Tuesday, 15 May 2012

"Experience is what you get when you don't get what you want" - Tracton Woods, Cork, 13th May

A non-working Sunday, alarm goes off at 6:30am.
Blinds go up to reveal a beautiful, clear morning, which is a nice view after a week of showers.
Pre-race preparations done automatically, with the brain still snoozing - bottles, gear check, a quick breakfast and we're ready to collect Scott and Keith from across the street.
Half an hour later Sean drives the car with 3 sleeping bodies all the way to Cork for the second round of the Irish NPS.

Finally, we're there. Time to stretch the legs and get the practice lap in.
Long fire road to start with, then down the slope across the roots and over the river. Steep climb up and again into the rooty forest with a cliff going straight into the river just a few inches from the wheels. Switchbacks up, and a flat rooty section to shake you up. Roots up, roots flat, roots down. A good choice of vague singletracks between the trees offers possibilities to overtake. Berms to keep the momentum through the corners, small bombholes to pump through, a steep bermed switchback down and a drop into the fireroad. And up the road again.
I thank God it's dry, the course would be extremely difficult in the wet. But today it's beautiful.

The practice lap seems fine, nothing there that I couldn't do. One particular switchback may require a granny ring further in the race but when I express that thought, Sean cuts it shortly: "A granny ring is a state of mind. Push through it".
I'm soon to find out that obstacles can grow. There are plenty of "root steps" which required just one good stroke of pedals in the practice lap but after just 20 minutes of riding flat-out, that one stroke seems to be a little bit too much. My stomach is tender and I get 15 minutes of cramps each time I take a gel. Fortunately, the fire road takes me so much time that I can drink and eat and drink at an easy pace.
On TNT (photo by Stephen Scully)
Soon, I start feeling uncomfortable. The roots shake the life off my back, I make small stupid mistakes every time I feel another rider behind me, just to prove to myself on another lap that I can ride it when on my own.
On the third lap my back hurts seriously and I get the energy to do another lap from my will power, not from my legs. As usual, I get a little boost on the last lap because it's nearly over, it's the last effort...
I get to the finish. Can't say if my legs hurt, the pain in my back obscures everything else. But I had a good time on the first lap, and I stayed off the granny for the whole race. That counts.

"Even a bad race is a good training". I learn a lot from this one. Still so much to learn, so much to improve. But another step towards the better has just been done.

The course was great, the weather was fantastic (and you learn to appreciate that when you live in Ireland), it's a pity the number of riders wasn't bigger as the guys from MBCC threw a really nice event there.

Thanks to Scott and Keith for keeping us company on that long drive and to Sean for sitting behind the wheel for 6 hours and taking care of all the equipment.

2nd. (photo by Keith Wallace)

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