Perhaps one of the hardest things I’v ever done is get out of the van, into a cold, miserable deluge that wholly encompassed this year’s Hit the North race over in Manchester. I mean, the inside of the van was all warm and dry. there was a sleeping bag and pillow tucked away in the cupboard right by the pull out bed and it was still damn early in the morning (I’d got up especially, to ensure I got a parking spot). A few hours kip, followed by a nice brew (all the ingredients were also tucked away), it could have been lovely.
I didn’t though. I pulled on my wellies, started saying hello to familiar faces before even getting across the car park, trudged my way down to where sign on was located, swore as an overflowing river where a path used to me overflowed into my wellies, leaving me with two buckets of cold water attached to my feet ad set about getting warmed up for the race.
Well, I would have got warmed up if it hadn’t taken me hours to get back to the van – it seemed that the whole of the NW cyclocross league was there, plus all the MTB riders I know, plus more familiar faces from further away. Brilliant, and weirdly heartwarming to recognise and be able to great that many ace people. The only downside being that I had just enough time back at the van to tie my number board onto the bike with twine, change out of my welly/pond footwear into something more carbon fibre-y and use a quick ride back to the start as my warm up.
It was all downhill from the van to the start line, so I got there bloody freezing and already drenched. Ho hum!

For some (stupid) reason I ignored the fact that I was on the singlespeed mtb, with it’s twiddly small gear, and elbowed/shoulderbarged my way to the very front row. Th starting hooter went off and I was immediately swamped by people with sensible bicycles hurtling past me while I twiddled away with my legs flapping at about 200rpm.

That, pretty much, set the scene for the whole race. Any flat/fast parts of the course people whizzed past, anything uphill/slower/harder gave me a chance to get back in touch and race. Fair enough, I thought to myself, this is meant to be fun anyway.
I’ll admit that, for the first hour or so, I was very much relearning how to ride the mtb. It’s been ages since I’d tried to go flat out on it and it did take me a while to get back in the groove. Once I’d mastered the handling of that bike again (seriously, it’s the best machine ever made for swoopy singletrack!) I was totally in love with the course. Every corner was an opportunity to push the limits and come railing out the other side grinning like a mud splatteed loon. Uphill, downhill, past the beer kegs, it was all utterly fantastic. Even when the brakes wore out I didn’t want to slow down (which was lucky, as the only way of doing that was to slap your foot on the ground, hit a tree or jam your knee into the ground. Ahem.)

Hit the North

The two hours passed surprisingly quickly, and so much fun was had I barely noticed the continual pouring rain (though much more of the course resembled a stream towards the end…and the bits that were streams to start with started to resemble mighty rivers). I crossed the finish line with no idea how I was doing in the overall scheme of things – I knew most of the super fast lads had well and truly buggered off, but it didn’t seem to matter. I’d pushed hard wherever the gear on the bike let me, got some great ‘skills’ training in and had a proper laugh. you can’t ask for more than that!
(I actually finished 7th, which I’m pretty happy with. Maybe next time I’ll bring a geared bike and warm up before!) 🙂