Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Merida 24 Hour, the redux.

It went well. Nice way to be able to start a post really.
I've spoken about why this race was important to me previously so I think enough of the in depth analysis on 24 hour racing for now. What I will say is that mt preparation was good, my planning was solid and my result is right about where I had hoped it to be. I didn't meet abritrary goals I set of 300km or riding non stop for 24 hours but I was sensible and well placed compared to the efforts of the other competitors. I managed 18 laps, for 252km and finished 4th in my category. It's worth mentioning that Clint Pierce won the overall honours and is also in my 40+ category. He's a machine.
Race report time.
I was lucky to have a fantastic support crew for this race. Marcel, Mike and Spencer had all given up part or all of their weekend to come out and make sure I ate, drank and rode as much as I could. Marcel and I rocked up to the venue on Saturday morning to be met by Mike who had travelled out there on his own. We set the pit tent up with an absolute minimum of fuss and I was ready to race well before the gun. All the essential were laid out and within easy reach and now it was just time to sit back and wait for the start.

Lining up for a mass start is always an excercise in frustration for me. There are the genuinely quick riders that I don't want to get in the way of, the soloists who will just want to pace themselves, the newbies who are just petrified and then the people who think they will be smashing it right up until they hit the first bit of technical single track. The last group are the ones who cause my frustration. Never mind, smile and just get on with it. No further than 300m past the start I came across a racer who had tried to take a line over a wooden obstacle and got it horribly wrong. A few people asked if he was OK but no one was stopping. I saw him struggling to get off the course and sit up and immediately pulled over next to him and worked out whether he was safe to move to the side of the course. Once off the course I asked his name and tried to see what exactly had happened. Poor guy was in Lala land. He insisted on finishing the 14km lap but with help from Andy, a fellow rider, we convinced him to stay put and let the medics have a look at him. There were still a lot of riders coming through at this stage so I ran back up the hill to the start line to get the medics. That got the old legs working! In the end the young guy was OK to continue after a little rest and being checked out. He might hate me for slowing him up but hey, he looked like poo when I got to him.
The offending jump. Take the B-line next time.

Anyway, on with a race. Andy and I struck out to complete our first lap together. It was cool to chat and pass the time and soon we were passing the first of the flat tyres for the day. At least stopping had let the course clear for us! We were flying along. So after a some what longer than expected first lap I came through transition and around to my pit area. The boys jumped too and I had food, water and a bike check in seconds flat and it was out for some more fun and frivolity. I just kept pumping out consistent times for  the next 5 hours. I was in the zone, everything was working well and I was happy to be racing again. I had pretty much put all thoughts of a podium aside by that time with the 30 minutes lost to the first aid call on lap one. I had a fantastic mind set though as helping the young guy was the right thing to do. Karma was on my side.

At around the 5pm mark I came through transition to be instructed that it was time to fit the lights and get busy with some night laps. I'm not the best of night riders, my night vision is ordinary at best but do enjoy it heaps. You get to see all the little green eyes of the spiders and other insects and they just glow like emeralds. That and the fact that it is so quiet out there. I plugged up the MP3 player and got some reggae pumping to keep the mind occupied and off into the gloom.
The pit crew chillin'. Literally.
Man the temperature dropped though. Around then was when my only real issues of the race made their presence felt. With the cold came a few cramps, a few aches and a few dark thoughts. I couldn't get warm no matter what I did as my riding gear was wet through from perspiration and each time I stopped to take on water or food the next ten minutes were hell on wheels while I tried to warm up again. I persisted until midnight when I was scheduled to stop for a hot food break. At that point I made the decision to get changed, get a hot shower and grab a nap. I wanted to ride solid for 24 hours but the truth was trees were jumping out at me and I was riding like a nanna. I figured it was time to hit the reset button before the trees stopped jumping out at me and I ended up in one. In hindsight, it was the right decision.

