For those about to Ride…We Salute You!

Fire!

Well, actually we didn’t get a starters gun to kick of the Highland Fling – I don’t think the traditional Scots went in for that sort of thing.  We did get some bagpipes, which is always cool. But I digress.  This ramble doesn’t start with a bike race (well, it kinda does but not really because I didn’t do it), but instead starts with a concert.

While I drag Sonja around to bike races (I do the riding on two wheels bit, she does a good job of watching and feeding, plus some bonus bike cleaning), Sonja drags me to heavy metal concerts.  This makes life very difficult, obviously.  It’s a terrible scourge being dragged to the likes or Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, DragonForce, Metallica, Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne, Def Leppard, Cheap Trick, Van Halen, Motley Crue, Kiss, Deep Purple, to name a few (well, most of the good stuff we’ve been to). But this weekend coincided with Acca Dacca (AC/DC in case you’re too young/uneducated to know better) tearing it up at the Olympic Stadium in Sydney on Saturday evening.

So while I’d normally venture off to anything but a solo 24 on my lonesome, this trip Sonja was joining me as we combined metal and rock.  I meant that to mean heavy metal music and rocks you smash over on bikes, but AC/DC is actually rock, not metal and the bikes would be carbon instead of metal.  That’s just not worked at all, it’s all completely hopeless!

How to anti-taper properly

Nevertheless, we shall press on with some semi relevant discussion of anti tapering:

Lesson learned: anti tapering works well for actual tapering if you’re planned anti-tapering ride doesn’t happen, with a good excuse so you don’t feel too upset.

The Bundanoon Dash is a 6km, 10 min (for the winner at least) sprint down the hill, around a bit of dirt and then back up the hill, which since you went down now has gotten a whole lot steeper.  On offer is 300 smackaroos for the winner, which equates to a tidy $30 per minute.  Great if you can get it.  Planning arrival time at the Olympic Park with hopefully enough time to catch up a bit of the warmup act, we had allowed ourselves a leaving time from Bundanoon of 5pm.  The plan would be to register & leave a bag of goodies then drop off Micko’s XTC which I’d be racing on Sunday with the Onya mob at the campsite.  With the Bundanoon Dash brought forward to 4:15pm I estimated there would be enough time to stupidly participate before jetting off to Sydney to enjoy some high quality rock n roll.  Turns out this would have worked.  If we had been able to get away on time.  But Sonja is perpetually delayed from leaving and I was faffing around with bikes – checking tire sealant levels, which were completely dry; changing chainring from the 38 to the 34, which meant dropping the chain 3 times and avoiding the smallest cog on the back; fork pressure, it only dinged once when I smacked into a rock pretty hard; seat height, legs didn’t fall off so must have been ok. In any case, I hadn’t rego’d for the dash with the Fling entry, so I’d have to do it on the day, before 3:30pm.

I didn’t make this cutout into Bundanoon, which I suspect was a good thing. Saturday was a bit drizzly as it was, so gear would’ve gotten wet and I may have got a bit cold too.  More logically, I was deprived of the chance to smash my legs in a sprint and render them more useless than usual the next day.  In fact, what with getting home from Ultimate Youth late and needing some sleeping ahead of a long day & night and then another, I barely got 5km of bike testing in on Saturday.  I don’t usually hold with rest days, figuring that I should just try and take it easy while commuting, something that’s unsurprisingly tricky on the SS some days.

On the Highway to Hell

AC/DCs set list was basically a best of.  We’d been lucky enough to see them last time they toured too and it was similar then.  While the sound in a stadium with 50,000 wasn’t perfect, it was pretty cool watching the ants on stage riffing away.  Gee AC/DC can riff! It’s no wonder my Welsh nephews play air guitar to Acca Dacca.

It’s not AC/DC unless Angus Young is lying on the floor & spinning in circles while shredding guitar. Even if he does look like an ant

AC/DC merchandise helping create additional atmosphere through clever lighting shows
AC/DC merchandise helping create additional atmosphere through clever lighting shows

He delivered.  Acca Dacca also make good use of awesome props, such as a dirty great bell hanging from the top of the set, some cannons, or a blow up fat chick.  They also don’t take themselves too seriously either.  The opening video was a spoof of the US moon landing, with the astronauts going over the lip of the crater where they’d touched down to find a flaming AC/DC logo and the moon claimed for Australia. Absolute gold.

