It was always going to be an expensive trip down to Melbourne for the 100km Nationals. I was thinking of taking Jen down to pass me bottles but it would have added another $500 to the trip so I took the cheap option and a camelbak. Trying to save more money I booked a Virgin Blue flight to Sydney with the plan of getting on a JetStar flight to Melbourne with 40mins between flights. If there was 42mins between flights I would have made it. I ended up having to pay an extra $70 to transfer to a later flight, so much for saving money!
Sam Chancellor met me at the Melbourne airport with his cousin Scott. These guys are both 24hr riders with some pretty handy results. Sam just won the Kellieville 24hr and Scott placed 3rd overall at the 24hr Nationals. I ended up staying with these boys for the weekend and logistically I couldn't have done this race without them!
On race morning I was still tossing up between using bottles or the camelbak as I knew the extra 3L of weight up the first few climbs was going to be a significant disadvantage. Playing it safe I took the camelbak and threw the Shotz electrolyte tabs in as per usual. My gel flasks were charged and I was ready to roll.
Having managed second place last year I was keen to see how I would get on this time round, especially after have an easy few weeks tapering and recovering after the 24hr Solo Nationals.
The race started at what I thought was a fairly sensible pace but my heart rate was sitting in the high 170's and telling me to slow down. Troy Glennan charged off the front and he must of had a significant lead by the time we hit the bottom of the first climb. This climb was around 600m of vertical height but wasn't terribly steep. I was sitting on close to 190bpm while dropping off the leaders. I ended up riding this climb with Ben Henderson and was hoping to work with him to catch back up later.
At the top of the hill once the tracks started to get a little technical I bridged the gap and caught back up to the lead group. At this stage there was only Ben Mather up the road. Somehow in the next 5-10km the group split. This must have been just before we hit fire road and as I was just hanging towards the back I ended up in the chase group.
I think Troy Glennan saw that AJ, Murray Spink and myself had dropped off and so he started winding up the pace. The three of us swapped off turns in our group but we were still getting left behind. Maybe if we had the assistance of Shaun Lewis who had the benefit of a rider up the road and no incentive to help chase them down.
By the time we got to the 60km mark Murray had dropped off the back and three of us continued until around the 65km checkpoint where AJ had to fix his front derailer. I was starting to run low on water so I grabbed whatever I could at the feed stations.
With around 15km to go and after heaps of crazy walking trails I managed to get to within 15m of Gordo. Looking up the trail I could see him walking and I punched it up the hill towards him. As the hill started to flatten off I had to bail off my bike with hamstrings cramps. Being out of fluid for the previous 5km had begun to take its toll. After a quick stretch I was back on the bike. Shuan had moved passed me and was starting to build a small gap. I was struggling to get back on the bike but eventually went past Shuan again as we approached some of the final climbs before the last feed station. I started to feel good again and wound the pace up.
Coming into the feed zone I grabbed a drink bottle thinking this would be great for the last 12km. But before I had even managed a sip the thing jumped out of my bottle cage as it was too small to stay in. From here I decided to take it really slowly up the hills to try and prevent further cramping and I actually walked quite a few climbs that I would normally find fairly easy.
Not being in a real hurry now (and more concerned about finishing at all) I managed to score an extra drink bottle of a 90km rider who had cut his day short. I stopped and filled up my remaining water bottle and moved it to the front bottle cage. It must have lasted in there for less than a minute before falling out and again, I didn't get a sip!
So I crept home in survival mode to a 4th position with a lot of "what ifs" to contemplate. I think I'll do some hill training before next year if the race is held at Avoca again. And maybe I'll take Jen along to pass me bottles!