Running on empty out in the dirt

March 3, 2006

It has been a while since my last diary entry, and with the road racing light on at the moment I decided to go looking for some racing. I was mentioning the lack of racing down at work one day - whinging is probably a better description, and Brian 'Big Dog' Price who I work with at Panther Cycles mentioned there was a four hour endurance mountain bike race on at Yellowmundee. I thought, "awww, four hours on an MTB can't be that wrong I was!"

I borrowed a bike, pulled out my old shoes - I hadn't worn them since my last MTB ride (four years earlier) - and discovered I really had become an uptight roady; with my white socks and fear of getting dirty, etc. I rocked up on the day, welcomed by a few funny looks and a voice in the distance sniggering and echoing something along the lines of "does that roady know what he has got himself in for?" Apparently not!

After running to my bike, something else I have never had to do in lycra, I smashed out a good first two hours. "...It ain't that bad - the technical sections I can handle, the climbs, no problem..." but come hour three the cramps started - big problem! On the last two laps of the course I had to stop and massage my legs a couple of times. Unfortunately, the downhill sections gave no respite to my aching body and on the 11th lap, after I had fallen from second to fourth (d'oh!) I cramped so badly going down the technical corkscrew-type downhill section that I could easily have been mistaken for an ironing board riding a bike!

I made it to the finish, made some comment about that being more painful than a 200k road race, and muttering somewhat incoherently, "I'm never doing one of these #$&@ing things again!" I pulled out the road bike the next day, went to Monday night criterium racing and won the race in a bunch sprint - that's more like it! Unfortunately, this gave me the false sense of security and brain malfunction to consider doing the 8-hour Race Tech working week series race the next weekend at Lidsdale Forest near Lithgow...what the hell was I thinking?

After receiving an invitation and a race entry from I rationalised my participation by convincing myself it was better than doing 240km on the road bike! I phoned my mate Brett, and asked him if he would pass me a couple of bottles on Sunday. I told him there was a good bottle of red in it for him, and before I knew it we had loaded up the big red fun bus (aka VW Transporter van), and we were on our way to Lithgow.

Arriving at the race start, it was fairly noticable that these events are held in a relaxed environment. Far more relaxed than some road set ups I have been to. The entry system and organisation was well run, and the influx of some 350 entries which had to be processed in the hour prior to start was all handled well by the competent staff and under the watchful eye of Stu Plant who is the director of the Race Tech working week 8 hour series. 8.30am and we were off, a cloud of dust, a roady taking a "fast line" (sorry MTBers, roadies don't know any better!), some dodgy passing techniques and lo and behold a lap had already been done.

The course consisted of quite a lot of technical sections and I found it quite hard to get a rhythm. I was however managing to jump all the double jumps every lap...woo hoo! Gotta love my ol' BMX days! Back to the course though; being in a pine forest meant that we had to contend with a lot of tree roots, sandy, loamy dirt and a track which basically weaved its way around a few fire roads, looping up and down the side of a hill.

As I came through the start finish after the first few laps I was feeling ok; I was trying to eat a lot because my upper body was already getting sore from the technical nature of the track - only five hours to go! Through the start/finish for the sixth time and I was beginning to suffer. I turned into the single track and chattered my way down across some tree roots and then up over a few small loamy climbs, then back down hooking into the now bermed corners. Each of these corners had a short punchy climb out of the exit of the corner...the legs were beginning to sting after five hours! Out of this section and onto a not so technical climb then back down again over some more techo singletrack then onto my favourite section of the course, the home of the double jumps. I could ride this section pretty well, and had heaps of fun. Onto the fire road climb, the only respite in the whole course giving me a chance for a drink and some food, then back into the singletrack. All the singletrack sections had names, but I can't remember them all (my brain wasn't working so well!) One section was called 'but wait, there's more'...yeah, just what a roady wants - more parts of the track where I go slow! The only good part was that I knew I was close to the end of the lap!

I managed to bash my way around, and I mean BASH, 10 times. The last few laps were really just my legs going around. My upper body had had enough and retired to the transit lounge, leaving my eyes to look where I wanted to go and pray that my arms would follow, steering the bike in that general direction! At one stage a rider wanted to pass me and I was that knackered I couldn't unclip from my pedal, so what do you do? Lean against the side of the hill you are climbing up, put your arm out, catch yourself before you hit the ground, watch as the guy goes past, then push yourself off the ground and keep pedalling!

After being on the bike for eight hours I had seriously "had enough", my body had never ached so much. Period. Obviously, the biggest things were my skills and upper body condition. My legs were going OK, my lungs were OK...but basically once my upper had blown I was riding like a rag doll.

The event, run by and for this round the Central Tablelands MTB club, was great fun. I would recommend it to anyone...but maybe stay away from the solo thing! It was also great to catch up with some old friends - Josh Flemming, Chookman and Super V, and John and Amber Hardwick, and also my team mate Troy Glennan. I ended up finishing sixth in solo, not too bad for a silly roady on a borrowed bike, but maybe next time I will find a team. It's just us roadies don't mix well with others, so I gotta find some friends - ha!

A big thank you goes out to Panther Cycles for organising a bike, WSMTB club, CTMTB club, Brett Murphy and Mum and Dad for giving me bottles and listening to my whinging! Well, next week I will be attacking the boards - Yep, pull the track bike out and hit the Dunc Gray Velodrome for the Clarence St Cup.

Until then, see you soon.

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