Monday, August 23, 2010

Flight Centre Epic 2010

The 2010 Flight Centre Epic has been run and won for another year. It is a huge event numbers-wise with about 1300 entries this year. The race record was safe this year with the best being a time of 4:15min. This is still blindingly fast in a 103km race with 2200 meters (7200ft) of climbing.

My day started at  Preston Peak with 524 other hardy souls. Perhaps a shot of port from the winery might have helped ward off the 6 degree temperature. I really am turning into a Queenslander with regard to the cold, eh. The reason for the chill in the air was the cold front a few days earlier which scrubbed the atmosphere clear of contaminants and presented us with a stunning, crystal clear day. Good riddance to the heat of last year!

Thanks to Adrog from MTB Dirt for the photo.

This year the 103km race start was broken into age groups and these were staggered by 30 minutes, which was a brilliant idea. Instead of the log jams leading into choke points like Ma Ma Creek, the trail was eerily quiet this time. The riders that I did catch along here moved aside relatively quickly to let me through, as I did for faster following riders. This pushed the fun factor through the roof as that section of trail flows well if ridden at pace, er, well, at my pace.

My race was going quite well for the first 40km or so. The only down side was that I had eaten a slightly larger breakfast than usual. As a result I felt that I could only push so fast otherwise I would be looking at said breakfast again! Note to self, eat exactly as per normal or your body will rebel. I returned to normal by about the 40km mark, but by this stage the vanguard of full-on fatigue was appearing on my horizon. I still felt good but I had to look at conserving my legs for the remaining 62km which included the nasty little hill just after Mt Sylvia and for the 15km uphill grind to Laidley Gap.

Checkpoint 1 came and went. I was determined to ride all of the Razorback this year and did not let myself down. The climb up to the Devil's Tail was fairly uneventful and I tried to take in a little of the scenery this year.

A stunning day! (Adrog photo.)

Shortly after passing the above location I was whistling down the Devil's Tail. I thought I might make 90km/h this year on the 29er, but I had to settle for 86km/h. Fast enough when you are wearing lycra and a small foam helmet!

From here it was a short haul to checkpoint 2 at Mt Sylvia and a meeting with my support crew. I had estimated that I would roll into the checkpoint at about 11am, so my support crew had leisurely made their way from breakfast and had only just arrived as I pulled into the shade at 10:20am. Due to my stomach grumbles earlier I did not drink or eat much so it was decided to leave the Camelbak behind and run with a single bottle and some gels and a banana in the jersey pockets. This was a good decision as it reduced the fatigue in my neck and shoulders for later in the race.

The 52km race was about to start at 10:30 and I did not want to be caught in the mayhem that would be their first climb, just a few kilometers down the track. All worked well and as I crested the climb the first few 52km racers rushed past. One of these was local rider Owen Mathews. A quick "hi and best of luck" and he was gone. Owen went on to finish 4th in class and 9th overall in the 52km race.

Owen taking it easy. (Cplagz photo)

The next stage is the real killer for me in this race. 15km of steady climb up to Laidley Gap. It does my head in because the road looks flat, but you punch away and the gps says you are doing 15km/h! What the? I should be doing 30km/h! Adding to the mind games was the never ending flow of fast 52km riders literally flying past! It made me want to sit by the side of the road. Instead of that, I gave myself an uppercut, then promised myself that I would not walk until I got to the stupidly steep section of the Gap.

Top of Laidley Gap. (ZepinAtor photo)

The run down the other side of the Gap was a hoot and my calves were killing me from the pounding over the rough ground. I passed about 20 people down here last year, but this time around with the staggered start I had the trail almost to myself, passing the only two riders that were in sight. If only I could climb or nail the flat transport sections!

Shortly after, I rolled into checkpoint 3 with my chain screaming in protest. It was in desperate need of some lubricant. I didn't have any, so pressed on hoping it wouldn't break, but knowing it would be a throw away job when I got home. My support crew told me that Dr Geoff had rolled through about 15 minutes before me, so it was looking like the Wednesday Morning Daisy Hill Crew bragging rights would be going his way, with a few nasty little climbs coming up and my climbing legs on back order.

Dr Geoff (279) charging into CP3.

The Kids waiting at CP3.

Support crew pacing.

The run out of Thornton is a few kilometers of blacktop then a right turn into a rocky climb.

Leaving CP3.

