Enriched Health Care have been so awesome with helping me prepare for this event ironing all the knots out of my torn muscles from the punishment I have put them through. Only three days out from my next race I was still cramping in my hamstrings when doing a leg curl.
I had two days off the bike before the Willo with trying to run a business & travel. That seemed to help me feel good come race day. I decided to travel to Campbelltown by train that took a total of 9 hours travel time. Travel by train meant I had to get my bike packed in a bag or box & under 20kg. Not wanting to cart a box around I managed to get a lend of a bike bag from a friend of mine that had wheels to cart the bike as well as making it easier by not having to take the pedals or seat post off. My plan was to put all the bike related stuff in the bike bag with the bike but this turned out not possible with the luggage weighing in at 28kg. With just the bike in the bag it weighed in at 20.5kg. Good enough I thought.
Arriving at the train station in Wauchope an hour early for bike check in the station attendant seen me walking toward her as she taped up a bike box. She throws it to the side with relief because I already have my bike in a bag. Explaining that the bike was hard to get under 20kg she replies with a shrug of the shoulders. I think she was relieved that she did not have to box up the bike.
Boarding the XPT bound for Sydney Central I was amazed at how trains have not changed in 15 year since my last trip to Sydney by train. The only addition I seen was pay-wave in the buffet car. The XPT is long overdue for a refurbishment. No mobile internet available most of the trip, no USB for charging or any other mod-cons that are necessary these days. My plan was to catch up on some Uni work but that didn't work out to plan with no phone service to use my mobile as a hotspot.
Jason from Fizo Cycling met me at Campbelltown station greeting me with a place to stay & travel out to the race the following day.
The Elite riders started 7 minutes before us old 3/4 masters riders (30yrs to 49yrs) at 9:37am. The start was as expected with all sprinting for the first to be in the single track where all the riders at the front soon slowed back to walking speed because they found the trail to be to slippery to stay on track with their light weight dry weather race tyres. Once again I was racing with Mitos Kratos mud tyres that stuck to the trail like glue. I was disappointed that I didn't get out front into the single track as I felt to be riding way to slow for what my tyres could handle in grip.
The race was three laps of a 25km trail network making a total of 75km & 1400vm elevation. The first lap was hard trying to keep up with the riders as they sprinted where ever they got traction & slowed in the wet singletrack where I should have been making up time. It was funny following some riders in front watching them drift at a 10 degree angle while pedaling up hill.
A fast bottle change at the end of lap one & out on the second lap the track was starting to dry with all the bike tyres that had been over it. Although the trails were a bit clearer from traffic I was now once again finding it hard to keep the pace now the riders with dry weather tyres had gained speed on most of the trail that was wet first lap. One such rider was Martin Wisata, I knew the only way I could get away from Martin was to be in front of him through any slippery trail & hopefully have enough lead by the last lap using my endurance to keep me there.
The words Terminator come back to mind after thinking back at the 2016 Convict 100.
As planned pushing hard through the buddy trails I was passing riders & creating a larger gap from Martin & myself. By the start of the last lap I had around a 5 minute lead from him but was also the hard racing of last weekend was starting to catch up with me as I felt the fatigue starting to hit my legs. The track was now very quiet & I could not see any riders most of the time. I was still trying to push hard with minor cramping sneaking up once again in my legs on the hills. The winding & rocky single trail was so much fun allowing me to push my skills to the limit.
There was a few good hills in the race loop & one with a KOM segment (King OF the Mountain) that tested the fastest riders in the full marathon 75km distance. The only open fire trail was toward the end of each lap where the pines had been logged & the wind was in your face around this section making it harder on your own to get over the hills.
Because the open section was easy to track where riders were I took a glimpse behind & seen no body for at least 500m. With cramps starting to take over my muscles I stood out of the saddle trying to stretch the legs knowing I only had around 5km till the end. Although I was going slower I was still gaining on riders in front that seemed to be struggling like myself. By the time I reached the KOM climb for the last time I heard a familiar voice & tyres grinding in the soil. I was in shock as Martin tried to cruise on by again. Yep the Terminator was back but only just as he slowed again & I picked up the pace to not let him go. I could see that he was out of breath & he had worked hard to catch me & I also knew that only two short sections of single track were before the end & I had to be in front of him by the last or he would out sprint me with my tired, cramping legs. After the second last singletrack exit Martin went around Jason Pearce in front on a hill & I was quick to do the same but Jason behind thought it was not a good option as we slowed again & he told me not to go around him if I couldn't hold the pace. At this point it was getting pretty intense as we went into the last single track. Martin, the Jason Pearce then myself. The pace had slowed right down with Martin on the front as I sledged that they were going to slow through the fun section of single track & they needed to let me through to the front. Laugh's all round Jason was happy to let me through to sit behind Martin. Yep, we both had tactics but both different ideas. Martin's tactics was to save him self for the sprint & mine was to wear him down so he couldn't sprint, but because Martin was in front, my plan was not able to work. Appearing out from the last single track & looking at the rough open grass 500m finish I sat behind Martins wheel waiting to pounce while Martin kept checking over his shoulder to see if I was still there. I went to go around & found myself hitting a few holes in the soil slowing me down slightly & that was when Martin attacked sprinting away from me to take out 10th place, knocking me back down to 11th in Masters 3/4.
It was a fun but hard race & although I finished out of the top 10 I still had so much fun playing around in the mud. It has also been a few years since I had a sprint finish & although I lost the finish it wouldn't have been as fun without it.
- Jason Moxham & FiZo Cycling for fitting new Jetblack foam grip & brake pads before the race as well as the awesome hospitality & diving me around.
- Enriched Sports & High Performance for all help in recovery & preparation for another weekends racing.
- Dan Baker for helping out with handing bottles as I come around each lap was floor-less & it made those few seconds count.
- Hammer Nutrition gels & Heed in my bottles powered the body for the whole 4 hours feeling full of energy. I am going to have to get some Endurolytes though for this higher intensity racing.