Monday, September 21, 2009

Cheviot Hills Challenge – More fun than you can poke a stick at!

And you can poke a stick at an enormous amount of fun. Oh, I’m getting sidetracked already, onto more important matters. I’d like to start my post on the race yesterday by admitting I got DFL, which was quite disappointing when I learned of it at 6:35am this morning after a night of sleep that was continually interrupted by my new alien baby. However, as is so often the case, the black and white results print out doesn’t actually tell much about my race. It was, without a shadow of a doubt, the BEST race I have ever done!

I’ve been looking forward to this race since last year, and even more so since I got the Anthem, so I was slightly excitable on Sunday morning. Well, hyperactive would be an accurate description, and that was before the addition of V. We were off to Cheviot bright and early and accompanied by an energising mix of dirty drum and base and crazy System of a Down. It would have been the perfect pre-race journey, except my bladder decided that all the chair dancing was aggravating and informed my in no uncertain terms that a toilet was required urgently about 30kms from Cheviot. Luckily my iron will and self-control saw me through to the Cheviot Domain where I sprinted further than I’ve run in the last 10 years to get to the loos. Once the crisis was averted I realised that the sprint felt not too bad, for someone with a severe allergy to running, and that I feel strong for the race. It turned out that the sprint was to be all the warm up I’d get after much faffing and gossiping.

After an extremely detailed course description at the briefing we lined up at the start and 10 minutes later we were off. I was starting in the middle of the sport field and managed to hold the end of the pack well and then pass some people as the first climb levelled off. Unfortunately I got a stick caught in my wheel and had to stop and remove it and then I sprinted a bit to repass the woman I’d just passed before we got onto the first very short bit of singletrack and down onto the slippery off-camber grass descent. I was trapped behind a guy who was hard on his brakes and was worried he was going to go down and take me with him, so I whipped round the side and then passed a couple of other women at the gate. Unfortunately one of them lost it and her bike whipped round and took my back wheel out. I managed to slow a lot before hitting the deck and rolled for a bit. I gave my poor left knee a good whack on a rock and the top of it was instantly black. It hurt like a bugger, but I jumped back on my bike and zoomed down the rest of the hill and tried to get it moving. Up the next climb it hurt like crazy still, but I was determined. I was climbing well, but getting held up in the singletrack. Unfortunately I’d race past people on the singletrack and then they’d pass me on the pinch climbs and I’d get held up again on the descents. Finally on the last and steepest climb of the lap a guy stopped in front of me and I ended up walking the rest of the climb. This meant the women just in front of me finally got away from me and I was held up on the rest of the descents and couldn’t make it up.

Down on the flat the new bike really paid off and for the first time ever in a race I was in the big chain ring and absolutely flying. It was great. The first lap was over in about 29 minutes and I was feeling good. I eased up a little before the first climb of the 2nd lap and the elites started to stream past me. One of the outstanding things about this race is that everyone, and I do mean everyone, is super friendly. Everyone who passed me was really polite and many of them were really encouraging. Back up the first climb and a free run down the slippery paddock, blasting super fast, feathering the brakes through the sharp, loose corner at the gate and then brake free down to the road. Up into the trees again and it’s just stunningly beautiful. There are still leaves on the ground, but the sun light is streaming through the trees and there of pockets of daffodils springing up everywhere. The climbs aren’t on singletrack, but they’re all pretty steep and have plenty of roots and leaf-litter to keep you on your toes. What singletrack there is, is rooty and twisty and fun and mainly downhill. I love it and the Anthem does too, even with its rear suspension set to hard. Lap 2 is great and I’m grinning. I finish the second lap in 31 mins, but I know I’m starting to feel tired.

The third lap and the first climb hurts pretty bad and I’m not really attacking it hard anymore and cruise a bit when it flattens out before the descent. My knee is aching by the bottom, but I push hard on the next climb knowing it’s the last lap. I see a couple of elite mates of mine duelling it out behind me, but know I’m faster than them on the singletrack downhill so pin my ears back and pelt down the hill. They pass me effortlessly on the start of the next climb and I earn my self a hard smack on the butt for my mad-core downhill steez! Luckily it hurts enough to take my mind of my knee and I attack this climb. Down the other side and only that one nasty last climb to go. My legs are still going well, but the energy sapping wet leafy section out the back takes it out of me pretty badly. I head up the hill and catch my breath as I get off and push my bike up the last short bit of pinch. And then it’s all down hill. Woooooo hoooooo! I’m flying along and pass a couple of guys and then I’m pedalling hard down the paved walking track, through the trees and up to the road to the finish. I felt so strong and stoked coming across the finish line. After the first lap I set myself a goal of getting home in 1hr 38 and did my 3 laps in 1:35:41. I was over the moon. And it was so very cool crossing the line and having my very own team of cheerleaders waiting for me (I love you guys).

This was the first race I’ve ever felt in complete control in, able to attack the climbs instead of just struggling up them, battling to keep going forward. Last year I did 2 laps of this race in 1:20:19, so this year I’ve improved an enormous amount. This year I felt like I actually racing, rather than just participating and it felt so amazingly good even my alien baby knee, which seized up as soon as I got off the bike, couldn’t wipe the huge grin off my face. The Cheviot Hills course is the most fun I’ve raced on, it really is a privilege to be able to ride these tracks that are usually reserved for walking in such a lovely area.

After a quick change of top, I hobbled to the steak sandwich tent and got some food for me and my wonderful husband and then we chilled out on the freshly mown cricket ground and listened to mellow jazz in the sun and talked rubbish. It was fantastic relaxing with friends, meeting people who read this blog (such a strange thing to know people read it, and sorry to the guy on the orange and blue Kona, I didn’t get your name, I was in a bit of a pre-race brain-free moment). And then the moment I’d been waiting for all day, the lolly scramble! I was very well behaved and didn’t push any small children over, but did manage to secure my fair share of toffees. Yum! The prize giving saw our contingent of riders take home plenty of meat and wine and my lovely husband scored a spot prize. It was a brilliant day, which has left me hungry for more training and more racing. Once I’ve had some more sleep!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I own that orange and blue kona! First time I've been at an event and seen someone else with the same bike too... only the old git didn't get DFL like I did!

Must be time for a new custom build - that'll make me faster :-)

Top event, ay? Will do that one again next year.