Monday, April 14, 2008

Going pro.....

.... nah, just kidding, but after last weekends results I felt almost like a pro anyway....

The weekend was spent mostly in Thetford Forest, UK, to take part in my first races abroad, i.e. the British XC NPS Round 1 race on Saturday and the British Enduro NPS Round 1 race on the Sunday.

Ryan and me packed up our stuff on Thursday evening and flew over from Dublin on Friday early morning to Stansted, which is about an hour from Thetford (if you go the correct way that is.... ;)). Got the rental car and decided to go straight to the race location due to the detour ("sightseeing") we had taken. We arrived in Thetford Forest an d built up our bikes, got changed and it started lashing.... :( and I was sooo looking forward to my first good weather race this season! When the rain let off a little, we took the chance and went off for our practice lap.

Course description: flat like a pan cake. A lap was 10km and consisted basically of smooth and swervy singletrack loops through the forest (mostly little walking paths) connected through some straight fireroad sections. The rain had transformed a few sections of the course into a bit of a mud bath, but apart from that is was pretty untechnical. Only 2 drops are worth mentioning, both of them bombholes - one of them with a tricky steep climb out that many people didn't get. Then there was one great bit of singletrack section that was very uppy and downy and became my favourite section of the course because you could hammer along this section, lean into the corners, fly down into the drops and use your speed to come out of them again, you could do almost the whole section without pedalling if you wanted to! The speed you got was amazing! Sooo much fun!

Anyway, just as we finished the practice laps it started raining again, so we set off to find our B&B "Magdalen House" about 15min away from Thetford Forest in a place called Methwold. It was located just at the end of a farm driveway, with open farmland around 3 sides of it, beautiful! The countryside was beautiful anyway, I loved it!
Random pretty driving through the countryside pic :)

We were very well received in the absolutely cute and quaint B&B by the owners Keith and Lorna who really did everything possible to make our stay as comfortable and stress-free as possible. The first great thing was we were supplied with abucket of soap water, brushes and a water hose to wash our bikes off the mud and dirt - a quite sandy and rough dirt that was loudly grinding in your brakes and between the chain rings with each pedal stroke. The B&B itself was very beautiful and pretty inside, very clean and well kept and just felt very homely. After washing our bikes and then ourselves we set off to eat at a Thai/English restaurant. A lovely Thai meal was had - with 4 portions of rice for the 2 of us - we would need the energy tomorrow.
Ryan in front of our B&B "Magdalen House"

On Saturday when we arrived back at the race location the field in front of it was filled with tons of cars and people - the racing scene in the UK is just so much bigger than in Ireland, it was great to be part of such a big event.

The hustle and bustle around the start area - they had catering and sales tents!

My race started at 1pm and we 16 Elite ladies gathered at the start line, the first 10 ladies or so gridded in the first 2 rows, me having to start in the third and last row - wow - three rows of ladies racing! Never seen that before! The weather was beautiful and sunny, so that was a plus too. It was a little strange to start in a group where you don't know anybody and have no idea how you compare to them - I knew that the favourite for this race was Jenny Copnall and recognized her by her jersey, so I knew who to chase, but no idea about the others really. The whistle was blown and we were off. From the very beginning, even before we hit the first singletrack the group started to separate, about 4 ladies in front and I worked my way through the girls to try and hang on to the 4 in front, entering the singletrack in about 5th position. The speed was very fast from the beginning on and I could see that Jenny got away from the front group quite early, with a group of 3 girls working together trying to follow her. For most of my first lap (out of 5, they had added one since the course was bone dry and therefore very fast) I worked as hard as I could to try and catch the group of 3 in front of me - it was great to always have an aim in front of you. My heartrate monitor told me that I went super hard in this first lap (not that I really needed telling), with my heart rate up in the 180s! and I almost binned myself in this first lap. I had to let off for a bit by the end of it and was overtaken by some girls, but by my second lap I settled into some "comfortable" racing speed (mind you, I was still giving it my all, but at least it felt more sustainable for the race length) and overtook them again, slowly closing in on the group of 3 girls in front of me. As it happened one of the girls from that group dropped back, being my target to catch for the next few laps - so cool to have people to chase!! She had a big "TARGET" written on her bum (metaphorically) and I chased her down in I think which was the last lap - it actually really suited me that they added that extra 5th lap, because I think I overtook most of the girls in the last lap (not sure though, it's all a bit of a blur though to me, the race that is). Once I overtook girl in position 4, I saw number 3 and chased her down, and as soon as I had gotten her I saw number 2 and chased her down as well, and then it was just a short bit that I had to keep away from them until I was finished with my race. When I finished and got confirmed that I had indeed finished in 2nd place just after multiple British Champ Jenny Copnall, I was head over heels! I had come in at 2:12:45, 3min and 22sec after Jenny and had put a gap of just over a minute onto Paula Mosely who took third.

The 3 happy winners! First international success for MAD Ireland!!! :)

That was soooo much fun, but I think I've never gone so hard in my life, I really really pushed myself hard in this one, really enjoying the craic of racing against lots of very strong and good girls, you always had a target or were being chased and never spent a minute of the race by yourself. Also, it was such a friendly atmosphere, the girls chatting to each other on the trails while racing (I know my coach will now say that I didn't go hard enough if we could chat), but it was just so nice! I was told that this was their biggest Elite ladies field they've seen so far, so I am really proud of my result, even though a few of the big names were missing (such as Kate Potter and Amy Hunt).

Full results and race report written by Joolze Dymond can be found here and pictures (also by Joolze) can be found here.

Unfortunately Ryan had been less lucky in his race, having been forced to crash at 30km an hour in his first lap and hurting his already sore shoulder even more so that he decided to pull out after a few more laps to save his energy for the Enduro race on Sunday - thanks for cheering me on though!

And of course, a success like this would not have been possible without the help of the following people: Ryan for being such a good coach - sledgehammering me into fitness over the winter and it's finally paying off (I know there's an "I told you so" from you now), Eamon McConvoy for handing out the bottles and gels while his son, Conor McConvoy was racing for 3rd place, what a fantastic result! and the hosts of Magdalen House for adjusting their breakfast to our dietary needs and being so welcoming and helpful.

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