Sunday, February 27, 2011

Everything in it's right place.

Today promised to be hot. 33 degrees Celsius, 91 Fahrenheit. I planned to get away early and Spencer was meeting me at my place for a punt at about 50km in the hills. Unfortunately after a rough night Spencer had to pull the pin and I was on my own. I left a little late and had plans to pull the distance in a bit and maybe just avoid the heat. It sort of worked....
Over Camp Mountain the short way. What a misleading statement. It's 1.2km (or there abouts) at between 17 and 23% gradient. Add the fact that we have had the wettest summer since 1974, including floods that devastated a huge part of the city, and the erosion that has caused huge ruts to form and head sized boulders to litter the trail and it gets quite tricky to clear the climb without getting off. I zoned out, turned the pedals and listened to my MP3 player. Grind, grind grind.  am always glad to reach the top of this climb. It is never a given that I'll make it without stopping. There was a bit of tarmac from there over to the next climb.
Scrub Road. One of my favourite trails as it starts with a descent into a quiet gully lined with huge trees and rainforest vegetation. Today was more exciting though as again the rain had taken a toll and the bottom of the descent was gone. It turned into a massive landslide followed by rut that was large enough to eat a bike and rider if you lost concentration. I managed to get through it and start the climb out to South Boundary Road and what had been planned to be my half way point. My MP3 and the Scrub Road climb had other ideas though.
Lucky I missed this one.

Sometimes it just clicks. A beautiful area, a song that starts at the perfect time, and the head space to hear it and know it is a sign. Radiohead, "Everything in it's Right Place". I was in my right place. On my bike, climbing a hill in a most beautiful place with my thoughts and my breathing for company. When I say the song started at the right time I mean it was in the perfect millisecond to make it's presence felt. I had felt OK until then but not "inspired". Here I was though out in the bush pushing my body to make the climbs, rail the descents and just be me. I was smiling on the inside so hard I reckon you could see the light from space. It got Zen from there.
Plugging up the hill, reggae blaring and past the half way point. No stops and then down South Boundary to Gap Creek. It all just rolled along. There was a brief chat to 3 guys heading in the same direction which was a chance to cool off a bit and just be sociable. Heck, if you can't enjoy what you're doing whats the point?  I raced through some single track in Gap Creek and stopped just long enough to eat a bar and fill up a bottle. Now the only decision was which way home? I could go via the road for the shortest most direct route but that just seemed to go against the flow for the day. It was hot, but I had plenty of water and was feeling pretty strong. Nah, up the hill it is and over Centre Road. There is a great waterhole at he bottom of the descent down Centre. I have even heard that there may be platypus living in the creek.
Cantre Road waterhole

It's always a wake up call for the first 300m of the climb as it hits 25% and is loose as a goose. No problem, I have the groove on. It's funny what you think about as the pedals turn and my mind wanders. I had a few thoughts of a coffee on the way home, then it was the movie I watched last night and finally it was the surprise as the gate loomed at the end of the climb.
Two climbs to go and neither of them particularly taxing. The batteries had run flat on my MP3 but it didn't matter. I had heaps of tunes to sing and all the company I needed. I just kept pedaling, and smiling! By the time I had made it down the hill for the last time it was hot. Nearing midday the temperature has supposedly hit 33 degrees and my water was low. Once I hit home I just sat under the hose on a chair and let it cool me down. Man. it was good.
I lived in my own head for 5 hours and loved it. My legs are dead, I feel cooked and god it's the best feeling ever. 

Friday, February 25, 2011

Last weekend.

Sometimes there is just a big waste of time and energy associated with writing a blog. Today you can look at he pictures, have a look at the profiles and know I had a good time. Special thanks to Lance, Neil and Craig for Sunday. It was a top ride with really like minded people. The ginger beer at Lances was the topper for a great weekend.
Bunyaville and Ironbark for a roll and some dirt therapy.

Mermaid Mountain on Sunday.
 I have never done this ride before. Let me tell you this is beautiful country and the view from the top is spectacular. The profile does not do this ride justice. Some climbs hit 30% and went on forever. I loved it.

Top of the first climb. It was steep! Craig lets me know.

Still smiling though..

It's bush. Beautiful bush.

Our intrepid leader. Lance climbs like a scalded cat.

He is shy though.

Neil gets there without dying. 
Neil looks well pleased.

Why we did it. The view back to Ipswich and beyond.

