Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Super Series: Race 3 - 24hrs of Brutal.

After the first  2 races were mudfests it was a delight to see some fine weather leading in to the Merida 24hr..  Race 3 was back at Spicers Old Hidden Vale and roughly using the same trails as last years Merida 24hr.  Last year I loved this track, and having assisted with some trail care the weekend before, I had a fair idea of what to expect and what gearing to use.  Accompanying me, my wife Ali and friends Andy, Lee and Jason who would be racing in the 4 person mixed category, while I raced in Solo Single Speed.

I expected there to be the usual suspects from the earlier races, however, only series leader and part man, part machine, Matt 'Dog' Powell was there and one other John Warren, making a total of 3 competitors in SS.  A little disappointing after last years field of about 10, but I guess that was due to the fact that the event was a qualifier for 24hr World Solo Championships held in Canberra last October.

For once I started towards the front of the pack, but nearly crashed before we got out of the transition area in the loose sandy conditions at the first turn.  After we rolled down Happy Gilmore, the the faster team riders disappeared into the distance, while I settled in behind Matt.  The climb up "Old Man's...' is a great climb with the right SS gearing and flattish area across to 007 would be a great place to eat and drink later in the race.  007 was a blast, and Matt made it look effortless as he pulled away.  I was back behind Matt as we hit the fire road, and there were no other riders in sight.  I felt comfortable sitting behind Matt, but though I might be annoying him by sucking his wheel and decided to push on up the fire road and along Aeroplane. I dropped in to Rockbottom with no riders ahead or behind, however it was not long before Matt was back with me.  We had a clear run all the way until Escalator when we caught another rider and paced ourselves up the climb.  The final run along the dirt road to transition, with its corrugations was both a blessing and a curse, but that was lap 1.  As it turned out, it was sub 44mins.  I only realised our pace, when part way through the second lap I expected to see that we were well in to the 2nd hour only to see only 1 hour had passed.

The next couple of laps Matt and I passed each other a few times, not racing as such, just riding our own race.    At one point(lap 2 or 3) I had a gumby stack at transition, in the soft sand as my shoe did not unclip, falling on my already injured left wrist.  The track was mega fast, bumpy, but a pleasure compared to the mud last time we raced there.    I don't think my forks were taking up the bumps as well as it might, and my fingers were starting to hurt. I made some random setting changes to the rebound and suddenly heard the suspension starting to work and if felt like an improvement. There were still a few patches of mud to keep things interesting and to catch out the inattentive.  I was lapping consistently, eating and drinking well and feeling great.  I was ahead of Matt, and had not seen him for quite a while.  If I had any complaints, it was that my music was stuck on some random, hour long playlist that repeated over and over and over. Quite maddening, but if that was the biggest issue I faced all day I would have happily put up with it.  

I started to think about the night laps and stopped to mount my lights and batteries.  I think in future I will start with these mounted.  As darkness fell, it became time to test the new 40% brighter AyUp light I was running as a bar light...the verdict, they are awesome bright.  I’ll be looking to do the upgrade on my helmet lights next.  I love night riding, following that beam of light through single trail, forcing that extra bit of concentration.   It was on the 1st full night lap, about to lap John, that I heard that dreaded hissing sound that denotes a puncture.   I’d managed to slice a sidewall on my rear tyre in a little mud patch at very start of Escalator.   At first I decided to see if the Stan’s Sealant could do its thing, but it didn’t.  So I thought I’d run the nearly 2k back to camp and fix it there, with better light and a track pump, but as I thought about the long flat haul along the dirt road, I decided to try fix it on track with a tube.  I quickly discovered that the brand new tube had managed to get a hole worn in it over the preceding 7.5  laps.  So I tried a sticky patch, but that didn’t work.  At some point Matt passed me and I had lost me lead.  With no other option, I legged it back to transition, somewhat dejected.  In the meantime Matt had let my crew know to expect me with a flat tyre.  The guys readied my 2nd bike and were waiting at the start line, and off I went with a new energy.  The bikes are setup quite similarly, but the major difference was the tyres, with the tyres on my 2nd bike more suited to loose or even muddy conditions.  I never gave this much thought until making a turn on some hard packed dirt on the Billabong track, I lost the rear and slid into a tree.  The impact was not overly hard, but I managed to take a strip of  the top layer of skin from my wrist to my elbow.  The other difference on the 2nd bike was the higher gearing, which on the most part was not a problem but combined with some tiredness caused me to fall heavily on a large square edged rock on Escalator bruising my thigh.  All up I recall about 4 little crashes on that lap, and was happy to see a new tyre on the Superfly when I returned to the pits.  I stopped for some of Ali's wonderful risotto and put on some warmer layers.

