Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Enduro Series Race 4. Sunday in the Vale.

There is a certain satisfaction in finishing what you start. Race 4 of the Enduro Super Series came and went this weekend with an 8 hour format on the cards. As an observation it has been really interesting to have to prepare and consider the 4 different durations of the events and to start to get a feel for just how hard I can go out in each one. It seems a consistent theme that I say I feel I could have gone harder. I might just need to get on with it and put the hurt on a lot more.
Anyway, a race report. I had a full dance card on Saturday with some kid commitments and that meant I wasn't able to get out to OHV to set up a pit area on Saturday as I had done previously. It also meant a 5am start to get out there on Sunday. I hate 5am starts. I arrived at 7am and already the pit lane was full. I wasn't surprised or even upset as with a solo rider all I needed was a spot to put my cooler to hold bottles and some food. Luckily though I ran into Meg and Pete and they very kindly allowed me to hand out in their shelter. All good. I did still have to rush to get ready to race and didn't really get to stretch properly and wasn't ever really sure if I had everything. I guess I'll know in 8 hours or so!
For the first time this year I pushed towards the front a little at the start. I wanted to get a good start as there was a small chance if I raced well I could get up into 3rd place overall on the series points. Well that was the plan. The start went around a hairpin corner and across a muddy land bridge in a dam which when all was said and done successfully killed my flow on the run out. I got around a few riders from there on the first lap and happily tapped out the lap. It was still under 50 minutes for the 14km lap and the second lap was even better. lap 3 was my best for the race as I caught up with Matt Killin and had a great chat and really pushed along nicely swapping pace setting duties along the way. Matt ended the day with a very respectable 4th place in elite after punching out consistent laps for the 8 hours. I stopped for food and water and Matt kept going through.
I had a little bit of bad luck. Lap 4 and going across the muddy land bridge a rider in front lost his front wheel and fell. My front wheel smacked into his rear wheel and I slipped forward and smashed my hip on my stem. It was no problem at the time, just a bummer for both of us really. As the lap progressed though my hip, or more precisely my ITB, started to tighten and make my knee quite sore. By the end of the lap though during the climb up Escalator my whole leg was killing me. After crawling back to the transition area i was feeling really bummed. We had fortunately set up next to the masseuse and as I was pretty well screwed anyway I thought I might as well give the ten minute massage a try. It did the trick. Trevor, the masseuse, knew his stuff and my leg felt almost good for a while. He instructed me to hydrate really well, do a few stretches and keep an eye on it.
I had been off the bike for 40 minutes and everyone had put at least a lap into me. Any chance of getting a podium were well gone so I just went out to ride some more laps and salvage some personal pride. I'd like to point out that when I say my chances of a podium had gone, I should qualify that the guys who finished in front of me and that I had gone into the race with the intention of matching it with were riding very strongly. I felt great until my hip went pop but the guys were just super consistent and may have left me weeping like a 3 year old who'd dropped his ice cream. Well done to Jay and John for finishing the series well and fighting out the minor places while Clint smashed everyone.
Anyway, 4 more laps after the massage for a total of 8 laps. That's 112km for the day and not a bad days work. Even with a disappointing 7th place in this race I still managed to finish 4th on points for the series. Happy enough. I want to mention some great performances by a couple of mates too. Well done to Matt Powell and Anthony Zahra for a series of great racing, well done Nick Westwood for putting in a gutsy effort on Sunday and being pipped for 3rd by seconds. Of course a big thanks and congratulations must go to Tailwind Promotions for running a really fantastic series of races.
So now what?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Long weekends

