Oh dear! It’s been about a month since we did our third Mini Burn, all the wet and muddy stuff has been washed, dried and put away and The Cub has done the obligatory “show and tell” at school. Time for the race report! In particular since we’ve just heard the date of the next MiniBurn so better publish this before it’s really way too late!
Saturday the 2nd of April, race morning and our world looks like a belated April’s Fools Day. The skies are pouring all they can on us, it’s cold, slightly windy and The Cub complains of a sore calf that she got the previous day while playing in puddles!
It’s still early in the morning and those competing in the longer Burn are already gone. It will soon be our turn to tread the start line. A quick interview for the Wave radio, and we’re standing between the large Inov8 inflatable columns, trembling, hooded and gloved up but ready to go.
We’re off and I try to stick to a simple “run strategy”. It goes like this: I know The Cub can run and I also know roughly the times she took for our first two Mini Burns. I’m certain she can do better and my aim is to prove it to her as 3 km remains a massive mental hurdle for her. So the target here is to run at just under 6 min per kilometre, which she should be able to do! But for some reason the fire isn’t there.
Is it the rain, the cold, running with mum which feels like a chore or is that calf really so painful that she can’t run well? Whatever the reason, we experience a mini meltdown on the Mini Burn run. Tears get mixed in rain, I have to deal with the unexpected, quick! Think of something. So we walk a short, predefined distance “see those two paths crossing over there? We’ll walk through the crossing then run again”. So we run again and before we know it, we’re almost back. Big smiles, waves and silly faces for the photos are a sure way of lifting the mood before we hop onto the kayak.
I think that being on the water will give her a rest and that we’ll have some fun but again, something is not quite right with The Cub. Today she simply doesn’t get it! Our paddles keep on colliding and she even dips hers in the wrong way. I try calling the strokes (left, right, left, right and so on) but it doesn’t work. In the end she decides she’s tired and stops trying, pointing out how the ducks and geese have left the pond and escaped to smaller and quieter puddles. Hey! surprise! we get faster, her attempts had actually slowed us down! I don’t say a thing about it, preferring to get her mind ready for what’s next: the bike. As we near the bank, I try to switch her mind back onto the job by talking her through what is going to happen in transition.
All goes smoothly in transition but as we exit the bike park, one of her food bars drops in the mud, I pick it up and put it in my pocket to feed her morsels on the way. With all the rain, I expect the grassy bits to be thoroughly soaked and there’s no disappointment there. The first section is actually a field but behaves like a bog. I instruct The Cub to follow the path I take and she surprises me by handling brilliantly the difficult and very muddy conditions. When we get back onto a drier path, I open the bar and feed her a couple of pieces. This is when she tells me she’s lost her bar and I inform her that I picked it up and that she’s eating it at the moment. Somehow this cheers her up and we’re back working as a team.
As we take a technical rest on a short tarmac section, I suggest a simple strategy: go fast where we can (i.e. where it’s not so wet and muddy) and don’t slow down too much when going downhill. After that all goes well through mud, gravel and positive gradients, again she almost makes the difficult conditions look easy.
We arrive at the bottom of The Hill and she tackles the first section really well. Then as we branch off towards the long loop, we both dismount and start pushing the bikes. Unlike previous sunnier times, I see no point wasting energy trying to make it through the mud and soaked ground. The climb is in two halves, the first is steep and rocky, followed by a short flat track then the second half, in all its steep and grassy sogginess.
You can see tyre marks where other competitors’ wheels failed to grip. Again we decide to push. As the slope eases a bit towards the end, we climb back on and my chain drops. I put it back on, get back on the bike, put my feet in the pedals and push hard to get climbing. The pesky chain drops again. It’s when I put it back for the second time that I realise the front chainring is very loose. And for a good reason: two of the four bolts that hold it in place have disappeared and the other two are on they way to falling off too. This NEVER happens! Why now? So I get the tool box out and the marshal that sits in the rain at the top of the hill comes to investigate. I’m thankful that he’s there as he can put some extra man-strength into tightening the last two remaining bolts.
Then a longish false flat through sticky mud that takes a toll on The Cub and we reach the turnaround checkpoint. There’s a short steep and muddy descent with a muddy stream at the bottom followed by a short, steep and muddy climb. I talk The Cub through how to negotiate these various difficulties and she does brilliantly even managing the climb without dismounting. Good girl!
Then it’s (almost) all downhill! Suddenly, a stag jumps in front of The Cub as we cycle along a stream at the bottom of the valley. Frightened by our two bikes and not knowing which way to go he runs ahead of us for a short while, a beautiful unforgettable sight and a real treat for The Cub.
Finally we get back to the transition area that has taken on a distinct mud-bath appearance and set off on the orienteering! There are some activities to complete at each check point, which adds a bit of spice to the experience…
We get changed, we try to wipe off some of the mud and to dry off a bit and then we’re off for a lovely hot-dog for Liane, a burger and beer for Mr Tiger who had volunteered at the kayaks during the event and a vegan burger for me… What a treat to get some hot food after the event!
We also watch some of the animations, with Dryad Bushcraft bravely showing how you to start a fire with nothing more than flint and some tinder.
It turns out we came 3rd in the under 10 category and The Cub is totally chuffed at being the only girl on the podium… Great experience for her, even if she didn’t really feel on top of her game this time.
I’ve just asked The Cub whether she’s up for the next event on the 8th of October, she says “yes epic!”.
I’ll leave it there then and am off to sign up for the next edition!