In edition two of The Strathpuffer Diaries, Anna Riddell tells us about the training that she and Fiona Finnie are undertaking to prepare for the legendary Strathpuffer 24 Hour MTB race. Sadly, not longer after writing this, the organisers were forced to postpone the race to January 2022 due to you-know-what. Look out for more from Anna and Fiona next year...
When entries for the Strathpuffer opened back in August, the January event seemed like AGES away… plenty of time for training, or so we thought. But much like it does every year, time has flown and we find ourselves in November, with the days shorter, the temperatures starting to dip and race day fast approaching. So what have we been doing between August and now to prepare for the toughest 24 hour race on the planet?
While we are both reasonably fit and have raced endurance and enduro events before, Fiona and I are not professional athletes. Our training has to fit around a busy work and family life - trust me it’s no mean feat just finding the time. In all honesty, training so far has been unstructured and varied but the motivation to do ‘stuff’ is there and while we would both normally be winding down the training for the year, we’ve been keeping it consistent and are starting to ramp things up as the event gets closer.
We’ve been getting together for the odd ride when we can but we’ve each been doing our own thing for training, working on what we need to as individuals. One thing our training plan does have in common is running. We’ve both been getting out once a week minimum. It’s a great cardio work out, boosts fitness quickly and we actually enjoy it. Fiona lives in the Cairngorms and I live by the coast so while we are both doing the same thing, it’s on pretty different terrain. I love running on the beach with the wind in my hair, it’s good for the soul.
My training has also been focused on building up strength and resilience – both physically and mentally. I’m in the gym twice a week lifting weights and working towards all over body strength: squats, bench press, deadlift and chin ups. The ‘Puffer requires pedal power of course, but it’s going to be a rough ride so holding on and maintaining a good riding position will be key.
My other training venue is the Moray Firth for wild swimming. A bit crazy, but it’s the best mental prep – becoming comfortable with the uncomfortable takes practice and I’m a believer that resilience can be built. Who wants to get into a choppy, windy ocean on a Sunday morning - you really don’t, but you just do it. It’s hard, it hurts and it’s very uncomfortable, yet strangely enjoyable. The strength, clarity, focus and joy you take away from it leaves you buzzing.
As enduro racers we are used to riding technical terrain and since we do most of that in Scotland we are used to adverse weather conditions too. With that in mind, we’ve no worries about the technicality of the ‘Puffer course - there are some technical climbs (and some real slogs.) as well as a few rocky sections to contend with, but hopefully even while half asleep at 4 am in the morning, our experience and automatic riding responses to technical situations will get us round the course safely.
So I guess after weights, running and swimming, all that’s left is to actually ride our bikes more. I’m still very busy with coaching and guiding so its proving hard for me to fit any more in. Surely pedalling on and off all day with a heavy guiding/coaching bag accounts for something? I sure hope so. Our next plan is to go on some easy low-effort long rides to build stamina and confidence that we can handle the distance, plus the bit we are most looking forward to - practising eating all the snacks.
Words: Anna Riddell
Photos: Ronan Duggan