No, your assumptions about the post title are wrong, I guarantee it.
I love being late to things
Once more I’d entered the Jet Black 24 hour race, put on by Rocky Trail Entertainment. This time around I was hoping to cap off a trifecta of bridesmaid dresses as I’d come second to a certain multiple time world champion Jason English at both previous outings. I even made a joke to Sonja as we were driving into the event centre that perhaps I should tell the volunteers on traffic duty to point me in the direction of ‘the runner ups campsite’. I was told off for my poor wit and was able to be directed to the solo pit area, which a Feeble Donkey (who currently has stolen my Strava moniker since I’ve stolen Ed’s –and yes, this joke won’t necessarily last the distance or even make sense to pretty much all of you but it’s going in for now) had grabbed us a camp spot. So, after the usual debacle of leaving late and not getting time for a pit or track recce (got a nice little night ride in Toronto while out fetching pizza at least) we finally made it at 9:40 Saturday morning.
My pre race mode is to try and be as relaxed as possible. This is actually quite challenging as things such as bike setup (ie checking tyres have beaded correctly) and other things can be done a bit haphazardly or only by accident. Still, we got set up right on the corner at start of transition and started the faffing about process. Since part of the faffing about process involves putting race number plates on bikes, these duly had to be collected. And then came the first shock of the weekend. Jason wouldn’t be racing, as he had food poisoning.
If I were much more skilled and faster than I am, the possibility of beating Jason would be more tangible than far fetched dreams of mega crashes or disastrous mechanicals besetting him, which is not something you’d ever wish on a competitor. I remarked to Juliane that maybe this time there’d be an actual race for the win instead of the usual foregone conclusion (ie barring the mega crash or mechanical) of a Jason English mountain biking Masterclass (it really does deserve a capital letter). I still could scarcely believe it, expecting that at the last minute he’d rock up having barely recovered and then duly flog as all as always. But as I was walking back to my pit I passed Jason Moxhams bush mechanic setup, as he was doing support for the race. He was on the phone so I just tried a quick distraction to say ‘back luck about Jason’ as I went past. But he waved me over and gave me the phone because it was Jase on the line.
For someone who’d been crook as a dog he sounded in pretty good spirits. He told me he was down from 73kg to 67kg in 22hrs since Thursday! I was half expecting him to tell me that he was actually going to race, but with a physical toll like that he was most definitely out. Though he said if he got back up to 70kg by Sunday morning he was going to come out to the race and do some marshal laps. I did see him in the morning and he looked quite chipper, probably better than I looked at the time at least. He even gave me some stick for not looking like I was racing, but my companions at the time were still stuck at the pits.
Does it change anything, being able to win?
With Jason out of the picture that was always going to open the door for the rest of us non-elites to take the top prize. I can say that it didn’t have any impact on how I raced, just how long I raced for. The only thing I would’ve done differently would’ve been to be a bit more aggressive at the start to make sure I didn’t get stuck in too much traffic. As it was it was a fair relaxing opening procession, with not too many candles being burnt early.
I am still to manage an effective taper when there are exciting things to do (on the bike at least) during the week. The previous Saturday I did the bakery bunch, because sitting in it’s usually fairly cruisey. However, I acquired a plastic fruit bag in my rear derailleur and had to stop to remove it. This necessitated a rather long and painful chase back on, through barely memorised back streets. There was one main climb I really attacked on, as I figured it was my best chance to make up ground. I did make it up slowly, but on the next flatter bits through the burbs I was hard pressed to make any inroads. I could just see the tail if the road was straight and long enough, but I was usually a turn or 2 behind. I did get a little bit confused, having only done the route about 3 times before, but mostly stuck to the correct path. In the end I thought I was cooked and gave up. Being lost (and with the sunrise glaring in my eyes) I stopped to try and check the map to see where I was. I couldn’t make anything out so gave up. But luckily over the next small bump the bunch appeared in front of me, having taking a turn/detour off the road I was on.
Krusty Monday was surprisingly ok. Having missed a few lately I figured I was going to get served on the false flat as usual in the crosswinds, but actually managed to get towards the front and stay in the first echelon, rolling my usual rubbish turns. I then deliberately skipped the HoP on Tuesday, because I wanted to ride my mountain bike with the new orthotic inners and see if they could alleviate the pain and also because I knew I’d get cooked even more doing it.
