It was a race I kind of entered on a whim, a delightful whim, but it the whim soon morphed into sheer panic when I realised I actually had to go and race 112km on my singlespeed. I hadn't even done that on the geared bike. Hell, I haven't (still) done the distance on the roadie since a couple of months before I even found out I was pregnant. So, it made me very nervous indeed. Being away from a fully breastfed baby for almost two days also made me kind of nervous, but you know...have breast pump, will travel.
Having embarked upon the training rides documented here, I still feel pretty underdone when I hit the airport in Brissie on Saturday.
Dragging my bike bag through to the check in area, it was like a music festival, but less fun. There were people EVERYWHERE. Madness. The entire computer system was down. So all we could do was wait with everyone else in the big pigpen that is Brisbane Domestic.
An hour passed, my flight was supposed to be leaving but there was still no sign of even checking in. I thought I may not make the race at all, and considered staying overnight with Sydney folk if I couldn't get to Bundanoon in time. Luckily, two hours later, we got going, arriving 2hr30 late at Sydney Airport.
I was waiting for my bike when a fuzzy dude with a slightly ginger ninja tinge to his beard turned up—it was Rob! Whee, talk about service, Rob was my bike valet as we trudged off to pack the car and hit the road.
We got our patch of dirt in a field and put up some tents, drank some beer, built my bike, then decided we should probably go and register.
|Sexiest SS award goes to....ME! (Photo: Parbs)|
Immersing yourself in a weekend of bike racing festivities isn't the way Aido and I usually roll with the whole bike racing thing. We're much more business; you know, turn up, build bikes, get bottles ready (filled, electrolyte-ed, named, race number, lap etc), eat food, go to bed, get up, warm up, race.
It was nice, and different, to watch the end of the Bundanoon Dash (the Fling pre-event), register at the hall then eat the dinner setup in the event centre. Definitely not the finest fare but it would do.
Back at camp, it was time to eat chocolate, attempt to warm ourselves by standing in front of a fire, then eventually turn in. Having expressed in the Airport during the delay, I had to express twice that evening just so I could sleep in relative comfort, without waking up in a milk bath. This part of the story makes Rob cringe. Clearly he's not a boob guy.
Waking up not quite in a milk bath, but almost, I had to express buttloads of milk off before even leaving the tent. Luckily for me, Rob brought coffee to me so all was well with the world soon after. There was also a bagpiper blowing away, making my expressing situation all that more enjoyable (or perhaps not).
Cereal and pock-marked sourdough completed (having not brought a bread knife), I was ready to take on the world. Well, almost. After I had stolen a coffee off Gaye and Kath I was more adequately prepared. But still cold; it's a far cry from the warmer weather of Brisvegas!
Soon after I had gotten fully dressed they were calling up the Full Flingers, and we rode up to the start chute. Apparently some people were more excited about getting started than we were, as we had arrived just in time to be corralled with the super-duper-masters 8hr+ competitors. Or that's what it felt like at least.
We rolled out after the horn went off, for perhaps the most social start I have ever encountered at a race. Bec Parkes (crazy 24hr solo singlespeeder nut) and I found each other for a couple of km's and had a social chat with our legs whizzing aimlessly while hubbrds on Kmart bikes with gears assed us left, right and centre. It was pretty futile killing ourselves on the dirtroads out, our social chats lasted until it got a bit hairy with some wayward hubbards and I lost her. The tax I payed for the overly casual start was that much of the first stage was spent getting around lines of hubbards on the grassy climbs. Eventually I caught up to Rob, who apparently had a much more successful start than I, despite his cyclo-cross bike disability (it had gears) and we kind of rode together till the first transition.
I stopped to refill my bladder but realised it was already full, so set off again on the Shimano stage. Luckily for me, at transition I snaffled Rob's nurofen tablets, in realisation that I had forgotten mine and anticipating some back pain to come. This was the epic bit of the race I was embarking on; over 50km and with most of the climbing of the race in here.
The start of this stage was dirt road, and I was passed by all and sundry while spinning my legs off. Even a guy wearing kneepads on a Cannondale Rize laughed at me.
