Thursday, November 13, 2008

Highland Fling 2008

The Fling is over for another year, and again we are left in no doubt about how great this sport is, and why The Fling is the must attend event of the year. Great location, awesome fast track with lot's variation, and the people you meet are the best you wish to ride along side. Being the night after the race, we still don’t have all the results, but with record entries from TORC, the brag sheet is impressive, from Mike Orr's emphatic win in the Open, Martine's determined win in the Master's Half and Fester came, saw and conquered the Super Masters (I think?), not to mention the Logie's (Sandy and Heather) usual sweep of the field, and many other personal best's. There will of course be many more stories to follow of the race's that didn’t quite go to plan, but as I cruised through picturesque forest with 20km to go, no longer capable to raising my heart rate above resting, some sobering words my wife said to me before I left for the weekend came home to roost. "Why do you have to ride so much, why can't you just ride a bit and enjoy it?" Wise words from a special girl I came to realise as I switched off and enjoyed the ride back to base.

Lining up, it was Turramurra jerseys across the start line. Thanks to Simon and Martine's impeccable team management, we were all there in good time to take our positions in the field. My race goals were to keep in touch with Tony, get home in less than 6 hours and place in the top ten which would mean a best ever result in a 100km. Away we go, and it is a big relief to feel like the fitness I have been striving for over the last 6 weeks is still there as I keep in touch with the lead pack, but 10 mins in I throw the chain twice and spend a few minutes sorting out my gears. It takes another 30 minutes of riding to get the adjustments right on the rear derailleur as the cable must have given some stretch in the first leg.

Coming up to Pigs Fly, one guy (Dan) catches me and we team up all the way to transition swapping turns. It is a great strategy where we spur each other on catching one then another rider. Starting out in front has put us in a great position with lots of track and very little traffic. Dan and I continue to work together on and off for the next 60km, so thanks Dan it was great riding with you.

Getting to transition I am feeling good, a quick pit stop for lube and I am away again and the plan of continually chewing bite size chunks of powerbar seems to be working. For those who only do the half, you are missing the best part of the course, though by the time I get back to transition I too am wishing I had entered the 50. There are some super fast descents, particularly the one leading up to the wall and with a clear track in front I hit the bottom at a rate of knots and get a free ride up a fair way, then walk the rest. Into the single track which is awesome and the best fun is tailing other riders and following their lines then getting a turn to lead. And then I experience a real thrill. I admit it might sound a bit daggy, but hearing the thunderous whirlwind that is 4 Elite riders bearing down on you like a runaway freight train is something to really behold. As they blur past, I almost whisper "Go Gordo" and cool as anything he flashes a smile and gives me the victory sign. Well it could have been the other gesture that two fingers make but I don’t think so. They are really moving and they pass me on a downhill section so I jump on the back and get an expert tuition in how to smash single track. Of course I only can only hang on for a couple of minutes, but it was neat while it lasted and amazing to watch the attitude of their bikes as they flick them around corners like they are on rails.

Into Fern Gully and suddenly I can see Tony up ahead. Yippee! Now this isn't about beating Tony, he is an awesome rider and a man of great humility, but to get in touch confirms the training is working and at this point of the race I know I am going to make the 6 hour mark. I close in a little just to keep in touch, but my jaw falls to the handlebar when he rolls straight past the Virgin Lounge without so much of a glance. I grab a cup full of GU and roll on determined to stay on his tail (big mistake) and the next downhill I rush past but the lead is short lived and he leaves me gasping on Halfway Hill not to be seen again till the finish.

Now the hard work begins, having skipped the vital fuel I needed at Virgin to keep up race pace, the tank starts to slosh with the last remnants of spark and it is now a battle of the will to get home. The last transition has water and bananas, great! I need about 500 gels to get moving again which ain't gonna happen and I chewing on powerbars for 4 hours has almost worn a hole in my cheek! Nothing else to do now but lock out the suspension and cycle 1 km at a time. I don’t think I can do anymore of these 100km events, each time the 70km mark looms like some impenetrable barrier. I still have some energy drink in my camelbak, but every sip causes an eruption in my stomach, but if I keep sipping slowly hopefully I can find something to finish with.
A few Full Flingers pass me by and more than a few Half flingers, but knowing I cant go any faster, I treat it like I am just out for a pleasant ride and enjoy the scenery, and this makes it really enjoyable. Anything slightly downhill I shove it in the dog and get as much momentum as I can for the next incline.

There is now 20 mins left to get to the finish line and I figure there must be more than 7km to go, but then the 5km sign appears and suddenly I am energised. Another rider who just passed me seems to be flagging so I catch up and pass him and he follows me up the long way at Your Choice. Onto the road and I feel really good, flying along, but my friend is drafting me close and no matter how fast I go he seems determined to stay glued to my wheel. What is behind me no longer matters. I am feeling good and if he can beat me, then good luck to him. This last 5km's is like heaven as you grind away in 27th gear, a little hill then another downhill to the corner. He is still there, he has drafted me for 5km and that makes me mad. Around the corner into the last uphill straight and I double click up and am out of the saddle for a sprint to the finish. If he wants to beat me he is gonna have to work hard and we smash it up the hill as spectators cheer on the contest. I pull away from him and go rushing into the marshall area, having beaten my adversary and my target of 6 hours. Oh what a feeling!

Maybe I will do another 100km....

Mike Isy

Stats: 110km, 4563Cal, Avg heart rate 75%, time 5:45:02 (14th/142 in Masters, 62nd/502 overall)

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