Monday, October 11, 2010

9/24 = Disappointment

Its with mixed emotions that I close the chapter of the World 24hr Solo Championships. I'll try take to heart the notion that its the journey that matters and the result is just that...a result. So starting with the journey, I did my first single speed race less than a year ago and have slowly been ramping up the distance since then. My first 24hr race was only about 9 weeks ago, and perhaps went a little too smoothly and my half baked training plan went pretty much to plan. There was even a tapering period :).

The WSC24 was like no other event I have done before. For starters there was qualification required(of sorts), a mandatory Pit Manager, lots of rules and no music players! This was 12th WSC24 which was to be held at Mt Stromlo, Canberra, the first time outside of North America. It was also my first interstate event, and a huge one at that. I drove down with Ben my Pit Manager on Thursday, with an overnight stay in Sydney, and short drive to Canberra on Friday morning for rider sign in. From there it was off to the mountain, to find our pit and see the course.

The Bridge
Riding this bridge was cool, having seen it on TV at various UCI events at Stromlo.

The course was AWESOME, especially for single speed, but it would be taxing after 24 hours and puncture potential. I did my test lap with 32/21 gearing and found it easy, but decided that it would be perfect in the long run. Tyres on the other hand was something I was unsure of. Light and fast, but possible punctures or heavy and tough but less chance of punctures.

Riders on The Luge
"The Luge" was the highlight of each lap, and something to look forward to.

Friday afternoon was race briefing, hotel check-in and grocery shopping for race food. Friday night was pasta and then the airport to pick up Pit Manager 2, Andy.

CLick to see HUGE
Click on the image to see the Hi-Res image(It has an awesome level of detail)

I woke at 7am after a good nights sleep. As we approached Mt Stromlo, we could see the huge "Tent City" that had sprung up, and we arrived about 8:30 and started lugging the remaining gear to the pit which was a distance of some 500m. Note: Next time take a trolley. I decided on a change of tyres and Ben put a Race King on one front, and a Small Block 8 on the other. After comparing the bag on these tyres I decide the Small Block 8 would be less likely to get a side wall cut. With they tyres sorted and race numbers on, I was ready to race.

As is traditional, there was a Le Mans start, which is not fun in stiff shoes on bitumen. I got away mid pack, and pushed forward on the first fire trails. The single track was a bit of a stop start affair, but I passed a bunch of riders by taking the A Line on Western Wedgetail and had a free run through the Pork Barrel and then passed more riders on the fire trail sections to the top of the mountain and hit fun parts feeling fresh. I finished my bottle on the crit track as planned and the boys were ready in transition with another one and some food. With less traffic, the next lap was slightly faster and I passed a couple of SS riders. Nutrition and hydration were on target, and the next couple of laps were quite consistent up until it was time for lights.

AntZ rocking the 24hr World Solo Championships

I almost look like I know what I am doing.

The bike itself was OK, but I didn't really like the feel of my brakes and contemplated changing bikes. My forks too didn't quite feel right and we made some pressure adjustments to soften the ride, and I think we had just got the settings right. Tyres, pressures and gearing all felt perfect

It was on the 1st full night lap, that I hooked a bar-end while trying to squeeze past a rider walking the Pork Barrel. I went over the bars and landed heavily on my left side scraping my hip and bruising my calf. I guess that is the reason I don't usually run bar-ends, and probably will never run them again. I thought I would be able to ride it off, and felt OK on the ascent. The most pain came on the Skyline and the Luge, and by the time I was finishing the lap on the crit track, my left leg was almost useless. So after 9hr20min, 143km and 2960m climbing my WSC24 was over. It is the not finishing that annoys me more than where I finished or would have finished. Really the hard stuff was just begging, and apart from my bruised calf, I didn't feel like I had ridden for over 9hrs on Sunday. I was looking forward to pushing myself in to the dark places a 24hr race takes you.

To take some positives out of the event, I learned a lot about logistics and I also realised how important it is to try get the bike dialled in to the circuit and to understand my forks work and how to tune them. Brake pads too, should be bedded in prior to the event and even some spares in case a change is required. The speed differences of riders was also a surprise and while riders of the calibre of English and Fellows were always going to disappear in to the dusty distance, I was happy to hold my own against most others, so need to back myself more and get to the front at the start line. I was also still riding SS when even many of the geared bikes had resigned to walking the steep bits.

