Once again I find myself here on a Monday morning, bleary eyed and weary, sitting in front of a computer writing about events transpired over the weekend that involved suffering and sugary liquids in portable packets.
Yesterday saw the 2014 Australian Marathon Champs held at Mt Joyce. With only a 75km course, the reality of the suffering and brutality of the event was probably dismissed by many who haven't ridden the beast.
In my infinite wisdom, and with very, very limited training time (ironically, so diminished because I am helping others reach their training goals) I decided to undertake the marathon 'lite' event, which consisted of racing two laps of the three lap full marathon course. While people may have mocked me prior to the event, there were only looks of understanding when rider after rider DNF'd in hot humid conditions on a course which really came down to mental toughness. The attrition rate was close to 40%.
I figured the 2/3 option would be testing enough, budgeting around 3hr30 for the 48km shebang. Yes, if you work out my projected average speed, you can see that I had great insight into how the race would pan out. I should know, I was third there a few years back and it was awful.
Anyway, with absolutely no top end, and very little of any other fitness, the gun went off and the whole gamut of marathon 'lite' riders were on course. Down the first fire-road chute, I ride around Kylie—who was two riders in front—getting up from a fall "come on Kylie! Smash it girl!" I say as I stick on the wheel in front of me. The first climb up to the singletrack I was sitting in maybe fourth of all the half marathon racers, and just tried to pace myself somewhere between puffing a lot, and slacking off. The perfect marathon heart rate zone. With all the singletrack it was impossible to look at my computer to ride to a heart rate, and I believe that you kind of need to race on feel with the longer ones anyway.
At the tunnel I had been riding just under ten minutes, so I was riding solidly, as we climbed up to the top of Bovine Groove.
It was the most fun I've had on a bike in a long time! I felt little pressure throughout the race as I knew my leadup wasn't at all ideal (having not 'trained' since Adelaide due to illness, then starting shift work late February, seeing me ride about 6hrs/week. I certainly relish my time on the bike more than ever!) and I really just was there for some good quality 'hurt' training and to enjoy the trails in my awesome new kit. Despite all my work hours and lack of training I have been keeping up with racing the BSMC summer sprint series
, but that really only helps keep me fit for an hour of racing, so to race something longer than cross-country length was a challenge in itself.
Using the BSMC Summer Sprints to maintain some semblance of bike handling and form, here taking the final round of the series.
Photo: Michael Phipps.
The climbing legs have some improvement to be made, which is to be expected, but descending I was hooking like a demon. There were clear trails in front and behind me the whole of Bovine and except for a minor chain drop, I had a killer run, launching the jumps and shredding the corners. Such a great time and motivated me to keep hurting.
The fireroad climb was pretty annihilating. I have ridden it many times, but during the race I walked the pinch because I was made very aware by my legs that should I ride it, they would be non-compliant for the remainder of the race. Fair enough. There is still daylight behind me, and the two juniors, Nick and Dean, dangling in front.
Blackrock was another awesome trail. I overtook over ten people down it and surprisingly it was all very smooth, everyone was off the track and letting me through. It was a dream run. Even Pork Chop, which I usually get a bit shitty with, was smooth and flowing as I smashed it around the corners and over the rocks. I think the removal of my road bike and riding trails on the rigid singlespeed and CX bike has assisted in getting even smoother over the rocky stuff.
Once you had climbed up to Blackrock the remainder of the course was much more gentle, rolling singletrack climbs rather than long, epic lactate efforts.
I picked up two bottles and a gel in the feed zone and headed off again, feeling good but a little nervous, after all it had been 1hr30; I usually come unstuck after that time!
It definitely hurt a little more the second time around, the singletrack climbing was still solid but I felt like I was weaving up the fireroad! I saw Kylie from our team at the tunnel checkpoint and I realised she wasn't racing, and felt a little sad that her marathon lite campaign had finished prematurely with such a 'nothing' crash. Especially at Joyce, Kylie is the queen of Joyce.
Anyway, I plugged on, passing the lovely Jo, Meg, Naomi and Sharon at various times on the lap, shouting what I hoped would be words of encouragement each time. I feel like I would be a little lifted if someone was telling me I was doing awesome, so hopefully they felt a little better for it.
The final few km's I ran into Nick at the bottom of Blackrock, who had definitely felt better. I rode with him trying to motivate him towards the end. He probably just thought I was super annoying. Oh well, I tried!
The final climb up the bitumen Shaun Lewis came up beside me and we briefly exchanged words as we hurtled towards the finish together; the elite men started 45min before us, but completed another lap!
So I finished third overall and first Open woman in the marathon lite, not too shabby, in a little over 3hrs, well under my 3hr30 budget.
All in all, I was stoked to not have to go and ride another lap, though my morale was such that I think if I had entered the full marathon I would have finished. I would have crawled back on my lips in a bucket of vomit, for sure, but I would have crawled back on my lips HAPPY. I think that getting old and having a few more years racing experience is the best teacher for bike racing that one can have. How can I impart this golden knowledge into the heads and hearts of my athletes? That's the question...
I am lucky that I have had a few good years, I know what racing and suffering feels like, I know how too cool off my head (most of the time!) and deal with adversity both internal and external. If only it could just be something we could switch on without doing the hard yards first!
Our new Sol Breads-Cyclinic kit came up beautifully, too. Jo took second in Master's Women in a valiant and brave race to do us proud. Unfortunately, mega-Meg and Kylie both found themselves victims of the harsh Joyce terrain and had to retire.
Huge ups to Cyclinic for general awesomeness, Yakima racks for excellence in portaging, Sol Breads for keeping us in bread and fancy kit and TORQ for fueling all the ladies up the hill in a rapid fashion. We love you all!
Race results can be found HERE
Congrats to everyone who competed, taking on the mountain is not a choice for the faint-hearted!