In the event organisation history of Fully Sussed, we can recall four events that had weather as bad as we witnessed at the first Soggy of 2017. One was at Woodbury Common- we had one hand on the keyboard / microphone, one hand holding down the EZ-up and a load of gun toting teenagers tramping about the place. One was in the Forest of Dean, where we also had a DoE expedition walk throught the course, but at least it kept the wild boar away, and the final one was a Welsh XC in Margam Park, where we had four days of rain, a river of water running under our tent and straight up the leg of my trousers. All these events had something else in common - hundreds of people turned up in a crazy example of shared hardship.
We're not really business people. We like riding our bikes, and enjoy designing MTB courses that make us smile, and we think are just the right level of fun. The course for Soggy One was dry as a bone, right up to Saturday, and we'd been obsessively raking, clearing and digging to make it as good as we could, which is hysterical when you look at the trench that remains there now. We despaired when we saw the weather forecast, did the usual 'I'm sure it'll change', 'they never get it right' and the classic 'Newnham is a little micro climate, it'll be fine', and oh boy, were we wrong.
But there is no accounting for the sheer British stiff upper lippedness. Anyone can ride in the summer, moaning about all the heat and the dust, but it takes a real British mountain bike warrior to go out and race in weather that you wouldn't put a milk bottle out in. Once you can feel your feet and fingers again, your kit and bike are clean, and you've applied special ointment to all the chafing, you can reflect on a real Bear Grylls effort, and look forward to changing every bearing and brake pad on your bike. I've read so many times about the inherent need in us all to express our inner caveman, the quest for adventure and excitement is the subject of endless blogs, and from the heroics at the weekend it would appear that this spirit is strong in the South West.
With us stepping away from British Cycling for 2017, there remained this notion that people would be put off racing by the lack of BC ranking points. What we'd forgotten is that BC points aren't Air Miles or Reward Card Points, you can't cash them in at the end of the season for some TUE drugs or free bullying, they are an antiquated system of rankings that have little relevance to the majority of MTBers who race their bikes for shits and giggles with hairy legs and baggy shorts. So the numbers were large, the mass start looked like New Years Day at the Primark sale, and even though we had to plough the toilets at the end of the day, good fun seemed to be had by all...
...with the possible exception of Kevin Yim! Kevin unfortunately fell foul to the final descent, and while we don't know the exact details of how he did it, it seems he fell down the bank before the 'A' line, and this was the result. It's not the big stuff that gets us, it's the little things that sneak up on you when you're thinking about something else. Get well soon, Kev, I hope you like turbo training.
Have a look at Snapper Chick's photos for evidence of just how filthy a day this was. We'll look back on this in July and laugh, right kids?
It'll be all change for Soggy Two. We've caused enough damage to that part of Newnham Park, so we'll head off to a whole new course, and some more new sections. If the rain carries on we'll introduce a kayak category.
Thanks to Certini Bicycle Company for supplying our e-mountain bike. I reckon we'll be seeing that again this year.
For the eight years since we started organising events, we have had a reasonable working relationship with the event department at British Cycling..relationship...relationship...relationship...
Well said, Prime Minister. Now go and snog Martine McCutcheon.
One of the great certainties of life, along with birth, death and some dodgy hairstyle choices along the way, is that The Stinger will be the hardest, muddiest and hopefully most fun events of the year. I reckon we could hold it in mid-Summer, in drought conditions and race day would still deliver mud up to our knicky-knacky-noos.
The Stinger is a tough event to organise, with lots of head scratching, incomprehensible doodling, and looking at each other in marital bafflement, but it's fun on the day and a total mystery to us about why it isn't MASSIVE! To be honest, using the word 'painful' on the event blurb may not be the wisest move, but at least it's honest.
Yet again, The Stinger 2017 proved to be all about the bike, and while there were some strong whippet-like running performances on the first 5km (Phil Dawber and Jack Forrest who has yet to do his GCSEs both breaking 21 minutes), the four laps of the bike loop took those slender leads, chewed them up and spat them out. There's no point coming in from the first 5km with a 30 second advantage over your rivals when you lose 5 minutes per lap on the bike. Fastest bike lap of the day was a blistering 15 minutes something by local rider Dexter Hurlock of team Kibosh, whose team tag-line is 'You ain't pro, bro' which I love and fully endorse. The next fastest was 90 seconds slower (by 14 year old Oli Allen of our own Pilgrim Flyers) so the rest were already losing at least 8 minutes over the bike leg. You've got to be Mobot Farah to make that sort of gap up, and no-one likes Quorn that much.
