Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Contact Epic 2013

I'm never doing this *ucking race again!
83k on my Garmin - permanently etched into my brain as I vented my frustration passing a fellow cyclist, grovelling my way toward Dingleburn station during the 2013 Contact Epic around Lake Hawea.

I woke at 5am to the sound of light rain on the tent. No surprise as the weather forecast was for cold, damp conditions. Banging some creamed rice in I struggled to work out what I would wear for the 125k starting at 7am. 
I like to travel light and was hoping to ride with nothing on my back but it seemed likely that I would have a few layers to remove so I opted for my small and light pack. Without the hydration bladder it would provide room for jacket, Daddy Long Legs and thermals as the day warmed up. I could carry the gels that would have been in my back pockets in the zipped pouches on the side so seemed the way to go.

Standing at the line with my brother Stu I met up with Hamish Grant - another ex-Contours owner. We both commented that we were wearing more than ever before but it seemed prudent being 3 degrees and likely staying in single figures for the day. Hamish mentioned his dog had died that week and that he was only there as friends suggested he should go. His day turned out to be tougher than mine when he realised his bottle was missing from his bike  and had to rush back to camp to get it. Tough day - tough week...

Got a great start. The Ventana leapt up the hill. Still loving the rohloff gear changes - smooth, steady steps allow for even power onto the road. I can only see myself getting better and better as I more fully make use of this feature of the rohloff.  I missed the first bunch but got into a great position in the second. The first guys stayed only a little ahead as we turned towards kidds bush. I wouldn't have held them anyway so I was happy to have the legs to get to kidds bush relativley uscathed.

Not long after Kidds Bush I passed the scene of Rob Roys untimely bike dismount resulting in cracked ribs and I believe broken clavical/shoulder damage of some description. Dr Prags was on hand along with others who took significant time out from their races to help Rob. It's great the way people step up when needed. The Classic was Pragati's first serious race. Way to go - not one to take the easy option! Switching gears back into race mode must've been tough but she got it done!

Temperatures came up a little and I determined to drop the nylon jacket and Daddy Longlegs at the head of the lake but turning south brought an icy head wind. Jacket and leggings stayed on...

The terrain went from smooth to downright rigid unfriendly. This was the fourth time tackling this ride for me but the first time going rigid. Initially I was pleased with how the bike handled the rough but there is no doubt that the impacts and more active input required wear the body down. I grumbled mostly to myself along the river section as I used a lot of energy to force the bike forward. The later climbs although rocky were not as bad as the pace was generally slower. By about 80k I was starting to get grumpy and the earlier enjoyment was giving way to some frustration. I was getting tired and my body bagan leading my brain down pathways it would not normally go. Although I may have been smiling as I uttered my declaration to not ride this race again the intention behind it was deadly serious. I was over it.

Looking at my Garmin later that day I noted that this point was the second of two high points and arguably with all the work done prior - the toughest place to be for the day. Makes sense...

As is always the way, cresting the hill saw the feelings soften. I squeezed in a gel - caffeine and sugar - yumm - drank water and started to feel better on the way to Dingleburn. A quick drink and half a banana at the station saw me dropping down the grass section and on towards the bluffs. I felt ok through this section with some well placed riders bringing out my competitive spirit. I tried working some groups but I struggled to be much use and got caught wanting a few times as stronger finishers pushed forward and left me for dead.

By the last stretch of gravel into tarseal I was feeling stronger. I think my eating and hydration was lacking earlier and I suffered for it later. My time was 15-20mins slower than last year. This was consistent with other competitors results due to the wet conditions.

Post race I was interested to note that as with the Naseby 12hr, I was spent but far from broken. Others universally complained of sore backs and shoulders. I put this down to a focus on core work and consistent abdominal exercises. The addition of teaching pump classes may be a significant part of this as would an increase in consistency on my more heavy weights. The 5 or 6 extra kilos on the body may be providing resilience if not overall speed. I certainly feel stronger and am able to handle multi-session/multi-day workouts and rides much better.

The rigid ride definitely hurt more on the rugged trail sections and I will need to focus more on this aspect in my training if I go this way again. The long rides incorporating the Rail Trail are not sufficient to account for the tough 60k through the middle of the Epic ride. I may beg, borrow or steal a full-sus bike for next year... 

I guess I am doing it again next year...

Contact Epic 2013 (Select the link to view data from Garmin Connect)

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Naseby 12hr 2013 Track

Spent a great weekend in Naseby, getting some riding in amongst the trees. A little bit of 'secret training' for the upcoming Naseby 12hr race in April.

Thanks go to Adair for letting myself the family and friends use her wonderful holiday home on Strode Ave. It made a great base for riding and for between ride activities.

I have decided to ride solo this year. The last time I went solo was when I had just purchased my Epic 26er. It was it's first big outing and part way around the first lap the front chainring shifter failed necessitating 11hrs+ to be undertaken in the middle chainring. Not ideal but not the end of the world. That was my first outing at Naseby and it went OK. A timing miscalculation on my part saw me fail to head out for a final lap and miss a podium spot.. Perhaps brought about by the voice in my head screaming at me to stop for 6 of the 12 hrs! I have enjoyed team riding but I prefer slogging it out rather than going for the fastest possible laps - I'm just not that good a technical rider! Always good to no your limitations...

