Brighton Big Dog: Big fun

A couple of weeks ago I did something entirely out of my comfort zone. I did my first race.

The Brighton Big Dog is an endurance race that’s been running for six years. It’s held in Stanmer Park, just outside the city, and sees mountain bikers from all over the place riding for six hours round and round a specially marked out course through the woods. I took part with the Mr, riding in a relay in the mixed pairs category.

This is not something I had ever done, or even really contemplated doing, before. But when the lovely Lois of Claud and I mentioned the Big Dog to me, describing its relaxed and happy atmosphere, I knew I had to give it a go.

It was with much trepidation that we headed down to Brighton on the Friday afternoon. But good company, in the form of Lois, a pint of cider and a delicious Thai meal later, and I was feeling a little more settled. Until the next morning, when I realised that I was about to do a race!

After a little drama involving a flat tyre on Lois’ car and moving a whole lot of Velocity GB stock into our van for Lois to sell on the day, we arrived at Stanmer Park to bright sunshine and a field of happy looking people with bikes. There was a big, inflatable start/finish gate across a taped off track and I was reminded that I was there to take part in a race.

The first event of the day was the Big Dog Little Dog – races for kids who did a shorter version of the course. There was super cute mini people on bikes, some of whom were uber competitive! It was great to see so many children riding bikes, and even better to see so many young girls taking part.

As time ticked on, I got more and more nervous. There were sooooo many people there (over 500, or so I’ve heard) and some of them looked pretty serious. The time for the start came round and the Mr lined up with the keen beans. We’d decided he’d do the first two laps and then I’d take over. Honestly, I felt sick at this point. I was pacing and couldn’t focus. When he came back into sight after his second lap, I stepped out into the track with my heart in my mouth.

And then it all became fun! I was riding in a race! And a really friendly race at that. Every time someone overtook me on the climbs (and that happened quite a lot), we’d have a little bit of banter. And then we had banter as I caught them up on the downhills too. Half way round my first lap I started to find it hard. There was a whole lot of pedalling in a lap and I hadn’t managed to eat much that morning. I started to get dizzy and swore that this was the only lap I’d do.

I came off the course after the lap and Lois found me a hot dog to scoff. It went down quickly and I paced some more, before heading out for lap two. Lap two, I enjoyed. I started to think about it as going for a ride, rather than racing. I pedalled hard where I could, but didn’t beat myself up when I couldn’t. It was a whole heap of fun. And so was lap three, although by lap three I really was wobbly. But I did it! I did three whole laps of the Brighton Big Dog.

The Mr and I didn’t place too far up the rankings, but we weren’t last either. I’m really proud of myself for putting myself outside of my comfort zone and doing something that made me so nervous. And I’m already looking forward to doing it all again next year. Who knows, maybe I’ll manage four laps….

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