Wednesday Worlds was almost sensible, with no hard efforts on the kom climb or gallop, but I did unwisely do the first turn with Ben Hill. We had a pleasant chat, but I would’ve been happy to have gone a little more easily…. not that I ever seem to take that option. Crits on Wednesday was promised to be the last potentially stupid thing to do for the week. A year ago before the same race I’d made sure to sit in in B grade, and that turned out to be the most boring race ever. Now having gotten some points to get a bump to A grade that was unlikely, especially with crosswinds blowing.
Oddly enough the wind direction was just right to not be nearly as awful as crosswinds usually are. Being slammed in the gutter getting no tow from the rider in front is a sure fire way to be spending a lot more race time on your own or with just a couple of friends out the back. But this week while there were echelons forming the bunch didn’t split to pieces like it usually does and I was able to just hang on to the back. I wasn’t stupid enough to try anything like attacking off the front or rolling turns on the flat. I know where my strengths are (and some day will finish that write up too) and on the flat grounds or at high speed at not them at all.
So, while I wasn’t completely baked it certainly wasn’t really an easy week. I took the mountain bike to work on Thursday morning and my legs felt dead, which is about usual.
So, you gonna talk about the race at all?
Since the venue for the JB24 was announced by Rocky Trail Entertain as being Awaba, I was fairly certain this was physically going to be the hardest 24 I’d ever done. Last time out at Bright was fairly taxing, especially as that was the hardest I’d ever actually raced but I suspected this would prove to be something else and I’d end up totally destroyed. Pinchy climbs, mad bombing descents, swooping through gullies, in the forest and with no flat bits or fireroads in sight, it was a sure fire recipe for carnage
While in the end I’ve actually pulled up quite well – apart from a probably broken rib, which is a fairly big ‘apart from’ – I think that was down to a bit of luck, good riding (first time that’s happened I think) and being able to back off a bit after dawn. After the first 8hrs, especially when it was wet, that was about as bad as I’ve felt that early in a race, but instead of the pain escalating it just seemed to plateau. I have only one plausible theory as to why I’m not as broken as I would normally be and that is that the cracked rib is pretty much hogging all the limelight, blocking all the phones and generally preventing everything else from getting a look in.
It’s certainly not the first endurance race I’ve done with damaged ribs (whether actually cracked or merely bruised I’ve never actually known), with the Scott 2014, WEMBO 2016, JB12hr 2015, Bathurst evocities 2016 all being memorable for a crash just beforehand or during the race. I’ve also been lucky in that riding has been one activity that strangely didn’t exacerbate symptoms, whereas sleeping was nigh impossible. This time around it seems to be a different story. Immediately after the crash I could tell something was wrong. Previously I might have been a bit sore but pain levels had always been the same level as any part of my body that’s copped the hit in a fall. Not this time. Taking a deeper breath brought on a tightness that makes me wonder if this is the best I’ve ever done them. Still, on the plus side I could sleep reasonably ok, so go figure!
Trails in Mint condition…. Used car salesman turns race director
Since I hadn’t seen the course yet, I didn’t know what kind of condition it would be in. Since it’s been a hot mostly dry summer the trails were likely to be dry and dusty, though there were some storms floating around on Friday night that could’ve created a bit of mud – who would know until the race started? Rob commented that there seemed to be enough rain to get some water on the top of things in their pit area, but there were no other signs of the rain in the car park.
At the rider briefing (which I attended sans helmet as I’d be wandering around a bit and got delayed, so Sonja needed to go back and fetch it along with my proper lap 1 drink) Martin Wisata claimed the trails were in ‘mint’ condition, having gotten lots of love and care recently. But at the same time he said a new section somewhere near the downhill track had only been cut in on Thursday. Much thanks to the Hunter Mountain Biking Association for their awesome hard work, but I suspected there was a salesman aspect to the briefing!
While the trails were in pretty good nick they were quite dusty and slippery, which I along with everyone else found out on the first lap. The new section was certainly very new. Martin promised it would only take 10mm of rain before it became a bog, but I suspect 10mm total volume would be all that it could handle. The guy I was following through the new descent on the opening certainly had issues coping and it was just dusty, how bad would it be if it was muddy? The final trick, along with sawdust in the gearbox and using a drill on reverse to rewind the odometer, were the forest trails. Well I say trails, for the first laps they were very well hidden under a thick covering of forest litter. Eventually they did appear and were then quite fun to ride on.
