Week 3 - EWS Week
After the French Enduro Cup, I was back on the road again the next day. This time it was down to the Midi-Pyrenees, in Southern France for Round 5 of the Enduro World Series. The stunning town of Millau (pronounced me-ow, yes just like a cat) was to be my second EWS of the season so I was really looking forward to this one.
Arriving on Monday evening after a full day of driving through the some sensational scenery, I had two days of rest before practice began. The format was two practice days on Wednesday and Thursday, followed by two days of flat out racing Friday and Saturday. The week started as it meant to go on weather wise with bouts of torrential wind and rain followed by baking heat and temperatures well into the 30's.
My rest days seemed to fly by with the usual 'to do list' to get through - unpacking, organising and setting up the awning, kitchen area etc., preparing meals, registering, and most importantly, getting my bike and gear ready. The next four days were going to be hectic!
Practice Day #1
Day 1 was the longest with five stages to hit. The good thing about the practice days was the fact that the transitions were all lift assisted, so there was very little climbing to do. The stages were long, technical and tough and it was a really hot day, so even with this assistance, we were all feeling it. After each stage, I was back in the forty minute que back up the hill, which was a little frustrating for us privateers who didn't have the luxury of personal transportation.
There was a lot of talk going around about how tough a race it was going to be and this kicked off that little voice in my head of self-doubt. I began to question whether or not I had done enough training for this, how quickly I was going to be able to recover between stages after the tough climbs and my freshness to ride each of these tough ass stages. Unfortunately, this was where it all went wrong for me.
Practice Day #2
Day 2 was just as awesome, and possibly even better than the first. There was a little more pedalling involved in this one but nothing I couldn't handle. The stages on Day 2 were a little less physical but still had a lot of punch in them and I finished the day feeling good but exhausted.
I got back to the van around 5pm. By the time I had a shower, cooked dinner, organised my bike and race kit it was 9pm. I packed up the van and headed up the mountain to spend the night at the start of Stage 1. It had been a tiring week with all the travelling, living out of a van, the training, and pretty much trying to juggle everything. I had no idea just how much effect this had on me....until race day.
Race Day #1
It was the morning of the first race day and I didn't feel tired but I didn't feel great either, it was a 'meh' feeling. As the women weren't off until 10:40, I could take my time getting ready and there was no stress which was nice. I headed over to where the other girls were and immediately felt at ease when I got chatting to them all. The air had that familiar 'race' feel to it, a mix of nerves, excitement, anticipation and the eagerness to just get going! In no time at all, I found myself lining up and hearing the old familiar ''5,4,3,2,1, GO!" and that was it, I was off!
Stage 1 was a lot different to how it was in practice, it was almost unrecognisable. It had become much more physical with deeper ruts, more exposed roots and washed out corners. There was no time for rest in this stage, it was a case of staying focused and on the gas for the whole duration. I rode well, catching the two girls in front of me but I couldnt help but feeling sluggish and tired. I pulled off the trail towards the end to allow a rider pass and somehow fell off my bike in doing so...fatigue had set in and was now the biggest thing against me.
Getting to the finish line, had a quick drink and a recap with the other riders around me on the stage we'd just done and I was back on the bike to Stage 2.
The transition was tough. It wasn't until we were halfway up after 25minutes of pushing our bikes up a steep track, that we realised we were pushing up Stage 4! It was hot, and seemed to go on forever. As girls passed me, my legs got heavier and I that voice in my head started to get louder. 'I'm not good enough for this'' ''if I'm wrecked now, how will I survive two full days of this'' ''am I enjoying this?'' These are the questions that went through my mind. Its not the first time I had asked myself these questions during a race, but usually I would be strong enough to shut them up, tell myself to keep going, and that YES - I am good enough! But this time it was different. I felt like I just didn't have the mental or physical strength, I was just down right tired. It had been a full on two weeks and maybe the stress of travelling and the work involved in it all had just gotten to me. So much so that I turned off at the fireroad, just before the start of stage 2, and went back to the van. Game over.
A lot of self-reflection went on that day.
I spent the next day supporting this lad, Glyn O'Brien, who was having a super race in the Masters Category. The Irish riders had done well overall, with Scott Wallace putting in a great race up until he had a big crash on Day 2 which meant he had to pull out. The podiums took place down at the massive race village where the annual Millau Games festival was taking place. That evening, there was a huge party with hundreds of people out for the 'Games' bouldering competition and the live music. I put this one behind me as experience and realised that its best for me not to race a week before a big one like this, that was the first mistake I had made.
Onwards and upwards, next stop - THE MEGA!!!
Irish Female Enduro Racer Flow MTB Team Rider