BASE DOWNHILL/ MOUNTAIN BIKING COURSE
BASE DOWNHILL/ MOUNTAIN BIKING COURSE by Elena Melton
What is it?
Within the Borders college- situated in the town of Galashiels- there is the Borders Academy of Sporting Excellence, or BASE for short. That offers courses for performance athletes in rugby, football, and mountain biking, and a general sport and exercise course.
On the mountain bike course you get three days a week in college: in the gym with a very highly qualified gym trainer, and in the classroom doing written work which will give you a BTEC qualification in Sport and Exercise. You also get two full days out riding with the Dirt School Coaches- some of best and most experienced coaches around.
Within the class work we have a number of assignments we have to do and two online assessments. Throughout the year you learn about types of fitness; how to train for different types of fitness, how to plan a training programme, anatomy and physiology, lifestyle and wellbeing, how your body reacts when doing exercise, analysing your own performance, a bit of psychology and lots more.
Course length: Full-time 36 weeks, Further Education programme, 3 to 4 days per week in College
BTEC Level 2 in Sport - Downhill/Mountain Biking (Performance) at SCQF Level 5
BTEC Level 3 in Sport - Downhill/Mountain Biking (Performance & Excellence)
Location: Scottish Borders Campus
The course gives students the opportunity to be coached by staff from the Dirt School at the world class mountain biking facility at Glentress, Peebles along with the study of theoretical units such as Fitness Testing in Sport and Psychology for Sport at Scottish Borders Campus.
This programme is designed to develop the competitive abilities of an athlete and it is expected that applicants will already be competing and performing under race conditions.
National 5 award in English or equivalent and National 5 award in Physical Education.
Candidates without any formal academic qualifications may be considered at interview.
Selection will be subject to satisfactory interview and positive references.
Progression Opportunities: After Level 2 go on to study a Level 3 Diploma in Sport
Qualification Awarding Body: BTEC (Business and Technology Education Council)
When to apply: Applications are accepted from December for courses starting in August the year after e.g. apply from December 2016 for courses starting August 2017.
Mountain Biking - Level 2 FT
My experience on the course
by Elena Melton
I started the course in September 2015 and began to love it immediately. The gym work was hard and we were getting out riding most days- it was awesome!
One warm Wednesday evening in September, about a month after I had started the course, I was riding downhill bikes up the downhill trails with my two housemates and, my friend, Cairn. Long story short I way over estimated the size of a jump and landed basically into the next one. I must have landed on my head as I smashed my helmet and came down with a lot of force on my front and wrist. For a minute, I couldn't breathe…
…finally I got a gasp of air, and I began to realise that I couldn't move my wrist.
I ended up in hospital for a night as they were worried about internal bleeding or something like that, but luckily that was all ok. However, a fractured scaphoid, some fractured ribs, a partially collapsed lung, pulled muscles in my abdomen, lots of bruises, and cuts put me completely out of action for a week or two.
When I came back to college I was determined to still do as much as I could on the course. In the gym Kenny was really supportive, and helped me with variations of exercises so I would keep up a bit of strength, and he gave me lots of things to do to work on my balance and core. And I would try and get out on as many ride days as I could, just riding my XC bike one handed up all the hills and then watching them session areas and listen in on all the coaching points.
After being in a cast for 7 weeks, when I finally got it off I thought things would get better immediately. But what I didn't realise was that was only the start of the recovery process. And a very long process at that.
My hand and wrist could hardly move, all the muscles and tendons were very tight and weak, and my wrist was still very sore, I kept worrying that it was still broken. I could still hardly do any of the stuff the others were doing in the gym with weightlifting bars, and I couldn't ride any of the trails they were doing on ride days.
During the next few weeks the movement and strength got gradually better. But it felt like anytime I took step forward and it looked like it was improving, I would take 2 steps backwards and it would get worse again. I wrote down some of the little milestones I reached to keep myself positive.
Day of getting cast off:
Back riding jumps and smooth trails (with Loic Bruni!!)
Few days after getting cast off:
Back deadlifting with bar
Starting to put light weight on wrist with small dumbbells
A week after getting cast off:
One legged squats holding 10kg weight in front of me
Holding just over 300W for over 3 minutes on the rollers
A week and a half after getting cast off:
Back to deadlifting 40kg
First time running over 20km
Back doing press ups on my fists
Wrist visibly moving more and more flexible each day
2 weeks after getting cast off:
Deadlifting 60kg for the first time
4 weeks after getting cast off:
1 rep max on front squat- 50kg
1 rep max on deadlift- 75kg
As it was coming up to the Christmas holidays the frustration was beginning to build up. Even though I had made some progress it felt like I may as well still be in a cast. Any time I tried to ride any trails my wrist and thumb were so painful and stiff and I knew riding on it, and jolting it about like that wasn't helping it to heal at all. My physio and college tutor Kenny told me that I should take a complete break from off road riding over the Christmas holidays. So for two weeks I just did road cycling and running, and some bodyweight strength exercises. When I came back to riding after the new year it was amazing how much better my wrist felt.
6 weeks after getting cast off:
Can put some pressure on my wrist, doing press ups without fully straightening arm
7 weeks after getting cast off:
First time riding Enduro bike again with no wrist pain
First time riding Downhill bike since I crashed, over 3 months ago
Back doing push press with 25kg
Back doing clean lifts with light weight
When I knew that I could ride without a lot of pain I thought that things would go back to how they used to be again. But I very quickly realised this was far from the truth. Going back to riding properly with Base after the Christmas holidays was really tough. They were onto riding the downhill bikes on the Innerleithen downhill trails. But they had already spent weeks dialling their techniques and getting their confidence up, building up to the technical, steep trails we were now riding. They were all riding fast and confidently and weren't afraid to try things and get loose or crash sometimes. Although my wrist was now feeling a lot better, I had missed out on all of this. I wasn't feeling confident on the bike at all, and constantly in the back of my mind was the fear of crashing again and hurting my wrist again which was still quite vulnerable.
I had to make a big effort to think about my technique and line choice on all the bits we were sessioning. I felt a lot of pressure to very quickly relearn techniques and get fast.
But after the first few days, I began to relax into the fun atmosphere of ride days again. And I began to see improvements each day I rode. I was still pretty scared, but I was loving riding again and was beginning to get the feel of the bike and a good body position again. Andy, Ruaridh, and Rab, and even all the others on the course were really encouraging. I couldn't have asked for a better environment to come back from injury into.
Note from editor: Elena plans to complete this year and a second year at BASE before going on to take a place at University of Sterling to study a degree in Sports Science.
More about Elena: Elena has been riding competitively for many years and last year took part in the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup (DH) and the Enduro World Series. This year she will be riding with the Female Riders Race Team. To see more about her click here, and to see more about the rest of the team click here.
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