The start line was the usual semi relaxed affair. No one was really sure who exactly was planning on going off like a rocket. I just didn’t want to get brought down by a team rider or 6+6er. It all went relatively smoothly for the very short fire road journey, which was about the same length as the rest of race combined. As usual I was passed a few more times than would be ideal, but I couldn’t be bothered trying to muscle up. It didn’t take long for gaps to appear in the train ahead and I slowly started to leapfrog a few riders in front of me. One thing that does bemuse me is times when you’re sitting behind someone who’s going more slowly and suggest you’d like to get through – so they think speeding up and THEN for a spot to pass is the ideal approach. I may have said it before, but the best thing you can do is keep riding consistently and move off the track when you can and then slow down. It’s even ok to stop pedalling a bit when you’ve pulled off so the person behind can get through quicker. Trust me on this, I get overtaken a reasonable amount in the backend of races, especially by team riders who might be swapping off with a slower team mate. I pass one, his mate gets me back the next lap. Fun times.
One of the nice things about starting at the back and working through the pack a bit was the chance to at least say hello to some fellow soloists. I did recognise Simon De Pomeroy (at least kind of) and said hello and then eventually I drifted up to Rob’s wheel. I was a bit surprised but at the same time not very surprised given my slow start. Being slightly relaxed, or ‘not chasing Max’ as was more the case was good fun as always. I made sure to remind Rob not to chase after Max, who always started a bit faster than I think is wise. But then again he was on a single speed so couldn’t go too slow on the climbs. Rob & I rode the rest of the first lap together, though at one point Rob did say I shouldn’t expect him to stay there for too long. We seemed to have a similar conversation as I’ve had with Jason English or Ed a few times – the “I’m not a threat one”. I even told Rob as much, except that I didn’t think the gap between it was quite as significant as between me and Jason. But as expected, I rolled away off to find Maxie and see what he was up to.
How drunk are you?
Awaba is a little forest on the side of a hill and is fairly close to the coast. It doesn’t get much breeze at the best of times and can be pretty humid. Living in Canberra, which has a very dry heat, this was a bit of a rude shock to my system. The laps were about 45 minutes during the early afternoon and I soon found that I was emptying my 600mL in about 35 minutes. As someone who doesn’t sweat that much to be drinking this amount was weird. I even had to resort to picking up a bottle to swig from during the very short roll around the pits, which was very handy as it staved off the thirst in the early part of the lap and helped me survive on one bottle. I do think I might benefit from a sweat analysis test to see just how much electrolyte I’m losing, as I always feel like I overload on the salts in those first few hours, particularly if it’s hot. Because while I might be losing water I’m not necessarily losing salts. Team Sky and their 1%ers maybe?
But humidity is oppressive. I don’t think I’d raced, or possibly even ridden in conditions quite like it. It’s not that it’s super hard per se, but just relentless and sapping, especially if you’re making an effort. Just because I wasn’t trying to hunt down Max quickly didn’t mean I wasn’t working hard. A solo is a race to see how hard you can go for the full duration, not how hard you can go for 8hrs and blow up, so the pain levels are all relative. So thus went the first phase of the race, the oppressive humid phase.
The next phase, a bit more humid
When I say more humid, I mean well over 100% and saturated. As forecast, a fairly decent little storm made an effort to put the dampner on things, quite literally. I’ll say there was one thing in its favour, it wasn’t too cold. While the course going from slippery dust to slippery mud over the course of half a lap was fairly suckful, we didn’t have to endure the bone aching numbness and aching from getting cold. We just missed out on hero grip, lost visibility, had to survive a trip through the new trail (and descent that was like Wylde in the mud, where the uncertainty could reduce you to tears from not knowing when but knowing for sure your front tyre was about to fly out from under you), had the joy of soaked feet and soaked gloves.
Having muddy or wet feet isn’t very pleasant generally. 23hrs of this at last years JB24 at the James Estate, which included a very small but very un-dodgable creek crossing at least was just baseline of low level annoying, rather than a more elevated level that makes you go grrrr. Wet hands or wet gloves just are rubbish to ride in. Having feet clipped in and done up tight means there isn’t much variation that can happen except for some squelching when your shoes go through a river. But with gloves absorbing the falling precipitation slowly but surely your ability to grip the bars and do things such, you know ride, become rather more difficult. The added moisture everywhere (and having blissfully cold drinks in my bottles) also mean that every time you do have a drink, extra moisture is added to your gloves. And any surface you have available to you to try and wipe the gloves clean/dry is mostly just wet knicks, which also seem to have even more mud on them than your handlebar grips. It’s a lose lose situation. Eventually you give up and ask for your spare gloves, then lament the fact that you only bought one set of spares and no newspaper, meaning it’s unlikely you’ll get another shot at swapping them again and if you go too early you’ll ruin the whole experience.
