Sort Me Out

A winter in British Columbia, Canada, is pretty rad; I had an incredible experience with an awesome job and it allowed me to drastically improve my skiing skillz; however, there were a few factors I really missed. Apart from the obvious: my British friends, family and little doglets, it’s been the first time I haven’t been able to ride my bike or run.

Although I did lots of DH skiing and HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) classes, I really missed my cardio workouts. I’ve never felt so restricted and trapped by the weather. I know us Brits love a good moan, and for some reason it’s the weather that gets the brunt of our complaints, however, this winter really made me appreciated UK winters. Yes, it might be wet, muddy, dark, cold, but it never stops you going for a run or riding your bike, in-fact some of the funnest rides I’ve been on, was when the weather was terrible and you come home covered in mud, it’s the closest I get to feeling like a kid again.

I’m used to looking up at mountains, then going there, no questions asked. Please don’t get me wrong, Revelstoke is fantastic, full of badass athletes and professional skiers, with everyone getting out there ski-touring, but I wasn’t a skilled enough skier to head out into the backcountry of the Rocky Mountains, you need to be a good skier who’s confident enough to handle avalanches… I am not!

With only a few short sessions cross country skiing and lots of Down-Hill skiing, It was the least active I’ve been in years, I put on weight, and although I did yoga every single morning, I’ve never been in so much non-injury related pain. Everything started to hurt, but why? Eventually I realized a connection; after having a trampoline accident 15 years ago, I always suffered with back pains, until I started running and biking regularly, then my back pain finally diminished. Stop me doing my regular endurance activities, throw me into a cold Canadian winter… I’m seizing up.

It’s now spring and I’m back home visiting the UK, first things first… I’m booking an appointment with Ben Calder at The Centre for Integral Health in Shrewsbury. I worked with Ben a lot last year and I had the pleasure to experience the effects of Bowen Technique. As a masseuse, I’m used to being very hands on, the deeper the massage, the better I feel, but Bowen Technique is completely different, it uses very subtle movements to reset the fascia in the muscle. I didn’t think I had any problem areas when I went to Ben, at first, I didn’t notice much difference… But as I continued going to Ben, the results were outstanding!

You know that tired feeling in your legs when you first start running or biking, it always takes a few minutes to warm up before your legs stop feeling so heavy… I no longer had that, my legs were full of energy and ready to go, it didn’t matter how much I’d done during the week, after seeing Ben regularly my legs were ready to go 24/7. I noticed I recovered from races a lot quicker; on average, races I competed in were 3-5 days long, 2-3 days practicing with 2-3 days racing. Each day I’d be riding for 7 hours, completing daily loops of 50K, sometimes more, after maintaining this for nearly a week I usually come home feeling hung over, tired and can’t even think about biking for a few days, I just eat copious amounts of food and sleep, but after seeing Ben my recovery time dropped substantially; I’d have one rest day then I’d be back to it, without any tired legs. I also noticed something else; I do a lot of running and when I push myself, it’s the same muscles that ache the next few days, but on one particular day, I entered a Park Run, ran my usual race, pushed myself like I usually do, not only did I get my PB for Shrewsburys course, completing in under 21 minutes, the next day muscles were hurting that I’ve never felt before. I’ve run Mountain Marathons and lots of 5-15mile Mountain races (fell runs) and not once have these muscles hurt. Ben enlightened me, my body was finally working efficiently, muscles have stopped compensating allowing the muscles I truly need to do there job, I was amazed and extremely excited.

Needless to say, I’ve really missed my regular appointments with Ben, I walked into Ben’s clinic feeling a wreck, he tested my muscles to see which ones were/weren’t working properly; interestingly he found my glutes and hamstrings were weak, as he started the treatment he found they weren’t firing properly and reset them. I’m looking forward to seeing how they test next time. I’ve struggled with my lower back and hips this winter, but, as soon as I stood up after the treatment, I instantly felt better, I was no longer seized up, I could’ve cried… It’s good to be home.

I’m finally able to train every day; road riding, running and mountain biking, I feel 100% better physically and mentally. Seeing Ben is the final piece to the puzzle, stay tuned to find out what he helps with next week.

