I couldn't believe that the time had come to race the first round of the Biking.ie Gravity Enduro Series. I had my planned my race calendar almost six months previous and this was one of my ‘A’ races. I had categorised my races into ‘A’, ‘B’ or ‘C’ which helps with my goal setting and training. I decided that the most important races would be the Irish Gravity Enduro Series and the Enduro World Series, thus were categorised into my ‘A’ Races. My ‘B’ races would be any other Enduro races at home or abroad, so the Vitus First Tracks Enduro Cup and the French Enduro’s would be classed as B. Finally, my ‘C’ races would be any other races such as the Irish Downhill Series or XC races. This categorising was vital as, as much as I would like to have them all as ‘A’ races, this could potentially cause burn-out both physically and mentally. However, it is extremely difficult when you are competitive to not give every race 110% and treat them all equally.
I was extremely lucky that the first round was set just at the end of my two weeks Easter holidays, one of the many perks of being a secondary school teacher, and so I moved back in with the folks in Dublin, a half our pedal to the foot of the Dublin mountains. I’d been training well on Chris Kilmurray’s Point 1 Development Programme up to this point and was having an absolute ball riding in Castlewellan, Bigwood, Bunclody and Ticknock in the weeks leading up to the race, so I was feeling well prepared and in good shape.
Race Week – Bike Check & Rest
After an absolute beast of a day riding in Bunclody on Monday with Gary Williams, lads from the ML Syndicate and Gravity BC, both myself and bike were in need of a full day’s rest on Tuesday and some tlc. I left my Kona Process in with Al Maxwell at The Bikerack.ie bike shop in Cabinteely to get a few bits sorted - new rear tyre (went for a WTB Vigilante which was a wise decision), a quick service to my dropper seat-post, new brake pads and realignment. Al was super quick getting the bike back to me in mint condition for the race but I decided to be sensible and stay off it and go for a few road spins instead. Friday was a day of complete rest and preparation of kit and food for practice day.
Saturday Practice Day
Two weeks of sunshine had made for super-fast, awesome tracks for practice day. I was up at the crack of dawn to get a good breakfast into me and my daily Revive Active supplement. This was something I had gotten into the habit of for the past two months and has really made a difference to my recovery and energy levels. I was certainly glad of it for the weekend.
I arrived at the race village at 9am so as to get to registration nice and early. Little did I know that I was in fact seeded and had not needed to queue for the hour in the freezing cold! Finding out that I was seeded was great news as this meant that I would be guaranteed to be first off in the morning meaning no hanging around.
A quick check of the bike, I realised that I had forgotten to collect a tiny screw for my shock adjuster from Al. Luckily, Dave the mechanic from BikeAddiction.ie was there, as always, to save the day and sorted me out with the miniature screw that can only be got from a Rockshox kit. I really can’t thank Dave enough for this! The bike was now good to go, and I was looking forward to the day ahead.I spent the day riding with fellow Connemara clubman Colin Keegan. It was cool to see all the old faces again and to chat with my the other riders who I had now gotten to know well over the past three years of this event.
Practice day went well. After doing stage one, I felt that I really needed to do it again so after stage 2, I decided to head up to Stage 1 again and aim to nail the sections that I had struggled with. Stage 1 went alot better the second time round as I relaxed into it and pumped through the rooty technical sections which I had been sloppy on previously. We then proceeded to stage 3 which was my favourite of all five stages.
Stage 4 was such a cool stage which started up at the mast and sent you down a rocky chute with lots of step-downs leading you into the forest. This is when things got tricky and you really needed to be looking ahead for lines as some would suck you into bomb-hole or a tree which would cause you to lose valuable seconds! We sessioned this stage, picking our lines and going at race pace through the stage. After a long climb back up the mountain, we were now on our final stage. Stage 5 was purpose built singletrack with some fun features to hop off and nice berms to slap the bike into. It had been a long day on the bike so instead of going back up to do stage 3 again, I decided to call it a day and get home to wash the bike, chill out and watch the footage from my helmet camera the HEDCAMZ Ten80. This cool, super light helmet cam has awesome quality and can be seen in the photo below. It was cool to be able to recap the five stages and see lines that I had missed or good lines I'd taken.
Race Day – Now the REAL fun starts!