So, my glove swap came as dinner was approaching and it was wonderful. My bottles were still pretty damp and dirty, but as the storm barely lasted an hour I was a less soggy and the gloves stayed towards the drier end of the spectrum. I swapped gloves the same lap as I gave up on the glasses. I’d gone earlier than usual to clear lenses as the rainforest sections were really quite dark and the contrast was too extreme. I don’t have any of those fancy pants photo chromatic lenses so they couldn’t cope. The last lap with the glasses on when the mud was getting more slippery was overall completely rubbish too.
He takes the lead and then gets worse
I’d caught up to Max at about the 2 hour mark. I was thinking he might survive till 3 as I wasn’t trying to chase but got him sooner. One day he’ll realise that racing a 24 is about racing to the end, not the start. But since he’s only 24 I’m selfishly hoping that lesson takes a bit longer for him to learn so I have some time in the sun before he starts properly thrashing me. He’s certainly got the bike handling skills and the desire, but just not enough discipline to avoid having fun early at his own body’s expense.
Max and I were rolling together for a bit. The first lap I’d actually moved to the front I picked up a rather large stick in my chainring & derailleur – in fact it was long enough to connect the two like a chainstay, except not as helpful. It was very think and made a bit of a clunking noise and then my gears started to slip badly. It was only 1minute to the pits and I didn’t want to muck about trying to retune the cable tension or whatever if there was some other problem going on. Sonja took it to Moxy who had a bit of a look and determined that the derailleur was a bit bent, but would survive ok. Since that was my preferred bike because the shifting was easier on the thumb I was very keen for it to survive. That took a good half a minute. I’d earlier spent a bit of time mucking about getting the GoPro off after the first lap, not having had a long pit straight to undo the screws so I was racking up a bit of early wasted time that was keeping me out of the lead. Honestly, if Jason was racing I would’ve been a bit more concerned about that time efficiency but this time I let it slide.
But anyway, I was in the lead when the rain came, the mud rose and it started to go horrible. In an effort not to kill riders, the helpful track designers put in switch back climbs up all the steep pinches. Which seemed to be everywhere. I was in the doldrums as it felt like I was just riding a relentless procession of switch back climbs and drop off descents. On and on and on and on and on and on.
Bah, stupid solo racing, I’d really like to stop now!
Despite the overall negativity of this time, I was enjoying my pizza dinner and drinking straight water. And it was getting dark, but it wasn’t getting cool. I was just a bit less wet than earlier. I was thinking around that time that Jason probably wasn’t missing the racing much. In fact I was so busy feeling sorry for myself I’d barely even noticed the track getting empty as all the 6+6 riders nicked off for the evening. A couple of hours before dark I’d passed Dan Beresford, who’d had himself a good spill and had some quality dirt on his shoulders. I seem to recall (or not, more to the point) that no one noticed I’d crashed, maybe because I was just too filthy in general, not that I felt ripped off, but it’s always something interesting to discuss. In the morning Rob and I traded impromptu up close trail inspection stories as we rode around together.
About the only place to receive any kind of breeze was somewhere up the camelback climb. Thankfully we weren’t doing the 20% fire trail, but 11% switch backs (yep, you might think it wasn’t unreasonable that I hated them) were hard enough 30 times. But this breeze only lasted about 10s. There wasn’t really any breeze on any descents either. Usually if you get some decent speed your eyes will (at least mine do in case) start to water. Then if you slow down and it’s anywhere technical you look like a proper nitwit cause you can’t see to pick a line. However, this time out I rode for about 18 hours with no glasses with no issues, it was that kind of environment. Like I said earlier, relentless and sapping. I was still not having that much fun. I told myself – well really I tried to convince myself that stopping was the wrong option – that fun could be had later on. I didn’t really convince myself. I did have the treacherous (or almost traitorous) words from Ed McDonalds pre-race waffle stating that as the race got harder, I started to enjoy it more. This is a flat out lie. I rely on other people pulling out (or not starting altogether) because it gets too hard. But actually, he’s onto something but didn’t state it, the bad/hard times of a 24 make the good times much sweeter.
