My preparation for the race could not have been better. Something new for me was a weights program that I was helped with through Port Macquarie's High Performance Centre. I worked on functional movement and technique from September to December before reducing the weights and laying down some good base kms over December and Christmas through the school holidays. Once school went back, the Jet Black 24hr 3 weeks out and Everesting 2 weeks before were valuable training sessions that helped keep the training volume high before enjoying a couple of recovery weeks.
I arrived in Rotorua Tuesday night just in time for a wet couple of laps on Wednesday which despite the amount of water around was still an enjoyable experience. Thursday started with a spa and mud treatment at the polyonesian spa followed by an exploration ride with my wife Jen on Thursday.
Thursday night I was involved with a Q & A evening with Sonya Looney which was a way to share some of my experience with other riders.
Friday should have been an easy day but involved being out having happy snaps and filming which I under catered for on a carb loading day. This was well and truley adjusted for after a quick walk around Pak n Save for a race food shop.
I tried to work off Australian time during the lead up week so staying up to 11.30pm NZ time each night helped me sleep in to 7.30am each morning. This was a great start to race as it's not often I get over jet lag before a race.
With Jason Moxam (Fizo) setting up the pit zone early, Jen and I came out to the track around 11am. It was very muddy so we planned to feed in a neutral zone instead of out the front of our pit.
Riders were called up from 11.45am before a Maori War Dance was performed in front of riders. It almost felt a little close for comfort.
I had my helmet camera on for the first lap and had the plan to sit back a little and film the top few riders. The pace seemed far more sensible this year as I rode around with the leaders for the first lap. I found it quite entertaining that through wheel following on this same lap, I missed one of the key a line / b line sections and dropped back from a 4th to 10th position. Its worth a watch of my Youtube video to see the difference in time and the heart rate I had to maintain to catch back up to the lead.
|Pic: Russ Baker|
When considering this course, I liked to break it down into three parts. The first 1/3 seemed quite flat and I thought of it as the family friendly section as it was smooth and not too technical. The second 1/3 included the climbs with some fire road and the remainder was twisty single track with steep pinchy sections. The last 1/3 seemed like the downhill to the finish that had some small nasty climbs thrown in to prevent an easy finish of the lap.
My race basically also had 3 parts. The 1st part I rode with Tobias Lestrell which lasted around 11-12 hours before he crashed and had to restart the lap with a broken handlebar. This part of the race was really testing my energy stores. In fact, during this first part of the race I only felt good until around 8-9pm when I just started to feel flat. I'm not sure what caused this to happen but I recall riding with Tobias and not being able to do a turn. I atually admitted to him I was busted and it was true, I could barely hold his wheel on the firetrails. Tobias also had exception technical skills through the single track so I wasn't able to take it easy on the downhills, I had to stay on the pace to keep with him. When he did crash I must confess I was a little relieved as this gave me a chance to sit up and recover. I could only recover until the 2nd part of my race started and yes I did stop and check if he was still alive after crashing off a bridge!
The 2nd part of my race began as Cory Wallace caught me a couple of laps after Tobias left me. I think I was doing a slow lap as my headlight had gone out and he was on a mission. We had a very interesting race. It seemed the 3 parts of the track really came to play here. Each lap I would try and get through transition faster than him so I could get a head start on the middle section of climbing. It felt like every second time we hit the middle section Cory would just ride away and I would have to just pedal where I could and take some risks through the 3rd section of track to try and catch him before transition. As the hours ticked by sort of riding together, the pace gradually seemed to get more intense. With 5 hours to go he joked that it was now a marathon sprint. With 3 hours to go I felt he was taking it a little easier through the last couple of final climbs and heading into the trail called Turkish Delight I though it was my turn to test what Cory and I had left. At the end of a 24 hour race I find it is impossible to tell how much you have left in the tank unless you need to empty it and this is exactly what I set out to do. I started calculating lap times and knew if I could do 2 sub 55min laps I could fource the race onto a 3rd lap which I was hoping would be in my favour. Coming thorugh tranistion it seemed like everyone was cheering for me, I almost become emotional with this support and the knowledge of how much more it was going to hurt!
After 1 full lap on the gas I had made a 2min gap, it's very hard to get lap splits to the rider behind so I really didn't know how I was travelling. Part way through my second lap I got some feedback that I was 3mins ahead and I kept doing the calculations to determine if I would need to go out for a final lap. I just kept sucking down the gels and increasing my fluid intake with the increase in temperature as I mentally prepared for a final lap.
