The Kona Odyssey is normally the first significant race on the marathon calender and usually attracts a serious field of elite riders and this year was no different. The difference was the race logistics and my travel issues!
My race really started at 3.00pm on the Friday. This is the time the school bell rings and on a Friday I can usually sneak away close to this time. Coming back from the beach with school sport puts an added pressure but with some smooth driving from a work colleague I made the 3.20pm flight which had me in Sydney by 4.30pm. I then just had to pick up my bike box and check in with Jetstar. Apparently I wasn't on their system and all their flights to Avalon were booked out. Checking at the free Internet kiosk I was able to locate my booking reference which, when Jetstar plugged into their system, indicated a retracted ticket due to payment not being made. A small binge at the airport cafe to get change for the phone had me on the line to Flight Centre who sorted things out. Apparently the booking got made through Qantas and Qantas didn't pay Jetstar. With 5mins before check in closes my ticket is reinstated and I board the plane. With an 8.30pm pick from Avalon it was closer to midnight by the time I built my bike, loaded my gels in flasks, had dinner and got my tyres sealed. The 4.30am wake up call wasn't that exciting...
At 7.15am hundreds of riders were on the start line and I managed to push into the second row. With 10km of road first there was no pressure to get to the front. It seemed like there was still hundreds of riders by the time we hit the first fireroad. This is where racing got interesting as obstacles appeared without warning and the sound of tyres skidding could be heard through the peleton. Within 3-4km of fire road my race started to go backwards. Knowing how good a 29" bike would have rolled over the sand compared to a 26" almost cracked me as there must of been around 1km of sand. Looking up the road I estimated I was back to 40th position and I couldn't see the top riders. I was struggling to find anywhere I could ride and the 29" bikes kept moving like there was no sand! For the rest of this 38km loop I just tried to find gears that would hold on the climbs as I slowly moved up the places. Coming into transition I was around 10mins down on the leaders. I grabbed a bottle as Steph from Shotz Nutrition waved in my direction as I headed off into the Forrest trails that seemed quite familiar from 24hr races years ago. I had the pleasure of riding with Sam Chancellor who made riding these trails seem effortless and fun which helped me keep the pace on. The third and final 32km loop had a good climb near the start. On this climb Sam and I caught up to 5th and 6th place. At the top of the hill we had 5th to 10th place and by the end of the 'Red Carpet' downhill 4th place was caught and 4-8th place were riding together. With 12km to go I grabbed a drink bottle at the feed station and topped up my rear tyre that had deflated slightly. In hindsight I should have just continued riding with low pressure as I had managed the whole downhill and didn't seem to loose any more air. Sitting behind 7th place meant a gap opened to the riders in front. I moved past 7th as he stopped to play with his tyre, 6th place knew he was done and let me move past as I kept the pace down aiming for the 4th and 5th place riders. They came into sight with around 3kms to go and I was gaining on them as the distance ticked down. With Ben Mather and Shaun Lewis swapping turns there was never going to be a change from the 6th place I had moved into!
A big thanks to Adam and Kylie for doing the airport pickup, housing me and getting me to the race on time.
Andy Fellows for the lift back to the Airport and Lounge access (I need to do a few extra kms this week now...)
Darryl and Steph from Shotz Nutrition for feeding me and providing awesome products!
Chanh for the cool new Adidas eyewear.
Gordon Street Cycles for doing their best on my old beast!