Tuesday, 1 October 2013

The Tail End of The 3 Peaks - Phoebe's race

I have not blogged in a while. My summer has been filled with shifts in the hospital and snatches of sunshine on the bike whenever possible. Before I knew it summer was over and the Cyclocross season had begun. Despite work I had put in a reasonable amount of time on the bike and with our newly developed gym/garage I had started to do some strength work.

Pretty much all of this training and riding was lead by Di. Diane Lee is our newest MBG recruit. Some of you may recognise her from our trip to the Tour Ta Malta and the MBG wiggle 6 duo. Di is a superb triathlete and cyclist. I won't bore you with her list of achievements as there are far to many to mention but what I will say is that if Di puts her mind to an event she will undoubtedly podium. Over the summer Di had encouraged me to do some fell running. Depsite being spanked by runners nearly 3 times my age I thoroughly enjoyed them and Di let me take home her winnings usually in the form of wine and flowers. With all this fell running and off road riding it dawned on me - what race would Di be really bloody good at? The cyclocross 3 peaks.

The 3 Peaks is one of the toughest bike races out there. For those that haven't heard of it, it involves carrying your bike up the three highest peaks in Yorkshire and then clinging on for grim death all the way down the other side - with a bit of road riding in between. It is something I have always fancied having a go at but deep down considered myself far to weedy, weak and slow.

With Di's confidence and support we decided to enter together, with our cross bikes adapted we set off to the race. I will now explain my experience of the race as Di's was rather different.

Sick with nerves I got myself to the start. I had chosen to wear a camelback as it was quite warm and there are various items you have to carry such as a survival bag and a whistle not to mention a large amount of mule bars, gels, jelly babies and my iphone just incase I had a serious accident. I knew this race was going to take me all bloody day.

I lined up with plenty of other friendly nervous looking riders. I rather foolishly put myself near the back for the start which probably isn't the best plan. However my only aim was to finish I had tried not to worry too much about setting a good time as I really had no idea what to expect. For starters I wasn't even sure I could cycle for 5 hours without a cafe stop! The kindly organisers set us off on a rolling road section. I moved my way though the bunch trying not to let the racing excitement take over and blow my legs to pieces in the first few kilometres.

The first climb involves shouldering the bike and crawling whilst holding onto a fence up an extremely steep grassy hill side (or cliff face as it felt). I was quite enjoying this bit chatting to other riders, overtaking people and generally keeping my spirits up. I think at one point I was actually singing to myself. At the top of the hill we were met with gale force cross winds. Struggling to ride or carry the bikes I scrambled over the rocks to dib myself in. All sense of enjoyment was lost at this stage. The descent was long and grassy with lots of hidden obstacles. It was over one of the obstacles that my race took a turn for the worst. As I started to enjoy myself I let the brakes off picking up speed I hit something I have no idea what. I flew over the handlebars bashing myself hard on the head and damaging my right arm. The crash knocked the wind out of me. Rolling over I sensed my arm was badly hurt. As a doctor I tried to instil some common sense but doctors make terrible patients. After 5mins of sitting on the floor getting my breath back I got back on and carried on the bottom. My arm was bleeding a fair bit and I was briefly checked over by the marshals at the bottom. Once on the road I felt slightly better. I pushed on to the next climb. It soon became evident that I couldn't get out of the saddle as my right arm could not support my weight. Once as the top of the second climb that dreaded wind started again and I stopped to help a rider who had been blown off their bike into a stone wall. I started another long descent this time on flagstones, as I dropped off one of the steps I felt a searing pain in my right elbow. So much so that I wobbled off into the soft bog at the side. Choking back the tears I realised I was unable to hold the bars on the rocky surface let alone brake with my right hand. I was back to running again. Scrabbling/trotting as fast as I could I told myself once at the bottom I could throw in the towel.

As soon as I hit the next road section I was able to rest my arm on the tops and get my self together. I decided if I got to Pen Y Gent before the time cut off I would give it go. Just as I made it to the bottom of the third climb I saw Di coming down. Just the sight of a familiar face cheered me up no end. Knowing she was still in the race and smashing it by the looks of things spurred me on. That feeling lasted 5 minutes before the pain in my elbow built up. I had to get off and walk. Concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other I made it to the top knowing that I would have to run most of the way down made me feel physically unwell.

I had made it to the road - 4km to go to the finish - Bloody hell I was going to finish. I realised I was second from last. There was no way I was going to finish last I pushed on dropping the last man behind me. In the distance I could see a tiny figure in bright pink trainers pedalling towards me. Just as she had done as the end of the fell races - Di had come back to get me. Riding along side telling me how proud she was I was still going and how I was nearly there I made it to the finish.

Stiff and sore the next day xrays confirmed a small fracture of my right radial head - elbow basically. Not a serious injury but not something you would want to ride the three peaks with. With exercises, stretches and painkillers I should be back on the bike in no time. Despite a pretty appalling time of 6hours I finished and I have to be proud of that. Di rode an absolute stormer and finished first female first timer with a lovely trophy - I'm sure she will share her own experience.

Photos from Andy Jones and Amy O'Halloran both of whom gave me great encouragement

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