Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Wildside MTB 2013 - Day 4 Hell's Gates

Yea baby ... day four of wildside.

As I cycled towards the start line, I was already thinking I had as good as made it through Wildside this year .. Yep, a quick jaunt down the beach and back around the heads and I could call myself a Wildside 2014 veteran.

All I had to do was ignore my throbbing right finger which was (barely) living (and heavily bleeding) proof why you shouldn't show off by showing children how to clean a chain with one finger early in the morning ...

Yea, anyone who has been wondering why these posts are taking so long to come out ... you try typing with a crushed finger nail that has done a full rotation around the front drive chain between the chain and cog.

It's one of those hurty hurt moments.

After a long wait to get to the start line, we were finally off and after the mandatory cruise to the real start line it was time to finish this event strongly, and so I jumped on whatever wheel I could find in front of me and managed to keep with the front half of the pack as we headed down to the beach.

But then we hit the soft sand coming out onto the beach, and everyone was off their bike and running, so I got off my bike and started running ... and then I was coughing and spluttering and gasping and everyone was going past me ... again.

Once onto the beach, I figured I'd be able to catch my breath, and then turn over a big gear and catch up to the people in front of me ... but that's not what happened.  Instead they just kept getting further and further away, and all those people behind me ... they just started going past me.  I just couldn't seem to get enough speed out of my bike.

It wasn't a happy moment.

However, even travelling at my slow pace, it still didn't take long to get down to Hell's Gates and then it was time to turn around to follow the gravel road and forestry trails back to Strahan.

Why had no one mentioned the sand dunes on the way back?

I mean the headwind I was expecting, but those sand dunes ... they hurt.  I did get one moment of pleasure  when I passed a guy sitting on the side of the trail trying to fix a puncture.  He had just used his last gas canister and I was able  to toss him one of my canisters paying forward a favor from two cyclists back in 2012 at the Wombat 100 who saved me when my racing prospects were similarly bleak.

Thanks for that Cycling Gods.

Then after one last battle into a strong heawind, and a tricky little beach section where I not only nearly missed the on ramp ... I also almost missed the off ramp ... I was finished.

Finished in every way.

Yay me.

Unfortunately my support crew (after another morning at Henty Dunes) were too busy swimming to notice my late arrival.  :(

AMENDMENT - It has been pointed out to me that I missed the fact that it was one of my support crew who took this photo, and that Markus Monster was there cheering me over the line and grabbed my bike when I finished, so I stand corrected.


Like many other cyclists that day, we left the event heading to Hobart but got stopped in Queenstown by a fire around Lake Burbury and we had to go home the long way via Cradle Mountain - Sheffield - Elizabeth Town - Campbell Town and then finally Hobart.

It was a seven hour drive all up, made longer by having to go and drop Kim and the Monsters home at Carlton before driving home myself.

What I think is most amazing though is the volume of food we managed to consume on the drive home.  If my recollection is correct we consumed:

  • 2 bottles of coke
  • 3 fanta slurpees
  • 1 ginger beer
  • 2 iced coffees (extra strong)
  • 4 ice creams (various)
  • 2 subways
  • 2 chicken drumstricks
  • 1 chicken burger
  • 2 potato cakes
  • 1 bag of hot chips
  • 1 large bag of crisps
  • 2 mega bubble gum tubes; and
  • 2 packets of super sour something or other sweets.
And that's how you keep two monsters, one awesome girlfriend, and a tired and sore rider happy and awake on a seven hour drive.

I was just glad I didn't have to be there when the monsters came down from their sugar high.

That's Wildside - done and dusted.

Monday, 27 January 2014

Wildside MTB 2014 - Day 3 Zeehan Spray Tunnel and Granville Harbour

I had a bad night last night, really struggling to breathe all night.

Even Kim commented on it, though when I rocked up to the start in Zeehan the next morning and tried to tell other riders of my woes I found them to be a less than supportive bunch with the strong insinuation that I was making up excuses for being a great big wuss.

But, as the next stage was about to demonstrate ... I wasn't.

Competition stage 5 is a time trial (in pairs) up through the Zeehan Spray Tunnel and then out along to the highway.

As one of the slower riders, I was one of the earlier riders to go, and within five seconds of the line I had already lost 10 metres on the guy I was paired with ...

That's me in the orange ... look how close to the start we are
and the gap he already has.
I was overtaken by the first rider in the next pair before I even got onto the moto-cross track (less than half a kilometre down the road) and in total had about a dozen riders overtake me over the six short kilometres to the highway.

