The organisers, No Fuss Events, describe this event as “Scotland’s original and best mountain bike event”, which remains as the flagship of the No Fuss Events portfolio. Its based a simple endurance mountain bike format – a 10 mile lap, raced for 10 hours. The description goes on to say that the event and the amazing trails around Leanachen forest guarantee a great day’s riding (regardless of the weather) with the emphasis on enjoyment,friendship and a fun atmosphere.
I have to say that I look forward to the event every year but was slightly apprehensive approaching this year’s event – I had done very little in the way of long rides and was heading off on a mountain bike trip round north Scotland after the event, so needed to pace my effort…
It was a lovely sunny afternoon when we arrived, but evidently the course was pretty wet (from the mud splattered kit and bikes of those who had been out on a lap)… It was similar to the previous year with 3 steep climbs and few places to rest or eat. I decided to save energy and skip a preview lap on the Friday.
Saturday dawned clear but cold!! I was excited to get my Flare race kit on – it was also my first race on my Juliana Joplin, I was strangely calm waiting for the start. We started as is traditional following a piper down the road, then the race was on!
I have to say that I found the first lap tough – there is always a lot of queuing on lap 1 – especially through the trickier single track sections – but this year the atmosphere was quite hostile, people were impatient and rude – we had 10hours, surely there no need for shouting and swearing as people failed to clean sections – or crashed and were nearly run over by other riders.
Everything settled down, lap 2 was good, I felt strong and was having fun… but then lap 3 started to hurt- and that pain would last for the rest of the day. The bike was awesome – and my kit was really comfortable… the sun was shining so I stuck in (I confess to also thinking about the amount of food I could eat after I finished based on the number of laps completed). I was in my endurance race routine – lap, pit (eat half a piece of loaf cake, pick up half a roll, change bottle), back out on next lap… I don’t like stopping!
My Garmin mount had failed me – so I couldn’t see any timing info as I rode round – which meant I couldn’t do endless calculations of pacing, how many laps I could do, how fast I was going etc… It was just me riding my bike round in big circles!
It was half way round lap 4 when I decided that I was really not enjoying the event like I used to – and that this would be my last 10 under. This then took me on a count down – as I rode each section of the course for the 2nd last and then last time (I had also decided that I had 6 laps of riding in me and then I would be done)… These races do make you play the weirdest mind games!!!
I knew that at lap 3 I was lying second in my age category – and was quite far behind. I did know from previous years that I tended to pick up time as the race wore on (as I didn’t take breaks and many riders do). Near the top of the last climb on my 6th (and final) lap, the rider that I suspected was leading my category rode up from behind me….. I asked how many laps she had done – answer was 6, and that this would be her last lap… I shared that I was also on lap 6 – but did not share that I too was stopping – well it is a race!!! In that few seconds of conversation, my competitive instinct totally kicked in. I suspected that I was a stronger descender but that she had been making time on the climbs – I had to get to the top of the final climb in front – nail the descent and just give it my all along the undulating slog back to the finish… I have not sprinted like that for a long long time – very surprised what my body could give after nearly 8 hours of riding (did wonder if I should have tried harder sooner)!!
I dibbed at the finish and carried on round to our van…. I was done. There was time for another lap, but I was committed to stopping, to having something left for our holiday – and to not riding in the now freezing and very heavy rain!
After drying out I went to the cafe and checked results- I had won my category by 4 minutes, the effort had paid off… I was pretty tired and sore (and hungry!!).. but looking forward to the holiday that was to follow. Without going into too much detail, I had no contact point pains – the kit was super comfortable even for that long a day in the saddle (I was well impressed)..
Am I really done with 10 Under? I raced the first one in 2006…. but yes, I think I am… Sadly I just didn’t feel the buzz, the atmosphere, the excitement this year – and for me there are other things I can do on my bike that will give me that… The biggest buzz I got was from helping one of my competitors conquer a tricky drop out on course – I truly think that coaching and guiding are now my passion, rather than racing..