At least my injury was minor compared to some and I was able to ride the rest of the course, not like some. We saw one one guy with 2 broken arms and a busted AC joint.

My next event was to be the 6hr at Canungra, but with the amount of rain we have had this week, it is almost certain to be cancelled.

Click the image below to go to my set of rider photos.
~AntZ~ - View my 'WSC24 2010' set on Flickriver

The final results are available here

Sunday, October 3, 2010

4hrs of Filthy Fun

With the worlds next weekend, my plan for this race was a nice 4hr cruise around a fun circuit in the dry, but you know what they say about plans....This was my first race on what will be my race bike for next weekend. When I left my house, it was overcast, but not raining, but as I got closer the race track, it was raining hard, and somewhat cooler than I may have expected. Thankfully I threw in a long sleeved jersey with my gear and it was quickly put to use. The conditions were muddy. The kind of conditions that got me into SS riding in the first place.

The race started under light rain conditions, and I started towards the front at quite a frantic pace. The Karingal circuit would be awesome in the dry, but in the wet, there are a number of tricky obstacles, especially the three wooden bridges. The conditions changed every lap, and was even worse as it dried a little and mud really tended to cake the tyres. I was looking for puddles just to wash my tyres. By the 5th lap, a couple of hills were unrideable for me because I had no grip. On the second last lap, my chain dropped of, but I managed to get it back on even-though I could not adjust the chain tensioner.

The last lap was a hoot as I realised I was not going to squeeze in another one and I pushed hard. I crossed the line 4hrs4mins having done 7 laps and no idea of position. I though I was 4th or 5th and was surprised when I was called as 3rd at the presentations. So all in all a top day out, no injuries.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Dusk to Dawn - Canungra 2010

Finally, after 2 postponements due to wet weather, we got to a race start. Under clear moonless sky and in very cold conditions the race started under lights. Hundreds of riders, the vast majority sporting the AyUp signature twin circles on helmets and bars, streaked away, spot on 7pm. My first race in nearly a year with gears(1 x9 and somewhat untested Paul Chain Keeper) , I got away in the first third. I slotted in behind FTR's Josh(that boy rides with style), chewing his ear off for 3 laps. With only 1hr18min for 3 laps it was going to be a long night. On the 4th lap, I pushed by on the grassy climb just past the camping area.

With the chain keeper only arriving on the Friday, and the fitting somewhat tricky, it was an area of concern for me, but it was going OK and doing its job. The rough track was bouncing the chain a lot. With a 34T ring up front, my gearing was not exactly low, and proved about spot on, forcing me to stand on some of the climbs rather than spin. The 29er handled the tight switchbacks with ease.

There were some modifications to the track since I rode it last at the 24hr in October 09. All positive from my point of view, but the 7k length is too short for solo riders. I forgot how many rocks there were, and by the about the 8th lap, I was hurting. I rode a lap with MattDog. He left me behind in the rocks and downhill technical stuff (of course this was due to his dually and in no way attributable to superior technical ability :), but I would catch him on the climbs.

My laps between about 2 and 4 in the morning felt slow, but the girls at checkpoint 1 gave me encouragement as did the team rides and spectators. At this stage I stopped for some warmer gloves because my fingers were freezing and my brake control was suffering as a result. My right wrist too was very sore from changing gears(something my hands were not used too)

I had no idea or race position, and to some extent didn't care. I almost pulled the pin just before dawn. These sorts of endurance events take you to dark places and make you question yourself, your training and your motivation. I drew strength from some recent family issues, and thought of just heading out to lap at whatever pace, to walk if I had to and treat it as training. With some feeling back in my fingers and the promise of daylight I started to lap strongly again. Daylight came and went and with 1.5 hrs to go I worked out if I smashed out a couple of 45 min laps I could get 3 more laps in. I did it easy and set off on my last lap 15mins before the cut off time.