It wasn't good, and I wasn't looking forward to what I knew was going to be a killer hot session in the afternoon.

To be honest I was seriously asking myself whether I should continue on the next competition section as I set off to ride the 15km cruise stage to Trial Harbour for lunch.

Then, just shy of 2kms into the cruise stage ... my rear tyre burst.

F*#k, f*#K, f*#k and f*#k.

I got off my bike and rotated the tyre expecting it to be just another "wheel off rim" adventure, but this time as it span around there was a great hissing of air and on closer examination I discovered a 1cm long gash in the tyres side wall ... and the Stan's just wasn't going to seal that (I know this as I watched as it all just poured out the hole with no sealing happening at all).

This is the point in your day when you find yourself asking two questions:
  1. What the f*#k am I doing here? and 
  2. Why is my support crew currently 50+kms away sand-boarding on Henty Dunes with my spare tyre sitting on the back seat of the car?
I consoled myself with the thought that at least they'd be thinking of me  ...

... or maybe not.

What one does not do at this point is remind oneself that you had been strongly advised (OK, told) by a certain person that one place you really want your support crew to be with you is at Trial Harbour ...

After considering my options and knowing the road is closed to traffic, I began pushing my bike back towards Zeehan, but after about 500 metres (by which point I was getting heartily sick of saying "Yea, I'm OK, thanks - I've wrecked my rear tyre") I figured that I may as well try stripping out the tubeless system and putting my spare tube in and seeing if I could ride my bike that way.

Fortunately after the first two days adventures, I had traded my small pump in for a much higher volume pump today so the inflating was a lot quicker and easier, and the tyre, well it went up ... and held.

But getting my tyre back up was the highlight of the stage for me: my lungs were really struggling, I was feeling very nervous on the bike expecting the wheel to burst at any moment, I was hot and bothered following my performance in the first stage, and my mind was in a very negative space ... oh and any dreams I had of chasing Pete had long since vanished.

This was survival time.

I honestly wanted to give up on the race at this point and so I decided to spend the cruise stage coming up with a list of 10 reasons I should keep going.

After 40 minutes, this was my list:

                (1) Because I know I'll regret it if I pull out.
                (2) Uhm, err ... nope. That's it.

I basically spent the two hour lunch break trying to convince myself I had to continue in the race and deliberately avoiding anyone I knew who could potentially put the temptation of a lift out of there in front of me.  The only interlude I allowed to my internal meanderings was a trip to Sprung where I had just enough money ($20) to buy two spare tubes which was pretty much all I could do to get ready for the afternoon's stage.

Then it was time to go, and as I had avoided all the other options, I found myself on the starting line, and then I was riding ...

The ride out of Trial Harbour is a longish climb back up the road we came in on, before the route turns onto the more technical Granville Harbour Track and as will be no surprise I quickly dropped towards the back of the pack and settled in for what I knew was going to be a real grind.

I won't go through the ugliness which was the Granville Harbour Stage, except to say that Kim has a video of me coming over the finish line and it is safe to say that she could have crawled along faster that I was riding.

... and this was despite my secret strategy of stopping mid race and going for a swim in Granite Creek to cool down (an awesome strategy if I do say so myself).

Like the other stages this one was a story of lots of overtaking on the technical descents, and then gasping and crawling my way up each of the ascents watching everyone I overtook go past me again.  It was kind of fun in a very painful sort of way and I drank nearly two waters of water when I got to the finish line.

But I did get to the finish line, and my support crew was there to cheer me over it despite standing in the sun for two hours (which is pretty good for a couple of young kids). Actually it's awesome.

Dinner that night was roast chicken and chips down at the little beach at Strahan followed by a cooling swim and bourbon and cokes as the sun set ...

Oh ... and a sand fight - I forgot the sand fight.

I think the cooling water helped my breathing a bit, because after late night ice creams and Markus's favourite DVD ... Jurassic Park I managed to get a reasonable nights sleep for a change ... bring on tomorrow.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Wildside MTB 2014 - Day 2 Montezuma Falls (and Zeehan)

The Montezuma Falls stage was all uphill for the first few kilometres and so I knew exactly what was going to happen when the starters gun went off ...

... I was going to get left behind.

Sure enough, for the first kilometer of the race a large number of the other riders in my group moved up beside me, passed me, and then moved on and away.