But that was at the sharp and pointy end of the race, populated by those with little body fat, lungs the size of a skip and a the resting heart rate of a hibernating polar bear. The rest of The Stinger heroes were battling their personal demons and the slip'n'slide descents rather than concerning themselves with executing a slick transition. Honourable mention goes to Shane Kerswill, who completed the full distance in a heroic 3 hours and 48 minutes, by which time most of you were showered and in the pub. Shane had his family waiting for him at the finish line (and waiting, and waiting...) and I bet that was the toughest carvery he ever earned.
Overall solo winner was Doug Hall, who was kind enough to tell us "As someone who's had the pleasure of racing off road multi sport pretty much everywhere, The Stinger 2017 was brilliant. Completely mental, but brilliant." That's the kind of vibe we were looking for, and at the same time keeping local trail shoe shops and bike mechanics in business.
Full results from 2017 can be downloaded here and follow the next link to all the event photos, courtesy of Tommy T from Complete Cycle Works. Next up for us is Round One of the Soggy Bottom Series, where we get to unveil some more of the new tracks we've made in Newnham Park. It's finally time for Brickin' It to meet the public!
As someone who has been fortunate, and fleet of foot, enough to win The Stinger on a few occasions (and trust me, you will be reminded of this incessantly on the day) I feel confident in passing on some tips on how to come away knackered, muddy and smug. So here is my guide on how to smash The Stinger in style.
1. Relax. It's not an Olympic qualification event, there are precious few bragging points, and within no time at all everyone, including yourself, will have forgotten it ever happended and moved on to the next event (hopefully Round 1 of the Soggy Bottom Series). So you can just relax and enjoy the personal challenge.
2. Sort your admin out. There is a fine line at a multi sport event between not having the right kit, and looking like you are packing for a fortnight away. You will not believe what people will carry into transition with them, and leave out in the rain for the duration of the event, so pack smart, and avoid the paralysis that ensues when you are looking at your transition kit mountain and can't find your lucky biking socks. You can run and bike in the same clothes, so you don't need a change of kit. You will be boiling hot from 2 minutes into the event, and will continue sweating for the next few hours so be bold and start cold. Don't run in a helmet or SPDs, that's just daft. Gloves should allow you to do up / undo your laces, so practice at home. You'll be out there for a couple of hours, tops, so you don't need a camelbak, just a bottle on your bike and a gel or similar for transition snack. If you can change tubes, carry tubes. If not, why bother? And the same applies to bike tools; if you can't fix it in your garage in the warm, you won't fix it mid race in the mud so don't weigh yourself down with tools. Travel light, move fast.
3. Practice. Practice putting your running shoes / biking shoes on quickly. Then practice again at the end of a run or bike ride when you are tired, stiff and confused. There are all sorts of gadgets that will help with transition, but none help as much as practice. Do it now.
Practice the bike course on the day. The course isn't overly technical, but the running whippets need to hold off the MTBers for as long as possible, and the MTBers have it all to do in the 20 km bike leg, so you all need to go as fast as your bravery will allow you . Go practice on the morning and commit as much of the course as possible to memory. The bike course will be open from 0930 ish on the day so get there early.
Practice transition on the day. Have a run around, run into the transition from the direction you will during the race and see how many strides it is to your bike. Trust me, you will run straight past it during the event, but at least you'll be close.
Have a look around the transition to make sure you know where you are going to enter and exit, and look at where The Stinger run is going to go, as your red mist will prevent you using your eyes during heavy breathing.
4. It ain't over 'til it's over. On one occasion, I didn't take the lead until the final downhill on The Stinger run, when the dude who had led all the way got cramp and I skipped past him in a sporting and supportive way. The shakedown in the event generally happens by the last lap of the bike, so don't panic and blow your doors too soon.