Would sir like a couch to nap on? Or just some OCD pocket arrangements?
Tiredness. It’s a killer. At some time during a solo effort your ability to focus will deteriorate to such a point that you fear for your safety. Mistakes are more easily made. Lines are missed. Rocky obstacles get bigger and even the trees start jumping out at you. Every small bump next to the trail is an opportunity to strike a pedal and generally each lap is a blur you’re just glad to survive. Sometimes caffeine can do wonders, sometimes it’s a friend to ride with. It can even be a small crash or a cold BBQ sausage sandwich. In every case you need to be aware of your current lack of awareness and try and find something to combat it.
I started to get tired eyes at about 10pm. It was still pretty warm so there was not cool shot to perk me up. I didn’t have any many caffeinated gels and the ratio and pocket distribution was far from ideal. It was too early for V but the vanilla coke was hitting the spot, it just wasn’t helping me wake up at all. So thus far we’d had hot & humid, stprms & mud, dark & warm & urgghh, now it was the tired. It felt at the time like it could be a nail in the coffin. I could imagine the headline “race leader stops because he’s too useless to continue”. Stupid stubbornness. When you’re in the doldrums, even though you’re pretty sure you’ll come out of them you still can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. Usually you just start blinking and squinting before you realised.
What gives you wings?
Not red bull for me. I hate the stuff. I wonder if Danny Ricciardo has to drink it or just bottles with it plastered on the side. I crashed at 22:51pm. I remember the time for no real reason. I do know I was daydreaming a bit from the tiredness, and was probably thinking about post race interviews, which I am still yet to nail, and what weird and random things would come up – which at that time was still focussed on hating the relentless conditions etc. Either that or I trying to come up with potential strava ride titles. Again which was centred around being a little bit unhappy.
In any case I had my front wheel slip along the top of the A-line log roll (after camelback descent and the 50m fireroad if you recall riding the course). I’m pretty sure accumulated mud from the past couple of hours contributed to its slipperiness, because it still wasn’t really an issue even during the storm, but these were mere contributing factors. It was pretty much my tiredness leading to a deterioration in skill execution. All of a sudden things were going haywire and I was travelling much further over the bars than planned.
As I careened out of control off the track, thankfully at relatively low speed, I do remembered grabbing hold of my brake cables to arrest the slide of my bike. I do also remember the way the front wheel rotated as it slid along the log (on the back side of it) because that was why my bar ends would’ve smacked me in the ribs.
Great, that again, but better than a collarbone or smashed hip/leg/knee at least. I never considered stopping because of the ribs. For one thing it was about half way from home so if I could finish the lap I could finish the race. Another was that this incident was just another in a series of annoying rib injuries that I would have to endure for 6 weeks before moving on, or at least move more freely.
I saw Gil just a few minutes after the fall, where he was taking photos the section called “The Flush”. I said he’d just missed my crash. Then I promptly had another a few minutes later. Again the front wheel slipping on a root, mainly because I didn’t have the skill to get over it. The one was kind of funnier too. Because it happened at higher speed I ended up a bit upside down in a tree down the bank much much more quickly than the previous incident. Also because it was dark, at that speed you don’t have much visual frame of reference when it’s spinning around you and the black in the sky is the same as the black on the ground as your lights aren’t overly effective at that point in time. Thankfully I was ok after the second moment, but I was reminded that I really did need to be careful, and perhaps take on another caffeine gel – which I did straight after
This is the bit where the title makes sense
You may be (even moderately intelligent, or possibly marginally alert by this stage) to figure out for pretty much the first half of the race while winning, I was not having fun. I think I can recall passing someone during that time who claimed I would’ve been enjoying it, but it was type 1.5 fun really. But, on the plus side, despite feeling like rubbish, being tired, not having much fun, or riding particularly well, I was still pushing on and trying to be aggressive with my bike riding. I only had a few minutes lead on Max till about midnight too. I wasn’t getting frequent updates but a quick check of the onlime (gonna leave that typo in for a giggle) timing showed the gap was only 15 minutes then. No time to waste, especially after the mucking around early on.
Then the magic started, or more to the point, arrived.
