Wessex League CX. Reading

I had a bit of a crash on the road on the 6th October, bike was fine, luckily. I was ok. Well. Lost a bit of skin here and there, stitches in my knee, separated shoulder and torn ligaments around my thumb. Rather annoyed to be honest, especially when I figured out (after having been told) that I couldn’t ride a bike. Or go jogging. Or get the stitches wet. Mutinous at home, cranky wasn’t the word, hence why I headed off to Derby to see the National Trophy Round 1 on the 9th!

Anyway. I took my own stitches out in the end. Determined to get back to jogging, they were rather uncomfortable. But get back I did. Not very far the first time, but I felt so much better for it. Then on my bike, figuring out that bumpy terrain wasn’t an issue, but lifting it might be! It was getting better day by day, but I found myself apologising and getting annoyed with myself at work more than anything. Believe me, hefting turbo trainers around just did not happen. Or anything over approximately 1 kilo. Well, for a time, it might have been half a kilo!

I knew Reading was on, and it was a fair bit closer than the LCCA round, so thinking my coach Caroline would be there, I headed off prepared for the rain forecast most of the morning.


What I didn’t expect was Caroline to not be there (she was ill), and the hardest course I’d yet faced. Whilst not totally on my own – the only person I knew there to start with was the photographer Graham Robins – I was at a bit of a loss. Eventually I hopped on the course for a warm up. Some nice twisty bits after the pits, all beautifully slick and slippy, around into some twisty bits in the trees (still slick but a decent covering of grass), over a mucky hill and into some lovely wet grassy parkland. I followed the course, paying more attention to the bits about ten foot in front of me, than looking around. Then a marshal warning me about the hill ahead. I looked at him, raised an eyebrow and went around the corner. I did stop fairly quickly. Extremley slick, and already starting to get muddy, it was long and steep. I watched a couple of guys ride it and both came off in different places. More worried about my shoulder than anthing, I edged down it on my feet. Then the climb back up. My god. Steep and very muddy. Ten minutes later after I’d climbed it stopped yakking to the marshalls, I rode the last bit of singletrack and back out into the stunning sunshine and the start area.

I’ll just say, I didn’t do too well. Worried about crashing on an already injured shoulder, I was probably overly cautious. But do you know what? I absolutely bloody love it!


Seniors eventual winner Mike Cotty in the middle


I’m just over a third of the way down this hill


Leg warmers, shorts and wellies. Best combo ever

I just wanted to get back into it! I left feeling a bit frustrated, but at least I’ve got a better idea of where I stand now

Plus points…. I carried my bike like a pro. And I’m off to Abergavenny next weekend. Race Saturday, pitting Sunday.

#keepsmiling #tougherthanilook



A two man race and 648 mobile spectators… Keith Murray on #3pcx.

Collegues, CX riders, and rivals… SCOTT sports Keith Murray takes time to talk about his battle with Scot Easter on #3pcx.┬á

Keith Murray

The 3 Peaks Cyclo Cross has always been something that had grabbed my attention, as a kid and a cycling fan I’d heard and read about the crazy race that was a mountain bike parcours that you had to ride on a CX bike. Continue reading


Wessex CX Round 2

Whilst the hard people were heading off to the #3pcx challenge today, I was heading off to Swindon. To a golf course no less!

Before you get your hopes up that I’ve given up cycling and taken up golf, I have to tell you that the golf course is decommissioned and I went to cyclocross instead.

LCCA didn’t have a round this weekend, so I planned to combine seeing my parents, with a cx race. It’s still less than a year ago that I started racing, and I need all the experience I can get.

So, whilst I would have preferred to be in Yorkshire cheering on Keith Murray, Scott Chalmers, Scot Easter and Emma Osenton, I found myself moseying around a nicely technical grass course.

The other part of the reason I like the Wessex league, is that it so friendly. With the likes of Caroline Stewart, Chris Macleod and Graham Robins there, they make you feel more than welcome.

Caroline rode a recce lap at my pace with me, and I quickly identified one corner that I found tricky. Just one mind. Off camber, 180┬░ right hander going downhill. Why I’m having problems with exactly the same type of bend two races in a row, I don’t know!

