Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Team Tortoise And The 24 Hour Race

Last weekend was the annual 24 hour mountain bike race out at Hidden Vale Adventure Park. Moved from it's regular Easter weekend, it gave many more the opportunity to put the hurt on themselves via some cool trails rather than being constrained to consume many "rabbit eggs" at family gatherings, as in years gone by.

I wasn't all that keen to race but Miss 13 was. Being on holidays I really had no ready made excuse to exit the state for the weekend so a Mixed Team of 2 it was!

"Team No Fitness" needed a name, an inspiring name unlike the one opening this sentence. Many were bandied around and after a week of smart-arse suggestions from all and sundry, in desperation, we settled on "The Girl And The Geezer". It very succinctly summed up who we were and put our credentials out there for the world to see!

Our local MTB club, RATS Cycling Club had three father/daughter teams in the 24 hour race. No mean feat and a situation likely to fuel the competitive spirit between the girls.

We arrived early Saturday morning and set our race base up right by the main straight. Again, no mean feat with over 500 riders racing for camping spots.

The race, for those not familiar with the 24 hour format, goes for 24 hours.....that is, you complete laps of the 16km (10mi) course until 24 hours is up, then you finish the lap you are currently on. We had a plan of just rolling around at an easy (sustainable) pace and swapping over at the half way point of the lap. This feature gave Lucy the less technical first half of the lap while I would do the more challenging second half for most of the race. This strategy was used by most teams in the 24.

We (Chris and I) lined up at the rear of the grid so as not to get caught up in the argey-bargey of the first lap. There was also a 4 Hour race starting at the same time, so there were some conflicting mindsets out there, especially on that first lap or two.

If we had been fit and doing the 4 Hour this would have been our view.

The first lap was a shortened version to allow riders to spread out with the use of extra fire road (did I mention that the race is mostly single track?) and then we went out on the first full lap. The girls were waiting until we completed this lap and a half before heading out for their first taste of the trail.

The traffic thinned out quite quickly and lets face it, I was in no great hurry anyway so there was no reason to get by. I had 24 hours to fill in !

This was the time for some mid race chat and banter. One of the topics were the new trails. Hidden Vale has a reputation for having quite rocky trails, which is fine if you are just going for a roll with some mates but in the 24 Hour race format, those same rocky trails beat mere mortals to a pulp. To their great credit, HVAP are in the middle of a huge investment in new trails and these first few, while only rated GREEN are a huge improvement on what was there. 

That said, there is still plenty of the snotty, old school rocky trail to contend with.

A nice mix some may say....

My pardner was having her first real ride on a 29er and a dual suspension 29er at that. She immediately saw the benefits of plush suspension despite the added weight over her usual bike and continued to ride the Anthem into he evening.

I must confess, I only did 3 laps on the hardtail before switching to my 8 year old, 26" wheeled dually as well. While it's efficiency was questionable on the climbs, the comfort factor was worth these losses. Maybe it is time to upgrade to a modern dual suspension bike? After all, they have come a loooong way in the last 10 years.

We rolled around, becoming caked in dust, but enjoying the flow of the new trails. My team mate was ready to go each time I rolled past the tent so there was no time lost in transition.

Daylight gave way to darkness and still my team mate was out there, lapping away. She even put in a full length lap so that I could have something to eat and have a rest!

She came into pit and stated at 9pm that "That is it for tonight". So I headed out for one more circuit while she hit the showers and ate something. I too hit the shower, had a nice cup of tea, kindly provided by our Pit Crew Chief (aka Mum) then hit the hay myself. I had to get back up to find my ear plugs though as the noise and music from the neighbouring tents was still quite lively. Some people were taking this thing seriously!

Having set my alarm for 4am I found it quite easy to bounce out of bed as I was looking forward to the quiet time on the trail that pervades in the pre dawn darkness. Many are having a sleep at this hour and the few riders out on course are taking a chilled approach to racing. 