When an opportunity arises, you should grab it. On Friday I normally have to play Daddy Daycare and collect the boys from school and don't get me wrong, I love doing it. Friday past though Alison managed an early finish and I was able to convince Nick to come out for a late afternoon jaunt. He said he was going out on the single speed and I thought, hang it, why not! I also thought it might mean the ride would be a bit more casual. I was pretty well as wrong as I could be.
Nick has a Friday loop. It is a really cool mix of the single track around Bunya with a few good fire road climbs to test the legs. We pushed along at a nice pace and while I was slowing Nick up a bit he didn't mind too much. at least I climbed all the hills and only walked "The Steps". They really are just steps. You can't ride them. We had a very entertaining ride and shot the breeze which helped keep my mind off the fact that my legs were screaming. It was a nice scream though and not a "get off the bike now" scream. What a top way to start a long weekend.
Saturday dawned rainy and grey. The forecast had predicted it would be but I had held out hope they would be wrong. The boys had a soccer match each in the morning which stops me riding early and then swimming lessons take us through until lunch time. By then the rain had started and riding in the afternoon was really not much of an option. I hate the cold, and I hate being cold and wet even more. The trails were most likely sodden and my wheels would only make that worse. By late afternoon though I was getting very restless. From time to time I have resorted to drastic measures when this is the case. I go for a trail run. Yep, me running. I stick mainly to the fire roads and some of the ridge line single track and as the weather scares of the mountain bikers it is perfect. Some people ride or run with music devices, but when I run I very purposefully don't. I figure if I am running on MTB trails the least I can do is wear bright clothes and pay attention in case a rider does come along. Running, well it smashes me. How someone does a marathon I don't know. Man my legs were stinging by the end of it. It's only 6km in a very moderate time of 30 minutes but wow, what a workout.
Friday's single speed ride showed it was time for a new rear tyre. I had a new Ignitor sitting at home for just the purpose and a quiet beer on Saturday evening saw the job done and ready for the next day. Again Sunday morning was pretty ordinary and my plans for a big ride up into the hills was looking more than a little shaky. It stopped raining at around 2pm and that was my cue to get busy! I bundled the single speed in the car, chucked the riding gear on and set off for Gap Creek. I wasn't keen on trashing my nice clean bikes and the single speed suits the task with no pivots to clean, no gears or cables to clog and a 5 minute clean after the ride. Oh yeah. Gap creek was deserted. I had the trails to my self and with that in mind I rolled around in a state of near bliss. I was almost disappointed when I finally did come across some other riders. 
Up and over Dirt Girls and Pony Express, on through to Skink, the painful fire road climb up Magic and down Rocket Frog. Phew, time for a muesli bar before the next bit. There is a little bit of transit single trail to the bottom of Dingo and then up. I love this trail as it is an arse kicker. I'm yet to tame it on the single speed with a couple of little log roll overs that when wet are just damn hard. Sometimes discretion is the better part of valor and with a race next weekend I wasn't out to prove a point. I got off and walked a couple of the trail features. Going down was an exercise in traction control and 2 wheel drifting. The lack off suspension on my bike made for more than a few butt clenching moments with the best being the split second I was able to see me rear tyre in my peripheral vision. Yeah, I hadn't turned my head.
It was nice to get warm back in the car. I was reasonably well soaked through and the thought of a hot cup of tea and a warm shower appealed greatly. Big smile on my face though and a very satisfied feeling to have snuck in a ride.
Then there was today. A late start because I could, a coffee to get going and the family off for an outing. I was off the hook with a whole world of trails to go ride. I didn't head far from home, I don't need to. Down to the end of the street and into Ironbark for a few hills to warm up. To my great surprise and delight I came across the new trail head for Sunset. I've written about this trail before. It had been closed due to erosion but the trail fairies have cut a new entry and cleaned up the really bad bits to improve drainage and it's good as new. In fact better than new. My undying respect and thanks to the trail fairies. You rock.
Over to Bunya for some single track. There is a short tarmac traverse to the top of "Track 8". I barreled around for another hour until I ran into Antz. He was out for a final run before the weekends 8 hour race in the single speed category. In the SS category he is running second with strong results in all the races. As we talked he told me he hadn't been able to find a link into Ironbark from Bunya. As I was heading home by this time I offered to take him over and show him the roads. We had a good chat along the way and as is often the case we both mentioned that it was about time that there were a few more rides for us. I look forward to it as Antz is a strong rider that can only make me go harder to keep up. If him and Nick come out for a ride it will be really on. We said goodbye at the turnoff back to Bunya with the promise of catching up next week. I was off home for some left over macaroni cheese and a big drink of water. I felt great.
So there it is. Now I just get a couple of commutes before the 8 hour race next Sunday. I really couldn't be happier with my weekend. I couldn't be happier with the years racing so far.

Friday, June 10, 2011

I haven't had anything much of a positive nature to report for the last few weeks. I had a virus that knocked me around,  didn't ride, I got lazy and I have suffered the emotional effects of all those factors sliding by my "Not all is well in my head" filter. I have felt pretty darn ordinary for a few weeks now. Yep I still have those days, sometimes weeks, where depression insinuates itself into my life and tries to mess with me. It usually manages to do some mischief before I wake up to myself and send it packing. How does that saying go? The price of freedom is eternal vigilance. Never truer than with anxiety and depression.
Anyway, a ray of sunshine. I have commuted to work every day but today and feel tops for it. Somewhere along the way I got some balance back and my head and heart feel much more like they should. I have apologised to my long suffering wife for being a very second rate human of late, and as much as it never ceases to amaze me, she doesn't seem to hold a grudge. Yet another reason I love her. And today, I mentioned I didn't commute and there's a great reason, I went out and did "Nicks Friday Loop" with a twist. I did the ride on my single speed.
Nicks Friday Loop it is fair to say isn't particularly long, but it does have a few challenging hills. as much as I was wimping out with a very low gear ratio it is still heaps harder than dropping it into the granny and spinning up a hill. I am not unhappy with the fact that I rode every hill bar "The Steps" which is literally a set of steps and bloody steep. I certainly didn't set any land speed records but Nick was happy to let me chug along and not be too stressed if I was slow. I count it as a win.
The feeling of my legs burning and lungs popping when I try and muscle up a climb on the single speed is a heady tonic indeed. I am not a gear burning, lefty, extremist single speeder but I do appreciate the simplicity of not having gears, not being distracted by which gear you should be in, and just getting on with it. All hills are a challenge to be attacked and given no quarter and if you aren't honest with the effort the results are very predictable. You walk. Maybe it's a litmus test for how you really feel?
So life has been all about battling up the hills lately, both figuratively and physically. I might not be at the top emotionally but I'm cool with that because sometimes from there the only way is down. Physically I plan to crest a lot of hills this weekend and savor the view from the top. I know my legs will protest but they can just shut up and do as they are told. All in all, no distractions, no excuses.