Diet and fitness is the name of the game for this weekly slot, last week I touched on my diet, today I will discuss the demon that is exercise. As is quite clear from my blog name I am a biker first and foremost. I ride mountain bikes as much as I can manage and ride a bmx to work and at the skatepark or racetrack on Wednesday evenings. This entry is pretty much my passion for bikes.
I have always loved bikes, I remember all of them fondly from my first trike, my raleigh Bluebird with the box on the back that I used to fill with mud and rocks, my blue and white bmx with mag wheels and many mountain bikes. I was about 18, working in McD’s and studying whilst living in Redcar when I bought a HUGE Trek mountain bike from a friends brother who was going travelling. It was far too big for me, but it had suspension forks, and it was a Trek, I was happy. I couldn’t ride it properly as it was too big, but it was great.
One of my favourite rides was from Redcar to Guisborough where I would meet my friend Rachel and we would ride the trails in the woods (we rode the fireroad and thought that was mountain biking) before riding home, a good 30 mile loop on at least a weekly basis. 20 miles of this was road riding on knobbly tyres, I was super fit and very happy, I also cycled to the seaside for work every day, living the good life! As friends went away to uni and jobs I rode a bit but got a job and a car and discovered triple vodkas and biked a lot less though I would still take my bike out for a spin from Marske through to Saltburn through the allotments and woods and back along the beach for some zen time.
In 2001 I moved to Glasgow, fitting my life into my fiat punto and heading off for adventure. I bought a stupidly heavy GT Chucker jump bike which I used for a bit of riding, commuting and getting about on. I discovered the trails in Pollok Park and had my first proper off road rides. Work and life took over once more and I rode less and less until 2011 when I joined “Meetup Mountain Bike Glasgow”. With local rides in Mugdock woods I was challenged and my riding improved, I found a love for the sport that has only grown since.
I would say this was my first real mountain biking, trails, mud, roots, rocks, all the Scottish stuff that I now love, it was all there and all fun. I rode Mugdock and Glentress a lot for the first couple of years, with occasional trips to exotic locations such as Mabie and Innerleithen thrown in. I was comfortable on the red level trails and maintained this level for a few years. In August 2014 I crashed my bike on an innocuous bit of trail at Dalbeattie, falling 8ft or more off a cliff edge onto my arm dislocating it and separating my collar bone, my first major injury. Whilst out for 6 weeks I was researching trails, bought a new bike and decided to come back with a bang. My friend David suggested I join him and his mates on their local trails, technical, natural trails with some big features added in. I joined them for a ride and absolutely loved it, this location is now my favourite place to ride, it is fun, fast, local and allows for a lot of progression, something I am finally working on.
Two days after being allowed back on my bike I rode the RedBull Foxhunt race, my first ever race. I rolled up in my van, a bundle of nerves, signed in and collected my pack and went back to hide in my van until BBQ and beer o’clock. I took photos of my first number board and race jersey, texted everyone I know, panicked, tried to sleep, and got myself a bit stressed, before sacking it off and going in search of food and company. Within 5 minutes my worries were gone, I met a mother and daughter duo Gillian and Zoe who joined me for food and to share nervous banter and debate our theories about the possible race track and how we may fair. Pro rider Rachel Atherton gave a small speech and made everyone welcome before we had some beers and retired to our tents, vans, hotels and homes for the night ahead of practice day.
Practice day meant a great bbq breakfast provided for us, and meeting more new people, I met some fabulous friends at this event, and would recommend turning up alone to anyone who did not make it last time as they were worried about being alone.. you will not be alone for more than 30 seconds, it is just not possible! We were uplifted halfway (if you’re being generous) up the track and then had to push up the rest of the track, the last few metres got pretty steep, I started to get worried as I am useless on steep! My aim for the weekend was to finish in one piece and not hurt my shoulder, so I took it easy and tried to learn lines to take in the big race. By the end of practice day I was achy, tired and ready for a rest. RedBull took care of us all with beers and another BBQ, I made new friends in Faye, Aoife and Emma amongst others whose names have vanished in an alcoholic haze and we ended up drinking too much Gin and Bourbon as well as all the beers and anything else we could find… great race tactics! It was Faye’s birthday, so it was only right!
Hungover race day began with all of us crawling towards the communal teepee and filling up on bacon and COFFEE! Race tactics were being discussed whilst my aim was still to finish in one piece. After my gentle qualifier I was in the back row, where I wanted to be, to protect my shoulder and what little dignity I had. The idea behind the race is a reverse fox hunt, so all the racers start in a grid formation with the pro, Rachel, behind us all, the horn sounds and all the riders go for it, 10 seconds later Rachel sets off and chases us down with the aim of overtaking as many people as possible. She overtook me at about 14 seconds, given that 10 was spent with her waiting, that means she over took me after 4 seconds, haha! There were crashes and clashes galore on the first corner, then it got serious with race lines, overtaking and fast riding. I even managed to overtake some people, to finish 97th out of 117 racers for the day, I was over the moon!
The atmosphere at the bottom was electric, with everyone cheering each other on, spectators, kids, riders, racers, sponsors, everyone just having a great, positive time! My face hurt from smiling. I gave a few garbled, hyper, interviews, tried to wind down, speak to all my new friends, Sarah, also from Redcar, Clare who takes beautiful photographs of dogs, Chantelle who runs Hamsterley Divas, Gael who is also in my Meetup group and now my best riding buddy, Jaqueline who rides bikes like a demon, Victoria with her awesome dogs, and so many more that I cannot name them all. What a weekend, what a rush.
The point of my ramblings about the race are that it gave me so much new confidence to get out and ride more! Since the race I have pushed my riding up a few levels, I now encourage more women, children, anyone, to take part. My enthusiasm was such that I started a facebook page for a reunion ride, this has now passed but “Foxy Riders United” is still running for all women who ride mountain bikes, come join in and share rides and adventures with us. I cannot say enough that every lady who rides bikes and can make it to The Pentlands in September should come to FoxHunt, you WILL make friends, your riding WILL improve and you will have an amazing weekend. You have my word.
I now ride faster, harder and better than I did before my injury and I am only going to improve more as it has only been a few months and most of that has been winter. Tomorrow I am riding an uplift day at Innerleithen and I am equal parts scared and excited, this is going to be a big challenge for me and I like it, if you’re not pushing yourself then what’s the point? Get out there and LIVE!!
See you on the trails boys and girls!!