Sunday, 22 April 2012

Wombat 100

It was a brilliant idea ... skip up to Victoria on Saturday night, mash our way through the Wombat 100 and be back in Tassie on Sunday night ready for work the next day.  Sweet.
Of course that's not quite how it went, but it was a brilliant idea.  Things started going a bit awry when we rocked up to the Virgin Australia check in just after 4.30pm (nice and early for a 5.55pm flight) only to be told that the flight was running two hours late.  Insert expletive here.

So we sat around at the airport for about four hours, rescheduled our hotel booking and hire car, and spent nearly $50 buying the only meal available ... three hot and spicy chicken wings, one small BBQ chicken pizza (kept warm in the bain-maree for several hours), 2 buckets of hot chips (one with vinegar) all washed down with three Bulmers.  Not exactly a perfect pre-race feed.

We got to Melbourne a bit before 9pm where I scored a free vehicle upgrade from a Hyundai i30 to a VW Golf, and we got on the road pretty quickly (Hint: joining Europcars Privilege Card is worth it).  Gypsy (my car GPS)  continued to entertain us on the way out of Melbourne, missing intersections and sending us out the wrong exits at roundabouts ... you know the kind of thing you really want when you are already running two hours late. 
However, despite her little quirks we eventually pulled into Cammeray Waters around 10-10.30pm, and despite initial impressions that the place was deserted their receptionist had waited up for us and gave us the key to our room where we crashed and banged our way around for the next hour putting our bikes together.  We finally fell into bed around 11.30pm ... yep, the perfect preperation for a 50km race start early the next morning.
 
View from our front balcony - the start line (pretty convenient huh!)
Kim set her alarm for 5.30am, and despite the chaos of the night before, and the lack of sleep overall, we pretty quickly settled into the pre-race routine of checking tyres, cramming in food, wandering around gawking at everyone's bike, trying to find some isotonic drinks, getting our race number etc. etc. 

It was kind of good because the 100km race started at 7am so we got to wander the 50 metres from our front door to the start line and watch them go, before coming back and getting ourselves ready for our race.
A blurry start to the 100km race.
We opted to start in the third of three starts, which was aimed at those "wishing to enjoy the scenery as well as the race", but more importantly was described as being for those who thought they would take 3 hours and 15 minutes or more ... We were thinking 4 to 4.5 hours at best.

Crowds in the starting chute for the 50km race.

Our turn ...
Look at that steely resolve ...
I was staggered at the number of 29ers at this race ... I'd say at least 1 in 3 bikes were 29ers which is a huge jump up from just a year ago.  Interestingly for me, a couple of guys I got chatting to during the race were obviously not sold on their new toys, both mentioning problems with tight turns and toes hitting front tyres. Mind you these weren't the cream of the racing crop if you know what I mean ... well read on and you'll understand.

I confess to being worried that this would be the race where Kim beats me for the first time as she'd been doing a lot of spin class training and the trails really suited her riding style over mine - lots of gravel roads and double track combined with lots of gradual climbing. 

Sure enough about two kilometres from the start, I picked a wrong line and before I knew it Kim was 30 metres in front of me and pulling away.  I take at least 3 or 4 kilometres to warm up and get the blood in my legs, so despite my best efforts to ride her down, my legs just couldn't respond, and I had to sit back and get into a rhythm watching her move further into the distance.  You can see it from my perspective below.  Kim is the rider on the right in red near the beginning of the video:


By the time we hit the first bit of single track about 5kms into the race, Kim was probably 15-20 seconds in front of me, but more importantly there were 8 or 9 riders between us and on single track that means rather than being able to pull away from her and make some time back, I was caught behind her and couldn't do anything about it.

As soon as we hit the next piece of double track, I rode hard and picked up three riders, and several others also took the opportunity to get past Kim so as we headed into the next single track there were only two riders between us and the time gap was gone. 
Winding our way through the track, the guy directly in front of me hit a downed log at the wrong angle and was on the ground before he knew what had happened, after checking he was OK, I got back onto the pedals and bridged the gap back to Kim just as she baulked at what looked to be a tricky launch over a jump down into a blind gully.  The guy behind her went straight over it and seeing my chance I launched through it and was back in front.

Luckily for me the next kilometre or so was my type of riding - technical, steep and downhill ... the kind of track that rewards the brave (or in my case the stupid).  Kim often walks this type of track so I saw a chance to open a break and I took it for all it was worth.  I was back in this race.

It was 11kms into the race, just as I came off a road section into another sweet section of single track, that I heard a horrible hissing sound, and realising that I was by myself could only conclude that it was my tyre I could hear rapidly deflating.

A look towards the sky - this couldn't be happening
I pulled off the track and stared expectantly at my tyre as it continued to deflate waiting for the Stans No Leaks to take affect and repair the leak.   When it sounded like it had finished inflating.  I pulled out my CO2 cannister pump, locked in a cannister and pressed the button.  It was the first time I'd used one of these pumps and was pleasantly surprised as the tyre instantly inflated. 
Then my pleasure turned to dismay as I heard the air rushing straight back out the puncture again. I quickly took the tyre off the bike, found the leak and held it at the bottom of the tyre hoping that the No Leak liquid would run down to the bottom to seal the hole.  When it looked like it had stopped going down, I pressed the button on my pump again to put more air into the tyre, only to learn that the gas cannisters are a one off blast, and I only had one cannister left.  You live and learn.