Pit crew to the rescue again. Hot food was given to me, while I showered my swag was layed out and the guys had organised who was going for a sleep and who would make sure I got up in an hour and got riding again. That all went like clockwork. Total time off the bike was 2 hours, total time asleep was one hour and total goodness felt for having done it was off the hook. Now all I needed to do was punch it through for another 10 hours or so.
I popped out a few more laps while it was dark but really I couldn't wait for the sun to come up. As the glow increased in the East and I could turn off the lights my riding returned to some sort of normality. I got some flow back and could feel the laps get easier. I was no longer struggling to get the bike through the course and relaxed heaps at that point. It also warmed up and that was like a double espresso with a Red Bull chaser. Oh hang on, no that was breakfast.... Anyway, lots of caffiene and some food and I was really enjoying riding again.
Dawn coffee break.

Mike did a lap check for me around 6am and returned to tell me I was running fourth with some good gains in lap times and only 1 lap down. The thought of a podium fired me up a bit and so I got back out and did the best I could to keep chipping away at the lap times. No matter how hard I pushed though it wasn't going to be enough as Gary had the bit in his teeth and was gritting out gutsy lap after gutsy lap. I was still keen to get fourth though. It would still be my best result ever. Rather than monster myself and make mistakes I took it smooth and easy with consistent if not blistering laps to just make sure the gap was big enough. With 2 hours to go I was looking good and feeling relaxed on the bike. Not bad after 20 hours on the bike and 22 hours in the elements.
Still smiling after 22 hours.

Two laps to go. That should seal it. I have no drama filled moments, no suspense to drag out the inevitable, just the satisfying feeling of completing a race. I loved my last two laps because I got back to riding and had some fun. I got one lap in with Matt Powell on my second last lap and another in with Ky Lane to finish off. It was good to chat and hear that I was not the only one who felt the course was hard and made you earn your turns. Matt romped in the single speed category and Ky had battled through a head cold for 13 laps. Just to clarify, the single speed category means that the riders have only one gear for the whole race. No bail outs. These guys are hard as nails.
I crossed the line and dutifully Mike had checked the results and there was a small chance that 5th place could catch me. I had come over the line at 23 hours and 52 minutes which would have allowed me to start another lap for 19 total and a sure 4th place. I sat down with a beer instead. If the guy could smash out a lap faster than he had all night I would let him have it. Actually no I wouldn't. I sat and had my beer with my helmet and shoes still on and ready to go. I even snuck in gel just in case. I was glad when the announcement came that the time was up. There it is, my best result ever in a mountain bike race.
It's over.

Racing for 24 hours takes a lot of commitment and preparation. If it wasn't for the help and support of a number of people it would all be for naught though. First thanks to Giant and Cyc'd for Bikes who look after me with bikes and gear. My Anthem X29 never missed a beat and made a huge difference to the fatigue I felt last year. Of course my family are pretty awesome. They let me go out and train and indulge my dreams of being a boy racer. There needs to be a special mention made to my pit crew. I was fortunate enough to have help from Marcel, Mike and Spencer over the weekend. Spencer gave up some of his weekend to come out and hang out, make sure the bike was ticking and give some cyclist specific encouragement and advice along the way. He also lent me his awesome Ayup lights as I wasn't able to sort my set out before the race. Cheers geezer. During the week leading up to the race Mike called me and asked if there was some room in my tent for him to hang out and take a few photos. What that turned out to be was a whole weekend where he missed out on sleep to hand me bottles, food and encouragement over the 24 hour period. Marcel offered way back when I signed up for the race to come out and help. It's the second time Marcel has done so and he doesn't even ride bikes. They both just kicked back and made everything happen around me. I came back in after the first lap to see the whole pit area changed around to be better organised with all my stuff at my finger tips. When it was time to change into warm gear I found it ready to go and the help was there to get it on. I'm not sure if the guys even know how important all those little things are in the big picture. If you go out on a lap without the right bottle, some food or the right kit you can suffer through an hour of hell. That translates further down the line as it saps you of energy and motivation. So while my bike was faultless, my preparation and planning was great my pit crew was perfect. They never missed a beat so I never had to worry about anything but pedaling a bike. A massive thanks boys, massive.
The A Team
Now I am just going to bask in the success of the weekend for a while. I have a few plans for another race later in the year and I just have to work out how to get my pit crew to Victoria with me....... Hmm, I wonder.

1 comment:

  1. Bloody well done mate. I am very impressed with your ridingness. Must have been the "look".. http://i168.photobucket.com/albums/u188/DefragTOG/Blog%20photos/Merida%2024%20hour%202011/IMG_1530.jpg