Race winner, David Kinjah, reaches the top most point, at around 10,000 feet, on the shoulder of Mount Kenya

There are times when work and leisure overlap, and last weekend was one of them. 

Four hours drive north of Nairobi, Mount Kenya towers over the Laikipia plains, and the Borana conservancy. Kenya's highest peak is an important water tower for the country, and every year, a mountain bike race is organised down its slopes as a way to raise money for conservation efforts here. 

On Friday the 13th, just over 50 riders left the start line in the race village, erected in what is usually an area of Kenya completely untouched by human activity. They ascended the course to nearly 10,000 feet. I felt like I was cheating, making the same ascent by helicopter.

The riders then dived into the Afro-Alpine forest (where I cheated again, this time by motorbike), before breaking out into the savannah of the plains below, to complete the course of around 90km. Kenya's cycling star, David Kinjah, won the event, in just over four hours. I can't imagine what his legs were going through.

The author competing. Image courtesy of Jessica Hatcher

The next day, I put down my cameras and competed in the "Classic" - a 70km race starting up high, and finishing low. There were nearly 300 of us on the start line, and the early-morning sun silhouetted riders through the dust in those first few minutes. Despite it's nearly 4000 feet drop in altitude, there were several arduous climbs in the course, and the equatorial heat was brutal.

I can't decide which I preferred: photographing the event, or biking through such varied, unspoiled terrain in the heart of Kenya.