Thank you Ben

Advertisements

Summer Rush … Making it Count! – Part Two

Ireland.5

The EWS in Ireland was incredible, and to be greeted with Irelands long lost friend, the sun, was a treat. I have never competed in such a positive race; it was a tough day on the bike, 7 different stages, 7 repetitive climbs; with each stage hosting a burly feature, there was no time for switching off. All stages were fun with challenging monster rock gardens, but stage 6 was a personal favourite: flat out, fun, steep and tech. The Irish crowds were beyond positive, only shouting out encouraging heckles; ‘Keep ‘er lit’ stayed ringing in my ears throughout the weekend.

Another wild opportunity I couldn’t walk away from; resulted in sailing up the west coast of Britain competing as a runner in the Three Peaks Yacht Race.

IMG_2450

Record breaking sailor, Dee Caffari, asked if I’d join her team of 5. Despite never stepping foot on a yacht before, yet alone any kind of sailing, there was no chance I’d be turning down an opportunity like that; with 3 months till the race, the bike season training program promptly switched to a heavy programme of running.

IMG_2129
Running in the Lake District – Photo Credit Mike Hopkins

The ‘Three Peaks Yacht Race’ was the hardest race I’ve ever done, taking 4.5 days to complete, involving: 389 miles of sailing, 57 miles of mountain running, 40 miles of cycling, 26 miles of rowing, 4 mountains, 5 summits, 14,500ft ascending, wobbly sea legs, vomit, diarrhoea, sleepless nights, 4 sunsets, 4 sunrises and one epic experience!  I’m a strong advocate for the quote “It doesn’t have to be fun, to be fun.” However, this race was next level; pushing through the crippling stomach cramps whilst running down Scafell Pike, still only half way through the 9 hour excursion, and terrified to consume any form of energy (I’d also ran out of water). Crawling my way up the final mountain, I wished I would just pass out, feeling that was the only way the pain would end. My head was running wild, all the people who’d supported me kept popping up amongst the hallucinations and they honestly got me through, I couldn’t let them down. Once I got to the bike, the 20 miles back to the yacht seemed like nothing, another burst of energy kicked in and I was away, as we reached Whitehaven, finishing the 54 miles in 9 hours 13 minutes, I had the biggest smile and was stoked to do it all over again… Idiot!

Find out more about this race here … 3 Peaks Yacht Race..

END PART TWO

We Have Mountains Too You Know..

North Wales - cred MikeHopkins (2)

Last June Mike Hopkins visited from Canada. He’s one of Canada’s top free-riders, competing in Red Bull Rampage and basically travelling all over the world being pretty badass, showing everyone how cool mountain biking really is, No biggie! So pressure was on to show him what we have to offer in Britain.

To be honest I was pretty confident, expectations of what we had to offer were set fairly low, thanks to his British friends migrating to Canada from Essex and classic shows like EastEnders and of course all those miserable bastards that just like to complain. I’d tried to tell Mike there’s more to Britain than London, I guess he had to see it to believe it.

When I first met Mike I asked him “What do you think of when you think of England?”..

Simple reply; “dodgy teeth.”

How depressing is that?! Sadly, he had a point, as he said it an English guy was on telly with exceptionally awful teeth, all I could do was cringe and smile awkwardly without showing my teeth. I have nice teeth, but suddenly became aware they weren’t perfect, could probably be whiter and straighter.

His idea of Britain in general wasn’t much better either; flat, busy, over crowded, rushed, cold, wet, muddy, miserable.. the list went on.

It’s sad to say a lot of Brits agree with him, which reminds me of how lucky I am to live where I do. Plus, I avoid cities like the plague.

I picked him up from Manchester before heading to Shropshire. Last time I saw Mike was a few months ago in New Zealand, stoked he was actually here in 4D. 2D relationships get rather tedious.

Timer began, 2 weeks to show off Britain in all its glory. I didn’t do anything too different, he just finally got to do it with me, every day doing something new.

SUMMER SOLSTICE

He arrived on the longest weekend, perfect timing if you’re coming to the Chidleys, we like to make the most of the Summer Solstice; riding, BBQ, beers, pump track, disco shed .. yep, disco shed, all in our garden.

