Monday, September 22, 2008

Learning lessons

It’s been a while between posts and yet again that’s because of my health. I’m really struggling to shake of this virus and its meaning I’m not really able to ride. My lungs are really clogged up and I’ve got an extremely nasty cough. To add to this work has been insanely busy and stressful and my sleep pattern is completely buggered. So I’ve been off the bike and haven’t been back to the gym. I’ve made an appointment to see my doctor later in the week, so hopefully we can come up with a plan.

I have taken some very wise advice and am resting up as much as I can, including having today and tomorrow off work. Such luxury. I’ve also had an extremely relaxing weekend. On Saturday my lovely husband and I went to the art gallery to see and participate in Scape. We spent the morning riding round the city centre on very cool

bikes. I loved it, but then I am a bit of an exhibitionist so really didn’t mind all the staring. Not so good for hubby, but he’s so wonderful that he put up with it. It was a gorgeous sunny day and was just the kind of thing I needed. I spent the rest of the afternoon upstairs in the sun snoozing.

Sunday I was a bit naughty. Pete and I had entered the Cheviot Hills Challenge a month ago and I really didn’t want to pull out because they might not run it again as it was a test run this year. I’d managed to change to the Recreational grade, so I only had 2 laps of the 7kms course to do. I’d also managed to talk a fellow Vorbette, scatter, into pootling along with me. Not that it really took any persuading at all. It was a gorgeous day and it turns out the course was fantastic. I definitely made the right choice being in Rec as there were plenty of technical hill climbs for my lungs to protest at, but it was wonderful. I’ll admit that at the end of the first lap I was feeling pretty bad and if scatter hadn’t been there I might have pulled the pin and finished right there. I didn’t though. Partly because I couldn’t stand the thought of not finishing something I’d started and secondly because the course was so much fun.

A lap consisted of a short ride up a gentle gravel road, slaloming between huge puddles, then right into the first climb up some slightly overgrown double track. This popped us out onto a fence-line single track with a blast down a paddock, a sharp right and a further blast across the front of hill on off-camber double track. Down the road for a short bit, up a very wet grassed field and back into the single track, climbing up through the trees. A very fast downhill down the other side, then back up through the trees up the steepest climb (I really struggled with my lungs on this one, even walking it was difficult to breath). Then a very cool narrow rooty technical descent into a really tight right hander, up a wee bit more and then a blast down out the trees and onto the access road. Out on the bridge on SH1 and then down a cool wee drop-off and out on to paddocks. Wet paddocks covered in long grass. These were the worst part of the race, it felt like climbing it was so hard to ride in and seemed to suck all the energy out of my legs. After surviving the death paddocks we whipped round the edge of the road, over another bridge and onto a lovely windy gravelled path with a great downish incline. Blasted down the path, a wee bit more single track through forest, up the other access road and that was a lap.

I did a bit of walking on the first lap. I had a wee voice in the back of my head reminding me not to break myself, to take it easy and look after my lungs. I probably rode 50-60% of the climbing though and I know I could have ridden it all if I was healthy. The descending was fantastic on the first lap. The course hadn’t be ripped up much by the Expert and Sport riders ahead of us, so there was plenty of grip and I loved the challenge of the narrow, rooty stuff. The second lap was a bit of a different story. I’m well aware my tires are not good in the mud (read: deadly), however I haven’t sorted myself out some good wet tyres and I really didn’t expect the course to be as wet as it was. So by the second lap the course and particularly the really tech rooty narrow downhill was getting quite slippy. Unfortunately I didn’t realise this until it was too late.

I was about halfway down the descent and remember briefly thinking “I wonder if that fence is electric?” when my front wheel let go on a root and I slid into the fence. I quickly discovered a large number of things in a very short space of time.

1. The fence was not electric (phew)

2. There were 2 guys right behind me that I didn’t know about. I discovered them when one of them fell into me.

3. Some how I’d managed to catch the top knuckle of my ring finger between my grip and the top wire of the fence and then fall onto the fence and get the wire caught underneath my brake lever.

4. I couldn’t get off the fence.

5. I couldn’t get my finger out from under the wire

6. Slowing having No. 8 wire working its way deeper and deeper into your finger hurts like hell and is quite scary.

The two guys behind me continued on and I struggle to save my finger. Luckily a marshall came to my rescue and untangled me. I had a black line across my knuckle and it hurt like hell, but I was ok. The marshall suggested I walk the rest of the descent and although I really didn’t want to, it was fun, I saw sense (and mud) and stumbled the rest of the way down. At the bottom I got back on and decided that if I did a bit of climbing up the next bit it would make my circulation work and take my mind of my throbbing finger. It worked a treat and by the next downhill I was flying along and actually feeling better than I had the whole race. scatter was long gone, I had been married to the fence for a few minutes after all, so I decided that I would actually try and ride the rest of the lap with some semblance of speed. I struggled through the death paddock, but the rest of the ride was good and I even managed to catch the other Rec women who I’d be duelling with up and down the hills till my tumble. My lovely husband passed me on his last sport lap with 200ms to go so that was cool. And having the loud cheering of scatter at the end was brilliant. All in all, a fantastic race.

Lessons I’ve learnt from it. Technical climbing is way more fun than slogging up a 4wd track. Having someone you know to race with is brilliant and makes an already enjoyable experience even more fun. Racing is still fun, even when you can’t go hard out. Having tyres that work in the wet is a good idea. And finally falling into a 6 line wire fences hurts more than falling into bushes, tussock, trees, gorse, dirt, mud and only slightly less than falling on pointy rocks. Once the race was over I discovered the array of fence marks on the left side of my body. The one halfway up my upper arm is doing a good impression of an armband tattoo, but in red and green, so at least I now know how I’d look with one of those!

It’s a lovely sunny day today and all I want to do is ride my bike. I’m really missing riding, but in the interests of my health I’m going to clean my bikes in the sun and read books instead. Most importantly lesson: listen to your body.

No comments: