This was the first event of the 2013 Red Kite winter xc series. The series offers regular Sunday cross country races using a variety of locations and trails in mid Wales. Also planned for 2014 are epic length one day races and gravity enduros.
Every round has used a slightly different route. This time it was back to basics with a short and sweet loop using the well known track climb to the top and a direct descent down the black run. A lot of work had gone into improving the descent though and it now offered a few decent sized rollable jumps as well as some ramps and diversions off the main trail. Various muddy parts had been surfaced – despite a weekend of heavy rain the trail was in good shape.
I’d done a 50km off road ride near Brechfa on the previous day with Mudtrek so I had to do some mental prepartion. I decided that I was going to ride it at a pace that felt alright and use that as a benchmark for my performance. This is a common excuse for not beasting myself. I call it “the benchmark excuse”. I’ve been using it for over a year to avoid back ache issues. They have almost gone since I started doing a lot of yoga and Pilates.
The format of the race was 90 minutes plus finishing any laps started before that time. Whilst I generally prefer long rides that grind people down I like these races because I know I’ll be round at the Hotel of mum and dad for a lie down by mid afternoon.
As I cranked up the first climb I didn’t feel too bad, all things considered. The climb did go on for the best part of 8 minutes but I knew that the descent would probably be worth it.
The very top section was still mud (this is going to be fixed soon) but after the ramp there was a lot of new stone in place and several new features including a nicely rounded jump. This had me giggling every time. I was rather satisfied to catch a few riders on the descent.
I kept an eye on my Garmin and did some calculations. The first lap took 16 minutes so I expected to do 6 laps in total. There was about 140m of ascent per lap, so that would add up to around 840m. The laps were 3km long, aka 1.9miles.
I’ve found that doing mental arithmetic is a good way of passing the time during races. It feels useful and it keeps the focus off any thoughts of stopping. So I regularly set myself stupid calculation challenges. I’m not particularly good at mental arithmetic though so it does keep me occupied for a long time.
On the second climb I caught a few riders but was also passed by a few. From here on I had a bit of a game of cat and mouse as I overtook the same few riders on the descent and they crawled past me on the climb.
The race leader lapped me at the top of the 3rd lap. The next fastest rider caught me on the 4th lap and then one more on towards the end of the race. Fast xc racers aren’t normal people though so I wasn’t too bothered. I gave my ego a good massage as I caught a variety of riders. I had no idea if I’d lapped them or just caught them. One was due to mechanical issues but a win is a win.
The mental games continued through the race – I started out with the bench marking, then I went through the “you can slow down a bit if you want” routine, to which I always end up going “no, you can keep going if you want”. It’s like an internal domestic. At least I was enjoying it this time – I had a race last year where I ended up shouting at myself with frustration. There was another time when I went all yogic and was listening to the wind in the trees and then had to shout at myself to get back on with the race.
I passed the start with five minutes to spare so I easily got my sixth lap in. I still felt strong and back pain was minimal. Great news.
I saw the organiser, Neil, at the bottom of the descent took my attention off the riding to shout “great new features” on a very soft section of trail. The front wheel slid from underneath me and I was aware that the bike and myself were following different paths. It was quite a stylish dismount even if I say so myself. I ended up on all fours with the bike underneath me (quite a common position for me but I won’t talk about what I do at home on here).
Then it was all over. I did a bonus lap for the video after spending 40 minutes drying the camera out on the car heater (it was full of condensation).
The results came through at about 7pm. In my class (old git). I was 6th out of 9. My times were: 13:15, 16:56, 18:13, 18:08,17:56, 18:48. The first lap was shorter. After that, a gradual drop off in times and then stabilisation.
What encouraged me was that I was only a few minutes behind three other riders so on a fresh day I might have been able to pull a few places ahead. The two fastest riders did 12 to 14 minute laps which is significantly quicker.
I’ll do some proper Excel analysis another day and post it up.