I wasn't meant to be at this race, I wasn't even meant to be in NSW, but an early return from Surfers so we could tidy up the house and get ready for the start of term led to the idea. Also my good friend Tracy suggested we enter as a mixed pair, she is such a good friend she then informs me the day entries close that she has had a better offer and is therefore wimping out! Mmmm now what to do, oh bugger it, go SOLO! This series is probably the perfect training for the WSC later this year and after driving up and back from Surfers, Lithgow seems like a relative cruise.
I will spare you details of the trip up on Saturday night and my preparation, but suffice to say, it all went so smoothly it was hard to believe and I found myself on the start line feeling pretty damn good and without a care in the world.
The start was a bit weird, this guys strolls up at about 7 minutes before the scheduled start time and says "Are you ready? GO!" I get an awesome line up the outside of the firetrail to be in with the lead pack going into the first corner of single track. I almost forget it is an 8 hour race and clock a 29 minute lap. I notice my HR is holding above 85% and realise I better start pacing myself before I morph into a wobbling bonking mess, but the track is just too much fun to slow down, there are tight twisting sections, steep pinch climbs, flowing downhill sections with sweeping turns and a couple of nice doubles just to make it interesting. Nice work CTMTB!
I have the perfect pit at the end of the transition area, so every lap or two I can grab a fresh bottle and a couple of more gels or a jam sandwich. I notice only one or two young guns get past me and the hard-arse older guys seem to be racing in teams so I start to think just maybe this is my day. Suddenly Tim Kerle appears on my wheel and says keep it up, your leading your category you're doing well.
Of course every story needs just a little bit of tragedy and by about lap 7, the midpoint of the race, the legs are starting to tire and my back feels like someone has worked me over with the baseball bat.
Still I am not completely bonked and calculate at this pace I should be able to complete 6 more laps. Lap 8 is mentally the toughest and I develop a mantra in my head for every hill I chant "just 5 more times". Lap 9 is still slow and lap 10 is the lap from hell, I drop my water bottle, my chain gets caught between cassette and wheel, and then in an attempt to preserve my back brakes as they are starting to feel a bit spongy, I stack it on one of the steep descents. Ugh! Get up, pedal damn it! Unbeknown to me the eventual winner has gone past me, but as I continue to grind the pedals one stroke after another I figure all I can do is my best, and I still have one trump to play back at the pits, a red bull :) On the next lap a more mature rider (#346) like me gets on my wheel and we push each other all the way as well as having a bit of a chat; this must be the best thing about MTBing, the camaraderie. Now that the red bull has kicked in I know I will make it. I toy with the idea of stopping at 12 laps, but I know that wont be good enough and commit to lucky number 13.
Grantley from Canberra spurs me on over the last couple of laps and I finish with a couple of slow but respectable 40 minute laps to cross the finish line at 8 hours and 22 minutes having ridden 130km of tight undulating pine forest singletrack and wondering if I have done enough. Sure enough Ray has pipped me by nearly 17 minutes, but I hold onto 2nd by a bit over 8 mins, so all in all I am STOKED! First podium after 2 and a half years of racing and what an evolution it has been. I think it is appropriate to thank two people at this point. One is Simon Scott who has given so much of his time and knowledge to the TORC club from which I have benefitted immensely! thanks Simey! The other is of course my wife Sarah, not only does she encourage me to train and bend her schedule to suit me, but she sends me off with a 24 hour leave pass to compete in races like this, thankyou so much darling, it means the world to me.
Cant wait for the next round at Coondoo Rd Nowra, probably my favourite track!