The joke was on him when I passed him like he was standing still up the first climb of the stage, while singing Amy Winehouse's "Rehab" which had appeared on my iPod. There was some awesome singletrack, but as it was still pretty early days most of this was spent riding up someone's bum.
A few more fireroads along, and we ducked into the the dark foresty trails, where The Dandy Warhols and The Clash kept me company and had me belting out some tunes. Sorry fellow competitors.
I can't really remember what happened then, there was a pinch climb I ended up walking called 'The Wall', then some more steady longer climbs, then some more wicked singletrack that I ended up getting around in with another rider of a similar speed, having dropped a bunch of blokes that we were with prior.
This fellow was good trail riding company, but when I was too close to his wheel on a sharp corner that was taken quite slowly, I didn't quite have enough momentum and had a stupid singlespeeder nana stack, landing with my sternum on my barend. It hurt, bajeesus it did! I didn't immediately die, so after a couple of minutes when I git a handle on the pain and got my breath back, I went to remount. Of course at this time a fair few of the riders we had left behind caught back up, and I had to wiggle my way through them all again. I just sang louder and the fields parted like Moses and the water. Except i'm guessing it was due to their aural distress rather than any god-bothering.
Just after 50km, there was an oasis in the distance. Lucky me, as that was a tough section. Gaye had set up tubs of electrolyte, water and gels, and I stopped at the feedzone, as much to take a nurofen for my chest and back as to refill my nutrition supplies. Gaye took on the role of soigneur, filling my bottle and chucking me nutrition while I struggled to find my nurofen (thanks Rob!).
Off again, and the dreaded Halfway Hill loomed ahead of us. Elite boys came whizzing past on the way down. I was riding up, mainly seated, at a cadence of about 20rpm. I made about 2/3rds of the first climb before I thought that perhaps, just maybe, riding at 20rpm at extended periods of time at this stage of the race was potentially not the wisest thing to do. Walking my bike up, competitors crunching granny gears rode past me. I passed a singlespeeder who was eating a gel at the top of the first climb.
It flattened, a fast descent followed, then a really horrible pine-y false flat. I ended up having to walk about 100metres of this, the pineneedles are the devil, I tell 'ya. I managed the steep pinch to the top, where Damo, formerly of CBD fame, was hanging around with a camera, presumably looking for QOM/KOM contenders.
We weaved around paddocks that were as soul sapping as Kath warned. Eventually we hit the dirt road again, and I spun my legs off. Damo came past on the moto, and I passed a singlespeeder who looked a bit spent.
Nothing of note happened along this section, a few geared riders rode up to me and sat on my wheel. I invariably said that it wasn't ethical to do that as they had gears. Invariably they said they would tow me and give me a rest in a minute, but of course having gears they rode around me and that was the last I saw of them (until the next hill).
Eventually, we hit the 80km mark. I'm sure some other stuff happened in the meantime, some Wham, AC/DC etc, but nothing too exciting. I was pretty happy, which is very unusual for me when riding a marathon event. Like, ridiculously happy. Nick Both passed me at one stage and I screeched "Nick! Wooot". He was less than impressed by my noise making and told me my headphones were too noisy if the racket I was making was that loud.
Anyway, I ignored Nick's fuzzy little nonplussed face to push on. A refill at transition and I headed off. It was around 4hrs. I was doing the maths to figure out if I could somehow manage a sub-6hr time. I had low expectations for this race 1. being the first proper 'marathon' since Elv and 2. doing it singlespeed. I figured I would be happy sub 6hr30, but had no idea where I would be fitness wise.
Having managed to up the tempo via singing in the second stage (seriously, after my start it couldn't have actually gotten any slower...), I felt I had enough in the tank to bring it home. My legs weren't cramping, I wasn't too sore, I could see straight and I damn well could! I was nowhere near broken yet, what a win!
More fast leg action happened along the road out from transition, which was followed by a bit of paddock singletrack bashing, then into some sandy singletrack. It was here that I realised the challenge of a sub 6 wasn't neccesarily all up to me—there were heaps of half flinger's making their way back on this part of the course. But everyone was pretty good, and I remembered to keep eating and drinking consistently (I tell you, as much as I hate hydrapaks with the fiery passion of a thousand suns, they're quite handy indeed). If ever I felt a little sad or flat I just belted out some more tunes. It seemed to be a good system.
