Saturday, 30 March 2013


"Not ready for this" or "I ain't done enough training" are phrases that most people on a start grid mutter either to themselves or the competitor near by. But have you ever asked yourself ......
what would happen if you chose to put yourself into that position knowing you had done absolutely nothing in preparation or were as unprepared as you could be for a top end race? I hadn't before but given I had no choice in the matter I decided to run with it and give in to the scenario, nothing to lose! The few months before race day was filled with a few family illnesses, culminating in the loss of my dear Mother In Law Shirley. Her funeral was a day non of the family were ready for, we were all emotionally drained, things will never be the same again. One evening while looking at the lap top I was drawn to an race entry page, before too much thought the entry form was completed with just a few hours to go before entries closed just one week to go before the race. Words from Shirley rattled through my head as I decided to give myself a big kick up the rear, having not done events or challenges I had planned last year due to a shoulder injury, months of whooping cough and a self induced episode of Camelbak poisoning, 2013 is when I will try to pick the ball back up and run with it. My bike was still covered in mud from the last time I was out, a snowy ride with Stevie Stanway in the Peebles a month before, it's always good riding there but just another day to question my fitness. A good clean down an oiling and some new cables found the Santacruz Tallboy race ready. The days leading up to the race were full of snowy weather, drifts and freezing conditions were going to make things very interesting.
The day of the race came and we signed on and met up with Nick Towers, Stuart and John Prentice who we see at other events, very accomplished and experienced racers who I would expect to do well. Some people thought the race should have been cancelled but there was a full field in all categories, and before too long my 2:30 race start time arrived, sat on the back of the grid having entered late a fellow racer turned to me and uttered the fateful words "what am I doing here" I did not share his concern, I had no expectations of pulling any trees up and felt unusually comfortable, looking around at the grid I realised that all the others I could see were on 29er hardtails, was the Tallboy the right choice? Having not ridden the course prior to the start I was wondering what It had in store. We all set off in staggered fashion front runners disappearing as the back row waited for the Mexican wave to move the wall of riders in front of us, the five wide grid soon funneled down into what was a singletrack procession. There were opportunities to pass but as the racing line appeared the passing areas turned very off piste and trying to pass in these areas sent you backwards rather than forwards and all the work had to start again. The course was very flat so hardtail may have been a faster option but the Tallboy was more than up to the task in hand after I stiffened the shock up. The best areas to pass were on the couple of areas were the track turned onto fire tracks, the procession broke in these areas and the faster riders made places up, there were riders that had good fitness but a lack of handling ability which hindered me in areas were I would ordinarily make time up. An entry into a wooded singletrack dropped into a shallow dike and over a bank, there was a good line over that but three riders that I caught up decided to get snarled up leaving me with nowhere to go, an awkward fall brought on a calf cramp and I had to take a while to stretch it out losing a few places in the process. Back on the bike I soon made the places back on a quickly degrading course. Following the carnage of the first categories and the complexion of the course changed dramatically after each lap as the icy mud became increasingly deep in places. The race finished with the temperature dropping well below freezing and the wet mud turning to black ice blocking any orifice on the bike, cables and deraileurs had started to freeze making gear changing erratic. I'm not used to doing short sprint races of this type so was almost surprised when it finished but pleased as the cold was not pleasant. My 40th position was ok considering a less than ideal preparation and it's got me thinking in the right direction. Stuart Prentice came 14th in Masters, John Prentice came 37th Nick Towers came 50th in Vets. It goes to show that all them times you may have thought a lack of preparation is a bad thing may have been wrong, don't think about it too much if you want to do it get involved. Do I think that if I had trained or entered earlier things may have been different? I'm not going to dwell on that, life is not only too short but full of if only's, questions never answered are best not asked. Most of the things I have done in the past have had a high risk of failure and the only failure is in not doing something, as my good friend Tristan Tunstall would say "It is what it is". So what's next, I hope I just turned a corner and the rest of 2013 is full of promise, there's a lot of sweets left in this old Pinata yet, here we go!

                                                                       Shirley Briggs  1935 - 2013

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