That sentence while not quite worthy of a heading all of its own definitely gets its own line. Grant Webster, as part of a 3 man team (in fact the only 3 man team) was doing a full night shift. He came out in the part after dark and went past me, but a bit later I came back as he fatigued a bit. I caught up with him down Skids for Kids one lap (which was a loose and lairy descent, particularly because you couldn’t really see where you were going at all) at quite an alarming rate of knots. The first 3 little drops & corners are a bit tighter and require a good deal of commitment (which is next on my list of things that need to be talked about) but the 4th is a bit more open and much much easier to bomb over. The last one leads to a few little flowy corners rising slightly before a nearly off camber slightly tight left hander, so carrying momentum means pretty much free speed all the way up to the top of the rise, a win for efficiency which is a lesson I was trying to learn (or apply) from Mr English.
So anyway, after I passed him Grant jumped on my wheel, and then not long after we picked up Peter (in the BMC kit) who had actually by that time moved up to 3rd outright as Max had a longer stop and was passed. With the two of them on my wheel things just opened up a bit for me. I know sometimes you can fall for the trap of trying to impress a rider behind you, or maybe get too chatty and distracted from riding (as happens on a number of occasions in the morning) but at that time some company who could keep up was just what I needed. I caught them towards the latter half of my lap and then we stayed together for most of the next one, until my bonus speed on some of the fast flowy bits snapped the elastic.
With the short but heavy showers on a dusty track, some periods of hero grip was to be expected. Or at least hoped for. After getting none in the initial transition to mud I was a bit mopey, but throughout the long warm night, I could tell it was starting to come together. Well, at least the track was. Despite the roots in places getting to be a bit more exposed and treacherous the rest of the dirt was turning into the ‘mint’ Martin claimed pre-race. Coupled with the company to perk me up, riding almost instantaneously became fun again. And very fun indeed. I finally realised that my commitment was paying off in bonus speed and time and that I was in fact, despite most of my previous assertions, riding quite well. At least for me.
Now unfortunately in my post race tiredness I have gotten a bit out of sync with my headings and I fear it’s too late to change things. Certainly at this point my crash discuss was appropriately timed but poorly introduced. Always being comprehensively towelled up in races or bunches can do some things to your confidence. In a similar way to entering a lower grade race than you should can do the reverse. But in any case, I felt a bit like I was riding like a race leader should. Attacking the descents, being as efficient as possible, generally having fun. It was during this period when I realised that Awaba isn’t really that technical. Most of the drop offs a fairly small, with enough run on between them when grouped together than even I, with my fairly limited manualling, bunny hopping or jumping skills could quite readily bomb over them with just a touch of aggression. But in general, for this race, I felt like I rode well and that I could ride well. Afterwards I felt like I had a fair bit left in the tank but rode as hard as I had to. Although the pits were inefficient I wasn’t going to try and push Sonja too hard while she’s gestating. As it was she was awesome staying up all night and only missing one at 3am.
As Rob commented when we were riding our first lap together, it’s a course that rewards commitment. And helpfully for the gumby rider, it isn’t extreme in punishing a slight lack of commitment, so you don’t need to such a large step up in skill level. In short, it was just hard enough to make me feel good without being too tricky to mess me up. The increased grip levels didn’t hurt things at all. There were a few sections where I really concentrated on linking blind but flowy corners together without dabbing the brakes. That was satisfying lap after lap and did a lot to help me stay alert through the wee hours. But no matter what, the peak I had at about 1am meant that all other memories faded into the background somewhat. Thankfully good things came to me because I waited. While it’s just a bike race there is something (or maybe even a lot) to be said about persevering as a Christian, because you know the reward in heaven will far outweigh the poxy trials and tribulations you may have endured through life.
What do you need for a good ride?
Not a whole lot really. You need somewhere to ride, obviously. A reason to have fun is mandatory and helps make type 1.5 fun much more bearable and a deadest bonus is having someone to share the fun with. For this particular race I think it was having some company at the right times that really helped me to focus and get back in the racing zone. I’d been pushing the whole way but when you get tired, you get tired. There isn’t a whole lot you can do, short of resorting to illicit amphetamines or something, to try and stay awake. But this is typically just a phase to be worked through while searching for the trigger to flip that switching mentally.
I found that switch at midnight with the boys and then again just after dawn when the prospect of a humid morning that would sap all reserves and incite further impromptu trail inspections and so spent some time rolling around with Rob & Peter. 1st, 2nd & 3rd all separated by a lap and just enjoying the trails as we ticked off the hours. I suspect my attempts at coaching Rob into improving his descending weren’t well timed as he was so busted it didn’t help except to make him feel bad. I did apologise for that misapplication of helpfulness though.