5. Pacing. All the mass of articles on this subject have always baffled me, because I always found pacing an event to be really simple - you just go as hard as you personally can until the nice man says "stop". We all have different cruising speeds, but you should defintely be blowing it out of your arse all the way round. There is only one response that you'll get to your "I think I could have gone harder" post-race comments, and don't expect it to be supportive. Go hard or go home, or choose your own cliche to that effect.
6. Patience. Results / photos / reports and all that will be available for you to analyse to death in the days after the event, so just wait patiently, don't hassle us, and say nice things about us when it all appears.
7. Bring some lunch cash. It's all change in the event catering at Newnham Park. With the Pickled Lemon Company having emigrated to Spain, and by the bizarre British double standards become ex-pats, rather than immigrants, we were short a caterer. So it's a welcome return for Rita and the legendary Portakabin bacon sandwich brigade. It'll be a simple post race menu, of the 'take it or leave it' variety, and not featuring any drinks that end in -achino. Expect home cooked food, Rita's winning smile, and some change from a fiver.
8. There is no such thing as a stupid question. Whatever it is, don't be afraid to ask us. Just don't be surprised when we share it with the world every time you come round to finish a lap.
9. Definitely do The Stinger run. Even if you are struggling to complete the bike laps, we are still happy for you to go out and wallow in the mud of The Stinger run. You will still get a result relative to the number of laps you completed, and you'll get the full experience of losing your trainers in a bog, which is what you came for after all?!
"Who is that over there talking to Sally Gunnell?" is something I've never heard said at a dinner party before, and it made me snort like a pig.
I had previously always sworn that the only way I'd go back to London would be to watch Plymouth Argyle play at Wembley or pick up our OBEs. But the opportunity to represent the wonderful Pilgrim Flyers and drink our weight in free champagne was too good to miss.
The initial phone call invite was so out of the blue, and the subsequent lack of contact so suspicious, that we started to think that it was some sort of bizarre hoax. On the train down to London, I still wondered if we were heading towards the UK Hunger Games; two unsuspecting numpties from each of the provinces enticed down to the capital to fight to the death in front of Judy Murray. Luckily, it was the real deal, we were housed in Hilton's finest Travelodge rip-off on Hyde Park, welcomed with a bottle of bubbly and free umbrella (useful when you come from Devon), and treated to a glacial speed taxi ride to the Grosevnor to remind us why we live in Devon.
After being ignored by the autograph hunters and snubbed by the paparazzi, we broke the World Record for the fastest crossing of a red carpet. The carpet is clearly designed to automatically repel anyone who hasn't been in Hello magazine, and we went up it like we'd been fired out of a cannon. Luckily for us, but not for anyone else, it meant that we were first to hit the free booze, and assuming we were just there as rent-a-crowd, proceeded towards alcohol poisoning and incoherence.
Once seated at our table, the traditional game of 'What's His Name?' started among us non-celebs, not helped by the fact that we were all rubbish at remembering names, the famous faces there present were B-list at best, and our brain cells were being rapidly pickled. Remember, we were just there as fodder, to politely applaud when the eventual winners were announced and then head off to find the nearest Wetherspoons and so avoiding spending £40 on a £5 bottle of wine. Dirty robbing Londoners.
When the Pilgrims were announced as winners of Grassroots Club of the Year, my stomach lurched. The reality of having to climb on to the stage and be interviewed hit home and images of Oliver Reed on the Russell Harty show flashed through my head. Maddie had made herself comfortable and taken her shoes off, but we eventually ambled up the steps to collect the trophy and garble some nonsense at a bemused gaggle of celebs. A swift round of backstage photos and interviews followed which made me wonder why they didn't just stick us all on roller skates and push us round to where they wanted us.
And on the evening went; we met some really nice 'grass-roots' people and some really rude 'celebs' who proceeded to talk loudly and play with their phones through most of the awards. (Kudos to Maddie who went over to tell them to 'shut up') The after-party turned out to be an opportunity to sell us massively expensive bottles of beer, and nowhere near as exciting as I thought it would be, given the presence of a load of footballers. Where's Wayne Rooney when you need him?
The magnesium flare of moments like this has thankfully burned out and we can get back to the important job of buggering about on bikes with a bunch of crazy kids. We are so proud of being part of the Pilgrim Flyers, but as the Wonder Stuff said, we're 'just two legs of the Groove Machine'. The award and the credit belongs to everyone who has abandoned the traditional cyclist "what's in it for me?" attitude and given their time for the club - the coaches, riders, parents and the vast amount of people who have had a positive influence on what we do.