IMG_3803

TENS TIME TRIAL

Over the summer on Tuesday nights there’s an event called The Tens, it’s a ten mile time trial just a couple of miles down the road, I do it on my Mountain bike with slick tyres, but there’s a lot of serious riders. Its awesome training, couldn’t wait for Mike to give it a go. He borrowed my brothers tourer and off we pootled. Even the 6 mile ride down to the start he loved, all the little country roads and covering bigger distances quickly was very appealing. He smashed the tens, in 27:55, for your first attempt that’s a good time, sussing out the course and knowing how to pace yourself is the hard bit, he finished barely out of breath. The following day we discovered the brakes had been stuck on the entire time too, ha!

FELL RACE

The following day was another new activity.. a Fell run! Over the summer a Fell Running series takes place somewhere in Shropshire every other Wednesday night, as a keen Fell Runner I try and do them all. They’re crazy fun (hard, depends on your level of “fun”). However, Mike has only ever been for a handful of runs, usually when I drag him out; he’s never had decent shoes to help with the terrain and the last run he went on was over 3 months ago. Although when he comes out with me he makes me feel insanely slow, it’s quite depressing, I destroy him on the descents but on the climbs he makes me feel like a snail, an old one at that. I knew he’d be good at the climb so told him to pace our friend and awesome runner Dico, however, not only did he do that he passed Dico, patted him on the back and said “Well done Dico, keep it going.” Dico could barely breathe let alone encourage someone else on. Mike had borrowed my Dads trainers, so at least he had some grip for the descent (even if they were a little too big). He lost a few places on the descent but maintained a good speed and finished 5th! Which is an outrage, I was proud but not at all surprised, made me feel better about feeling like an old snail when I’m out alone with him. None of my friends could believe it; they asked “how often do you run?” “I don’t.” was the simple response.

UK GRAVITY ENDURO

Over the weekend Mike came with me and my brother to a National Gravity Enduro in the Lake District, personally never having been to The Lakes I was stoked to share it with Mike.

Now Mike was very much in pain after the run, I guess if you don’t ever run, you better ache after destroying everyone. So he skipped riding on the Friday and had dinner ready when we got back to the camp site about 4 hours later. To be honest, Mike did not enjoy this weekend, and if anything it put him off riding all together, let alone trying out a race. The conditions were miserable and the tracks were less than fun, a bit silly really but hey. So I’m going to skip this weekend..

He did however take a couple of beauties from the weekend..

The weather hadn’t been bad, but week 2 was a little slice of tropical heaven, we had about 3 BBQs in one week.

TENS “Two up”

It was time for the Tens again, but this week was a “two up” event, new for us both we teamed up. Using the same course, we had to work together and ‘slip stream’. We decided, seeing as Mike had the faster bike (and Legs) he’d lead the entire course. Neither of us had ever done any kind of slip streaming, if we ride on the road it was always solo.

Mike set the pace, which was bloody fast for me and my little mountain bike. He kept looking over his shoulder to make sure I was there; I was there, however, most of the time you could fit a bus between us! Throughout the entire route I probably managed to slip stream him for a total of 20 seconds! It was torture, even as I write this my fingers are tapping more aggressively thinking back to how painful and infuriating it was!! I have never.. EVER pushed myself that hard before, EVER! I spent the entire time just trying to catch up with him, it doesn’t count as slip streaming someone if you can fit a bus, or a car or even another bike between you. Mike didn’t realise till afterwards that it’s only effective when the person slip streaming is right on your ass, basically touching your wheel. Every time Mike thought I was close enough he looked back and sped off again. Thankfully he couldn’t hear me, but man alive I was rude. I like a challenge but this was another level. I was lifting the front of the bike forward making it hop off the ground to try and catch him, shouting to him ”WHAT’S THE POINT?!!” With just a couple of miles to the finish he kept shouting back saying “come on Harn, nearly there you’re doing awesome.” I, on the other hand was not in the mood for his positivity and at this point struggling to even breath, was very much hating him.. now hate is a strong word which I only use if it’s necessary.. so it’s staying in.

Enduro World Series - cred Trevor Worsey (2)

As we crossed the finish I kept riding, I have never been so out of breath in my entire life, with each breath I gasped for air as if someone had just tried to drown me in an ocean surrounded by icebergs, and each gasp brought floods of tears to my eyes. However, as soon as I crossed that finish line, the hatred disappeared as if it had never happened, and I was overwhelmed with emotion. Bringing me to my favourite quote “It doesn’t have to be fun to be fun.” It’s a hard one to explain, I was in a world of pain hating life, but my god did I love it. Mike and I agreed we need to work on our slip streaming technique, and he should have the slower bike next time.