I rolled around for 2 laps with dawn occurring about mid way through the second lap. Always the best time in any 24 hour race (well, at my relaxed pace it is).

Upon arriving back at the pit my team mate was all ready to go! She was back on the hardtail and raring to get into it at 6:40am! She did another full lap so that I could dine on pancakes with maple syrup, blueberries and greek yoghurt. Maaan, that tasted good.

I came in from a lap at 11:20am to find Little Miss ready to go out again. And not just a half lap but a full lap! It was getting quite hot now and we were secure in our race position, the team trailing us could not catch us, even if we stopped now. Getting this point across took some time as Miss 13 was VERY determined to get out there for one more lap.

Sense prevailed (thanks Mum!) and it was decided that we would roll across the line together to finish that last lap together. I took my race plate off so as no to confuse the timing system.

We both tried to steal a considerable amount of HVAP's topsoil by attaching it to our legs and bikes but sanity prevailed and we washed it off to keep the HVAP elevation consistent with what is shown on maps...

How do I keep my socks so white I hear you ask?

So, despite our relaxed attitude toward the race we actually managed to snare last place on the podium! Now, while my team mate is a regular podium visitor, I must confess that this is the first time ever for my good self and I wasn't sure what to do. Lucy steered me in the right direction though!

The winners were well clear on ummm, lots of laps with fellow RATS CC
members Wayne and daughter Jasmine nabbing 2nd place with 15 laps. Our 3rd place was secured with 14 laps.

A small prize accompanied our medallion. It was some of the ever reliable Ride Mechanic Bike Mix! The very same stuff that kept my bike running smoothly along the length of the Us of A last year in the Tour Divide Race as well as this weekend, despite the thick dust.

We had a great weekend of racing AND camping at the Merida 24 Hour, enjoying ourselves thoroughly. I would like to thank my lovely wife for catering to our every whim, not an easy task with my team mate being her Father's Daughter...if you know what I mean.

Thanks also to Hayden and Fleur Brookes of Hidden Vale Adventure Park for organising such a great event. These guys are responsible for much awesomeness and stoke within the mtb racing scene here in South East Queensland. The Merida 24 Hour, The 3 + 3 and the Flight Centre Cycle Epic to name but a few of the big ones. Without the Brookes efforts the mountain bike calendar would be quite bare.  

Finally, a huge thanks to my daughter, Lucy for making er, asking me to race with her in this 24 Hour. We had a great time, really enjoying ourselves (even when we thought we weren't) right until the finish. It was a pleasure to watch the way she prepared herself for each lap and how she conducted herself in general. It makes this old Geezer really proud.

Thanks to Lucy I now know the sweet taste of victory (or more accurately, second loser but you get the drift).
Who knows, it may make me hungry for more podium.......

Cheers and thanks for reading.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Where Does It Start ?

Earlier in the week Andrew Thomson from Bandit Rider wrote a post about where motorcycling started for him. He added a few early photos (pre colour?) and recounted books that perhaps helped sow the seed. 

One of his commentators reminded me of "The Mouse and The Motorcycle". I recall having this book read to the class by our teacher waaay back in grade 2 or 3 and loving it, what with the active imagination I had back then.

Anyway, in a roundabout way there is a connection here. I happened to be pouring over some old photographs the other day and came across a few of some early motorcycling. Of course, none were of my good self - clearly there were no cameras that far back in time.

I did find this little pearler of a certain Chillertek of "Road to Nowhere" fame whetting his ~13 year old appetite with some backyard-helmetless-frivolity. We.... he didn't need no stinking safety beanie.....

We... he used to valve bounce it up to near Mach 1 along the fence line then tip into that first left hander, all without touching the brakes.
Oh how the front tyre of the mighty Honda 50 used to drift on the wet clover......

It sure was puckering good fun. ;-)

The rest, as they say, is history.

Cheers Little Bro. Nice work.