Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Super Series: Race 2 - 6hrs of Mud

I don't think I could not have had a worse race prep and still been able to race.  The critical moment for this race really started 6:45 Friday morning on my regular commute to work.  Enter large 4WD from stage right, straight in front of me.  With no time to stop I was able to shape up and take the brunt of the collision on my right shoulder.  After recovering my breath and exchanging details with the driver, I felt OK...for about half an hour until the adrenaline wore off.  Then I was in a world of hurt.  My wife drove me to the hospital and as soon as I mentioned bike vs car accident it was action stations, neck brace, ECG, team of a least 5 people checking me over and X-Rays.

The eventual prognosis Grade 1 AC joint dislocation.  Not too bad I thought a week or 2 off the bike, then some road and MTB.  However when the entrants list was posted with only 4 entries in SS, I started to think maybe I could go do a lap or 2 for series points.  I mean, the race had been paid for and I had to be there because my lovely wife and a heap of friends were all racing and at worst, I could just walk the lap.  If I felt OK after 1 lap I could do another.

Ali smashing out laps in the mud.
Race day; I arrive at Murrenbong with Andy and bump into Al Cook, OK that makes 5 in SS and may be 1 or 2  more with on the line entries.  Andy and the guys set up...I am injured after all :)  I was allocated the super cool race number 99 and mounted it on the Superfly.  I planned to ride it with the same gearing as LunarC, and since  its only going to be a lap or 2  I don't worry too much about my other bike.  I go for a quick test ride and felt good, but a quick roll is quite different from muscling the bike on downhill descents and uphill single trail.  With this in mind, I don't try to start right up the front.  In fact after being delayed checking Ali's tyre pressures I am as deep in the pack as I have ever been for a race start.  We roll off slowly in a stop start fashion, while the leaders blast away.  It is not long before we are in deep mud, much worse than we were lead to expect and even worse than my worst expectations.  There is about 1k of horrible, sticky mud, finished with a pinch climb that I never rode all race.  To make it worse I feel some pain in a glute muscle after a rapid dismount when someone stopped suddenly in front of me. Out of the mud, it is time to actually pedal, the fire road was a chance to pass some riders, but the single track did not allow any passing, but at least the casual pace took the strain off my upper body on the bumpy descents. From the half way checkpoint, the course was fast and quite fun.  One lap down and I felt pretty good.  The second lap and I was able to clear a lot more riders, but it was not until lap 3 that I was able to run my own pace and really test the shoulder.  There was some slight discomfort, and not wishing to come off, I rode conservatively.  In fact, it was pushing the bike through the mud that hurt the shoulder more than riding.

Race number is on the Superfly.
On the 4th or 5th lap the bottom bracket on the Superfly locks up firm.  One of the BB cups had come unscrewed, but I worked out that if I pedalled backwards every few strokes I could keep going.  I finished the lap and changed bikes....the unprepared bike, that had had a flat rear the night before.  Then about halfway around that lap I heard a strange noise and the rear felt dead flat.  I decided to ride on keeping my weight over the front and see how it felt.  I managed to limp home taking it easy on the bumpy stuff only dropping a minute or 2.  I exchanged wheels with the Superfly which had a more mud oriented tyre, but I wanted to keep the gearing the same and had to change cogs between wheels, and I had so much trouble.   I couldn't find the preferred tool for the job and as I try to unscrew the track nut I see all the riders I'd passed on the last lap pass me back.  Eventually, with help of the kids, I got the job done, and I headed off again....into the mud.  While some parts of the mud were developing a dryish line, some parts were totally unridable.  Then there was the poly pipe which runs under the track, surfacing every now and then and super slippery.  I accidentally managed to put a wheel on a section of pipe running parallel to the track and find my bike face back the way I had just come, while I still faced in the correct direction. Yes, this is as painful as it sounds.  The drying mud became more claggy and the minimal clearance on the Reba fork meant that on most laps I had to stop after the pinch climb to stop clear the mud.  It was a tough choice between looking for bumps to shake the mud off and smooth lines for the shoulder.

Did I mention the Mud? 
Unfortunately at about the 3hr mark I pass Sean Bekkers walking back in the other direction having broken his second derailleur, his race was over, and he was not alone in that regard.   The mud is brutal on gear.  The second half of the race went by pretty quickly.  I did have one small off, just before I was due to take my next dose of Ibuprofen and it hurt a little.  Through out the race, I actually felt pretty good with some slight pain in the ribs, shoulder and back, all on the right side.  It was tolerable, but it did play a little on the mind.  

