Okay, well its description includes things like “they don't come much tougher than this” and “the legendary 24 hour mountain bike endurance event”. Not to mention the fact that the event takes place in the middle of the Scottish winter. So why did I do it???
I have to admit that I was never keen on the idea of racing. Serious competition leaves me cold. I did it because I liked the idea of the challenge and I love mountain biking. Could we really keep going the whole 24 hours and survive the freezing cold night, and being so tired? By this stage we had met Lee and Rickie who showed us that it wasn’t just about the competition - I saw that I could get some of the fun I get out of MTB with a few extra thrills if I did the Puffer.
Of course, I also did it to be able to say, “oh yeah, I did the Puffer…” - and see people’s reactions when they heard that a 14-year-old girl took part in such an event. I probably don’t fit the stereotypical Puffer participant!
On the morning of the Puffer I met Jenny, who I would later be riding a lap with. On my first lap I was accompanied by both Lee and Mrs Wilson. They both kept talking to me during the lap, encouraging me to keep pushing. They always made me laugh and forget about the pain in my legs as I pedalled up the endless hills – or so it seemed at the time! During my second lap I was accompanied by Jenny, who is one of the cheeriest people I have ever met. She was so full of energy, encouraging me to keep pedalling through the cold and empty darkness, and urging me on to the end of my lap.
Lee and Jenny really inspired me to push past my limits, and nowhere more so than on my final lap. My teammate before me came in only at 9.30, and by this stage I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to finish my lap before 11 o’clock. And everyone around me was doubting whether I would make it, and whether I should even start the lap. When she came around the corner, seconds before I would start my final lap, I had a huge adrenaline rush and told myself I would do it, and that it didn’t matter if I came in after 11: at least that way I would have kept my end up with the team and completed the same number of laps as the other three.
But I lost confidence when we got to the never-ending hills, and didn’t think I would make it. However, Lee and I soon got to the Kinellan view seat which, to me, marked three quarters of the way through my lap. I looked at my watch and saw it was 10.30. At that moment I decided that I was going to go for it. I told Lee, and she started giving me a crash course in going downhill fast in the ice and snow, and encouraging me to give the last bit of the lap 100%. I looked at my watch a second time 20 minutes later, and a huge rush of adrenaline flowed through me – again. I started pedalling the hardest I had ever pedalled, and flew down the last little hill to hear a surprised crowd realising that I had made it before 11!!! I couldn’t believe I’d actually done it! I was so, so happy… But I couldn’t have done it without the support and encouragement from Lee and Jenny through the night.
Taking part in the Puffer was like a microcosm of my experience of mountain biking: although it can sometimes make me feel tired and sore, especially on the uphill bits, at the end of the ride I get a great feeling, and want to go out all over again. And I love roaming the trails with no limits to where I can go, and exploring without a timetable…. There are just endless ways to have fun on a bike!