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