Saturday, August 13, 2016

2016 Stans Notubes 5hr Tamworth Evocities Rd 3

Being only a 3.5hr drive from home, it was great to not camp at Tamworth before the race. The trip started with Pure Edge and rice bubbles breakfast before the 3.5hr trip. With the temp still sitting around 5 deg Celsius when we arrived Sunday morning I was glad to see the temp hit double digits before the race started at 9.30am.

Looking at the start list I knew it was going to be a tough race. With Ed Mcdonald up from Canberra, Cam Ivory, Trenton Day and Andrew Lloyd up from Newcastle and local NRS rider Sam Spoke it was hard to make a prediction as to how the race would go. With Cam still training as if racing at the Olympic games, he was always going to be the favourite.

I managed to have a good start this race sliding into the first single track in 5th place. During the 1st lap Cam and Sam got a little lead and it wasn't until part way through the second lap that I managed to catch them again. At the end of this lap Cam put in a little attack and by the time I got past Sam, he had a pretty good lead. I was sitting around 30 second behind Cam for the next couple of laps.

On the 5th lap I caught back up to Cam. In the last 3 kms of this same lap my chain dropped 3 times even with a chain guide. I recalled hearing this meant the front chain ring was worn and after five 24hr races it is no real surprise. My new bike for 2016 had made it way to the event courtesy of Jason Moxham and Fizo Cycling however I hadn't planned on taking it for its first ride at this event. Starting my 6th lap on this brand new bike, the seat started to slip down. I managed to borrow Allen keys through the lap but it just wouldn't stay up. I swapped the seat post from my old bike and took some air out of the front forks as Ed caught back up.
The new 2016 BOOSTED Mach 429SL

Now being 4.5 mins down on first place it was really just a matter of keeping hold of the second position. Now without a Garmin or watch in view I continued the race. It took a few laps before I felt like I was racing as I learnt to ride the new bike. The new bike had riser bars and the stem was quite high compared to what I was used to. This meant learning to corner all over again!

I got laps splits for the next few laps and my gap went from 4.5mins to 3.5 to 2.5 to 2.0mins however I was pretty stoked to get within a minute of such a highly talented and in-form rider considering my lack of training and run related injuries!

Thanks to Jason for bringing my new bike. I look forward to getting to know it better. For a bike straight out of the box it rode great. The Boosted front end and new Stans Notubes wheels were great. I'm not sure if it was just psychological but the new Pivot Mach 429SL seemed to roll a lot faster :)

Thanks to Ian for also passing bottles and helping me change my race plate and bike mid event.

Thanks to Jet Black Products and Stand Notubes for supporting me and this event. The new bike was great and Notubes have really come up with something special with their new Valour wheelset.

Thanks to the other Jet Black Products that keep my bikes and body going, the WTB Nine Line and Nano both worked well on this course, I felt confident railing the corners. I can't actually pick the tyre I preferred. Jet Black are now also doing GU and their Roctane Gels helped me feel just as strong at the finish of the race as start.

A big thanks goes out to the Tamworth Mountain Bike Club. I really had a great day out. This type of course suits me, no really sustained climbs, lots of pinchy technical sections and heaps of fun whippy burms. I'm keen to come back again next year.

Pure Edge are helping me attend the Evocities series and their pre-race food has been a great way to load up without feeling bloated.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

2016 Raferty's Coastal Run

I have always wondered how I would go as a runner. I have done 4 Parkruns and at each felt I have gone ok. I got roped into the Geoquest Adventure Race a few weeks ago and part of the training involved a few 5-10km runs. With these few runs and the adventure race, I felt if I could put together a few 20km runs then I would give the 35km trail run a go. I worked out I could run 20km in around 2 hours so when I lined up for the Raferty's self seeding start, I put myself in around 40th as I was aiming for a 3.5hr run.

On the start line I was feeling a little under prepared. I had grabbed the smallest Camelbak I could find in my shed. This became a problem as the only storage was on the very back and I couldn't access the food I was carrying without stopping. It appears running Camelbaks have storage pockets on the front. This Camelbak also didn't have a chest strap so it jumped around as it pleased. The only GPS I own is my bike computer which I started and threw in the Camelbak as I couldn't get my smart watch working so went watch free.

