Tuesday, April 10, 2012

6hr Super D Enduro - an old woman in a young man's game

I didn’t quite get round to writing up my last day of my Vegas adventure before heading down south for my next adventure. Brief synopsis, the tracks were dry, I was tired, Corners had a punga stump that tried to cause my death by impalement on a fallen tree, B Rude Not 2 was awesome and so was Mad if you Don’t.  All in all Rotorua was brilliant and just the break we needed from Christchurch.

And after a brief trip home to snuggle the cat and wash a vast array of stinky mountain bike clothes it was into the car with me and down to Queenstown in the company of legendary hard man and epic ride enthusiast Oliver Whalley. The trip down to Q’town flew by as we discovered that we both liked to sing the guitar riffs of songs. Entering Q’town we got our boy racer trousers on and got the bass pumping and the windows down.  I got in touch will my inner teenager by hanging out with someone over ten years younger than me.
Photo Caleb Smith: Ollie flying into second place

After dumping Ollie and installing myself in my dorm room at Pinewood it was straight down to Ferg Burger with my lovely Pinewood companions for a feed before a rather early night. Driving for 5.5hours is knackering. Luckily I had very considerate dorm mates and slept well, sneaking out in the early dawn hours for breakfast at Ferg Bakery, and preparing my gear for the day. A quick pedal through the school and we were soon setting up our site in a primo position and registering. I caught up with a lot of people I hadn’t seen in a while, which was great, but I also started to feel quite sick with nerves.

After talking to a number of people I got the feeling I had really bitten off more than I could chew and when I discovered we were starting in numerical order and I was number 22 it’s safe to say I was freaking out a bit. I chatted nervously with the guy I shared the gondola ride to the top with and then we were off. My plan was for a conservative, stay alive approach to the race, however adrenalin got the best of me and after about 2 minutes of riding I was coming in too fast to a steep rooty corner and heading straight over the bars onto my head. In front of a marshall. Which I suppose was a good thing, but was very embarrassing and I raced to reassure him I was alright and to clear the track. I let a number of riders pass and got back on my stead and immediately noticed that my helmet kept dropping over my eyes. Not good. In fact so not good that very soon after I was on my head again and beginning to think that this was the end of my race.

At this stage I was pretty sure I had a leeeeetttle concussion as I had a big wiggly blind line in my left eye and I was positive my helmet had seen better days. Not to mention a headache. I continued down the hill, the words of my colleague Bob warning me that I was going to axe myself in this race, floating around my head. (Turns out he’s one to talk, below is a photo of him following Le Race when adrenalin got the better of him in the final corner. He’s a much harder man than I, but he’ll never admit it, and still finished the race looking like a cross between a mugging victim and a mummy).
Oh Bob, why did you jinx yourself by worrying about my skills so much?

Into the first climb and I decided if I was still have vision problems or if my headache was worse than the slightly dull ache it was at that point when I got to the bottom I’d pull the pin. This thought made me feel sick and very disappointed in myself for being such a muppet. As people streamed past on the climb that seemed to go on forever I had time to adjust my helmet ensuring I could at least see better on the next downhill bits. The nice singletrack climb (yes I did think it was nice at this stage of the race) dropped into Hammy’s with a rather nasty tight rooty and hastily cut steep corner that I wasn’t alone in not being able to ride.

I eased down Hammy’s and into the weird messy little bit above Singletrack Sandwich then it was back into Hammy’s before a nasty poorly formed switch back climb which almost everyone was running or pushing. From there it was a nice drop into lower Singletrack Sandwich and out to a steep pinch up to a slow grassy section of corners that I just couldn’t find flow on. From there it was all pretty much downhill and by the bottom I knew I was going to keep going.

I had a brief stop at the pits to get the super amazing Jo to fix my bike as the front gear cable had become dislodged in one of my crashes and I was stuck in the little ring. While she did that I removed my visor from my helmet and got it fitting right again. Yes it did have a crack in it and yes, I probably should have stopped riding once I discovered that, but I just couldn’t face only having one lap next to my name.
Spot the crack

Up the gondola again and this time I had great flow on the track, no crashes or near misses, the climbing wasn’t  too bad and I was grinning again. I really enjoyed that second lap. Another short stop at the bottom to let Jo know I was ok and then back up again. Now I was really loving the steep sections in Thingamajig and couldn’t work out how I’d managed to crash so spectacularly. The climbs however were taking their toll. And pain I had felt from the crashes was completely obliterated by the screaming of my legs on the climb and I knew I needed to stop after this lap and eat something substantial.
Photo Caleb Smith - once more making me look like a talented rider rather than a concussed muppet

At the bottom I eased into a chair and hoed into an astoundingly good ham and cheese croissant and gulped some V. Then some sour snakes for dessert and I was off again. I was still loving the downhill stuff, but the uphill was really hurting and some of the freshly cut transitions from one track to another were becoming quite scary. I used a tree to brake once to stop from going over a bank after I corner I’d ridden easily earlier had started to blow out and I couldn’t find traction.

There was more walking on the uphill singletrack section, under the guise of being polite and letting the fast riders past, and I also took the opportunity to stop and help a young grom who was experiencing cramp for the first time and was rather distressed. After helping him stretch a bit I gave him a handful of snakes and was on my way again. On the way down the blown out stuff was getting more blown out and I was getting more fatigued. I looked at the time and realised that I could fit a couple more laps in, even if I had ten minute breaks in the pits to recharge.

At the bottom I settled back in my chair and started on my second ham and cheese croissant. As I sat talking to Jo and my other friends coming in for food my stomach began to get tight. As the others headed off for more laps I sat thinking about the near misses I’d had in the last lap, and weigh them against the fun I was having getting air in places I’d been too scared to earlier. If I’d gotten up and ridden to the gondola just then things might have been different, but I sat a little longer and the fear took firm hold of me.

I was riding with a cracked helmet. I was very very tired. I ached all over. I had pretty decent headache. These thoughts wound through my brain and I decided that was it. 4 laps was enough. I walked back through the timing tent and turned my transponder in.

The rest of the afternoon was awesome, just hanging out, talking to cool peeps, cheering my amazing friend Michelle who was also soloing it and was just a machine. I dished out snakes to people in need and cheered for skids. It was great.

Photo Caleb Smith - Michelle showing her awesome steez and just generally blowing my mind

Later that evening I stood on the step of a podium for the first, and probably only time in my life. I’d got third in the hotly contested Veteran Woman’s solo section and I felt great as people clapped and I was handed a great pair of Specialized gloves as a prize. It was an awesome fun scary race that challenged me more than any other event I’ve ever done. And it wasn’t until the next day on the drive home (where I found an amazing pump track in Omarama, but only had legs for one feeble lap) that the regret hit and I wished I’d gone out for at least one more lap. You see I may have got third in my category, but I also got DFL and that kinda sucks. I’d like to say I’ll be back to do that race again, but with ongoing bouts of chronic fatigue I just don’t know if I’ll ever be able to put the training in to make it a less painful experience. But I’ve done it once and I’m rather proud of that.
Omarama pump track, worth stopping for

And here's my Bastian monster being cute outside.

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