By the third kilometer, I was however ticking over in a rhythm and catching back up to all those people that had passed me earlier as I slowly moved my way back up the race field.

Then we hit the top of the hill.

Now I should say at this point that like any race, we at the back have our own little races within the race, and as it so happened a guy I used to work with at Forestry Tasmania, Peter Rowlands, and I were coming pretty close in our timing.

I'd (somehow) got the better of him in the first stage, he'd then left me behind in the next two stages and so I knew that this was my "do or die" stage.

The importance of this fact is that Peter was one of the many cyclists who had got a gap of about 200 to 300 metres on me going up that first couple of kilometres and who I then had been slowly reeling back in over the last few kilometres.  He hit the top of the hill about 100 metres in front of me and the chase was on ...

By the time we got to the car park to Montezumas Falls (at the end of the Gravel Road descent) I was on his back wheel and then just before we turned to cross the river I triumphantly came around him on the outside and hit the creek first.

I was in the lead!

I jumped off my bike to carry it through the creek (which was marked as a danger) and bloody Peter just rode straight through it gaining another good gap on me as I pushed up the bank on the other side and set off in pursuit again.

I caught him pretty easily and followed his wheel for most of the way down to Montezumas Falls, until (inexplicably) he started slowing ever so slightly and let me past.

Not to let a chance like this go to waste, I got a bit aggressive and overtook half a dozen other riders taking a few risks along the way (a guy on my wheel who was trying to follow me was less successful in one overtake and took the rider we were both overtaking down in a loud mix of tangled bikes and louder cursing).

After briefly checking that they were both OK, I continued on, went past the bridge detour (there was a detour option this year which allowed you to avoid the bridge and associated queue but which was about 6 minutes longer) and pulled up at the end of the queue of about twenty or so riders waiting to get across the bridge.

At this point my calculation was that I had up to six riders between me and Pete and with only five riders allowed on the bridge at a time I was thinking this would give me a good 2 or 3 minute advantage, plus with the next section being more technical, wet, muddy riding I saw this all playing to my advantage.

So I turned around trying to hide my smug smile and waited for Pete to turn up ....

Five minutes later, it finally dawned on me that maybe the clever b*st#rd had let me get in front of him precisely so I would do what I had done ... while his intention the whole time had been to cut off on the bypass track and leave me waiting in the queue.

Though I'll be honest and say that the more likely scenario is that the race between Pete and I was only happening in my head and that my very existence probably hadn't registered on his radar.

So, after what seemed like an age later I finally got to the bridge ...

... and over to the other side.

File shot from my last visit.
It was time to catch up to Pete.

I took off from the bridge as fast as I could, but my chest was feeling very tight and I was struggling to breathe a bit, so I settled into a solid pace up what I knew would be quite a long, wet, muddy climb from here.

I was therefore pleasantly surprised when I came around a corner to see a puddle which had looked like this last time I went through it ...

.... to find that it was virtually dry.

Oh yea.

To celebrate this dryness, I picked a rocky but direct line through the puddle and set off to fly through it ... then just at the end I hit a small rock ledge expecting to roll right over it and instead my front tyre just burst off the rim and completely decompressed.

I had another flat tyre.

Deep breath, don't panic, and don't shout at the cycling gods as it doesn't apparently work.

I whipped out the new gas pump and canister I'd bought from Sprung the day before and followed their instruction to just screw in the canister and press it on the valve and let it do it's work (there was no gas release button on this pump).

Nothing happened.

I pulled the pump off, couldn't see anything wrong, so pressed it on and tried again ...

Nothing happened ... again.

So I pulled it off a second time, began to unscrew the gas cylinder from the pump and as soon as I started unscrewing the canister, the f*#cking thing ejected all of the gas.

So I sat there watching all of my gas run away, sighed, then I got out my little hand pump and started pumping away again as I watched all of the other cyclists ride past me.

I'll be honest and say that this incident really took the fight out of me.  I still pushed myself up the track, but I probably pushed myself at 80-85%, not the 85%-95% that I'd been going at to date.

Then I finally got to the top of the hill, but again because I was so worried about hitting a rock and losing ten minutes from another puncture I went down the hill fairly conservatively and only overtook a couple of riders (in turn being overtaken by a few others myself).

The last kilometer was a lovely bit of singletrack, but I was cooked, a bit depressed and I just wanted to get across the finish line.

Then, because I was in a bit of a funk, I didn't notice another guy come up behind me and sneak past me in the last five metres to cross the line in front of me.

Darn it.

