Archive for November 2009
Barrelling past the Forrest Football Club oval, soon-to-be race HQ for the 2009 Kona 24, car filled and straining against a hasty cataclysm of mountain bike paraphernalia, race “nutrition”, Herself, and the various miscellanea and mood-contingent items required to successfully take a two year old kid into the field, it occurred to me that maybe I should be spending the night right there. I’d wake up from an unbroken sleep with nothing to organise and nowhere to be. Ready for action!
In the following instant a sheet of lightning, the kind so bright it reduces the world to a jagged film noire linocut impression – sharp, gleaming raindrops rushing at you in some long but imperceptible moment before they blat across the windscreen – erased that thought completely and I relaxed. I backed off of the accelerator as the road twisted back on itself and into the rainforest again, quietly pleased at the idea of sleeping under steel and wood, in a real bed, under a doona, wife at my side, hot shower and breakfast facilities at the ready on waking.
The storm lasted most of the night, keeping those hardy and organised fools who’d made it to camp the night before from sleeping, and seeping into trails already soaked by a week of unseasonal rain. While Fee and her family headed into Apollo Bay for the morning I finished up breakfast, had a long shower and headed up to get started on burning the fuse.
Neil pulled the first turn. His enthusiasm, turn of speed and ability made any other way seem like madness. Ash, our able last minute ring-in ponied up next and pushed us up the order with David following, leaving me to push hard against the erosion of an impossible standard.
It showered on and off through the opening laps. I did my first in relative sunshine and managed to pick clean lines in spite of a good case of Grandpa-back. Without anything to base them on, I’d shed all expectations of myself for the race, instead making my aims to ride into the race and to experience it openly and fully, taking Moody’s approach that whatever it will be, it will be fun. ‘No path to happiness‘ and all that jazz.
I sent Neil off for his second with a solid bro-fist and the heavens opened, and more or less stayed open as daylight closed. While I got down into the rhythm of good team endurance racing – get out of kit (if wet), stretch, eat, clean bike, get seated or horizontal and either rest up or talk shit – the weather settled into a slow tempo swing between drizzle and rain.
FGP organisers re-routed the first loop to save rapidly disintegrating trails from destruction, a decision worthy of praise as much for it’s efficacious implementation as its responsibility, but nothing was going to save our drivetrains. Jim’s CBD Cycles team pulled the pin and turned to vino around ten o’clock and had company. A good number of people simply packed up and left, the sound of expensive parts and frames grinding away under the Forrest slurry a tangible parallel to the very real abrasion that racing in the muck had on the psyche.
My hardest friends found shockingly unfamiliar reasons to justify calling it a night. Jim’s bike was too new and too good to be subjected to the abuse. Neil’s too, and there was the continuity of training to think about. My head swam, and I struggled to decide whether I was being stupid or they were, but experience was on their side. I tried to throw Neil a few mental lifelines, but when they failed I let him retire without much goading, knowing that being pressed into suffering doesn’t produce much other than loathing and that my own attitude was just as unpredictable beyond the current moment. Ash, Dave and I pledged only to ride ‘one more lap’, and that’s how the next rotation went. When my light failed (again!) I rode in the wash of a soloist and had a great chat. (Nathan, thanks if you’re reading!) It’s easy to pick the soloists as you come up on them – they’re ride far too well to be going so slow, absolute paragons of smooth.
When midnight passed without any commitment to press through, Ash and Dave hatched a plan to ride doubles till dawn so that we could all catch a few winks. It sounded good to me and I headed out for another lap on Jim’s spare lamp. The night lap was a perfect dose of tempo inducing fire-road and eerily beautiful single-track. You could just ride yourself into it, without arm warmers the shivers disappeared after five minutes and it was easy to slowly lift the pace over delightfully solid ground. Technicality was at a minimum save for a single greasy climb. I never saw it in the light, and never saw another person clean it but it never presented a problem for me. All I knew was that if I dabbed I was gone, and that so long as I was upright and could connect the dots of traction picked from the beam I was passing people, strangers shouting encouragement.
I rolled into transition at the end of a roaring, open 60 km/h downhill warmly pleased with the race. Tagged Ash, wished him a good lap and tumbled into my tent to shovel in more fruit, nuts and home-made banana bread. Already beginning to doze, I diligently set my alarm on my iPhone: 3:40, hit the home key and rolled myself up in sleeping bag to drift away in the kind of dumb, opiate-pleased state only a doofus who just cancelled his wake-up alarm can drift away in.
I floated in and out of semi-sleep – a good thing if you’re racing – for what seemed like ages, very well pleased that the race, and my enjoyment of it, was going so well. So well that this rest was seeming luxuriously long. Almost achingly long, but I resisted the urge to actually break the surface of consciousness by lighting up the clock until I couldn’t stand it. And when I did I felt suddenly cold: 4:13.
