Monday, 26 September 2011

Elite Mourne Mountain Marathon Win

Day 2 Start

On the 16th Sept I headed to Northern Ireland with Wil for the Mourne Mountain Marathon. Its taken us 3 years since coming 2nd overall (1st MIX) on the B to enter the Elite and this was my first Mountain Marathon in that catagory. After a nights sleep in the car, we had a very leisurley morning of registering and getting ready before heading onto the hills at 9:54am! We caught our first pair going to number 1, then it was off into the mist towards number 2. This should have been a straight forward bearing across a plateau, hit the edge, turn right, down first stream. Sadly hurricane Irene had created about 20 streams in the area of our stream and with no obvious relocation feature the pot luck stream hunting began....25-30minutes later we found the control....and lead 3 more teams into it doh!

We set off to 3 fast, racing Harold Wyber (my OMM partner of the last few years) and Mark Ford. Different route choices meant we didn't see them for the rest of the course, but only lost 10 more mintues to them! At control 6 the Mourne MM has a good section of free choice order of controls. It was difficult to decide on the best route choice, but we settled for one with what we thought was least climb, even though this meant one very steep climb! After this I was informed we only had 3miles to go so set a cracking pace along the first bit of 'path' we'd seen all day :-). As it turned out Wil had failed to spot the final traverse of a hill, so it was slightly further than we thought but we got into the finish in 6hrs 50mins, 1hr and 10 behind the leaders in 6th position. Considering number 2 we were quite happy with this.

A fine meal of smash and fruit cake lightened the bags considerably....then the weather made sure there would be no light bag for day 2. We woke up to the sound of heavy rain and strong wind, I thought I was at the OMM! Eventually we had to get out of the tent or we'd miss the start. The weather forecast posted in the barn suggested cloud base was 2100m, we were camping above 2000m then (see pic).

Day 2 was a mass start and although we didn't know which team was 9 mins behind us, I'm sure they knew who they were chasing pretty quickly! Leg 1 and 2 were long and the leading teams got some time on us! Then 3 and 4 required some fine nav in thick thick mist and OMM conditions. We nailed 3, then Paddy Higgins and Johnny McCloy came hurtling past! We spiked 4 as well, and Paddy and Johnny came flying back past us :-). At control 5 we arrived pretty much the same time as them, to find 3 more teams stood scratching their heads....This was the team in 1st, 2nd and the team 9mins behind us. Control 5 had been stolen and so this bunching up created an effective restart. We raced with the team in 2nd place all the way to number 10 where they started to pull away to the finish. By the end of the day we were only 30 minutes down on the fastest time having finished in 4hrs 39mins (after leg 4-6 was removed to adjust for control hunting time), however this put us in 7th place! Tightly packed! We also finished 7th overall (1.5hrs down on the joint winners) as the team 9minutes down on us had stormed it to take 2nd fastest time on day 2!

  We won the mixed team catagory by a convincing 4hrs and 15minutes! A good end to my first Elite Mountain Marathon :-). Next time I'll be back to make my way up the top 10...

Friday, 9 September 2011

MTBO World Championships and Keilder 53/100

The evolution of biking at the opening ceremony
 3 Weeks after finishing the 6 days of Raid the North Extreme in Canada, I found myself on the start line of the Long Qualifier at the Mountain Bike Orienteering World Championships in Italy. I was a bit nervous that my legs might not make it up the hilly terrain after such a short rest period (filled with some less than restful activities), but an hour and a half later my concerns were put to rest! I qualified for the A final, coming 16th in my heat.
I was really looking forward to the Long Final given my training focus for this year. I started reasonably early which was good in the 38 plus degree heat that developed as the day went on. I set off and felt strong on the climb to the second control. Planning ahead things were going well, until en route to 4 I found some tape across the track I planned to take....this threw me, it really shouldn't have, but I decided I wasn't where I thought I was and lost time (around 5mins).

Rehydrating after riding in 40 degrees!

