Thursday, November 29, 2012

STM - Round 6 - Awaba 8hr

SRAM Singletrack Mind 8hr - Round 6 - Awaba

2nd - Solo

It is that time of the year already! Time for the final round of the 2013 STM series. It really does not feel that a year has passed since we were racing a muddy Awaba in 2012.

Before I get into any other writing, I'd just like to say thank you and acknowledge a few people ...

A huge thank you to all my support crew who have got me through each of these races. So a big thanks to Robyn, Anne and Kylie. You girls are awesome, not only have you looked after Jase, Garry, Ed, myself and who knows who else, but also raced competitively yourselves. Thank you all so much.

I'd also like to send out a big thank you to Joe and Fi for running another great year of STM races. These events are great fun, well organised and I love being a part of them.

Apologies to Joe for talking with Blewitt through his race briefing - I blame the copious amounts of caffeine which had just been consumed ... :)

A big thank you to the other regular riders who make these races what they are. If you are going to race for 8hrs, it is great knowing that you have good competition and good friends out on course. So thanks to Ed, Tommo, and Tupac for helping keep these events as genuine races.

Finally, a big thank you to all the Radical Lights Factory Racing sponsors. Radical Lights, VIE13 Kustom Clothing, Schwalbe tires, Cannondale bikes etc. Your sponsorship and assistance has been invaluable.

Now, back to the regular broadcast ...

So, Awaba for 8hrs in 30C+ heat ...

Heading into this final round, I was in a tricky place points wise. In order to win the series outright, I would need to win the round and Ed would have to place 3rd or below.  hmmm - that would be tricky.

I started asking around the few guys I know who could be capable of beating Ed - Tupac was out, English had his busted collar bone, and Sam C is on holidays. Bugger that is pretty much everyone. So I then tried to convince XCM rider James Downing to man-up for an 8hr mission, but he too would be out after frying himself at the Fling.

Pretty much the only way I could win the series would be if Ed had a major mechanical, which is not something you want to wish on anyone #karma

So, the plan for the race was to just ride around with Ed to see where he was at, and just enjoy the awesome Awaba trails.

Awaba is one of my favourite trails to visit - there is enough climb per lap to suit my climbing legs, the track has heaps of flow and rewards those who can maintain their speed, and there are heaps of great sections with big berms and obstacles.

The race start was down on the access fireroad - straight into a steep little climb. I struggled to get traction on the loose surface - cursing my laziness for not changing my rear tire after the Scott.

Ed got into the singletrack about 3 wheels in front of me.  Both Ed and I slowly moved through the wheels in front of us. Ironically, when we hit the camel back climb, neither of us would give up the big ring and I was able to get past 5 or 6 riders!

Shame on these team based riders getting overtaken by solo riders on the opening lap :)

After the climb, there was only one wheel between Ed and I, and once we came through transition they peeled off and I was back up with Ed.

After the next 5 hours we pretty much stuck together and traded the lead a few times - it really just depended who was slower in transition.

Andrew Lloyd managed to catch back up to our wheels for a lap or two, but he could not hold on up the camel back climb. Although we could see him trying real hard to get back on, that would be the last we saw of him for the day.

Pretty soon we noticed the heat building. We would find out after the race that on track it got to over 51C. #crazyness

Having raced in these sort of temps a few times now, I knew the importance of getting in lots of fluid. I made the decision to take a little longer in the transitions to take in extra water and pour water over my head.  I was also drinking close to 2L / hour.

Ed capitalised on this, and opted for continuing his rolling transitions.

This was certainly a risky move on his behalf. He had already lost a bunch of bottles on track, and was down on his fluid intake. I figured it would be a gamble as to whether or not he could pull off staying out in front without taking in more fluid.

I continued on, keeping an eye on how far in front Ed was. Around the 7 hour mark I had a really crappy lap - probably just the heat taking it's toll. But I struggled through, and some fresh water helped.

