Monday, November 3, 2008


WITHOUT any doubt will go down as the most difficult mountain bike race I have tackled this year. Fantastic organization by super friendly locals, outstanding prizes for very reasonable race entry fee with some great tracks and weather for the day, but I absolutely hated this event.

ANOTHER 4AM START FOR ANOTHER RACE. As the this event is scheduled to start at 8am sharp, it meant we had to leave home by 5am latest, as Bendigo is 2.5 hours drive away. I wasn’t sure I’d be doing this event as it’s the held a week after 6 Hour Surf Coast, but buoyed with last weekends strong finish and Sandy boasting on how great the Bendigo event was, I thought it would give this event a try. Strongly aware that this will be the first 100km+ off road race I’ve ever attended (the previous record was the Mad Ride @ 85km) I was pretty detailed in my preparation. Ate well the night before, packed plenty of food and water and even caught up with Sandy for a warm up ride the day before at Lysterfield Lakes. Sandy’s Anthem was developing some mysterious creaks, which was driving her bananas so a trip to Rob at TrailMix and 30 minutes later, the Anthem returned to Sandy minus any noise and was running like clockwork.

THE RACE DAY. Sandy rocked up a tad late and she was a bit scattered, with things everywhere. So we wedged her belongings into my car and convoyed to city so Sandy can drop her car off, as she planned to play a soccer match after the race (!). Got to Bendigo to be greeted by sunshine, great locals and a well set out race venue. The race started 8am sharp and knowing the huge task ahead, I proceed to ride at 70% of my ability and was happy to hang back and let others move ahead. The terrain in Bendigo was littered with baby fist sized rocks on bone dry red earth, nothing unusual but after last weekend’s tire blow out, I was taking extra care when going over the pointy stones. Another thing I noticed was that I was still not 100% confident on my GT I-Drive Race, possibly resulting from my crash into tree the weekend prior (confidence?), or maybe it was the loose stone over hard pack (terrain?) or whatever (getting old?), but I really didn’t have my usual flair when going into corners today. Not being able to carry speed through corners may not seem like a big deal, but at an 100km event, every kilojoules of energy saved from not pedaling was critical, so my slow in - even slower out cornering meant that I had to pedal that extra few cranks or push harder to get onto the next hill – this was going to get me later.

CHECKPOINTS. The professionalism of the organizers on this event the best I have ever seen in a race meeting. They had 2 dirt bike riders opening and sweeping the entire course and set up checkpoints at the nominated intervals. Before the race, participants can drop off as much food and water supplies they like at each checkpoint, and these would then be taken to the checkpoints by the organizers, so you don’t have to cart all the supplies. I dropped off 2 bottles at checkpoint 2 & 4 (they were a total of 5 check points) anticipating that’s where I’ll need the replenishment the most. When I got to checkpoint 2 looking for my bottle, it was nowhere to be seen. Someone had taken it. I was a little annoyed but not a huge deal. Then a racer called Matt Clark generously handed me his full drink bottle. Matt had retired earlier so he offered me what he had. (Thanks Matt I’ll try to find you and return your bottle). There’s something about the hospitality of country folks that you just don’t get in a city run race meeting. After taking the bottle and a banana handed out by the event official, I carried on and tackled the rocky grass hills that typified central Victoria.

THIS EVENT WAS PUNCTUATED by two major road sections. Yes, road sections as in riding on tarmac & gravel roads. This was something that I wasn’t expecting and the length of the road sections, from Sutton Grange to Redesdale put me into a shit mode. I mean, what kind of bollocks was this? A mountain bike race on the public roads, with cars, trucks and 4x4s buzzing pass every few minutes? All thoughts of negativity came flooding into my mind but I soon resigned to the fact that mountain bikes are capable of riding on any terrain, so I should just shut up and stop whining like a roadie. Still, the strong head wind, burning sun and incessant buzz of my Maxxis knobbies shredding itself on tarmac kept me in foul mood. Then I saw a sign that showed “60KM”, which lifted my spirit a bit. I’m almost there.

