Monday, April 19, 2010

Mt Somers is like an old friend

Yesterday was my forth Mt Somers race and after a week of lying round and recuperating from the Hanmer 4hr I wasn’t holding out much hope of putting in a stellar performance. I wasn’t too concerned though, I love this race, it’s really fun with a great atmosphere and through gorgeous country.

I woke up on Sunday morning in race mode, which meant I was insanely hyper active and bubbling. I bounced around packing and making coffee for hubby and Dirtdiva and soon we were on the road. Having an extra person in the car meant I babbled on even more than the norm and journey to Mt Somers flew by, well for me anyway. After passing through the traditional fog on Thompson’s Track we arrived to a gorgeous sunny day and unloaded the bikes. Poor Dirtdiva was riding my fat Jamis with its tractor tyres, it was going to be slow on the climbs, but I still think it was the more sensible choice than her singlespeed, good strength training!

At the start we barged our way into the second row of riders in the Intermediate race and after the briefing and Mexican wave we watched the Challenge riders blast away. Then it was our turn and for the first time I wasn’t dropped by everyone in the first 100ms and found I was able to stay in touch with the main group of riders. Knowing the exact layout of the course was great, it meant I wasn’t worried about pushing too hard off the start as I knew there was a downhill where I could have a wee rest not far after. Into the paddocks and the long wet grass sucked at tyres and pulled energy from legs and I thought of Dirtdiva on my squishy bike, it was going to suck. Once the pack spread out a bit more I managed to find a tyre-wide bit of dirt to ride in and began moving up the hill at a better pace, then the first little bit of down and I zoomed past more people. On the gravel roads I held my own for a change and I was working really hard, my heart hammering in my chest. Around the base of the hill and the track was slippy and fun in the shady spots and I knew we would be in for some very slippery sections on the climb. At one point I was bombing along and hit a patch of mud a bit fast and off line and skidded through it sideways, laughing like a madwoman. Fun times.

Soon enough we hit the first steep climb and all around me people got off their bikes. One woman next to me said “Why would you even try to ride that?!” and I replied in Ed Hilary styles “Because it’s there” and proceeded to ride the whole thing, picking my way through the walkers. I was wheezing and stoked and spun further up the hill, determined to ride as much of the hill as traffic and mud would allow. Up the hill I went, forward on my seat, using my arms, but relaxed as I could be, just spinning up the hill, letting my legs do what I know they can and pointing my bike at the route with the most traction. Up into the manuka and the track became slicker and slicker and I picked my way through the traffic with many people encouraging me. Unfortunately my crossmark tyres couldn’t find traction and my back wheel spun out and that was it for my climbing for a while. Round the corner and the track dried out a bit as we climbed higher and I was able to remount and ride, much easier than pushing.

I was going really well and felt strong still, the traffic wasn’t so thick that I couldn’t ride for walkers, although there were a few people riding who were a bit scary. One guy was trying to remount and wasn’t able to get enough momentum to get going and would zoom off and topple, I was worried he’d fall into me, but he didn’t, that came later when a guy tried to pass me on the inside of a rutty corner and chose a bad line. He went down into my back wheel, luckily I managed to stay on the bike, but I stopped anyway to make sure he was ok, which he was. The climb pitched up one more time and my legs and lungs finally exploded. I could see the clearing in the bush up at the next corner and knew that was where the track levelled out a bit. I pushed my bike up with everyone else, but unlike them I was wheezing like an elderly smoker. At the corner I stopped briefly to take in the amazing view that went all the way across the plains to the sea, and try and get my heart rate under control before I keeled over. Then back on the bike and up I went. I got to the top in an hour and was really happy with that, but even happier that I could unlock my shocks and point my bike in the right direction. I blasted down the hill, passing people like they were standing still, calling early so I didn’t frighten them. My bike felt like it was part of me and I grinned and whooped. Unfortunately in my enthusiasm I chose a shockingly bumpy line into the creek crossing at the bottom of the farm track and bounced my chain off. Luckily I had enough speed to coast through the stream and spin my legs uselessly on the other side. Of course everyone I passed on the downhill streamed back past me as I fumbled with my chain. Ah well, more targets for the next bit of downhill.

I had so much fun on the second part of the course. I loved every second off it and I worked as hard as I could the whole time. I caught up with a few people who’d gotten away from me on the climb and managed to stay in touch with them as we got back on the dirt roads and climbed up the nasty pinch. Then the head wind hit, of course, but I was blasting along the smooth clay road. A group tucked in behind me, which amused me greatly. I’ve never been going fast enough at the end of a race to be drafted before. Luckily for me they were kind enough to return the favour and as we hit the climb back up to the paddocks near the start my legs felt great and I powered up the hill dropping both the chick and the guy who were with me. I was shocked but pleased. Up ahead I could see a woman in blue and I wanted to catch her very badly.

Down the paddock I went, in my big ring, pedalling my lungs out. She was still riding really strongly and was also speeding down the paddock. Slowly but surely I reeled her in and popped out onto the gravel road slightly ahead of her. Then I pedalled with everything I had. I flew up the wee incline on the seal and pounded down the road, through the intersection at 50kph and then down to the entrance to the domain. I smashed it into the grass shoot and collapsed over my bars at the end as the man with the wire cutters removed my timing chip. I was dizzy and my legs felt like jelly, probably a sour lime flavour. I stumbled through the various tents and collapsed on the ground, completely wasted and stoked. I’d finished in 1:50:19, 9 minutes faster than the last time I did this race. I was 9th in Intermediate women and I cursed my olderness, as if I was still a sprightly 34 year old I would have been 3rd in Open Women with that time. Still I was faster than 50% of the field and more than 50% of the intermediate woman and I am so happy with that. It was a great day for me and reminded me why I love racing so much. It’s not about winning for me, I’m unlikely to ever win a race, it’s about beating myself year after year. The only person I want to be better than is me in the past and racing lets me measure if I’m able to do that. One more race to go before I take a month off the bikes and try and heal my injuries completely. 2.5 laps of Living Springs for our club champs, it’s going to hurt me a lot, but I’ll enjoy every minute of it.

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