I passed another singlespeeder who looked shattered, some Tour de Cure peeps (who probably were more confused than anything when I rode past yelling "TOUR DE CURE YEEEEW"), and Paul Beretta. I passed Josh McBride, who had suffered some cramps, and just before a big open, grassy climb Jenny King came past. Jenny Fay and Peta Mullens had passed me before on the road section, so Jenny K was sitting in third. She said G'day, and then the road turned upwards.
I was feeling good! It was a surprising feeling. I passed probably 10 or so people just on the grassy climb, and a few more on the fireroad leading up to it. Hurtling down the fireroad descent and flatter section, we hit another section of singletrack. It seemed fairly fresh, it was quite rocky and loose, but fun. Though i'm sure for many patience was wearing thin when you hit the most technical singletrack of the race at 102km in.
We climbed out of the singletrack, and were met by bongo drummers. Even at this late stage in the race I was delirious—completely off my chops—but not in a bad way. I was super excited about this bongo action, I'm pretty sure my sentiment went something like this: "Whooooooot BONGOS! Whooooo!". It was a noisy race for me.
Another lady racer and I tousled along some fireroad climb near the end. I told her I wasn't in her category—she seemed relieved and I didn't see her again until after I had finished.
Soon after, I rode up to Phil, the other Shhh! singlespeeder, doing it tough on the rigid. We had a bit of a chat, then we hit that time in the race where there are two options for trails: shorter but steeper and longer but less steep. Not wanting to have to get off my bike (I had no idea of the steepness of the steep bit!) I launched up the longer, flatter option, which took me out on a fireroad. Home was soon—5km! I didn't see Phil again.
Once again giving my legs a high-cadence workout, I powered along on the road. Well, as much as one can power along on the road on a wunnspeed, really.
A bloke who was taking Movember very seriously sat on my wheel, and I told him it was illegal, and he laughed. I think we were both pretty excited to be near the end. We headed along some fields, some properties, around a little dam and then I could see the end...a bloke I had passed like he was standing still on a hill had suddenly mustered a ton of energy to sprint me to the finish. Well, I don't know that he was sprinting me, but there was none else there so I guess he may have a girl-with-one-gear complex, or perhaps i'm overthinking things and he just wanted to sprint for the hell of it...who knows.
Anyway, it was over. It was SUB 6! Not an extraordinary time for me in the past i'm sure, but 5hr47 for the first marathon back since Elva on the ss, well...I think that's pretty respectable.
Let's face it, I would have had a bum time killing myself in elite, probably only finishing maybe only half an hour quicker with all the road factored in, and I wouldn't have sung nearly as much. Or had as much fun. Or any fun, really.
People were saying how tough and arduous it was, but I didn't feel it was too bad. I had heaps of energy! Maybe super conservative starts stand for something, or I was pumped with the fact that I had ridden 110km+ on my singlespeed, a new achievement.
Blair Martin "The Body Mechanic" was working fixing people's bodies, so I caught up with him, as well as Marti, Chris and Mick from Flow, Mike and Naomi from Marathon MTB, the QLD crew Meg, Pete and Imo (though i'm not sure if they count...being from QLD, and seeing them quite regularly anyway). And a smattering of the elite guys and girls who I haven't seen in, well, ages.
It was good fun. Even though I had to do more tent time, as my chest was about to explode after all that time riding bikes and not feeding babies. This is evident in the pics from the race, where I look like I have melons stuffed in my bra, ugh, it makes you look about 5kg heavier!
Now, back to reality. Babies, washing, post...the usual.
My boobs have recovered, my legs feel good. I am planning the next adventure. I managed 5th in the singlespeed category overall (despite early claims I had snaffled fourth, final results have me back at #5), with 25 racers competing. Not too shabby, being one of only two women in the category!
I'm waiting the results of sternum x-rays, as movement causes excessive pain. Not regular soreness, but drop-the-baby and wave of nausea type of pain. Perhaps it's just sprained sternoclavicular joints though. Lets hope for that.
Though the 'epicness' of racing 60km of a marathon with a broken sternum would be something to tell the kiddo's in 30 years.