Lake Manchester.
Get the dirt under your tyres kids. It puts the soul back in.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Summer Cup lovin', take 2.

My lessons I did learn.

  1. I didn't take a water bottle. I hydrated before the race.
  2. I picked good lines and stayed smooth.
  3. I had a great cheer squad (again).
  4. I had a great time. The racing was tops and the event really well run.
The lessons I didn't learn.
  1. I had a craptacular start! I was nearly last out of the first corner. 
  2. I hydrated TOO well. I had stomach cramps at about lap 2 and they really didn't go away until I ate something after the race. I felt bloated and really needed a pee.
But anyway, here's how the rest of the race played out.
This week there was an extra half lap added to the course and it was reversed. While my Garmin didn't show that it was more climbing or a harder course it really felt that way. I messed up the first corner and quickly found myself behind a lot of riders. I think I passed 4 riders during the race so I must have been nearly last. Once I got to the first climb I decided this was just not acceptable. I stomped on the pedals and made up some ground and then sat behind a little knot of riders until we hit the first descent. Down we go, two places made up.
My second lap was my fastest of the race and I got two more riders along the way. Up in front of me I could see Jeremy, who I had duked it out with last week for 9th and 10th. Now Jeremy had got the hole shot at the start but had faded a bit over the next lap. I put in some big efforts to catch him and get his wheel. I just sat there trying to get some composure back before having a crack at getting around him. That really is the best thing about this kind of racing. I'm not racing for sheep stations but just for fun. You get to have a go at beating your mates and there is always a bit of friendly ragging going on. You can have those little battles away from the top places but that are just as serious as if it were for the podium. I monstered him up a long climb on the back of the course. I got around! I just had to hang on for the second half of the course and I'd have the wood on Jeremy for 2 weeks in a row. The effort up the hill had monstered me though. I held him in the single track and all the way back to the last open section of the course. Jeremy sprinted hard and got past me. That was the last time I saw him for the race as he pulled away strongly and I faded faster than Justin Beiber's talent at a live show. 
Oh well. I limped over the line in tenth this time rather than ninth. Jeremy put about 15 seconds into me in the last bit of course with his strong move to finish. I congratulated him at the finish line and went over for a post race rehydration ale. It was frosty cold and took the dust away. Pure bliss. Again big props to Brisbane South Mountain Bike Club, they really do run a great event.

Friday, February 11, 2011

New Contacts.

I posted a while ago that the guys from Giant here in Queensland had set me up with new bars and a new seat post for my Anthem. I hadn't really had any time to put some miles in on the bike so I have waited this long to review my thoughts. Now after a 6 hour race, a couple of long rides and a short course XC race I think I can make some informed commentary.
The items in question are the Contact SLR versions which both happen to be carbon. There were a couple of reasons for wanting to try the carbon bars and post out and not the least of which was the weight savings so I'll address that first. The carbon post made a saving of 80 grams over the stock unit and that represented a saving of about 30%. Whether that is worth the $340 retail price is something only the individual can comment on. The finish and adjustment facilities on the post are fantastic, it looks hot and it is light. There is of course the fact that a 30% saving on any component would make most riders pretty bloody happy.

Now the bars. Wow. The stock units were 250 grams. The SLR's were 125 grams. Thats right, 50% lighter. Same width as my old bars, 31.8 clamp, half the weight. Again the finish on the bars is top notch with a nice textured area for the stem to clamp to and alloy turned bar ends to protect them from strikes or the odd bad leaning spot. The value is good with these too. $130 is the business. I run my bars at 620mm wide and luckily that is what the bars come as stock. So now to some performance notes.

The post does it's job. Whether or not the carbon offers the extra damping it is purported to in this application is impossible to say. It's a 4 inch travel 29er for farks sake. I can't tell the difference. As I said though, it is light and the adjustment functions well. And it's carbon. Cool.
The bars on the other hand have provided me some great results all round. I can definitely say that my wrists are not suffering from the soreness I have become used to on 4 plus hour rides. I swapped the grips straight across from my old bars and have been using the same gloves for some time. I can't say I feel any more flex than I did with the old alloy bars and I have certainly given them a good reefing during repeated sprints in the short course race I did last week. I'm not known for my finesse in these situations either. Rather I have been likened to a gorilla trying to open a jar of jam. No subtlety and often a messy result. I do really like the bars.... Now 620mm might not be wide enough for bigger guys. It just isn't that wide. These are firmly aimed at racer boy and girl though and lets be honest, they are all weedy little units with no shoulders. Just kiddin'.
So the wash up is that I knocked 205 grams off the bike. I am really happy with that and it gets me down to 11.6 kg ready to race. I will report on the longevity later in the year and give more thoughts on how the gear is holding up. With a 4 hour, a 6 hour, a 24 hour and a marathon all before the end of June it should show up any weaknesses. Lets hope the rider can keep up.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Summer Cup lovin'.

