At the start line with Lily
Being 40, podgy, a mother of two young children with arthritic knees, mountain biking on a recreational level has always been my limit physically, mentally and logistically. What has always appealed to me about having mountain biking as my main hobby will make sense to all other recreational bikers out there, a sense of adventure being outdoors, battling aerobically with the climbs and the thrill and fear of hurtling down the downs! Being a mother, these opportunities generally come in 1-3 hour windows a couple of times a week – not quite enough to get properly bike fit but enough to keep me sane.
So it was a surprise to myself, when on a whim, I decided to enter the 67km Brecon Beast event. A distance I had never previously ridden on a mountain bike. I roped in my friend, Lily, to take part with me, although as she was a seasoned competitor it was inevitable that we would keep each other company at the start line and then she would wait patiently for me at the end with a cup of tea and a fried egg sandwich!
The day arrived with the alarm singing it’s tune at 615am, a quick bowl of porridge and an extra strong coffee later I packed up my Bongo and drove to Brecon. The car park field was already teeming with people (mainly men) by the time I arrived and there was a queue (again mainly men) for registration. By this point I was feeling a little sick, the feeling of ‘oh crap, what am I doing?’ and a terrible feeling that I had bitten off way more than I could chew.
I felt a little calmer when my riding partner arrived, and calmer still after eating some chocolate. So off we went to the start line (for all those single girls out there who wonder where all the men are – they are at mountain biking events!).
Chatting away we almost missed the starting gun, which was more of a starting ‘Go’ from a volunteer than a gun, and off we went. Needless to say that was the last I saw of Lily for 41/2 hours.
It began with a road section for the first few miles and I started slowly thinking I mustn’t use all my energy too soon and ‘blow’ before the end,. The first big descent busy with hundreds of competitors jostling for position helped me settle my nerves, as there was a lot of weaving and eagerness to get ahead, so by the time we hit the first of the hills I had settled into a steady pace.
For the next couple of hours (or so it seemed) it was up up up. The field spread out and sooner than expected came the 1st feed station. It was here that my trusty rucksack of 10 years finally broke by the zip finally giving way, a friendly volunteer (who was there in his retro camper on top of a high pass in the Beacons) gave me some spare safety pins. A banana and drinks top up later off I went.
The middle section of the ride was AMAZING, pretty much all off road with a nice mix of fire road and technical downhills I was in my element and my full suspension and flatties came in handy as I whizzed down the descents. One section of descent was particularly rocky, but adrenaline and the thrill of passing riders walking their bikes down kept me on my bike hanging on for dear life.
Before I knew it was the final third and final section of mainly road and lane with some off road sections. My legs and lower back were really feeling it by this stage and when I saw the turning off for the long route, I turned my back on it and pedaled with relief that I was within 10km of the finish.
Getting to the finish was amazing, and finishing a respectable 3rd female was certainly surprising (even if I was an hour off my riding partner Lily’s time), and I can honestly say it was the best fried egg sandwich and cup of tea ever!
The organisation of the ride was fantastic, the support from the volunteers throughout was second to none and even the weather for the most part behaved.
I loved everything about the day and wished I entered an event like this years ago, It got me to thinking maybe I will try the long route next year…
With my finishers T-shirt