 I once again saved my legs by jumping off and pushing. This netted me about 8-10 places while giving my legs a stretch. The next few km were fun fire road downhill that required absolute attention to the job at hand, lest you want to visit the paramedics.
The final 10 kilometres in Old Hidden Vale included the "Epic" singletrack, which was quite fun this year. Not much traffic helped with the flow, although there were quite a few slow riders that needed a firm request for passing opportunities. Some people, unfortunately, seem to have no situational awareness. Luckily they are in the minority. Climbing out of the end of Epic track caused a few twinges of cramp from my right hamstring, which has never happened before. I heeded the warning and gingerly negotioated the last of the trails with a gentle grind up the inappropriately named "escalator" track. "Rocky mongrel" would be a better name. I moved aside to let another MTB Dirt regular, Squirrell, past here. There was no way I would be out climbing her at this late stage!
As I crested the top of escalator Outdoorgaz was taking some photos and dishing out advice. Luckily I must have looked suitably knackered as I escaped unscathed, unlike Dr Geoff who was advised to "Harden up, Princess"! From here it was a 500 metre push to the finish over relatively flat trail. I decided nobody else was passing me before the finish line and pumped my sadly abused legs as hard as I could to the finish line.

Not me, but you get the idea!

I had done it!
I had a personal goal of a sub 7 hour Epic this year and managed to obliterate that goal with a 6:16min! Woo Hoo!! 45th out of 155 in my class and 160th overall. Not bad considering I am at the wrong end of my age group by two months. Next year will have me at the pointy end of the next age group and that might give me a slight edge...........maybe..........I hope......actually, probably not.

The cold hard stats.....
Click on "view details" for more.

Looking back on another Epic done and dusted. What lies ahead for next year?

Friday, August 20, 2010

BayViewing Solo

Feeling better today I decided to throw caution to the wind and head out for a highly dangerous SOLO ride. I thought about not wearing a helmet, but that would have been just plain silly! I could almost hear the outcry. I say almost, as with the wind whistling past my hemet straps, any further thought of this nanny state mentality is blown away........................

Time for a quick inspection of Bayview. The purpose is twofold. I need to get out and see if I can still ride after having a week or so off the bike and I need a single track fix.

Logging MTB style.

The way home..................
Fixed. All set for the Epic now. Bring on the cool weather.

                                                                     For Gaz........;)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The View

Looking forward to the Epic this weekend. Having had a cold since last friday has put a dent in preparations, so I have entertained myself with chasing up a new bike. How many bikes does a man need?  N+1 is the accepted number in MTBing circles, but my wife seems to think that it might be N-1(or 2)!! Stay tuned to find out who "wins".....................and who lives in the garden shed!

I get to see some wonderful scenery from the ground and the air at times. Here is tropical north Queensland at it's best a week or so ago.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Pleasure AND Pain

Saturday saw us into the family truckster for a road trip down the coast to beautiful Coffs Harbour for the now annual Pleasure and Pain marathon run by the Coffs Harbour Cycle Club.
I had heard many good stories about the quality of the MTB trails down at Coffs. Having ridden them on my moto several times I was confident that the tales were true.
A race strategy was planned over an ice cream on Coffs Harbour jetty with my support crew....
Don't let their sweet looks fool you, he broke that arm over "the enemy". And don't get on the wrong side of the red head! The support crew decided to go all out and bring in the big guns.....

and woe betide anyone that gets in the way.

Now my kids, bless their little cotton socks, seem to have delusions of grandeur when it comes to my abilities on a mountaineering type bicycle. I am apparently THE world champion. Don't you know? Someone best let Nino Schurter, Julian Absalon et al know about this little fact. And I can do it while holding down a day job no less!!
Anyway, once the sugar high had worn off reality settled in again."Dad, where is your hair going?" Dad, why can't you ride that fast?" Et cetera, et cetera.....

Sunday dawned crisp and clear. An absolute cracker of a winter's morning with about 8 degrees C the low. Trying to get the crew out of bed and out to the start by 7am proved quite a task, so I envoked race tactics early by neglecting the riders briefing and getting to the start line as the announcer was saying "30-39 years mens starting in 10,9,8,7" and enter me pushing through all the other categories to tack onto the rear of my group. But I wasn't stressed at all with 100km of almost constant single track to pick off those crafty racers who had left their kids at home!
I spied NeilE from the MTB Dirt Wednesday morning crew six or eight places ahead and sprinted up the side of the track, through the derailuer eating sticks to slot in behind and share the first lap, chatting away like it was a Wednesday morning Daisy Hill ride. At about the six km mark JustCruisin sped past on his fully rigid single speed, putting me firmly in my place. How do those guys go so fast? A little later Brisbane local, Jaman blew past Neil and I so fast that I only recognised him by his jersey.

