The 2011 Marathon championships were held over the past weekend in Queensland, inland from teh Gold Coast at the Wyaralong Dam near Mount Joyce.
The trip was made heaps easier by sourcing a straight through flight from Canberra to Brisbane. This decreased the stresses involved with things like switching planes and extra wasting time.
Luckily we had packed relatively lightweight and only got slugged for 3 kgs of excess baggage. The secret here was to just pack a lot of stuff in the carry on baggage. No difference, just playing the game!
Just as I landed in Brisbane, I eceived an email from the event organisers saying that due to the site still being a construction site, we could not do any practise laps. Ultimately this turned out to be a blessign in disguise. At the time, I was a bit bummed, as I do liek to know a course as it assists in being able to pace yourself around.
No big deal anyway, we motored off to Ipswich ( the queanbeyan of Brisbane) to book into our motel, which luckily was extremely quiet. And it had pay tv, so we could chill out and watch the golf, or football all day long.....
On Saturday afternoon, after doing a good 2 hour ride in the morning, we headed south to the race track about 40 minutes away. As I expected, there was a not a flat road to be seen. This confirmed my initial suspicions that this race would not be easy.
Later that night we ventured off to dinner at the Brothers Leagues Club at Raceview in Ipswich. Johnny Diesel is playing here in early May. I remember him being around in 1989. And that is exactly what year it felt like in this city. I hooked into some pasta carbonara and some cheesecake to top off the carbs and just sat back and enjoyed the people watching. It was quite apparent that I did not fit in as a local here.
The next morning was an early 5am wake up in order to get over to the race start with ample time to prepare for the actual start. They had wisely organised to have the women start first, about 30 minutes ahead of us. The full marathon distance had 3 laps of a 28km loop which probably had about 700metres of climbing each lap.
The start was realtively mellow with over 200 full marathon entrants clipping in and pedalling off, with no-one having seen the full course at all. Dylan Cooper attempted a good move along a spoon drain and almost flipped himself as he got shot out perpendicular to the road and almost managed to end the day in the first 100metres.
After the flattish bitumen road we hit a nice hairpin and started up towards the feedzone on a big ring fireroad (off sorts), this then led into a superlong grass section (which was longer and harder and bumpier than anything in any of the Capital Punishment events). This bit had everthing including max heart rate climbs. I pretty much settled into my 'Angry Doctor' pacing strategy. After the grass section, we finally hit the dirt, and another climb, this time up numerous singletrack switchback turns. A lot of these were actually bermed and allowed you to carry the speed around and accelerate out easily.
My Specialized renegade tyres were perfect for this course, rolling fast and olding with no real effort on the corners. After climbing for a while, we went up over the tunnel crossing and started descending for ages through bermed switchbacks that had double jumps, drops, a and b lines, and just awesome flow. This was punctuated by a short climb to the tunnel which then took us down a whole lot more technical track with less bermed corners, a wall ride, drops and again more flowing singletrack. At this point, we passed through the secondary feedzone, and climbed up more singletrack which flowed well but took a bit of effort to get up. A little steeper here, even with the switchbacks.
After this tough climb, a bit of respite was had with a wide open singletrack flow fest that took us down to the feedzone area, then swung a tight lefthander prior to the big climb on the course. This was made up of extremely loose gravel and ascended about 300 vertical metres, of which a lot of it was quite steep. Probably 15-20% pinches. This did seem to go on for a long time that's for sure. The descent that followed was worth it though but was broken up by a false flat climb which felt even hard than the main climb.
The final descent was sensational singletrack which was also quite technical and had a number of big drops, switchbacks, rock gardens and log jumps. The dirt here was almost at hero grip level and you could just rail the corners as fast as you wanted with a just a little bit of outside weighting on the pedals.
From the bottom of the descent, it was flat out fireroad that had a nice downward slope that allowed you to absolutely hammer it. This led to a short climb up a small trail before heading down some bitumen access road prior to the last climb, which was on the dreaded grass once again.
This was done 3 times, which due to the accumulated fatigue due to hills, grass, and singletrack was extremely challening for a 90km race. The amount of climbing was exactly the same as the Angry Doctor, which, is a lot. The course was made up of a huge majority of fresh singletrack which for the most part had extremly good flow and was enjoyable to ride and race on.
The climbs were really tough. everytime I looked down at the heart rate monitor, it was always in the 180s whenever I was going up. My average heart rate for the race was 170bpm for 4 hours and 44 minutes. every muscle in the legs, arms and back was used to negotiate the 3 laps and I can still feel them today 3 days after the race.
I would almost go as far to say that along with the most enjoyable race track I have raced on, this was probably the hardest race I have ever done, which is exactly what you want for a national championship event.
I finished in a time of 4 hours and 44 minutes, which put me into 1st place for Veteran Men (30-39) and 7th overall (all classes) as everyone had started together. I was totoally stoked with this result as it had been on my to do list for about 6 months. To get the XCO and Marathon titles in the one year was also a major goal of mine, so to actually achieve it was an excellent feeling of accomplishment.
I would definitely recommend the location for anyone who wanted to ride some awesome trails. I know I will definitely be back whether it be another marathon championship or even a national XCO event. The trails were some of the best that I have ridden anywhere in Australia.
The race itself was definitely hard, as the vast majority of the field was unable to make the cutoff times to complete the full 3 laps. Only about the top 23 Elite men actually got to do the full 3 laps.
Photos of the weekend to come shortly.....
Next race up on the cards is the Dirt Works 100 on the 1st of May in Sydney.