Very, very glad to be riding Continental CX Race tyres. With a course that had such a decent covering of grass, even when the heavens opened briefly, it didn’t properly cut up. Sure there were some damp, squidgy grass, but it was merely suicidily slippery. Not muddy as such.

It took me a while to get into the race. And looking at my lap times, my last lap was fastest again! I need the experience more than anything. Different courses, terrain, and people. I found it a huge learning curve today. Eventually winning the battle at the back with another girl.

The only problem I had was faceplanting over my bars on the second lap. Not entirely sure how I ended up on the floor – but hey ho!

I didn’t enjoy the first lap. But by the second I was back in that love/hate relationship. I love the course. I love riding cx. I dislike that I’m such a novice and so slow. I love the friendliness.

It’s not easy not having the experience or background of years in and around cycling clubs, road races and cross.



LCCA Round 2 – PORC

Today found me at my first race of the season. I’d thought the weather would be damp and foggy, and not particularly warm – luckily I wore my shorts and took my jersey! It brightened up considerably and was rather warm and muggy when I arrived.

Penshurst Off Road Club/ Centre is pretty cool, and certainly built more for mountain bikes than cx. Loads of interesting runs and features, as well as a huge double story log cabin cafe type place. 

The course: Technical downhill on mostly grass, a couple of 180 degree bends. Running into a long fairly straight downhill. Another 180 corner on sandy type soil, and a run around and into a pit. The pit had nearly vertical sides but was easily ridden and we came out at an angle to another free flowing downhill section. A tight bend and onto a short dirt uphill, then onto two nice stretches of flattish grass, marred only by some slippy mud patches. Another short sharp climb and then a long draggy climb on a firm hardcore surface that took you all the way back to the top.

I loved the technical downhill sections. Frustratingly I couldn’t seem to get a decent line through the 2nd 180 degree corner. A slightly off camber corner with rock hard ruts running at weird angles nearly had me over the edge on the third lap. The rest of the downhill section was fine, including the pit at the bottom (unless you are Jo Perry and you hit the bottom head first! Thankfully she finished and I hope is fine)

So. The climbs had me. Long and tough. By the last lap I was seeing stars near the top. Used Clif Bar Shot Bloks as there was actually sections where it was a viable option to ‘eat’ and also took a half full bottle as I realised on the practice lap how hot it was on the climbs.

Courtesy of Huw Williams 

Courtesy of Huw Williams

Overall the off road riding I’ve been doing around where I live has really helped. I’m a lot more confident on technical turns. Except that one! I need to work on fitness – having been away working the Tour of Britain, I hadn’t ridden the bike in over ten days. Something I can hopefully work on more and more.

It’s easy to think I’ve been doing this for years. But my first race was less than a year ago.

Lovely friendly lot of women to race with too. Organisation was super. The one bad thing was the huge amounts of wasps everywhere! 

Definitely looking forward to the next one. Maybe Basildon next weekend? It’s not LCCA though.



Why I Run

It’s one of things I find the hardest, running. Well, jogging. I’m not exactly light, and suffer terrible sore shins if I try and jog on tarmac/ concrete.
I started trying to run last year, when I lived up at Tattenham Corner. Run 100, walk 100. Apart from the fact I couldn’t run 100 steps. I put my earphones in, music on and jogged/walked out to the racecourse, down to the stands and back up the course. I pushed myself to go further and jog a few steps more, gasping for breath like a fish out of water. I’d add another street or run a bit further up hill. And I got to really enjoy the satisfaction of it. The wide, quiet, empty streets. The beauty of the sunset on the top of the hill…. Then it started getting dark, and I was too worried about jogging in the dark on my own, constantly on the lookout for odd acting people or dogs to carry on.

I started again when I stayed up near Borth with a former friend of mine. She couldn’t walk far, and had two small dogs dumped on her after her mothers death, so I started jogging with them on Ynyslas beach every morning. I had a purpose to run for; to get the poor dogs a bit of exercise.

