Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wheels on Woodenbong.

Funny name, great weekend.
So there's this new race called WoW. It's in the tiny township of Woodenbong about 2 hours south of home. As there was camping advertised at the race site and the family were keen for a little adventure we packed up early Saturday morning for the drive down and departed with the hope of a nice place to pitch the tent and some good food at the local pub. Both came true and really set the scene for the weekend.
The camp site was a massive, flat grassed area which backed onto a sandy creek. When we arrived there were barely half a dozen other campers and so we stretched out and made ourselves very comfortable. he boys got straight to exploring the creek with Rohan managing to "fall in" while fully clothed. Alison and I had both joked about how long it was going to take for that to happen. As it turned out we were pretty accurate with our estimates of half an hour. They were having fun though. We were also treated to the lovely surprise of Mark, a regular racer and often lap partner for me, showing up and setting his camp right beside us. We sat and chatted for a bit and once the tent was up my wonderful wife showed just why she is so awesome for the second time in a very short space of time. Alison let me go and do a test lap with Mark of the course to see how it was. More about the lap later, and about my awesome wife.
We had planned to go to the pub for dinner as often the food in a country pub is quite spectacular. Not in the "Quail toenails with a parsnip and mint jus rested on a stack of blanched bok choy" kind of way but more the head sized rump steak and thick cut chips kind of way. I was disappointed to see the menu was surprisingly short of some of my favourite pub fare. Rohan was keen on a pizza and as Alison thought she could share one with him I opted to get one too. All three of us would get a decent meal that way and seemed like a good idea. Now, the pizzas weren't good, they were frikken fantastic! Great bases, fresh topping and really nicely cooked. I was stoked. Rohan proceeded to destroy his usual half of an adult size pizza and a few of his brothers chips. Not bad for a 6 year old. Alison and I were very satisfied with the meal and the setting out the back in the beer garden just topped it off. Jack had fish and chips.At least he is predictable. After that it was back to camp with left over pizza in a box and into the showers before bed. A small mention must be given at this stage to the adopted family member and bit parter for the weekend, the green frog in the ladies showers. Rohan had gone for a shower with Alison so we could get the boys into bed quicker when he spotted the frog. It was like Christmas. Alison even had to go back the 200 meters to the toilets with the camera and get a photo of the frog to show me and Jack. Frogs are amphibians don't you know.......
Bed, slept like a log. Woke to a foggy (yep foggy in Spring) day with the temperature already going up steadily at 6:30am. It was shaping up to be a hot day. I cooked bacon and pancakes on the tailgate of the ute and watched as the boys engulfed as soon as they were cool enough. Man they can eat when we go camping. I just strolled around from then on eating a bit more, drinking a bit more and getting my shit together to go and do some racing. I had no high hopes for a result because you guessed it, I haven't really trained. I should just not even say it now and it should just be assumed that I don't train hard. I barely train at all. Anyway, enough griping about my lack of commitment to training.
Paul and Leanne were coming down for the race as well. As Mark could do with a hand putting up his gazebo I went over to the transition area and we set up a nice little race base before the crowds arrived. While I was there I reserved a spot next to us for Paul and Leanne and hung around until they rolled up. Another lovely surprise greeted me when Paul number 2 showed up as well. I used to ride quite a bit with Paul but just lost touch with work and life stuff. It was great to see him and he was looking pretty fit. Not as fit as the new and improved Paul B in his Superman cape and tights. I have no idea how much weight Paul B has lost but my, he is looking lean and strong. That fact was only proven to me as he dropped me like I was standing still on the first lap. If the racing had of gone to poo, the social aspect more than made up for it right there.
Race time. Got to the start line and felt okay if not a little hot already. The day was heading towards scorcher rapidly. Mark had said to me earlier in the day I should aim for 10 laps of the 5.3km course and see what happens from there. I have no data for the course as I hate racing with a Garmin or similar. The course was straight forward enough with the first half being a long, steady climb after a short double track section, then 3 heart breaking little boggy areas, another short false flat and then 3 long descents with short flat sections all the way back to transition. 161 meters of vertical according to the race profile.
As I get older it takes me so much longer to get into the swing of things come race time. The first 2 laps were like chewing broken glass. It hurt and to keep going just felt like it would make it worse. My only reason to keep going, and my dark little secret from a month or so ago is my complete failure at the last race I entered. I have never pulled out of a race before until then. Only 3.5 hours into a 6 hour race, pop! Broken Heartlidge and race over. Yeah, I didn't even do a post about it.
