This is the question I’m most often asked when I get in touch with friends so I’ll try and answer that all-encompassing question here…
Well as I sit here on the sun terrace of my adopted home in Guethary, wearing just a pair of shorts, typing a blog post I have to say “bloody well, actually”. I’m back to full-on guiding duties this week and last, as well as entertaining 2 buddies from back home, @eldiablobrewery and @r00ps. I think they’re having a great time. Ask them! They’re in San Sebastian today enjoying top notch cuisine and beaches.
But how’s it going? Well it’s tiring… I’m very glad of a rest day today after 5 days guiding on the trot. I think it’s very easy to underestimate how exhausting this job can be. Many of you will have been away for a riding holiday for a week and are familiar with the feeling of having ridden big terrain for a few days. It takes a few days to recover after you get home. It’s a very satisfying feeling, but when you have to start again after a rest day and do another week, and then another week, fatigue starts to creep in, and you start to really crave a duvet day, and Doug and I start to argue as to to who gets to drive the van while the other one guides! And then grab a snooze in the van… Plus at my age, bits start to creak, ache or just plain hurt much more than they used to 😦
But don’t get me wrong – I’m not whinging, it’s still an awesome job, and extremely rewarding when a guest can’t stop smiling or saying ‘Wow’ 🙂 But if you are considering this job you need to know it’s not anything like just riding with your mates day after day (although it is a bit like that this week with Jamie and Roops here).
‘Why not’ I hear you cry! Well…
Well, first of all your day starts a lot earlier and finishes a lot later than the guests, chores include: prepping the bikes and the vans, maintaining the bikes, planning the route (taking into account observing the skills of the guests), getting guests to and from accommodation, arranging spares and repairing their bikes, collecting hire bikes, running errands and making reservations for guests, sorting photos and emailing and uploading them for guests all takes time, and I don’t even have to do all the stuff Doug does such as answering endless queries and bookings, managing the calendar and bookings, liaising the accommodation providers, maintaining the BasqueMTB social networks, making promotional videos, networking the industry and press etc etc etc. I’m sometimes weary, but at times, Doug is truly exhausted, but he never fails to be the capable, smiling and willing host to even the most demanding guest. (And an irritatingly good rider). And believe me not all guests are the kind of guys you would choose to go riding with (don’t even think about asking).
Hmm riding. Quite often in a group I am not the best rider which is not great for the ego. The expectation is that the guide is the fittest of the bunch having ridden here endlessly and that he can conquer every technical challenge. In Doug’s case this is true, but sadly not in mine, I am often beaten up a techy climb and am sometimes forced to walk down something particularly treacherous. I try not to reach for the book of excuses. My job is not to be a pro rider, my job is to: 1 Get the group through a ride safely, avoiding accident or injury; 2 Keep the bikes going; 3 Navigate the route; 4 Ensure the guests have a good day; 5 Answer questions – guests assume wrongly that I am an expert on anything visible from the trail! Unfortunately I am neither a geologist nor a ancient language specialist! 6 Keep smiling 🙂
Having said that, I’d like to think my riding and fitness are improving, especially after the thumb-enforced lay-off. The Skills Weeks with Ed Oxley (Great Rock) certainly helped and it’s great to be able to practice the skills on big terrain. And I sincerely hope that another 2 months of PROPER mountain biking will improve things further. There are big plans afoot…
If anyone has any holiday left, I would thoroughly recommend booking up a week with us on the 21st October. It’s a tour (but not touring) of some of the best sections of trail in the South Pyrenees. I have seen some rough edits of a (Dirt Magazine) MTB movie to be made of the area (with Doug’s help) and the trails are jaw droppingly gorgeous. I am genuinely excited about riding it. Plenty of uplift too 🙂 Do it – you won’t regret it – it will be a truly memorable experience. Ed Oxley’s coming too… http://www.basquemtb.com/pyrenees-with-dirt-mountain-bike-magazine-and-reset-films/
So all in all dear reader (I’m guessing singular), I would say that things are going jolly well thank you very much! 🙂
Keep in touch, wish you were here etc. etc.