I pulled out my spare pump, and pumped up the tyre the old fashioned way, but air was still rushing out.  Time for a breather and a think.  I had an emergency cannister of No Leak Liquid in my toolkit and seeing no other option I lifted the tyre off the rim and poured it all in.  I then tried to pump up the tyre with my hand pump, but of course I couldn't get enough air into the tyre quickly enough  to get a seal, so after faffing around for a minute or two, I bit the bullet, put in my second, and last, gas cannister and pressed the button ... sigh of relief - I had an instant seal.  Then despair ... I could still hear the air rushing out of the tyre.  I desperately tried to get the tyre to seal, but I think I knew deep down that it wouldn't.  It was somewhere around this point that Kim pulled up and I told her that I was pretty sure my day was done and that she should carry on and I'd see her at the end.

A cannister ... my kingdom for another cannister ...
I'm sure the speed with which she took off down the track was just a sign of her confidence in my assessment of the situation, not complete glee that it was me, not her that was out.
I took a minute after that to absorb my surrounds a bit, virtually every rider that went past me called out to see if I was OK or if I needed any tools ... it's great when even when you're racing people take the time to look after each other, but I knew my only hope at this point was that the tyre might seal under a low pressure if given a chance, so I just pottered around and tried pumping up the tyre a couple of times over the next few minutes, but the tyre just wouldn't hold more than 20 PSI. 

The riders going past me had really thinned out by this stage, and so I put my bike together and asked the few riders going past if they knew the best way to get back to the start from where we were.  Two guys, Ben and Richard, pulled up at this stage and asked if I was OK, so I explained the situation and joked that it was a long way to come from Tassie for 11kms of riding.  They both instantly decided that this was unacceptable and that my ride wouldn't be stopped by something as simple as a flat tyre.

Next thing I knew my wheel was back off my the bike, Ben was pulling out his spare 26 inch tube (which he was carrying despite riding a 29er) and Richard had his leatherman out and was working at the valve like a madman. Ten minutes after that, I had an inflated tube in my wheel and I was back in the race.  You can guess how happy I was, these guys were legends.
I later checked my GPS track and best I can tell my flat tyre had cost me 33 minutes.  That's a major mechanical.
I think I was the last rider on the track at that stage, having seen no other riders for quite a while, and this suspicion was confirmed as I pulled off a minute or so after Ben and Richard only to be overtaken almost immediately by the front pack of the elite male riders who were doing the 100km race - they were 61kms into their race and I was only 11kms into mine.  Yikes. 

At the back of the race ... the tracks were mine all mine.
However, there was something nice about being so far behind the rest of the race ... there was no use trying to kill myself, so I sat up a bit and enjoyed the riding a bit more, cheering the 100km riders as they went past and encouraging the other 50km riders as I slowly wheeled them in.
Unfortunately I had obviously nudged my rear derailler during my tyre change as only about half of my gears were working with the other half jumping all over the place which made the uphill riding a little difficult, but this was an inconvenience, not a disaster, and I just carried on with what I had.
The tracks were just magnificent with the most discerning feature being the very slippery logs and roots which could throw you so quickly it was incredible.  I 'crashed' three times, though never anything serious - more 'unclips' than crashes.  I ony regret that my camera wasn't working very well.  I did take this short piece of video footage (unedited) to give you a feel of the bush and typical trail.


This course has everything from fast double track, narrow bridges, sweeping single track, challenging technical features (particularly roots), mud, sand and everything in between.  I just loved it and although taking it a bit easy, I came up to the drink and feed station at kilometre 28 pretty quickly.  I had a short break, drank coke and powerade, refilled the water bottles, then headed on for the back half of the race.
I seemed to ride down an increasing number of riders which sort of made it fun, but at the same time I wasn't really trying to do so and I knew I was just picking off the stragglers really, and then before I knew it I could hear the announcer at the finish line ... unfortunately I still had a 5km loop to do before coming up over the last little hill and crossing the line to be greeted by a free water and beer at the finish line.  Sweet.  I'd done the Wombat.
Kim and I had umhed and erred a bit about forking out the $165 for a room at the venue, but when we realised we could still access our room and more importantly hot shower after the race it was quickly agreed that it was worth every cent.  That shower was so good.
We spent a leisurely hour or so getting clean and packing up the bikes before heading off back home.  We were exhausted, with the lack of sleep catching up to us like a thunderstorm. and so you understand how happy we were when we got to the airport and first got to jump the check in queue after a nice lady took pity on us carting our bikes and ushered us straight through to the front of the line (yea, you can imagine how happy everyone else was) then we got a double bonus when they offered to bump us onto an earlier flight  ... The end result being that we were back home in bed at 10.30pm, rather than after midnight like we expected.
So that was my Wombat 100 (well 50),  Kim ended up beating me by just over 12 minutes, and she's claiming it, so I'm happy to give it to her
All I know is that I'll be back for the next Wombat (21st April 2013 - it's in the diary), and yea ... it's time to get rid of that happy buddha physique of mine if I'm going to beat Kim in the next race.

He just needs a Fatcyclist Jersey.

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