Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Mates Race For Life

At the top of the Old Fort across the road from Wolftrax Trails (photo: Chris Feltham)

Recently I've not been particularly good at updating blogs but after having a couple of lazy days to recover, I'm eager to share what was perhaps my best weekend of riding, ever!

Fetching pink plates (photo: Douglas Glen)
What made it so good was not only the amount of riding that was squeezed in but mainly the brilliant people who set the challenges and motivated me into really pushing myself to the limit of my own ability. I came away from the weekend with a sense of achievement as far as my riding was concerned and also a sense of pride having been part of an event that brought the fundraising effort for Cancer Research to over £4000! The whole event was organised by friends Craig and Janine in honour of the groups' biking friend Julia who passed away a year ago.

The Upper Red
Having never ridden any of Laggan Wolftrax, I was somewhat apprehensive about the race element of this. We were starting right from the top, at the start of the upper red and the black trail. I'm quite confident in my own riding ability and I know my limits but I'm also aware that I tend to chicken out of things until I am familiar with them. I think that's an important part of my own self-preservation!

The timing system was simple enough. Someone at the bottom with a stopwatch and someone at the top keeping an exact gap between riders setting off. That way, when the split times were gathered, the results could be calculated by subtracting the time taken to start at the top. Simple... mostly!
At the top of upper red

The start line had been roughly scratched into the trail at the top and we all lined up, one at a time, ready to be told to go. My nerves had turned into eager excitement and, in a large part, silliness. That could maybe explain why I set off erratically and at full speed, hitting the first few corners with little control before coming up to a drop far to fast, braking hard and coming to an abrupt halt with my front tyre resting against a rock. Time to relax a little. The following few minutes saw more of a flow though I chose the 'chicken run' past most obstacles and took it easy on anything steep or sketchy.

The air was further taken from my sails when I then picked up a pinch flat in the front tyre. The adrenaline was pumping so I changed the tube in record time and carried on to a finishing time of 14+ minutes on a track that should take 7 minutes.

Somebody then had the bright idea of a race back up the fire-road and down the fun park to the cafe. I thought that this could be my chance for a winning time since I have been feeling quite fit recently. So with saddle up and eyes on the top of the climb, I began to pace myself. It didn't help. While I was in the competition to a certain extent, I still suffered as I got to the top and still had to lower my seat for the fun park. No podium place but I'd like to think I made a fair effort!

The Lower Red
Janine on lower red
Tea and cakes later, we completed the climb to the lower red. We stopped a little way down to cut out a slower section and ensure that the descent was as fast and competitive as possible. It was and I really found the flow. Taking it much easier, I bounced my way down the first part, over the rock gardens as fast as I could pedal before the track became much more fast and flowy and I found myself leaning this way and that, zipping between trees. I finished that trail with both tyres and tubes intact and with a much more respectable time!

The Fun Park
With my spirits high and confidence boosted we hit the fun park again for the timed event. Having already ridden this I knew how fast I could hit the jumps and how I could keep my height down. It was pretty windy and the last thing I wanted was to be caught by a gust of wind in mid air. My air-born skills can't cope with any unexpected interference when gritting my teeth and hoping to hit the ground the right way up!

By this time I think most of us were ready for another cup of tea and the security of knowing where we were to be sleeping the night.

Sleeping Arrangements
cosy accomodation
Laggan Village Hall wasn't the easiest to find as it doesn't really look like a hall, more a small block of flats. However, it wasn't that difficult to find amongst the half a dozen buildings in the village so we had soon terrorised the local farmer's field with our convoy of white vans before being asked to park on the road! Then, after being let into the hall, we surveyed our accommodation.

At £6 per person, our digs were fit for kings. Albeit very muddy ones! We had heat, space, showers, toilets a games room and lots of space to run around in. Fantastic, now all we needed was food. Unfortunately the local hotel wasn't serving food and so we drove into Newtonmore and were invited into the Braeriach Hotel with open arms, five minutes after the kitchen was due to close. The arms were slightly less open once the other 13 or so people turned up. But they fed us just the same and the service was as warm as the lovely fire that greeted us. A steak pie and chips later and I was drinking beer, sulking at my lack of raffle-luck and getting ready for a kip. I hit the sack early as I planned to get up and ride even if the others were still in bed nursing hangovers. To my surprise and delight, everyone started rising at about 8.30am and we were in the Laggan Wolftrax cafe at the back of 10, eating bacon butties.

All Over Again
heading down from Old Fort (photo: Douglas Glen)
Sunday's riding was varied and much more relaxed. We had a little explore over the other side of the road from Wolftrax and found some good, natural riding including the infamous Brown Run. The brown run led down from the old fort and wound it's way to the bottom via slippy, off-camber natural features picking off it's unsuspecting victims as it went. We all got to the bottom eventually and made our way back to the cafe.

With the 3 hour drive home hanging over us, we decided to do one last run... of EVERYTHING! In an hour and a half we had sprinted up the climbs to the top of the upper red and I cleared a downward time of 7.24 with no punctures. This would have put me 7th or 8th the day before. Then came the whole lower red including the formidable drop, Ayres Rock and then back down the lovely, fast and woody trail to the bottom half of the fun park. After some pumping, jumping and my repeatedly forgetting that some of the landings lead off to the left/right unexpectedly, we arrived back at the car park, truly ready for home, a beer and a hot bath.

the exploded tyre
I was really impressed with the hardtail Cotic Bfe. Other than the puncture, it had survived a real beating and held it's own against the bouncier, full sus bikes. I was just considering how well it had held up when there was a loud bang and the unmistakable smell of fish from the back of the van. Buckley the dog acted accordingly and we pulled over to find that my rear tyre had given in. A large tear was now where a small hole had been in the wall of the tyre and the pressure of the tube had finally been too much. I imagine this really is the bike equivalent of the clown car that gets put through its paces before all the doors fall off amongst a cloud of radiator steam. We all let out a sigh of relief and headed home, already planning the next adventure.

The Results

Race 1 Upper Red

10th Charlie 14.51.21 puncture :-(
9th Lyndsay 11.22.34
8th Janine 08.19.93 
7th Summers 07.24.09
6th Dougie 07.22.09
5th Ewan 07.06.27
4th Jon 07.01.43
3rd Craig 06.57.65
2nd Beansie 06.46.77
1st Anton 06.33.65
Impromptu Race from bottom of upper red thru fun park to cafe :-

1st Ewan
2nd Anton
3rd Dougie
Race 2 Upper Red

11th Lyndsay 06.43.40
10th Janine 04.22.85
9th Dave 04.13.36
8th Dougie 03.46.77
7th Ewan 03.34.14
6th Charlie 03.31.00
5th Craig 03.23.
4th Jon 03.18.63
3rd Summers 03.16.03
2nd Beansie 03.08.09
1st Anton 03.01.10
Race 3 Fun Park
11th Lyndsay 05.13.80
10th Janine 04.00.90
9th Dave 03.41.80
8th Dougie 03.24.40
7th Jon 03.21.30
6th Charlie 03.16.30
5th Summers 03.16.08
4th Ewan 03.15.00
3rd Craig 03.08.60
2nd Beansie 03.06.20
1st Anton 03.02.00

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