Yesterday I had a crack at my first ever short course cross country mountain bike race. Before this the shortest race I had done was a 6 hour race. It's a lot different.....
To start with you can just throw a few things together and head out to race. It isn't like the days of preparation for a 24 hour race and I found myself standing around before we left wondering what I had forgotten! Three water bottles, check. Spare tube, check. Helmet, gloves, lights (the race didn't start till 6:15pm), check. That can't be all I need, is it all I need? Crikey! This is easy!
The car was still chokkas though. Alison and the boys were coming with me and so there we had the boys bikes in the car, chairs, an esky with some snacks, aargh! It was easy. I love having them out with me though. There is nothing like the cheers your kids can give you. It got even better as the sun went down because they had glow sticks and so I was getting a light show each time I crossed the start finish line. Good stuff.
Anyway, so the race. I raced B grade which was 4 laps. My 2 goals for the day were to go as hard as I could for the whole 4 laps and treat the race as a maximum effort session and to not get lapped! I was seriously worried about going into  B grade as I am not that fast or strong at present. Usually it takes me the best part of 10k's to warm up and this race was only about 12k long. I lined up and waited while the A grade race was started, they were let go first to make sure there would be less traffic for them up front and to hopefully allow the B grade race to have a little less competition for track space. It worked pretty well n the whole and really the only problem was the first lap as is the case in every race I have ever done. The hooter went and we were off. There was a sprint into the first corner and really I should have gone harder there. There were few passing opportunities on the course and my first lap was really slow and when I got clear course my times reflected that. I slogged around in 13 minutes for 3k in amongst a big bunch of much slower riders. As I crossed the start/finish line though there is a short uphill where the track opens up and when I hit that I gassed it. I got 4 riders in that one move and managed to put my heart rate through the roof. The next section was a flowing descent through some switchbacks and into a slight rise to another short descent. Now this is racing and I would never ride like this otherwise but I sat so close to the rider in front of me I could hear him breathing. The pressure payed off and he binned it in a corner trying to stay ahead of me before the second of the passing chances in the back half of the course. It's only a tiny bit of fire trail again on a rise but I was in a prime position if I could gun it and get another two riders. I managed to get one of them.
I settled into a group of riders about the same pace as me for the next lap. I managed to keep connected and just stay smooth and get some breath back. It was a much quicker lap than my first one but took less out of me because I could keep a steady effort on rather than having to sprint every chance I got to make up places. The middle of the lap saw my best passing move though. I smacked it through a grassy section and out sprinted two guys and pulled a ballsy move over a drop off to beat a third rider into the corner at the start of a section of single track. He slowed to roll the drop and I launched it. I found out later it was someone who knew me. He tried for the rest of the race to catch me and only blew one corner to give me a bit of breathing space. Our times were almost identical. Onya Jeremy! It was fun and you kept me honest.
The last lap was just a case of keeping the work rate as high as I could manage and keep pushing. Once Jeremy had dropped back a bit I ended up behind the eventual winner of the B grade females race and while she was setting a great pace and there were no real passing opportunities I was happy to stay put. I must say her pace was excellent and she picked great lines. and she told jokes the whole way around! Nice.
So I finished the race in 44:14 and with an average speed of 16.28km/hr. The link shows the slow first lap and the much more respectable lap times after that. So my lessons are as follows for short course racing:

  1. Sprint your guts out for the start. Hit the single track first or its a slow lap for you matey!
  2. Pick good lines and stay smooth.
  3. You don't need a water bottle for 12km races. Drink a bit before hand and you'll be sweet.
  4. Have top cheer squad.
  5. Smile, have fun and don't take it too seriously. It's a mountain bike race, you're not solving world hunger or curing cancer.
So here's the link to the results. I'll be back for more. It was a top event and the family had a great evening too.Well done Brisbane South Mountain Bike Club! A big thanks to Cyc'd for Bikes too for setting me up so well with bikes and kit. Well done Team Menzies! You lot rock.