Before Covid hit I was training to do some enduro events and two I had previously booked into had been cancelled, so finally this was the enduro I'd been waiting for with anxious anticipation and my Trail Head Project had also based partly on reaching this point. The training, the coaching, the mindset, the laps of my local hill and other trails and the progression I needed to achieve as a rider. The first enduro (Edge Cycles RD 1) was a mud fest and an event that sprung up and was not really on my radar. That being said, I entered and really didn't go well, as I mostly slid my way down each stage and covered myself in mud. But it was a challenge, both physically and mentally as I almost went home after practice, the conditions were that bad, but actually we stayed and really glad I did. My resistance was strong that day but kept thinking positive thing, positive outcome and this was achieved. I could have ridden better, but there were more important lessons taken from that event that I knew I could use at Tiverton for round 2 of the Southern Enduro. Simple lessons from signing on, timing chips, and energy food and positivity.
A four stage race, set in private woodland near Tiverton, I had this feeling that if I could just ride well, I wouldn't embarrass my self, put all my learnt skills into a few good runs, have a great day out on the bike, and without doubt enjoy myself. That has always been my goal, to just ride at my best, learn as much as I can and have fun. That's what bikes are about.
I also wanted to experience the highs and lows of an enduro event and experience those race day nerves again, to see if I actually do enjoy racing. Not since giving up BMX racing I have I felt that pre-gate anxious feeling, that adrenaline that means you have visit the toilet about fifteen times before a race, or that jelly leg feeling before the gate drops. I wanted to know if I'd enjoy racing enduro, as I love watching it and it's the type of riding that I do most.
On arrival I immediately met Stuart Catford and Torben Cook, two other 50+ riders who so kindly offered to let me roll round with them for practice and subsequently race each stage together, and would like to thank them again for such a laugh. This was a real tick in the box for a sense of community within the competition realms of enduro and it wasn't long before we were chatting with so many other riders. I thought I would be the only newbie, my second enduro, but there were so many other riders new to the sport and everyone seemed to really enjoy themselves. I also spoke to my old BMX pal Ben Leach, who is doing really well racing MTB in the 40-49 Division. His words of wisdom from his early races were also so helpful when he spoke about pacing, something I really listen to and used all day.
The stages were so much fun, between 2-3 minutes long or thereabouts and with everything from roots, off camber, pedalling sections and loam, It was so much fun. My race runs were good and I was really pleased in the most part, but I reflected on a couple of silly mistakes. The first was not setting my rear brake up properly and this led to a little panic after practice but quickly and efficiently sorted by John from Blackout Cycles, who kindly provide free labour on race day. But riding wise, I went a little wide on stage 2 losing my front end in the loam and hitting the dirt which was frustrating as I was going well, and then there was the part where I was coming in too hot, trying too hard and dropped into a steep section, off line and nearly hit the marshal (sorry about that). Both mistakes cost me time and I'm sure a couple of overall places, but that's racing and I'm learning. What went well? My pace felt really good and only struggled in the rooty sections but it seemed I wasn't alone there. I felt I was flowing into my turns, my pedalling and sprinting was strong and overall felt I was riding well. Yes at 51 years old, I'm learning to race mountain bikes and I managed to finish 7th out of 18 riders in the Super Veterans Category (50+) and I was stoked with that, although I also need to work on my endurance, the Heart rate monitor was screaming, but here's the real point, here's why the Trail Head Project is a journey to understand positive well-being within mountain biking.
Over these two enduro events I used everything I have taught others in managing and developing their own positive mindset, all the Racehead coaching with BMX racers like Brynley Savage, like challenging the negative emotions or those limiting beliefs, the breathing exercises that relax us before a race, or the visualisation of both the tracks, and of what will be viewed as a successful race, and I used it all. Did it help me. Absolutely. Will I continue to practice what I Preach? Hell Yes. Did I enjoy the Enduro? 100%. Will I do another? Why not, it's so much fun, physically tough but what a buzz.
You'll be able to read more about this whole experience when The Trail Head Project is produced. It's an organic book project and as long as these experiences keep happening then I''l keep adding to the book.
Thanks Southern Enduro for an amazing event in some stunning woodland, and all the marshalls.
Photo Credit; Gareth Dalley via Roots and Rain