my first ride, I went up the initial climb up to the Buzzard’s Nest car park in about 25 minutes without stopping and feeling 100% and ready to continue at the top, whereas in previous years it’s been much more of a struggle.  I think I’ve been up to the top before without stopping, but I think it took it out of me a bit more.

The skills course has had a bit of a revamp, which is nice – it’s lost features over the past few years, but now it has spangly new ones.  I really liked the ones that laid the different options – blue, red and black – side by side.




 As we had Benny with us, our first couple of rides were solitary affairs, one walking the dog, one riding. Both of our lonesome rides were in torrential rain, and we got filthy, along with our bikes.  Unfortunately, these rides also coinciding with the days that the Glentress Peel carpark was being redone, so there were no showers and no bike wash.  Derp.

Sometimes we’d both walk the dog though, and be amazed by his talents.  Such as:













On the Thursday and Friday we sent Benny to what Mr Toast kept on referring to as ‘Dog Prison’ – in reality, doggy day care.  Happy Tails picked Benny up in the morning, and I escorted him to the van.  He hopped in the crate, sniffed around and then sat down.  Overall, he was dealing with it better than I was.

We sallied forth to Glentress for our first ride together.  Mr Toast had tackled the red already, and had warned me off it slightly as it wasn’t quite as forgiving as the blue in the wet.  So we flew around the blue, the green, and messed around on the skills course a bit.  Towards the end, I went down the blue and Mr Toast went up to Spooky Wood and down the red.  On my way down, just past the end of the Admiral section, I saw a roe doe deer and her fawn.  They were positively frolicking and sproinging.

The weather was better, but there was still a lot of surface water on the trail so we still got quite soggy. We’re still not keen on the new cafe – the service is slower, the cakes are smaller and less tasty, it feels a bit like a school canteen and there are no tiny birds fluttering around nomming flapjack crumbs.  On the plus side there’s lots of seating and they allow sodden dogs indoors.

In the evening Benny was dropped off, and rather than being traumatised by the separation, he was exceedingly happy.  Win-win all around, and it would be repeated the next day.

We  pretty much repeated the previous day, except I did the climb up to Spooky Wood (which actually seems easier than the preceding shared blue/red climb).  I nearly lost my front wheel in what I thought was a shallow puddle but ended up being a bit deeper than anticipated.  There may have been swearing.  Spooky Wood was good fun, although slightly alarming in places as I tried to keep up with Mr Toast.  My ITB started to burn and tense, and I emerged from the exit crying for a massage.  Aah, the benefits of riding with Mr Toast.

After some leg wiggling, it was time for cheesy Stane photos.


Again in the evening Benny was dropped off.  I apologised for him being excessively pully on the lead, and Carol from Happy Tails looked surprised and said, “Oh, he walks lovely on the lead”.

W. T. F.

 On the last day, we decided to do the black waymarked walking trail.  It actually has the same difficulty rating as the blue rated trail, just longer.  So off we toddled, and GOOD GOD!  OK, it’s not exactly out in the wilds, but there are some very steep awkward parts, and one of the bits was a bit slidey and covered in felled trees.  Some beautiful views though, and lots of variety.






Despite the weather, it was a fantastic week and the trails are bloody good fun.  I look forward to next year!

And that’s how I ruined Mountain Mayhem!

Ah, Mountain Mayhem.  You may recall that last year, I had a slightly tough time of it, struggling with the inclement weather, the climbs, and my lap clocking in at over two hours.

Well, if last year was inclement, then this year was, if you’ll pardon my French, fucking unholy.

But let’s start at the start. We bowled up at Castle Eastnor on Friday with Jag, Xye and young Benny Lava in tow, ready to rock.   It was raining, and the campsite was a bit moist, but no fear!  We decided to go to the catering tent to sign in before putting the tents up.

Well, the arena area was muddy, to put it mildly.  As we signed in at the catering tent, one of the admin staff went arse over tit in the mud.  Yes, not even the interior of the tents were immune to the horror.  Certainly added an element of peril to eating – can you get to a seat without slipping and dropping your curry? LET’S FIND OUT!

Fortunately the answer was yes.


