Diary of a Megavalanche Virgin Part 3: Win some, lose some…

If you’ve never really been interested in racing a mountain bike and wouldn’t really describe yourself as a mountain biker, then what better introduction to the world of competitive bike riding than the one of the toughest mass-start enduro events out there? Actually, there are plenty of better introductions but a challenge is supposed to be challenging – let us introduce Jenny, Megavalanche Virgin. You can catch up with part one here and part two here.

Well, it’s been a while since my last blog and mixture of progress and epic fails.

In February I headed to Scotland for the Fort William Mountain Festival and a spot of riding. We loaded the car up and set off on the long journey, only to find out on the next day’s ride that the suspicious ‘hissing’ noise from the back of the car was fluid leaking from my rear brake. A mixture of lack of fitness and no back brake at all led to a rather disappointing ride on the first day.

However, the next day a group of us we were given special permission to go on the gondolas up to the top of Aonach Mor on the Nevis range and ride the Nevis Red XC route. Thanks to the guys at Nevis Cycles, I got my rear brake fixed and had an awesome days riding. The track starts at 643m and drops to about 100m. The track consisted of boardwalks, berms, rock steps, jumps, drops and lots of fun! There was still snow at the top and so much wind we had to be careful on rises as it pushing us off sideways. Finally, we finished off on the 4X track that ended the day rather nicely.

Super tavi, super steep...

After the inspiration from Scotland’s riding, I headed back to our local downhill tracks when we got home to session some technical sections before heading south to Devon in the Easter hols to ride Gawton DH track near Tavistock. I walked the track named ‘Supertavi’ before riding it as I’d heard it was steep and technical…they weren’t kidding! I decided there were about six sections I would get off and walk down. However, I rode the two other tracks as a warm up before hitting Supertavi and much to my surprise, I managed to ride the whole track with only one pause for thought. The track is steep and techy and has some amazing switchbacks and is rather Alpine-esqe. I did later on that day get my bike sideways on the track name ‘Egypt’ and pinged off the side, resulting in sliding down the hill on my bottom. You win some, you lose some.

I am beginning to feel like I am getting better technically and noticing a difference in my riding. This may be largely to do with the bike I’ve borrowed from the Singletrack office, a Lapierre Froggy 318. I have fallen head over heels in love with it and will be very reluctant to give it back. As much as I love my old faithful Commencal Meta 5.5 and as much as it has seen me through a whole different range of riding disciplines over the years, the Froggy almost lets you sit back and enjoy the ride, if you want it to…

It pedals well for a large bike, it’s stable, has lots of super smooth travel and is loads of fun. It’s been an extreme confidence booster for me, although I know I still have a way to go with my fitness. I still haven’t sorted out a bike for the Mega but a shorter travel version of the Froggy would do me just nicely!

At the beginning of March, Jon suggested I enter Peaty’s Steel City Downhill race as a practice. As I said, I’ve never raced before and it’s not the riding as such that worries me, it’s the competing and riding with lots of other riders, in that environment. The month flew by and before I knew it, it was racing time! I must admit, I had butterflies in my stomach the whole week before hand. Race day came and we packed the van ready and made our way to Greno Woods, Sheffield feeling very anxious.

Ladies 6x at Fort Bill - pic by Frazer www.nofussevents.co.uk

We signed in and headed for the woods, as I got on my bike I started to relax and the anxiety subsided. I got in the queue for the track and pulled on my full-face helmet and I thought to myself ‘its just another ride in the woods, it’ll be fun’. However, as I pushed my bike onto the start ramp, something ‘went’ in my lower back and I couldn’t move. My legs went dead and I practically fainted with the pain. I finally managed to remove my helmet and slump onto the floor where I stayed for what felt like forever (unable to move) whilst other riders passed to start their practice runs and waited for the rescue party. I was carried off the ramp and onto the floor where I sat waiting for the Woodhead Mountain Rescue Team to come up from their base at the bottom of the track. When I tried to stand the nauseous faint feeling came back along with the excruciating pain. So, as if I didn’t feel embarrassed enough I was put on a stretcher and carried passed all the other waiting riders. Oh, the shame! One of the Mountain rescue team pointed out that the crowd had looked fairly chilled out until seeing someone on a stretcher…

Once I was down in the medic’s tent I was told that I had been hypothermic as well. The onsite doctor and physiotherapists had a look at me and reckon I have an acute muscular spasm or irritation. So I spent the day on the physio’s bed (oh err) as I was unable to walk or move much without help. So, with strict instructions to spend the next day or so resting, I’m here on the sofa writing my latest blog and hiding from the shame of the lamest injury ever. Today, I don’t know which is more damaged, my pride or my back! At least today, with a concoction of strong painkillers, I can get myself to the toilet, slowly. Would it have been better if I had done it riding my bike, doing something gnarly?

So a massive thanks to the people who helped me, especially Woodhead Mountain Rescue, the doc and the physios for making me laugh (as much as it hurt) – if you can’t laugh, what can you do?

This weeks training will involve resting, physio and possibly looking into yoga to improve on core strength.

If anyone out there has had anything similar or can give me any advise on an effective speedy recovery, please don’t hesitate to let me know!

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