WEMBO 24hr Championships Fort William
WHY? The eternal question with a limitless answer.
WHY do I leave it so long between visits to Scotland?
WHY do I put choose to put this pressure on myself?
WHY do I think it's an excellent idea to ride my bike all day?
WHY do I question my sanity?
WHY are there a couple of hundred other people with the same strange idea of fun?
Everyones answer is different but we all have one thing in common, the NEED to do. The lines between wanting to and needing to are almost blurred. We want to ride but we need it too. Through the suffering in training to prepare for this I find a strange equilibrium. I'm keeping the seesaw of life level.
I never pretend to be a hero, I was scared leading up to the 'big one'. I wanted to do the UK proud. I wanted to make my friends proud, they deserved some gratification through success. They believe in me and for that I wanted to show them how much it meant. After all the time Fiona, Spook and Frazer (the whole No Fuss team especially Drew!) put in I wanted to bring the World Champs jersey to the UK.
I was lucky enough to be up in Scotland for a week before the actual race. Tapering became a challenge because I had an OS map and it was riddled with epic potential rides and hikes, I had to reign in my inner wanderer - is it wrong that I get excited by tightly packed contour lines and green patches?
Luckily my partner Laura, Gill and Martin (Laura's mum and dad) and Naomi (Laura's sister) aka Team Welsh, were all in tow to occupy me for a week. I took great pleasure in giving them their first mtbike experience in Fort William! Because of their kindness we were able to have a large dinner party, we cooked two bags of potatoes! If I'm honest Laura did most/all the cooking, I played to my strengths and made a salad and cut up some bread. It was a nice way to have some restbite from my 100mph brain.
I rode the course and decided it was brutal, everything you'd want in a worlds course. It blew me away, the views are some of the best in the world. Even straight after the race I looked up at the mountain and just wished I was here longer to ride more (perhaps not immediately) it makes me feel a bit fuzzy inside.
Race day arrived and my inner calm was overwhelmed by outer panic, "Don't waste energy being nervous Rick, this is what you live for, be brave come on girl." That's what I said to myself.
We were lead out by a PIPE BAND! To be fair to them it must have been rather scary with a whole load of edgy cyclists behind. Just remind yourself of the start of races: the sound of clipping in; the squeak of brakes; the rubber sliding on the gravel; the slamming down of gears; the motorbikes trying to neutralise the speed then they move and you rip it up with every inch of power up the first climb just hovering under the red zone.
What a pleasure to be next to Lee Craigie - the Scottish XC legend - up the first climb. The first few laps were very civilised, I think everyone was well aware that a course like this would chew you up and spit you out if you pushed too hard too soon. Kim Hurst and Erin Greene were on my radar, knowing that these girls are both incredible meant I didn't for one second underestimate them, that would be foolish.
Darkness came quite quickly but left very slowly. The sunset was distracting, I can't tell you in words how glorious the pink light was and the moon shone bright orange for a while. I just smiled to myself - what a privilege to be part of this. My body was doing a great job of keeping me moving, it was screaming at me but my mind was convincing it that it could and would carry on.
By the morning it was clear I couldn't catch Kim but I quickly accepted it and decided not to be a miserable cow and just learn and question what I should do to be faster. Self-critisim is tough but to
learn how to get better I think you have to take a good hard look in the mirror and be brutally honest on why you "failed". Some might say it's a little obnoxious to say coming second is a failure, but I think that to be driven to win there is only one position you'll accept and that's 1st.
I crossed the line at the foot of Ben Nevis 24 hrs 08 mins after starting and it felt so good. Laura gave me a massive hug (I was sore it hurt a little) and then I promptly struggled to 'get my leg over' and get off the bike.
The National Champions jersey and a silver medal were just a bonus for what was a truly special experience.
I must just take this chance to say a heartfelt thank you to:
The Welsh family!!
559 bikes Sarah and Kate
Specialized uk (my epic was faultless and perfect)
And all the supporters trackside
Who made this happen for me. I'll win for you next time - I promise.