It’s been great working with Sally on her come back into some racing, E3coach have worked with Sally for many years, with different focuses across MTB and bike packing events. We hope you enjoy a little insight into her journey.
So really it hasn’t been that long since I last raced, July 2021 but it seems an eon ago.
My husband Alex and I had long been dreaming of a relocation but finding somewhere that had the balance of being rural, had affordable housing, a local job and of course accessibility to mountain biking all seemed a big wish list. For us though that dream has now become a reality.
Working in healthcare during the covid era put a lot of things in perspective for me. Despite wanting to relocate for years, I’d always put barriers up as to why we couldn’t move at that moment. Family ties, progression within my job, all sorts of things really but like many other people those barriers started to fall down during Covid.
After visiting some friends in Scotland during the summer, we found the idea of this idyllic lifestyle could actually be reality and a relocation mission was on!
Suddenly the planets started to align. We’d found everything on the wish list. A suitable job came up for both of us, with the most amazing rota (read plenty of downtime for biking), we’d been offered temporary accommodation with friends whilst we worked out exactly where we wanted to live and boom, almost before we knew it, we’d handed in our notice, sold our house and made our way 500 miles north for a life we’d both dreamed of.
With such a large scale move and lifestyle change though, something had to give and that something was training and bike events.
Cycling and training has become a huge stability in my life, giving me structure, drive and a feeling of being fit and strong both mentally and physically. Also with an old ankle injury walking is getting pretty painful as I get older so cycling is one of the only ways I can achieve cardiovascular exercise. Ceasing that part of my life even temporarily was hard, especially to begin with. I could feel my fitness dropping and at times my mood too. But with the main goal being to get moved, I knew I couldn’t do everything.
So all energy was put into project Scotland and come January 2022 we’d made it up here. It may not be for everyone but by god we love it (but maybe not quite as much as the dog!). A whole massive new playground to explore. With beautiful hills a plenty, but oh god hills, huge hills! Having not been that unfit for a good while I dreaded the hills. I’d never really thought of myself as a good climber anyhow so the fear of tackling them was real.
My mission for the summer became to get fitter and
more comfortable on them. I soon discovered that my other mission was to get accept and embrace the generally more challenging off road biking here. East Anglia is seriously lacking in gradient, rocks and generally terrifying trails. The standard here is somewhat up a notch from what I’m used to.
Whilst enjoying a beautiful summer, attaining a base line fitness was on its way, technical skills improved from total wuss to a bit of mild confidence and the thought of racing again started to creep back into my thoughts.
I’m not really sure where my talent lies or even if I have any but I enjoy riding my bike off road. I’ve tried endurance events, mid range races, pairs, quads etc, but I’ve always secretly enjoyed XC the most. It’s mad, hectic and over before you know it, maybe that is some the appeal? Whatever it is, I find it fun. I’ve never managed to complete a full summer series so with that in mind I got
back in touch with E3 coaching’s Jon and we made a plan to start a training program again for January, with the view of doing the full Scottish XC series.
Round 1 came around quickly and unfortunately due to family circumstances I missed that one. I was gutted as I had that lovely popping feeling of being race fit again but hey life throws you curve balls. Focus moved swiftly onto round 2 at Nevis Range.
I was so excited about this race. It’s such an iconic venue. I know it’s not particularly known for its XC races but still, I never thought I be good enough or confident enough to race there. Also it had the added bonus of Jon living near by so we could all catch up and I had an extra cheerleader!
We arrived late afternoon on the Saturday. Jon biked up from town and met myself and Alex for a reccie lap. Normally there’s a particular feature on a lap that I dread doing but on this occasion my confidence was pretty good. Much to Jon’s amusement though he managed to capture my slow-mo crash at the first A-line on camera. Why does that always happen when someone films? 😂
Onto race day. Really, I was totally spoilt. Alex polished any mud off my bike from yesterday, greased my chain etc. Finally some payback!
Normally this is my job role here for him whilst he’s doing
the mad 24hr races.
So with nothing to do other than eat a bit, I chilled out and played with the dog. Normally I’m super nervous about racing but for whatever reason it was that day I was totally relaxed.
I think possibly it had something to do with the fact that I had no expectations of myself. I thought it entirely possibly that I may come last or not finish and I was ok with that. I just wanted go there, try and complete the laps and have some fun on my lovely bike.
Lining up, having missed the first round I was last to be called up. I had a brief chat with my other competitors, they all seemed pretty friendly, put my foot on the pedal and waited for the whistle.
Toot, off I went. The start lap was up a short sharp gravel hill before heading down into the first bit of single track. Bonus I thought as I got to the single track, I’ve mad up a couple of places, happy with that! Out onto the first lap proper and I was back to the familiar feeling of chasing the pony tail in front. The leader fairly quickly disappeared out of sight and I found myself at the back of a small group of other lady riders.
I felt comfortable despite my fear of how much climbing there was, remember I don’t consider a myself good climber! As the lap progressed, my flow was hampered a couple times, I made a couple of silly mistakes on some short sharp ups, fell off a couple of times. I played cat and mouse as I caught back up and then at the start of the second lap, much to my surprise I found myself starting to pass competitors. I found a good rhythm and really enjoyed that type 2 feeling of pushing down on the pedals hard.
Jon and Alex were on course giving that boosting cheer, I’m pretty sure I heard Alex promising to buy me a puppy if I got a move on 🤔 🤩 . So naturally this motivated me!
The next few laps left me in no man’s land and in this type of short race I quite like that, it leaves me to tackle the course without being hampered. My legs felt good, just burning a bit on the last climb which was a cruel reverse downhill.
So descending the final bit of track for the last time, I was feeling pretty chuffed. Just another half mile to go and all objectives complete. All number of set laps complete, passed a few people and got a bloody knee to show that I tried hard.
A quick sprint over the finish line even though no one else was around and I received a warm welcome in from Alex, Jon and a couple of guys from work who were racing later. To top it off they told me I’d come in as 2nd vet! I couldn’t believe it! I’d absolutely convinced myself beforehand that a podium wasn’t possible.
I’m not the most talented rider out there but I enjoy working hard. Jon puts some amazing bespoke plans together for both Alex and myself that work around silly 12 hour shifts on a 24/7 pattern.
Typically as I’m writing this I’m in the midst of a raging chest infection just before round 3 is looming, touch and go if I’ll race. Oh well, that’s life, I’ll just have to do the series again next year 😀 and in the meantime I shall mostly be enjoying my new surroundings that provide a pretty damn nice place to blog from.
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