I went out for a couple more laps, but let the pain from my injured wrist and thigh get to me. After lap 11 I decided it was time for a coffee. I hopped off the bike while the kettle boiled, and there I stayed. My thigh was hurting, and I really couldn't care if I lost my 2nd place. I was off the bike for nearly 8 hours, but only slept for a couple of hours at most. I rested as Ali, Andy, Jason and Lee kept rotating laps, and I recovered my desire to get back on the bike and go out with Ali on her next lap and just cruise around and let my leg warm up. While we waited for Lee to return Andy looked up the results on Facebook(what a revolution that was) to discover that I was last, but only 30mins behind John in 2nd. I headed back out and felt pretty good, and smashed out a 50min lap, and early on the 2nd morning lap I was back in to 2nd. I kept pumping out laps around the hour mark and was enjoying myself until I got another puncture. Another disastrous lap on bike two, dropping the chain a number of times. Again the guys did a tyre change and I returned to the Superfly. I managed to do 6 laps in 6hrs Sunday morning, totalling 84km. All up I did 17laps for a grand total of 240km.

The biggest highlight of the race was seeing my wife smashing out quick laps and looking awesome doing it. Also the support from everyone, spectators, the stars in the timing tent and fellow riders was fantastic. The camels, even though I have seen them nearly every time I ride at OHV, they are just so surreal. The bridges on Rock Bottom at night were super cool, branching across the black void below.
There were a number of firsts for me in this race. It was the first time I got away at the front of the pack instead of losing minutes to the leaders. This was the first time I slept and went out to ride again and it was the first time I finished a 24hr out on track, both of which gave me a credible result.

From L to R: Me, Matt, John
This was only my 3rd 24hr solo, and there was much learned, and still much to be learned. I consider myself to be mentally strong, but I capitulated in the face of quire minor adversity.  After a flawless and mechanical fee ride last year, I let a few unplanned things weaken me mentally, but I can learn from that. I think a plan for the things that can be controlled is necessary. Having goals outside of placings is important to provide motivation and having someone to remind you of those goals in the dark times that inevitably come. All things considered, with the injuries I took in to this race on top of the ones I picked up during the race, the overall result was not a disaster. With nearly 8 hours off the bike I still managed about 14th overall. Really 2nd in SS was good for my points in the series, but nothing more. But then as Peter Creagh said at the presentations,"You have to be in it to win it." In any case if guess if someone wants an easy podium, they are giving them away in the Solo SS category :) This was far from my best ride. I am most annoyed that my legs could have powered through easily.

There were super rides by, overall solo winner Clint Pearce, womens winner Jodie Willett, SS winner Matt Powell, Graham Menzies, the young AyUp team and last but not least the whole "People that know Ali" who managed to keep someone on track for 24hrs and place 3rd in 4 person mixed category, all while keeping me going.

Tailwind Promotions again turned on a fantastic event, great venue and organisation.
The final race in the series is an 8hour race in 4 weeks. Hopefully we will see a few more single speeders and it will be a fun race. In the meantime, some work to understand my suspension, review some other types of grips and find some tyres with tougher side walls. I also plan to avoid being hit by cars and having silly training stacks that mean I start races injured.


About Me

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