I struggled last week. I’ve been patiently healing some injuries for the last 4+ years, and as part of this process I’ve learned about some systemic health conditions I never knew I had. Life has been incredible in many other ways during this period, but things have also been very challenging. My world got pretty small for a while. As I get stronger again it’s a privilege to choose what to fill each day with.
One of the best things I can do to keep my body working is cycling. It turns out I’ve been self-medicating since my teens. Last week though, was one of those weeks where managing everything – the daily rehab, the changes in diet, the changes in routine, the effort of it all, the lack of ease that comes with no longer throwing your cares into the wind – it all just got to me. I needed a mental break from it. I needed to get outside, to focus on something different (like each next corner), and have a tonne of fun.
It was good timing then that Rocky Trail Entertainment were holding a Superflow race at Ourimbah State Forest on Sunday: three trails, each difficult in their own way, killer climbs to reach them, and all day to do as many runs as you want. Your best time on each stage counts for your overall result.
From the moment I pulled up in the carpark, good feelings started to flow in abundance: bumping into friends I hadn’t seen in a while, happy chats, clear skies after a week of rain, the familiarity of a relaxed event vibe, the fun of discovering trails I hadn’t ridden before, surprise conversations with smiley people I hadn’t met previously, the challenge of remembering each obstacle for the next run, riding them smoothly, riding them faster, connecting corners and obstacles in a way that only happens after a few runs, sliding through a week of drying mud, the spring air, the birds a-singing, the smell of the central coast bush. Some people love racing because they love competing for a podium. I’ve always loved it for these other things.
Riding has been a huge part of rebuilding my health but riding at an event provides a framework for different experiences to happen, especially when things run as smoothly as this one did, which is a huge credit to the Rocky Trail Entertainment team. This crew have been running events for several years now. It’s clear they really listen to rider feedback and adapt accordingly to keep things serious enough, casual enough, clockwork enough, and fun. Right from rego, this vibe carried through to all the participants out on the trails. An event format where you can leave as much space as you like between riders before attacking each trail certainly supports this too.
A live timing system I hadn’t experienced before was particularly cool. Race times upload automatically at the end of each run and could be accessed via your phone at any time during the day. This meant for some great battles between riders and friends out on the course, willed people into heading up the climb another time or three, and pushed us all to find some extra speed where we could – speed that feels so good when you get it right!
Things got hard at different points during the day, but as much as managing various health things had been cracking me earlier in the week, it was nice being able to use all I’d learned to troubleshoot various challenges as they arose. When my vision blurred, as it used to regularly, I knew (for me with my body) to drink a bottle of electrolyte drink and the salt would help it come back. When my quads quivered from squatting and I was finding places on the downhill track to sit down on my saddle for a few seconds, I knew some physio things to do before the next run which helped me to engage my glutes again and ride in a much faster, more efficient and fun way. This turned my mood around as well, motivated me to keep working on getting stronger again, and made it possible to move through the trails in a way that just. felt. soooo. good!
Thanks to everyone out there for making the day what it was. I enjoyed every second, even the hard parts, and am glad beyond words to be strong enough to experience these things (and other things!) more often again. A few thank yous also to people and companies who make riding such a pleasure every day: Velofix Rozelle, DHaRCO Clothing, Mimo Eyewear, the Physio Lab, and the Mountain Bike Suspension Centre. It’s a joy to use such nice equipment and a thrill to feel it all excel on muddy, challenging trails once a race plate is tied to the bars and the live timing recommends finding another six seconds! 😉 Biggest thanks of all to my partner, Gayes, who rode amazingly out there on Sunday too.
Trail therapy: there’s nothing quite like it for shaking out one lot of feelings and replacing them with others. I was thrilled to hit Monday a whole lot better for it. To anyone else who got out on their bike this weekend, I hope the trails (or the roads) worked their magic for you as well.
Photos: (Most) Outer Image Collective. Thanks guys. Nice to see you out there too! (Podium) Gaye Camm.