Well 2016 was always going to be a difficult act to follow after somehow finding myself being both UK and European 24 hour champ, which still hasn’t really sunk in. 2017 was always going to see a bit of a shift in racing volume as our amazing new house needed some serious TLC. I managed to keep some focus earlier in the year. In now usual fashion I set myself a winter challenge that turned out to be quite apt in character building. Hacking across Dartmoor then Exmoor and the Quantocks ‘Moors Madness’ was pretty tough with somewhat soft underground conditions but it was great to get a big ride in the bag early on in the year.
I managed to get to some of the usual MTB marathon events including a decent ride out at the annual pilgrimage to the Dyfi Enduro, which is so good I did it twice. I was still managing to get a decent amount of training despite the DIY carnage ramping up as we tried to make sure our house didn’t have frozen glass on inside for next winter. This now had a deadline with the great news that we were pregnant with a Christmas day deadline!
A trip to Italy for the world 24 champs was the first major event that I wanted to do well at. Prep was pretty good but a total mental meltdown when I was well placed meant I didn’t finish as I wanted to. I took loads of learning from this and took the bad experience on the chin and moved on. I took from it that I didn’t quit despite when I came round lap after lap with the words ready to deliver to my pitcrew I somehow found the will to keep the pedals turning.
This picture that Charlie Lees took of me is my favourite of the year. It totally sums up where you can find yourself in an ultra endurance event and that’s why getting through one is a massive achievement in itself at any level. More about that one here
It’s fair to say I didn’t have an ideal run in to the UK 24 Champs only a matter of weeks later, indulging myself a bit too much. I actually for once stopped looking at the scales (a bad pre race habit of mine) and just focusing on wanting to put Italy behind me and coming out again with a strong mental attitude. The UK Champs came round very quickly! The start line like the previous year’s was jammed with top racers. It basically rained for all but the last few hours but I loved it and just got in to my own zone and drew on my character building training earlier in the year. As it happened I managed to have a battle with Max Suttie which actually involved some rarely (from me) seen change of pace in attempt to catch him late in the race. I was pretty happy with second all things considered! My highlight from the whole year came at this race, when out of nowhere new friend Stephen Kelly kept appearing out on course at the point when I started catching Max with roars of encouragement, still sends tingles down my spine. It was great to see a podium full of relatively young guns, the future is bright!
From the UK champs onwards I focused my energy on getting the house sorted and preparing for the new baby. I did manage to sneak in another challenge hooking up with Epic MTB events for a great day out circumnavigating the surprisingly green outer edges of London doing the ‘Smoke Ring Challenge’.
Then the best bit of 2017 just in time for Christmas was the arrival of baby Rory. My friends will know I’ve never been the most cooey around babies but when you cuddle your own for the first time it totally changed everything for me. Currently cracking on with the first few weeks and loving having a family together.
So what next for 2018? I think I’ll go in with the aim to make sure I keep the balance between family life and training and turn up to the UK Champs again and get myself up to Fort Bill for the World Champs. I think racing for me is about burying myself and seeing what the outcome is rather than chasing podiums so even if I’m not 100% I’m still game for getting to the start line and giving myself another thrashing.
I’d like to take the chance to thank everyone for making 2017 great to all my sponsors, particularly two long term sponsors in M Steel Cycles and Roll for the Soul who have unfortunately closed this year. And of course my super supportive family most of all!
Happy New Year everyone and I hope 2018 brings good times for you.