Monday, 20 May 2013

The Seven Ps

Pride, Preparation and Planning Prevents Piss-Poor Performance.

So says Mr Kent – bike mechanic wizard imbibed with army-reserve fastidiousness.

I've been reasonably consistent in getting the engine ready to much as DNA, 400 km weeks and a full time job will allow (paradoxically), but its fair to say that the sleds have been neglected.  Throwing in more sealant and lubing the chain is pretty much all the Mounty gets (remove sealant for roadie protocol), but even I could see that it had crossed an attention deficit tipping point.

Perusal immediately pre-Convict revealed a gaping hole in the rear tire.  Lord knows how I managed to finish the Taree race ....a brew of sealant no doubt saved my bacon, on top of keeping a dozen other bleed points plugged.  I simply swapped the wheel for its equally old twin (from my equivalent set of xtrs). Post Convict I noticed that the spare, as well as being nearly equally beaten up, was not exactly spinning freely in the rotor housing, so I’ve added shims on the brake mount to solve that problem.   The reality is that both rear tires have had it (Xmark UST 2.1s), with cross-mark-less middle strips and only tiny shreds of the side knobs hanging on.   In their defense they were the original tires that came with the bike, and have done the bulk of the bump and grind over three years. 

So to new rubber in the form of Race King UST 2.2s, which I’ve dabbled with before, getting the nod over the other candidate, Racing Ralph's whose side walls look a tad thin for my ability.  100 ml sealant per tire should keep me afloat whilst dragging sub-optimal lines.

Up front I've been running Rendez UST's which roll well but are perhaps on the diet coke side of aggressive, so have opted for something a bit meatier in the form of Nobby Nic UST 2.25s.  

A great weekend just past with The Mudge in the ACT (her idea!), suggests the Nics might be the ticket to improved handling and well worth a slight penalty in straight-line speed.  Having driven down late Friday we rode Kowen’s on the Saturday, and again on Sunday morning, where a series of excellent circuits are marked out.  The last 6 km of the 25 km loop, in particular, are just sublime!  Also great views of the elusive (for us) Scarlet Robbin, a first for both of us.  To give you an idea of how popular Kowen’s/Sparrow is, the car park on both mornings, which started on the frosty side of zero, was packed with maybe 30 cars by midday.  On the Sunday arvo we hit Stromlo for a Red lap followed by the best bits of the Blue, where the car park was chockers with probably 300+ vehicles.  So that’s where the bulk of Canberrans seemed to be hanging out.

It was during one of several impromptu birding stops that another 7Ps fail came to light in the form of a fractured rear derailleur arm.  No idea when this happened.  The last few races could so easily have morphed into my first SS experience.  My default trick of simply throwing sealant at the problem wasn’t going to fix this one.  Hopefully, with the aid of the internet – capable of warping space-time to transform a 2D image into physical reality only days later – I’ll get it sorted prior to next weekend and the second round of the Chocky Foot 7 hour series, this time down at Nowra.  Will have to get my non-starting car issue sorted as well.  Guilty again, Your Honour.

Lastly, big congrats to Giles (and Sara), who over previous months had obviously supped at the 7Ps trough and successfully toughed out the brutal NorthFace100 on the weekend.  Running 100 km is one thing (my knees well and truly pack it in by the 20 km mark), but negotiating the inconvenience of all the elevation gains and losses in a Blue Mountains arena is another thing, and without the cushy benefit of periodic coasting that a wheeled format affords.  Amazing Stuff!

Monday, 6 May 2013

A little lacking in Conviction

After my good showing the Sunday prior i was optimistic for backing up with a PB on the Convict 100, so named as the course traverses some of the original sandstone trails carved out of the Hawkesbury plateau by be-shackled labor.  Rough as guts.  Having netted 5th in the 40-49 bracket last year with a time of 4:39, I figured a 4:30 and possible podium might be on the cards.   The one thing that worried me was that despite only light commuting during the week my legs were still a bit sore on the Thursday - a reflection of how deep I had go the previous Sunday.  

I met the Salmon collective Friday night at the Wiseman’s Ferry Hotel, where dinner was followed by ferry passage and eventual arrival at St Albans, where we registered and erected tents, or in the case of Ben and Felix, just popped the top of Cheryl's fancy-pants VW camper.  Thanks to the advance party, Sara and GK for reserving some paddock real estate.

Got a reasonable nights sleep and ponied up at the start with the usual 3 liters on the back and another 750 on the frame.  Exchanged pre-race banter with Welch, among others.  Having consistently toppled him by 15-20 min in this event, he would be my litmus for the race, although I was fully expecting him to go way faster this year on the back of huge miles and 29er platform.  Not many 26ers around these days, especially on a course like this.  The pace along the opening sector was fast, but not stupid, although the size of the bunch was a little on the bloated size, which made for nervous moments through several paddock-gate squeeze points.  I should have been thirsty to be nearer the front, but somehow just couldn’t muster the enthusiasm, which came back to bite in the form of almost immediate blockage on the first big climb of the day at approx. 13 km.  Having never cleaned it before I was almost resigned to a bit of walking anyway so didn’t get too stressed about clipping out.  Welch cruised past 30 sec later, and was able to weave his way through the flotsam and jetsam, riding the climb for the first time. 

