With life events somewhat taking precedent recently (house move, wedding preparations blah blah etc) I hadn’t really had much chance to think about the mtb-marathon race at Church Stretton beforehand. Normally I’d be trying to work out eating/drinking strategies and all that in advance but I just chucked all my gear in a bag and headed up north from Bristol.
This meant I was totally relaxed before the race with over thinking nowhere to be found! This did have a little bit of a downside in terms of out and out race speed. After the initial mahusive climb I found myself somewhat just trundling along, enjoying the trails and the scenery and generally just loving riding my bike.
It wasn’t until about half way in to the race/outing when a group of about 7 of us grouped together for the next hour or so of riding that I kicked in to competitive mode again. I was surrounded by the Clee Cycling boys (again) and a few others including a KTM rider. I never slipped to the back of the group and often led from the front including at times on the climbs which is a turnout for me.
After more sharp up’s and off camber fast and narrow downs than I can remember we eventually came to Eastridge Woods. The last time I was here over 10 years ago I was racing under the influence of several pints, in full downhill armour and attempting to get down in one piece whilst being heckled by my fellow students. Lycra-ed up and about 2 stone lighter, this time was a little different but the trails remained just as fun and technical.
I managed to get to the front of the group dropping in to the first section of woods, where I stayed and managed to get a bit of a gap going in to the final singletrack before what turned out to be a feed station on exit. At this point I could see that nobody was in site so I figured a heroic effort to dishearten them and make them think I was gone and never to be seen again would be in order. I thought if the group saw me then they might smell blood and hunt me down particularly on the long road sections where the pack has the power!
So off I headed, head down and it stuck until the end which felt good, particularly as others within that group had beaten me earlier in the season. Although it wasn’t for any place of significance it felt like a mini race victory and I still had lots left in the tank at the end which is pretty unusual for me. Maybe the good feeling came from being pretty relaxed throughout the race or the consumption of lots of caffeine gels that were a little bit out of date and probably fermented or something to double their strength!
Last race before tying the knot. A good send off.