Back on course, a little flustered, I made it through the drinks station without incident, then onto some good fun singletrack before a small disaster going to 8. The heat was getting to me a bit here and, partly due to a track existing on the ground and not on the map and probably partly due to being too hot I made another mistake. This was a big one, 10mins binned! I didn't let it get to me, I knew the race I wanted was out the window, but I was riding well so got some good racing against Sonja Zinkl (Austria) when she caught me, and finished still feeling good (unlike a fair few people), in 2hrs38mins, 34th Position. This was my best World Championship result to date which I was really happy with, but it also highlights the annoying aspect of Orienteering, I knew I was riding much better than this but with big errors that wasn't reflected. Time to get my head together and eliminate the errors.
Riding through spectator in the Relay
 As I failed spectactularly to get my head together in the Middle Distance I'm going to brush over this and onto the relay. Emily had a stormer bringing us back in 3rd position, Helen handed over in 10th in with a pack of riders. I had a solid but not spectacular ride to bring us back in 9th, our best team result! I was still after that clean nav and fast ride that I felt I had in me and there was one more chance, the sprint distance.

Riding the steps from the spectator control in the relay
 In theory the sprint doesn't suit me, lots of controls in short amount of time and terrain that makes flat out riding possible - plenty of potential for errors! It has been described as 'like putting your head in a blender'. However I think my performance reflects the strength I've gained from riding as part of a team whilst adventure racing this year. I set off and it all went well - apparently i can concentrate for 30minutes!I was dropping the odd second here and there, which in a sprint isn't ideal but I wasn't making major errors! The first 11 controls were around the town so very quick riding (I had pumped my tyres up hard so I could ride faster), then came the hill and the deciding section (control 12-19). I felt the weeks racing heading up the hill to 12, but I think most people did... It was here I got in a race with two other girls who had caught me 1 and 2 minutes (starting just before the seeded riders I was happy with this :-) ).
Control 13 I took the longer road route which probably cost 30s, but control 14,15 and 16 which were packed tightly together on a steep hillside with a very dense path network (head in a blender time) went very smoothly - concentrating head on due to head to head racing I think...Then this happened:

Being patched up after the sprint...
 Head to head racing had it's down sides and the hard tyres on the loose ground down the steep hill resulted in me hitting the floor hard. Hole in my knee and a lesson about not attaching your si card to your handle bars with string when your ski lift pass zipper breaks....dislocated finger. I untangled myself from my bike and string, dusted off my map board, punched the control, noticed my finger was in intense pain then tried to focus on the map. All I remember thinking is 'where on earth is 18? Where is 18? Oh there it is, how do I get there? How do I get there'...eventually I set off without really knowing where I was going, I accidentally stumbled upon the control and then it was off to 19 and the finish.
I finished 35th, so my second best World Champs result to date :-). I will never know for sure where I could have finished and there is little point in guessing, but judging by the splits of the two girls I was racing I was looking at somewhere between 21st and 31st.
I am strangely most happy with my sprint result, it was the race I wanted, clean navigation and fast riding! I plan to concentrate on the nav a little more to bring it up to my new found ability to ride fast...

Mile 38 Kielder 100

Before crashing I had been really looking forward to the Kielder 100 mountain bike race which took place the following Saturday. I debated all week whether I would go, and as I could bend my finger enough to hold a handlebar by Friday I decided it was worth a shot. No 40 degrees this week, instead it was wet, windy and muddy, ah back in Britain! I set off and amazingly my legs were still able to go, even with the wound dressing/bandage/gaffa tape wrapped around my left knee. I learnt pretty quickly about getting up early enough to get a good position on the start line (there was a BIG queue at the first single track as I had been lazy in getting up at 5am). Still, I was on target for around 12hrs for the first 3hrs (good time for a woman in the conditions). I stopped off for a bit of food, bit of a mistake as it meant I got off the bike. When I got going again my knee didn't work quite as well, I didn't panic as I was still moving reasonably well all be it slightly backwards through the field! At 33miles we went through a water stop, again I paused...then came a climb and the start of the end. After stopping I could no longer ride comfortably uphill and when the opportunity came at 38miles I should have called it a day, however I continued to 53miles. After 44 miles I could ride nothing that required power from my left leg (everything excpet the fun singletrack) so it was  a rather slow 2.5hrs from 44miles to the finish.
This was my 3rd ever pure MTB race and I had been dreading the singletrack, expecting to hold up a lot of 'proper' mountain bikers. To my surprise I could keep up on singletrack and left some people behind on the downhills! I also loved it! Time to do a bit more MTB racing I think :-)!

And a note on British weather: my brake pads were gone after about 25miles, I would have needed a LOT more pairs than 2 spares for this race! MTB is expensive here... And when I took the gaffa tape off my knee I found my wound dressing packed with mud, it gets everywhere!!!