Heading out around 7hrs:25mins Marathon MTB rider Mike Blewitt was just in front. So, keen to have a chat I jumped onto his wheel. Mike was "a little blown" from having down a "double lap" earlier in the day, but strangely I did not feel sorry for him ... :) Mike set a great pace, and I pretended he was not driving me into the ground.

Cracking out a faster then expected lap meant that I came into transition with a minute to spare. hmmmm #decisions. The girls were telling me to finish up, as 3rd and 4th place riders (Lloyd and Tommo) had pulled the pin ages ago and were 2 laps down.  But, being stubborn I snuck out for one more run.

Not my fastest Awaba lap, and probably my slowest lap at the end of an 8 hour all year, but it was good to finish off on the same number of laps as Ed.

I must say I felt pretty rubbish by the end - but not unexpected in that sort of heat.

So, finishing 2nd on the day and 2nd in the series is not too shabby.

2013 Solo Series Winners - Ed, Andrew & Tommo

All up for this year, I have racked up over 220 race hours across 23 races (not including local club events)! So, with that volume of racing I am pretty happy to still finish up so close to Ed in this series.

This was also my last ride for Radical Lights Factory Racing ... although I am still finalising everything for next year, I hear that the team kits will be greener on the other side ... :)

What's next for me? Just because I am a sucker for 50C heat, I will be sneaking up to the Jet Black 24hr and doing the 6x6.  Then it will be some nice summer training rides through Dec and into Jan.

Jan is looking good, with the Bec Henderson 50km race in Canberra, the ACE 250km roadie ride around Hotham & Falls Creek, and probably a visit to the Tour Down Under.

Pokie rides a Cannondale!

At least I got an #adequate number plate

Looking a little sweaty

Too much excitement for one day

Monday, November 12, 2012

Highland Fling - 100km

Elite Full Fling

13th - 04:43:47

I was talking to a guy at CORC Dirt Crits on Thurday, and he was telling me that one of the things he really likes to read in our blogs is how much the elite riders hurt. He likes hearing that we are in the pain cave too out there.

So, lets start this post with a couple of pictures from Kylie Webb which sum up my 2012 Highland Fling ...

Pre-race banter with JD & Kylie

I think that post race pic sums up my Fling ...

For the last two years I have taken on the 100 miler category, the first time taking a 30 minute wrong turn and then last year having a great ride up against English and Fellows.  This year however, I'd decided to go for the final round of points in the Real Insurance XCM series.

Heading into this final round, I was in 6th place in the series, but with the fling carrying bonus points and some of the big hitters coming into this last race I knew it would be a tall order to keep that place.

Aside from the incredible elite field, this race was also a gamble for me because it was just four weeks after the Scott 24hr. Every 24hr solo is different, and every solo recovery is different. So far I have worked out that for me it is four - six weeks before my power numbers are back to pre-solo. And then usually you get some nice super compensation from the solo, and you are flying again putting out personal bests!

So, lining up with the countries best elite XCM riders with less then 100% legs was going to be interesting.

I'd also managed to catch a tummy bug during the week, which was great for weight loss, but no so good for race prep :)

One advantage of the XCM was the 08:05am start time. That is much nicer! I quick roll up the road with JD, some smack talk with Kylie and soon enough we were on the start line.

The start saw the usual jostling for position as we ascended the first road. With a left hander onto the dirt, followed by fireroad into the farmland everyone wanted to be close to the front.  We hit the farm land very fast and the run down into the first gully was quick.

Already coming out of this gully I could feel that my legs were not all there. I managed to dribble on the back of the pack as it climbed out. As we headed over the rolling paddocks, I realized I was behind a few wheels of riders I did not know. This (I have learnt the hard way) is not ideal ... because ... they usually drop wheels.

Sure enough with the high pace being set from the guys up the front, the end of the bunch was crumbling. With the dribble coming out of my nose and mouth I fought hard to get back to the bunch each time a wheel got dropped, but after about the fourth time I just could not quite get there.

Coming out of the 2nd water crossing I got back to within a bike length, but just did not have the power to get back on. This is where the post 24hr really bites.