IMG_9187

TRYFAN, NORTH WALES 

Mikes visit was sadly coming to an end, I’d tried to do as much as possible with him, but one thing I HAD to do was scramble up Tryfan, It’s one of my favourite hikes but I’ve only ever done it in the pouring rain with close to zero visibility.

So with a tropical clear day ahead of us we took off with plenty of water and our stoke on. One thing we have here that’s undeniable and I totally take for granted, is our history. My house is older than Canada itself. Mike loved all the little towns, the old buildings, the stone walls, the castle ruins, he couldn’t get his head round them. It certainly made me look at everything in a different light, and really appreciate what we’re surrounded by and what it all represents. I like to picture myself going back in time and imagine how it would’ve been back then, which is a pretty cool feeling.

IMG_6911

On route to North Wales Mike was in his element, stone walls for days, castle ruins with mountains forming. We stopped in the beautiful town of Betws-y-Coed for a gander and a coffee and then trucked on. As Tryfan came in to sight I pointed it out and told Mike that’s what we’re going up. He was another level stoked, it looked awesome. I kept reminding Mike that this is where the inspiration came from for Lord of the Rings .. and The Shire is Shropshire. I’ve told him many-a-times, but he finally saw it for himself. We headed up in to the mountain, it was so fricking cool; I love that mountain, its proper scrambling. We made our way up finding the hardest and most exciting route to the top.

North Wales - cred MikeHopkins (3)CLIFBAR break - cred MikeHopkins

Half way up we heard some crazy loud fighter jets come towards us, I’d seen them before so looked up at Mike to catch his reaction as he was frantically searching for them in the sky. Just as he thought he’d missed it, Mike looked down and there they were, two fighter jets speeding through the valley beneath us. They even turned completely sideways as they meandered through the mountains. Mike looked like a little kid at Christmas, so excited, never having seen anything like it. They came by again about 2 hours later and then another cool fighter plane came through, it was much bigger, looked like it was going half the speed and was almost silent, pretty cool.

IMG_5130

Once we reached the summit greeted by Adam and Eve we took some classic tourist pictures before a group of Canadians got to the top too. What are the chances they’d be Mikes fellow Countrymen, I was out numbered on my own turf.. and, it gets better. Apparently it was Canada day (Mike forgot), they’d carried a big Canadian flag with them to the top of the mountain.. So we borrowed it for a couple of rad snaps.

We rushed home for another BBQ which sadly brings Mikes journey to an end.

Everyone loved having him here, he fits right in with the Shropshire Mons. It’s great to see my home through his eyes, I’ve always appreciated it, but now I notice and think about things I just took for granted. It’s safe to say, Mikes impression of Britain has somewhat changed.

Until next time my furry Canadian friend .. I have much more to show you.

Cheerio old chap, See you on skype..

IMG_1879.PNG

 

Epic Chidley

150627_MJH_England_00085 day endurance mountain bike race, covering over 200 kilometres of the South Wales mountains and valleys, ascending over 6000 meters.

Well.. here it is, my very own website. A HUGE thank you goes to my wonderful Aunty Max for helping me set it up.

We had to post something, so I searched through my Sealskinz blogs to see what I had.. I decided to re-posted my story about Epic Cymru; this was quite the adventure and with my brother by my side..

August 2015- We didn’t really know what we’d been signed up for, and hadn’t ridden any of the tracks before. I knew it would be hard and I was looking at it as a riding boot camp. I also knew there were timed sections purely aimed at the enduro/downhill rider, these were titled ‘Trail King/Queen’ stages. This is what Joel and I are good at, so our focus for the week was not in the over all time but for the Trail King (TK) stages.

