Learning to love the mud

Muckmedden was a new addition to the racing calendar in 2012. If nothing else, I entered due to the sheer enthusiasm of the first-time organiser and the fact that they ask you to specify a favourite cake on the entry form!

I know I need to learn to ride technical stuff faster and this course was promising ample opportunities to practice! I was a wee bit put out last week to realise that my forks were well overdue a service but told myself that suspension is for wimps anyway and just let a bit of air out and got on with it!

I arrived at Pitmedden Forest nice and early on race day, to give plenty of time for a practice lap. I wasn’t sure how long that would take (anything between 1hr and 2.5hr laps said the website). As I made my way round the three sections of the course, my thoughts swung between ‘this is so much fun to ride’ to ‘this is completely unrideable’. The week’s deluge had resulted in a thick film of mud covering the already steep and rooty trails. Perfect for the descents but a killer for the uphills. I knew there was going to be a whole lot of walking.

Happily, although I might not enjoy it, walking and running is something I can do in races and am sometimes even quite good at. I rode the techie stuff quite slowly but was pleased to be riding it at all and, for some sections, I had a huge smile on my face as I slithered downhill. Not too many offs and I was battling the girl in front for third place. This was a fun race!

Zoom forward to 2.5hr later and all that pushing / technical riding was really telling in my upper body. I felt like my legs were still good but brain and arms were totally destroyed. I started making silly mistakes; planting front wheels, not enough speed to carry me over obstacles.

I knew there was a massive muddy death slide coming up soon. I didn’t dare ride it on the practice lap but convinced myself to do it on my first lap.  Not only did I survive but it was fun!  Second lap round, I knew I was tired but decided all I needed to do was point down the hill and let off the brakes. Turns out there are other things you do when you’re less tired. I’m not sure what those are but next thing I knew I was flying over the bars. FOR. A. LONG. TIME.

Finally, I landed. Completely winded, I took a half minute to check I was all there and still had all my teeth. Nothing broken, back on my bike. A concerned competitor asked me three or four times if I was ok. Maybe it was the funny croaky noises I was making. Half way between still being winded and trying not to cry, I knew I was less than ten minutes from the finish. Going down the last singletrack section, I just couldn’t steer. I thought I was too tired and too upset but I realised later that my stem had been knocked squint.

It was all I could do to get up the final fire road in a straight line, where I crossed the finish line, got a hug from Ele and burst into tears. 3hr of technical racing is a lot. No easy bits, no recovery and constant concentration. I was having a ball up until the last 40min, when it all just got a bit hard. I was 4th out of the 5 girls there but got a 2nd place for my age category. A fun and friendly event but possibly a bit harder than I was ready for. Or maybe the practice lap took too much out of me. Or the ironman training!

It’s a tough balance but I was pleased with my riding anyway and very glad to have got out unscathed. 

I actually didn't feel too bad on Monday and Tuesday. Some whopping bruises and slightly stiff neck but ok.  Until I went swimming and my hold neck, back, shoulders and chest just gave up.  I know I'm prone to swimming injuries and they took this opportunity to flood back!  I then spent most of the next few days clutching a hot water bottle to the sore bits and taking pain killers. So much for loving the swimming.  Luckily I'm recovering now. This weekend I've had a bit of help from the physio and a bit of coaching from Dirt School at the Women on Wheels event at Glentress.  When I looked at the photos from Muckmedden I could see there was a lot wrong with my body position. Now I need to put into practice some of the advice I got yesterday about how to fix that.
Oh yeah, and get a bike fixed too.


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