Today the weather is lovely and sunny but after a dog walk I felt a little tired, not particularly motivated to do a ride. Coronavirus actually made me change my first plan. I thought that I’d boost my enthusiasm if I set a challenge and considered doing 5 laps of my training circuit at Birkacre. With 15 or so corners on each lap it’s right up my street with plenty of time spent at the limit of grip. Then I realised that there would probably be quite a few dog walkers and maybe even families enjoying the good weather. There were more people than usual in the woods this morning, when I was walking Freddie, who is pictured at the top of the page, resting. I chose to ride to Brinscall Woods instead because it’s much further away from any towns. My plan initially was just to ride a downhill which I’ve recently discovered and keep repeating it to improve my speed. If you ride a section of trail only occasionally you will never be at your best. The only way to get really good is to session the segment a number of times, correcting any errors as you go. It can be quite an intellectual as well as physical process to find ways to gain fractions of a second in places, which add up to a measurable improvement.
I took the first opportunity to get off road and this time managed to keep going where I’ve ground to a halt in deep mud on my last two attempts. It was still muddy but not the deep, wet mud we’ve been enduring. Rather than going back on the road I climbed a steep section which avoids a part along the side of the reservoirs which has been unrideable over the last few months. The trail drops across a grassy field but what surprised me was that the path has just about disappeared, presumably through a lack of use by walkers. After I reached White Coppice I took the harder side of the goit, which is a straightened river. There was still some mud but it’s drying up. I got up the hardest part, not by applying finesse but by brute force., accelerating hard at the slope and keeping the pedals spinning. I learnt that this technique was the best last year when it took me quite a few attempts before I could ride the trail in both directions without a foot down. A tree is still blocking the path further on so I had to stop anyway but would have been confident that I could have done it in both directions with my improved fitness.
I climbed the fire road and the steeper track which follows to the top of Brinscall Woods ready for my first try at the downhill. What a joy it is after such a wet period to be riding a downhill single track on a loamy surface without it being semi liquid. It’s only weeks since the climb back to the top was a steam which concealed the protruding tree roots. I did 7 laps of the circuit in total, stopping early on to move some broken branches. After a couple of laps I decided to time a full lap and it made the descent far more exciting as I searched for extra speed. I pushed myself on the climb back to the start and actually enjoyed the extra effort I was putting in. I recorded 1 minute 51 seconds and after a couple more laps, where I took it easier on the climb, I chose to do another fast one. My target was to beat 1 minute 45 and I gave it everything. The bike was squirming on the loose surface as I took a few chances to shave time off. I started the climb and pushed myself. I noticed how I let the effort slip for the odd turn of the pedals and cursed myself. A demon on one shoulder may have told me to give up on an unimportant enterprise but the angel on my other shoulder kept me going to the limit. I spied the finish and never relented. At the end I rolled onto my side on the thankfully dry grass and panted desperately. My time of 1 minute 32 seconds was well worth the effort and much better than I’d expected.
There are plenty of worse places to keel over, exhausted.
Me, having given my all.
Setting a small target and really going for it was a great way to motivate myself, today. I rode down the hill again and carried on down to the goit. I was surprised to find when I got back home that this constitutes a Strava segment where I’d set the second fastest time by any rider ever! At 1 minute 29 seconds I only need to find another 4 seconds to be King of the Mountains. I chose not to try the tougher, technical side of the goit on the way home and completed my ride with a deep glow of satisfaction.