Strange thing was that this annoyed me so much that I rode really hard over the cruise section to Zeehan to let out my frustrations dragging a group of four or five riders behind me until I accelerated away and left them to do their own work getting home.

Yea, I was a bit crabby.

Fortunately my amazing support crew were there to meet me at the finish line, pastrami sandwiches in hand (for them, not me).

We stayed down at the Strahan Holiday Park that night so had a bit of a drive after the race, but the monsters immediately decided that this was the best place we'd stayed at by far as it had not one, but two, bunk beds so they could both sleep in the top bunks.  Plus they could ride their bikes all around the park.

Dinner that night was a nice BBQ and salad whipped up by Kim and consumed down by the creek as we waited to see if platypus hut would live up to its name ...

Yep, I could get used to having a support crew, I really could.

Wildside MTB 2014 - Day 2 Sterling Valley Stage

I really need to get quicker at my starts.

After an easy 4-5km cruise out from Tullah this morning, "J" group (which I was in) had around a 40 minute wait before our start so we just sort of sat around chatting and shuffling a little closer to the start line every four minutes as another group went off.

Then, finally,  it was our turn to go out and play ...

... which brings me back to my starts.

It takes at least 10 or 15 minutes of exercise for my body to realise that the 'idiot' in control (yes, that's me) isn't going to be stopping and resting any time soon and so it needs to start producing more energy.

The problem with this is that I don't have enough overall fitness to waste 15 minutes riding around warming up ready for the race start, and therefore my race starts follow a fairly familiar pattern of me launching off and quickly finding myself falling back through the pack ... a bit like a rock hurled into the air and coming back to earth.

Then what usually happens is that as soon I start feeling OK and begin moving back up through the pack ... we start hitting the technical sections, so everyone in front of me slows down and stops, and that's my race over ...

But that wasn't going to happen today.

I knew we had quite a lot of technical trails on this Sterling Valley track section and I was therefore determined to get myself in a position where I could ride them, not crawl over them.

So I went out hard, as hard as I could, and because of this I only started going backwards through the pack slowly ... not in my usual anchor like fashion.

Yay me!

Very quickly the pack lost its usual sprint start speed and I noticed an opportunity where most of the riders were trying to stick in single file to take advantage of the smoother, well ridden, side of the track ... so I took the rougher side and started moving my way up through the pack.

Within the first couple of kilometres I had picked up a half dozen riders using this strategy and I was already composing today's triumphant blog post in my head telling stories of unending open tracks and fast descents  ...

Then we got to the bottom of a little hill, I saw the opportunity to hit another couple of cyclists, shifted up a gear, pulled out to the left, accelerated ... and had a stick go straight up into my drive chain and stick in the derailer.

       Dear Cycling Gods,

            GIVE ME A F**KING BREAK!!!!!

       Yours kindly,

       The Rambler.

I had to stop and pull the stick out and in the few short moments it took to do this, and then get back on and get some speed going up the hill I'd easily lost every spot I'd gained ... and a few more besides.


Not long after that we hit the single track ...

(Note: Recreation for visual reinforcement of my story.
This was actually later at Monetezumas Falls)
The climb up the old horse track to the Sterling Valley Pass is a beautiful bit of track and I don't want to overstate my cycling abilities here as I was working hard to get up this section and get past the occasional cyclist (in turn being overtaken by a few others).

But to give you some idea of the frustration with being this far back in the pack, there was a section towards the top which I was working up with another girl who was travelling at a similar pace and we came up behind two other riders, the girl I was riding with got off her bike and began pushing it up the track as quickly as they were riding up, but the two just wouldn't give us the track and we eventually had to be a bit rude and force our way past (of course just before it opened out anyway), but we'd travelled 600 or 700 metres at half the pace we'd like to have gone.

Then the track started going down ... and it was good.

The first section was wide (but rocky) gravel trails and afforded some great opportunities for getting past less technically adept (or less stupid) riders, then it was a (very) sharp right onto the Sterling Valley single track.

After passing a guy being helped back through the traffic flow by two others with a busted knee, I took a reality check and decided to push my bike down through the really technical top section before launching down the more sweeping section below.  Again this fast sweeping section was a bit frustrating with a few rider 'blocks' but at the second bridge I finally managed to get past the last of these and me (and some guy behind me) just let off the brakes and flew down the last section.

It was fun and when I caught up with the guy behind me later on he agreed.

Thanks cycling gods.