Next up is our club Christmas Bash at Newnham Park. The rider who gets voted the Flyers' Flyer of the Year will get to take home the Pride of Sport trophy, and have their mother polish it. The coaches get to finish off the remaining bottle of bubbly, so everyone's a winner.
I really, really need to address my Tank Girl fixation.
I'm not one of those people who have been racing since Jesus played football for Israel.
Despite being of an age when school P.E. was most definitely competitive, seemed to occur twice a day and with the exception of swimming, was always outdoors, I dodged extra curricular competitive sports like a champ. Instead my time was spent terrorising the great outdoors with my mates, equipped with pen knives, catapults and fishing tackle, all of which seemed designed to inflict maximum damage to the user and everyone around him. Fishing hooks stuck in fingers and, on one memorable occasion an ear, catapulted stones bouncing off each others' heads and during one famous catapult battle, a pair of teenage testicles (sorry Neil), every spare hour was another step towards tetanus, blindness and infertility.
My teenage years brought big hair and an obsession with all things indie. Sport was about as far from indie as you could get, so I stuck to boots, beer and bands.
It all caught up with me in my twenties. My old man had been a runner since quitting smoking when I was young. His eighties' high-cut running shorts, slashed up the sides as far as the waistband to maximise exposure of pasty English thigh would bring taunting howls of laughter from the family as he slunk out of the door. But then I found myself living in Holland, overweight and loving all the things that life in Holland could provide. When you are skint, in your twenties, and have just been humiliated by some old duffer gliding past you in the swimming pool, running seems to be just the ticket. At least it was once I realised that this was definitely not an activity for boots.
I did my first event at the age of 24. Me and my Dad had a rare moment of father-son bonding and ran Tough Guy together. For the uninitiated, Tough Guy is a combination of a cross country run and near-death experience, as a day in Wolverhampton tends to be. Then from the mid nineties onward it was a whirl of racing, training, racing, getting injured, but still racing...As runners living in a city, we could often race three times in a week, and have raced twice in a day, which is a never to be repeated experience.
Tough Guy Jesus Warriors. I shit you not.
I've often fallen in and out of love with different forms of racing. Our last block of half-marathon training was so goddam tough that we swore never to repeat it, despite awesome PBs and the ability to eat 3000 calories a day. XC mountain biking has let me down more times than the England football team and despite still loving riding my bike, I just can't face a winter of training for events that I feel, at best, ambivalent about.
But I still love training, and love the pain of a good workout, so step forward the Big Guns Challenge. This was inspired by a mate of ours, who was also in his forties when he toddled off to do his duty in Afghanistan. He vowed that while there he would devote all his time not spent marching and dodging bullets, in pursuit of a long coveted set of guns to be proud of. As a long term endurance nut, this really resonated with me. I am clearly more suited to sports involving skinny hips and Tyrannosaurus Rex arms, but neither are any use when it comes to pulling chicks or looking buff on the beach.
The rules of the challenge are simple. The participants are myself, Maddie and our mate Stocker, the illegitimate offspring of the Tetley Tea Folk and Tom Cruise. We have all measured our pre-training upper arms, once we found a measuring tape in small enough increments. We won't see each other until next May at the first Tough Mudder event of 2017, and with great ceremony the tape measure will come out again. The one with the greatest percentage growth on their upper arm circumference will win, and bingo wings are not allowed. The winner will receive a Wetherspoons voucher equivalent to the percentage that they have increased, and in the past month I have gained enough for an unlimited coffee and a danish.
We all know that Maddie will win as she has got the DNA and shoulders of a scaffolder, but if I manage to get a body that doesn't need to be permanently covered by a t-shirt I'll be stoked.
Winter is a funny old time at Fully Sussed.
Our main event season concludes, in a blur of tape, stakes and mud, in October. Once the aches and pains are healed and Laundry Mountain has been conquered, we are faced with a gap in the diary. The initial joy of being able to have a lie-in, lounge around on the sofa and do some PE at times other than 0600, doesn’t last too long and soon the Jimminy Cricket work ethic is chirruping about finding some gainful employment.
