Friday, October 15, 2010

WSC24 - 2010 Mt Stromlo

My Race
Morning of the race and I am feeling absolutely primed. The pit crew have been briefed, the marquee is all setup, and everything has fallen into place. Literally 9 months of planning and training has boiled down to this one morning. My pre-race nutrition is perfect and I am in the best condition probably of my life. Of course, life likes to throw little curve balls every now and again and with 10 minutes before call up, I head out for a warm up. I roll off a little drop and pshhh, the back tyre gives way! I roll back into the pits and there is a tiny little cut in the tread but of course the goo seals the hole and there is no problem (NOT!). As usual the goo continues to spew out of the hole. Go to plan B, I’ll be starting on the trusty Trek, the eye catching Ellsworth will have to wait. The start is a blast; I get a good start out of the gate and reach my bike after the 300m run near the front of the pack. The bunch head out at light speed, Rich P for one, goes past me like a freight train and my HR goes straight to 85%, touching 88 at times. Not good, but it is early days, so I figure I can hold this pace for a little while without jeopardising my race. After two laps, the pace is still hot but I know this isn’t gonna last and I can hear my coach talking to me, “Remember, this race doesn’t really start till 3am!” Time to back it off. At the same time I catch Peter from KOM and he echo’s my coach, “Let ‘em go Mike, they will all blow up later down the track.”. Lap 3 and I swap onto the Ellsworth 29er (which has attracted more than her fair share of interest this weekend! What a sexy bike J). It feels so good climbing on this bike, but on a switchback, I lose my balance, my foot gets caught on a stump and over I go like tall timber. Crunch! I fall hard on a granite boulder on my hip and ribs and it knocks the wind out of me. I think I might have cracked a rib and I walk a little way to regain my composure and make sure I haven’t done any serious damage. 20 minutes later trying to keep on track, the front washes out and I run into a small tree, I am fine, but the bike has suffered some damage and I have lost the bottom four gears on the rear cassette. That’s OK, but the effort of ejecting the bike causes my right leg to cramp. Damn it! 4 hours and I am cramping? Let’s see what happens.
Back to the pit and I swap back onto the Trek. Oh darling Trek, I am sorry I ever doubted you. This bike is blessed and despite the issues over the last two weeks, it is running perfectly and eating rock gardens like Pork Barrel for breakfast as usual.
Getting back to the pit’s after lap 4 and I find I am in 21st position. Hmmmm, not happy, but feeling good, stick to the plan Stan. Gary and Bernard are running the pit like a pro team, my transitions are fast, I barely finish my lap and I am rolling again within a minute with a fresh camelback, food in my pocket and like magic, my bike is lubed and perfectly tuned again. I even have a pit row girl, my gorgeous wife Sarah, she smiles and cheers for me, cleans my glasses and give me a kiss for every lap I complete. How’s that for motivation! The EDC crew of Andrew, Vered, Dillan, Guy and Sarah B are there as well screaming my name each time I go past and Karl is like a ninja, rock hopping over the mountain to get the best camera angles. Gav my oldest and best friend of 36 years is there with his family, Derna, Petra and Linc cheering me on as well. I have a healthy cheer squad and every time I see them it brings an even bigger smile to my face.
The rest of the afternoon slips away without incident and I am enjoying the race and riding with a great field of riders. Track etiquette as you would expect is nothing short of exemplary with all riders showing patience and consideration.
I have to laugh when I pull into the pits at 5:40 and some joker is telling everyone it’s time to put the lights on. I check with Gary that after 6 is the rule for lights, so Gary promptly sets the joker straight! I am loving this pit crew. Back at 6:50, another solid lap and on go the lights, the lights fades fast and the new moon rising to the west sets the perfect night sky against the observatory buildings, but all of a sudden I notice the bars I am eating aren’t going down so well anymore. By the time I get back to the pits, I am a shivering, sad, gooey mess. The guys sit me down for a few minutes and get some warm clothes on me and we chat about what we need to change on the food front. I honestly can’t remember what they gave me to eat, but it worked and by the time I get back after another lap at around 11pm, I am psyched. I down a Red Bull which is my “break glass in case of emergency” card, a couple of nurofen as the hip and ribs are starting to hurt again and a mug of noodles. Sarah is still here and she asks me how the stomach feels as I inhale the noodles. “Well I am eating this aren’t I?” comes the focussed reply? We laugh about this after the race and I head off into the night once more. I punch out another solid lap getting back a few minutes earlier than expected to catch the crew napping. Gary is dazed as we swap the main battery and I am off in a whirlwind leaving the guys wondering what the hell hit them. We decide to stay on the Trek thru the night and see what the new day brings.
All this time I have been thinking about my position and I have been climbing steadily now to 15th. My plan was to wait for 3am which stood out as a huge milestone. I felt if I could make it in good shape to 3am, then I would definitely reach my goal to finish the race and then like magic, it suddenly ticks over to 3am. I have developed a little rapport with a dear couple who are watching from the top of the mountain, and every time I go past they cheer, “Good on you 414, you’re doing well!” I tell them thankyou and how much I look forward to seeing them each lap and they respond they aren’t going anywhere.
The 3 hours to sunrise race by and come 6am I am ready to attack. Lap 15 is a scorcher and I knock 6 mins off my previous lap time. Gary asks if I want to know where I am. Yes please. You are 10th! YEEEESSSS!!!! COME ON!!!! Wind up the machine and give me the beast. I hop on the Ellsworth 29er, shove it in the dog and I motor into 9th, back on the Trek, a super quick lap for #17 and the crew are wondering if I can fit two more laps in, but no, one more will do it as roll thru the pit into 8th place, tragically miscalculating my onboard fuel. The final lap is a killer and the legs are now fatigued but I am determined to finish strong. I rider pulls up behind me and we have a bit of a chat, only to realise we are in the same category and fighting for 8th position. “Can we settle this like gentlemen?” he asks. I tell him he can ride with me for as long as he likes, but he swallows hard and drops me like a stone. So I am back to 9th which is fine by me, but there is no way I am giving up 9th, so now is the time to delve into the “suitcase of courage”. I ride the entire lap despite the excruciating pain in my back and backside and cross the line just 2 mins ahead of 10th place. I am elated and very, very emotional. I am completely spent and as I get off the bike I realise I cannot walk. My friends carry me to where I can sit and we celebrate the amazing result. My first ever full 24 hour race completed and my immediate reaction is “Never again”. Eventually I make it back to the marquee where I sit for goodness knows how long. The TORC team of Ben, Tony, Steve, Kelly and Sandy drop by with looks on their faces that half say well done and the other half, he’s completely bonkers. No sooner do I voice a desire to eat something and Karl is back with the best looking slice of pizza I have ever seen in my life. It tastes like pure gold, I will never forget the sheer bliss of eating this piece of food. With a lot of help from Karl and Bernard, we pack the essentials and make a B line for the hotel. I am into the bath and then into bed as quick as can be. An hour later I am up to go to the loo and completely pass out. I manage to slide onto the floor and that’s it. I can’t move another millimetre. Unsure of what’s happening, I get Sarah to call the Ambulance and they arrive promptly, check me over, and ask lots of questions, by which time I am coming to and am able to sit up. Food and rest is the prognosis, which is great because I would have been shattered to miss the preso dinner. By dinner time I am feeling a lot better and I enjoy the atmosphere and the food, as well as applauding all the champions of each category, secretly cataloguing each rider and what it took for them to win. Sarah should have gotten that “Never again” quote in writing because already I can feel the hunger returning and I reckon I have atleast one more 24 in me. Time will tell.