I kept thinking through my last lap as I dug deep that lots of people have put themselves out for me. My family have really taken a back seat in the juggling act between work, family and training as on weekends I would sneak away to do big kms, a 24hr event or just everest for a whole day. I felt I really owed it to them and it served as a good motivator to keep pushing. I'm also at this stage where I am lacking sponsorship that supports my travel to events, so wining this race was my only ticket to Italy in 2017. I love Italy and I really want to be able to take my family there again.
As I went through transition and started to head out for another lap there was around 4 mins of race time which meant Cory could make it through also for another lap so I headed out. I tried to keep the pace on but I could tell I had already been going rediculously hard. 6-7km into the lap at the first marshall I recieved info that Cory didn't make it out for another lap so I could retire without needing to hit the hilly second stage of the lap. I could have gave the guy a serious man hug, I was so stoked to be able to stop!
Heading back down to transition I had some mixed feelings. I really felt for Tobias who if he didn't crash could have been the first rider across the line. Cory also has been on the podium at this event several times, this being his second time finishing behind me. I can just understand the disappointment of working so hard, coming so close and being the one to miss out, and it was almost me this time. Archie (my 4 year old son) has told me that next year I should give Cory a turn at winning...
My list of thanks goes pretty deep for the race:
Jens parents came across with us and the kids so that Jen (AKA the A Team) could be in support to give me the best chance. Jen has only missed 2 of my World Championship events and I really appreciate her support each lap during these events. Jen has allowed me the time to train and has been very supportive of my crazy rides that have helped me train so hard. Jen and Jason Moxham who also fed another couple of riders did an awesome job in the pits. They were super organised and I wish someone could have filmed our night transition! Jason not only helped out in the pits but also helped out with the logistics of bike transporting, pit setup, bike serivicng, sourcing parts etc. He has been a great support not only at this event but in events in the lead up. I am very grateful for the service he provides and I would recommend contacting him for a bike service if you are based in or travelling through Sydney.
Jennifer (AKA team masseur) also needs a big thanks for the massage post event. Thanks Jason for also organising this!
As mentioned before HPC (High Perforformance Centre) for the weights program
JetBlack Products - espcially Groupe for getting my shocks and forks service. Better than new performance!
Pivot bikes - The Mach 429 SL's are still firing like a new bikes 14 months on. These bikes are so smooth and fun to ride. I wouldn't take anything else over to Rotorua, except I would be interested in trying their Mach 6 Carbon!
Shimano Australia - Thanks guys for the new drive trains a enough spare brake pads to get us through the horrendous conditions that could have eventuated with all the rain. Thanks also for drivetrains to keep my training bike (CX) fresh so I can bust out some big kms.
Stans Notubes - The valor wheels are not only light and stiff put arre tough and can handle some serious use during a 24 hour
NiteRider Lights - I used the 2200 Pro and the 750 Minewt. I actually had them both running on the walk mode which is bright enough for me :)
Weldtite lubes - I rarely had to stop to re-lube chains which meant I could spend more time racing
Adidas Eyewear- I have been really enjoying their new photocrhromatic lense fitted in to an Evil Eye Pro Half Rim
Northwave Australia- The Extreme Tech Mtb shoes are light and comfortable
Mt Zoom - for lots of weight weenie bit and pieces especially their 710mm 8deg sweep bar. These seem to just work well for my lack of flexibility through my upper back and shoulders
Lazer Helmets Australia - the Z1 is such a light and comfortable helmet, I still rember the neck pain associated with heavy helmets during a 24hr race.
Kowalski Brother - These guys did some tag teaming to make sure I had a fresh pair of gloves for the event after I left my set at home. Well played guys and thanks Blake for being the delivery boy.
Thanks to Pure Edge for providing me with the protein powder required to recover quickly between training sessions.
Santini do make the most comfortable kit in the world. I have really appreciated their support and I am really hoping they can continue looking after me in 2016.
Dan Baker - Thanks for lending you Dad to do the airport pickup for us, how the heck are you supposed to travel with 2 kids, 2 car seats, port a cot, bikes, 7 bags etc
Tim and Belinda Farmer - for not only putting on the event but helping me out with some of the logistics of the race and for putting on a great show considering the amount of rain and issues out of their control.
Thanks to all the people that came along to the Q & A night - I might now seriously think about publishing a 'how to survive a 24hr mtb race' ebook