Any illusion that this was going to be a jolly weekend camping in the sun with the dog had completely gone out of the window.  Poor Benny looked frail and up to his armpits in mud, and seemed decidedly unimpressed with the proceedings.  We decided that the weekend would be fairly nightmarish for all involved if Benny stayed with us, so off I went back home, where t’boy could spend the weekend in comfort, starting with a warm bath.  You would have made the same decision.  I mean, just look at him. LOOK AT HIM.



When I returned, Camp Chase Trails had been firmly established.  Yay!



First night was nippy, but the tent was actually quite comfortable and roomy, and infinitely improved by not having a miserable soggy Tibetan Terrier glaring at us folornly.  We tried to mentally prepare for the forthcoming race.


Aside from the evidence of our own eyes, the first indication of the horrors to come in the race briefing.  Team members only had to do one lap, not two. For elites, it was cut down from four to three. Teams wouldn’t be disqualified for members having to abandon their lap due to mechanicals.  Repeated references to endurance.  Erk.

Young master Jaggy was first up on our team.  Rather entertainingly, he had somehow interpreted “Yeah, last year’s run was a mile and a half, it’s going to be shorter this year” as “The run is only 500 metres”.  Oh, how we laughed!  Well, we laughed, Jag seemed slightly less amused.

Toast’s plans assumed that we’d be taking about two hours per lap, so we dutifully waited for Jag to come in.  We waited, and we waited, and we were getting slightly concerned.  Had he fallen off?  Had he broken his bike?  Fortunately, he was fine, but he came in forty minutes later than expected.  Can you imagine that? FORTY MINUTES!

It became clear looking at the laptimes that we would have to re-evalute our estimates.  I set out just before 6pm.  I’d be back about 9pm, I thought.  Maybe 9.30pm.

Well, the first half of the lap went relatively smoothly.   Well, apart from when I fell off almost immediately in the first wooded section. I rode most of it, although had to spend a lot of time pulled over to the side to let people pass on the singletrack.  Last year’s resolution of being a bit more forthright and assertive dissolved under the weight of shouty men that were far better riding in the mud than myself.  Still, the last woody singletrack section before it rejoined the fireroad was actually nearly enjoyable.  I made my way back down into the arena, feeling fairly pleased.

Then the true horror began.  The ground became more boggy.  Given that I struggle with long steep climbs at the best of times, at that last year I’d found it horrendous after a couple of hours of rain, the rest of track was a nightmare.  I think I actually pushed my bike for 90% of the second half, and, as the light began to fade, I realised that there was no way I’d make it back in time.  I tried to phone Mr Toast, but there was no signal, so I plodded on.  Hilariously, the same condition that makes it hard for me to ride a bike uphill also makes it rather awkward to walk downhill.

I asked a marshall if I’d be disqualified for being pulled off the track, and he said he didn’t know.  As I didn’t want to risk disqualification for the team, and I’d already done seven miles and it seemed stupid to give up, I decided to continue on.  The off-camber section was possibly the worst, struggling to make my way whilst also keeping out of the way of everyone else – who were also pushing or carrying their bikes, just considerably faster than me.

I genuinely, geniunely hated that second half.  There was cursing and there were tears, and a solemn vow to myself that not only should I never, ever, EVER entertain the notion of doing Mountain Mayhem again, but I should probably give Sleepless a miss too.  However, as I made my way back into the arena, my spirits lifted.  The end was in sight!

Mr Toast and Xye cheered me in, and I passed the finish line at five hours and fourteen minutes.  Mr Toast was relieved –  as I’d been engaging in my act of ultimate stubborness, the rest of my team had been running around, desperately trying to figure out what had happened to me.  The notion that I was still out on the track was, I’m informed, ‘inconceivable’, such was my husband’s faith in my ability to finish at anything resembling a sensible time.  Being told by a rider that a woman in a blue top had been seen being carried off by a quad earlier didn’t ease their worries either.  I supposed two hours twenty-or so up to five hours fourteen is quite a leap, but, well.  It was muddy.