I had no idea about the times I was doing, no idea of a placing and less than no concern for either piece of information. On lap 3 though Rohan and Alison had come over to see how I was going from the campsite. Rohan handed me some gels and a new water bottle, told me about the fun he was having and said I looked muddy. I asked him if I looked alright and he stopped, considered his answer and then let me have it. "You look okay, but how's your bike race going Daddy?"     Slap.      Yeah, how is it going Graham? Well, I'm upright, I'm feeling a little better, there are guys out there suffering way worse than me and bugger it, I'm not trying to solve world hunger or perform life saving surgery. This should be fun. From then on I was good to go. My times didn't drop or anything miraculous like that but they did stay reasonably consistent and most importantly, I was having a good time.
I busted out my 10 laps and got a time check going around the last checkpoint. It was a close thing according to the marshal with only a few minutes left until the 4 hours ticked over. I came around the last corner only to see the clock sitting on 8 minutes to go! With such short laps that put me in for another slog around if I wanted it. I wasn't sure though. My legs had been cramping most of the last 2 laps and I just backed off and kept pedalling to stop the inevitable lock up that comes with effort. It didn't seem right to pull up though as I had managed it for 2 whole laps. 2 whole laps of gingerly pedalling and crawling up the climbs. Paul B saw me in a bit of trouble and immediately offered up some magic electrolyte tablets. I scoffed them down and drank deeply before swapping bottles and heading out again. I was happy to go and make the lap slow but finish it. what happened next was both stupid and surprising.
I had seen a guy lapping around at about the same time as me. I was also pretty sure he was on the same lap as me. While I sat at transition and pieced myself back together on the previous lap I had seen him pass me and go out for a final lap. As I trudged along the grass section just past transition I could see him in the distance approaching the long climb. To my great surprise when I got to the climb he wasn't that far in front of me and to my greater surprise as the climb went on I was actually making ground on him. A spark of competitiveness flickered to life in my pea like brain. My legs were saying "don't you dare!" while my heart was saying "it's the last lap, how bad can it be?" Hmm, a quandary indeed. Hang it, I'm going after him.
I got close before the first short descent into the boggy areas. I watched as he went through the bog and got off to walk up the pinch climb straight after it. Hmm, interesting. I powered through the bog and up the pinch with legs screaming. He was still in front.The second boggy area was much the same and on the other side of this bog I could almost hear him breathing. The third bog I was on his wheel. there weren't any places to pass right there but there was just the last little pinch climb before the long descents started. Hmm, a chance?
I'll tell what happened next as I saw it. There is also a touch of the dramatic to make it more fun to read and should the competitor it is about read this and call it another way, I'm more than happy to set it right later. When we reached the bottom of the climb I was millimetres from his rear wheel. The trail opened up slightly and I called track right, meaning I intended to pass on his right. Only problem was he went right. I could see the tendons in his neck straining, hear his breathing ragged from effort and it "looked" like he tried to block me. I saw his right shoulder drop and just that millisecond before felt he may do this and so was prepared. I ducked left and onto the smoother part of the trail. I had only called right as it was polite to make the pass in the tougher part of the course so as to not disrupt the flow of the other rider. Besides, you don't give up the prime line easily. I was hanging it all out up the pinch. I hit the top a meter in front and immediately slammed it up to the middle ring and stood up. I think you could have heard my legs screaming from Mars. Shut up legs and do as you are told. the final climb was maybe 50 meters long and I crested it with a small gap on him. It was big dog time and for the first time all race I was pedalling down the descent as hard as I could. So was he. A tight right hand corner slowed us both down and again for the first time all race I got it just right and powered out clean. Another meter or so opened up. I could still hear him breathing though. A little false flat was the last pedalling before the final descent down  to transition. You had to negotiate a hairpin corner at the bottom and pedal over the line. Through the day I had been using a little short cut on the corner which allowed you to not lose so much speed provided you could make the 2 foot drop on the end of it. I was pinning it and as the corner came up I could hear him grabbing a handful of brake to get around. I shot over the corner and popped it off the drop and stood up on the pedals to sprint to the line. I got him by 1 second. Cool. My legs turned to toast soldiers and before I knew it I had cramps on my cramps. I was still smiling though.
Now I mentioned my wife was awesome. Why is that you ask? Well as I was out pummelling myself on a bike, she was quietly packing up our camp. No small job with 2 kids to watch as well. I got to head over to the camp, throw the stuff in the ute and relax in the creek and at the presentations before Alison drove us home. Awesome. Darling, you are the best pit crew ever.
I got 9th place. Not bad for an old fart racing an all in brawl.


  1. Well done Wingy! Note to self: It would be a good idea to race with this man, not against him :)

  2. Nice job bearded one, your awesome. It was good to see you again keep it up bro.

  3. Good catching up to you too Paul! Must sort a ride out soon.