Running on the beach was hard. Soft sand, to hard packed sand, fighting the blustery wind that’s such a part of Borth. Watching the tide, trying to run with two dogs on leads pulling in different directions. Keeping an eye on another person that has suddenly appeared in the distance. Dodging rock pools and running out to the tide line. Drinking in the stunning beauty of the distant mountains, the multicoloured hues of the sea, the sand dunes and the sky. I felt alive. Fiercely, defiantly alive. Sucking sea air in like I depended on it. Totally unsuitable clothing, and two dogs who deserved longer runs than I could give them. I felt great. 

When I came back from Aberystwyth/ Borth, I didn’t carry on. I didn’t have the feeling that I could do that down here. Up there I was invisible. An unknown. A stranger greeted with a nod and a smile. Down here…. I worried too much.

It wasn’t until the same former friend had an accident that I started again. Building up bit by bit. This time on the Thames path, and around the quiet residential streets of Barnes. I got further and did more with the dogs every time. Sadly this came to an end.

I started again last week. Not wanting to go out on my bike, just to see if I could still do it. I had to listen to my body. If the shins felt tight, stop immediately and walk for a bit. Get it in my head that no one here knows me. That behind my sunglasses I can make myself strong when all people see is a reflection back at them. They can’t see me. Most don’t want to.

It didn’t start greatly. Jog, walk, walk, weather was perfect, shins behaving. Which direction? Wait for that car. Thanks mate, a half smile and my hand up as a nicer driver let’s me across the road. Let’s go that way. Slow it down, catch your breath. Go again. Realise that I don’t and never will need earphones. Hear the blackbird. Steady past the family getting in the car. Slow down. Realise I can do this. It’ll take forever, but so fucking what. Oh look. Sand. A footpath. Carry on, but it’s calling me like an itch that can’t be scratched. At the end of the road. Turn, jog partway back. Walk. Stop and look up the footpath. Go through the gate and…. wow. This is perfect. Explore as the path winds up and splits. Straight ahead steps. 

I explore the winding paths; solid, dry and dusty. Plenty of tree debris. A beautiful small green at the top. Perfect for CX. 

I end the evening with a long walk down a gravel road to home in the pastel light of the setting sun. A small hidden place, well used and a mini mecca to be explored. I’m tired, but elated. I don’t need to do this for anyone but me. The realisation is… interesting. I want to go again. I’ve no idea how far I’ve been or how long I’ve been out. It’s the hardest thing I’ve done for ages and I’ve loved it. 

#keepsmiling #tryharder


Brighton Big Dog and Green Arrow Grasstrack 

A completely topsy-turvy weekend for me. Setting off later than I’d hoped on the hours journey to Stanmer Park. Stunningly clear skies, quiet roads – even the M25 – and the rad Red Hot Chili Peppers new album blasting out.

I’d chilled out a bit after Friday night, and was really looking forward to working with the amazing bunch of ladies in the tea tent. Nicky and Mandy, two of my seriously favourite hard working ladies. They give their all to this event, as well as what ever else they turn their hand too. I’d just like to say how proud I am of both of them.

Sorting stuff out with the other team tent lovelies as we decorated, cut cake and organised the volunteers lunch bags was priority, then greeting fellow ‘dog handlers’ and other vendors – namely the Morvelo crew, and my landlord Jon in the Vittoria tent.

As the morning drew on, I wondered if I’d be able to borrow a bike from someone to do a lap, and until I approached the lovely Matt Carr, it was looking rather unlikely. However, he introduced me to James and Jason at Ubyk, who agreed to lend me one of the beautiful Santa Cruz mountain bikes. 

It took a while to get organised as Nicky agreed to go around with me and she had left her bike behind. However when I went back to talk to the guys about which bike I could use, they told me I could use the stunning Santa Cruz cx bike. I questioned the gears, but it was too cool to say no to!