From the start I was just on a mission to catch up to Paul Perry who had convinced me to give running a go. There were quite a few single tracks early on which explained the wave starts. I had caught Paul after a few kms and I continued on the same pace as I felt pretty good. I was actually passing lots of people and was getting a sense of achievement with each person I ran past. Around the 10km mark after passing a photographer I was informed I was sitting in 4th place. At this point I knew I was probably going too hard however, I wasn't sure what pace I should have been aiming for. I had no idea how far I had run and as I couldn't see my heart rate I couldn't see how hard I was going.

From this  point the course followed the beach and I could see the top 3 runners up ahead. I was going in with an aim for top 10 and sub 3.5hrs so I had no interest in going after them! I tried to sit in a comfortable pace and at this stage was feeling pretty good. At each check point I stopped to grab a stack of lollies. I honestly didn't consider that other people would also need them during the race however, getting my gel flask out often resulted in dropping my Camelbak or falling over!

I possibly should have looked at the course profile or map because as I reached the turn around I became very confused. The marshals told me I just needed to run back the same way. I actually asked if they were sure about those instructions as I felt I had already run what felt like 30km. This is where I began to realise how tough this run was really going to be. 

Heading down to the long beach section (this time in the other direction) with around 12km to go I could see a few runners up the beach. I was still feeling good until the end of this section. At the checkpoint with 9km to go I knew I was in trouble. I took on heaps of lollies to avoid accessing my gel flask and began the last part of the run. This part now had the 20km runners also. Running past people this time didn't provide much of a boost, I was purely just trying to get home. With 3km to go I had run out of electrolyte and at the 2km checkpoint I stopped to take on water. The last 2kms were quite interesting. I started to feel quite sick and my breathing became super heavy. I put the sickness down to the ridiculous amount of lollies I took down at each check point but I couldn't understand the breathing. I had really backed the pace off, it felt like my heart rate had lowered however, I was still puffing my guts out. I can only put it down to the amount of pain I was starting to experience. Coming across the line I could barely hold my finishers bag as I almost fell into the cold lake for some serious recovery time.

I have a new level of respect for the guys that can do an event like this and walk comfortably the next day. 

A big thanks to Jen for driving me to the race and looking after the kids.
Maximum Adventure for putting on such a great event.

Paul Perry and Michael Percival for the encouragement to give running a go.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

2016 Port to Port Stage Race

After doing the Cape to Cape in Western Australia and loving it, I was pretty excited to grab a Camelbak sponsored entry into the Port to Port which is run by the same company. The Port to Port is a 4 day stage race located around the Newcastle area which is less than a 3hr drive from home. With family offering a place to stay, my dad also entered himself into the Thursday and Friday stages.

Day 1 - Port Stephens

It was freezing on the the start line before day 1. With jackets being put on and off as riders waited for the course to be open it felt like winter had come. A ridiculously slow pace car seemed to be a bit of a common theme for the week. My thoughts of being cold quickly disappeared after this car left and I was dropped off the front group on the first sandy climb. This first day, while short, had quite a few challenging sections that I thought would have sorted out the field a little more. After the first sandy fireroad section, there was a 2km road section that allowed a group of 20-30 riders to form before the track turned bush again. The second part of the first day was mostly fireroad. This included a section called the three bears. There was talk about this trail being un-rideable and my legs were already fried before we hit the first one. I somehow managed to run myself up to the top few riders and by the end of the last piece of fireroad I had managed to hang onto the lead 4 riders. We swapped off where we could to try and make a little gap. With a surprise sprint before the final single track I managed to get in last and hold my 5th position to the line. While I wouldn't take my mountain bike to Port Stephens to re-ride the same trails, I think the course designed was a great challenge and worth putting in a stage race. I managed to grab some personal bests in this stage for sustaining such a high heart rate for such a long period of time.

I was pretty stoked to have Jason Moxham around after the first day for a quick bike service. The other guy that was great to find was Matt Russell from Pure Edge. Stage racing is all about recovering quickly to prepare the body for the next race. The best way to recover I have found is through liquid foods that are quickly absorbed. It's hard to pack a good meal to have ready at the end of a stage, but it is easy to pack some Pure Edge Superfood and Pure Native WPI.

