Monday, 13 October 2008

Another 24 hrs

With Japan out of the way, next on the outdoors agenda was preparation for the annual 24 hr enduro event at Mt Stromlo in Canberra. Having enjoyed the last one so thoroughly, I was keen to do it again in 2008. But rather than enter as a team of 4 I decided to be a little bolder and enter as a team of three, ensuring about 8 hrs ride time a piece. This, of course, required my finding another two individuals I could persuade to partake in the stupidity exercise. And the easiest way to do that, of course, was to entice people who had never done the thing before – enter Lawrence and Ben. And so it was that the Wheeled Wombat trio was born. The bulk of our preparation was done individually – which for me consisted predominantly of getting in as many commuting miles in as possible – although I managed a couple of longer mtb rides with Ben, and I got out for one road ride with Lawrence (who summarily kicked my a*se all the way back from our 6-valley adventure to Mt White).

Our campsite this year was almost exactly in the same location as the RESMED camp was last year, although this time we were on the edge of the plateau with uninterrupted views down to the tent city and transition area, and the return leg of the blue lap. Once again, the course consisted of 2 halves, red and blue. The red lap, at 13.2 km, was basically the same as last year’s version although 1 km longer, and consisted of a long climb up to the summit of Mt Stromlo, followed by a fantastic descent which at first traverses across the mountain before the bone-rattling plummet back to the transition area. The blue lap was also a little longer than last year (15 vs 13 km), and had the same awkward technical rock-garden sections I struggled with last year, although the last 1/3rd was a considerable improvement – slightly bigger twists than last year and my favorite part of the course.

The “Le Mans” style race start was a bit of a balls-up in the sense that once the first riders of the various teams were sectioned off, a certain number of bike handlers (and bikes), were repositioned from one end of the line-up to the other. So, when things kicked off I followed the mayhem to where I was expecting Anita and my bike to be, only to discover that neither were anywhere to be seen. By the time I worked out where they were, I was literally stone motherless last (whatever that really means?) Hence ensued the dust-munching quest of working my way through the tail of the field, which on some of the steeper hairpins required me to get off and walk, the line was so slow and congested. It wasn’t until I got going on the blue lap that traffic really thinned out nicely, which is the way it basically stays for the rest of the event.

We budgeted that each lap, be it red or blue, would on-aggregate take us about an hour to complete. So, the plan was to each start by doing a red followed by a blue (a “double”), before handing the baton over to the next rider. This would ensure we each got to see the course during the light. During the night we would each do two doubles in a row, before doing a double each the next morning if time permitted. The day laps went smoothly enough, but backing up one double with another during the night proved to be a little more difficult than anticipated – mental note for next time (Oh yes, next time!). Hard as the night was (all our lap times suffered) we all got through the event in good spirits, with no major stacks (Ben survived one endo and Lawrence collected a couple of trees!), and no mechanicals. In complete contrast to last years team we were all riding tubeless this year, and pressures of 40 psi, as compared to the ~45-50 I was running last year. I’m guessing this is part of the reason for my A-lap splits being a little quicker than last year, although I like to think that my mtb skills are gradually improving too.

We ended up completing 23 laps in our 24 hours, fractionally better than last years team-of-four effort (22), on a slightly harder set of circuits if the fastest lap times and distance are compared between editions. Overall a very pleasing result and I’m already thinking about next year, the possibility of a hard-tail, and the return to a 4-man team with a new improved strategy (1, 2, 1, 2, 3, 4, 3, 4). Any takers?

Our view over the tent city

Me having completed a very dusty first double

Lawrence is ready...

and in action near our campground

Ben enjoying the morning sun on the second day

Cousin Ingrid, and her husband Craig, who competed for a 4-man team

Totally unrelated - Ellie (with Joss and Marcie), kissing her 20's goodbye.

With Ian, also in retro clobber. It was a great night!

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