The first race on my calendar for 2014 I knew it was going to be a test no matter what after a busy season working with the tourists back at home leaving little time to train for a long event. I managed to get in three to four rides a week, mainly on the trainer focusing on strength & power over the short period of time I had spare, knowing that it is the area I usually lack in.
One other thing to consider for such a race was the travel home after riding all night, it felt much like the preparation of a 24hr race rather than a 12hr but on the other-hand riding at night was one of my strong points & a challenge I was looking forward to. After some pleading on my behalf my wife Cindy said she would drive & help out for the event.
Looking at some of the pre-race reports of Facebook it looked like the race was attracting some big names from the endurance background of mountain biking, such as Sean Bekkers, Jason English, Andrew Loyde, Peter Selkrig, Phil Welch, Michael Crummy & over 100 other riders. After discussions with some of the riders entering I was told that some of the gun riders were entering in teams because of the difficulty of the terrain in which the event was to be held at. The first thing that came to mind was it was time to do a bit of homework on what this track was going to be like. Thanks to the modern technology of the internet I was able to find some video footage of the Tamworth MTB Park helping me choose the right tyres & training preparation before the event.
The weeks leading up to the event were very hot during the middle of the day & that was the only time I had to train so it was either bring the trainer in side under the air-conditioning at home or if time permitted take the mountain bike out in the shade of the trees where it was a bit cooler than in the direct sun of the road. A few days before the event I manged to get a stick in the back wheel putting a large buckle in the rim then after having it repaired the following day I managed to get another stick in the from wheel sending me over the bars & doing the same to the front wheel. Thanks to Lloyd at Gordon Street Cycles. I was able to drop by & have them repaired straight away before having to resort to my heavy set of rims for the race.
I am fortunate enough to live & train in the same home town as the world 24hr champ Jason English & we were both travelling to the same race so Jase also traveled over with us as we spoke about race strategies along the way while looking at the weather reports hoping for not to much rain but a cooler night than predicted. After arriving at the venue a little later than expected Jase had to go do some race skills clinic's as we set up camp next to Pete, Phil & Ray Griffin who I now found out were all racing together in the same three person team. After just 5 minutes out of the car I managed to get a prickly pear spike in my ankle & after trying to remove it got it in my hand. Looking around I discovered they were all over the place ( I grew up in the South West of NSW & knew about Cactus, Cat Heads & Thorns but these things are nuts ).
My first thoughts of the track was awesome. The A line trails were fun & the edges of the trails very slippery making for a great MTB race. But after loosing 15psi out of my front tyre on my practice lap I was very glad to by using tubeless protection sidewall tyres.
After much rest & carbo loading during the day all the riders were called to the start line where no one seemed to want to get on the front & lead out the first lap until the gun went, where on the first short fire road climb all riders were wanting the get into the fastest descending single track on the course first. As I looked around me I realised there was no way of telling if a rider was racing solo or in a team so instead of getting caught up in the fast pace I decided to back the pace off a bit to conserve energy & get an update four hours into the race to see where I am in the field of solo riders. I chose after four hours because I was trialing a new supplement that I had not used before over this period that was meant to have all I need in it to keep me hydrated & energy levels up. After 3 hours in the saddle I assessed that the product I was using did not seem to be working as well as I had thought it would, as I felt my energy levels drop & my back start to ache as I started to slouch over the bike. Then started to wonder if I had not done enough training for such a demanding course, or was it the supplements? As four hours went by I had to take a rest off the bike, take in some food & fluid while assessing my current position & contemplating an weather to continue on racing. Cindy came running back from the timing tent with a can of Coke for energy telling me that I was currently in first place in the over 40 years category & with much encouragement from everybody nearby they got me back on my bike & out there racing again. This lap I felt like I was already on my way to gaining my energy back & I realised that the supplement I had been using was not working for me & you cant beat real food.
As the night went on I slowly managed to regain my energy & my back also came good, in fact to the only complaint I had was the night was temp was over 24 deg C with no breeze to keep cool, in fact it was so hot I was drinking a 850ml water bottle of electrolyte every 45 minutes & praying for a shower of rain, but all we got was a few little spits that evaporated as soon as it hit the ground.
2 AM in the morning on one of the climbs I broke a chain & thought my race would be over as I looked at the damage while dripping sweat, realizing I would need a chain breaker to repair it & I was half way around an 11 km lap but lucky enough the first rider that came along ( I did not get to thank him or even grab a name, but he saved my race ) helped me out by lending me a chain breaker & I was able to be back on the bike after only stopping for around 8 minutes. After completing the lap I jumped under a cold shower to cool off before heading out for another lap. Within 10 minutes the water all evaporated off me & I was dry besides the sweat that was always there during the race.
I slowed the pace up a bit knowing I would not catch up to the fast boys & just kept plodding along wondering what had happened to Andrew after he had not passed me the last time Jase went by. It turned out that Jase managed to get a break on him during the night to gain a gap in the lead "so I was told in transition while grabbing some food".
At dawn the animals started to come out from hiding & a small rabbit managed to run in front of me as I was managing to negotiate a fast corner & squeezing the breaks a little hard I hit the rabbit sending me over the bars while the rabbit hopped away as though nothing had hit it leaving me checking for broken bones before getting back on the bike ( all was ok ).
On my last lap Jase had caught up to me again & with a good lead stayed back with me for a lap showing me all the hidden lines to ride that I wish I knew earlier in the race...WHAT THE !!
After speaking to Jase about the new lines to ride on the course he asked if I had been stopping at the back of the course on top of the hill overlooking the lights of Tamworth during the night to sample all the race food they had to offer "they have gels, chocolates, lollies, Pringles & water, I have been eating them for the last few hours he says" my reply was NO, BUT I WILL THIS LAP arrgh!. After stopping I thought to myself how much of a fool I have been riding past this stop all night long as I look at the smorgasbord of energy food on offer. I grabbed a hand full of Skittles & shove them in my mouth for the final 5 km to the finish bound with instant energy where I finished 1st in the solo over 40 category & 3rd solo rider overall.
Simon from Enriched Health Care for keeping me at my best.
Lloyd at Gordon Street Cycles for truing my MTB wheels.
All the encouragement in the event area that kept me going all through the night, especially David Harris from Bicycle Central on Marsh as MC & that short shoulder massage that kept me relaxed.