I’ve had a pretty bike-centric existence over the last month, what with Europe rounded out by last week’s 7 hr where a good dose of luck (absenteeism, mechanicals, or just plain bonking) saw me jag 2nd in spite of only running 7th at the half-way point.
The Rocky Trail 12 hr the following weekend loomed large, although it wasn’t an event I had originally targeted. However, Anita was entered along with Sara in a team of 4, so I thought what the heck. Although I’d hope I could be similarly competitive I decided to tone it down a bit and run as a pair with Ben, if for nothing else to try and remain healthy physically and, perhaps more importantly, keep things fresh mentally. I’m the first to admit that when it comes to 24s I struggle with the head almost as much as I do with the muscles. Even in a 7 hr once fatigue starts to set in I catch myself pondering why I’m putting myself through it. Multiply that by an order of magnitude for a 24. Come the mid point I’m already well over it and having the Gollums over what the hell I’m doing; “but we hate’s it, my precious”, “but we can’t let master down”, “wicked, tricksey, nassty track”, “it burns us, the backside, it bites us”, “now, what have I got in my pocketses?”
The venue; Dargle Farm, a private property near the Nepean in Sydney’s north west. The format; 10 km loop raced from 9am to 9pm with the last 4 hours under lights. The course turned out to be a bit schizophrenic. The vast majority was benign, however the few segments containing obstacles perhaps over-compensated by being really quite difficult to nail – two technical climbs and one nasty descent with no dedicated B-line, which caught quite a few people out. Unfortunately Anita turned out to be one of these and went over the bars resulting in a badly corked thigh on her second outing (otherwise all OK, thankfully). Heavy rain in the lead up also consigned large sections to increasing bogginess, although the organisers did an admirable job of fortifying the worst of these as the race proceeded.
I was still keen to give it some stick. Ben and I loosely agreed to treat it as a race for the first half and reassess as shadows lengthened. If we were well off the podium we’d ease up and hit the booze. This proved to be a pipe-dream as from early on we slotted into second in the masters pairs, with third and fourth snapping at our heels. As darkness consumed the course our buffer to 3rd started to blow out to the 30-minute mark (approx. 1 lap). We made a peace offering of calling it quits if the guys running 3rd were also keen on beering it up by the quite phenomenal bonfire. They would have obliged but had there own battle keeping 4th at bay, who were only minutes behind, so the war raged right to the end. Credit to them, they hung onto their podium spot by just 4 mins!
Even though it was bloody cold with heavy dew at the event center, out on course it was really quite pleasant. As well as the mega bonfire at transition (about the size of a Volkswagen), where a DJ had been pumping out tunes all eve, two more equally impressive infernos were chugging out on course should a weary traveller need to stop and bask. The radiant heat was so intense you could feel it about 10 meters away as you rode past.
With a sizable buffer late in the piece Ben had the option of hanging it up a lap early but was enjoying it so much he rolled a 23rd just for fun. It was a real pleasure to race the event with him and to share a spot on the podium together. In the bike department the hardtail was again faultless, although the posterior certainly got well paddywhacked on the corrugated farmland sectors.
Despite coming a cropper early, and having to hobble round the event center for the rest of the day and eve, Anita also managed to grace the podium along with Sara, Chris and Nicky in the women’s 4s. Some pretty nice prizes on offer as well!
In the solo category my sparring partner Welch put a very solid race together to win the masters category, coming in 5th outright in what was a pretty classy field (including English, Lloyd, Morris, Bellchambers, James, and Selkrig), logging 22 laps to JEs 25! Great effort. His category win also gifted him a paid-up entry to the Croc Trophy; the prestigious 9 day stage race held in late October. Chapeau Phil!