Nothing like biting off more than you can chew is there. The feeling of being tested to your limit, not knowing if you're going to make it home alive, or at all.
Well this just about sums up how I spent 9 hrs and 15 minutes feeling yesterday.
Loaded up the car Saturday and hit the road just after lunch. Myself, my lovely girlfriend, and riding buddy and general partner in crime, Tim. After the obligatory Maccas stop at Glenrowan, we were on our way and looking forward to the ride.
Facilities and setup were awesome - Event Central was based at a convention centre called 'Cammeray Waters' - a handful of buildings tucked pretty much in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by bushland. a 360 degree survey indicated lots of rolling hills, but no mountain ranges. Cool, I thought. Not too much climbing. I should be able to nail this.
A great meal for dinner - the organisers had laid on a buffet and bar - a couple of beers with the 2 loud pricks camped next to us (who by 9pm had consumed 19 beers between them - good work fellas!), got the bikes set up and tuned for the next day, and off to bed.
Awake at 5:15am. 7am rollout. Better eat, eat, eat. Gear up, layer up, f**k it's cold. Coffee and another coffee. On the bike, to the startline. Take some pre-emptive Nurofen, I know my back is going to cane me today.
What are your ETA's? asked the girlfriend. Tim - 6:15, Ant - 8 hours. See you this arv.
BANG - we're off.
Straight out the gate and into the first climb. Front brake squealing and squawking all over the place. Geez, can't put up with this for too long, so pulled off to the side, wheel off, quick caliper adjust, bolt up and off again.
Into the first singletrack at about 15km, what a hoot. Up, down, left, right, jump log, hit berm, rail the corners. We're cruising - this is going to be a blast! I can do this for 100km, no problems, 8 hours is going to be a breeze!
Soon enough I settle into a rhythm, riding with the same bunch of blokes. They pull away on the singletrail, I slowly reel them in on the climbs. Everything starts to get blurry - firetrail, 4wd track, ruts, singletrack, can't remember what I've ridden, where I've ridden, have I done this section before, did I miss a turn somewhere?
Loaded to the eyeballs with gels, Enervit and water, no need to stop at the first two drink stations, just sail on through. Keep the rhythm and keep the faith. Keep pedalling, don't let up.
Starts to get trickier. Into some freshly cut tracks, soil still loose and loamy. Brake rutted to buggery. Steep gullies, northshore ramps and bridges. Riding over a ravine on a 2 foot wide bridge with no gaurd rails and a photographer at the other end - no pressure. Steep steep switchbacks. Back starting to cane. More Nurofen.
Nailed the first 50km in 3:40. Still on track for a sub 8 hour time. Doing well.
Chain squawking, really protesting badly. Shifting goes to hell. Clean chain, lube chain. Blissful silence, back on the road.
Relent and hit up the my first food station. Handful of fruit lollies, fill up water bottle, have a stretch. Everyone pestering the marshalls about how far is it to go, I can't go any further, what's the easiest way back? They're dropping like flies, I jump on and keep riding.
More singletrack. CAUTION - OBSTACLE signs everywhere. Skull and crossbones. They're cropping up every 100 metres. Drop offs, north shore, 2 foot log jumps, geez they're really starting to test us now. Manage to tangle myself around a tree stump, get my leg through the front triangle on my frame, eat dirt, and end up with the rider behind stacked on top of me as well. How the hell did I do that? No idea. No visible injuries other than 2 minor scratches to right leg. Knee a bit sore but keep pedalling and hope for the best.
This one's the mother of all loops. I know it comes back through the same drink station - but when? Singletrack, descent, climb, fireroad, 4wd track, ruts, bogs, rocky sections. Watching the speedo - know the drink station is about the 62km mark, but I've completely lost my bearings. The mother of all climbs. Fireroad up, up, up. Ride up to the last corner, turn, more up, up, up. Guy riding behind me starting to cramp up really badly and is fairly vocal about it. It would appear he is not enjoying the climb.
Finally, drink station goodness. More people looking for the bail out option. Medics starting to get a workout. Broken, battered and bruised. Suprisingly I hadn't messed myself up yet. Keep going.
Into more singletrail, long flat traversing section, slight down into a gully, more down, down, down and down. Great fun, but my brain keeps telling me, what goes down must come up, and it is going to be a bastard of a climb. And I wasn't mistaken either - some of the worst switchback climbing I have ever seen. I finally succumb to leg cramps, somehow get myself off the bike. Stretch hamstrings - quads cramp up. Stretch quads - hammies cramp up. I am in a no win situation and in a world of pain. And worse, there is a photographer up on the next corner, and you just can't walk through there. Need the ego boost of a speccie photo. It will be a good one when it comes back, I massively overbalance and end up riding into the scrub.
Up and out, back onto the ridgeline. Clock is ticking away, 8 hours becoming a distant dream. More singletrack. This time into the pine forests.
There is nothing I hate more than pine forest singletrack. The ground has been raped and pillaged by all the forestry machinery, it's a biological wasteland in there, no birds or wildlife, the pines run really shallow roots so you're forever riding over them, enough shaking to loosen the fillings in your molars, and the pine trees suck every last drop of moisture out of the soil so it is loose and rutted to absolute buggery. And the worst bit, there's about 30km of it.
And I know I hadn't seen a single pine tree from Event Central. So I know we are still far, far away.
And it's all steep, steep, steep. Either down or up. No let up. Thoroughly unenjoyable, especially on the hard tail. I reckon the duallies would outnumber the hard tails at least 5:1, probably more.
Finally someone gives us a break, with about 10km of fireroad and relatively straightforward singletrail. My track notes tell me we've passed the last major climb. Mood lifts, I know we're nearly home. How wrong I was.
More bloody pine forest. This stuff grows anywhere, so they've planted it all the way through the steep ravines. What a great spot for a mountain bike trail. Traverse, down. Steep fireroad out. Traverse, down, steep fireroad out. Repeat.
At 8 hours I had 90.5km on the clock. Getting closer. Water running out. Nearly out of food. Nothing left in the legs. Can't climb to save myself. Right wrist and hand stuffed, can't change gears. Have graduated to 4 finger braking. Things are going really well.
8 hours 15, phone rings. Support crew checking I'm still alive, how far to go? 7.5 km by my speedo. Not sure if it's accurate, is the course exactly 100km? Could be 5km from home, could be 50km. Brain really starting to play tricks on me.
And then an oasis - drink station with about 5km to go. Marshall has the personality of a wet blanket. Fill up water bottle, drink it dry, fill up again. This is the last section of singletrail, I promise - he says. I threaten to cry if there's any climbing. He thought I was joking - I wasn't.
And there's climbing. Nothing serious - on a good day you'd nail it in the middle ring. By now I was down to granny, cramping up, and seeing double. A beautiful section, if I was in a better frame of mind, I would call it some of the best I've ever seen.
Finally, the road, I can see the sign to Event Central. I can see cars pulling out with bikes on roofs. I know I'm close.
And just to finish it off, a long downhill blast. I hit the big ring and open it up as much as humanly possible. I know I'm close, I can almost see it.
And there we go. The final lap around the lake. Out of the saddle, big ring, I just want to get home. Over the line. Done, dusted, absolutely toasted.
The organisers have got it nailed - within 5 seconds of crossing the line, you've got a beer in your hand, someone's taken your bike, and you're on your arse on the ground. Els has spent the day volunteering for the organisers - on beer duty. Tim - who'd been sitting around waiting for 3 hours for me - stuffs a sausage in my hand. I'm struggling to get food down. Brain and body about to mutiny on me.
But I'm home. Done. Complete. First hundie on the MTB. Stoked.