I didn’t know how long Dave had waited for me at transition after his double lap, but I knew that he couldn’t have woken me because he didn’t know which tent I was in anyway. I also knew in my stomach that there was no way we in sight of the podium any more. I’d fucked the race. Dave wasn’t so dramatic. He gave me an almost cheerful ‘Where’ve you been?’, sent me off and told me Neil would be up for the post-dawn lap so I may only need to do a single. I didn’t deserve the dawn lap but did watch white ghost-gum columns descend from a cathedral ceiling of mist toward pale lichen iridescence, an ethereal carpet, parted only by a tyre-wide trail under a concert of waking winged life.
Neil was waiting in transition looking decidedly unhappy. I wanted to tell him that I still owed the team a double lap but I didn’t even get to open my mouth. He saddled up, said “I feel so fucking guilty” and powered away.
I went and checked the results screen. We weren’t on the first page any more.
Neil pulled a strong double lap off the back of what seemed to be an internal need for redemption, demons clearly on his back. Ash went out next and came back looking wrecked, vision failing. Neil and I agreed to pull a final double each, figuring our failings for the night needed atonement. Tightening muscles and neglected eating after the onset of sugar-induced flavour fatigue had me expecting cramps. They never came, but midway through the lap I hit the wall hard. What should have been a fun and flowing trail unfurled as a painfully infinite death-march. I moved forward, even passed people, but I only had one speed. Max speed was min speed. I only wanted it to end.
On the fire-road roll back to home base opened up again I contemplated pushing bodily signals out of mind just long enough to swing through transition and commit to another round, but a series of spew-burps made up my mind. I walked bluntly out of transition across the oval, saw Neil and told him ‘I’m done.’ He lit up, grabbed a handful of vanilla Gu’s and his bike and started running. Someone saw him and asked about the excessive rocket fuel. He just held up three fingers and ran out to clock a triple redemption.
I began to pack, gave up and went to find some water. Finding a queue at the Soul Kitchen truck I sat down in the sun and let my head kink backward, unsupported, until the line dissipated but by then I couldn’t stand up. I just sat there, feeling gravity tug on my skeleton of lead. Chris Q came and asked, was I was ok, dude? Not really, but I’d like some water. He came back with water, and that was enough to get me to the close of business.
Neil rocked a triple set of negative split laps to drag us from 11th to 6th place. David’s ridiculously light and obscenely expensive cranks resisted the worst conditions with ease. His ExtraLight jockey wheels had not, having ground completely down to the axles. Jason didn’t say much, but his face spoke volumes and I think he’ll carry the experience into a better performance next time. Ryan, as always a smiling machine of a guy, qualified for the Worlds in his first solo effort. On a single speed. Without suspension. Harden the fuck up indeed.
My food plan, fun as it was in the beginning with it’s extra sugar, would have been better based on the reliable trifecta of starchy carbs, fat and protein so it’ll be rice and mixed potato salad next time. I’m happy that — stomach virus aside — each lap felt better than the last. I’m happy to have felt good off the back of so few hours in the saddle and fucking stoked to be one of very few (as far as I can tell) to have cleaned the greasy climb every time I encountered it. I’m less pleased to be 8-10 minutes a lap slower than everyone else on the team and will be looking at a remedy to that … somehow. But mostly I’m happy with my current ability to pilot the mental vehicle, so to speak. I’m quizzing Neil on his experience in the hope that I’ll lean enough about the difference to repeat mine, and prevent a repeat of his.
Thanks to David for most of these shots.
Just getting everything organised for the Kona 24 Hour…
I’ve really got no idea how I’ll go. I’m feeling underprepared, but am trying to remember that I put in some very hard work just before we went to Noosa — still, I’m not sure how much faith I can put in the CFE protocol with what has to be a vastly withered aerobic base now.
The food plan is a little more relaxed than last time and will be biased toward getting the carbs in. Tinned fish, nuts, sweet potato and cinnamon applesauce worked well at the Mont but weren’t exactly pleasant to chow down on in the graveyard hours so I’m going to relax the rules a little this time.
Megouchies on the right ITB and glute. Tight hip flexors too, which Ed spotted as soon as I walked in the door. The man is a pro.
While working the knots out he told me about three bunch rides that leave from Williamstown during the week, and the Footscray crits. I have got to get a replacement road frame.
- 3 eggs, olive oil, carrot
- Lamb & chicken salad, almonds
- Sardines, apricot
- Two gummy bears
- Pinwheel (big sausage roll) w veggies + olive oil
- Apricot, pear, almonds
100 box step-ups @ 20 kg BB to 24″ box (50 steps each side)
10 KB Clean & Press each side @ 16 kg
10 KB Swings @ 24 kg
x 3 rounds
10 box jumps
5 box jump to depth jumps
- 3 eggs, apricot, coconut milk
- Big tuna & veggie salad + coconut milk
- Salmon, sardines, almonds
- Beef burger w chips + big chocolate milkshake
- A few blueberries