It was challenging to ride fully rigid. I am still getting used to the weight distribution on the bike. The rohloff adds weight to the back. A little air time here and there resulted in the occasional clunk as I got it all wrong! On the whole I improved with each run. The Ventana felt at home in the twists and turns however and by the time the weekend was over I had a sense of what I will need to do to get the most out of the both of us on the day. I am continuing to enjoy the positivity of the rohloff and the smooth consistency of the gates drive. The dusty conditions would have been murder on a standard setup! Not that it is that big a deal to attend to a chain - it's just easier not to have to.

31/32 minutes or so was the order of the day for me. I will aim for 20 laps of the 11k course. Accounting for fatigue, time under lights, other riders etc I would expect 35 minutes per lap to be the average. May do a little better or a little worse. Time will tell. A wet day and who knows!

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Big Wheels Rollin'

After many months of planning and waiting as pieces arrived my new bike is born!

Ventana El Commandante on rock garden,  Alexandra
The 'hoff' resplendent in red!
There are few things as good as a new bike! This is the first time that I've experienced being part of the process of putting one together from scratch and it does add to the enjoyment.

The reality of course is that I relied heavily on the positive experience of Olly in the Tour Divide last year to determine the way forward. I got to play with some of the less consequential bits and pieces but the bulk of the build was determined by Olly. Gary at Rock n Road took care of a few other crucial parts. I did deal with the brakes, shortening the lines and I set up the rholoff shifter cables - twice - once munting the cables in the process, purchasing new inners and starting again before getting it right...

I am very happy with the final result. Just as well really as I plan to spend quite a bit of time on it over the coming months...

The 'Big Easy' MTB Race

What's in a name?
If you're going to name an event the big easy you can be fairly sure it's going to be anything but...
The big Easy held towards the end of January lived up to its tongue-in-cheek name!
The day promised to be a cracker as I drove the car around picking up some other first-time big easy riders. We got away on time and with little stress thanks to Blairs suggestion of loading the bikes the night before. Albert town being about 90k away necessitated us getting away early, the loading of bikes onto a trailer and bus drive up to the Snow Farm added more time making it a long morning to the start of the race. I much prefer an earlier race start...
I was riding my old Trek alloy 8500 hard-tail. Having recently parted company with my epic expert carbon full sus 26er I have enjoyed riding this bike while my 29er came together. It is very light and climbs better than many newer heavier setups. With the new bike coming together most of my available funds have poured into it leaving little over for other things. I decided to ride the tyres I had on the bike - the super light and skinny Schwalbe Furious Freds. As I will explain later - this decision proved both a blessing and a curse!
I spent some time prior to the race getting plenty of pasta power on board. I've learned that for me it is important to take in plenty of food in regular smaller amounts from when I first get up in the morning through to the start of the race. I keep the fibre down and the easily digestible carbs up. This way later in the race I can carry and consume less and focus on riding.
It was noticeably chilly waiting at the informal feeling start line. Looked to be quite a small field. Maybe 60 or 70 starters. A range of riders to be sure with a few notable faces. Kath Kelly looked fresh and ready to tackle the climb. She was to be the first woman home and had ridden from the valley up to the start line as additional training for her and Team mate Erin Greenes assault on the Cape Epic. Good effort. Maybe next year...
The start of the ride went much to plan. I started quietly. Moved up through the ranks as it got steeper and rougher. My bodyweight is around 6kg heavier than last year but the increased strength focus is really paying off. Still bodyweight and bike probably weigh in lighter than many in the field.
Crossed the major peak at 1hr1min feeling good and ready to see what this downhill was all about. I knew that my hard-tail, skinny, semi-slick setup would provide challenges but it wasn't as bad as I thought. To qalify that last comment - the terrain was more gnarly but I was handling it better than I thought I would. I fought my way over and down the mountain, bouncing and holding on for dear life. While I didn't pick up any riders on the down I didn't lose too many places either. Apart from one aerial dismount into soft dust I survived and set my sights on the last rider to get past me as we headed for the flats, just a few short k's from home.
Having caught and passed the rider Dallas I focused my attention on staying ahead and trying to reel in a couple more places. Dallas rallied and on a sealed stretch we had a brief conversation and readied ourselves to push for home. I felt confident that we would push each other to the end... then my rear tyre exploded!
I was off the bike, repair kit at the ready, wheel in hand in less than a minute. Unfortunately though as can be seen in the photo - there was a hole large enough to put my fist through. Bummer...
A quick assessment of what I had on hand didn't shed any light on a solution so I resigned myself to running the bike in. 5 or 6k of running and I was home.
Looking back at the ride I was pleased with a few things. I've not been out riding much over the last few months. I have regularly ridden taking my spin classes but not getting out a lot. A couple of longer rides on the previous two weekends indicated that I was Ok but a race is always a little different. The strength focus seems to be paying dividends. My ride down the hill was hard-work. Fighting a 26er hard tail down the Pisa range requires endurance and strength - especially as a rider that often takes alternative lines (ok - a crap rider:-) Follow at your peril!
I felt fresh at the end - even after an unplanned 6k run. This time last year I was pushing the body-weight down. I believe this weakened me which became evident in later months. Time will tell if I'm on the right track...
In a nutshell - ride this race if you get a chance. Outside of the event this track crosses private land so is a no-go. There is a helli-drop company that'll get you there for $700... making the 100 bucks or so entry fee seem like quite good value;-)
Blair did well. A recent 29er convert and still relatively fresh to MTB in general, his skills are improving and he will just keep getting better as the skills come up. Ross took his Giant over in much the time he was expecting and George surprised everyone and possibly himself with a very respectable effort. Not an easy 'Big Easy' ride!