The Prologue 

Saturday was the introduction to the event. Everyone had individual start times and there was a short 10km loop we all thrashed round. Joel managed to do a quick practice, he came back and I thought he was about to cry. He just kept saying how horrible it was, It was basically a cross country loop. Even the TK section had massive amounts of climbing within it. Joel’s super fit and got the skillz to pay da billz, Joel recently won a local event we do called the Batch Burner; It’s 50km all over the Longmynd, with 4 big climbs and 4 descents. I’m just trying to paint a picture.. But after the prologue Joel was in 2nd place for TK but already 50seconds back. He was battling against Rob Williams, a local enduro whippet, and the fact he put that much time in to Joel showed how physical it was.. Rather than technical.

During practice I was getting my bike sorted so raced it blind. I knew 10k wasn’t far so pushed myself. Almost instantly a girl had come off in front of me, I helped her stand up and just pointed her back to the start, she was literally meters into the course and didn’t want to continue. I carried on up the climb, as we started descending my smile widened.. Although there was now a big build up of traffic. Another girl fell off right in front of me and into the bush, it was as if she’d never crashed before, I knew she was ok, it was one of those slow motion crashes into a pillowed bush, but she still lay there “stuck”. I helped her up and again carried on. The course was hard, extremely physical, but I’d zoned out and was enjoying the pain. Reaching the summit was the start of the TK, I caught my breath for a minute and then powered on. It was wicked fun, but I was glad I was prepared for the climbs. All of a sudden my pedals just stopped, they were jammed with fern and bracken, I tried back pedalling, but it was making it worse. My rear mech rammed itself into the cassette and wouldn’t move at all. I jumped off the bike and eventually managed to sort it and carry on to the finish. With all that I’d finished 8th and over a minute back. Is that a taster of the week to come?.. We were both pretty deflated.

IMG_5281

Stage ONE (day two) 

Now if I’m honest, the day’s blended into what felt like a month of continuous riding.

Although I do remember after missing the mass start, Joel and I basically rode on our own only crossing a handful of people. The novelty was exciting, “I’m just on a riding boot camp with my bro”.. Stoked! It also meant that when we got to the timed descents we had a clear run. After the prologue taster we knew there was no point in pushing ourselves on the timed climbing sections.. Most of the competitors seemed to get the memo and were Lycra’d up with their carbon hardtails. (Ok, I don’t think I’ve explained how this works yet, it took a while before I knew what was happening. Basically everyday we do a loop between 50-60km, this loop isn’t timed, everyone starts at the same time and there’s no cut off point. However, within the loop there are timed sections, about 4 a day, 2 climbs and 2-3 descents. You have an overall time, combining all timed sections, and you also have a Trail King time. It’s like the Tour De France, there’s the overall leader wearing his yellow jersey, and then the King of the Mountain wears his polkadot Jersey).

So me and Joel were aiming for the “Polkadot Jersey”. After day 2 Joel had won both TK’s and gained a good amount of time, now only 14 seconds back, he was back in the game. I also managed to gain a couple of places. We finished all timed sections still with 20km of riding left, safe to say the climbs started to get very boring.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Stage TWO (day three) 

Today we start again from Margam Park, but finish in Aberdare. So we gathered our things and took them to the bag drop area, hoping they’d be at the finish when we eventually got there too. It was another long day, think we spent 7 hours on the bike, my butt felt like it was on fire. Just over half way round were feed stations, filled with beautiful homemade cakes and flapjacks, but me and my blimin’ dairy freeness couldn’t have anything, and all of the bananas had gone, I was gutted. I could really do with some fuel about now and there’s over 20km left to go. There’s only so many gels you can consume, I was reaching my limit. Thankfully the marshals and medics were amazing and started pulling food out of their own lunch-boxes that I could eat. You guys saved me that day.

Just after the feed station was a timed climb, this climb was ridiculous, 13km of constant ascending, it took us up one of the downhill tracks.. At this point I was desperate for some downhill action, this was taking the biscuit. We saved our energy and walked most of it. The TK sections were real pedally but good fun. I came 2nd on the first TK section and still had gas in the tank. The final TK finished at the venue in Aberdare. I was going for it, the track was good fun, with of course a 2 minute plus fiery climb in the middle. The descent was a real fast, extremely rocky road. I got half way down and had a flat! I was gutted, I knew I was going well and I was clawing my way up the ranking for the Trail Queen.. But now that was out the window. I used my emergency C02 canister filled with sealant, but the tear was too big, not knowing the track I didn’t know how far the finish was, could I just run it, or should I just do it properly and put in a tube. luckily Jamie the sweeping marshal (who we’d become good friends with) came down and helped me put a tube on, I got to the finish very deflated, but Joel had come through and smashed the stage. One of the medics described his experience of watching Joel come through the finish line, as being genuinely more terrifying than being charged by a hippo. (Which actually happened to him in South Africa) I went straight over to WTB tires to see if they could help me out. They were amazing and gave me a ‘trail boss’ for the rear and a ‘break out’ for the front. Couldn’t wait to see how they’d hold up for day 4.. The day for the downhillers apparently.