BUT I DON’T BLOODY WANT TO! A great skill among the self-employed, or as Del Boy called us “the self-un-employed”, is to live on beans and fresh air and wear a puffa jacket / woolly hat combo indoors. One of our bezzie mates is also self-employed, and a proper pikey skip-rat to boot. He can often be found with his legs hanging out of a skip when diving for treasures. He has standards just above eating road kill and has his arse hanging out of most of his clothes and kit. But he is the most talented surfer, kayaker, windsurfer, climber, mountain biker…the list goes on. And his chosen lifestyle means that he has time to invest doing these things, and dragging us along with him. Do we admire him for his sartorial elegance, flash car and gentlemanly grooming? Of course not, we love him because he is a walking, talking boys own adventure.
When we are choosing our latest Podcasts or Blogs to follow, do we choose people who are ‘doing a bit of agency work’, or those that are out and about in the great outdoors getting up to all manner of mischief? We would never put ourselves in the same category, but how gutted would you be to find that Ranulph Fiennes, on return from some highly sponsored bit of derring-do, got a job at Tesco in the winter? No, you want to imagine him training for his next futile but very exciting adventure, pulling tyres across the wilds of Exmoor rather than pushing trollies around Asda. That also leaves you the outside chance of shouting ‘Get a proper job!’ should you ever meet the work-shy weasel.
Still the niggling voice remains, and probably belongs to our bank manager. So we next find refuge in our stand-by position of self-justification, which goes something like – when I am inevitably shuffling off this mortal coil, assuming that I have the chance to leisurely reflect rather than a second of blind panic before I head-butt another tree, I don’t want to be looking back in relief at all the times I worked for minimum wage during the winter. I want to look back with a smile on my face, knowing that I humped every bit of life out of my aching body, albeit on a limited budget.
So during the winter we reach a compromise and manage to persuade ourselves that there is nothing better we could be doing with our time than building trails in Newnham Park! The South West racers are a demanding bunch who expect see something new when the Soggy Bottom series roars into life again, and who are we to deny them? We get to spend the day outdoors, playing with power tools and shovels, working out in nature’s gym. Just don’t expect a Christmas present.
Hand on hips, like a rock garden building, I'm a little tea-pot.
My brother Danny died in 2010 of a brain tumour.
He was 36 years old and left an unfillable, Danny-shaped hole in our world.
Some months after his death, his family came up with the idea of an annual running race dedicated to Danny, with the aim of raising money for charity, raising awareness of the horrors of brain tumours and giving his grieving family and friends something to focus their collective energies on. And so Danny’s Dash was born.
The response from friends, family and local businesses totally overwhelmed us from the start. Sponsorship of the event in the form of money, logistics, prizes and manpower flooded in and the event would have been a far smaller affair without all the support.
The event gave everyone that knew Danny the opportunity to come together in his name, shed a few tears, have a few laughs and send a big fat cheque off to Brain Tumour Research. We have raised £13,000 in the past five years, a fact that Danny would have been proud of.
So why are we stopping? Danny’s Dash 2016 was a new course, a new HQ and the event had a very different feel to it from a volunteer organisers’ point of view. A small, but very vocal minority among the runners took it as their opportunity to moan to the volunteers about everything from the course, the freebies, the prizes - you name it, someone moaned about it.
Everyone there is a volunteer, giving up a significant slice of their free time to make the event happen. We are aware that every runner there thinks that the event is all about them, but as I have described, Danny’s Dash has a very different meaning for those involved in its organisation.
The behaviour of this unfortunate minority group was not a fitting tribute to Danny, and they are not worthy of all the effort that is put in to the event. So we will proudly send another cheque to Brain Tumour Research, look back with immense pride at what Danny’s Dash has achieved over the five years and look forward to our new fundraising and awareness-raising venture.
Thank you to everyone that has helped Danny’s Dash happen. Paul Greenwood (Pag), the Carpet Factory, Dave and Stef the photographers, 156 squadron Air Cadets, Kerry and Sally the tea dollies, all the family members who donated money, especially Alex and Stacey Cooper who should have spent it on their new daughter instead. The Jolly Boys always came out to marshal, Nige was ever-reliable on the water station, and the list of folk who did dodgy deals with Rob to provide prizes goes on and on.
