Monday, 15 November 2010


The theme for the Highland Fling this year was one of "baking"…mixing the ingredients to make a good course – firetrail, singletrack, hills and descents – for what has traditionally been a 110 km (vs 100 km) mtb enduro. There was also the 100 mile option, which I had absolutely no desire to do. The last and only other time I rode the Fling was in 2007, on the Stumpy with original tubed wheels. Pretty gruelling experience – took ~6'20", which included 1 puncture and a whole lotta hurt. I've missed out in recent years because, of all the enduros on the calendar, this one tends to sell out quickest – ~2000 spots sold in 5 and ½ hours last year! This year I managed to get a spot courtesy of GKs diligence on the computer 6 months ago.

To be honest I was already feeling pretty fried and could quite easily have given it the flick, but as the entry was there it seemed a shame to waste it. It's been 5 weeks since the Scott24, and although my toes have finally stopped tingling, I'm still not sure my lower back is quite returned to normal. I hadn't done much in the way of kms in the intervening weeks, so at least I'd be fresh! The lead up in Sydney has been pretty wet – rain every second day sort of stuff. On the drive to Bundanoon we hit some pretty heavy downfalls, but managed to get the tents up in the dry, and remarkably had no rain that afternoon as we headed from the campground into town to register and carbolode at the pub. A heavy shower during the night cleared to reveal a hot yet humid race day.

The course is typically broken into three segments; ~30 km of paddocks, ~50 km of windy singletrack with lots of climbing, and ~30 km of fire road. This year the first 30 was much quicker courtesy of avoiding the creek-lined singletrack segments which got shuffled to the last 30. The middle 50 was mostly unchanged, although the tracks were more groomed, and the last 30, which could also now be described as more paddock dominated, started fast but had some horrible stings in the tail.

At 7:30 we were off, and it was nice to see that the organisers had dealt with the bottlenecks which plagued the first sector in previous years by letting the long segments of undulating paddocks thin the ranks. Within about 15 km I was steaming and decided to remove my gloves, something I've not resorted to before on the mtb. Although I had 3 L of fluid on my back, and another 0.75 on the frame, at the rate I was sweating I was hoping to have air-through-fingers provide some additional cooling. Riding glove less is a gamble in the sense that crashing is even less desirable.

With the first sector dispensed with I was feeling pretty good as I went through the untimed transition [5 min is allowed to travel from one set of timing mats, across the railway line to the second set of mats ~ 1 km away]. I was dreading the middle 50 km sector, as last time my technical skills weren't sufficient to make the large tracts of single track flow. This time I quite enjoyed it, but seemed to have forgotten how much climbing was involved. By the time I hit the 55 km feed zone at ~ 2'36", the first of the Elite riders were just starting to filter past (they started 30 min behind the main field), and I was starting to feel pretty fatigued, and was suffering the first uncomfortable signs of cramp. This was going to be a long day! Although I wasn't originally planning to stop at the 55 km feed, I needed to gulp down multiple cups of fluid, and have a pee (which produced almost nothing). I was already pretty dehydrated.

From here on the racing had well and truly ceased and it was once again a case of survival. Lots of steep climbs. Lots of failed cramp management = lots of cramping and walking of steep pinches. Maybe BT and Kev are right – this really is the domain of the masochist. Even suffered the indignity of having to abandon a good wheel I'd been working well with on the flat run back to the untimed transition. The head was willing, but the legs simply said "continue pedalling at your peril". Finished the sector, but not in great shape. At transition I oiled my chain, gulped down more fluid and a banana, and headed out onto the last sector. My clock read ~ 4 hrs elapsed and I had approx 27 km to travel. In 07 this last sector was a quickie, so I was hopeful that I might get home in 5'30", which I would have been pretty happy with given I'm not at peak fitness. It started out well – lots of flat-chat dusty roads and lovely paddock gliding, but whenever things turned uphill I was instantly in trouble. Oh how slowly the kms ticked by, especially once engaged in the "roller coaster" sector, which I've no doubt is more groovy in the reverse direction. My ETA for finishing had to be continuously revised as yet another pinch had me doubled over in cramp. Somehow the end came with my clock reading 5'57", the last 4 hrs of which were pretty hot and hard yakka. This placed me 96th in a field of ~680 starters. The winner, Jason English, came home in ~4'25", very similar to the winners time in 07, which makes me think the course, albeit better groomed and not as rough, a little harder in its current incarnation. The main difference is that the merits of the first and last sectors have basically been swapped – and multiple stings in the tail are far more devastating at the death on wasted bodies.

Despite the ordeal, enjoyed a good hose down, and relaxed in the sun with lunch and brews as riders kept coming across the line for the next ~3 hours. Didn't have to wait long for GK, who put in a great ride to come home as the clock tickled 6'30" – THREE hours better than 2 years ago – well done GK! Caught up with friendly faces I only seem to bump into at these events. Remarkably, two unicyclists completed the course as well – one of which had two gears. The first one home, on the geared wheel, thought the other "crazy". In retaliation, the ungeared unicyclist declared the other a cheat. Blend in a smattering of cyclocrossers, single speeders, cyclocross singlespeeders, and tandems and other clowns from the mtb circus – well, you get the picture, it's that sort of event. Requisite masochism aside, I still love doing these things.

Don't quite know how to manage my cramping in the heat. Quite possibly the 4 beers downed the previous evening had something to do with it, but in the last 3 or 4 enduros (most of which haven't involved a significant beer quotient), whilst burning at similar efforts the cramps start to bite around ½ way in. Will have to do some research in this regard before the next one, which will most likely be Dirtworks in April of next year. Till then……rest…


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  2. More beer, more beer, more beer, more beer, more beer, more beeeeeeeeeer ..... too much beer is barely enough, especially before a big race. One of these days we'll be serious and focused, but until then, another schooner? I think you are still to reach your best, Dave; imagine, if you are fully fit, not recovering from a chest cold, or dehydrated from drinking too much with your stupid mate the night before, than you'll only continue to improve in these long-distance MTB races. Congrats again on improving your previous HF best after the 24 Hour Solo break, and thanks for making it a great weekend. Chapeau, GK

  3. PS: I inadvertently deleted the first comment, which is the same as the second. Damn google ... actually, I should also blame the drugs ...

  4. aren't meant to mention the drugs....apart from the beer that is. But then again, it is mtb-ing after all.