I’m usually battling for motivation at this time of year. I’ve typically descended from the emotional high of the Scott24 and am back at the bench with head properly ensconced in conundrums that typify research. Add summer heat into the mix, which usually hits about now, and the Fling is hardly an event I’ve really been out to smash, and this has been accurately reflected in my far from stellar results over the last few years, where I struggle to even finish within an hour of my age-group category winner.
This year however, a few days before the event, I feel different. I’m still at race weight (which these days is 68 kg), I seem to have recovered nicely from the recent 24, and I’m not coughing and spluttering. Hence this could be the year that I finally nail a good Highland Fling. Have just checked the entry list tho, and there are quite a few obstacles which separate me from a top 5 finish, or even a top 10 finish. The Masters field (240 strong), is peppered with quality riders, including about 30 who have either beaten me convincingly in past Flings, or finished within 10 minutes of me at the Convict100 (in May, when I was in good form), both courses of similar distance. There are at least 5 riders who, if they perform even vaguely as you’d expect, will hammer me soundly and fill all steps on the top 5 podium, including a fmr NSW roadman of the year (Mr Hickson). Additionally, the pendulum has definitely swung in favor of the 29er (and for this type of course a 29er hard-tail) over the 26er dually I’ll be packing (old timer!), so I’ve definitely got my work cut out being competitive. Realistically I’ll be aiming for a time inside of about 5:10 for the 112 km course (sub 5 might be a tad unrealistic – my best time thus far has been about 5:50! – although lack of discipline in the night-before beer department has not helped my cause). Even if achieved this might still only be good enough for a top 20 age-cat finish given the quality of the field and the ever-progressing state of the arms race. Apart from good legs, also key will be strategy. Must hold back in the first quarter (which I’m bad at) in order to have something in the tank for the last quarter (usually cramping on empty), where even bigger losses or gains will be realized. Must also force down more food than I’ve consumed in the past.
T’will be interesting to see if I’m on the mark with my ambitions/predictions, or whether such conjecture is mere hubris-waffle. Time to roll wheels and dice and find out.