After escorting me back to the tent, they tried to find Jag, who was on a bold quest to find out if I’d died.  Eventually we all came back together.  Because everyone had been waiting for hours for me in the open, in the pouring raid, running backwards and forwards between the medic tent, the control tower and the Chase Trails camp, no-one really felt like going out that night.  The next day, both Mr Toast and Xye felt ill (poor Xye had been recovering from being ill a week previously, Mountain Mayhem isn’t a particularly effective remedy…) , and the course looked considerably worse for wear, so they didn’t go out.  Because I ruined everything.

Still, Jez called me a legend, and I still got a medal, apparently.  I may give Mountain Mayhem a miss next year in favour of being Mr Toast’s pit bitch, as he’s considering going solo.  We’ll see!

And now, for your viewing pleasure, here are things that amused me in between the tears and the tantrums:







 Admittedly, it was a teammate (I’m assuming) of the chap above.  He passed me on the way up to the Obelisk, and gave me a liquorice allsort and words of encouragement.  Good lad.



 This was a new one.  Ridiculously speedy on a tiny Islabike, although they did have the advantage in the unrideable sections in that they could pick up their ride and swing it about their head if they so desired.


This poor sod totalled his bike fairly early on, with the rear mech being pulled into his wheel.  OK, this one was more amusing when we first saw him in the sheep field, with the sheep scattering away and bleating.  It was a fairly random sight.  Slightly less amusing when we realised it was because he was completely out of the race less than two hours into it.

Also nice was the small child who high fived me and gave me a Pringle, the random dude singing “Country Road”, the guy who helped me onto more solid ground on the off-camber section, the chap who offered me his lights (before realising we had no way of attaching it).  Here’s to you, Mountain Mayhemers.




My last post was in May? IN MAY? My mother was right, hit 30 and time flies.  FLIIIIIEEES.

Anyhoo, over the past few weeks I’ve celebrated a birthday, been to a wedding, been around the blue and the red at the Forest of Dean, been around the full red at Dalby, and I’ve visited Cannock Chase a few times, including doing two laps in under two hours.  A more detailed description of this exploits (with photos and an updated Map of Joy…) will have to wait, however, as tomorrow is Mountain Mayhem.

Bloody hell. :/

13/05/12: Well hello, Captain Speedy

Sorry about the title, but I thought it’d give me an ideal opportunity to publically state how much I hate BT’s new advertising campaign.  I thought the last one was odious enough, but the current one makes me want to throw things at the TV.  Large, heavy things.  It’s like their marketing department is actively trying to annoy me.

Dangerously back on topic, last weekend I rode Follow the Dog twice.  I was toying with the idea of the Monkey, but decided that I just wanted to relax and have fun.  It was sunny, surprisingly dry, and I was going at a good pace (for me), so I decided to see if I could get a good lap time in.  First lap clocked in at around 55 minutes, although I could have shaved another couple off if there hadn’t been congestion at Werewolf Drop.  I overtook seven people, and was only overtaken by one.  This is either a sign of great progress, or a sign that the trails were surprisingly quiet.

I actually found the fireroad hill a bit more of a slog than usual, quickly going into granny ring.  I think I’ve said it before, but I think I find it much harder when it’s dry.  In a way it might have been a blessing, as my knees weren’t quite as knackered as when I try and push it in middle ring.  Still makes me nervous for Mountain Mayhem, as it’s considerably more climby and hilly.

Amusingly, I lowered my forks to 100mm for the climb, then promptly forgot to raise them back to 12omm for the rest of the trail.  Cornering seemed very nice, not sure if that was down to the fork travel or down to just having a good day.

Ended up back at Swinnertons and chatted to some of the Chase Trails chaps for a bit before setting out for my second lap.  By the time I got to section 9 I started to feel knackered, and the lap as a whole felt a lot slower – slower on the section itself, more pulling over to let people by, and longer drink breaks at the end of the sections.  Despite that, I still came in at just under one hour five minutes, so I was quite pleased, and also a bit surprised.

I managed to ride the switchbacks before Werewolf both times, so that’s a definite improvement.

Rather alarmingly, a bike was nicked from Birches Valley the same day – this is always a worry of mine, as when I ride alone I have to leave my bike unattended if I want to go to the loo.  You know Freud banged on about Penis Envy?  That’s why – no practical way of relieving yourself in a neat and tidy manner, even She Wees have horror stories.

