Thursday, July 19, 2012

What's new?

It's July. It's really cold in Canberra. The Tour de France is on. There's crazy fog in the morning.
June and July in Canberra are great months to take stock of what you want to achieve in the later parts of the year, put the plan in place and get things happening. Bulk loads of training are what has been on the cards for me over the last few weeks. It's not always easy with the cold weather, but on a positive note, the days are getting longer and the sun is out a fair bit more which makes it mentally easier.
Upcoming races
In the immediate future, there is round 5 of the XCM series with the Wollombi Wild Ride followed by the Back Yamma Bigfoot. Two super flat races. So, obviously the emphasis has been on making sure the endurance and power are increased to cater for these sorts of races. The Wollombi race is a super short event at only 75km. This is going to be a flyer!! I am expecting that this will pretty much end up being a road race from the get go. The vast majority of the course is fireroad so drafting, and potentially a bunch sprint will be the outcome.
The Back Ymma Bgfoot I have done a couple of times before. I reckon that this race has exactly the perfect ratio of firetrail to singletrack around. It also has a super vibe at the actual event headquarters itself. I can not wait for this one!
What Else? Well, I have been doing my twin peaks mountain bike training loop over the last few weeks. It is interesting looking at all of my stats over the last 5 years on this loop. I am now doing this one on the 29e and have 3 runs on it. The interesting thing is that the tails have been really moist due to the cold weather. I have been experimetning with tyre pressures of 20.5 in the front and 21.5 in the back. This is super low for me, but seems to be ok with the 29er wheels. There have been a few rim strike on the ENVE carbon rims when going through super rocky terrain. Only a little bit of tweaking here and there to get this to perfection.

A fair bit of this action going on.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Husky 100km Marathon 2012 – the allure of a dry track

Last year was the first time that I had raced the Husky 100 marathon. That year it was postponed to avoid the precipitation that would cripple the course. A great call by the organisers. This year, the trusty weatherzone app on the phone was eagerly checked every day to see what was in store for Saturday the 30th of June. Everything looked ok, there was sun forecast, but the temperatures were pretty low. I got some secret course intelligence earlier in the week from Duncan ( who said that it was ‘OK’.... Interesting....

Either way, I took the bull by the horns and only packed the white gloves. Sometimes you just have to be confident.

The week leading up was a little better than last the last race I did. The only thing was trying to not catch the man-flu that everyone at work had. I am not sure that it didn't inflitrate my standard athlete immune system - the scratchy throat and sneezing was not inspiring.

Driving down, I was checking out the surrounds. Dry roads outside of Braidwood..... good so far. By the time we got to Nowra however, the edges of the roads had that tell-tale sign of recent rains. Oh man....this was starting to show the true indications of what lay ahead.

Husky MTB

We rocked up to the Callala Bay RSL for the race registration at about 5:45pm on the Friday. Like the concertina affect of rides waiting for a piece of singletrack after battling it out on the firetrail, there were already a truck load of riders milling around waiting for the race pack which included the all important number plate. A call from the registration desk went out, “Does anyone know their race number?” BINGO – 14 - Yep, sure do. Straight to the front of the queue, 10 seconds later I was on my way back to the motel for dinner. That was awesome.

Callala RSL - Race HQ for a day

After a pretty nice sleep, we woke at 5:20am to head over to race headquarters. At this time it is just pitch black. The race always starts with the drive to the race HQ to get the eye in for the line selection. Straight lining corners to program the brain was a good option. It was also done just in case any kangaroos were out and about. Not that I wanted to swerve at speed in the dark, but it made sense at the time. When we got out of the car it was freezing. So I got back in for another 10 minutes.Even being from Canberra, I was shivering and had to get as many layers on as possible.

Cold and Dark - Saturday Morning

After getting the bike out, I went for my warm up which included riding the first few kilometres of the course to familiarise myself with the sticks that I remembered from last year. Yep. They were all still there. Thousands of them. My mental note was made to be near the front early on to avoid them flying around like last time.

7:30 came around in no time and the Elite field lined up on the start line anxious for the next 4 and a bit hours of racing. We could see the timer ticking down to the 7:30 mark, and true to form, the guys from iAdventure got us out and going right on the second.

From the gun it was the usual sprint fest that you would expect from a short track race. We were hauling along at 40km/hr along the 300m of flat hard firetrail. At this early stage, Mitch Codner did a flyer and chased the lead moto and got up the trail a bit. Remembering my earlier recce, I quickly got onto his wheel to ensure that the bit around the golf course that was a little sticky was negotiated with minimal issues.

And they're off and racing!!

Finally we got to the real singletrack and I followed Mitch through this bit until it flowed out onto the firetrail. At this point, everyone swarmed past both Mitch and myself, which I wasn’t concerned with – I had got the first bit sorted and had got through with no issues. It was time to get into the bunch formation. Early on the selection was made up of about 11-13 Elites. This was a fairly big bunch, but with minimal hills and lots of mud bogs, water crossings, and hero grip on the trails, it was not going to favour anyone for any solo manoeuvres.

