This was a tough race, but a marathon and so it should have been. I thought it was a great track and was the perfect distance for a marathon. It had a bit of everything, some climbing but nothing ridiculous, a small amount of road and fireroad to sort out the field but a heap of awesome single track that just kept going. But not just single track, it was really well built single track. You had to stay focused to pick lines that dodged rocks to preserve tyre integrity while maintaining speed to enjoy windy but mostly flowy trail. The tracks were covered with pea gravel and smaller rocks which limited my speed as I tried to stay upright. A smooth rider wouldn't need to use their brakes much due to the good design of the track.
The race started out at the most intense pace I have witnessed for a marathon event. The speed Chris Jongerwood took off was for me, quite unsustainable and amazing. I tried to find a wheel to hide behind as a lead group of 4 or 5 riders seems to easily ride through the sand and off into the distance. After several kms I found myself with James Downing. After around 20km we were 1.5min down on the leaders where we took a wrong turn which ended up costing almost 5mins. Getting back on course we were in around 10th place and at the 30km checkpoint, around 7mins down on 3rd and 4th place. James seemed to disappear around this part of the race and rejoined me later on in the race around 50km in due to taking a fairly major detour back into Alice Springs. Riding with James we talked about the quality of the tracks and compared them to parts of Stromlo due to the rocks, sweeping corners and little pinchy sections.
At the 60km mark we rode past Ben Mather who like the local kangaroos, was having a lay down in the shade. I though Ben was in 3rd place so just aimed to hold this position knowing that James had missed a good section of the race and wouldn't be competing for position. With around 20km to go my bike slid out around a very slow corner and I couldn't get my foot unclipped in time and landed on my side still clipped in. Maybe I should have used my usual shoes instead of trying to wear as much black and yellow as I could find! Either way, I thought it was no big deal and started to ride again with James. I kept wiping the blood off my leg that seemed to be flowing quite steadily. I stopped to have a good look and a decent cut had opened right up. I had no bandages so planned on riding until the next checkpoint to get it sorted. I kept riding but the rate of blood flow was quite concerning. I knew I needed to stop the flow or I would be in serious trouble. I did a quick stock take of all the equipment I was carrying and remembered my Mt Zoom strap I use to secure my spare tube to the frame. Using one of my gloves, I was able to apply enough pressure to stop the bleed and continue on. Thinking I was in 3rd I shut down the pace as I tried to keep my hr low and pedalled standing up where possible to limit the amount of knee bend. Coming across the line I ended up finishing 4th and went straight to the hospital for some magic super glue and a good gash clean!