Anyways, here’s the setlist of awesome we got to enjoy.

  • Rock or bust
  • Shoot to thrill
  • Hell ain’t a bad place to be
  • Back in black
  • Let’s play ball
  • Dirty deeds done dirt cheap
  • Thunderstruck
  • High voltage rock n roll
  • Rock n roll train
  • Hells bells
  • Baptism by fire
  • You shook me all night long
  • Sin city
  • Shot down in flames
  • Have a drink on me
  • TNT
  • Whole lotta Rosie
  • Let there be Rock + angus solo
  • —-
  • Highway to hell
  • For those about to rock (we salute you)

Camping isn’t really an option with Sonja along, however out new long distance bike transport wagon was rear seats that fold down completely flat, so you could kip in the back at a stretch, and in relative comfort without a tent getting wet.  We decided to stay with some relos in Campbelltown who are conveniently close to the start of the M5, so it was a quick 100km shot down to Bundanoon at 5am to get there in time for the 7:20 race kickoff and take care of digestive processes ahead of a long day on a bike.  But because we’d gotten late to the show we had to park somewhere near Newcastle and catch a bus in to the stadium.  This was ok on the way in, but on the way out it took quite a while.  We didn’t up getting to our accommodation till well past midnight and to bed not long before 1.  Ideal for a 4:45am alarm call.  But actually I slept really well for the time I did and barely felt dozy on the bike at all, so that was pretty good actually.

But it’ handy that these iconic rockers have a classic hit called Highway to Hell, as there is a hill about halfway through the middle (GU?) stage, called cleverly “Hallway Hill”.  However, because it’s quite steep and nasty for tired riders there are poster stuck to trees along the way saying “Halfway Hell” – reminded me of the song both times I was enjoying the climb without my granny gear.

You only get heckled if people like you

Chillin on the start line
Chillin’ on the start line

Lining up for the Imperial Fling gives you some advantages.  Like a priority position at the start of the first big bunch, which is basically all Full & 100 Miler Flingers except for the elites, who start 15 minutes afterwards and come roaring through the field like a bushfire.  For the other 20 odd milers, this meant waiting for the barrier to be removed and then gently slotting into the start chute in front of the rope.  Being highly intelligent I made my way in through the 100k flingers (irritating them slightly) before I got to the front, whereupon I noticed Ed coming through the gate.  He was getting the correct preferential treatment as a miler and I had done it wrong. Seems about right! Still, I got to move up past/say hello to Brett on his SS and much feared beard as well as Jason on his CX bike.

Do you reckon 4 spare tires is enough?

Turns out he would only need 2, but dinged a rim too. Now where we, oh yes, the start line. As we made our way into the start chute MC chops was hamming it up for the crowd (which was actually mostly all the riders in the chute) and generally building the excitement.  Meredith Quinlan was the only female rider brave enough to do the hundred miler this year.  Meredith was pitting next to us at the Scott a month ago, so I got to encourage her then.  This race she did really well and *just* snuck through the last transition onto the final stage home before 4pm. I think a few riders cut that quite close. In any case, being the only female rider she got the front row all to herself, while the rest of us milers banged bars on the row behind.

Chops was working his way through us milers.  Ed has obviously taken out a mortgage on first place, having won this event the last bunch of times (I know it’s at least 3 in a row now).  Ollie Whalley (a kiwi who apparently got a lot of stick for that post race) who is known for his adventure racing, such as the tour divide, a 3000 mile trek north to south across the States.  Chops reckoned this race was about 2 days too short for him. I got a good quality heckle from Chops too, though it did cause some confusion in the field who didn’t know who he was referring.

The 100 milers will be hoping to finish the race faster than it takes to read some peoples blogs.

