Brighton Big Dog. A local legend of a race and the one I had been dreading since I was talked in to taking part in it back in June. Although my riding has come on in leaps and bounds since I first took my beautiful green bike out for a spin last September (only the second time I had ever been mountain biking, a sport I previously thought reserved only for adrenaline junkie action boys…maybe because my first ride was down the infamous Skipper‘s Canyon in New Zealand!) I was really worried that the technical Big Dog course would be beyond me. I was even more worried after a practice ride with my team-mate and our respective other halves…is it meant to be a hike-a-bike race? Oh and p.s. I am terrified of heights.
Still, not wanting to let my team-mate down I dragged myself to Stanmer Park twice a week to practice, practice, practice. Flat pedals, wide handlebars, fat tyres…attacking the course on my play bike, Ralph, really helped build my confidence up. That and being cheered on by the many dog walkers in the park every time I tried the same bit twice!
Also, I had a cunning plan. My Stanmer Starlets team-mate Sam is a much more experienced rider than me and had raced Big Dog before , so surely she’d want to do the first lap…and by my calculations that would mean she’d do three laps, leaving me just the two. Awesome.
Dammit, race day and Sam too ill to ride. Generously, (a very tired) Rob offered to ride with me instead of doing solo and fortunately we were able to switch to the Mixed Pairs category at the last minute. Sun shining, birds singing, trees swaying…or something poetic like that. Anyway, beautiful day for a race.
Rob did the first two laps, a blur of orange and green as he powered away up the grassy slope and into the trees. I ate noodles in the sunshine. Flip flops off, shiny Mavic shoes on, lanyard round neck and here I go. Oh it was so much fun, I even rode the first descent, like, all of it. Wowsers. Ran the second one (fortunately no-one right behind me) and then respiratory arrest at Badgers rooty climb….it doesn’t look that steep but all that little up, little up, little up, up, up….blimey. Through the woods, such a joy, lovely trails, lovely marshalls (especially my time checker Jenny Harrison). Up and down the other side (or more correctly, down and up the other side), over the logs (my skills instructor would be so proud! Thanks Mike Stafford), through the jungly bit and then, the best bit, swooping and whooping down to the bomb hole!…although I will concede that the first time I rode this in practice it scared me to actual tears, it is now one of my favourites.
|Grace nailing the notorious Bombhole drop in. Steeper |
than it looks and a spectator favourite viewing spot with
a tricky turn at the bottom claiming many riders
Yay 53 minute lap! Knocking a sizeable 18 minutes of my previous personal best (ok, so maybe I never tried that hard in my practice laps…). Happy face…now find shade to wait for Rob to do his two laps (what? This is a fair division of labour, he is more than twice as fit and strong as me!).
Right on schedule (nothing if not reliable) Rob zoomed back up to the transition area to handover to me for my second lap. Right, my second lap. The one I had been hoping would have been my last. My legs were a bit tired, my lungs were a bit tired and I felt a bit sick from the caffeine gels. Mind still sharp though and as I battled round the familiar route I started considering the time…hmmm…enough time for Rob to do three laps after this one, or for us both to do one more each. I wonder which option Rob will suggest when I see him in transition shortly….
|Flying through the singletrack, gunning for the finish|
Third and final lap. Ok, my second lap took 56 minutes and when I went out for the last one there was just 55 minutes until the 1800 deadline…..I hadn’t managed to borrow anyone else’s legs so was stuck with my own tired pair, drat. Too cocky round a sharp corner and fell off, bashing knee and wrist. What’s that saying, pain is just weakness leaving the body? Lots of weakness in me then. Respiratory arrest up Badgers again, the marshalls at the top cheering me ‘you can do it it’s only 25 past’. Oh dear, keep pedalling. Definite feeling of panic amongst most of the riders on the course at this point…no-one wants to have gone through this effort for nothing. Just keep pedalling. Through the trees, Jedi Fun Run, wheeeeeeeeeeee over the road, down and up. Twelve minutes to go. Over the logs, ok it’s not smooth or fast but keep repeating the mantra, stay on your bike, look where you’re going, don’t look down…pedal, breathe, relax (thank you KMP). Four minutes. Is that long enough to get from the top to the bottom and round the field? I don’t know, biking exists in a time vortex all of its own where five minutes can seem an eternity and two hours can flash by in the blink of an eye.
Made it. Just for the record, I pedalled down the hill. I’m not someone who pedals downhill (that’s what brakes are for). Good thing I’m competitive.