I wonder what would happen if I trained like a pro…
This is a question that most amateur racers will have probably asked themselves at some point. If you can race to a fairly decent standard alongside work, a social life and everyday life then surely it would follow that if you stepped it up to the next level and trained like a pro then maybe you’d get some real results. Unfortunately most of us don’t get the chance to pursue that thought any further, but it never fails to amaze me how a long weekend of training or a week off can make a world of difference to your race results.
So with that in mind I packed up a couple of duffel bags – one for kit and one for food (you think I’m joking!) – And headed up north with some mates to smash some trails up! Emily, Alaric and Jon had suggested an Easter trip to Scotland way back in the winter. The thought of riding the 7Stanes trails in the dry of early Summer with a luxurious “camping pod” to retire to seemed like a sure bet for a fantastic trip so we’d paid our deposit months ago and now it was finally time to leave for Scotland.
Upon arrival it was clear that there had been some kind of error with the afore mentioned spacious pod – what I was expecting was a large Scandinavian pine cabin with big bunk beds, plenty of room for drying and storing kit and maybe a view across the loch to the mountains. What we got was a tall shed with nowhere to put anything, a small heater and enough space left over for a shoe or two – No cat swinging would be happening for sure. But it was dry and didn’t smell to bad to begin with so I ignored the fact that my bed had been designed for someone only five foot long with no more than one bag of stuff and focused on the riding.
Day one and we set off for Ae, which is the shortest place name in the UK and a bloody good place for a bike ride. The moorland was bleak and the exposed drops felt like the edge of the world – throw in a handful of killer climbs and you’ve got one tasty singletrack. In the afternoon I rode my first lap of Mabie’s red trail which I instantly fell in love with. I blindly rode into a massive wall ride section that just seemed to go on forever which made me laugh out loud, 30 feet above the ground at what felt like 90 degrees – unreal! Back in the pod I regaled Emily and Alaric with tales of what they had in store before we headed out for some traditional Scottish cuisine – Rum and Coke Chicken with chips, in what looked like a Chinese, but to be honest I’m still not really sure what it was.
We picked up Jon and now the team was together, ready for day two. We spent the morning on the red trails at Mabie and then in the afternoon I rode over to the Kona Dark Side (you’re not gonna not go to the Kona Dark Side are you!). North shore is not something that either my bike or my body were obviously made for, but I reckon I put in a pretty good fight – Vader would have been proud.
Innerleithen is a slog, it basically goes up, then up and then up again and then just when you think it’s done going up you get a puncher, before it goes up again. Would have loved to spend a bit more time here to really nail that climb and on the other side is possibly the finest XC downhill I’ve ever ridden with lovely new groomed trails. Glentress that afternoon was a bit like riding a XC race in comparison with lots of short sharp climbs and heaps of non-technical singletrack. Awesome day out and all of us seemed to have stepped up to the next level.
On the fourth day we rode Dalbeatie in a monsoon. Okay so it wasn’t a monsoon and it only lasted an hour, but it did feel pretty wet for a while! Lots of technical singletrack and I felt like I’d really started to find my flow. My skinny little steel hardtail was flying through the tough stuff just as well as my mates long travel trail bike and my brain had started to compute what was in front of it differently. Gone was the panic of making it over drops and steps as I found myself calmly flowing through stuff that would have eaten me for breakfast a couple of days ago. On my final lap of Mabie’s red run in the afternoon I felt the same feeling that you get in school when suddenly something like algebra finally makes sense – you’re on the next level and it rocks!
What doesn’t rock is leaving our now wet, dirty and really quite smelly pod behind for a long day in the car! But that evening I managed to squeeze in a lap of Bedgebuy, bringing my weekend’s total of trails up to nine – happy days. Now what would that do for my racing?…