Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Solo for the first time

Oh so many bad Star Wars puns and Madonna song lines are running through my head right now, but I’m going to try and rise above the cheap laugh or innuendo and get down to the story.

Saturday was my first ever solo race and it was a 4 hour one. I’ve always been intrigued by 6hr solos but that seemed just a little beyond me so when I discovered that there was going to be a 4 and 8 hour race in Hanmer I was stoked. A number of discussions on the portal of time wasting and secret girly knowledge revelled that there was going to be a great turn out of Vorbettes and I got onto booking a house. And what a house I booked, it had the most stunning and disturbing carpet in the downstairs room. I’m glad I didn’t have to sleep in there or I would have been mentally scarred for the race the next day!

The day dawned brisk and bright and there was a layer of ice on the car. Brrrr. My various aches and particularly my gammy elbow were not happy about this. Hubby and I loaded up the car and headed to the camp site to set up while the rest of the girls lazed about in bed. In no time we had the tent mansion up with the other CSC riders and I was getting my usual pre-race jitters. I got to meet the amazing Jude Young, who is the primary reason I’ve even considered riding endurance races. She’s an amazing rider and an extremely cool person (who is probably not over the moon that I’m say such things about her). My bike arrived with the sleeping beauties and I went for a token warm up, planning to do most of my warming up on the first lap.

I’d talked to a couple of fast guys about the lap and they said they were cranking it out in 30mins at race pace, so I thought I’d be lucky to get through a lap in an hour. I set my goal to ride for 4 laps and settled myself at the back of the pack for the start. The hooter went and we were off! Those at the front zooming off, and those of us at the back setting off at a more leisurely pace. I pootled off up the road synchronising my watch and speedo, and looking like I was out for a Sunday ride. I am very serious after all!

The first lap sent us straight up the road and missed out all the singletrack climbs. I wanted to warm into the ride rather than blow up in the first 500ms as I’ve done in other races so I just spun up the gentle incline as people passed me. Soon we were at the turn off to the Larches picnic area and I discovered it was a very fun steep drop with a root running across it for excitement. Wooo hooo! Straight over the edge and I was slamming on my brakes as the people in front of me struggled to negotiate the bridge. Sigh. This was to be a feature of my first lap. I slipped past a couple of people before the bridge and one after and soon I was flying down Dog Steam track, floating between the rocks and ruts with a huge grin. Into the twisty single track and I passed a few more people before we hit the climb and they all went past me again. The grind up the 4wd climb was long and pretty gradual with only a couple of areas where it pitched up a tiny bit. I chatted to people as I spun up, saving my legs for the hours ahead of me.

At the top of the road I crossed the skidder site and headed down to the entrance to Timberlands, controlling my speed for the tight turn into the trees. Going down Timberlands was brilliant fun, although I had to pass a few people so I couldn’t really let loose on that lap. Even so the descent was over in what felt like seconds and I was popping out of the trees onto the gravel road and heading down. Cutting through the DoC area and on a walking track we were soon crossing under the road bridge and into the super fun twisty singletrack on the other side of the road. I was held up here a lot, but managed to pass plenty of people and found a fantastic flow. I was loving this race already. The first section of singletrack was super fast and fun and ended with a nasty pinch up a bank. From there it was more singletrack, but it was gently climbing and my legs could feel it. Soon I was out, crossing the road again, winding through the narrow walking track and zipping through the trees to the camp site. And I was grinning and very excited that I had more laps of this fantastic course to do.

After a quick change to fingerless gloves I was off again and dreading the upcoming climbs. Up Black Dog and it started off flatish through the trees and then became progressively steeper until it finished in a rather horrid little pinch right at the top before exiting on the 4WD track. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be and I was pretty happy that I could do it twice more, although in the back of my head I had started hoping that I would do it 3 times more. Down the loose road and into Mach 1 and this climb was fuuuunnnn! Jeremy Inglis and a couple of other 4hr riders blasted past me, politely, and I nearly lost it in one of the downhill bits when my back wheel hit a rock and bounced out sideways. Luckily my madcore skillz saved me. At the top of Mach 1 it was out onto the road and back on familiar ground. I had no traffic around me entering Larches and blasted down and onto the bridge, whooping. I brrrrrraaaapppped my way along Dog Stream and eased into the climb up the 4wd track.