I started my solo race. Nothing new for me, so I just set as best pace as a could. Gordo and a couple of other 50km riders came through, and I managed to sit on them for a little while - but again, my legs were just not there and I had to let them go too.

Coming into the first transition area I had lost over 2 minutes on the lead group.

I swapped over some bottles, grabbed some more food and headed to the entry to the 2nd stage. Ideally, you should wait until the very last moment to cross the line - but as I was waiting there the Marathon MTB boys of Justin Morris and Graeme Arnott came through. Split second decision time - do I wait out my remaining 1.5 minutes, or do I jump on the tail of these guys ....

I opted for the jumping on the train, as I figured this would help push me along.  This worked out well initially, and we flew into Wingello and through the first section of singletrack.

As we headed into the second section of singletrack, I ended up at the back of our mini pack (maybe four or five riders), and as we started wading through the traffic I began playing the yo-yo game of pinning it to get back on after an overtake.

We hit the "Wall", something I had been looking forward too, and the dufus Bernard Beer rider put a foot down, and fell into Graeme, who fell in front of me. Ah crap!! Walking the rest of the Wall is so not #PRO.

By the time we finished climbing out of this section and onto the next main fireroad, I'd lost contact with those guys.

Up until now, my heart rate had been in the XCM zone - which for me is 170 - 185bmp. But now, I found I was struggling to get it up out of my "chugger" heart rate range of 155bmp.  I have done 12 hr races with an average HR of 155bpm ... so at just 50km into an XCM this was not a good sign!

After the 2 hour mark passed I started to feel a bit better, and I chugged along.  Around the 65km mark, I caught back the Bernard guy and dropped another elite guy who was getting close.

Heading through the final transition area, I knew I had to push it hard down the fireroad and through the grass paddocks. Coming up to the last big water crossing, I realized I'd got back to the Morris and Aarnot group - and I was able to push past these guys. Justin was looking a little broken but still had a big smile on his face.

The last 15 km is a slog through the grinding and pinchy singletrack, and then into the two evil climbs. Over these couple of climbs I caught back another couple of elite riders - thanks to the power of the big dog :)

Then it was into the slow and crappy last singletrack, which was pretty hammered after all the other riders had gone through. In this slow going track, wading through slower riders, Graeme caught back to my wheel.

We hit the final few kms of fireroad and traded places.  Then it was through the last few km of paddock and I held him off to cross the line in front. However, because of the transition zones timing, he was actually in front for 20 seconds! grrrr ... next time I need to use all the transition time.

Coming across the line I found JD who had just crossed a few minutes previously. JD got me by 3 1/2 minutes! Curse my legs not letting me hang onto the bunch at the start.

So, the finish line photos says it all - pretty broken, and not my best day of XCM racing. But that is racing.

Food and drink for the day was 9 gels and 1.5 clif shot bloks, and 4 bottles of electrolyte drink.

I only took in around 350mg of caffeine, which is a little low for me. I think next time I should hit the caffeine a little more. This would probably also help kick start my heart rate too.

The bike of choice was my Cannondale Flash 29er. Even though there is no ideal bike for this course, I think the hard tail 29er is the closest ideal bike you will find for the Fling. The bigger tires help roll over all the bumpy farm land, and the higher clearance is also an advantage for riding through the deep water crossings.

Tires were the ever-reliable Schwalbe Racing Ralph Snakeskins.

Big congratulations to Kylie Webb, 3rd on the day but this was enough for her to walk away with the overall series winner for the half XCM womens category.

Congratulations to Garry for an easy Super-Masters win, and overall Super-Masters XCM series winner, and Jase McAvoy for his overall win in the Masters XCM.

Well done to Ed McDonald for taking out the miler win - for his next trick, he will astound us all by getting his new white jersey back to being white! :)

Well done also to Kylie McAvoy and Anne for their 50km ride, and for finishing with big smiles!

Next up it is off to Awaba for the final round of the SRAM Singletrack Mind 8hr series.