Photo by CountryStyle Photography.
Arriving in Norbury around 9am on the Saturday morning and stepping out into the chilling wind I felt horribly under-prepared. Not just in terms of fitness (though that was certainly a big concern) but also I could and should have brought extra layers of clothing with me.
It’s not like I didn’t have enough boot space to pack a mid-layer and jacket. I was now feeling a bit more anxious but I was not alone, Mel and I overheard others voicing humorous concern at their own lack of warmer clothing.
We headed over to the registration tent which was struggling to stay together as the wind attacked it. Following several warm greetings from the friendly and ever smiling event volunteers I retrieved my rider number and a bacon sandwich.
At race start I was somewhere near the back of the queue which suited me fine, I certainly wasn’t going for speed here, just aiming to finish. Unfortunately for the chap in front of me something went wrong while waiting, unable to detach from his clips pedals he promptly fell over into the taped section and post. In typical stoic cyclist fashion he announced “Oh well as least I’ve got that over with”, he struggled upright again and then we were under way.
A short while later we were winding our way out the village on quiet and traffic free back-roads where a few people, presumably somewhat over excited, had a few tumbles over seemingly nothing. The first few miles as we made our way to the South end of the Mynd also brought some unfortunate punctures for a few of the quicker riders resulting in us passing them, if only temporarily.
The climbs came upon us pretty quickly resulting in a lot of riders stopping to shed outer layers now we were somewhat sheltered from the wind with the sun shining brightly. A few stopped to admire the view and many others switched to the ride then hike-a-bike rhythm that would make up most of the longer climbs. The fast riders were a long way ahead by this point.
Once up on the Mynd the climbing continued as we continued our way up the grass hillside. “Don’t worry, by the time the first one’s get back the barbecue won’t have started so they’ll have to wait”, a kindly marshal informed me as I slowly passed. “I’m more worried it will be over by the time I’ve finished” I replied, momentarily distracting myself from the feeling of my lungs trying to eject themselves in a rearward direction.
[ecko_contrast]Have I mentioned the marshals? They were all excellent, congratulating riders at every stage, always with a smile and a few words of encouragement. They really made the event more enjoyable.[/ecko_contrast]
Near the gliding club some faster riders cut across the trail we were on, already on their way to the second descent. On past the gliding club we finally turned right and headed across and then down Minton Batch, a fantastic, flowing but tight descent. There are a fair few points that will catch you out if you aren’t paying attention, as a few riders around me found out.
The thrill of this track was over too soon and it was onto rural roads leading back up to the winding fireroad climb that would gradually take us back up to the top. The wind was kicking the dust up and it swirled past as the sun beat down on us. Once up top riders crossed to the West side of the Long Mynd for a zig-zag descent with the wind tearing at handlebars and wheels it felt like being shoved across the trail. At least it was blowing into the hillside rather than away from it. Nevertheless is made the rocky descent – trail number 2 on the MTB map more challenging but still fun.
I guess I should have figured more on the wind playing part in this ride, after all I’ve been in the area before on bike and on foot and if they chose that location to form a permanent club for gliding, well it’s probably going to be a breezy old place to be.
The descent over with we turned right on the country road at the bottom and made our way along this before heading back up to Pole bank via a wide track. During my push up the hill I had a nice chat with one of the ladies from mbswindon which made an unpleasant climb much more pleasant. Arriving at the feed station were were greeted by yet more friendly trail elves in the form of marshals, arms laden with bananas, flapjack, sweets and cups of water.
A very short break later (stopping for too long usually makes continuing harder) with a wave from the marshals and Norbury Primary school kids I headed off along the ridge on the Shropshire Way for the second half of the ride. Descending into Jonathan’s Hollow on skinny trails riding around the sides of Long Batch and then walking the steep trail out before descending to the ford.
Next up was a steep grassy climb then more trail ascending up and around the hillside, on legs that were now running on empty. Descending into Carding Mill Valley I had nothing left in the tank but with no other choice I headed on up through the car park. Other riders around me looked like they were feeling the same pain, but there were still smiles and energy left in the tank for other riders.
Winding through the crowds to the start of the trails where our numbers were noted before the last main ascent of the day. Before long I was off the bike again and pushing up the point were the trail splits and the router takes the right fork up Motts Road.
A shout of delight on the trail ahead and I look up to see Melinda hurrying excitedly down the trail to meet me. I was feeling pretty low at that point and though I wish I had been riding instead of pushing I was very happy to see Mel there. She walked up most of the climb with me chatting and encouraging me. Apparently she had been there for a few hours cheering on other riders while waiting for me.
Whilst there Melinda took a number of photos on her iPhone which she posted on flickr and has also shared with a number of riders through twitter.
By the top of Motts Road my tank was on empty and my left knee was hurting. I stopped briefly to put on a gilet against the wind up top which was feeling colder now I was knackered. A quick look round to admire the views (it really is beautiful up there) and it was back on the pedals. Passing a few more marshal points, despite being up there all day they were still smiling and encouraging riders on, a sign promised that it was all downhill from that point.
I stopped to take a picture, a mixture of relief and disbelief. Turns Out™ that while it wasn’t totally downhill all the way to the finish, compared to the uphill’s that day the slight inclines on the way back were nothing. That ‘nothing’ was enough to rob the last of my reserve energy though and I rolled slowly back into the start/finish area.
Rolling in sometime just after 3.15pm I was one of the last few back and in and Mel was waiting for me at the finish line having just got back in the car from Carding Mill Valley (she did have to go a very long way around to get back).
Bike stowed back at the car and a quick change later I collected my finishers mug (nice) and a bacon roll – they ran out of sausages having gone through a few tonnes of them!
A huge amount of thanks goes to the event organisers, marshals, children and supporters of Norbury Primary School for organising a great event and providing a fabulous and friendly welcome to all the riders who took part (and their families and friends that came to support them).
The riding over the Long Mynd is fantastic but it was the people, including those who took part, who really made this such a great event.