I crossed the like with a total of 12hrs13mins, 154km, 11260Kj, Avg HR 148. The MC said something about 3rd, but I thought he was talking about some one else, but no he meant me. So I was 3rd in category and 4th or 5th overall(I'll have to wait for final results)

Monday, July 26, 2010

Merida 24hr at OHV

This race was longest race I have ever done. By far the longest on a hard tail SS. This race for me started Friday afternoon when I went up for a test lap of the revised circuit, to confirm tyre choice and bike settings in general. Good thing I did. My tyre and suspension settings were way to firm for the bumpy stuff. My 15k lap was complete in a cruisy time of about 50min including time to mess around with tyres and suspension. So with that in mind I decided to aim for 24 laps and/or 300k min goal.

Friday night and Saturday morning were spent packing the car until it was overflowing with bike gear, clothes, camping and food. We arrived at OHV bang on target time of 10am, found our "Premium" site and managed to get the car right next to it to unload. We squeezed our tent in to what remained of the allocated space and set up camp.

Race start was changed from a 'Le Mans' start to a standing start, which is my preference. For the first time at OHV (for me at least) it wasn't the SS nightmarish flat start around the Billabong, but rather some sweeping downhill..a 29er dream. So, I lined up mid pack, because there was still some significant flat stuff early in the lap. I pretty much just held position until the first climb. Getting off of the saddle, I passed a few riders, but only as many as I needed to maintain momentum. By this stage riders had spread out, and I tried to keep my heart rate below 80%. I cruised the first few lap just chatting to riders and letting them set the pace, and after all its a long race that is not going to be won on lap 1..or even lap 10. The laps just seemed to disappear. I had no idea or even cared about lap times, I just concentrated on maintaining controlled momentum and picking good lines through the rough stuff to avoid punctures. The highlight each lap was seeing Ali and the kids cheering me on as I rode by or offering me a selection of food and drink when I stopped.

As day became night, it was time for a hemet change and to put the bar lights on. It was cool, but not cold and it wasn't until 8pm that I added a vest and decided to carry arm warmers. It was also time for some warm food and 10mins off the bike. These short stoppages were a double edged sword because it certainly recharged the batteries, but it made the start of the lap feel so much colder. At around 11pm Andy showed up with some bandages I needed to try prevent some blisters which were forming on my palms as they moved inside the gloves. I added a some more layers and pushed on. Midnight came and went, the number of riders on the track dwindled and I often felt like the only person out there. Back at camp Ali and Andy were brewing coffee, cooking noodles and checking lap times. At some point, I found out I was leading the Single Speed category. I'm never sure if that knowing is good or not. On one hand it does give you some energy, on the other you feel you have more to lose and adds some pressure.

Sometime in the early morning I thought there was a fog rolling in as I couldn't handle the lights on full bight and everything looked a little faded. After a while, I suspected my contact lenses were dirty, but though that when the sun came up things would clear up. So I decided to push on and if things still weren't clear when the sun rose, the contacts were coming out.

Always with these overnight events my favourite lap is the sunrise lap, and I could not have timed it better. The colour in the clouds as I crested the climb up "Escalator" were magnificent(even with my dodgy vision), and only 6hrs to go. When I got back to camp Ben and Lee had arrived to lend more support. I removed my contacts, and my vision was still cloudy. I was surprised and a little concerned, I sat with my eyes closed for a few minutes and still no improvement. Ali found some eye wash, but that only helped slightly. At this point I decided my vision was no worse than it had been most of the morning and the light was now better, plus after 18hrs, I could almost ride the track with my eyes closed. The remaining laps were ridden lap by lap, getting updates on the rider in position 2 and maintaining or extending a healthy lead. After my 22nd lap we decided I needed at least 1 more lap to ensure the win and headed back out win a minimal break. I finished lap 23 with about 45 mins to go and a 2 lap lead and calculated that I didn't have risk another lap, because even by this stage my vision was not perfect.