IMG_5240

Stage THREE (day four) 

We were looking forward to today, it’s been bigged up as the trail King day, using proper descents and old school downhill tracks and with 3 timed Trail King sections. It was a scorcher of a day, after riding the first climb and then the first TK I was PSYCHED!! The track was so much fun, it was in Bike Park Wales, which I’ve never ridden before, but will return. They sent us down a handful of tracks in one, finishing on Rim Dinger, we were warned to be careful on that one, It’s got it’s name for a reason. However, our WTB’s were solid, I felt confident the entire way down and went for it. I knew I’d ridden well and later received a text from Ben from Bird, who was watching the live times and said I’d won by 18seconds.. Boom!! The finish of the first descent lead us very nicely to Bike Park Wales cafe just in time for lunch, we’d made some lovely friends at this point, Pete and Hugo, so for the first time all week we actually had lunch. After a leisurely 45 minute stop, we continued to the second TK section, they sent us back up to the top of Bike Park Wales, then traversed across to Mountain Ash. This used to be raced on as a downhill track a few years back, before I’d started biking unfortunately. Dropping in to it blind I instantly fell in love, it was fast and fun! I made a few mistakes not knowing the track, coming off the track a handful of times but I was still loving it. This is what I thought the Trail King was going to be like all week, at least it was making up for it today. Coming through the finish I had the biggest smile! Not far behind me was Joel who came storming through like a hippo. Almost instantly I heard my phone go off, Ben had text me the results, nervous to look, but I had to! We’d both won the stage!! Chidleys for the win! We were stoked. We trucked up to the final stage with 20 odd km left to go. They sent us via the main road for a while, but this is the steepest road any of us had ridden, we were having to zigzag our way up. Then there was a loooong, tedious fire road climb which eventually brought us to the top of the descent we’d finished on yesterday (where I got my puncture). So today was hopefully redemption time, I knew I could’ve done well yesterday and it went out the window along with the overall. So for me it’s about the individual TK sections.. Would be rad to get Trail Queen for all 3 descents today..

Pushing myself on the climb, I’d forgotten how long the climb actually was.. This is a killer to race, it’s at the end of a 55km loop and now we’re gunning it to the finish. I got to the same point where I’d punctured the day before and it was all good, I smiled and went hard for the last bit, I knew it was downhill at this point. I came through the finish significantly faster than the day before and with a huge smile.

I waited for Joel to come through (he liked me to go first, so if something went wrong in my run, he could come back up and help me, he’s the best brother and team mate).

And then I got to whiteness what the medic was on about.. He came charging through the finish line with a thick trail of dust following him, looking like he actually had an engine on the bike blowing out smoke, I’ve no idea how he can physically go that fast. He couldn’t stop in the finish area, luckily people were sharp and moved out the way.. Because he couldn’t stop. Apparently on the previous day a man walked up the track with his dog, saw Joel charging towards him and just threw his dog in the bush. Then timidly asked if anyone else was coming down, luckily it was just me left, and after my puncture it was a very deflated finish. I’d managed to find another source of energy, I’d won that stage too, but that final descent/sprint climb had completely ruined Joel, he had nothing left. Thankfully the catering team had saved us some biscuits, I couldn’t eat any, but Joel had a tray stacked of biscuits, a plate full of mini donuts, a Welsh cake and a Swiss roll.. He didn’t put much of a dent in to it, but it was quite a site to see Joel collapsed surrounded by copious amounts of biscuits and cakes. This was the last night everyone would spend together, tomorrow is the last day of racing then we’re booking it home. The event organisers had a local band booked, they were awesome. It was a shame because everyone was so tired, the band played their first set before prize giving and spot prizes, which forced people to keep their eyes open a little longer. I’d won all 3 Trail King stages, so was called up for the podium 3 times, if people hadn’t seen me, they certainly knew about me now. Joel won one too, he was a close second on the other 2. But we still got to stand on the podium together representing the Chidleys, Sealskinz and Bird.