Thank you to all the runners who have participated in the true spirit of Danny’s Dash. Our advice to the rest is - next time you feel the need to approach event organisers with your ‘feedback’, think really, really carefully about what you are going to say before you open your mouth. No amount of clicking ‘like’ on Facebook after the event can undo the negativity you left behind on the day.
Onwards and upwards. Our new event plan, in conjunction with Brain Tumour Research is really exciting and will be held in Danny’s old stamping ground of Plymouth.
Strength and Honour.
This year, for the third time, we had the opportunity to take the South West Youth MTB squad to the Inter Regions MTB competition. With it having been held in Hadleigh for the past few years, we had always believed that 'at least it can't get any further away!' so they held it in Glasgow instead, on the Commonwealth Games circuit. Thanks for that.
The SW squad has limited resources and so weeks of price comparisons ensued, to try to find the cheapest and least horrendous way of getting ten people, nine bikes and a mountain of kit from one end of the country to the other. In the end, Carb Cycle's Simon Harmer did the hero drive, while we sauntered up with Easy Jet, obsessively counting heads in our group until they had their tray tables upright and seat belts buckled.
Glasgow airport, hire cars, sat nav battles, spot the Rab C Nesbitt lookalike, all the way to the posh digs at Paisley University. The boys and girls teams had a flat each and never the twain shall meet, overlooking the Paisley drunks and competitors already on their rollers.
Cathkin Brae is bloody freezing. Putting an event arena at the foot of a massive wind turbine is a glaring error, but we love wearing thermals and hoodies in July. First up, as always, was the skills comp. This year's format was - standing start, quickly into bunny hop, straight into 3 metre wheelie, ending with front wheel dropping onto a box and a track stand there, side hop, over a tricky skinny, cone square turn and repeat on the way back. Sound easy? Crack on lofty, and then try it four at a time, timed and closely scrutinised by a referee and all the other riders. Only two riders did clear runs, and every mistake cost a 10 second penalty. The SW's Patsy Caines won the girls' event, the first of several podiums for her. The team finished seventh out of twelve, a spot we managed to maintain throughout.
Just enough time to cool down, eat, drink, warm back up before the start of the handicap races. Based on the results of the skills, riders are set off in groups, ten second gaps between them, winner of the skills goes off first, 30 minute race...BOOM! SW's Tristan Davies snapped his chain on the start line and will be constantly reminded to check his chain from now on. No technical assistance and so he started running with his bike, from the start line! And it was a good job he did, as his teammate Max Hinds punctured his featherweight, tissue paper tyres, opted not to run, and left Tristan as our essential third scorer. The girls' team hold it together, Patsy taking 2nd, and we manage to hold on to our 7th place.
Cool down, eat, drink, warm up and it's time for the dirt crits. And you thought the vets' race at the Soggy series was tiring! Two heats in the dirt crits for both the boys and girls, leading to either the 'A' or 'B' final. Fiona Barron gets her usual flying start in her heat and leads it out for the first half lap before the wheels fall off. Her sister Helen makes it to the 'A' final and holds onto the front group containing Patsy Caines until the final lap. A long day in the saddle results in seventh place for the team. Cool down, eat, pack the van.
Back to the digs and no need to impose a curfew tonight. These events are awesome for dispelling all those 'big fish in a small pond' issues you get in Regional racing. Have a look at how all-round good the rest of the UK's kids are and be inspired. Now go to bed.
Another early breakfast and the kids again refuse to try black pudding or square sausage. What is the youth of today coming to? Load the van again, off to the venue and it's time for the team relay. After lengthy team chats, we nominated our two boys and two girls who will do one 1.5 km lap each. Pretty straightforward, but some rock gardens for the unwary. This is the time when the riders start getting tired and those mystery mechanicals start to blight everyone. We finish the race in sixth, with Patsy unable to out-sprint a six foot four youth boy with a full beard. She is SUCH a let down;)
Cool down, eat, drink, and let's go and recce the route for the cross country race!! Woo hoo! Morale, by now, is low. The course is awesome but not even the combined power of Torq gels and Pot Noodles can mask the pain. The race brings us more mechanical misery, but the whole team finish, albeit in a previously unseen level of exhaustion. Patsy took the win in the overall, the team remained stubbornly in seventh, say 'thank you for having us' and let's go. Load the van again, wave goodbye to Simon and off to the Harvester for unlimited soft drinks (a never to be repeated mistake!), another sat nav Mexican stand off on the way to the airport, interminable airport faffing and home by 0100.