Me, Matt Dog, Al Cook
At about the 4.5 hr mark, I wasn't really sure of my lap times, but I started to figure that I was going to finish a lap just before or just after the 6hr mark.  My last lap was fairly leisurely, and I am even more casual than normal passing riders, and I almost came to a stop on the last climb to make sure I didn't have to do another lap.  I only missed by seconds, and find out a little later that Al Cook was waiting at the finish line to do one more lap if necessary.  Imagine a lap like that, wheel to wheel after 6hrs.  The final wrap was 3rd place in SS an 9th overall, only 2 mins behind Al in 2nd, while Matt Dog rode strongly to put a lap on us both.

The next race in the series is the 24hr in 5 weeks.  Hopefully I can recover and train well leading in to it....Oh, and no mud please.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Dirtfest 2011 - The Longest Short Race Ever

Dirtfest 2011 was at a new track, after being relocated from Slickers at the property owners request.  The new location was Ewen Maddock Dam, Landsborough....or as I noticed when leaving, the aptly named Ewen Maddock Wetlands.  As is nature of MTB riding in South East Queensland of late, it was another muddy race. Possibly my wettest race ever. Certainly on par with Karingal 4hr 2010, and worse than the Super Series 4hr of a few weeks ago. 

With a the expectation of such conditions, I'd put a Continental Mountain King on the rear and was thankful that I did. Up front was a Continental Race King, which at times left me pretty much a passenger at the will of the mud gods.  I was thankful for my long fingered gloves, because I must have smashed my hands on trees a dozen times because I drifted off to the left or right.

The format for this race was 50K or 7 laps.  Race start was at 8:30, with the Elites off first, then the single speeders and then the rest of the field.  Across all categories there were nearly 100 riders start the race.  For once I started up the front, and settled in to 3rd or 4th for the first quarter of the lap, then we started having to pass the slower of the elite riders, which made it difficult to maintain the rhythm and Freddo broke away.  For a while, I was riding with Peter Winfield and just sitting on his wheel.  I made the move past Peter at exactly the wrong time. Since I was in the lead of a small bunch when we came to a branch in the course and the marshal who was supposed to be directing us was daydreaming and I rode past the turn, but I woke the marshal enough for him to point the riders behind me in the right direction, leaving me to back track and tag on the back of the bunch.  This was also where the real mud started, with some fairly steep downhill single track and 20-30cm deep mud that developed in to wheel guiding grooves as the race progressed.

The course would have been great in the dry, and I would have been well under geared if it was.  I did not much like the fire roads with 2 way traffic, although it did provide opportunity to see friends and opponents heading in the opposite direction.  Passing in this section was tricky as you needed to pass riders by crossing in to the other lane when there were no riders heading toward you(much like overtaking in a car on the highway).  There were some quite technical parts, with some ramps, a particularly technical climb and a very tricky narrow bridge that must have been chaos on the first lap with the bigger groups.

By lap 4 my front brake pads were gone, but I had to just push on.  Eating and drinking were tough due to the mud, and I definitely neglected my nutrition and hydration, but that had little to no effect when compared to my lack of steering ability and lack of brakes.  On lap 5 there was a heavy downpour of rain, and the course was transformed .  In many ways it was for the better.  The mud was softer and easier to ride and steer through, but conversely there was more mud in the face and with my glasses off, it did cause me some problems.  I put my glasses back on, but they were so muddy, I couldn't see.  I got some new glasses next time through transition and it was a lot better until the glasses fogged up.  I then had a stick flick up and derail my chain, causing me a significant stop to get it back on.  Other than that, the Superfly was perfect.

Race finish was less than perfect, with once again messing up the alternate ending.  This time mostly because I thought I had 1 more lap to do.  My GPS was only reading 42K, exactly 6 laps I thought.  Especially since when I asked on my previous lap I was told 2 to go.  As I headed out to do another lap I was told I was finished.  Then not realising I still had to do the extra loop around to the real finish I got tangled in the bunting trying to make my way back to my gear, fell over and looked a right gumby I am sure.  Needless to say that whole episode cost me close to a minute, but thankfully no positions.

In the end I came home 4th in SS category and 8th overall.  Congrats to Andy Fellows who smashed the 50k 1st in 2 1/2 hours and Simon "Freddo" Fredericksen who was crowned "Qld Single Speed Champion" and 3rd overall only 20 minutes behind Andy. All up the single speeders filled 5 of the first 9 spots. The full results  can be viewed here.

For me the low light was losing front brakes, but it was a lesson learned.  The highlight was the support through transition, and call out from MC Coach Jeff each lap, and I tried to oblige him with the requested wave.

With the next race only a week away, Sunday afternoon was spent demuding the Superfly and giving it some much needed TLC.  With rain forecast for the week, it might be more of the same, but I have a feeling Murenbong will hold up somewhat better in the wet.


About Me

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