He he. I guess that means these rambles are being ‘enjoyed’ by some people, which I take as a good sign.  I think it takes Chops that long because he’s so busy training people, he must only get to read short snippets between sessions. 5,000 words can’t take 7 hours can it, even to write! But in any case, Gil snapped this shot post race which possibly sums everything us nicely.  I’ve gotten to know Gil a bit in the last couple of years, as he’s been a regular at the Rocky Trail events, where the awesome shots from Outer Image have been included in the package, making these reports lok even prettier.  The luck fella is also off to Iceland for some fun just after the Bright 24 (where he’ll again be stalking me!), I look forward to seeing some awesome shots on his page at Girophoto

I just happened to park my bike next to this tree
I just happened to park my bike next to this tree

Madding skidz and other bike related shenanigans

Due to the substantial amount of fire trailing at the Fling and the long time between visits to a transition zone to get bottles, my preference was to ride a hard tail. This meant I could carry two drink bottles and not need to carry a Camelbak (event sponsor!) which I find annoying… and for some reason don’t like seeing in race photos!  Micko from Onyabike  (awesomest bike shop in Canberra) lent me his XTC 29er. I’d ridden this bike at the Capital Punishment earlier in the year when I was without an MTB when Moby was getting a new frame. This time around I thought I’d be a little bit smarter.  You know, set the bike up a bit.

This meant a few basic checks (and some that were missed as well!) and setting up.  On Saturday morning this meant faffing around with the tires to check the sealant level.  Good job this was done as they were both bone dry.  I filled up the front and then ran out of Stans for the rear.  Because I lack an air compressor and/or track pump that does a burst of air I also couldn’t get the front tire to bead properly due to the soft sidewalls.  So I chucked both tires in the car (oh no!) for a quick trip to Onya Woden for some more goop plus a quick borrow of their compressor.  Good thing I had that too, as it wasn’t completely straightforward and I may have had some cranky pants time at the servo using the sub-optimal car tire compressor setup down there.

Following the tire checks I dropped the seat height to match my duallies.  This proved to be wise as Micko’s legs are about 20mm longer than mine.  I coped at the Punishment, but served a longer sentence than was really necessary.  I did notice it felt great to ride.  I would’ve slammed the bars a bit more in the morning before leaving, but I was out of time.  That endeavour was done in the rain at the campsite at Bundanoon after the fling.  Again, a good decision as the front end felt planted and playful.  I even had good confidence with the narrower bars, although on a couple of the really tight switchbacks I was reminded how comparably easy it can be to guide 650b wheels around.

I also swapped out the rather large 38 tooth chain ring for one of my 34 tooth ones of my Anthems.  With the promise of the Wall and a whole lot of pinch climbing over the course of 160kms I thought I’d be ‘wise’ (for once, it deserves some apostrophes too) and spin a bit of an easier gear.  However, this didn’t quite work come race day….

No one cares if you had a mechanical, except to give you stick

Having mechanical issues is part and parcel of bike racing, particularly mountain biking.  Taking good care of ones gear and not having problems come race day is a skill in and of itself.  Having flats, breaking derailleurs, snapping cables, seats, bars, you name it all are generally caused by having your bike in a state of disrepair and/or poor setup prior to the race.  You’ve got no one else to blame if your equipment mucks up your result, but you’d still better have fun though, even if you’ve got shenanigans to deal with.

Just enjoying some rollers on Bakers Delight
Just enjoying some rollers on Bakers Delight

I had a good few little niggles to cope with on my ride.  The first manifested itself while we were bombing down one of the fireroad descents on the first stage, when our little group of 6 had just left a few other stragglers 30s back.  Having not shortened the chain and swapped a 38 ivory ring for the 34 I had a little extra slack in the chain.  This combined with the short cage (the bit of the rear derailleur that the little jockey wheels live in at the bottom) and a hardtail meant the chain was a little pre-disposed to flying on while in the biggest gear (smallest ring – a 10) and things were getting bumpy.  While with the group I only had the one dropped chain, but it happened 2 other times later one when I was catching up to Brett, Gazza and a few of the other lost boys through the Shimano (2nd & longer) stage.  Still, I was able to get back on so it wasn’t too bad, but when I was chasing down the other guys it delayed the catch a fair bit as I ended up losing heaps of momentum.  The 3rd time it happened was just before I repassed Jason English, who was trackside with a bent rim fixing another flat.

Once I figured out the problem I tried to avoid using the 10 tooth ring on the back.  Annoyingly this meant that every time the trail turned downwards and the speed rapidly rose I had to had a gander at the cassette to make sure I stayed away from it.  I didn’t fancy risking it at all.  Overall though, apart from the 30s of lost time it made bugger all difference really.