With the plateau gained I tapped away waiting for the heart rate to settle and cruising altitude to kick in.  Riders started to come back, including Welch’s group at approx. the 20 km point.  The serious rugger-bugger of the 30-40 km sectors didn’t seem so bad this time, but I could feel the fatigue starting to bite as I rolled through the 50 km checkpoint at 2:13, encouraged that I was roughly a minute ahead of last year’s split even though I wasn’t feeling super.  Hopefully I’d be able to deliver a bit more in the back third.  I forcefully gnawed my way through a cliff bar on the post-feed fireroad climb before hitting the second major section of rock gardens, which continued to drain both momentum and spirit..  Welch caught me again at the 55 km point, and that was the last I saw of him.  I was eating and slurping well but just couldn’t muster the pep or urgency to try to go harder.  In any case, best to survive the worst of the pavé, not to mention the baby-head descent before flaming the charred remnants of my matchbox. 

The canoe bridge was uneventful, and I popped out the other side at approx. 3:08, almost identical to last year.  Unlike last year however, I just couldn’t seem to keep the engine firing.  There was still no cramp at this point, but fatigue-generale seemed to have taken hold, and I was now just going through the motions.  I was cleaning the pinches on the remaining drags OK, but there was only the smallest of splutters I could muster when I tried to put on the gas.

Having plunged back to earth cramp finally did have its way, only about 5 km from home, with more riders streamed past, all looking in better shape than I was.  By this stage I realized I wasn’t even going to match last years time, but I was well over caring.  You can only do what you can do.  The second river crossing was pre-empted, like last year, by my only crash of the circuit, somewhere in that ocean of sand.  I hammered the remaining fire road with the usual swarm of 50 km riders scrabbling for my wheel – at least some consolation – before stopping the clock at 4:44, about 5 min slower than 12 months earlier.  Slightly disappointing given my recent form and base, but in any other year I would have considered it a cracking effort.

Perusal of the results indicated that even if I had lopped off another 10 minutes (as did Mr Welch, with a 20 min PB), the podium was still well out of reach.  More and more former top-notch roadies are discovering the delights of the dark side now, astride the BIG wheels, to the extent that even defending champ Mr Adams’ awesome 4:11 was only good enough for third in category, to Mr Fenner's 4:05, which would have been good enough to win outright only 5 years ago (At the pointiest end this year Lewis outkicked English with a 3:47!).  Hence, I finished 20th in my age category (approx. 250 starters) and 76th outright (of 630 doing the 100). 

If the adage that you are only as good as your last race is true, this would suggest my meager powers in the world of non-professional cycling are definitely on the wane, although it has been pointed out by quite a few that freshness was certainly something I might have been lacking on the startline.  So perhaps the psychological wounds are still worthy of some saliva.  On the upside, pre-race I swapped out my old foam Rickey grips to some extra chunky BMX el cheapos from the bargain bin at Wooleys’ in an effort to cushion my already badly blistered hands.  Absolutely did the trick!  So the hand ailment seems to be one I have finally fixed!

But it’s not just about me :).  Sara did a terrific job representing the ladies of SBB persuasion, finishing her first foray into the 50 in good nick, and even sneaking home before Felix’s machine (and transponder name-plate), which like a wayward steeplechase horse, managed to somehow limp home without him.  To wit, a short way into the 50 Felix’s machine (Ben’s former and much troubled Scott 26 dually) suffered a rear hub implosion prompting a bike swap, whereby Felix now had free reign on Dad’s 29er dually.  Ben had to dive deep into his bag of Heath Robinson’s to get old less-than-faithful home.  Surprisingly, he with the dirt jump skills also struggled to get home, at one point playing to the camera a fraction too long and paying the price in units of gravel.  Three shekels for each elbow, and another five for the left knee, which fortunately required no stitching at the end.  Hope the grazes are well on the mend! 

Mikey and GK tackled the 100 together, eschewing the bedlam of the first wave (described collectively by the MC as “podium wankers” – after we’d departed, of course) and second wave (“packfiller”), and opted for the back of the more sophisticated third and final wave, where intelligent conversations on a range of topics could be engaged – as is typical of those with a healthy work-life balance.  So true when you think about it.  They cruised the course and looked to have enjoyed it immensely, reveling in the better value for money that 6 hrs provides.  Good to see GK back and master of his Fly, which upended him in a nasty fashion on the same course a few years back.  Felix’s bungle aside, the sublime weather, steak sandwiches, beer and chips in the shade by the pub at the end capped off another fine edition of the 3D sandstone brickpit that is the Convict100.