One other person who really needs a mention for their company was Schmitty. Firstly, props for your quickest lap time on your last lap. Doesn’t matter that it was a 5min shorter track, still a quality effort. The other reason was because he asked for a few words out of my 10 thousand. I’m sorry to disappoint you but this ramble barely qualifies for a distinction mark based on the current count. Schmitty is always good fun to ride with on track, though sometimes it can be unhealthily distracting. After taking off like a shot on the opening lap, I pulled ahead of the Pedal 4 Pierce team of 4 on lap 4 when Jamie was taking it easy. And thus some good quality banter (as noted in his Instagram post) was traded and good fun had by all. I was even complimented on my skillz and line selection, after showing him a neat little A line over a big berm that gave a better exit over the rocks. Made me feel almost elite! He also came past again Sunday morning and a bit more banter was exchanged. I think at that point he requested this mention.
As an addendum (which has been added post release and thus has to have a post/comment all of its own) I have to mention and apologise Hayden Bird (who was riding in the Pedal 4 Pierce team that got 3rd), because we had a nice little chat and he needs a bit of banter thrown his way while I give some design update advice to Shimano. After passing Jamie around lap 4, then being caught up again by Schmitty on lap 5, I started lap 6 with Haydo. I told Schmitty to pass on a sledge that Haydo had to be able to keep up with me until at least Siberia (not even 5 minutes into the lap) because I was still fresh etc. Haydo easily kept up and we were chatting away happily around the course. Then came an unexpected utterance from the bike shop employee “uh oh, there’s something wrong with my Di2.” Of course this gave me a giggle and I asked if the battery was flat – the most common problem for electronically operated gears. I’d quite like to have an electronic system change gears are the mere press of a button, as it would save a little wear and tear on my thumb, which gets a bit sore from pressing my shift levers a few thousand times in a race. Haydo assured me that it couldn’t be as it was fully charged, so I then suggested he stop and check the cables hadn’t become loose. He said, “nah, I’ll just ride the world’s most expensive Single Speed for the lap.”
At the bottom of Camelback Haydo disappeared, it could’ve either been from cracking on the SS or because he stopped to muck about with his bike. I found out later it was the latter and it wasn’t a loose connection (which he couldn’t discover) but in fact a flat battery. And here is where the story gets both funny and hopefully educational. Apparently Haydo was waiting in the pits with his thumb resting against the shift lever and the Di2 system isn’t able (yet) to figure out that it’s reached its limit and stop activating, so it can happily sit there draining its battery dry. It seems it’s not just limited to mountain bikes, which a decent risk a brand spanking new roadie built up in the shop could be left leaning with its shifter against a wall and thus requiring a new owner to ride home without the benefit of gears. Funny times.
A few other friends to say hello or goodbye to
In Canberra and especially at Stromlo we get a lot of wildlife around the trails. These typically consist of large mobs of roos, a few wallabies and in summer lots of spiders and some snakes at times too. Awaba is a bit different. Being a forest you don’t quite have the space for the larger fauna to graze but we did get a good variety. I overhead someone else who chased a possum along the trail, which was one funny moment. I also saw two snakes, one looked like baby one medium sized. The baby could’ve been anything but the medium one was black with white stripes. Perhaps mum will have made it this far and can tell me what type of snake it would be.
I think I also saw a funnel web spider. I’m not an expert but it definitely looked like it was rearing up on its hind legs, a lot like in the classic photos. There was also one wallaby hidden in the bushes and a single solitary beetle (that I saw). The things there weren’t many of were flying bugs. This was awesome, because it meant that from early evening during the stormy I was able to ditch the glasses and not need them for the remainder of the race. It also meant my usual race face didn’t look nearly as useless.
And lastly speaking of friends, thanks once again to Martin & Juliane and crew for putting on another great event. Thanks to Gil & Richard for the quality shots; Max, Rob & Peter for the great racing; Jason for the bike fixing; Dave for the awesome Nitelights & everyone in general for making it a great great. Mostly though thanks to Sonja & Nat for awesome help in the pits.
You were wrong, just admit it
Be honest, you misunderstood the title didn’t you. I wasn’t talking about a win (I suspect it’ll be an infinite wait to beat Jason in a race he actually starts) but about having fun instead. In an endurance sometimes (most times) you have to slog through the hard times to get the good, but it’s usually worth the effort.