Hidden Vale 24hr mountain bike race.

This year I was aiming to beat my lap number from last year and i was confident that this would be manageable as I was stronger, better prepared and had been training and racing well.


Then I got really sick about 6 weeks prior to the race. Hayley being in day care bought home with her bronchitis and then infected the entire family with it including my mum who then had to fly back to the UK. This resulted in 2 courses of antibiotics, 2 course of steroids and an ventolin Inhaler. The bronchitis then improved and left me the most severe case of sinusitis which I have ever had. The CT scan on the Friday before the race resulted showed obliterate  of the left sinus which a bacterial infection so back onto the antibiotics.

The night prior to the race I slept at the race venue but didn’t get much sleep as it was very noisy and the trailer was on a slope. I arranged every thing I needed and then relaxed until Tom appeared with Hayley and then it was going on the jumping castle, getting Hayley food and then colouring with Hayley instead of checking my bikes.

I took my bike for a warm up and noticed the brakes were rubbing, off came the back wheel, in went new pads and I noticed a small part of the brake pad had worn away. I made it to the start without a proper warm up.

I started well and managed to avoid the carnage in front of me as several people came down on dusty corners. I used the first 1/2 lap to warm up. It was hot at 39 degrees in the sun and took awhile to cool down.


By the 4 hour mark I was starting to feel unwell and when I changed bikes to get Tom to sort my lights out he advised that if i was feeling unwell then I should stop - Tom never offers me this option so its very unusual circumstances and he noticed something was very off. I managed to push through it, took some of the inhaler and eased back on the up hills and rode as fast as I could on the downs. 

Then it got dark, Tom forgot to give me my headlight so I rode 1/2 the course on my handlebar light which is on the programme where it goes into power save mode if your going to slow - yes it was going onto power save mode at the most inopportune times such as down a very rocky section. Apart from that I think we have the light situation sorted out now. 

I pushed on and on. I fell twice once when a stick got jammed into my wheel and sent me over the handlebars and the other time towards the end where i fell off the trail and down an embankment and a kind guy stopped and pulled me back up. I walked away from both with minor scratches and bruising and the bike survived. 

By the 20th hour i came into pits and felt very unwell, dizzy, struggling to breathe. I sat down for a while ingested some food and fluids and didn’t fell any better. Tom said i should pack it in now and quit. 

However the past 2x24hr races I’ve done I’ve never actually completed them. At the last Nationals the race was abandoned at 16 hours due to the wind and falling trees, another i stopped on medical advice with hypothermia). 


I was determined not to quit a 3rd, I got back on rode steadily and was ok until the top of the long climb i had to stop and get off. I was dizzy, had double vision and couldn’t breathe properly. I managed to eat and drink and a kind rider stopped and gave me some sugar and put me back on my bike and stayed with for awhile to make sure i was ok he then informed Tom that I was coming back and didn’t feel too good.

At the end of the last lap I saw my friend so stopped and she walked my bike over the  finish line for me and took me to the medic who made a spacer for in the inhaler and the breathing settled. About an hour later the breathing worsened and Tom drove me to the nearest hospital who gave me 2x nebulisers and some steroids and then discharged me. The breathing resettled.

It appears that i had created the perfect storm for possible exercise induced asthma - tail end of bronchitis, severe sinusitis, a dust allergy and hay fever. I’m now awaiting investigations to see whether that is the case. If it is then I can create a management plan to control it. It’s lucky it happened at a local race and not the National or Asia/Pacific champs or the world champs. 

Hidden vale was a practice for the 2 big 24hr races at the end of the year and it turned out to be just that. Initially I was disappointed in myself and I hadn’t fulfilled the goal of the race where i wanted to beat what I did last year - I couldn’t ever equal it this year. Tom had worked out some timings which would have given the distance but had to abandon these very early on. 

In hindsight it was a great learning experience. I would rather find out now that i need inhalers and other medication during exercise to control the breathing and not to race with sinusitis. The eating and drinking plan worked. I need to pause a little longer in pits sometimes to ensure i have everything which i need including my head torch, bottles, food before leaving pit lane. Actually take my brake pad out and check them prior to turning up for the race. 

We discovered that our camper trailer is no longer working for us - Tom has an injured shoulder and has ongoing shoulder problems so is unable to push the canvas up and over. I can’t help him after the race because of severe fatigued and Hayley clings to us when we are trying to set up. We will be looking to sell this and get a version more suited to us and our needs. 

I also discovered that my mental strength, grit and determination can be stronger than my body and will let me push myself to the maximum limit whereby i end up sick or in hospital. It’s then when I needed it the most and will be there every time i  need to call on it. That is the most important lesson which the race has just taught me and will help in all aspects of life not just the endurance racing.

Now to get well, rest, eat, drink, spend time with family and plan my upcoming races i feel a 6 hour and a couple of mountain bike marathons coming on before the next 24 hour race in just under 6 months time. I still love the sport and whatever obstacles come in my way I can adjust and plan and overcome them!