So for the final results in SS category;
1 Anthony Zahra 23 Laps 23:11:05
2 Mark Bristow 21 Laps 23:47:37
3 Tim Clarke 18 Laps 24:20:57

Really I couldn't have asked for a better intro to 24hr solo MTB. Not bad considering I honest just showed up to see if could even ride for that long. Congrats to all the SS riders. It is certainly a big undertaking just to enter as SS. So whilst I didn't enter with visions of being competitive, those final daylight hours became more so, and I was really pushed by Mark Bristow when I was hoping he'd stop. Top effort.

The event as whole was awesome. There was a great vibe on the course and heaps of energy around transition.

Thanks to Ben, Lee and Ali, packing the car happened magically between race finish and presentation. Thanks also to Andy for night supervision and to Nick and Graham for pointing Ali in the right direction.

Oh, sorry if I sounded a little unsympathetic to the rider behind me complaining that his "Dual suspension(lounge chair) bike had been setup too stiff" ...because I wasn't;)

1 day later I actually feel pretty good, my achilles tendon which has been playing up since Insomnia 1 year ago has really flared up. I haven't inspected the bike, but apart from the squealing brake, I could hear some pinging spokes that might need attention.

Some Stats
23 Laps
337 Km
0 Punctures/Mechanicals
18000 kj
21:37 Ride time
15.5kph Average

The Course (as experienced by a SS hardtail 29er)
The 14.3k course could really broken down in to 2 major climbs, 2 technical descents with some fire road and flat single track in between. The first climb was "Old Man's Schlong"(so named because of a crackpot neighbour who has be known to appear naked near this part of the track.This climb) climbs about 100m over 1.5k, It is a somewhat innocuous for 1 lap, but it just got longer and longer(pun intended) as the race progressed. The first descent "007" drops about 60m in 1.5k punctuated with rock gardens, logs, a NASTY pinch climb on a right angle turn and slightly curved but fast final descent. Getting through the main rock garden without a puncture gave me a boost, because there was a rider fixing a puncture in this part of the course about every 2nd lap. The next climb up the end of "Gully" is easy to discount as a nothing climb, but there are a couple of parts which at the time were quite taxing. The fire road to the start of Aeroplane was my favourite part for some food and a drink and even a good chance to really push on. "Aeroplane" itself is the most technical bit of flat fire road I have ever ridden. With roots, rocks and bumpy "cow prints" divets combining to steal momentum and sap a surpising amount of energy whilst adding to discomfort for us poor hard tail riders. I usually love the descent in to "Rockbottom", but my squealing rear brake totally stole the fun out of it for me. Nonetheless, it was its old rocky, dusty, steep, technical and rutted yet wonderful self. The run through "Bear Valley" was very spinny on the SS, but good forced recovery in preparation for the challenge that is "Escalator". The SS 29er was made for stuff like "Escalator", and even on lap 23 I chasing those "Gearies" all the way to the top. Of course the circuit changed through the race. Some parts got dustier, some bedded down with the dew, random rocks moved, and I even saw a snake on lap.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Mt Perry Goldrush 6hr.

This was my first time at Mt Perry, and I was very impressed. Preparation for me was not great as I was away for work during the week. My recent accumulation of punctures on my 29er has been a real cause of concern and had me hunting for suitable tubeless 29er tyres. I had an order at both CRC and Jenson, which were both delayed, but thankfully both arrived Friday afternoon. I went from no choice to an over-abundance of options. Being tubeless didn't really leave me the possibility of waiting to see the course in case I needed a compressor. I ended up going with a WTB Stout 2.3 upfront(which despite the hefty weight turned out to be a great decision) and a Hutchison Python 2.1 out back. The Python was OK, but riding SS, I wouldn't have minded more rear grip at times. The deliberation over tyre choice wasted me quite a bit of preparation and packing time.

Saturday started early with my ride(Alistair) showing up at 6am. The trip up was uneventful seeing many bikes on cars heading in the same direction. We arrived just before eleven after a detour though Biggenden for fuel. We registered setup camp and got ready for a test lap. Having run 32x20 at DelXC I decided to run 32x21 gearing and installed a 21T cog on my new wheels running Stan's rims. Hoping that the difference between the Bontrager Duster rims and the Stan's might mean less punctures. The gearing seemed about right for a couple of laps, how I would feel after 4 hour would be discovered on Sunday. Even with this ratio grip was a problem due to the dry track, but I was able to ride the whole lap and to go any lower would have been too spiny on the flat stuff.

