It's getting closer! Final preparations for the HT550

I’m still on a massive buzzy high from the weekend so took advantage of my own enthusiasm to register my SPOT tracker with the trackleader site. There you go. That’s me fully signed up and committed to the HT550 now and armchair supporters are welcome to follow my dot as I weave across the Highlands in less than two weeks time.

The last few months have been a bit manic and I have to admit to the occasional thoughts of ‘is this really how I want to spend my holiday time?’ Like many people, real life is constantly getting in the way of adventures. On the days where I feel like a bit of a zombie, a week of ‘relaxing’ (or at least downhill mountain biking with a nice hotel) sounds quite appealing. Trying to balance training and work has been a challenge with the longer distances but also all the travelling to different trails. It’s been beautiful and amazing but also hard work.  So much packing, unpacking and washing of me, bikes and kit!  One of the things I’m most looking forward to about the HT550 is that there’s just one thing to focus on. Life becomes a lot simpler when you’re out on trips like this, just following the trail.  And there won’t be too much washing at the end of it either since I’m only taking two baselayers!

With two weeks to go, I promised myself this would be my last crazy busy weekend. I organised a logistically complicated work conference for 200 people on Friday

and then followed that up with my mountain bike leader assessment on Saturday in Pitlochry. I’d been a bit worried about the navigation element but a quick refresher on Thursday night with Westie Lizzie really helped get my brain in gear. The addition of a mapboard to my bike reminded me I needed to keep an eye on it at all times, as you could be asked at any point where you were, even when someone else was leading the section.

As it turns out, I really enjoyed the day.  I've been doing loads of coaching recently so between that and all the epic solo-rides, my confidence with the idea of me being a mountain bike ‘leader’ has really grown.  If I’m able to look at a map and plan a route through remote mountain trails, then just get on and do it on my own, in sub-zero temperatures, what else can I do when I put my mind to it?  So I’m now a mountain bike leader and hopefully I’ll be able to inspire new mountain bikers to go off and find their own adventures in beautiful places.

Sunday wasn’t to be a quiet day either with a 6.30am start to get to Selkirk for the mountain bike marathon. This is one of my favourite events. I don’t see it as a race in any way but more a celebration of mountain biking on fun and beautiful trails, where everyone is welcome to come along and enjoy it, no matter what distance you want to do or how fast you want to ride.  I did it first in 2006 and have been back several times since.  There’s always a great vibe and I spend the day happily chatting to other riders and friendly marshalls and trying to eat as much cake as possible!  This year didn’t disappoint with trails running the driest I’ve ever seen them, making for fast riding on the ups and the downs. And that beautiful tight singletrack in Bowhill. So much fun.

Immediately before I saw Helen (who took this great picture of me) I was thinking how I couldn’t be any happier than riding my bike in a great location in the sunshine, with great people. And then there was pie at the finish line!

So if the HT550 is anything like this I’ll be a happy girl!  I'm banking on at least the pie bit in Lochinver.  Whatever happens in the event, what has led up to it has just been amazing.  My practice rides have taken me all over Scotland, linking up bits of the country that I didn't realise were anywhere near each other. I've made new friends and spent quality time with old ones. My riding has improved and my confidence more generally. Of course, I realise that in fact the HT550 is very like the 75km mtb marathon. But doing it twice a day for 7 days in a row, carrying all your stuff and sleeping in a ditch getting eaten by midgies. So we’ll see. Packing starts tomorrow but first of all I'm off for a  spa day with my mum. It's called tapering!


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