Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Red sails in the sunrise

23-09-09: Biggest dust storm in Sydney since 1939.
Not the best tonic for this cold i'm struggling to kick.
Some snaps on my way to work;

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Mogo 100km (Angry Dr)

Crikey that was a tough one. This race had a reputation for being a little tougher than similar "100 km" events, such as Dirtworks and the Highland Fling. Perhaps most telling was the fact that the winning time for Dirtworks is typically 4 hrs flat, whilst for the Angry Dr it is 4 hr 40 min! As I went round Dirtworks in 5:20 this year, I expected to do the Dr in the order of 6:20, although naturally I wanted to go as fast as possible, and maybe go under 6 hours. After all, how bad could such an apparently non-technical track be?

I hadn't done any specific training for this one - just relied on my commuting base - but was none-the-less ambitious. So too was Gerard, who was back from Europe for a few weeks and was looking to do a good show after a solid European base. However, whether it was just travel gremlins, or bad food gremlins, Gerard spent the day before being violently ill, so it was always going to be touch and go to even get him to the start line. We drove down the day before (approx 4 hours south of Sydney). The weather was unseasonably warm, as evidenced by the millions of termites that filled the air like big snow-flakes as we drove south. Dined on Italian (well, I did), and were in bed at a local Caravan Park by 9 pm. Race day dawned clear hot and windy! I started with 2.5 l of water on my back, and followed the advice of others by starting at the tail of the elite field so as not to get stalled in the early single-track sectors.

Only 10 km into the event I realized it was going to be a bloody hard day at the office. It was not that the trail was technical - it was actually beautifully groomed - nearly the whole way, but it generally went up or down, up, down etc. And the ups were generally non-nonsense steep straight affairs. In all I counted about 11 major uphill sectors - 2 in the first 10 km! Very few flat sectors existed where one could maintain good pace and rhythm. Even the second climb of the day I found myself walking the steep parts, as I didn't want to fry myself on a day where I didn't seem to be producing any sweat due to the ultra-low humidity, high temp (30 C +) and high winds. In hindsight I again went too hard too early, initially clinging to the wagging tail of the elite field. By the 30 km feed I realized that just finishing would be an achievement. At 40 km the cramps started, and I progressively polished off the water on my back to limp into the 1/2-way feed. Not for the last time, I refilled my bladder, and headed off hoping for a kinder 2nd half. By the 60 km mark I started to witness sights I have never seen at such an event before. With every corner turned another rider would be off the trail, doubled over trying at address cramp. Not much racing being done any more, it was all about survival. I suppose I was moving through the course in the company of about 30 other riders - all cramping intermittently, frogging forwards and backwards. "See you at the next cramp". It was almost comical. At about 65 km I was actually wondering weather I'd be able to finish. I think I stopped to de-cramp over 20 times! Somehow got to the 80 km feed - bladder empty, and refilled it for the 3rd time! The fact that my front rotor had been whistling annoyingly for most of the race (turned out to be a loose bolt housing the caliper to the frame) was merely inconsequential compared to how stuffed I was. I still don't quite know how, but eventually crept to the finish in 6:38. How grand it was to lie down in the shadow of the car, even if my legs were cramping.

Gerard, still by no means well after no meal the night before and hardly any sleep, decided to give the 50 km event a go (the first 1/2 of the 100 km course), but wisely decided to pull out at the first feed. Better luck for the next one GK, and the return flight! Despite the fact that this was the hardest enduro mtb event I've yet done, and despite the liberal sprinkling of steep bergs, this is certainly a course I want to do again, as the bulk of the single tracks are sublime, and like nothing else I've ridden thus far. I'll be back....maybe.

Postscript: On a sad note, and perhaps a reflection of how brutal the day was given the conditions, one of the 1000 competitors collapsed and died of a heart attack, despite having completed 4 Australian Ironman Triathlon Championships previously. Very sobering to realize that it could happen to any one us - and a warning to me that if I'm going to keep entering these events, which I love in a masochistic sort of way, I've got to listen carefully to my body and give the events the respect they deserve.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Nano-step for mankind, but giant leap for langles

In a stunning advance, which will have long-time observers stroking their beards in wonder, I have broken down yet another technological barrier and acquired an ipod - albeit the oldest model still available. With the 24 on the horizon, and judging by some of the reports I've read regarding the psychological battle which will ensue, many have credited success in some part to having one of these babies help them through the night, when conscious thought otherwise does naught but convince you of how stupid and pointless the whole exercise is - one which should immediately be replaced by sleep for a month. And I must say - in only the few weeks I've had it, this thing has changed my life! The drudgery that normally accompanies the evening commute in the dark is no more. Just gotta make sure it is also not the cause of my being flattened by a bus.

On the weekend, went down for the MTB worlds at Mt Stromlo in Canberra. Fantastic spectacle. Got a good dose of trials, half-pipe, downhill and cross country. Inspirational, especially considering that many sections of the XC and DH trails I will be riding over next month. Both mens and womens XC races came down to riders finally cracking their opponent on the last lap! And more 29ers on show as well in both events - probably the platform I'll go with on the next machine I purchase, although when this might eventuate is still not lucent in my financial crystal ball.

"I see it Chewie, but it doesn't come up on any of the charts"

Swiss rider, and eventual winner, Nino Schurter, keeps in close check with favourite Julien Absalon (Fra), at the technical "Hammerhead" descent on the XC course. Several riders crashed in this section.

Riders on the pinch climb of "Cardiac Hill"

One of many bikeasuari littering the village

the appropriate named "Zed's Dead" chopper

An almost unbelievable skinny GK drops in for the valleys.

negotiating the hammerhead

cardiac hill - have to tilt your head for the start of this one