Being part of the ‘world famous’ Dark Side
I hear riders finishing the Highland Fling almost break down talking about their experience on Brokeback Mountain, but then recall with smiling faces the fun flow had through Love, Love, Love…and I cry, smile and nod with them in agreement.
I’ve ridden so many of these famous sections of the Highland Fling many times. In fact, over the course of the days leading into the race weekend, I ride Brokeback Mountain so many times it would make grown men cry.
You’ll find me on the startline for the Highland Fling every year, but to date, it remains one MTB marathon I haven’t raced (and now never will). You see, I’m on the Dark Side.
How does one get on the Dark Side?
In my case, it happened to coincide with my first year of mountain bike racing. I was training for my first race, when I had a bit of a run-in with a tree, and then the ground. The bike was fine BTW – not so much the rider.
After surgery to put my shoulder back together and a couple of months in a sling, the Fling rolled around. I had sold (apparently otherwise referred to as ‘conned a friend into racing a Full Fling’) my race entry, but headed to the event anyway to support my husband who was racing. The fact it was our wedding anniversary meant I couldn’t not!
I knew I was going to be hanging around for a while waiting for him to finish (no offence if you’re reading this honey) and so asked the event organisers if there was anything I could do to help. I was directed to register for the Dark Side, and spent the race helping out with things around the event centre. You know, making sure there’s toilet paper, clipping off timing chips, holding up riders who couldn’t make it off their bike after crossing the line – those things you are super thankful for when you’re at a race and racing!
I loved it and left the event with an ‘if there’s anything I can do just let me know…’ chat with Huw.
That was in 2010. This will be my 8th Highland Fling.
If I’m really honest, in 2011 I was THAT Dark Sider. The one standing by the sideline pouting as riders sped through the start chute on their Fling journey. Wondering if I could possibly pinch someone’s MTB whilst they were in the port-a-loo and dash onto the course myself. I was pretty sure that would be my last year on the Dark Side (insert a knowing Dark Sider laughing here).
But not anymore…
I love that I’ve had the opportunity to get involved with the sport I love from the other side. I’ve seen first hand the amount of work (blood, sweat and tears literally) that goes into getting a race like the Highland Fling off the ground every year. But best of all has been getting to meet and know amazing people in the industry and community – from the WH extended event team, to riders at all levels, to the generous companies that support the sport through Sponsorship, to the media crew, and the local schools and community groups (who save me food at the end of the day and make sure I get a hot chocolate when it’s really cold and my lips have started turning blue).
It’s not really a give back, because I’m pretty certain I get as much out of it as I give.
So, I guess I should end with how does one get off the Dark Side? It’s not really a concern now, this being the Final Fling and all…but the answer is, one never does! Which is OK, because you don’t want to anyway.
Whilst it’s always a lot more work than you’d ever think (don’t even get me started on packing 100 + prize bags) when the second weekend in November rolls around next year, I think I’ll be feeling a little lost – probably just like the rest of the Dark Side crew and all of you riders!