It wasnt quite the ideal leadup to this race, with a heavy training load this week and then up to midnight the night before packing and getting ready after a very full Saturday, but it wasn't about the result today. This was a hit out to test the bike after it's ressurection and also to test the heart aftera number of weeks of increased training courtesy of Mike Orr's "Academy of the Gordo". You see, Mike is a certified practitioner of PSP, (Pain, Suffering and Pewking) and he has been inflicting his own brand of torture with dramatic effect. The swelling bunch on the Friday Fatbuster have been taking bets on how long it will take for Mike to get me to spew at the top of Bobbo. No carrots yet so I guess I am just not trying hard enough.
A final check in the morning (have I got enough food and water?), and I am off heading up the freeway on a picture perfect Sunday morning, but you can already sense it is going to be a warm one today. The first nail in the coffin came via the phone call to let me know my partner wouldnt be able to make today. OK, looks like I am doing 6 hours solo in 30 degree heat on three water bottles and a honey sandwich. Should be interesting.
Ready at the start and there is the usual banter and introductions, funny how Mountain Bikers get very comrade like at the start line, I guess it is a bit like preparing to go over the top of the trench an into battle together against the track...and what a track it was. There are some lovely flowing sections but man there are some hard bits too and the CCO crew included them all today.
The starter sends us on our way and I stay with the lead bunch for the first hill which I am pretty happy about. Gradually the field thins out and I am on my own but not far from the front. The starter explains the "drop off" is in today but there is a chicken run to avoid which I make the most of after staring down a decent that would normally require a rope and harness to traverse. Let's come back to that later.
First lap down and I am feeling good and have punched out a 37 min lap. The elites have done it in just over 30 so I am happy with that, but it is getting very warm. I heard one of the guys at the start estimate he will need 2 litres of water per hour and I think he might be right. Thankfully there are other's there with gerry cans of water that they happy to share, without which it would have been a very short race. Thanks for the water guys.
Another lap down, and following a quick pit stop for a water refill, a honey sandwich + muesli bar, the drop off remains untouched by me, but I settle into a rhythm and put in two more good laps. There is a guy who is really quick on the technical sections but I am catching him on the hills, a new experience for me and it feels good. On the fourth lap I pass four guys and am feeling unbeatable. Time for a break, get some fuel for me and lube for the bike. The rest time is very welcome and I realise I have a calorie debt the size of Texas. Not good.
This track really is awesome and has so much packed into the short 12km. Plenty of climbs, a faster flowing downhill section called the Rollercoaster which I love. The Burnt Forest is good too which winds it's way gradually to the top of the hill through some really beautiful bushland. "Charlie" has been wandering around all day with a camera, her bf is a gun clocking low 30's and is signed up for the 100 mile Fling. As I pass Charlie on a climb she snaps a pic, and I later pass on my email so she can send it too me, thanks Charlie.
So to lunch and 2 litres of water, a bottle of gatorade, 2 honey sandwiches and a power bar should help, but back on the bike on lap 5, it's not happening. I might have left the food too late. At the end of 5 I am really hurting and an icy can of coke helps somewhat but my target of 8 laps has gone out the window. So out for another crack at the drop off, this time I am gonna do it! Standing at the top I wonder if this will be the end, but like a parachuter I plunge into the abyss, the air rushes past, and I reach the bottom still upright! Phew OK not too bad, so around I go again. End of lap 6 and I am just over 4 hours in, but still struggling to ride the bike. It is actually the rocks and gnarly downhills sections I find the hardest, as I dont have the strength to brake and balance through the obstacles and I fall off comically twice in two minutes. Once back at transition I check the leaders board and find I am still on the lead lap (well almost bar one machine like rider who stands out a lap on his own) so I called it a day. Mission Accomplished. Yes I am fitter and I have learnt how to ride the bike again, just a shame the nutrition wasnt there to back it up. It is still over 30 degrees and I have drunk 6 litres of water in 4 hours.
I am completely spent and my stomach is doing backflips. I just hope I can find something left for the drive home which turns out to be the final challenge, lucky I didnt go for that 7th lap. Reaching home I crash on the sofa and my wife asks "Are you OK?" A sure sign that I am not looking in the best of shape and promptly drop off to sleep for an hour.
Thanks to our friends at CCOMTB for putting on a great race. Thanks also to Mike Orr for pushing me harder than I thought possible, and Simon and TBG for getting the bike ready for the race.
Bring on the Fling