As I've mentioned before, my dad likes to be the first one at the venue, last weekend was no different, in fact it was even earlier as the weekend’s racing was extra special. It was the Inter-Regional Championships where dad and I were both part of the team representing the North-East, and as you can probably imagine, our nerves were kicking in a little more than normal.
I woke at 6:00am, had a quick shower, threw on my clothes and climbed into the van, all within 20 minutes I think, go me! Needless to say as soon as we were on the road I went back to the land of nod and the three-hour drive for my dad was over in an instant!
So there I was at the venue with ruffled hair and sleepy eyes peering out of the window to see nothing but mud. All part and parcel of racing cyclocross I agree, but little did we know how much of a problem it was going to become! Anyway we hopped out the van, had a chat with fellow team-mates and a stroll around the venue. Regardless to the gloop it was a lovely place.
It wasn’t long before we noticed people practicing the course with overly clogged up bikes and, uh-oh, the alarm bells in my head started ringing! The track walk called for wellies and just walking around the course was a struggle, never mind riding it! People couldn't ride two laps without a bike change or a mechanical and I was doing 40 minutes worth of laps. I knew it was going to be a big issue especially as I didn't have a spare bike! My heart dropped. Oh what to do, what to do?
A little while later I was very kindly offered a spare bike. Although it was too small I was incredibly grateful for the fact I even had a bike to change to. A lot of riders didn't even do a practice lap because it simply wasn't worth getting caked in mud before the actual race. So, after some hectic plan making and organisation of the pit-plans, I headed for the starting line.
Then the start gun went off! The first corner was super tricky, just who am I kidding, the whole course was super tricky! Just unrelenting sticky mud, although with that said I managed to do quite well and was overtaking quite a few people. For the time being I was in a good place considering who I was riding with, super female athletes!
It didn’t last though, as expected my bike soon got clogged up with mud so I changed at the pits the first time I passed it. I quickly regretted it as I didn't realise how small the loaned bike actually was, it was incredibly uncomfortable! However I’m made from pure Northern grit so… you know the score, I knuckled down, grinned and bared it as best as I knew how.
Soon enough the loaned bike became ridiculously stuffed with mud and leaves, I couldn't even turn the pedals and the accumulated mud weighed a tonne. This left me with no other choice but to get off and carry it until I got back to the pits.
On arriving at the pits I was so far behind and wanted to give up however the reassuring words from my close friend Rhianna whilst she handed me my cleaned bike made me carry on. I got back on my own bike and set off with the aim to catch up to the group. No sooner was I making up time and getting back into the swing of things the worst of worst things happened, my rear mech snapped!
Though my patience had thinned and my tears were almost showing I hopped off the bike, threw it over my shoulder and continued to run, walk, crawl and swear. The further I got the further my head went dropped, I knew my competitors were finishing while I was still out there, feeling both embarrassed and defeated as I was one of the last people on the course.
As I was coming up the long straight I saw my dad approach me and seeing him almost made me start to cry because I was so frustrated. He realised what had happened, gave me some motivational advice and then sent me on my way, not long afterwards I crossed the finish line with mixed feelings. Although it was a disappointing day I was also proud that I completed the race, I’d overcome some demons and persevered. Dad was at the finish line waiting to retrieve my bike. With arms open wide he gave me the world’s biggest hug and told me he was proud, that was all I needed.
So, never a failure, always a lesson, and it's all experience at the end of the day!
I'm now looking forward to this weekend at Durham with the CXNE event on Saturday and the National Trophy on Sunday! More nerve wrecking and exciting times ahead, wish me luck!
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