Day 2 - Pokolbin 

This was always going to be a tough day. The stage started with a gravel 400vm climb and it was game on once the lead car snuck away. I managed to hang onto the second group up the climb as I thought this bunch had enough firepower to have a chance at chasing the lead guys. Once up the first big climb there was a series of undulations as the road continued to mostly head up. As we approached the first single track, I moved into a good position only to have my chain sneak out around my chain guide. Once off, the chain put up a good fight before I could wrestle it back on. With 30 guys now past me into the single track, I had a bit of a task to catch up to the guys in front. The single track was surprisingly fun and "Down the rabbit hole" was challenging as not being able to see over the water bars made picking a speed fun. Luckily I managed to sneak past a couple of riders down this section of track including Chris Aiken and we swapped off for the rest of the stage.

Day 3 - Awaba

I was looking forward to this stage the most. Being the longest of them all at 65km, I was hoping my endurance would almost assist me against the short distance specialists that I was racing. After a long lead-out from the pace car the race started not far from the entrance to the Awaba MTB Park. I managed to hit top 10 leading into the first single track and was close to 5th wheel at the end of the single track as the big climb of the day started. With my front lockout still on I started the climb with Chris Aiken, Shaun Lewis, Rohin Adams and Marc Williams. We worked together across the top of the course through a variety of single track and open firetrails. With 10km to go I moved to the front and upped the pace to see if we could catch any riders ahead and to see how fresh the other guys were. After a few kms of going quite hard the noise of the other riders seemed to fade off. I just kept my head down until Tristan Ward who claimed to be in second, merged onto my path. Asking him if he went the wrong way I was left knowing one of us had. He reassured me that with Strava it would be easy to see how much time was lost or cut and things could be worked out later. I followed Tristan in and 5 minutes later the guys I had been riding with came across the line, just after a group of 10 riders came through that took a 10-15min short cut. Using Strava to calculate segment lengths, it could be seen the segment I took was 53 seconds long and the elite guys were doing the longer segment in under 4mins. The race organisors decided that instead of a 3min 7sec addition to my time, or instead of giving me the same time as the guys I was riding with earlier on, I should have a time penalty awarded as I apparently choose to take the shorter option! I was confident there was no signs to mark a corner. Anyway, by the looks of Strava Flyby it would seem I wasn't the only one who should have got a time penalty! 

Day 4 - Cams Wharf

I didn't really feel like starting the last day. I had the intension to try and race for top 5 on GC but now sitting in 7th with almost a 3 min gap on 6th I would have needed to find something special for the final day. With a shortish 50km day with neutral zones and cycle path it was going to be a fast and hard race. From the gun it was on. Kyle hit the first climb like it was a 5min race and didn't back the pace off. I quickly went from a 3 or 4th to just hanging onto top 10 as the steep early climbs smashed me. With a few technical ups and downs early on some of the elite riders were having offs and I was pretty keen to look after myself! By the neutral zone a top group of 6-7 guys had gained a 2 minute lead. As my group restarted the lead group rejoined us as they went exploring around the golf course. As we hit the cycle way the pace was usually around 40km/hr with some significant surges in pace. One of these must have occurred in the bottle drop as I didn't see the drink truck the whole race! While most of the elite guys were getting past bottles I had no water for quite a large part of the race. As the cramps started, I was passed a half bottle from a spectator as I started to catch up to 3rd and 4th. Heading up the last climb I had to let them go as the cramps were killing me, another bottle with 3km to go was a little too late but still needed to get home! I'm grateful to those guys for the bottles! Sneaking across the line I was in 5th on the day but with a time penalty, missed 5th on GC by 7 seconds!

At the end of the day the Port to Port is a great race. I'm not a cheat and I'm upset that some people think I am. I'll aim to be back next year, hopefully with some climbing legs. I think I would hold back a little more on the first day to save my legs for the longer stages. Hopefully I can convince my dad to do the whole 4 stages next time!
I have heaps of people to thank so I could do this race:

Camelbak for the entry
JetBlack and Pivot bikes for the Mach 428SL - It was great. After an adjustment of the front chain guide the XTR worked a treat.
Shimano for supporting this event.
All the Newy locals for yelling at me passing random bottles on the last day!
Pure Edge for the recovery products each day.
Paula Gresham for the lift out on day 3
Jason Moxham for the service after day 1
My Dad for coming out and having a race

Jen's parents for helping with the kids (again!)