Then one of the great highlights of the race. I was privileged to be lapped by one of the legendary racers of the mighty Bushlove Racing Team. Luckily I managed to maintain my composure at the sight of such manliness streaming past me and weakly cheered him on. I did some skidz down Timberlands and blasted down the road in a cloud of dust, then it was into the walking tracks briefly. Suddenly I hear a call of “Go Mel!” Yay, I love being cheered on. Then I was overcome with excitement as my new hero went past me, Ollie Whalley! Legend of the Kiwi Brevet, bridesmaid of the Alpine Epic, monkeyboy of Ventana. As he went was me he did a sic huck and loose as whip and I swooned slightly.

Giggling like a school girl I zoomed through the fantastic singletrack and passed a couple more people. I was getting lapped pretty regularly now, which was to be expected, and those passing were super polite and considerate which was great. Suddenly there was a deafening yell behind me of “Mel!” and I almost crashed into a tree. I returned the greeting with a hearty cry of “Dayle!” and let him slip past. We chatted for a while and then that crazy man on his rigid singlespeed disappeared into the forest, grinning like a madman.

My second lap finished and I was feeling pretty good and the clock was looking friendly. My arm was hurting a bit and some of the singletrack was really biting at it, but I was beginning to think 5 laps might be doable. I was having so much fun, that my niggling pains weren’t really an issue. The third lap went by in a blur of hucks and skidz and grinning, and soon I was back in the pits grabbing a handful of sour snakes and sorting an aggravating issue out. Back out on the bike I planned to push this lap and head straight out to get a fifth in. My body had different ideas.

As I climbed up Black Dog I could feel the muscles in my neck and lower back hardening up and on the short descent my lower back was really sore. Up Mach 1 and the twists and turns were really biting into arm. On the 4wd track I was riding up with one arm, trying to rest my right arm as my hand was get very sore and I was having difficulties changing gear with it. Down Dog Stream I tried to rest my lower back by not standing too much, but I couldn’t help myself, it was so fun to blast down there as fast as I could. Up on the climb my neck joined the pain party, but I was still sure I was going to get another lap in. Down Timberlands and the 4wd drive I was having so much fun I didn’t notice the pain. In the singletrack on the other side of the road it all began to unravel. There’s plenty of roots on that singletrack and every one I hit sent a bolt of pain through my right wrist and into my elbow where it’s screwed together. My fingers were starting to tingle painfully and my thumb was almost unusable. I checked my watch and realised I might have enough time for another lap, but I needed to stop and rub some Voltaren in my arm or I wouldn’t be going anywhere. I pushed on and felt awful. As I entered the campsite I couldn’t hold the bars with my right arm at all and my back was poked. I looked at the time and realised that I’d have to keep going without stopping and pull out a sub-40 min lap to get another lap in and pulled the pin. I rolled over the finish line and was met by my wonderful friend who helped me back to the tent. I rubbed Voltaren into my arm and collapsed in a deck chair.

I was gutted I couldn’t keep going, because the course was so fun, but I wasn’t surprised. I’ve been having so many problems since I hurt myself before Christmas that smashing myself on singletrack for over 3hrs was bound to shake everything up. The rest of the day was spent relaxing in the sun, chatting with old friends and new, heckling, I mean supporting riders and generally having a fantastic time. Once the painkillers kicked in I felt great and was stoked with my ride, and was very happy to discover I’d got 4th in my division, 20 minutes ahead of the person behind me.

The whole day was fantastic and I can’t wait to do it again, so hubby and I and some friends are heading up to Hanmer for 4 days of riding in a couple of weeks. Yeeeehaaa! Just in time for me to get a bit of training in for the Singletrack Fiesta the CSC is holding on the 1st of May. In the meantime, we’re off to Mt Somers this weekend and I’m going to race the Challenge race for the first time, I’m a sucker for punishment. I’ve promised my physio I’ll take time off from riding and heal after the 1st and I will. It’ll be hard, but I’ll do it!

A huge thanks to Rachel for looking after me and my hubby for all the support.

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