One thing gears related that may have been significant (but we’ll never know) was the lack of granny gear.  After returning the bike back to Onya, one of the lads had a quick squiz and identified that the gear cable had been long neglected (I’ll claim Micko did all the damage, not me…I’ve got to be careful of my Onyabike Destroyer reputation if I want to borrow things occasionally) and it got a bit of hard work at the Scott too so it was moving fairly poorly.  Anyways, this meant I couldn’t actually get onto the 42 tooth dinnerplate on the back. I was able to cope with it.  I had to walk (or run) the Wall in any case because of my slickish back tire, but the halfway hell, sorry hill, was a bit nasty grinding along.  Still, poor Jeebus had to walk it on his singlespeed, so I took some comfort from that.

Funnily enough though, I put the 38 ring back on to return it, and lo and behold on my commute it happily jumped onto the 42! Wonders will never cease.  An interesting question would be: is 38/42 easier than 34/36!  If your maths skills are poor or you’re just lazy, it would’ve been easy with the 38 still on it, but that would’ve seemed insane and probably mentally more draining.

One last sort of mechanical to mention before we can move on to other things that weren’t irritating.  I run a saddle bag under my seat with spares, tools etc, because I generally like to keep the back pockets free for food and then rubbish.  However, due to the bumping around the Velcro holding the bag onto the seat decided to come loose.  One of the guys in the lead group noticed it at first.  I thought maybe it was because I’d put it on badly, so stopped to redo the straps.  After I caught back up to the bunch a little while later it happened again! Wretched thing.  I had to stuff it in my back middle pocket, where it made putting rubbish in harder.  Thankfully my lower back didn’t get too sore from it though, but it’s one more thing to sort out for future races.

While the discussion of mechanicals gives a useful addition to the word count and scares of readers with a longer scroll bar, it is far too simplistic to suggest I had bike troubles in the race.

The bike was awesome.  If I had the dough I’d be buying it like a shot

I haven’t done a whole lot of mountain biking on a hardtail.  My old horrid thing was more of a fully rigid brick with no grip brakes, whereas the lightweight rocket was great fun to belt around on.  True, in some of the slippier bits of the rainforest the slickness of the back tire brought the confidence down, especially as Ed & Minter started to ride away from me, but it was still a hoot.  With the seat lowered properly and the stem slammed more the balance was tip top and a bucket of chips. It also blatted along the fire roads like a bat out of hell and hung onto any wheels nearby.  Having nobbly bits on the edges of your rear tires only also reminds you to lean the thing over a bit more – great technique practice.  It was also pretty lairy on some of the bumpier bits and there were a few good skidz to mad out on course. Yeow!

The only downside was the hardtail pounding for nearly 8 hours and the different grips.  The last 15 km features some rough single track, with bonus mud & rocks, plus some bouncy farm tracks.  By this stage my wrists started to feel smashed, coupled with the minor fleshwound on my left palm meant gripping the bars was quite a difficult endeavour and I was grimacing and sooking like a little wuss for much of this section.  The horrible hill right at the backend of this section, actually most of the little climbs, were a welcome relief for the wrists as the legs hurt, but not in the same way.  It meant it was a relief to finish, as usual with these kinds of things!

Highland Fling – kinda like the mountain biking equivalent of Fitz’s

Hear me out on this one.  The main reason I suggest that is because lunatics like myself get to do extra loops and bits, while at times coming through the field of slower riders doing lesser distances.  Plus the elites start after the main full fling bunch so we get to say hello.  Because of the amount of fireroading, there are significant advantages to working with a bunch, swapping turns and generally going FASTERER!  However, in one crucial way the Fling is very different from Fitz’s in that it’s a race.  While everyone might be happy to stick together as long as it suits them, show weakness and it’s goodbye sucker!

