When Mr Outdoor-Girl first pressed send on his entry form months ago, I added the date in my diary to go along as his most enthusiastic supporter.
The immediate question springing to your minds might be why on earth I was planning on supporting rather than entering myself, especially bearing in mind the fact that I spend most weekends on the trails with said husband.
Well, multiple reasons come into play – from the daunting distance (although that’s something which can be trained for) through to the difficulty I have in dealing with event nerves and adrenaline (something I’d like to understand more about, especially when I hear of male and female pro athletes puking from nerves before their competition events and then using the adrenaline to help them perform better – I’ve never got further than the wanting to puke stage).
When I’ve not got the stress of riding, I love the atmosphere of being at big events. So, is it worth going along to events like the Hamsterley Beast and ‘Ard Rock Enduro when you have no intention of racing (or maybe missed out on securing one of the coveted rider entries).
Well, in my opinion, yes it is.
These events are a great buzz, full of positive energy. You can enjoy all the fringe activities (overnight campers at the Hamsterley Beast were treated to beer, burgers and bands), feel part of the fun, take pictures, chat mountain biking with a multitude of enthusiasts and, in the case of bigger events, go visit the trade stands.
Sometimes, I think it’s cheating to feel so involved and energised by these events without actually participating, but I guess that’s the point I’m really trying to make here.
I got to chat with some of the marshals, who were great and full of information (thanks for the pointers about where to ride). I also came across one of the event check points, so spent time chilling along with event participants (and met the lovely Natalie Fraser https://stylinglines.wordpress.com who I knew from Twitter chats).
I rode a new section of bike park type trail, which was still being built and only open to event riders. In my defence, it was purely by accident! I was looking for the red return route and the trail I was following had been closed off with no diversion signs for non event riders – it was something of a surprise when the trail became a muddy track and a digger came into view.
I had my picture taken by official event photographers and even received a cheery well done from a spectator (actually that one did make me feel a bit of a fraud, having done little more than a quarter of the mileage).
But the overall memory I took away from the Hamsterley Beast was one of pure enjoyment. The atmosphere felt like a very small ‘Ard Rock weekend and something which had been put together by a group of friends wanting to get together for a laugh (yet still professionally managed).
Talking about ‘Ard Rock…..I absolutely love that weekend and I’m glad my husband enters because it means I get to enjoy it. With entries being so competitive though (he got up at 6am to ensure a place and I believe they had all gone within 15 minutes of opening), if he’d not managed to get a place I would probably still have suggested packing the tent for the weekend.
If by now I’ve spiked your interest in joining me as an unofficial event supporter, check out the Steel City Downhill (usually held annually in May). Entrants here vary from young kids through to the wonderfully named Granny McGnarly (Pat Horscroft who at the grand age of 73 is the eldest competitor) and you can enjoy wandering around the trade stands before sampling one of the locally based street food or ale outlets. I love the Steel City Downhill and it always brings a big grin to my face.
So yes, I firmly believe that you can fully enjoy and participate in a mountain bike challenge weekend without even crossing the starting line.
To all you fellow unofficial event supporters, see you at the next one 👏
Hamsterley Beast event info – taken from the website
The Hamsterley Beast is a mountain bike ride based at Hamsterley Forest. Established in 2015 with the aim of raising funds to support the Great North Air Ambulance, the first event attracted over 150 riders. In 2016 over 350 riders entered, raising £17,500 pounds for the charity. 2017 had entries capped at 500, with campers the night before enjoying burgers, beer and bands.