The Course
What an amazing course! From the outset it was clear this was going to be a tough track. Just check out the 100 odd posts on and you will see this was probably one of the most hotly debated topics. Was it too tough for a 24 hour race? Maybe, but I still think the race organisers made the right decision. Pork Barrel thrown together with a double crest of Mt Stromlo would be a test of epic proportions and I think that putting on this course has taken the sport to a new level. The first 3 km were great for recovery, some fireroad and Holden’s creek gave the rider’s some recovery time and plenty of flat road to drink. Then it’s into the first climb. I love this climb. You can just push tempo all the way or you can go a bit harder if you want to. Over the crest and you are into Western Wedgetail, one of my favourite sections, it winds its way slightly downhill with some fast sweeping turns. Into yet another rocky section, then Pork Barrel, which isn’t too bad once you work out the best line. I happen to think this got better as the race went on and my strategy here was to slow down a fraction just let the bike flow over the rocks and not hold on too tight. The next section is also quite technical with some false flats and steps to get up which was probably my least fav part of the track. Then we are on the firetrail. Thankfully the hardest climb is the first one, and it takes a bit of effort but is quite rideable and I spin up here in the granny for all but one lap that I walk just to stretch the legs (no really!). From there it’s a series of pinches most of which are preceded by a reasonable downhill section. They are challenging but each pinch makes a perfect goal to conquer as you go about constructing another lap in your mind. The last pinch before the summit is a beauty as it had a fast roll in where you could really pin it in the dog and let your momentum carry you half way up. From there it’s grins all the way home. A 250m descent over 3km on some of the fastest sweetest single track you will find anywhere. I frequently found myself in a procession of 4 or 5 riders all screaming down the hill together at 40+ kph whooping and yeehawing all the way. So much fun!