I crossed the finish line ... just in time to get to the lunch buffet and watch the last of the muffins and savouries being devoured by those going back for seconds.

Thanks cycling gods.

Then it was off to the pool to catch up with the support crew ...

Apparently their morning had been equally stressful ....

They'd paired up with Jon McCombs support crew to go for an early morning ride out to Montezuma Falls only to find that the road was closed due to some mountain bike race.

In my "I just want to rest, cool down, and eat state", I never really quite understood the full story that was excitedly shouted at me by Markus as I crossed the finish line, but I do know that Markus was very excited that a guy called Colin Locke, who was apparently a friend of mine, and who they'd just met out at the junction to Montezuma Falls, had fixed his bike.

Kim later explained that Colin had been a really nice guy who helped them out with loading and unloading bikes and who had fixed Markus's drivechain which had broken.  In the process he had recognised Kim from a recent Cadbury Half Marathon post, so whoever you are Colin - thanks (both for helping Kim out and for being the fourth person after Kim and my mum who reads this stuff!).

So after the unsuccessful visit to Monetezuma Falls, my support crew had firmly established themselves at the Rosebery swimming pool early in the day and were still there two hours later when I set off for competition stage 4 - Montezuma Falls.

Apparently little monster didn't leave the pool for over four hours.

As I set off into the hot dry heat of the afternoon I was so jealous of that.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Wildside MTB 2014 - Day 1 Cradle Mountain to Tullah

Little did I know that as I hurtled around the first race stage of Wildside MTB  2014, that I was in fact passing another significant milestone ...

Yep, sometime while I was out on those trails, I chalked up 100,000 pageviews on my blog (big thanks to Kim who assures me she can claim at least 50,000 of those).

But this may not be that exciting to anyone but me, so back to the race ...

Race Stage 1: "Cradle Mountain" 18km

I had a  race plan and that was to survive each leg, one by one, until I got to the finish line.

I therefore knew exactly where I wanted to be as we set off, and that was safely tucked into the back of the pack while I got myself into the race.

Unfortunately I missed the main part of the pack.  Actually, truth be told,  I missed the whole pack and found myself dangling off the back ... obviously time to pull out the camera and pretend I was there deliberately ...

Within the first few hundred metres however I went past the first cyclist with a mechanical problem, and then another and another and I realised that even where I was - I wasn't coming last!

The cradle stage is absolutely beautiful riding, lots of fast track, gorgeous scenery and some really interesting surfaces from grassland to creek crossings.

What I liked about it even more was that after the lungs and legs had warmed up I actually started overtaking people ... I mean real people ... not just people who were on the side of the trail with broken chains or flat tyres.

Almost before I knew it, I passed the 5km, and then the 3km, to go signs, and despite feeling a bit cold from some rain showers that were coming through I was loving my bike, loving my riding, loving the tracks and starting to feel all of those pre-race doubts and fears burn away in the excitement of the race.

Then, just over a kilometre from the finish line, I went over a rock and my rear tyre just blew off the tyre with a loud bang.

Insert four letter word that rhymes with muck here.

Then repeat it several times.  Loudly.

I pulled off the track, and was relieved to find that the tyre itself didn't look damaged.  It just looked like it had come off the rim and then resealed.  I pulled the gas pump out of my backpack, quickly screwed the canister in, chucked it on the valve and pressed the button ...

Absolutely nothing happened.

I pulled it back off and checked everything, tried a few more times and then finally realised that for some reason the pump was stuffed.

Insert more mucking type sounds here.

I'd already had about 5 or 10 people go past in this short time, and with only one option left to me, I pulled out my tiny emergency hand pump and proceeded to pump like crazy trying to get enough air back in the tyre to ride.  The gauge said 20 PSI when I first put it back on, and it seemed to take an age for it to move off 20 towards 25, then 30 psi and finally as it got somewhere near 35 psi, I decided that that was enough pressure to get me over the finish line, packed back up and nursed myself over the last kilometre and a bit to the finish line.

Stage 1 was done.  It wasn't a disaster, but nor was it a success.

As I tried to figure out what was wrong with my CO2 pump (by handing it to Peter Bird to see if he could fix it for me) I looked around with a bit of envy as other riders got changed into dry clothes and put on rain jackets before setting off on the 15km or so ride to the lunch stop.  The thought started to work its way into my mind that maybe sending my support crew off to go sight seeing wasn't the smartest idea in the world.

I was however reunited with my support crew at our lunch stop after a fairly cold cruise stage ride.

