Outdoor City Weekender: Meet the athletes and filmmakers
With the Outdoor City Weekender returning this month, we spoke to a number of inspirational residents leading the way when it comes to getting out and about in the Steel City.
Taking place 9-11 March, The Outdoor City Weekender revolves around four action-packed headliners: the Sheffield Adventure Film Festival, renowned bouldering competition the Rab Climbing Works International Festival, inner-city mountain bike slalom the Howard Street Dual and the Magnificent Seven, a multi-stage road bike race up seven of Sheffield’s steepest hills. That’s not yer lot though! There’s a ton of fringe events on offer, from late-night group runs to city-wide orienteering.
Michaela Tracy represents the GB bouldering team, has taken on climbing challenges all around the world and holds a long list of achievements to show for her endeavours. After moving to Sheffield in 2009, Michaela now balances PhD at the University of the Sheffield with regular training at the Climbing Works and out in the Peak District.
How have you taken to the city since moving here?
Well, I’ve been here almost 10 years so I guess I’m a local now. I really love the climbing scene in Sheffield, the best thing being how close it is to the Peak District. It’s just beautiful, apart from how cold it is this time of the year. I much prefer climbing outside in the Peaks, it’s inspiring and you can get close to nature. There’s a close-knit community in Sheffield, most of the climbers know and recognise each other and there’s a really good community feel.
How easy is it to train for world championships while studying for a PhD?
The majority of my work is based on computer modelling, so I can just work from home most of the time and fit it in around when I train. I wake up early and I’ll work on the weekends too, especially when the weather isn’t good, so I can still balance it out.
What were your first experiences of climbing?
I remember the first time I went climbing it was with my family and we went to a rubbish wall in London. I was quite scared when I first started out but I think that’s what attracted me to it; I liked the feeling and the challenge of a great big wall. It also meant got to spend time with my Dad at the weekends. I started out as part of a climbing team, and then I started going more and more by myself.
You now focus more on bouldering, right? Why the switch?
I got into bouldering accidentally by taking part in the British Bouldering Championship 2014 and surprising myself by getting to the final. I suddenly thought ‘Oh, maybe I could be good at this. It’s a new challenge’.
What would you say to anyone thinking of getting into climbing but nervous about ability levels, etc?
Just go for it. If you don’t try, you’ll never get better. Your initial climbing ability doesn’t matter one bit, it’s about putting the time in and getting stronger and fitter.
Carrie Poole, winner of the 2017 Women’s Howard Street Dual – an exhilarating slalom bike race taking place in the city centre – is back to defend her title and believes things are looking up in terms of gender equality in the mountain biking world.
Are you feeling prepared for the upcoming Howard Street Dual in Sheffield?
No! I haven’t actually done a dual since last year, but it’s still a bit of fun and a great day out.
Last year you were the winner of the women’s group. Were you joined by many other female competitors too?
It was unfortunately dominated by men, and it seems a lot more competitive within men. But, it’s a new event and certainly not your typical race. It’s something that’s a bit out there! With it being quite a small event for Sheffield competitors, hopefully it’ll get more and more popular amongst women as the years go on.
Your husband is also a mountain biker. Will he also be competing?
No, he’ll be babysitting!
After moving from Bristol, you came to university in Sheffield. Did you start getting into biking up here?
I started going out for bike rides in the Peak District whilst I was at uni with my old bike I used for my paper rounds! I began properly after returning from snowboarding season – everyone would put their boards away and get their bikes out. I remember seeing people bombing it past doing some downhill biking and I thought, ‘I’ve got to have a go!’.
You’ve previously competed in national mountain biking competitions like Gravity Enduro. What’s next for you this year?
Yeah, Gravity Enduro has been my main discipline for the past few years. In 2015, I stopped competing to have my baby. I’ve done a couple of little races since then but I’m hoping to do more Gravity Enduro races this year.
Do you think things are looking up in terms of equality for female competitors in the world of mountain biking? Mountain biking is traditionally seen as a male-dominated sport. Do you feel like that is changing?
There have definitely been more female entries since I started competing, so things are progressing in that respect. Competitions are becoming more encouraging as they’ve started separating women in to a bigger variety of age categories which is great. One thing I would certainly like to see is more women featuring in male-dominated mountain biking magazines, that’d be a big step.
On that note, what you say to women toying with the idea of getting into biking?
Get out there! Try to find a local group or gather some friends that might be into it. There’s a massive bike scene in Sheffield with loads of groups of riders to meet. There are plenty of shops around the city where you can hire bikes and trails in the Peaks that are designed for beginners.
Flying the flag for local filmmakers at ShAFF this year, Sheffield Hallam graduate Jake Thompson and his pal/co-director Thomas Johnstone will be showcasing ‘Into the Black’ – a short film capturing native mountain biker Dave Camus flying down eerily lit trails in Greno Woods.
Tell us about a bit about what you’ve captured with ‘Into the Black’.
I’ve always had an interest in night filming; it gives more freedom to play around with the lighting and colour scheme. I mountain bike a little bit myself, but there wasn’t really a specific goal – we just thought it would fun and interesting to make.
What made you choose Grenoside Woods for filming?
There’s so many local bike trails around here, Grenoside Woods is right within the city boundaries, this means there’s easy access that you just don’t get in other places. Grenoside is only five minutes away from where I was living, so it was very convenient for filming and we could stay until 2-3AM shooting. Plus you have the city lights poking through, which was a nice bonus.
How was you describe the experience of putting the whole thing together?
Brilliant. The outdoor scene here is massive and supportive – so many people offered to help with filming. When we were trying to find someone to ride in the film, we had an overwhelming response from just a few emails sent before we decided on Dave Camus, who’s a pretty big deal around here. Plus the trails in Sheffield are so well-funded and more developed than what you usually get normally; there’s such a big push on it all up here and Sheffield is the only city I’ve lived in that feels outdoorsy.
How big a deal is it to have your film shown at an event like SHaFF?
It’s massive for us. It lets the film reach a wider audience. It’s one of the UK’s biggest outdoor film festivals, so some huge names are going to be there and to have our film shown alongside them is really special. They also have filmmaker summits, where filmmakers in Sheffield get together. That’s really useful for making connections and making plans for future collaborations.