It got cold really fast, but the facilities were great. After a warm shower, and warm in many layers we watched the Dirt Dash, which looked like fun, watching the lights fly through the trees. A warm meal, small camp fire, an early night and a fantastic sleep saw me feeling great on race day and up early with a lead position in the queue at the coffee van. A breakfast of porridge, a bacon and egg sandwich(purchased from the on site canteen) and of course coffee were a great start to the day. The morning disappeared fast, and all of a sudden it was 9:15, race brief time, immediately followed by race start.

I started towards the front, and spun like crazy on the SS to try avoid the inevitable delays at the first climbs. I held station behind a bunch of geared bikes on the first gentle climbs, narrowly avoiding a rider that baulked at the first sandy pincher. The inevitable occurred at the 2nd pincher(a rocky section) and everyone had to walk it. The rest of the lap was fairly uneventful and I hung at the back of a bunch that was making good pace. The end of the lap was the first time through the finish chute and it was "spin city" through the flat stuff. A plot of my practice lap is here

The next couple of laps were good, riding the whole lap and battling with a few gearies with them passing me on the flatter trickier stuff and me passing them on the medium pitch uphills or in transition. I was getting faster and faster on the downhills, and eventually became very confident barely using the front brake in places and drifting the rear. On about lap5 or 6 some Muppet stopped mid corner on the tight switchbacks immediately before the crossover bridge. I tried to dismount, but with the front wheel already over the log roll I was launched a 4m down the hill. a quick scramble back to my bike, I untwisted the handle bars, but didn't seen any damage. I remounted and after tackling the "Carpet Muncher" I started to asses any damage to my person. Fortunately there were only a few scapes and slight bruise to the inside of my right knee. This was to cause a little pain later in the race and mess with my head a bit, but all in all I was very lucky considering the number of people I saw getting assistance from the SES at this section of the track.

The rest of the race was a slogfest, trying not to watch the clock count down, but rather the Kms go up. The thrill of the downhill providing motivation to make to the top for another "Roller Coaster" ride. The last lap was a hoot. The final wash up was 9 laps, 95K in 6:15, 10th in category of 75...and No Punctures!!

We had planned to stay Sunday night, but a hasty decision was made to head home Sunday night. A quick pack up under lights, and we were on out way by 7ish.

It was a fantastically run event with good facilities and an awesome track, Great work. It was great to catch up with many riders I have come to know after recent events and meet some more.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

6hrs of DelXC

Today's race was the 2nd annual DelXC 6hr. The event takes place just outside Warwick QLD about 2.5hrs from the northside of Brisbane. With registration closing at 8 it meant an early start. I woke at 4:20 and organised some last items and threw the SS 29er on the roof of the car. Getting on the road just before 5, I arrived at a little after 7. I registered and noticed only 1 other rider(#112) in Single Speed category. Last was a distinct possibility.

Cars had to be moved out of the transition area after dropping stuff off. I packed light and with no gazebo I set up my stuff under a tree. We assembled for race start with very overcast skys, and rain seemed a possibility. After the "Last Post" and a minutes silence for ANZAC day we were off. I made it about 10m before I dropped my chain. In the heat of the moment I struggled to get the chain back on, but when I did, I thought it could be tighter, but should be OK. So starting almost last I started passing people. On the first ascent(the only bit of fire road) I passed another bunch of riders, but then it was back to a single track climb and quite difficult to pass people. Even riding SS behind the geared bikes was hard. The first switchback climb forced me to dismount as the riders in front bunched. A few more corners and the track widened enough to pass more riders. Then the fun bit, a fast flowing descent and again no passing.

Early on lap 2 I was riding behind an SS rider. On the switchbacks I notice the rider was #113. I wondered if there was a number change or if there was a late starter and therefore another SS rider ahead somewhere. In many ways it didn't matter as I had decided before race start not to be concerned with category position and just do thee best I could, but....

