13 October 2008

Alive... barely

And I'm spent.

Another Scott 24 out of the way, and what an awesome race. Thoughts from the weekend are a little scattered and sketchy, so I'll pen what I can remember (or imagine), and wait for the prompting of the official results and photos to fill in the gaps later.

Landed an awesome campsite about 100 metres from transition, and right on the blue lap, courtesy of Choppy, some tents, chairs and signs, and a Thursday night visit to the course from the Canberra contingent. I arrived about 2pm Friday, got camp set up, and then headed off to the airport to pick up Ingo, get some supplies, arriving back at the track at about 6.30pm.

Some intermediate tent shuffling needed to be done, Mike had been out and set up his tent, then gone home to sleep in his own bed (bastard...) but had set up the tent on the wrong site. Oops. Once we got that sorted, I did a pizza and beer run, a bit of trash talking was indulged in, and then it was off to bed.

Race day dawned clear and bright. Ingo had been off the bike for 10 days, with a combination of a scorching dose of gastro, and a near-fatal failure of the lefty fork on his Cannondale Rush, so he was itching to get out and see the track. We rolled out of camp at 7.00am for a practice blue lap. The red lap I was familiar with - there had been no great changes from last year, plus since the BMC 8 Hour a couple of months ago, I was intimately familiar with the climb. Apparently there had been some significant changes to the blue lap, and it was slightly longer, so it made sense to get out and try it.

I was out on the Rocky, with still a little fine tuning to do. The stem was slightly too short (luckily I had purchased a new 110mm Deus stem, in the toolbox, waiting to go on). The lap was excellent as always. I've always struggled with that side of Stromlo, there is no real elevation in it, but you are on the hammer pretty much consistently, and no chance for rest. The new sections were awesome - challenging but good fun - a 2km climb up a downhill track, complete with large rocky reefs and numerous scattered odds and sods. And then a 2km downhill run down the tabletop and doubles track - at speed. Wheeeeh!

Back to camp, start feeding up, and a few jobs mechanical to get done before the race. Change stem, swap wheelsets and cassettes between bikes, clean and lube. That fine Stromlo dust gets into everything, lungs included.

And suddenly, it's race time. I'd put my hand up for the first lap - and we were out on a red. Everyone talks of first lap congestion, but I really didn't have an issue with it. I started towards the back of the pack to avoid the pointier of the elbows, jogged down to my bike, jumped on and rolled out. The pace was a little slow, but not disasterously, and it was nice to have a bit of a train running to suck me up the 9km climb. I'd not ridden this full lap since last year, and let me tell you, damn it was fun - especially on the Rocky. The descent was eye-wateringly quick, the downhill sections excellent, and the final wrap around the side of the 4x mound, I think I felt my brain move on every corner. Completely gee-d out.

We started shuffling riders through, Jukka and Mike putting in blinders. Ingo went storming out on a blue lap, pulling in a few respectable 0:57 but completely burning his cookies at the same time, and was not doing well. Obviously not yet completely over his sickness, we had to make sure he was eating and drinking properly. In my opinion, Powerade is a waste of money - pretty much just sugar and water. Enervit or similar is much better - longer chain sugars and more complex carbs, slower burning, longer lasting fuel for the body.

We started with a round of double laps at about 7pm, and I headed out on mine at 9. Red first then blue. The red lap was a scorcher (for me) - 0:55 under lights. The blue - considerably worse. I must have been a bit tired from the red, not concentrating properly, and I had an awful lap. It is quite a technical track, and gets more difficult the longer into the race you go - erosion and tiredness not a good combination. The first 4km was the worst, I think I had my foot down at least 50 times. I couldn't get into a rhythm and was hating every minute of it. To compound things, I was having gear issues, with 32/34 not running at all well - my mechanical sympathy for the new bike was running very high - so I was down to granny for a reasonable portion of the lap, not giving me enough leverage to get through some of the gnarlier stuff.

Managed to grab about 2 1/2 hours sleep after the double, and snuck out for a shower as well to loosen tortured muscles. With some decent food in the belly I was starting to feel alot better. Out for a single blue at about 4am, I had a much better lap, getting into a good groove, mentally feeling a bit sharper, some gear adjustments had made all the difference, and I really enjoyed it. And heading back to transition, seeing the sun starting to rise in the east, is an awesome feeling.

No more sleep after this point, starting eating again, at this point I had only 1 more lap to go, but was chasing a food and liquid deficit, which needed to be fixed before going anywhere. I nearly got on top of it, but by that point I felt like I needed to shave my tongue due to the amount of food and sweet liquids I had imbibed.

Out for my final red lap at about 8am, feeling good. Legs were fresh - God knows why - and I was starting to haul in some of the back markers, mainly the solo riders who had conquered the darkness and knew they were on the home stretch. Had the pleasure of riding half way around with a female solo, who had clearly spent too much time on her own that night, and was serenading all and sundry with songs from Oklahoma, and The Sound of Music.

The rest of the team were fired up and gunning, Jukka and Mike setting some smoking lap times. Mike had gone over the bars on his first blue lap (a night lap, maybe not our finest strategic move) and busted a spoke, but was still doing well. Jukka - hard man - nothing phases him, a seasoned 24 campaigner from way back, and a pillar of strength for the whole team. Ingo had another bad blue lap, and was close to pulling the pin. But a visit from his wife, a massage, and the purchase of $75 worth of Gu2O and gels sorted him out. A night red lap re-invigorated him, and he even pulled off a double early in the morning.

Actually he must have been feeling better towards the end, as he was champing at the bit for a final lap, and when Mike rolled in from his final red at 11:58:30, Ingo was out the gate and off.

So we finished with 26 laps - unsure where that sits us in the final results, as I haven't seen them yet - but I imagine 30-somethingish. Choppy's team did well, finishing 5th in their category, Choppy riding 4 laps, including a night red lap. Everyone had a great time, everything is full of dust, and we're all home safe.

I finished with 7 laps total (including blue practice lap) - so (4 x 15.3) plus (3 x 13.8) = 102.6km of singletrack in a 24 hour period. No wonder I'm shagged!

Today I think will be spent de-dusting stuff, unpacking, cleaning gear, and eating. Lots of eating!

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