ANYHOO, I always lock up my bike to a nearby fence, but I still worry that some scrote could cut the lock and nab the bike fairly swiftly.  Fortunately, thanks to a combination of suspicious locals and hardy northern folk, one scrote was thwarted in his efforts.  Despite evidently spending hours (Mr Toast had seen him the previous day and thought he looked a bit dodgy) scoping out bikes, he decided to nick one belonging to a group of 20 odd riders.  So if you see this chap:

…remember to congratulate him on his awesome decision making skills.  Whilst holding onto your bike, obviously.

So that’s one less thief, but it’s unclear as to whether his Astra-driving mate was caught – if he’s part of a gang, then people should still be vigilant.  Well, you should be vigilant anyway – bikes are more than just a possession to most of our kind.  They’re our pride and joy, providing us with thrills and fitness whilst allowing us to explore the great outdoors… or just go around trail centres repeatedly.  It’s all good.  Don’t let a scrote take that away, or at the very least, don’t make it easy for them.  Lock it up!

That there Monkey

I’ve been a bit slack on the blogging front lately, although that’s also down to the fact I’ve been a bit slack on the biking front too.  I’ve been biking into work on a daily basis, often even when it’s pissing it down, but I’ve found it hard to get out at the weekends.  Partly down to feeling a bit off, and partly down to family commitments.  This time of year is always a bit miserable for me as it’s the time of year when my dad died, and the weather – not helping.

I really want to get across the country – I want to hit Coed-Y-Brenin, Llandegla, Nant-yr-Arian, the Peak District, the Forest of Dean… but it’s a bit hard to muster the enthusiasm for a six hour round trip when it’s cold and wet.   We were hoping for some long weekends, but Mr Toast is finding it hard to even get the odd Friday off with his current workload.  We’ve not even managed our usual Easter trip  Ooop North to Dalby. 🙁

My knee has been playing up a bit again, so I’m off to see the doctor about whether a knee brace would be beneficial.  I quite like the look of the pricey but awesome Asterisk Knee Braces – supposedly good for people with ligament issues, looks very adjustable and doubles up as armour.  I’m just a bit reluctant to make the investment without knowing whether it’s definitely suitable for my knee injury, and what if they’re too heavy or uncomfortable for me?

I can tell that Mountain Mayhem is coming ever closer, as on Saturday night I had my first MM Anxiety Dream of the year.  I dreamt that I was riding, soaking wet under torrential rain, struggling in the mud and hating every second of it.  So, not so much a dream, more of a reminiscence.  I’m hoping my mother’s theory of weather proves true – “We’ve got to have a good summer!  We’re owed some good weather!”

On the plus side, what little off-road riding I’ve done lately has been moderately successful. For a start…

The Monkey!

Yes, it’s been well over a year since I’d ridden the Monkey, but I finally plucked up the courage to give it a go last month.  Despite my unfamiliarity with The Monkey (I’d only ridden it something like five times previously), it went better than expected.  My fitness was better than it has been in the past, and I wasn’t lying on the floor screaming with painful leg cramps, so that was a definite improvement.  My knees were objecting quite violently to the steeper climbs, and I had to stop to let the pain lessen a few times, and also probably took far more ibuprofen than is recommended.

I gave a few of the trail features a miss – I decided not to test my 50% success score on the pre-Klondike rocks, and also gave Woodbank a miss.  I was going to do it – I went to have a look, thought, “Oh, it looks easier than the start of section two”, and let a group pass.  The last fella in the group then prompty completely ballsed up, clipping his right handlebar grip on the tree and twisting his front wheel, sending him crashing in spectacular fashion.

Yeah, I’ll give that one a miss for today.

I also pretty much walked most of the Monkey-section of the Monkey.  This is probably going to sound a bit harsh, but it’s probably my least-liked bit of trail I’ve ever ridden in any trail centre.  It leaves me miserable and demoralised, with its stupid narrow trees and rock gardens, and I struggle to think of any part of it I actually like.  OK, I did have a brief moment of confidence boosting when I looked at the second rock garden, the only one I’ve ever ridden, and marvelled that I’d ridden that.  Admittedly it was before there was a huge gouge ripped down the right hand side, but still.

