The last few years have seen the growth of the grass roots enduro races put on by Doon Tha Brae Events. This year however they held the inaugural Aberdeenshire Enduro Series. Three races held over the late summer on some of Aberdeenshires best natural trails.
And whilst the prospect of every stage of an entire series being within half an hours drive from home was tempting, I took a different approach. Volunteering as a marschal and being the course back marker for each event.
As the back marker, I would be one of two who would be sweeping the course. Making sure all those racing were safely off the course and helping out with anyone who was having a bad day.
So being course sweep seemed like the perfect compromise.
This sounded like the perfect setup to me. All the atmosphere of being part of a race or event and the focus of riding a taped off trail. But none of the self imposed stress and pressure of being on the clock.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love racing, you will never feel faster than when you are racing. But I am not very good at racing. I enjoy it, it is a hell of a lot of fun, but you don’t have to be good at something to enjoy it. I like watching marathons, but I’m not about to run one. And part of the reason I’m rubbish at racing (apart from generally being slow), is the stress of being on the clock, So being course sweep seemed like the perfect compromise.
The first race was the Aboyne Enduro, it was a great course with ideal weather both on the day and in the run up. In short, perfect. The stages were in prime condition and the crowd were in high spirits. Now as a course sweep, there are certain fringe benefits that you don’t get to enjoy in the same way as you would if you were racing.
Like being able to session a section of a stage because theres a photographer and you just want to try for a better shot? Or why not push back up and do that drop again, get that line dialled better second try? You have the time, why not enjoy it!
You also have the dubious pleasure of helping people who are having very bad days and trying to help them out if they need it. From minor mechanicals, to wheels so badly tachoed that the axle wont even come out the hub (that one felt like an expensive phone call from the bike shop). Now whilst I genuinely had no schadenfreude from these unfortunate events, the best stories tend to be the dramatic ones.
The main thing for me that was different from almost all my other race experiences, was just how much more social the whole experience was. When racing by myself, it has been a fairly solitary experience. You have chat with folk, but mostly, I’m either in my head or the pain cave. Without this, having time to kill at the start of each stage and with the agency of being a marschal. Striking up conversation and generally having a some banter with other racers and marschals was a highlight.
The second stage was a hilariously slick Hill of Fare. There was less drama on the mechanical side of things, thanks mostly to Bennachie Bike Bothy having a service station mid race. Less drama meant no one was having a really bad day, so win win.
The third stage was going to be at Drumtochty Glen. A venue that I knew best, and one I was really looking forward to and as the course looped around itself, there would be a good atmosphere on course. Unfortunatley, things would conspire against me being on course that day. A casual little hernia surgery got in the way of that.
So we while have to come back next year to collect the full set.