Sunshine series 1st race of a 5 race series - Adare
'I have no words regarding this race' was what I uttered on the podium when I gained a surprise 3rd place. This is the worst I had felt in a race in a long time both mentally and physically.
I had pre-ridden the course the previous day twice. The first lap I did with another girl who has not been riding for very long so I had time to approach an obstacle, stop, assess the situation, ensure there were no massive drops after boulders and turn round and ride it. The only part of the course which I knew 100% I couldn't ride was a steep rocky hill. I made the decision on the practice lap that I wouldn't ride this. I made the conscious decision to stop at a particular bush and walk/run/hobble the next section until it was even enough to get back on. I seem to have a little trouble with my balance at the moment and I'm not sure if this due to the Fibromyalgia or my normal clumsy self.
The start was not great we (elite women) were positioned behind the elite male and the under 19 male category. The other male categories were placed behind us. I had a terrible start and couldn't kick my brain into gear in time. The next couple of sections were horrendous as the guys were passing us all over the place most of them were very good, polite and careful when passing. It was a mental mind game to not just pull over every time I heard a fast guy pulling up behind me - a couple of times I conceded and pulled over which probably caused me to lose a bit of time.
I dealt with the first few rock sections cautiously and navigated them safely. The first tricky section was a tight right-handed corner which I have never been able to get my wheels around. Each time I got to it I would come in narrow, put a foot down, manually lift the back end, put it straight then jump back on and navigate the next section. The next tricky bit was another tight right-hand turn, very loose and sandy section which I gave up on and dismounted every time, walked up then got back on. The next hard bit was the rock garden up a steep hill and there was no chance of me riding this it's so far out of my technical comfort zone I wasn't prepared to take the risk. I picked out a bush, dismounted and dragged my bike up the rocks. The problem is you can not get back on as it's still rocky on the plateau and it's off camber. Finally, I could remount with my knees screaming at me as the Fibromyalgia flares up when I clamber up steep rocks. The next section was a steep, very loose downhill section with rocks and a tricky left-hand turn. I dared myself to ride down this each time with a foot down to make the turn at the bottom of the hill. The further into the race I got the harder it became. The remainder of the course was rideable and not too bad.
I had a fall on the second lap going around a left-hand turn in the sand and I lost the front end resulting in going sideways over the bars when I landed a guy nearly ran me over, managed to dodge me and then didn't ask if I was OK. I think I jarred my right thumb but quickly dismissed the thought I may have broken it. Mentally I had given up on this lap and had decided I was going to quit so why bother trying to go fast anymore. I was convinced I was so far behind that I was coming last and what on earth was the point in carrying on and the walking was becoming very tiresome. Being scared for the majority of the course is not fun nor a safe way to ride. I got to the rocky uphill walking section and glanced behind me and saw my old competition from the Wild West Series. At this moment I decided to continue on and actually started to fight again I knew she was very close to me and if I slowed down I would be caught. I suddenly realised I wasn't doing as bad as I thought I was doing.
At the end of the 3rd lap, I had actually hoped I was lapped out but this was not to be and we were waved on to our final lap. I knew if I could get to the rocky section without being caught I could stay in front. I had some trouble walking up the rocks again and she caught up time. Over the last couple of kilometres I was pushing as hard as possible but due to running a 1:11 gear set I had run out of harder gears so was doing a good impression of a hamster on a wheel. Towards the final stretch, I heard the commentator exclaim that she was right behind me. I wasn't going to let a repeat of the last Adare race haunt me where she had overtaken me on the finish line. I finished 15 seconds ahead of her.
We had such an epic battle for 3rd place you would have probably have thought we were racing for 1st. In fact, I had finished around 22 minutes behind 1st place and 10 minutes behind 2nd. I wasn't going to give up my 3rd place.
Overall the course was very technical, sandy, loose, rocky, tight, twisty, tight corners, steep, a lot of climbing which made the course a little slow to ride but also very interesting. I was told by the owner of the property that the more people ride it and become used to it the more they enjoy riding there. At the point I was told this I didn't believe it but by the end of the 4th lap I was adapting to it and it was becoming less terrible.
The race taught me I can push on when my mind is screaming at me to stop. I can ride the technical stuff albeit slowly but will never make it as a downhiller. I definitely enjoy pushing myself in less frightening ways at the endurance races. It does my skills and confidence a lot of good from riding various terrain. The race last weekend was a smooth, easier and much quicker course where the average was 19km/hr this weekend it was a lot more technical than I'm used to riding and the average was 11.5km/hr. The normal 24-hour course firmly sits in the middle of these two races. I just hope this is not the preview for what is to come for the remainder of the series - though if it is my skills will very rapidly improve as long as I don't injure myself first!