Sunday, February 8, 2015

Blood, Blackberries and Bouncing off Rocks

You could well ask what am I doing up at 4am writing this post, call it a bit of blog therapy, but my injuries after today's race are making it hard to sleep, so the best option was to pour a bowl of cereal and dump some of my thoughts down on today's race.

I guess I'm a bit disappointed due to my poor result, I've been racking my brain trying to work out where exactly I went wrong.  Perhaps a better question is "How in the world did you finish that one??".  I've never been one to give up on myself and I guess that's a little of the appeal of mountain biking.  From time to time you are going to fall off, but can you get back on and master your fear?  Perhaps that was my victory today.

The start was pretty cool, there were some freakishly talented riders present all with postcodes starting with 26, not the least of which was Brad Morton, who went straight to the front, took a sneaky line right to the fireroad climb and set a respectable tempo.  At this point I felt great sitting two abreast in 2nd wheel.  I thought a top 5 finish today would be a good result.  But as the gradient turned upwards I started quickly going backwards through the field and once we hit the single track, I was a long way down.

The riders were good up Cardiac, it was the same for everyone, a mad scramble to the top of a climb that most would struggle to walk up but it's the rock gardens and tight technical switchbacks that really test you.  In a train of riders I took the A line down Hammerhead and regained a few places to the cheers of many spectators.  On the next lap I really gave them something to cheer for as I went in a little unbalanced and hit a rock ledge half way down, sending me straight over the bars.  It was a pretty big off, but somehow I managed to roll with it and was lucky not to break my body or my bike.
The guys watching were already calling for the ambulance as I got up and remounted.  With the adrenalin still coursing through my veins I made another mistake at the tricky the little waterfall, the last obstacle before the easy descent, and went OTB again into a thicket of blackberries.
This one took a little longer to recover from and I'm still finding shards of thorns in places I'd rather not mention. I'm not sure if this is what Paul was referring to in in his letter to the Corinthians "a thorn was given me in the flesh, keep me from becoming conceited" but at this point of the race just finishing seemed like an insurmountable challenge (credit: Peter Lister).  I rolled sedately down Luge, got my composure back, worked out what was still working, and where it hurt most and then set about completing to two further laps.

Top of Cardiac Arrest, don't be fooled by the smile, I am in complete agony and this is just before my crash. Thanks Grantley, Liam and Riley for this photo and your cheers of support!

The real question bouncing around my head as I prepared for my 3rd assault on Hammerhead was would I have the guts to take the A line again.  I was pretty sure that if I crashed again my race would be over, I was feeling like one of those characters from Call of Duty whose life force is down to 25% and it's close to game over.  The answer was yes, I rolled it pretty clean, passed one rider, happy that I only had 1 more lap to go.

It was a great relief to finish what was certainly the most technically challenging MTB race I have ever ridden.  I rolled straight to first aid and Paul did a great job of patching me up.  Thanks to Grantley, Kate and Kel and Martin Wisata who all helped me immensely in the lead up and throughout the race.  I couldn't have finished without your help.  Also the many volunteers who give their time to make these events happen.  I mention Russ Baker who works tirelessly for the sport but there is an army of people who work beside him to deliver such a professionally run event and I thank every one of you for the time you invest in this sport.

Keep Riding

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