March 9, 2007
I'm not sure what I was expecting of the inaugural Otway Odyssey Mountain Bike Marathon. To be honest I hadn't really thought about it much at all. I suppose this was partly because of my focus leading up to the National XC Champs, and partly because I have been struggling to juggle work and training and travel - throwing a marathon race in there all seemed a bit overwhelming!
As I had expected, the days following Nationals weekend were crammed full of work and sleep deprivation, and suddenly it was time to pack for the Odyssey. As tired as I was, I was still pretty excited to be making the 540km journey down to seaside Apollo Bay, a town surrounded by rolling hills, spectacular old growth rainforest, and rugged coastline.
We arrived on Friday in time for a swim before race briefing. Tim and I haven't been to the beach for nearly two years so that was a total treat! During race briefing I listened to the description of the course and the rules etc, and it was only then that I started to think a little more about the race. It was a 100km race along 4WD tracks and singletrack, 3,468m of vertical gain, and race director John Jacoby was repeatedly urging competitors to exercise caution on descents... I started to feel a little nervous!
Standing on the start line on Saturday morning, I felt excited and thoroughly unprepared. Tim and I hadn't ridden more than three hours in a training ride for more than a month, so I was hoping my legs would remember how to keep going for 6-8 hours! After a 5km 'roll out' along the Great Ocean Road, the gradient got nasty and the race headed up the first of the many climbs. From here we rode through wild and varied terrain; open ridgelines, steep gullies, lush rainforest, knarly singletrack... it was an awesome adventure. I struggled in the middle stage, I was finding it hard to eat and drink because it was almost totally singletrack, and I started to cramp. I was going backwards fast, so I opted to slow down and eat and drink in the hope that somehow I'd ride through the cramps.
After a period of spinning and eating, miraculously the pain lessened. Crisis over! (In the 2006 Australian Marathon MTB Championships I endured leg cramps for the last four hours... I didn't want to repeat that pain!). I actually enjoyed the last two hours, although I never thought I'd be asking a race director for less singletrack in a mountain bike race. It was astounding how much singletrack was crammed in the forests around Apollo Bay. Berms, logs, creek crossings, ruts, gullies, snakes (!)... this course had everything. By the time I rode across the finish line, my forearms were begging for the singletrack torture to end!
Somehow I raced for 6 hours and didn't blow up, I was totally stoked. I was happy, relieved and embarrassed to cross the finish line in 1st place, five minutes 50 seconds ahead of Emma Colson. I was happy to win because I had ridden hard towards the end to stay away from Emma Colson, who had chased hard during the middle section and rumour had it that she had the margin down to a slim 80 seconds. I was relieved because the $3000 prizemoney means that I can now afford my aeroplane ticket to race overseas in April! And I was embarrassed by my appearance at the finish line - not only was I covered in mud and gels, but also a Vegemite sandwich that had somehow jumped out of my mouth during the last stage of the race and attach bits of itself to my face, arms, hand and bike. Still, a win’s a win, even if you are covered in Vegemite at the finish line.
My bike ('Bear') worked a treat from beginning to end, despite the onslaught of mud, rocks, logs and drops. A massive thank you to ORBEA for my fast race machine and to SRAM for preparing my bike on Friday morning.
I'm happy we made the journey to Apollo Bay (even if it means that now I'm even more sleep deprived and tired than before the Odyssey!). The weather was blue sky and sunshine, the scenery was spectacular, and the race was awesome - full credit to the race organisers.
Until next time,