I have managed to deftly avoid entering any races for quite a while now. I am not exactly sure what the reason for my slippery-ness has been, but I have a few ideas.
Partly weather induced- in not wanting to enter a race, then have it cancelled due to rain. Partly financial- not wanting to spend a heap of coin to finish in 264th place.....again.....! Partly because I now know of more than enough interesting trails that I can ride, if only I can find the time.
So, I am not 100% sure why I entered the Kona 24 hour race. Or why I entered as a solo.
There were possibly three factors. One, my daughter wanted to be my pit crew for the race and I had promised her two years ago that she could do it at the next 24 hour race. Two, I really like the trails out a Hidden Vale. Three, Dean0 talked me into it! Oh, yeah, and it would be fun to go "solo" and bounce sh#t off of one another for 24 hours.
So, I found myself out at Hidden Vale on Friday afternoon with enough equipment to outfit a small army in the field. After wrestling it out of the car and assembling it into a campsite, despite being caught in a wild horse stampede, we finally sat down to a prawn curry that my lovely wife had prepared earlier that day. Now this was camping!!
The main event was rapidly approaching and I was taking it pretty casually. I was still in "civy" gear 10 minutes before the start and putting air in the rear tyre about 2 minutes before the start. My plan was to just head off after everyone else had started. After all, why jostle with the crowd when I would be riding for a 24 hour period and taking sensible breaks anyway?
That was the plan but I just couldn't help myself. There is something about riding off with a few hundred other riders that is fun so I slotted in near the back of the 24 hour field just as the gun went off. Tootling along gently taking in the atmosphere was fun...until the 4 hour riders started zipping past. I suffered from a bit of red mist and (stupidly) put the hammer down a bit. Fun, if not real smart.....
So, I came around the first lap in about 50 minutes. Waaaay too fast for a 24 solo rider. I dialed it back a bit on the next lap though. It helped that I chatted to another 24 solo dude out on that lap who looked like he knew what he was doing. He (turned out to be Darren Caruso) suggested keeping my heart rate right down to save myself. I replied that I was doing that by planning on sleeping for about 8 hours...but his point was taken. I know I can ride for ever if I keep my heart rate around the 140bpm mark. Not the 160-170 that I had been maintaining.
The laps were in the order of 16.8km (10.5mi) with 320m (1050ft) of climbing. It doesn't sound like much, but the rocky, technical nature of the Hidden Vale course means that there are very few places to rest, either physically or mentally and yes, 24 hours is very mental. There were some corking descents that made the pain disappear as one held on and railed some sweet trail though. It was impossible to get a photo of these trails as you really needed both hands on the bars.
However, I was feeling pretty low after just two laps. It got quite hot mid afternoon and I was feeling a twinge in my legs and my triceps already. Not good just 2 hours into a 24! Thankfully, the cloud thickened, I drank lots and ate some to keep the system going. My pit crew was "slick as" despite no previous experience and I must attribute my good condition to Lucy's top effort here! As night fell and I switched on my lights I was feeling pretty bloody good. The cool night air was like a recharge for my legs and I fell into a great rhythm for a few hours.
Derek, Andrew, Geoff (trail building regulars/champions) and Kreston were kind enough to share their pit lane tent with us and at about 8pm I stopped for some pizza and a think about my "plan". My lead up to the weekend had not been very ideal with five 4am starts for work so I planned on sleeping. Lots. I wasn't going to win this thing so why bury myself? Just to have fun was the main item on the agenda.
Setting the alarm for 3:30am, I wondered about my commitment to get up when it went off. But not for long, as I was asleep as soon as I closed my eyes.
When it did go off, I reset it for 4am! But I couldn't get back to sleep as I was feeling pretty good. I woke my pit crew chief (not a pleasant job at that hour) and we were off to the pit lane tent again.
After faffing around for about 30 minutes I finally headed out at about 4:15am for another lap. I felt incredibly "rusty" and took it pretty easy after giving myself a few scares on some nothing pieces of trail. Coming into the pits after my first lap, my 10 year old pit crew was huddled up in a chair, wrapped in a sleeping bag, sound asleep.
I was feeling good and quickly grabbed some more water and headed back out in my quickest turn around of the race. As one other blogger put it in her write up, after 6-7 hours of this you reach a level of discomfort where it isn't any more uncomfortable to go on. That is not to say it is comfortable by any stretch of the imagination, just no worse.
Another motivation for me getting out there quickly was the glow on the eastern horizon.
The sunrise lap is always special. With the broken cloud cover it certainly was something special Sunday morning. The fuzziness of this photo perfectly reflects the situation as I was seeing it!.
It stayed nice and cool for another couple of laps and the increase in traffic on course was noticeable as other sleepers rejoined the fray. I must say that everyone was friendly and courteous out on the track. Good people, these MTBers!
Dean0 was up again and pounding out laps on his single speed. While I grovelled up the climbs, he smashed them as if with fresh legs. Very impressive!
The morning was starting to warm up and Steve very kindly handed me a bacon and egg roll, as well as a coffee. Much appreciated mate! You just can't beat real food on these long rides.
I still felt good but decided to stop riding so as not to bury myself and thought it would be nice to do a "social" lap with Dean0. We headed out for one last lap that saw us back at the pit at around 11am. Dean0 was feeling awesome, so he went out on another. I thought cool, we will have the same lap count. As it turns out, the sneaky bugger was already on the same as me (I thought I had one more than him from earlier that morning) so he ended up with 12 laps to my 11. Bloody great effort on his part. Slack, lazy one on mine as I know I had another 2 or 3 in the tank! ;)
But, I was still smiling so the main aim for the weekend was achieved. I rode lots (176km/3600m), I ate (very) well and I had fun.
A huge thanks to the "Last and The Furious" lads for their pit tent space and the "atmospehre". They managed 11th in the 4 man teams race. A bloody great effort as they were all on 6" travel dual suspension bikes that aren't made for cross country racing.
Thank you to Hayden, Fleur and their team of volunteers for putting on an extremely smoothly run event that everyone enjoyed. While the Easter weekend may have seen entries down due to people's regular Easter family commitments, for those that made it along, it made for a relaxed atmosphere having those few extra days off for most people.
Andrew's face says it all after he smashed out his best lap Sunday morning...on flat pedals no less!
Cheers and thanks for checking in.