Their timing was perfect, arriving just after I'd stood in the food queue for 10 minutes and was sitting down to eat my muffin (little monster got that), chicken roll (I got that), fruit (markus monster had that) and chocolates (that was a free for all as I wasn't giving up my chocolates without a fight).

My support crew had apparently had a pleasant, if somewhat nippy, morning around lake Dove before getting stuck in the traffic jam of spectators on their way to the lunch stop.

By the time they'd devoured my food, I was shivering because I was so cold sitting there in my wet cycling gear so we headed back to the car to get a warm jacket and rest up for the second competition stage - Que River.

Stage 2 - Que River

I loved (most of) stage 2, and if you're reading this looking for race tips and you're in one of the slower groups but you're a good technical rider, then take my advice and get on the front of the start line for your group because there's about 50 metres of open riding before you all funnel into some single track and if you're at the back of your group, then that's where you're going to stay for the next few kilometres.

I, of course, was at the back of my group again ...

After a few lovely sections of single track alongside the road, you turn away from the highway and follow some fast gravel mining roads which eventually lead out alongside what looked to be some sort of giant tailing dam with old mining machinery rusting around you.

I loved it here and would love to come back and explore at a more leisurely pace (but can't as it's all private and locked so don't get any ideas).

After crossing the lake, there's another fast downhill section before you dive into some myrtle forest and across a rather deep creek ...

That's about where I stopped loving stage 2.

In terms of what was happening in the actual race, after I'd escaped the single track, I'd ridden down 3 or 4 riders, but then had a few pass me in turn, so in the main I felt I was holding my own.

Then we hit the power line track.

Now I'd been warned about this section and had in fact been told it was brutal and unrelenting and sure enough all off the people I'd overtaken went past me on the second or third hill where I had to get off for the first time and push.

What followed was kilometre after kilometre of me then trying to reel them all back in again by abandoning all good sense going down hills and then just trying to hold onto them as we headed back up the next one.  This actually worked, and one by one by one I reeled them all back in and then started overtaking new people.

Now the stage route said this section was 20kms and I remembered from the route profile that the last 2kms were mainly downhill so at 18.5kms from the start, I looked at the hill I was climbing and figured that it must be the last big hill of the day and so I decided to bury myself completely trying to ride down the guys in front of me.

Which worked really well until I came around a corner ... and saw the 5kms to go sign in front of me.

I believe at this point that I was heard to say "muck, pluck, shuck, truck" ... or other words that sounded something like that.

Seeing that 5km to go sign was like hitting a mental brick wall, and I had to mentally regroup and find some new energy to ride the extra three kilometres to get to the finish line, but I did get there and I felt I had done a pretty good stage.

In fact, despite some shortness of breath, I was feeling pretty sh*t hot after my first days riding as this whole adventure was seeming so much more achievable than it did just a few short hours ago.

Yep, I was feeling darn near invincible as I hurtled down the highway on the last cruise stage (Boco)  to Tullah.

Then, just kilometres short of Tullah ... my rear tyre just instantaneously deflated again for absolutely no reason.

So back over onto the side of the road, out came the mini pump and in went the air, one pump at a time, as I watched the convoy of cyclists go past me yet again (I should say that I had actually bought a second gas pump at lunch from Sprung, but didn't want to waste a cylinder on a cruise stage).


Still, I did get to Tullah well inside of the cut off time and headed off to reunite with my Support Crew.

Unfortunately, my string of bad luck hadn't quite ended and I found myself walking into a major crisis ... we'd promised the monsters bunk beds each night, and there were no bunk beds in our rooms tonight and if that wasn't bad enough ... little monsters bed didn't have an electric blanket and everyone else's did.

That was nearly Wildside over for us then and there.

Fortunately chicken nuggets, ice cream and her choice of program on ABC3 made the world right again and so we didn't have to pack up stumps and head back to Hobart.

The bad news for you is that this means there will be another post tomorrow ...

PS.  On a serious note I was having big problems getting oxygen into my lungs, almost passing out on the finish line and then breathing like I was at high altitude all night just gasping for breaths.  It was actually serious enough that when I asked Kim if she could go out and clean my bike for me ... she did.

Yep ... that's serious.

Wildside MTB 2014 - The Prelude

There were moments during Wildside that I was a God on two wheels.

I was sweeping past the other competitors like they were standing still, flowing down hills at breakneck speed, cutting up the corners, doing all the work at the front of the groups ... I was brilliant.