The Support
If you read no other part of this report, just read this. My sensational performance would not have been possible without the support of literally 100’s of people. In fact if you are reading this, you probably supported or encouraged me in some way, so I thank you for being the person you are and for showing an interest in me.
To my wife and kids for bearing with my obsession and getting excited for me when things were going well and for being there when things weren’t. You guys have had to make sacrifices so that I could do this race well.
To the gang at EDC, especially Andrew L, Karl M and Sarah B for your generous support, I would not have made it to the start line without you.
My coach from FTP training Dave Hunt. For being so available and flexible and for not only developing a program that pushed me to the brink but for teaching me the knowledge I needed to achieve my goals.
To Mark and Simon at Turramurra Cyclery for setting me up with two awesome bikes and putting in a heap of time to make sure everything was just right, thanks guys you are the best.
Stuart Burns and Line break for providing the Cyclist’s compression wear that just works. I wore a long sleeve compression garment for the entire race and have no doubt it was a major factor in my arms still feeling pretty good after 24 hours of hard work.
Anne Deane, my mother-in-law. For happily taking the kids for 3 days while Sarah and I were racing. The kids had a ball, thank you so much Anne, we really appreciate your constant support.
To everyone at Knox, my workplace. So many of you followed my journey with genuine interest, I thank you for your friendship and support, not to mention the many people who gave to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
To my riding mates from TORC and Peloton Sports. Everyone has been so encouraging, spurring me on to train hard, riding with me and even checking in on me at the race, thanks guys. I love being a part of this club.
My Pit Crew, Gary Eastment and Bernard Chan, what can I say. I couldn’t have dreamed of a better pit crew, this result belongs to you as much as it does to me.
To the riders, there are so many people I have met thru this sport whom I am proud to know, Kev, Jase, Arran, Chops, Fenz, Andrew H, Andrew C to name a few.
And finally I dedicate this blog to my Nan, Bessie Lorraine Israel, who passed away 29 September 2010, aged 90.
It was her strength and endurance that inspired me to push on thru the night.
It was her courage that taught me to never give in.
It was her love of life and her laughter that showed me not to take life too seriously but to enjoy the journey.
Keep riding

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Awesome wire up Mike, and what a strong finish for your first solo 24! Well done :)