Paluma Push MTB Race – Mountain Biking is awesome.

Paluma Push 2014 has just wrapped up for another year and this hugely popular event sold out in just 4 days with a massive 650 entries.  I have been watching some footage of this years race and it had me remembering just how great this event is and so I thought I would do a quick post on my experience in my first MTB race.  If you have been thinking about trying the whole mountain bike thing out, check out this video clip as I think it captures the spirit of the Paluma Push and mountain biking in general.  I love getting off the beaten track and there are some fantastic trails around and suitable for all skill levels.

As I have mentioned previously, due to having many, many kids in a short timeframe, I would get my exercise fix from sitting on an exercise bike while the kids slept.  When the kids were a little older and I was at a point where I wanted to challenge myself the most obvious choice for me was to look at a bike race.  The trouble was I hadn’t ridden a bike that actually moved for quite some time and I didn’t even own a bike!!   There were several reasons I chose mountain biking.  One reason was that I thought it would be a great activity that the family could enjoy as most clubs have  a range of organised activities including social rides, MTB events, senior and junior skills workshops, and Townsville Rockwheelers also organised camp outs too.   The other thing that appealed to me was that it was away from traffic and roads and I didn’t need to pit my new riding skills against a car!!

Riding the bike that don't move!

Riding the bike that don’t move!

My first bike was a Focus hardtail, Black Forest 29R, chosen by my husband as I had absolutely no clue and didn’t know the difference between a hardtail and dual suspension.  I loved that bike.  I started riding along bike paths initially but was still doing the bulk of my riding on the exercise bike and/or spin classes.  My cousin kindly offered to take me on my first trail ride.  OMG, I thought I was going to die.  There was no skill involved on my part, I just held on and bounced crazily over every bump, log and rock.  I could not wait for the ride to end and I was amazed that I didn’t come off.  I persisted with it and am so glad I did as I rode some wonderful trails with spectacular scenery.  My favourite would have to be the Under the Radar track in Townsville, but I also rode other fantastic trails in Townsville, the Atherton Tablelands and in Mareeba.  I have had several stacks including one where I hit a stationary tree because I didn’t want to ride over a rock.  Should have chosen the rock!  Then there was the time I went to stop to allow a couple of spunky young male riders to pass and not so gracefully fell off my bike across the trail in front of them.  Not my finest moment.  There was also a memorable encounter with a rather large snake.

Unexpected visitor on a social ride with Townsville Rockwheelers.

Unexpected visitor on a social ride with Townsville Rockwheelers.

In the final lead up to training for the Paluma Push, I was averaging about 100km of riding a week.  I would do one flatter, longer road ride (45km), one session of spin/stationary bike (35km), and an off-road mountain bike ride (20-30km).  I also cycled up Mt Stuart several times in the lead up to the race as I had heard Paluma Push involved quite a hilly track.  About a week out, I went to collect my race kit only to be told that my husband was registered but not me!!  I don’t know how that happened but I was devastated.  My lovely husband somehow managed to sweet talk race organisers into letting me race in his place….in the male category.

Oops! A mistake in registration led to me taking my husband's spot in the male category.

Oops! A mistake in registration led to me taking my husband’s spot in the male category.

Coming in to the finish line where they threw in a sneaky last hill.

Coming in to the finish line where they threw in a sneaky last hill.

Despite all the mishaps I made it to race day in one piece.  Paluma Push 2013 had about 500 competitors and the atmosphere was electric.  I think what makes this event so popular is friends and family come out in droves to support the riders and all the volunteers make it such a well run event.  It has a real community feel, riders of all skill levels and all body shapes come to give it a go.  I really enjoyed the ride and finished in about 2hrs.  I placed 70th overall and was the 7th female across the line.  Was I proud?  Damn straight I was.  I was proud that I had trained hard and consistently for this event, proud that I gave it a go, and proud that my kids got to see their Mum participate in a sporting event.  It was also one of the first times that I realised that maybe I wasn’t quite over the hill, that motherhood didn’t mean the end of participating in things I want to do, and that I had a few more good miles in these tyres of mine.