Breck Epic Day 4 and 5

It feels like we are all starting to get to know each other now. There's not so much 'racing' and people now have enough breath to chat on the hills. I love the sense of community you get on longer races and there are always people to marvel at - whether because they are riding a singlespeed (ouch), a mum of three who works 50hr a week and still has time to train or an Afghanistan veteran with a prosthetic leg who is flying uphill, always smiling and encouraging others as he goes.

The course for Day 3 wasn't the most interesting of all the stages. A few nice descents but also some fire roads and I mostly remember the climbing. It dragged on and on. This actually ended up being a shorter day at only 5hr and that was welcome by this stage in the week. My favourite moment was when someone asked at the end where I had learned to ride downhill so fast. Anyone who knows me will know I'm a total wimp and descend slower than treacle but I've been working hard to change that so this was a great thing to hear!

It's day 4 now and this is the first time all week that I've actually been able to put my feet up. A much shorter stage for me and familiar ground- the kind of big mountain day I live for.

We started off in waves based on our times from yesterday. Everyone told me it was going to be an epic climb from the off. For me, the start was good- some nice technical riding over roots and rocks. I think I need these sorts of climbs to keep me interested. The fire road climbs yesterday just make me switch off. Then it was very quickly into pushing. I push my bike a lot in Scotland and usually it is well worth the effort to get to great trails. So pushing is no big deal for me - it gave me plenty of time to look at the absolutely amazing mountain views. Who wouldn't want to ride their bike along a ridge like that?

By the time I reached the first summit, where they were giving out bacon and Pringles I had passed riders from several start waves ahead. These guys are all fitter than me at riding up hills but for some reason, I have the edge on bike pushing!

Then for the descent and it was everything I expected. Riding along the side of the mountain; rocks, views, chutes and sharp corners, I loved it. Unlike racing in Canada, I wasn't hating my hardtail and I was passing plenty of folks on their full susses.

Somewhere, somehow, I've learnt to ride a bike!

There was a bit more pushing but it was over quickly before another brilliant downhill to the second aid station. From there it wasn't a huge distance to the finish but that was when the hail, rain and thunder started, making the rooty and technical course all the more challenging. I was glad I was off the ridge before that started as it would have made the descent really tricky. I don't love wet roots but, riding at Mugdock, I certainly know all about them, which is s bit of an advantage here. I managed to stay warm enough to get to the end without too much trouble (lots of people struggled with cold hands). This was by far my best day of the race. Having been a solid 8th place for the previous days I was 5th today, less than 6 seconds behind 4th. This was 'proper' mountain biking for me and I loved every second so it's probably no surprise that this was also my fastest stage. I ride well when I'm enjoying it.

This has now taken me up to 7th place overall but there's not much between me and Nikki in 8th. Tomorrow's stage is called 'Gold Dust' and is supposed to have a bit of a party atmosphere as everyone rolls through together. I'm looking forward to that.

The rest of the day is being spent in an eating competition between me and room-mate. I think my pasta portion sizes are bigger but he is trumping me by being on his second 12-pack of donuts. I have no intention of repeating this morning's 2am bowl of cereal because I was lying awake hungry!!


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