So, if you’re desperate here’s some racing talk

Broom broom.  Off with the lead group

Having fun in the bunch 3
Having fun in the bunch 3

Starting at the front can be handy if you can keep up.  The non-elite full fling keen beans soon started shuffling forward as we rolled out onto the very smooth dirt rounds out of Bundanoon.  However, since I was pretending I was in ‘race’ mode I decided I’d basically attach myself to Ed’s back wheel and see how long that folly lasted.  This folly turned out to not be as foolish as I would have considered.  Since there were no obvious threats (and Ed is smart enough to know I can’t quite push him that far just yet) there were no significant attacks through the first 25km (Ground Effect, for those wondering about its name) stage.  While there were a few surges, this was mainly because of inconsistent pacing.  Like Ed I was determined to try and stay with whoever was at the front.  Eventually this group was whittled down to 6 of us by the time I had my first chain drop.  Along for the ride we had Eddie (obviously), Minter Barnard who ended up smashing the non-elites and came in 5th outright for the full fling, Dan McNamara, Luke Beuchat and Ian Chitterer.  Unfortunately Ian would have a more significant mechanicals early on the Shimano (2nd) stage & dropped back.

Having fun in the bunch 6
Having fun in the bunch 6

After happily sucking wheels through the farmlands I found myself having to finally pull a turn.  We’d already braved a crocodile infested river crossing (apparently they’d eaten all the sharks) and now I was doing work for others. This wasn’t part of the plan.  Still, I guess I’m less slow than I used to be! Can’t be a bad thing.  I happily tapped out a rhythm and did my fair turn of work in the group.  It was quite satisfying to know that I was giving other very fast riders a bit of a tow without having to turn myself completely inside out.  I’ll save that for suicidal attacks at crits!

Funzies 1: Eddie baby knows the way

After we all joined up at the milers feed station just near the end of the untimed section before the Shimano stage we did the head check of who was due to join us.  As we set off through the pines we came to what would be a spanner in the works for the race for the 100 mile podium.  When we arrived at the Wall, the trail to Where’s Wally had erroneously been bunted off in the wrong direction.  Thankfully Ed knew what the story was and we jumped the bunting to do the course properly.  Unfortunately, as we’d beaten the bush fire brigade marshall to the spot the next bunch through got a bit confused and bypassed the wall and about 2km of trails.  The organisers were subsequently able to sort out the confusion and give the appropriate time to those who missed out on the fun (7 mins was added to the time of the riders who didn’t get to ride the wall) but they were a bit disappointed at the mistake causing unnecessary confusion.

Still, you can’t have everything go smoothly all the time.  Most riders who’d missed the bit were happy to own up and as our group had come back through the pack we could help identify some of them too.  In the end only 1 podium was affected and it was 3rd & 2nd swapping.

Funzies 2: Grabbing a lift with Andy & Marc

Towards the end of the Shimano stage I got caught by the lead Elite pair of Andy Blair and Marc Williams.  As we’d been riding along and I was in the faster group I had a brief period where I thought it would be cool to hold them off entirely but once it happened I was quite glad.  I’d been picking my way through the back of the bunch through the fire trail on the second half of the Shimano stage when Andy & Marc rolled through.  I’d just dropped Brett off the back wheel a few minutes before (I was trying to give him a tow actually, but on a short decent I bombed away and that was that) and I thought ‘crikey, jump on that if I can’.  So I upped the pace and bit and got onto their wheels.  They weren’t actually going as fast as I thought they would be, relatively speaking.   I say this not out of any expertise, but I just would’ve generally expected to eat their dust briefly, as they’d already pulled 15 minutes on me through the first 3 & a bit hours of the race.  Even more weirdly was that I was actually putting out more power than them on the pinchy climbs.  I wasn’t trying to, but perhaps it was the hardtail versus the duallies that made it seem that way.  In any case I actually ended up accidently rubbing Andy’s back wheel a couple of times when he was slower than expected.  Once on a very steep pinch when I couldn’t go slower & mucked up my line I was forced to stop and walk the rest of the pinch.  This sucked a bit as I then had to chase for a few minutes to get back on.

I suspect they were playing nice, because experienced and (much) faster racer that he is, Andy is also a wily old cat and knew we were only a few km from the main road back into Wingello.  This section of road is fairly flat and exposed, so having friends along here would be very handy for keeping the pace high.  I’d said something about doing the miler and ‘having to go out again’ and when we got onto the road Marc told me to stay back when I was going to move up into 2nd wheel, after Andy pulled a turn.  Not long after this I hesitate to move up again and Andy had a bit of a go at me about doing some work, as I was getting a tow! I was happy to, provided I didn’t tear myself apart, which I managed to not do, so that was good.  I found Andy and Marc afterwards and we had a little giggle at Marc’s mistake – amateur hour on his part suggesting I should get a completely free ride, haha.

