I can see the flag

An entry level runner on an entry level bike…

When it all comes together

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MrMegster announced mid-week that he and TheBoy were going away for the weekend to help SiL move into her new place, however, JB and I were paid up for the Scott MTB marathon on Sunday and so I couldn’t go.

So, suddenly I found myself with a ‘free’ Saturday and in need of an accomplice. Luckily JB and MrJB seemed willing and we settled on a local(ish) MTB route called The Herepath. JB and MrJB have ridden it before 3 or 4 times before but it was to be my maiden voyage and so I wasn’t sure what to expect. MrJB had also invited a couple of chums along, making me the most inexperienced (you could say entry-level :-O) MTBer going and slightly apprehensive about holding the lot of them up…

Anyhoo, MrJB and JB picked me up and we met the chums at the arranged spot and off we went.  Straight down a gravel track, wide and swoopy, this was fine – nothing technical and I have new brake pads so all was well! The boys swooshed past but I’d have expected nowt less, and I prefer to ride with no one behind me.

The trail is 13 miles of a mix of wide fire tracks, fields, and woodland single tracks with a small amount of roads joining it all together. For the first 7 or so miles the bits that weren’t flat, were downhill. Nothing tricky, couple of rooty bits, a rocky step or two but all rollable and the only time we had a foot down was to open the gates (and take photies of our lovely bikes leaning on them)!

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The second half, well, it pretty much mirrored the first: what goes down and all that :-O. From mile 8 to 13 we climbed 1000 feet, with bits of it, according to Stravia clocking 17% (I think she’s lying – bits of that climb felt more like 27%!). The steepest bits seemed to come at the end and on tired legs there were some pretty bad words… but no walking 😇

89825This is me, looking for my Will To Live.

The boys did some bike swapping and with an e-bike in the mix one of MrJBs chums won the lucky dip as the rest of us did the hard miles! There’s a lot to be said for them there e-bikes… Still, I had a rucksack full of sweeties which hit the spot, and we refueled at the end with standard after MTB fare of cheese topped and filled rolls and mint tea ;-) A great ride round a well signposted and maintained route, sunshine the whole way, in the best of company. NOT however, ideal preparation for Sunday’s Mountain Bike Marathon! Ho-hum.

Sunday’s excitement began with an early start – JB picked me up at 7am and we headed to Minehead for a MTB event organised by Scott MTBs – they deserve a name check here because it was a fantastic event from start to finish. The entry fee was pretty steep at £28 but JB and I are suckers for the promise of a t-shirt and goodie bag!

Unusually *cough for us, we were early. We registered and got our personalised (totally love them) numbers and them it was time for a cuppa. I declined a coffee having experienced the porta-loos, I didn’t want to take the risk of having to go again… “I put lots of sugar in your coffee” said JB – “I hope that’s ok? Me: “but… but…” After we re-aligned out sarcasm filters and drank our tea and coffee and went to the *holds nose, loos again it was time for the off.

700 riders filtered through the funnel, all doing one of the 3 distances on offer. We’d opted for the short one – we were looking for a confidence boosting enjoyable ride and this looked the best option. We joined the steam of MTBers lining the seafront at Minehead, briefly pondered switching to plan B and having a day at Butlins… ha, yeah right…

The road ran out and 700 MTBers filed onto a single track climb: the bottleneck was exactly as you are picturing it. The climb went up the side of a mountain, no really, it did. Mile 1 & 2 were lovely pan flat seafront cruising, mile 3 was a single track zig-zagging up the *mountain* to the top of Exmoor. We gained around 500 feet in mile 3 and the same again in mile 4.  JB said when we got out of the trees and atop the moor we’d stop for photies, and so we did. Seems like lots of folk were keen for a breather – we were inundated with offers from kind people keen to take our photo, and I’m not surprised – looking out to sea we spotted a helicopter and remarked that it’s not often you ride your bike higher than helicopters!!

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We followed the coast path for a while then dropped down into the valley. The descents were as steep as the ascents in places and we proceeded slightly cautiously aware that an error would be painful if we were lucky… Another climb, slightly less severe than we’d had previously experienced and we were into the food station – lovely cake, peanuts, drink re-fills and jelly bears :-) We duly abandoned the bikes and tucked in.

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As we paused (briefly) for breath between mouthfuls we became aware of a very battered and bruised looking lass. JB came right out with it “what happened to you then maid?” She had ridden the ladies only ride yesterday and had come unstuck descending – she was black and blue and scraped from head to toe. Her confidence had taken a huge knock and, as we rode away we agreed that there are times when caution is better than brave.

A grind of a climb followed by a short descent and we were onto the last significant climb for our route – it pretty much mirrored the first one, slightly less steep but we regained the 600 feet or so that we’d lost in about 2 miles, thankful we’d made the most of the food station!

At the top JB was waiting for me, again, and a lass on an e-bike cruised past. We had a little “that’s the way to do it” moment with a chap and his son who had stopped to get their breath back, when JB issued a battle cry “after her!” The man chuckled. I knew better and after her we went. And we caught her. And we overtook her. And she stayed overtook!

Then it was time to go back to sea level, descending from 1000 feet in 3.5 miles. Some of this was really steep, JB recognised some of it from Days Gone By, and issued a warning about what happens when brave doesn’t listen to caution. I gave her some space. Then I let two chaps go by – I *really* don’t like folk behind me – and down I went. It was steep, dark, and with sunlight flashing through the trees it was difficult to spot holes and rocks. Then I came upon JB parked up and had a little “oh fuck, what’s happened?” moment :-O, but it just turned out that her Will To Live had won the battle over her Hold Your Nerve at a particularly jaggy rocky bit. We both agreed that caution was the order of the day and rambled the little section, before remounting, smiling for the camera and finishing the hill.

Then a short burst along the road and we were back at race village choosing our t-shirts :-)

All in all a cracking weekend. We tried to rationalise why we enjoyed the weekend – for me the sunshine helped. The routes on both days were challenging and tough but do-able; we decided that it was just one of *those* weekends when it comes together in the right way :-)

Except, when the training log was consulted later, turns out we were short in miles this week and we *really* should round that up.  Crossers out, off we went, in our new t-shirts, determinedly not getting sweaty, but rounding up to the ‘just over’ 100 for the week.

Aaaaaaand relax.

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