The Military Challenge MTBO and Long Foot-O events have long been part of the annual British MTBO calendar. I have competed for the last 4 events which are always held just before or just after Christmas and the New Year. Each year the format changes slightly, with variations between score and line courses, around Aldershot or a.n.other town in the area.
This year was no different, except for the several inches of snow which covered the SE of England and subsequently Camberley, the event location. It certainly made a change from the recent years rain, mist and extreme cold! Having been focussing a great deal of my time and efforts into my dissertation, my training frequency has declined in the autumn, taking the peak end of my fitness with it. It was a strategic move to ride the B course, 25km, which on a good day would take in the region of 90 minutes, if not a little longer.
With the snowfall overnight, conditions were slippery, with many of the minor roads coated in ice and the puddles and tank holes in the area completely iced over and treacherous to any rider.
Game Plan: to take this race at 75% of race pace, try not to die in the snow, and get more confident at riding through snow and ice!
With 6 maps to navigate across (or around) multiple map changes were needed which was seemingly at every control, where cold fingers and stuck together maps didn’t really aid matters.
I was having a ‘good’ race and with 15% of the course left, I was tiring both mentally and physically. After successfully finding what was argueably the most technical control on the course, my brain power was at a low. Even crossing a main road was a challenge in itself, and with the snowy leaves underfoot, the hill beyond was an equal struggle resulting in a bit of a push. Unfortunately I missed the control on the pylon here and realised a couple of minutes on. The other problem which reared its ugly head at about this time, was that every time I put my feet in the snow, the soles got caked in snow and therefore ice, which made riding difficult due to my inability to ‘clip-in’ to the pedals.
I finished 3rd after 2 hours and 15 minutes, which isn’t too bad! Looking on the bright side it is my best result to date at the Military Challenge. My placing was enough to see me win the 2009 B course in the MTBO league. Race Analysis with Dad proved interesting when we found there were 7 seconds separating us at the 14th control, where his 20 minute mistake saw him drop a lot of time.
Sitting at the outside cafe after was pleasant and bought back many memories of skiing a few years ago. What a stunning view when covered in snow!