THE RIDE IN THE UPDATED REDESDALE TRACK, the original home of Kona 24 Hours Endurance race, was ok. I normally would leap at the chance to shred along tight single tracks, especially after just finished riding 20km on the road, but I was starting to feel tired and mood was still sour. So the next 16km of single track was ridden as conservatively as I could, only highlight being caught and passed by Giant rider John Claxton in the Elite Mans Class & his teammate. They caught up with me so fast I had to jump out of their way and it was amazing to watching them charging through the rock littered track at speeds that I cannot fathom. The locals, grown up riding on rough tracks, has bike handling skills that is years ahead of me, who’s pretty much been pampered by raked, smooth tracks. Mental note: Start broadening my horizons and ride on more variety of terrains. Time to get used to ride on rocks.

ROCKING UP TO CHECK POINT 4 after 17km of the old Kona 24 hour / 2009 Melbourne 12 hour enduro course, I was starting to cramp up in the legs. The flies, as usual, relentless in their pursuit of sweaty bodies. So much to my dismay, I was told by the volunteer that there was still around 55kms to go. At first I thought he was joking but then it dawned to me that the 60KM sign I saw earlier was indicating the distance to go, not distance covered. I was in trouble. So I made sure I packed as much fluid and bananas as I could before I setoff. This was not turning out to be a great day.

MORE ROAD RIDING FROM REDESDALE to Myrtle Creek into head wind put me back into absolute foul mood once again. Then I realized that I haven’t seen another rider since checkpoint 2 while I’m riding (except at checkpoints) meaning that I had no one to work with as a road pack to overcome the headwind. More negativity sank in but eventually I reached the final checkpoint 5, with 17km to go. I was tired from the whole day of lonely ride in the wind and cramping badly. I seriously contemplated retiring on the spot so I had to make a decision on what I want to do. Do I call it quit or bite the bullet and finish the race? Brain: 1. The volunteer said the next 17km of the race was some of the best single track around – I don’t want to miss it. 2. Damien once told me the secret of success in a solo race was– once you push past the pain barrier, things become easy again – I’ve now reached the pain barrier and I want to know if this is true. 3. I really wanted to finish my first 100+ Km race. 4. Ego. Body: NOOOOOOO. So in great pain and cramping in places I’ve never felt before, I slowly set off to tackle the 17km of single tracks that were masterpiece of man made off road cycling terrain, yet at the same time so cruel in its technical intensity to one who’s already been taxed to total exhaustion. Every single incline, no matter how shallow or steep, was dealt with on foot, and every descend and sweeping berms became a terrifying roller coaster rider as my legs no longer obeyed my command. My left knee was so sore it could no longer clip in or out of the SPD. I was shattered.

7 HOURS, 29 MINUTES AND 21 SECONDS after I left the start line, I rolled slowly towards the finish line pedaling on one leg only, completing the event as the absolute last classified finisher for the day (26th in full veteran men category). I could hear the crowd cheering as I rolled towards the line but I was in so much pain that I didn’t really care. The race announcer handed me a prize as I crossed the line and this I nearly dropped as my hand was so sore, I simply couldn’t hold on to it (it was a SRAM cassette). Falling into a heap on the grass, I was glad but at the same time pissed off in tackling the last 17km when my body was already a screaming mess.

Sandy ended up winning the Female Expert class – 5 hours & 54 minutes – being he only female in that category but nonetheless a great effort, with a handy $200 prize cheque. She had no problems whatsoever and totally loved the event.

On the way back to Melbourne, I realized that no matter how hard I train and prepare, I am simply physiologically unsuited to long endurance events. My metabolism rate is too high and that’s probably why I fare much better on short track racing or events with durations around 2 hours. Sandy, with very slow metabolic rates, easily finished this event with no ill effects. She also hates short track events with lots of tight turning, technical single tracks, requiring explosive power and quick reflex - which is something I seemed to love – and I loathed open non-technical fire roads with grinding hills – which Sandy loves. We’re poles apart. Sandy quizzed if I would return next year – I doubt I will but if I did, it will be either the sprint 25km race or 50km option.

To complete my day, Sandy’s Anthem nearly fell off the roof rack on the freeway and left a decent size dint on the roof of my car.

My right knee is in a lot of pain and I have trouble standing and walking, but surprisingly the rest of my body is feeling ok. Hopefully the knee will recover in time for the Anaconda adventure race & Kona 24 hours later this month. Fingers crossed.

1 comment:

Kat said...

Sounds like one hell of a shocker for you! Well done for finishing it though when you could have as easily pulled out