Sunday, November 29, 2009

Slip sliding away – Moa Hunt mud fest

The thing with weather is sometimes it just doesn’t come to the party. And being sturdy mountain bikers we ride on in spite of adverse conditions because we always go prepared for these eventualities. This is often the case with racing and this year the Moa Hunt was hit by a nasty southerly front that started dumping rain the night before the race. Driving through the cold mist to Kekerengu I was feeling nonplussed after a very poor night’s sleep, and was further nonplussed upon getting out of the car into the cold southerly wind and persistent drizzle. The thought of the start of the race with its multiple river crossings through knee deep river channels was very unappealing. But I was still keenish to compare myself to last year’s attempt. Only keenish though, more than once I thought about getting in the car and going home as we traipsed up to The Store to register. It was at registration that we found out that all competitors would be doing the same course. The 21km course, with 460m of climbing. Arse. I was psyched for 40kms with about 1,000m of climbing, it hardly seemed worth getting cold and wet for this reduced race.

Feeling very flat and pretty cold I lined up on the start line and being so apathetic I didn’t bother to get good line position. This meant the river crossing start went on and on and on and on as I was surrounded by slow riders and just didn’t have the motivation to blast pass them. Up the road and then up the hill and I just spun along, not really trying and chatting away to lots of walkers. My legs felt fantastic but my head just wasn’t in it. I had a bit of fun riding up a steep, technical walking track section, but soon there was no traction to be had in the slick mud and I was trudging. It was very unpleasant pushing up the ridge with the nasty cold wind and treacherous under foot conditions. That section was probably the hardest work I did all day. Then came the first bit of descent which quickly showed me that I wouldn’t be doing my usual trick of pinning it on the downhills. It was only a short dip, maybe twenty metres, but I managed to ride most of it completely sideways. Given the exciting exposure on the course, this experience made me take it quite easy on the downs. I was still faster than most people around me and a lot of them were falling off. Then I had a rather exciting moment when my rear brake stopped working. One moment squealing, but good brakes, the next nothing, brake lever to grip with nothing happening. This worried me a tad. I was pretty sure I could get off the hill in the wet with only a front brake, but it would be very very slow. Luckily after a bit of lever flicking my rear brake magically came back to life and I was able to push on a lot faster. The mud was both frustrating, no fun blast after the climb, and brilliant fun. I was getting lots of skidding and sideways action on my crossmarks with their inability to deal with the thick, sticky mud. I did have one very very funny low speed crash on an insanely treacherous steep clay 4WD section. It was so slick that I slide for ages even though I was hardly moving. I watched one woman do a great job of getting almost right to the bottom and then trying to take the corner and sliding for about 10m! She was laughing, just like I had when I came a cropper.

Further down, near the bottom the track got more gravelly and I was finally able to get up some decent speed. Unfortunately, as soon as I did I was instantly blinded as 10 kilos of mud flew off my front tyre and into my eyes. Using a very safe one-eyed squint technique I got down to the road in one piece and discovered that my legs felt like they hadn’t done anything. I cranked up into the big ring and raced off down the road. My race through the river section was really good until I was 5m from the finish line when my front wheel disappeared up to its hub in sinking sand and I had to get off and drag it out. I laughed out loud at the fiasco this race was for me and giggled sardonically as I crossed the finish line and the announcer congratulated me on my effort.

All in all the race was disappointing and not at all what I signed up and trained for. Sure, a bit of mud can be fun, but not when you have a 3 hour car ride home. Having said that there were some brilliant moments and if I look at it as a bike ride instead of a race it was really fun. I loved being up in the hills, even though there was no view because we were shrouded in mist. The air smelt so sweet and clean it was a pleasure just breathing. I had lots of great conversations on the way up because I was taking it easy and had plenty of lungs for talking. I got a push up a little nasty pinch from a lovely runner, 706 Rebecca Redmond. If you’re reading this and I’m pretty sure you won’t be, thanks heaps and sorry for not waiting on the finish line to cheer you over, I was just too cold and wet. And finally the crazy mud was heaps of fun while I was sliding around, if the race had been closer to home the mud would have made it fantastic. I’m trying not to think about what all that mud and water has done to my poor bike, it will be getting a very careful clean today, but I still foresee an expensive trip to The Hub in its future. And then, bring on the Hammerhead, I want to push myself.

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