Being a bit of a pessimist though, that thought was soon crushed by the knowledge that there was no way I’d ride that again. The day that I rode that I’d been having a particularly good day, taking lots of risks that paid off… until I came off on the fireroad, stripped off a good bit of skin, broke my helmet and ended up on a heavy course of antibiotics.  I still bear the scars.   Pfft.  Be an overly cautious coward and live to ride another day, that’s what I say!

Went out on Saturday for the first time in weeks and rode the Dog.  Despite the good conditions, I ended up going a bit slower than usual, clocking in at one hour ten minutes – although I think a good five minutes of that was trying to wrestle my thermal jacket into my Camelbak.

Hoping to get out with increased frequency before Mountain Mayhem.  I need to improve my fitness, try and get my knees more used to climbing, and, my personal favourite, also have to get Benny used to camping… or its going to be a very, very tiring weekend.

10/03/12: Natural

In Twelfth Night, Shakespeare wrote, “some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ’em”.  I sometimes think of this when mountain biking, mainly because when it comes to mountain biking, I wasn’t born great, I haven’t achieved greatness and I’m fairly certain that at no point have I had greatness thrust upon me.  Unless you count that time I accidentally got fat air on a tabletop on Glentress blue.

There have been a few occasions where we’ve taken people new to mountain biking out.  Some struggle with it, nervously making their way across the bumpy singletrack and stopping before every feature.  Others fly around as if they’ve been riding all of their lives.

I fell more into the first camp.  It’s taken me a loooong time to get where I am now, and I am geniunely chuffed with my progress.  In 2007 I could barely  ride a bike full stop, and now I’m getting around a red route in about an hour.  Yay me!

Last week I volunteered to show a new rider over Cannock Chase.  She wanted to get into mountain biking, but was worried about not being able to find the route and getting lost.  As it turned out, that was all she needed to be worried about.  Fitness-wise, she pretty much kicked my ass, and despite not having the best of bikes, cheerfully rode all of the Follow the Dog without any issue.  She went straight in over the rock and bridge obstacle at the start, straight over the rocky steps on the exit from two and the Stegosaur, over the boardwalk, and probably would have ridden Werewolf Drop if she’d had a slightly more competent guide.  She was definitely considering it on the second lap.  Yes, she did two laps, and is now looking at getting a new bike.  Job’s a good ‘un! \o/

Sometimes it does make me wonder if I’m just genetically a bit wrong for mountain biking.  I definitely get the fear a lot, sometimes even on stuff I’ve ridden plenty of times before.  I spent the hour before my first night lap at Sleepless in the Saddle sobbing uncontrollably.  I didn’t ride the Monkey trail at all last year.  But I do enjoy mountain biking despite being a bit naff at it, and I’d rather be a bit more fearful and cautious than pushing myself beyond my capabilities and ended up injured and unable to ride.  And it’s nice helping people get into mountain biking… even if they manage in one ride what it’s taken you nearly five years to achieve.  Derp.

The following day it was Mr Toast’s turn to ride, so I took t’boy for a walk.  On the way we visited the trail builders, who are working feverishly on the end of Follow the Dog.  Dave of Clan Pearson was helping get the rockery down on the rollers, which will stop them from being eroded and provide a nice comfy landing for anyone who comes off.



The upper end of the repairs are also looking good, although the two steps are looking terrifying now – althought they’ve not changed in height.  Normally when I look at an obstacle from the other side and on foot, I think, “Oh, that actually looks really easy”.  Not so with the steps.  Hopefully I’ll still have the ovarian fortitude to tackle them when they’re re-opened!

03/03/12: Good Dog/Bad Dog

I set out on Saturday with the intention of doing two laps of Follow the Dog.  With Mountain Mayhem and Sleepless both firm realities now, I need to get more miles in, need to get back up to speed and get my fitness to something slightly above embarrassing.

Despite the forecast predicting only light showers and sunny skies throughout the day, I arrived just as a downpour was starting.  I quickly got my bike off the rack and set of in pursuit of mountain biking excellence.