Meanwhile, my support crew were casing the lie of the land further along the trail....

If only Jaman knew....

Upon arrival at this obstacle I remained firmly grounded, although the log ride over the creek was a blast and easier than it looked! Unfortunately my chief photographer wasn't venturing any further into the bush with the two little monsters, so no photos of the creek.

A lap and a half after this photograph and I was in the pain section of the race. My nutrition plan was working well though and I wasn't feeling like I might cramp anytime soon, so the support crew took a well earned break..

Shortly after this was taken they were apparently last seen running across an open paddock, swinging sticks around and looking remarkably well "camouflaged" to blend in with the dirt.
For lap four, it felt like I had the track to myself. I saw no other rider for the first six or seven km of trail. I was plodding along through "Cows with Guns" when another competitor caught up to me. I asked the usual "would you like to go past?" to which the reply was "no thanks, I just wanted to catch up to you so I will finish". It WAS getting lonely out there! I found this spurred me on to try to drop her off. So we played a game of cat and mouse with me being quicker through "Barking Spiders" and my friend being a faster climber on the open trail. I was hammering (as 90km legs do) to keep in touch on the climbs and pushing in the last section of single track to make a small break. I knew there were about five small hills until the finish line and I just kept the cadence up and pushed hard, expecting to hear the crunch of tyre on gravel at any moment. I was catching another competitor with about 1km to go and thought if I made an all out effort I might catch them too. The last pinch climb of fire road saw me pass with about 200m to the finish line. This was a nice flat, yet painful 200m! And I was DONE!!!

Words cannot describe the feeling of achievement (I was obviously trying to find some/a word here!) and fatigue. That last 10km was and absolute blast. Thank you to the unknown racer from Port Macquarie  for pushing me when I thought there was nothing left. Another great learning experience and without a doubt the best MTB race I have taken part in. The trails here really warrant a look if you haven't ridden this part of the world.

Active recovery

I think that is what it is called.

I figure that short course stuff is not really for my legs, so a 90km recovery spin is in order prior to heading off to work again. Just what the doctor would have ordered.

Cleveland Point. I love winter here!

Now for another work sponsored jaunt around Oz. This time we are taking in Melbourne/Darwin/Perth/Sydney before returning home.

 Doctor's Gully, Darwin.

A "Wicked Camper" with a cool paintjob in Darwin.

Curtin Airforce Base/Detention centre from 38 000'.

Derby, W.A. has the highest tides in Australia. You can see the wharf snaking out across the mud flats at the top centre of the photo with the airport at about the 9 o'clock position.

These are sand dunes in the Great Sandy Desert. The red pattern is where the spinifex has been burnt by bushfire.

Homeward bound sunrise over the Great Victoria Desert, looking northeast from around Kalgoorlie.

Now for some last minute preparations and it will be off to Coffs Harbour for the "Pleasure and Pain Marathon". 100km of singletrack bliss awaits (well about 50km bliss and 50km bliss-ters).

Catching Up

The Sunshine Series race at Adare seems like an eon ago, but I did promise a word from the west.
My preparation was less than ideal consisting of a week away with work, then straight back on a plane to drink moderate amounts of red wine in celebration of a family member's reaching of an age milestone, then back on a plane, a bit of sleep, then out to the race! If I hadn't pre-entered I would not have had the motivation to go.
So picture me turning up rubbing sleep out of the eyes, coughing up a lung in the cold,dry air, knocking another competitor's bike over as I retrieve my bike and that about sums up my race. It felt like I had two left hands!
The track itself was 7.2 km of pure fun. Some small climbs, some rocky bits, some technical drop-offs and some fun flowing single track that put a huge smile on your face.
I actually had my best finish for the series with a 7th place in "would be if they could be mens" and that sees me finish in 14th place overall. Not bad as I have never done any short course racing and I raced in another category at round 1, also missing out on round 4 due to a combination of work and poor promotion on the organisers part.
The few photos I have....
Where I might have still had no chance.

The drop off get no justice in my photo. Jaman has got a much better angle from where he was sitting there.