No ... I was awesome.

Unfortunately, those moments mainly happened either in my own head or during the cruise stages ...

When it came to the actual race stages, well I was more like this  ...

Yea, this isn't quite the story of grit and triumph I was hoping to be telling.  I really did think that I'd do better than I did in the Hellfire Cup, and as Kim points out I sort of did ... my names not on the very bottom of the list this time, and I never got further back than group 'J' in the starters lists ... it was just unfortunate that the number of groups behind group 'J' seemed to have less and less people in them each stage as more and more people dropped out.

What does get in the craw a bit is due to five no shows and ten drop outs during the race ... my name is still the last one in my age group to finish.

That kind of sucks, but it's still a story to be told, and maybe if one person reads this and thinks "well if that unfit and under-prepared idiot can do that, maybe I can too" ... and then they go out and give a race a go, well then it's a story worth telling.

So let's go .. In the beginning there was the build up ...

The Build Up

As noted in a previous post, my build up to race day was less than ideal:

To be more specific:

  • I had not exercised in nearly two weeks due to a back injury.  
  • I was drugged up on pain killers
  • I was to be riding a brand new bike ...so new in fact that just 100 metres into the first cruise stage, I had doubled the distance I had ever ridden it. 200 metres into the stage, I realised that I didn't know how to change gears on my new bike and my seat height and angle were both wrong.  
If this wasn't bad enough, I had just had Avantiplus Hobart convert my tyres over to tubeless four days before the race, only to have the tyres continually deflate over the next 36 hours.  So I took them back in on Thursday to be looked at again only to be assured when I went to pick them up on Thursday night that they were now fine.

If fine means that the rear tyre would be flat again by the time we got to Perth the next morning (it had just been sitting on the top of my car) and both tyres would be flat by the time we got to Cradle Mountain.  Then fine it is, but I have another word for it which I won't share in this mainly PG rated blog.  

Suffice to say that not knowing if my tyres would even get me through the first 3km cruise stage is not my definition of 'fine'.  What added insult to financial injury was that they'd even thrown my inner tubes away so I only had one spare inner tube if I did get a flat.

So summarising ... just one hour before the race, I was lying in bed feeling miserable and injured.  I was convinced that I wouldn't be able to make what looked to be very tight cut off times and I couldn't even decide whether to race my brand new bike or my old bike which was (let's be honest) getting old.

Maybe a better summary would be to say that I was still in bed scared, sulking and wondering why the heck I'd forked out all this money to be here.

But an hour later, I was standing at the start line (nervous as all hell) but ready for whatever will be to be ...

It was also at this point that I got chatting to John Dalco and found out that as well as forgetting to give me my supporters pack yesterday at registration (a saga I will skip) the registration desk hadn't mentioned that I was supposed to check the board to find out which group I was starting in for Stage 1.  Consequently I had to run around and try and find someone who knew what group I was in (this in the end was done by interrupting the guy who started the groups off) and finally I knew I was in Group F, and eventually I was in the starters cage and about to start ...

A while yet ...

Getting closer ...
In the starters queue...
... and I'll pick up the racing from there in my next blog, but for now I'd like to talk about the other side of Wildside ... the Support Crew.

The Support Crew

You have to have a support crew for Wildside, and I figured who better to support me in a race than Kim and the Monsters?

I mean, surely we could somehow incorporate a bit of a family holiday into my racing schedule?  Right?  

No, we weren't convinced either, but thought we'd give it a try.

After a long drive up, we'd blown the budget and spent something like $250 to book a gorgeous little bush cabin at Highlanders for the night.  Given this, I did find it a bit strange that after arriving, we all chose to sit inside and watch the Princess Bride on DVD, followed by taking turns running to the cabin windows to see if any wildlife had come to visit us yet (or in my case - if my tyres had gone down again).

We did finally get a visit from some pademelons in the morning before we made our way to the start line where a certain princess was still getting ready ... and no I'm not talking about me.

As this was our first Wildside race we were blissfully unaware that support crews didn't usually come to the start of the cruise stage (I thought I had the most awesome support crew out there as mine was the only one there).  Later I found this was because all the other support crews go to the start of the race stage where they can do useful things like take photos and collect discarded clothing.

But I didn't know that then, and so as the cruise stage set off I bid my support crew  goodbye and they headed off to go sight seeing at Cradle Mountain whilst I set off to do the first few stages of the race with a rendezvous scheduled around 1pm for lunch.

