I’ve always been a fan of longer mountain bike races so I decided to check out the Eco-Race organized by Substances Projects. It took place at Durham Forest this past Sunday. There was a 45 km (4 laps of 11 km thereabouts) option and the category was Open Female. I would get to race with those half my age which is always a challenge.
At the start line, all men and women of all age groups and distances were going out together. I couldn’t tell which riders were doing 20 km, 30 km or 40 km. It was exciting to see female racers that I had never met before and I had no idea what to expect. I just assumed they were all doing the 45 km.
The horn blew and we were off. There was one female, in particular, that blasted off the start. It was incredible to see the speed she could sustain off the get go. I kept her in sight but chose not to try and catch up immediately since my heart rate was about to max out. Knowing I still had 40 km to go, I knew that blowing all my steam at the beginning wasn’t a good idea. I told myself, “It’s not over until you cross the finish line. Race smart!” I let my heart rate drop to a sustainable level and knew at the current pace, I could punch it hard at the finish.
It was just a little bit further and I caught up to this incredibly fast woman and she immediately let me pass with words of support and encouragement. After that, I never looked back. I pushed hard the whole race not knowing where all the other women were. “Never surrender,” was my internal dialogue for the day. I didn’t surrender and I finished tired and happy that I raced my best. It was fast, fun and had some serious sand to contend with at times.
Passing through the crowd after finishing, I saw the woman I had passed and I thought, “Wow, I must have been really out of it, I didn’t even see her pass me.”
Well it turns out that she didn’t pass me. She was doing the 30 km and I was the only female racing for the 45 km distance. Needless to say I was first place by default and two other young women came on the podium to fill the empty spots for the picture so I didn’t feel so alone.
A highlight of this race was coming to realize that the woman with the incredible speed at the start of the race was the one and only Leigh Hobson. An absolutely amazing road racer with an impressive history in the sport. I had the wonderful opportunity to meet her and discover that she is getting into mountain bike racing this year and will be in my category. I am really excited to have her out at the races. She is a very positive, kind and driven athlete and she will be a great addition to the already amazing field of Master Expert 40+ women.
Leigh took first place for the 30 km distance. That’s a fantastic start to her new venture.
My next adventure…..1st O-cup of the season at Mansfield on April 29th. It’s going to be EXCITING!