We were expecting rain for the first time in two weeks but nobody was prepared for the ass-whooping we got from mother-nature. To say it was wet and muddy is an understatement! As we huddled and shivered inside the ‘Last Lap Café’ tent, spirits were high and we had a good laugh at the crazy Irish weather that never seems to amaze us. Most people would have stayed at home in bed but not us! We as mountain bikers almost relish the rain and freezing temperatures as it makes for more ‘gnarlyness’ and toughens us up! Right? Eh, yes I agree to an extent. This kind of weather makes me feel like Im a deadly rider as there's mud flying everywhere and you think you're flying it! I find throwing myself down a mountain in the wind and rain, takes me to another state of mind where I start gritting my teeth and go flat out. But I still battle with having to focus on getting through it as fast and as smoothly as I can, while staying on the bike and not letting any exposed off-camber roots get the better of me!
It was tough going, not only for us racers, but for the Biking.ie crew, the Marshalls who had to endure standing in the wind and rain all day, the bike mechanics John and Dave from BikeAddiction.ie who were on hand all day to come to the aid of all riders experiencing mechanicals, the guys from Last Lap Café who were set up all day at the mast in the most exposed area and finally the photographers, Alan Duffy of Action Pictures Ireland, Adrian Van der Lee and Ciaran Hayes. These are the people who make this event one of the best in Ireland and attracts over 300 riders to each round.
For all my 'toughness', I found the numbness in my feet almost unbearable. From start to finish, they just would not warm up and I was struggling to feel the pedals during my race runs. Full length leggings and sealskin waterproof socks are now high on my shopping list. I kept it clean and stayed on the bike for the majority of the race with one or two spills on stage 4. This was a really difficult stage as the rain had made is so slompy and a lot of riders struggled for grip. Even my Magic Mary and Vigilante tyres weren't able to keep me upright on two occasions and I had an off on the grassy turns near the finish line.
I finished in 4th position just 41 seconds off the podium! I was up against super strong girls who really can pin it! Congratulations to Endura Bergamont Factory Team rider Katy Winton on her win. Super performances for Orla McClean of Giant Dublin who came in second and Silvia Gallagher of Gravity BC in 3rd.
Stage 1 6:48.09 (4th)
Stage 2- 5:08.67 (4th)
Stage 3 3:45.61 (3rd)
Stage 4 3:53.15 (4th)
Thanks to my sponsors for their support!
REVIVE ACTIVE health supplement http://www.reviveactive.com/
Friday 27th March
It's Friday, school's out for two weeks and I'm about to set off on the 4 hour drive to Castlewellan Forest Park, Co.Down for the first round of the Vitus First Tracks Enduro Cup. With a long, busy week at school and my hectic training schedule, Friday has come too fast and my plan to head off in the van early afternoon is not happening. I yet again, underestimated the length of time it takes to pack up the van for a weekend of camping and don't set off until 7pm. The decision then was to stay in Dublin with the folks that night and set off at the crack of dawn on the Saturday morning to Castlewellan.
Arriving in Castlewellan at about 11am, we were welcomed by the melodic tune of the Northern Irish accent and the super friendly campsite staff. We were blown away by the top class campsite which was part of the grounds of Castlewellan Forest Park.The stunning grounds surrounding a large lake that was bustling with activities such as kayaking, biking and walkers. We got settled at our pitch and rustled up our first meal in the van, enough to keep us going on our bikes for the rest of the day!
After a long day on the bike, we were treated to hot showers and free (non-alcoholic I might add) Erdinger. Presentations were at 4.30pm so we had lots of time to relax and replenish ourselves.
Although I didn't achieve my goal of making the podium, I was really happy with my 'progression' and with 4th place. All four of us finished within 24 minutes so it was tight racing! My result has shown that my winter training programme with Colin Ross, aka ROSCOLINES, is paying off and I'm feeling stronger and fitter than this time last year. It was a great weekend and a really well run event by Glyn O'Brien and his First Tracks crew. What better way to prepare for the first round of the Irish Gravity Enduro in two weeks time! Bring on the schlomp!
The next day we decided to hit Bigwood as it was on our way home. This place is a bikers playground. Although it was pissing rain, we still managed to have an absolute blast on the bikes and sink our teeth into the new downhill runs there. Recovery day skids!
Irish Female Enduro Racer Flow MTB Team Rider