James Williamson Enduro Challenge

The James Williamson Enduro Challenge was held last Sunday in the Southern Highlands. The race was held as memorial to James who died after his heart stopped beating in his sleep in March last year. It also inspired riders who didn’t know Jimi to find other ways to think about the person he was and the riding he loved.

With 13/25/50/75 km rides on offer and a rider cap of 600 the atmosphere was set for a great day out riding the sweet trails of Wingello forest. In fact, I’d have to say that the atmosphere out on the track was the best I have ever experienced. Not only did the tacky trails have riders grinning from ear to ear, but whether you were overtaking or being overtaken, conversation was friendly and happy. The event was well run, the weather perfect for riding, and the 25km loop was the right amount of challenging and the right amount of ‘Woo hoo!”.

Race morning at Wingello State Forest was pretty magical. Photo: Kath Bicknell.

I think about Jimi a lot. I miss learning from him and working with him at Enduro Mag, and I miss reading his stories on new events and riding experiences as they happen. Much of what I learned about writing I learned through reading Jimi’s work, and while I miss learning from it, it’s been enjoyable to have the chance to work with other people on their writing in the way that he helped me develop mine. I have also learned a lot about life and living as I’ve thought about Jimi this last year. I appreciate small moments more for what they are and get a much bigger sense of joy out of the experiences I have, knowing I’m lucky to have them, and while I have today, tomorrow could change everything. On top of the great riding experiences I had at Wingello last weekend, it was nice having the chance to talk about Jimi with a large group of other riders and learn from their sense of perspective after the last 12 months.

Singletrack bliss. Photo: Handsome Dan Mackay.

My race was by no means an amazing performance, but it was a great experience and it was good fun just riding in the moment, not taking the process too seriously. After a hectic week, I turned up at the start line completely exhausted. 30 minutes into the race, I realised that tight elastic at the bottom of my shorts had cut the feeling to my outer toes, and my left leg became numb soon after. Pulling my knicks as close to my knees as they would reach improved things a bit and I was really excited to finish the 50km open women’s event in 5th place only about 5 minutes off the podium. I enjoyed every piece of singletrack, the hurt from the climbs and the hundreds of short, happy conversations with other riders. While I felt exhausted at the start line, as I reached the finish line I felt a different type of exhaustion – that really satisfying one from trying your hardest all race long. In relation to thinking about Jimi, these comments on the race are not to say that I didn’t enjoy all these moments before, it’s just that somehow they’re more special now, I appreciate them more for what they are. This is something that was clear in other riders too judging from the special atmosphere out on the race track, something I hope sticks around for many, many experiences to come.

Thank you to the Canberra Off-Road Cyclists and the Southern Highlands Cycling Club for hosting the James Williamson Enduro Challenge and to all the people who came along and shared in the special atmosphere of the event. I’m looking forward to next year’s event already, as well as all the moments in between!