I've been training for this event since the end of 2012. I had never set up a proper training plan for mountain biking, so that was the first step. I had experience in doing this myself as a distance runner in my younger years & I was looking forward to the end result.
To start of with training was going to be hard in summer as it is my busy time with my work as a Marine Coxswain & it only left me with the heat of the day to get out on the bike. Commitment was the key & also my first lesson in 24hr racing. As winter approached it was much easier to get out & ride, also I am lucky enough to live in the same town as the current world champion Jason English who was always willing to do the K's with me in the mornings.
Leading up to race day I was able to enter a local 24hr race for a practice run on an easy course, to prepare for the
big event. My wife Cindy also got a practice run at being my support crew where we would see what worked & what didn't, as support is a very large part in a successful 24hr race. I was having a terrible time during the middle of this race in the rain & mud, so I decided to pull the pin, going home for a sleep & shower. After waking the next morning to a blue sky I was keen to
start racing again, & after returning to the race found out I was in first place when I had gone home & now slipped down into 4th. I was not able to gain back any places for the remainder of the race.
A very valuable lesson was taken away from this race....What ever the reason in 24hr racing don't give in.
Jumping ahead to the big race now. On the start line with all nerves gone I was very keen to get on with racing & I managed to get on the front row. The elite riders left at 12 midday, 10 mins before the start of us age groupers & the wait seemed to take forever.
After the gun riders went as hard as if it was a fast paced Cross Country race & I started thinking to myself "do not chase & get caught up in the excitement, remember to keep an eye on my heart rate, they will all be slower than me at the end".
During the day I kept my HR as low as possible & kept my fluids & food intake up as much as I could even though I felt over
full from the carbo loading the days before, but after to long I was struggling to hold down food & realised I had to eat less for a few laps on the 17.2 km course in order to not feel so full. The plan worked, I felt great again & at this point I found myself sitting back in 7th place.
As dark fell I knew I would have an advantage on most riders with all the night riding experience I have had every week in training with my local mountain bike club "HVMBR, Thursday Night MTB Rides" & with how hard it is for riders to see in front of me with my bright lights :-)
Updates during the night with Cindy revealed my plan was working out & I was gaining on all riders in front of me & best of all I was feeling great.
Day break had come & I was feeling like the race had just begun moving up into 3rd spot behind Jason McAvoy & Bengy Morris. Feeling fresh & not once been overtaken by another age group rider during the race as yet I was in a good spot with 4th spot 14 min behind. As morning went on & I was settled into a good easy pace I realised that 2nd place was too far in front to catch & 4th spot "Jason Archer" had now picked up the pace & was gaining on me by seven minutes a lap (what the
???). I thought to myself if I pick up the pace a little then maybe Jason will tire from the faster laps & give in. But that was not the case with three hours to go while grabbing food I was overtaken as Cindy told me 4th was only 30 seconds or so from me & that I had to really step up the pace. The course had a 6km climb at the start that I was taking it easy up to save my legs & now was the time to push myself up this climb if I was to get a podium finish. As I went past rider after rider on the climb I approached a rider that stepped up the pace 1km from the top of the climb. I soon discovered he was in my category from his rear number (this must be Jason that was gaining on me, but he is now in front of me). The pace was on. This was definitely the rider that was gaining on me as I started hitting descents & corners faster than ever before to keep up. Feed zone was coming up & I got stuck behind a slower rider as Jason made a 100m break. Picking up my drink bottle I realised I only drank half of it that lap, so I took the gamble to miss my stop flying past Cindy telling her the guy is in front of me & I have half a bottle still to get me through the lap. Jason stoped to get rid of his arm & leg warmers, swap bikes & grab some food while I slipped past back into 3rd place. I hit the climb hard so I could make up some lead on him & finished the lap strong, pitting on
the move for a drink pickup but missing food while I went out on my last lap.
Climbing the hill for the last time I didn't know how far behind Jason was but I was starting to get tired as I ran out of Shotz gel & before to long I was not seeing straight & barely able to balance on the bike. I rode past a roving marshal that noticed me who started following asking if I was ok. By this time I had drank a whole drink bottle to try & get my vision back. The marshal concerned for me grabbed my bottle & rode ahead to a check point to refill it. Not long after Jason Archer caught me & while passing seen the distress I was in & congratulated me on a great race. (he knew it was over between us), at this
point I had all but given up as I rolled into the checkpoint 12km around the lap.At the checkpoint I had to get off my bike as I could not ride anymore "as much as I wanted to ride over the finish" I got a lift back to the finish where I was taken to the first aid tent as I heard on the mic that Jason English just finished in 1st place.
After recovering in the first aid tent I was being assisted to the showers to make me feel better where I congratulated Jason
English on his 4th World Solo Title I felt faint & had to lay on the ground. Before I knew it I then was being transported to Canberra Hospital by ambulance where after getting some blood & urine tests revealed that I had severe muscle breakdown & my liver was at a critical point of damage. I was put on a saline drip where I took in 2.5 litres & ate lots of food before more blood tests indicated I was ready to leave the hospital because my liver was on the mend, with strict guidelines
to stay off the bike for at least 3 days.
I would like to thank my Sponsor, http://www.enrichedhealth.com.au/ for all there help as well as my support crew Cindy & Hayley Vogele. Without them racing a 24hr would not be competitive.My end result even though my last lap was not counted I finished in 4th place. I am looking forward to the next 24hr already with a little more wisdom not to miss any food & keep the
fluids up :-)