Riding a cx bike at a mtb race. Mad? Maybe. Cool? Well, a load of people loved it, after telling me I was mad/brave*

*delete as appropriate 

Eventually we were ready, and set off together through the start line in the grassy bowl at the lowest point of the course. As soon as we started climbing, I was down to 2nd lowest gear, puffing away like a steam train, wondering if riding a cx bike was a great idea! Up and up, through the grass, up and into the woods, dappled shade hiding the tree roots as I tackled the with all the skillz of a novice rider. Then, crippling stomach ache for five minutes, thankfully it passed as it felt awful. Some bits I had to walk, as I didn’t quite have the gears/ skillz/ or didn’t want to damage this rather gorgeous bike. The first bit was without doubt the hardest, with me holding up the one person who genuinely didn’t mind (although she wanted to get back to the tea tent!!).

The singletrack and roots didn’t really pose a problem and I soon learnt to adjust, probably being over cautious, but it wasn’t my bike to damage! Some bits were hard, and a couple of corners got the better of me (one uphill, where I actually squeaked then burst out laughing). Suddenly we were high above the road on the bridge, then down and into a cracking run the other side (again, some bits I had to walk!) Then onto the bridge and up and up. Where the surface was loose in places, I found that climbing was hard as I span out a few times. I also had to remember how to redistribute my weight so it didn’t affect it so much. Then suddenly there were logs! Hadn’t really thought about that, and managed to skirt the first one before telling myself to MTFU and get on with it. Funnily enough, I tackled the rest without a problem!

The tail end of the lap, I ended walking down a couple of bits after guys fell off a few meters in front of me, before winding through some trees and suddenly finding a massive drop and a few people stood there. I hesitated as I couldn’t figure out where the track went and decided to wait until someone came down and rode it in front of me. Then I could see, and without managing to clip in, rode straight after him and out into the grass bit of the finish whooping like a kid.

It was epic. I may have been a bit mental to ride a slightly unsuitable bike, but it handled a lot more of the course than I felt it had any right to do. I also managed to drop off the back behind the saddle a couple of times when required, which isn’t as easy as it sounds when you hit a corner load of tree roots! But I think my laughs along the way said it all. I was over the moon to get around and Nicky was excellent enough to wait for me a lot.

Reluctantly I had to hand the bike back, and get changed, before going back to the glorious job of washing up and drying! 

Beer pouring fell to me and Mandy, with beer hand ups being done by Rory ‘The Big Dog Himself’ Hitchens and crew as the last few riders finished, before we helped with the podium presentations.

Gutted I couldn’t stay for the celebrations, but grass track was calling. 

Sunday 14th Green Arrow grasstrack at Hertford 

I left later than intending, having not slept too well again, and promptly got stuck on the M25 for over an hour. I did finally get there, tired, fidgety and not in the best frame of mind. Wondering if my legs were up to it. 

Phil kindly lent me his Fuji, and he rode his Holdsworth. A few minor tweaks and I set out for a few warm up laps, immediately feeling that rubbish hollow feeling in my legs as I did a few quiet laps. I had absolutely nothing, but hoped with doing a bit more, that I would be OK. 

The men’s races were up first, and we had plenty to cheer on with Rob, Phil, Steve, Alex, Matt and Tom riding, along with Sally and also Steve’s young daughter Safiya.

I lined up for the 3km scratch race and started fairly well, before being dropped on the first half of the lap. I pushed on for another two before my right thigh started cramping up and I pulled out. I was pretty outclassed and rather tired, which combined to make me rather grumpy. After figuring out we had a break for a bit whilst the men’s National 8km was on, I decided to eat some lunch. Only for a very strange feeling.

My back molar had fallen apart.

After that, and figuring out my financial implications of another visit to the dentist, I wasn’t in the right frame of mind and with my leg aching and my tooth sore. I decided to get changed and pull out. 

Not my finest hour and I spent the rest of the day mentally kicking myself and feeling like a twat. Being so unfit was not a help either. Something I need to work on as it was quite frankly embarrassing. 

But I had a great time cheering on my friends. With most of them picking up top threes in one event or the other. Rather proud of Tom and Matt at their first grasstrack event! Both picking up prizes for top three in different events.
Laugh of the day:  Matt actually fell over, then Alex, after trying to teach me how to track stand the other week, eliminating himself after he rolled into a hole.