And that's where I'll pick up in the next post.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Hellfire Cup to Wildside MTB - the difference 9 weeks can make

Nine weeks ago I was riding behind Kim in the mud and rain doing the Hellfire Cup.  It was day three, we were on the last section back to the finish and I was doing everything I could just to stay on her wheel and gain the protection this afforded from the stiff headwind.

I recall that as we were coming back to the finish line I imagined that Kim was a carrot in front of me, and in the muddled mess of my thoughts I also recall that somehow this morphed into the idea that "Happiness is a carrot".

What, I hear you think?

Well, I go on to explain, I was thinking I needed to get serious about getting fitter, and I needed therefore to have a slogan ... and "Happiness is a carrot" seemed like a brilliant slogan /  play on words because being happier is a carrot (inducement) that makes me want to get fitter, and at the same time eating carrots (instead of eating blocks of Cadbury Joyville Chocolates) will make me happier, hence "Happiness is a carrot."

It's not so brilliant really is it.

However, if that wasn't bad enough, over the next few days I decided to "improve" on this pithy little motivator and decided to name my quest to lose weight and get fit for Wildside Operation (wait for it) ...

"Happiness is a Carrot on the Wildside".

Yea, I know if I hadn't already lost you on the first bit, I've definitely lost you now.

Fortunately, a few days later I got this email from Cath McComb who had somehow got her hands on my entry form for Wildside (she'll probably say I emailed it to her, but I'll deny that because it would be less mysterious) and I then received the following unwarranted suggestions for my Wildside Entry Form ...

It was at this point that "Operation Happiness is a carrot on the Wildside" (it just doesn't work does it) turned into Operation ...

(Note: duly stolen from some website and edited by me)

OK, so some may suggest that I stole that first "Shock and Awe" bit from some rather well known footnote in history called the Iraq war, and that the "Cath McComb" sub-line bit is about as useful as the "on the Wildside" bit in my earlier Operation name.

But, you'll be relieved to know, this is OK, because it was then that a truly brilliant and appropriate operation name jumped out at me ...

Yea, this was to be the name of my first operation aimed to get me fit and reach my goal of beating 1 in 4 riders in the Hellfire Cup later this year.

Now, even before this momentous name decision was finalised, Operation S&BA (I know cool acronym right) had got well underway ...

You see, Kim had hauled me out to the shops to get one of these ...

which turns perfectly yummy food into something like this ...

Apparently I'm supposed to go 'yum' as I gag this stuff down for breakfast (and yes that was for breakfast, not with breakfast).

I also started getting fed meals like this when Kim was around  ...

Fish Frenzy for lunch turned into this ...

... and this was on the five days a week I wasn't fasting on this  ...

I did other things as well which didn't work out so well ... like joining this place ...

... but then I found out you actually have to go there and do fitness stuff, so I quit (without going even once) and went back to riding my bike and paddling which I enjoy.

So, fast forward to last Friday and I was doing well.  In fact I think it fair to say I was doing really well ... I had set myself a stretch target of losing 10kgs by the start of Wildside, and seven days out I was just over 1kg off that target with two large mountain bike rides planned on the weekend and lots of healthy eating still to go ...

Which was when it all went wrong.

It was just one of those small things .. I was loading my kayak on the roof racks for a Friday Night paddle and I just twisted my body a bit whilst extended to get the boat on the racks ... and I pulled something in my back.

And just like that my back was gone.

So instead of hitting the trails on my new bike last weekend, I spent the weekend lying on the couch in pain.

What's more worrying is that the pain in my back has remained fairly constant throughout the week and so I've had to drive into work rather than ride and I've been living on a diet of painkillers, anti-inflammatories and comfort (junk) food.

So now it's Thursday, operation Shock and Be Awesome, has sputtered and died, and in just over 36 hours I'm supposed to line up for a four day mountain bike race with a back that I'm not sure will even survive the drive up to Cradle Mountain.

But then I think ... if my back wasn't so crook right now, I'd go and pick up a 9kg bag of something and tell myself that that is the amount of weight I've dropped in eight short weeks, and that is the weight I won't have to carry up every hill, every day, and that has to make a difference.

Yes, it's bitterly disappointing that I didn't reach that magic 10kg loss target, and for me even more disappointing that Wildside will now have to be an event that I'll just try and nurse myself (and my yet to be ridden bike) through this year.

But still ... 9kgs in eight weeks ... somebody has to give me some shock and awesome kudos for that, right?