We also picked up one of the other short cutting full flingers, I think it was Sam Coulter and he joined up to form an awesome foursome on the way in.  This may have helped his ride a bit more on the final stage, but I suspect Marc & Blairy wanted to go a bit harder after transition and popped him off the back.

Sadness: What 2 minutes looks like

While I was enjoying an ‘elite’ moment, Eddie had caught up with Ollie and ended up only being a few minutes ahead of me going into Wingello for a quick pit stop. Because I was behind I got the advantage of asking the helpers at our pit area how far away Ed was.  I expected it to be of the order of 5-10 minutes, so was shocked that it was just 2.  But the kicker was that he was with Ollie.

Bugger.

Having just enjoyed a tow myself, I guessed that if they worked together for at least the first section of fireroad before the singletrack after the wall I’d probably have no chance of catching them.  Still, given it was only small (ish!) I thought I may as well have a go at trying to bring it back.  This would have two advantages:

      1. getting a tow on the fireroads. Now there were just the 20 of us milers out on this loop again and only the slowest stragglers from the full fling there would by definition be scant support on course. That Ed & Ollie were together should have been a significant bonus for them.
      2. If I could pass Ollie on course and finish ahead of him, that would eliminate any doubt about the whole 2nd/3rd & course cutting conundrum.

Plus I wanted to see if I could hang with Ed for a bit more.  Haha, fat chance of that.  Checking the timing showed he pulled another 6 minutes on me over the next 50km (I dropped no chains but had a small stack) and then another 10 minutes in the final stage, when I was feeling broken.

During the final parts of the first time around the Shimano Stage I’d thought I’d seen glimpses of fluoro Onya kit ahead in the distance, usually at the top of a climb I was approaching.  I remember asking Gazza if Ed was just ahead and he assured me Ed was in fact miles away up the road, having caught him ‘ages ago’.  Turns out Gazza was a bit wrong and I had in fact caught glimpses of my hero.

Eventually the glimpses turned into some solid spying.  Early on in the Shimano stage is the first properly nasty climb.  It’s not as steep as the Wall or as long as Half-way Hill, but you get a nice dead straight line up towards it for several hundred meters and the climb itself is also dead straight.  So you see the whole wretched thing coming and know you’re in for a nasty shock.  Once you’re on the climb itself you lose the forest for the trees, but  at least that helps you to know how much further to go.

I happened to see Ollie & Ed just clearing the climb as I hit the approaching straight.  I thought to myself that must be what 2 minutes looks like! Turns out it was probably closer to 3, with a full minute to get to the hill and then more to get up it.  Ollie was struggling to hang on to Ed at that point (but would’ve caught up on the next section I’m sure) but I never saw them again. It wasn’t long after that we hit the single track and I knew all hope of catching up was likely to be lost….

Motivation 1: When you’re down in the dumps, don’t be silly chumps, just purse your lips and whistle that’s the key

While Monty Python’s classic Life of Brian ending tune is rather short on reasons for looking on the bright side of life, it’s a catchy tune and funny in the face of a hopeless situation.  I myself was lost and could sense the impending doldrums closing in. I was barely halfway through the race, distance wise and now had no friends to play with and was left to ponder the likely podium at the end of the race, and generally start to feel a bit miserable.

As anyone who’s done (and finished) any race longer than about 5 hours and they could tell you there will always be moments when you’re down out on track, but you just have to battle through them.  I caught myself early in this stage and remembered my two tarnished golden rules about mountain bike racing:

1 have fun or else

2 remember WHY you’re out here, it’s not for your own glory, but to live as a representative of Jesus Christ in the biking community

So, time to belt out a few of my favourite songs from church to perk me up a bit. First was ‘Blessed Be Your Name’.  As I mentioned last ramble this has my favourite bike themed line

Blessed be Your name on the road filled with suffering, though there’s pain in the offering

Blessed be Your name.