Thanks to - Simon Harmer for being a diesel demon, BC's Justin Knox for raising the funds, BC's Ric Jameson for putting on a great event, and all the parents for all they do for their kids.
Well done to our 2016 Inter Regional team who were - Alex Whitemore, Finn Woodrow, Max Hinds, Tristan Davies, Helen Barron, Fiona Barron and Patsy Caines.
The Continuum of Gnarl isn’t some God-awful sci-fi comic, full of 3 breasted aliens and too many consonants.
Nor is it a throw-back Goth’n’Roll band - mascara, black clobber, shoe gazing and an aversion to smiling a speciality. No, the Continuum of Gnarl is a way of thinking about the spectrum of mountain bike racing in terms of its technical demands. For us, thinking about the Continuum stops us being one trick ponies, it means that riders across the Continuum are catered for, and it means that those riders will always have somewhere to go to, either up or down the Continuum.
For riders, they can jump on the Continuum of Gnarl at different levels. We’ll let them know the level a certain event is at, they can choose to either remain at that level, back off, or advance to the point where we have to name an ‘A’ line after them. We all have our limits; you just have to be honest and realistic about where your riding limits are before you have to test the limit of how much blood you can lose on the way to hospital.
Here’s how the Continuum of Gnarl has looked so far in 2016 –
Green / Blue. The Summer Soggy series has been firmly fixed in the green / blue category. We have hidden the shovels and made sure that we don’t get carried away by including the technical stuff we often stumble across in our rambles in Newnham Park. The Summer Soggies have been the kind of race courses you can do sat bolt upright in the saddle with a basket on the front. Mums and Dads, kids and Grannies can all ride a Summer Soggy, but you’ll still cream in if you go too quick and don’t pay attention. Short course, pretty flat, the hills were alive to the sound of riders shouting ‘Weeee!’ Welcome to Step One on the Continuum. Survived it? Loved it? Then proceed forthwith to the next level.
Blue / Red. Here on the Continuum of Gnarl we find the Soggy Bottom Winter Series. Admittedly in the past couple of years we’ve included some pretty cheeky ‘black’ sections in order to get them ready and bedded-in for the Nationals, but we never need to do that again, so we are firmly back in the blue / red category. You’ll need to get out of the saddle (yes, even you on the Zesty) and the weather will play a part in the techniness, but mostly blue with a couple of red ‘A’ lines is the order of the day. Bacon bap, flushing (just) toilets and all the SW MTBers in one place for a chat and a knees-up, we’ve always loved it. Too much? Then have a go at the local ‘cross league, of which there are a seemingly infinite number, and we’ll see you again at the Summer Soggies. Survived it? Loved it? Then do the rest of the series and maybe have a stab at a National XC.
Red / Black. Step Three on the Continuum of Gnarl, and as far as we (currently) go at Fully Sussed, are the Red / Black courses we used to do for the National XC. This is top of the tree, National level stuff, so it should be another hefty step above the rest of the series shurely? You’ve got to be able to do all the stuff you saw at the previous level, and then have your balls strapped on pretty tight for the nastiness you’ll encounter here. For the riders who can then proceed along the Continuum of Gnarl to enduro / down-hill / any XC outside the UK, this is still pretty straight-forward stuff, whereas for the rest of us this is as far as we go. Too much? You’ve found your limit, hit the ‘B’ lines, enjoy the ride and go home safe in the knowledge that you are still full of your own Rhesus Positive.
It may be that not all regions have a decent Continuum of Gnarl. Racing in the South West has always given us a healthy challenge and reason to hit the woods on the Monday morning to practice those skills we ballsed-up in the race at the weekend. If the races in a particular region stop at the Green / Blue level of the Continuum, then it’s a hell of a jump to a Double Diamond. We all love the fact that the Continuum exists and love to see the photos and videos of riders at the top end pinning seriously techy sections, jumping, crashing, trashing their bikes. It might not be for all of us, but it has to exist for the spectrum to exist.
We are currently planning our Continuum of Gnarl for 2017. Should be something for everyone!