 

IMG_5052

STAGE FOUR (Day Five) 

During riders briefing we quickly realised it was another torturous day. Two TK sections, and the final descent had a 2km climb in it. Joel knew he didn’t stand a chance against the whippet with a 2km climb, so we went out to enjoy the last day. As soon as we woke up it started pouring, it didn’t stop all day. We packed our things away in the rain, and waited to start.

We rode with Pete and Hugo again, before we’d even reached the first summit my teeth were chattering, my hands were so cold I was struggling to grip the bars. I thought to myself I don’t know if I can actually finish today, we’re not even 10km in and I’m struggling. I didn’t say this out loud and pushed through it. We had our first descent which started with a few kilometres of flat pedalling, I was pooped and didn’t have the power or energy for this. The last section was downhill, but nothing technical. Struggling to hold on to the bars I didn’t think I’d done well, but turned out I was only 0.4 seconds from 1st. We hadn’t even done 20km of our 50 and I was shivering uncontrollably. We were at the feed station and a bit of a mess. The medics were worried and offered the warm jeep to get ourselves warmed up, but I knew if I got in the jeep I wouldn’t be getting out. Thankfully one of the emergency items we had to have was a survival blanket. So we made them in to ponchos and wore them under our “waterproofs”. It was the best idea ever! I genuinely don’t know if I’d been able to carry on if it wasn’t for that.

IMG_5287

So with our blankets tucked in we carried on through the rain. We had 2 long climbs to do before reaching the last “descent”.

As we made our way up the final fire road, Matt our new medic friend came running after us, he was shouting “don’t stop, don’t stop, I’ll catch you up” once he reached us he held out a banana for me and a chocolate bar for Joel! What a legend!

Finally we made it to the last descent of the epic 5 day endurance race! I didn’t feel tired anymore, I had another burst of energy just excited we were actually about to finish. I went ahead of Joel and pushed through the horrendous 2 km climb, just when I thought it levelled out and descended there was a short steep climb. I rode it out whilst screaming and then a nice steep bit to finish with. That “descent” was exhausting! Joel stormed over the finish. Both knackered we had a big hug of relief and made our way to the official finish at the arena. The finish was very dramatic in the stormy rain overlooked by a massive castle, but then my eyes were drawn to someone stood on the side off the track.. I was starring at him for ages, as I got closer I realised it was my Dad. Our parents had come to surprise us, exhausted and stoked we’d finished, it’s safe to say a few tears were uncontrollably shed, Joels alright now.. Jokes 😉

The event organisers were at the finish with huge smiles too, they’ve done an amazing job sorting out this event, Joel and I were proud to be a part of it. It pushed us both to our limits with some wicked riding.
Which brings me to one of my favourite sayings “It doesn’t have to be fun, to be fun!” This week was brutal, but so much fun! I couldn’t of had a better ridding partner than my brother and to both be representing such fantastic sponsors Sealskinz and Bird Cycleworks is the cherry on the cake.

RESULTS 

Joel had gained time and lost it again, then gained some more. Which after an hour of descending over 5 days he finished in 2nd place only 47 seconds back!

I was out of the overall the day I got my puncture, so hadn’t even looked at the results till a few days after the event. I was stoked to see I’d actually still finished 7th. Which was also annoying to see if the puncture hadn’t of happened I would’ve also come 2nd.. But I didn’t, that’s just the way she goes. I rode well, got 3 Trail Queen titles and was surprisingly a close second in a lot of the pedally TK stages. I came 2nd on the very final descent, just 8 seconds back with that horrendous 2 km climb, we were both stoked!

We’d like to say a massive thank you to Matt Page for organising the event. The medics and marshals were outstanding, WTB tires and Squirt Lube were a huge support throughout the week. And of course we couldn’t of raced without the support from Sealskinz and Bird Cycleworks. Bird were a great sponsor for the event, not just helping myself and Joel, but anyone else who needed help with their bikes.

We’re looking forward to next years EPIC #epicchidley #epiccymru

See you out there,

Traharn

IMG_5284