A good reminder to expect a 100 mile to hurt.  Today’s next cab off the rank was ‘And Can it Be’.  Mainly because this is a good song to be sung without accompanying music.  This one is a great reminder to me of the sheer ridiculousness of being able to have a relationship with God at all – but Jesus thankfully fills this gap.  Again it’s a song that seems to building hope out of hopelessness, so is apt for a bike race perceived as going wrong.  Also, funnily enough when we did sing it at church a month or 2 back, poor James who was on overheads/powerpoint that day didn’t have the best time of it.  As he was unfamiliar with the arrangement a spanner was thrown in his works.  Still, I gave him an encouraging pat on the back & reminded him he’d know better next time.  I think I need to try and commit more of the words to memory, it’d make singing on track much more fun.

Next song I went through was ‘In Christ Alone’.  Sonja & I had this one at our wedding & on that day the musos were practicing it endlessly, to the point where it started to irritate some of our relos. Our well.  I like this song because I can remember all the words (a bonus when they aren’t to hand) and because it completely takes the focus off yourself.  The final part of the song I found handy

No power of hell, no scheme of man

Can every pluck me from his hand

Till he returns, or calls me home

Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand

So just keep pedalling!

Motivation 2: Just a 4 minute gap!

So, with some perking up at the hands of a saviour and reminders that bike races are just something fun to be enjoyed I rolled on around and back into Wingello.  I did manage to have one minor hiccup on the second lap.  About 500m before the end of the single track, about 1km from the feed station I managed to lock eyes on a rock that had been displaced into the middle of the trail, at the apex of a corner.  Skilfully I put the edge of the front tire just on the outside of the rock and ‘whoa nelly, down we go’.  Apart from a chunk of skin taken off the left palm (that was akin to the aftermath of a huge blister) and a bump on the right forearm that swelled up immediately to the point where I could feel the pressure under the skin, but thankfully backed off after not too long, I was unharmed.  Slightly irritated that I couldn’t grip the bars comfortably or that my Bright24 was going to be compromised even further

The fireroads soon disappeared in the haze of headwind slogging & reminiscing & I was back into Wingello and looking forward to stocking up on supplies & hopefully finding some lube for the last 30km. The cool thing about this pit stop is that it’s untimed, so if we do it well we can reload and get across time without losing anything.  I forgot to immediately cross the timing point and then come around the little side gate (about 10s lost there!) but will remember next time.  They even had Squirt lube, which I’ve been converted to by Ed & it is AWESOME.   I’d neglected to reapply any earlier in the race so the chain was feeling a little bit lived in.  It sounded smooth and yummy for the next 1.5hrs though.

Because I was in third I got another sitrep. Ed was about 10 minutes up the road and Ollie was only about 4.  Wowsers, I’d lost less time than I’d thought.  Sonja had also got lost in Wingello and was unable to find the feed station.  She knew roughly what time to expect me to arrive and was going to say hello.  I was actually glad she wasn’t at the station, because the lady helping there was well and truly in the ZONE (unlike those volunteers at Fitz’s who were as relaxed and casual as a dog sleeping in front of an open fire) and she really helped me load up and relube as smooth as possibly.  If Sonja was there she might have tried to be toooo helpful rather than just asking ‘what do you want’ and letting me go nuts, which was what I expected.

Hammer time

You certainly can touch this.  Smooth fireroads awaited for a bit and I had a sense of potential as I chased off after Ollie.  Again I was thinking of easing any shortcutted issues by just passing the bugger on course, but 4 minutes would be tough to pull back if he didn’t crack.  I didn’t expect this luxury from a guy who usually races 1,000s of km over many days.  Aero tucks were applied, brief respite from the breeze (for all of maybe 0.5s) were gained when saying hello to slow full flingers as I cracked on into the final GU stage with enjoyment back in my riding – an odd feeling for a fireroad smash on a mountainbike!.  Eventually I reached the final Boundary Rider section of singletrack and the fun abruptly stopped.

hells grannies

I could’ve done with my granny on the many pinch climbs through this section.  Only one slip of the slick Treat Lite made me have to walk a bit, so really it was covered quite well.  There were some muddy bits that had to be carefully navigated.  Coming up to one a full flinger had just about lost the plot seeing the mud, but I was stoked to get through clean.

I even managed to correctly take the steeper option up Your Call.  Last year I’d mucked it up because I didn’t realise the turn off onto the trail was immediately at the sign and started looking for it after.