Out of the first hour, the main things that stand out are as follows.

• Someone had squeaky brakes. This signified that we were due to negotiate a mud bog crossing. I was impressed because it made it easier to prepare for.

• The pace was fast, but would fluctuate depending on who was driving it.

• We had a PRO roadie with us, Cameron Peterson, who was super strong on the fireroads and was hanging adequately in the singletrack due to the tacky conditions.

• The creek crossing which just kept getting deeper. Hip height at least.

• The “two mud-bogs” – how they came up with that number I will never know.

• The cold was now equalised by the effort being put out – so it was pretty spot on.

• My brake pads would be nicely ground down along with other items such as bearings and derailleur

• People were having issues with sticks, mud and grip.

Speaking of sticks, Jason English stopped dead in his tracks early on signifying another mechanical – 4 from 4 races – sometimes when it rains, it pours! I still didn’t count him out. I remembered what he did at Capital Punishment 2010.

KOM taken out by Trenton Day followed by Adrian Jackson

At the KOM point, everyone started getting twitchy after points and glory on offer. Trenton Day and Adrian Jackson crossed the line in that order, therefore allowing Adrian to keep his spots for the series. By this stage, I realised that it was going to be a bit of a long day out for me, so I let the elastic stretch a fair bit. We turned left into some singletrack and I enjoyed the flow through this bit and had some fun off some logs. When I rounded the corner onto the next segment of fireroad, I saw the main group up the road again. Awesome! I just started grinding it back slowly and was soon back in contact with them.

At this stage the group was made up of Andy Blair, Shaun Lewis, Anthony Shippard, Kyle Ward, Trenton Day, Andrew Hall, Adrian Jackson, Cameron Peterson and myself. We were about an hour and a half into the race and were now negotiating the tight twisty singletrack out the far north of the forest. The trails out here flow really well, and also include a fair few nice switchbaks, log drops and awesome sweeping corners to really enjoy.

Suddenly, I had that sickening feeling. A stick jammed in the rear derailleur. I grabbed a handful of rear brake and was off the bike in a flash. I pulled out a metre long stick that had somehow got itself through the derailleur and the cassette. This was just before a tight set of switchbacks, so I had to run around these to get back on the bike. Annoying... 50 metres later, the same feeling. I look down, Grab a handful of rear brake, and come to another stop. Another stick, smaller, but still a pain.... They say things happen in threes. So, you can imagine the thoughts going through my head when, in the next 50 metres, I had to stop yet again to remove another stick from the rear derailleur.

Tell him he's dreaming!

So that small sector of about 100 metres duration cost me about a minute due to the sticky situation, and unfortunately, I had lost sight of the main bunch. I could still see Cameron Peterson about 100metres up the road, and now I could sense someone behind me. It was English. Back from his repair of his bike. He was motoring. I told him that the main group was only about a minute up the road. He was gone.

I was now in no-man’s land. Awesome....

Oh well, I was just going to keep ticking off the 5km markers and keep battling the mud bogs, the fire trails, and the singletrack and get some good riding in. The 50km and 75km feedzones came and went. I grabbed my bottles and gels and kept motoring. I could hear the parts of the bike ‘wearing away’ as I went through every mud bog. This was just like last year!

Ninja star

As I got into the last 30km of the race, I started to come across the 50km racers. The track also started to get a lot more slick and muddier in places due to the amount of traffic. Finally I got down to the last 5km and was elated once I saw the last bit of singletrack that heads down to the golf course. After negotiating the sticks once again, I finally crossed the finish line in 9th place after 4 and a half hours of racing.

The gloves used to be white - where's the NapiSan

Ultimately, the race was decided once again in a sprint finish, with a 5 man battle to the line featuring Shaun Lewis, Andy Blair, Jason English, Andrew Hall and Anthony Shippard. That was how they finished also. Such close racing over such a long and varied set of trails.

I spent some time talking crap with some mates and watched quite a few of the finishers come through. We were all covered in mud, had bikes that needed a lot of work, but at the end of the day, we all enjoyed the racing. There were a lot of stories to be told of the day’s racing. Some good, some bad, but we were just laughing and exaggerating appropriately what had happened out there. One day I will race a dry Husky 100. That is the pipedream for this location.

5 hour bike overhaul - must be a standard thing for this race

Dead Items
  • Rear brake pads
  • Derailleur Pulleys - lower one was the ninja star
  • Lower Headset bearing - a little rough
  • One rear hub bearing - the outer non-drive side
  • Bottom bracket bearing - these were ok, but were 6 months old
  • Front hub bearings
  • Shoes (well, they were two years old - glad I didn't run brand new ones for this race)
  • Knicks - sand and lycra do not mix