About a year ago my husbands mate from Perth Western Australia came to the east coast for a holiday. He drove across and brought with him his mountain bike. When Adam asked us whether we knew of any good places to mountain bike we knew of just one…Mount Stromlo. Having lived in Canberra for 10 years I had never visited to Mount Stromlo nor had I planned to.
When Adam suggested we all go mountain biking and that I borrow my mother in law’s bike (which I might add, has no suspension whatsoever) I was initially going to stay at home and do the housework…BORING!! Then I thought, how hard can it be?!
What was to come could only really be described as a locked arm death grip adventure that lasted about 3 hours.
At the end of the day I can honestly say that other than feeling like I’d been hit by a bus and having a few scrapes from 2 mini crashes. I was pretty happy with myself.
A couple of weeks later, on the work social mailing list I saw an email about an introductory women’s mountain biking course. I thought it would be good to meet some new people and it may be easier riding with women than with the boys.
Soon after starting the course I found out that friend of a friend was selling her 1-year-old Giant Anthem X1. A.K.A awesome bike with hydraulic disc brakes, dual suspension (which i liken to riding a bike on a trampoline) and tubeless tyres (yes there is such a thing!)
Then came the addiction to buying all things riding related. I needed a pair of those silly looking ‘nappy/diaper bum pants’ that would make me look like a real cyclist, gloves to stop me skinning my hands if and when I crashed in addition to pumps and tubes etc for changing a flat tyre (which I was yet to learn how to do). I even decided to take the leap into what initially seemed like a horrific idea… clippy shoes known as cleats that attach your feet to your pedals. Now that was the last thing I thought I wanted when flying down a hill…take away my ability to put my foot down if I was falling… Turns out they help you quite a bit and it is easy to get your feet in and out once you do a few practice sessions at the gym in spin classes where you can’t fall off.
After the intro course I went on to do the intermediate/advanced course. Many of the women in this course were already mountain bikers who wanted to improve their skills. After earning the name speedy, I found out that I was the only one that had never been in a race and decided to make the women’s only race that was 6 weeks away my first one.
One of the instructors named Claire was writing a piece for a new mountain biking magazine called Flow and she wanted to do the feature on my intro to MTB and my first race. She sent me some before questions and planned to interview me after too. I was excited and terrified. I have a bit of a competitive streak but was realistic about how I would do being that it was my first race. I entered the 20km open division and started heading out to the Sparrow hill track every chance I had so that I could get to know it. I got a best time of 1 hour 26min in training.
Race day came and I was, well nervous was an understatment. My mouth was dry, I needed the bathroom every 5 minutes and I couldn’t stop talking. It was way more like a real competition that I had expected – Sponsors, a video tent, bike mechanic, coffee cart etc. The 20km race group left together and consisted of 3 categories. 40+, open and under 15.
When it was our turn to go i looked up the wide firetrail that cut through the trees and led us straight up a punishing hill for the first 1500m before narrowing into single track. I was so filled with adrenaline that as i watched the lead group of 3 disappear up the hill I had the urge to get away from the main group. I decided it was time to give it my all. I burst from the pack heading out on my own but as I reached the single track panic set in, how far behind were they?!! I could see the girl in front with her red socks and focussed on keeping her in sight. She was quick on the downhill but I was stronger in the grueling rocky climbs. Every hill we went down I kept repeating aloud what I had been taught
” look ahead, don’t overbrake, soft arms, inside leg up on corners”
There were several photographers along the course, I may have accidentally sworn at one that gave me a fright when I saw him in a tree!
As I reached the last climb, my legs were seriously complaining, I had to bargain with myself for a bit more. I kept looking back sure I was hearing someone behind be only to realise 15km in that it was my backpack rustling.
The last downhill run brough with it a fresh set of jelly legs, panting hard I made a last push and crossed the line to meet my husband and mother in law who had come for support. To my surprise my husband remarked “oh, we didn’t expect you so soon”. My MIL returned from the time screen to tell me that i had come 4th, I was shocked and so excited. I had also come in at 1 hour 12mins. that was 14 mins quicker than my PB.
After the divisions were separated it turned out that I came 2nd, something that I had never dreamed of for my first time racing.
Claire’s feature on my experience as a first time racer for FLOW mountainbike was published not long ago and you can see it here.
Since then I have ridden at most of the other MTB tracks in the Canberra area as well as some in Tasmania. As I write this I am at my parents place on the NSW coast and have a ride planned for tomorrow on a new track.
Turns out I have discovered a long forgotten love for riding all thanks to a guy named Adam, a supportive husband and a social mailing list. I have met many lovely ladies (and men) through the various MTB club/groups which has made this new-found pastime physically and socially rewarding.
Don’t just live the everyday, you never know what may be outside it. Could it be mountain biking?? Bucketlist #86…check.