The major downside of the last section was the immense pain building in my wrists.  Descending the golf course and bumpy hillsides and right through the Bakers Delight section were just horrible.  At this point I wondered if I was leaking time like a sieve to Ollie (probably not, he was possibly in even more pain at this stage) as I lost the ability to maintain any significant speed.  I reckon Ed easily pulled 3 or 4 minutes on me through here because he’s just that bit tougher and rides with wrist pain better.

This is how much fun the farm tracks were after Bakers Delight
This is how much fun the farm tracks were after Bakers Delight

Even the fatherless child hill was enjoyable as it hurt the legs rather than the wrists! I really commend whoever designs the course for the Fling, as this final section really seems to go much further than the 10km it is, it feels like the last 30km stage doubles in length.  A great mental challenge to overcome.

Still, eventually it was back onto the final fireroads and again the pace had to be ramped up.  No sign of Ollie meant the sheep stations on the line where entirely uncertain.  I snuck in in under 8 hours which felt pretty awesome.  It seemed I’d come through just as Ollie’s interview was wrapping up, but I didn’t notice.  I found him to offer congratulations & try and figure out how long he’d been in for. It wasn’t long.  Sonja found me and she’d been on the internets to inform me I’d pulled some time (about 1 minute) on that last stage.  Woot, maybe I would sneak in for 2nd.

After a quick chat to those nearby who I recognised I ducked off to get my palm patched up.  With a solo 24 only 6 days following the best healing possible would be required to minimise loss of performance.  Surprisingly for so much effort my legs still felt kinda alright and I didn’t feel totally spent.  I was nearly going to buy a sausage sanga when I was told the free post race feed was a hamburger.

20x30-HFLO2005
In the wet

Oh yeah! That went down a treat.  Soon after I finished the drizzle came back.  I’d actually had to take the sunnies off during the last part of the race as it was too wet to see well through them, but too sparse to be able to wipe off well with the gloves.  I gave Micko’s bike a good hose down and then parked it by a tree (for Gil to get the great shot shown earlier) and packed up the car & got changed.  While the roof racks hadn’t yet been installed on Ollie (the new Mazda’s name), the station wagons boot made it much easier to stow the bike with wheels removed. The tailgate  didn’t even fall on my head once, awesome!

At presso they retained all the placing as they’d been on course, as the organisers preferred not to make any hasty decisions about how to apply time penalties for those 25 guys who’d fallen victim to the errant bunting.  Huw took responsibility for the issue as was more upset that it didn’t work as planned than that any riders had mistakenly taking the wrong route. As it turned out, only the 100 miler podium was affected by the changes.  Conveniently it was only a swap between Ollie and myself for 2nd & 3rd, so the winner was the same and the next two still got to pose with Eddie baby. I was nearly going to go for the sneaky ‘gay chicken’ grope on Ed, which he suspected just after, but I told him I thought better of it!

All in all it was a great fun weekend. Acca Dacca was tops, the racing was fun.  Doing this race made me really really really really really want to keep the 29er XTC, it was so much fun! If only I had some cash to throw at it…as I don’t think Micko will give me that much of a discount.  Maybe if I could move a step up on the podium he’d think about it, haha.

On the podium... considering a sneaky move on Ed
On the podium… considering a sneaky move on Ed

Wild Horizons throw up a decent bit of prize money making it worthwhile doing an extra Shimano Stage in the middle (less people doing it = more chance of me being nearer the pointy end).  It was also pretty satisfying to be in the lead bunch from the start and hang out with some of the big boys for a while.  Ed made the joke that after he beat me by an hour last year, but only 20 minutes this year, next year I’d win by 20 minutes.  Looking at the timing that would mean I’d have to be good enough to win the elite Full Fling. Maybe a touch optimistic.  I’ll have to keep flogging myself in crits to keeping building speed.

Intelligent conversation with MC Chops and Gil post race
Intelligent conversation with MC Chops and Gil post race

Next up, less than a week after the fling will be the Bright 24.  Hopefully the photos can be sourced quickly enough so this goes up before then.  Since the B24 uses the same myraceresults system as CORC I’m helping setup the live timing results again.  Hopefully it stays to plan and is awesome throughout the race unlike the Scott where it went a bit silly.

Chops, did you get through all 7,300 words? How long did it take you?

Official race results

Strava

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