After the silliness at Stromlo two weeks prior, the Soggie ensemble fronted for the third and final round of the Choc Foot Singletrack Mind Series. Anita and I met Mikey at the track for a Saturday afternoon recce, prior to dining at the enticingly named “Southern Stones Bar and Rock Grill”, which turned out to be a cook-your-own affair, but with a difference (sometimes it pays to ponder the title). Slabs of raw rump were presented, literally, atop volcanically heated pavers. Upon sitting down I wasn’t sure we’d made the best decision (we just wanted a pub meal in a venue where we wouldn’t get beaten up), but it turned out to be quite an enjoyable and “interactive” experience (as claimed). It was all happening in Nowra that weekend, and we watched the end of a 30 minute set of “River Festival” fireworks as we strolled back to the Motel.
After a good snooze we somehow ended up leaving 15 minutes behind our agreed schedule, which resulted in it being a bit of a rush getting tires topped up, eskies and spares to the pit, number plates fitted, and sunscreen applied, but we succeeded just before the end of the rider briefing and lineup for the start.
The last time I raced at Coondoo Rd was two years ago. Some additional sectors have been cut and the track is now a better quality 11 km loop (rather than a figure 8), with the back sector now running in reverse; eliminating a fire-road climb and now climbing what were sketchy off-camber switchbacks. Not much climbing in general, but plenty of rutted corners, step-downs and step-ups, which were bound to take their toll.
It was already warm on the start line and barely into the first lap my eye-lashes were flicking sweat all over the inside of my safety glasses. They became so spackled I ended up removing them and immediately realized the benefit of having an undistorted view of the track, and some more breeze on my face. I kept the pace sane and after a few laps was joined by Mr Stead, who seemed to be travelling well. I was determined to hold Simon as he passed, but he soon escaped out of sight and I was convinced I wouldn't see him till the end. Two laps later he suddenly re-appeared, paying for his earlier surge. I dropped my pace a fraction as Simon is always good company, then proceeded to bore him with commentary as to which bird was calling when. He politely cited a desire for an easier pace and I pushed on.
BTW, this was by far the best "racing twitch" I’ve had yet and provides a welcome diversion from the aches and pains accruing in hands and toes. The bush was a raucous symphony of Wattlebirds, Friarbirds, Spinebills, Gerygones, Pardalottes, Cicadabirds, Orioles, Kingfishers, Treecreepers, Rosellas, Flycatchers, Misteltoebirds, Fantails, and Bronze-cuckoos, not to mention the Glossy-black Cockatoos which chimed up during the presentation, and the Black-face Monarch which piped up during the recce.
As impressive as the birds were, they couldn’t completely mask the reality that the course was really starting to wear me down. I was feeling OK at the 4 hour mark (where I almost caught Anita ;), but soon after, the toll of the heat, corrugations and effort made themselves known in the familiar signs of cramping in the hands and toes. These are danger signs for me, with cramping in the legs not far away if issues of salt are not addressed. I’d already passed Mikey nursing cramp and could see the writing on the wall if things didn’t change.
Fortunately I now had Anita in the pits who was able to provide gobs of vegemite as well as an update. With approx two hours to go I was hoping I’d be able to wind back the throttle or finish early, but I was surprised to hear I only had a gap of 8 minutes – to whom I wasn’t sure. I knew my splits were starting to blow out. I just had to hope that this would be true for my pursuer as well. As much as I wanted to call it quits Anita and I decided that a 13th lap was good insurance to stave off a possible fast finish from Mr Kramer. I later discovered that I was only a lap down on Ed (not two) and was second solo outright. Certainly not as strong a field as in other editions, but a satisfying result nonetheless.
Mikey did a solid ride to pick up 4th on the day in Masters, which netted him enough points to join myself and Cory (meat in a Soggy sandwich) on the podium for the series. Great stuff Mikey! What’s more, Anita nonchalantly rolled round for her 4 hrs to take the win in female Masters, extracting a “where did you come from”, from the runner up. I think she is going to be on a few more radars from now on, especially in that jersey!