It didn’t start well.  First section seemed unduly slippy and annoying, and I had to come to an abrupt, precarious halt on the exit to two as a small child from a walking group that had stopped to let me exit decided to do a runner.  I shuffled the bike down, slightly shaken – it would have been a remarkably low speed collision if it had happened, but I don’t like to think who would win out of an 11 and a half stone woman on a lump of aluminum and a three year old.  On the plus side, his mother apologised and thanked me for not ploughing into her wayward progeny.  And that’s why you don’t come screaming out of sections at warp speed.

The lap continued to be a royal pain in the arse.  Everything just felt very skittish, and I began to wonder if I’d somehow lost all ability over two weeks, or maybe the Orange 5 had ruined me with its comedy wide bars.  The litany of ineptitude was unrelenting and horrible.  I realised at the start of the fireroad climb up to 8 that I had my rear shock completely locked out, so I was hoping that perhaps that could explain the horror.  I completely failed to exit section 8 twice, as every time I approached it my front wheel hit the same pebble and poinged off to the side.  I nearly came a cropper on the most inconspicious of corners.  On section 11, I managed to clear the two smaller steps, albeit with some rear wheel spinning on the second, but by the time I got to the bigger steps, I just couldn’t arsed.  I was riding rubbish, and I had a persistant stabbing pain in my left knee. I eventually bowled up at Swinnertons feeling fairly surly.

Jez was there, so I had a good whinge at him, and soon he was joined by other members of the Chase Trails posse.  Andrew asked about my tyre pressure, and gave them a squeeze.  There was then much laughter, and theorising that Al (who had recently switched my wheels for his spare Hope/DT Swiss combo) was trying to kill me.  Something like minus 20 psi later and my tyres were noticably squidgier.

I’d been pondering the second lap.  Obviously I’d set out with the intention of doing two laps, but I’d had a terrible ride and my knee was a bit stabby. But the weather had finally turned nice, and… well, it would have been rude not to try. I decided to do at least the first section, to see if matters improved with less pressure.  I’d probably only do the first section or so, as I’d promised my mom I’d pop in and I had a roast dinner to cook in the evening.

Lap two felt better – I’m assuming it was thanks to the lowered pressure rather than the trails drying off, but I was skidding about the place a lot less, so felt able to go faster and lean into turns without fear of the Professor deciding to go his own way.  The exit to two was still a bit shakey as I clipped my pedal as I went down, but other than that – splendid.  Less poinging off pebbles, exiting section 8…OK, it took me two attempts as I clipped my pedal again, but I had to keep telling myself that I couldn’t get a mental neurosis over something I’ve ridden countless times just because the weather’s a bit grim.  After successfully clearing the exit and chastising myself for being a bit stupid, I took a few moments to take a photo of the Professor with his new red grips.


Section 11 was a bit of a revelation – all steps taken with no skidding, spinning, or slipping.  IN YOUR FACE, UPHILL STEPS! By the time I got to Tackaroo, however, I started to feel a bit off.  My knee hadn’t played up as much on the second lap, but I was starting to develop a bit of an ache in my left arm for no real reason, and my thighs were protesting.  Still, aching from “Oh, exercise!” is better than pain from “You’re fundamentally broken on a genetic level”.  I was also feeling a bit woozy, possibly because it was about 3pm and I’d only had a bowl of cereal, a cup of tea and two bottles of water that day, which for a cake fiend such as myself is a bit of a break from routine.  Although not really on biking days – I always end up eating less on biking days than on workdays.

According to Dave and Andrew, who caught me up at the end of Hugh’s Bridge, I’d done my second lap in roughly an hour (they’d given me about a 20 minute headstart).  So, that was better than a poke in the eye with a horrible stick.  Incidentally, it was Dave’s birthday at the weekend.  You should totally help him out trailbuilding on Sunday to celebrate.  I’m pondering if we can get Benny to carry materials and tools like a small pack donkey, but I have my doubts.

After my second lap I rushed around my mother’s to say hello, and to steal her bacon.  She didn’t have any bacon.  She did have chicken soup though, so that wasn’t too bad.