The race progressed, passing riders where possible. I remember looking at the time part way through the 3rd lap and we were not even an hour in to the race. I was lapping in around the 22-24 min range(The leaders 17-18). There was a lot more space on the track now and it was possible to ride my own pace. On the 3rd and 4th laps I started lapping people. On the 5th lap Andy Fellows and Aaron Benson passed me like I was standing still.

It started to warm up and threat of rain disappeared. I pushed on, the climbs got harder and I had not seen the other SS rider. I tried to keep up the food and fluids, stopping for a new bottle on the 4th lap. On about the 7th lap I rode past my food and decided to push on with only a small amount of drink, and by halfway through the lap it was dry. I stopped on the next lap and continued. By this time they were calling results and I thought I heard that I was 1st in category. I'm not sure knowing that was a good thing as it starts to play with your mind.

At about the 8th or 9th lap I was wishing I was running a lower gear. My arms and chest was sore from lifting the front over logs and the pumping action on the descents. I also started to hear some noises from the chain and realised I was getting chain slap. I persevered for another couple of laps and then decided when I stopped for food next that I would go to Redback Cycles" ten and get them to adjust the tension as I scoffed down a Banana. I had to instruct the mechanic the working of the Gary Fisher EBB and after 5 mins I was away with a tightly tensioned chain. As I left the transition area I heard the MC announce #113 completing a lap, 20secs behind at most.

Sometime on the next couple of laps I had a small front end loose when the front tucked
under in a corner that was getting softer each lap. About 100m later my glasses fell out of my pocket, but I only realised when the rider behind told me. He told me toughly where and I decided to try find them next lap. I eventually spotted them 2 laps later. They sat in my pocket for a few more laps and then fell out as I tried to grab a gel. I stopped, picked them up, almost cramping in the process. The third time they dropped out of my pocket one of the arms fell off and I ditched them.

The last few laps hurt, but one time through transition I though I heard I had a lap on 2nd, but figured it was error and imagined every rider from behind would be a SS. I finished my 2nd last lap with 10mins to go and pushed on with my goal to ride the whole 6hrs. I was on my last lap that I finally saw the 3rd SS rider. It turned out I had passed him earlier but didn't notice he was SS. As I crossed the line the MC announced that I was in first with heaps of props(as he had all day :) about SS riders.

In the end I managed 14 laps and was 1st by 2 laps, 11th overall in solo and 22nd including teams. I think 6hrs was about the max I could ride that track with that gearing. It is quite demanding, and the laps were quite short(6.2k) which means those tough climbs come around quite often. It was a great day and my first ever solo 1st...even if it was only a field of 3.

So keep next years Anzac Day long weekend free. Its on again 24/04/11

Sunday, January 17, 2010

8HRS OF LunarC

What an event. How AWESOME is Slickers in the dry? My first SS event, and longest event on hardtail. Decided to do a practice lap to test gearing about 5:30. My choice of riding partners could have been better and and I found myself flying around the track somewhat faster than the 50% pace planned. I liked most of the track, but was concerned by long climb in the early part of the lap. Back at camp a mate pointed out I had a broken rear spoke. Thankfully I carry spare spokes because, I break them reasonably regularly, and had it replaced in about 30mins.

As for the race itself, I started about mid pack, and passed a few people up the first climb. Then in the madness of the fist turn after the dam wall I spot fellow SS rider mate stopping to repair a puncture(through the tyre!). Tough break. Taking it easy I could see the lead pack tearing away. Got to the top of first climb feeling great I thought, that climb wasn't as bad as I remembered. Then I got to the actually tough climb and thought,"I'll be walking this in 3 laps". I found the rest of the lap to be quite easy, depending on what other riders I came across on the climbs. The flattish stuff in the middle of the lap was a bit of a leg spinning slog, but a good place to take some water. I saw a small brown snake in the creek section about 3am.

In the end I was stoked by 12 SS laps and made my goal of actually finishing the race after 8am and doing that "extra lap". I rode for 8:11 of 8:26 race. My eyes are sore from the dust. I thought the rearrangement of the single track in what was Blair Witch was fantastic, and the creek section(Bliss?) was great on SS.


About Me

QLD, Australia
My interests include Mountain Biking, Rockclimbing and Photography