Monday, 27 July 2009

Brain ache

Well the last few weeks have been interesting. My body has responded well to the hard training since I have moved home and I have been feeling strong and ready to race physically. Mentally though things have been different.

Last weekend I raced the Thetford summer series 4h Enduro. It was a bit of a last minute decision to enter but at the time I was buzzing and ready to tear up any race near me! The day loomed though and I struggled to find the motivation to get out of bed, let alone race.

Off the start line I hit the front and rode hard for a lap, the competitive instinct kicked in as soon as the gun went. Towards the end of the first lap I settled into a good 4h pace in a group of 3 whilst 2 riders slipped off the front of the group. This is how it stayed for the majority of the race, a hard pace which was easily sustainable

However around the 3hour mark my back began to seize up. It was bearable for a while but eventually it became unbearable, or so my brain was telling me. Once I found my self dropped from the group my brain flicked the switch in my head and the legs shut off. I cruise to the line content on saving my self for the big one the following weekend. I placed 5th.

The following weekend came around quickly. The Monday after Thetford I visited the Pysio/ chiropractor. It seems my back pains weren’t with out cause. I had managed to shift my shoulder bones out of position (probably due to lifting at work) which was causing tension in my back. That was sorted so it was time sort things for the 24/12 12h race.

First off was to rebuild my IronHorse MK3. I raced it for the first time at Thetford however some changes were required. Thankfully Bertie Mafoons cycles helped me out with some parts so my ride is now pimped!

On Thursday I headed down to Plymouth to prepare for the race. Unfortunately my pre arranged pit crew had to pull out at the last minute leaving me with no support. Luckily I have great team mates and Dave agreed to help me out, he probably regretted this later!

The race started at midday Saturday, and I assumed a position at the front of the grid, start the way you mean to go on after all! The plan was to start fairly hard before settling into a nice sustainable rhythm. After the first lap I was in second position a minute down on the leader. There was a chasing pack of 3 and I was feeling good.

This situation continued for around 4hours, although I knew that Ant White was closing in on me. Eventually Ant caught me and for some reason I started having major doubts about whether I could continue. These dark thoughts only lasted for half a lap; the key to racing endurance racing is to keep negative thoughts away.

A few laps later these thoughts began remerging and I was unable to keep them at bay. I didn’t seem to have the deep down drive to keep on pushing and to actually race. The only time these thoughts disappeared was when I rode thought he arena and was heckled by Matt Carr and his fellow 69er crew! The random mid race bunny hop over matt lying across the track amused me for a few minutes, but once again the negativity came back.

By this point I had almost stopped trying. I was just going through the motion of turning my legs around, powerless and weak. I didn’t even want the eat. This was the start of a viscous circle. I then began to get hungry and have a serious sugar low. I was weaving on the climbs and every thing. It didn’t dawn on me that I was still in third though!

Eventually I saw 4th place catching me and randomly stopped in the woods and felt sorry for my self. Thankfully Adi is a great guy and stopped to make sure I was ok and gave me some food. I decided that there was no way I was going to carry on for another 3 hours and trudged back to the pits. Once I arrived back I told Dave I wasn’t going out took my helmet and gloves off and lay on the floor sulking. Thankfully I didn’t get any sympathy. Everyone rallied around tried their best to get me out on my bike again. Eventually Dave persuaded me to finish the lap (our pit was before the finish line) so I set off with no gloves across the line then stopped with the 69er crew for a chat. These guys are heros! They fed me a pork pie, some Pringles, gave me some fresh gloves half a bottle of coke and a severe talking to! Something worked because the switch in my head flicked back on and it was all systems are go!

My legs were actually feeling good, it was purely catastrophic brain failure. I knocked out another reasonable lap. Towards the end of the lap I stated to feel a few unwanted bowel movements. I’ll spare the details but it certainly rode the end of the lap fast then ran to a portaloo!

2 hours to go I was suitably relieved and ready with a fresh bike to ride again. It was dark now so I cracked out my new Exposure lights and ripped up the night. There’s something about racing at night. It’s great, I wish there could be more darkness in races. My laps were reasonable now although I think my sugar levels were wavering at this point due to lack of food earlier on which affected me at times. All was good until the final water crossing. Something must have caught my rear mech as suddenly I found the mech wrapped around my frame. Bad luck was hitting now. So I ran the final part of the lap quite annoyed.

Once I got back to the pit I had a bit of a paddy and had another sulk. Yet again the guys made me go out again! Thanks! My final lap was a good one. I felt good in my head and strong in my legs. By this point it was too late though. I finished feeling strong; I almost considered carrying on after the finish to make up for my miserable brain failure earlier. I was 5th in the end. Not brilliant but I learnt some pretty valuable lessons which will no doubt be useful later on in my racing career.

Thanks again to all the guys who helped me and didn’t let me stop, Dave, Nia, Ben , Steph, Matt, the other Matt and the 69er crew… and sorry for being such a pain in the arse!

Now i need a bit of a mental rest after all the major life changes of the few weeks, although there is still an itch to make up for 24/12 in there ;-)

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