A new race this time, point to point instead of the laps, so it had a different approach. I have done one other 50K race, The Kowalski Classic, which is essentially ALL singletrack in Kowen, near Canberra. I finished that race in 4 hours, but I was pretty conservative in how I rode. I decided that for this race I wanted to get under 4 hours, and I wanted to push myself harder. Even if that meant that I pushed too hard and didn’t finish, I wanted to do that. Sounds crazy, but I’ve never pushed so hard that I couldn’t do anything after a race, I’ve never reached that limit and I have no idea how close I get to it, so I want to try. I want to know how it feels when I’m reaching that limit, I want to know how to gauge my effort without simply holding back for the whole race, being conservative in my efforts to ensure I “last”.
For a short race recap, check out my youtube video, here.
I lined up, and we raced up dairy farmers hill – the hill that I used to climb on my road bike for training! Some were complaining about the climb, but really the mountain bike has much easier gears for the climb! You can just sit and spin it up there! After that, straight into some fire trails that I had ridden on my cyclocross bike, so I knew what I was in for. We zoomed over to stromlo, following the bike path where a fellow competitor told me to stop, to slow down because I was going too fast. He caught me later at the refuel station and we leap frogged each other for the rest of the race until he got cramps. He urged me on so I could tell people I beat him – not true really when he had to slow down with cramps.
Stromlo felt different for me. I had ridden it a lot when I lived in Canberra, and there was not a single thing that I had to get off my bike for by the time I left. I felt confident and fast with Stromlo – but now, it all felt new! Everything that had been an issue, that had taken time to conquer, was all back at square one! I had to get off for so many things that were just stupid. It got me down a little bit, but I tried to just focus on making up the time in between. I finished in 3 hours (10th in my age group!), which would have been much quicker had I not stopped so much, but was still a great time for me. It has taught me that I NEED to go and practice these places for the Scott. As it will be held at Stromlo, I plan now to go down for a few weeks in advance to ensure these areas I had conquered are back at being comfortable again, otherwise I will lose so much time in every lap.
The other big thing I learnt was that I need to double check my bike after a service. The gears changed perfectly, but the guys had pumped up my tyres far too much. I luckily checked that and changed the pressure, dropping it by 15psi for each tyre before I headed out. Unfortunately I didn’t have a shock pump, so I couldn’t fix that – it was set too high, I couldn’t compress the shocks at all, which may have contributed to how uncomfortable I felt on the trails that were once so comfortable for me. I had also changed a bit of my set up, which I had intended to return to normal, and the newness of that may have also contributed to the discomfort.
All in all, it was a great race, I felt like I had pushed pretty hard, though I didn’t reach that all out goal. I rolled back to Canberra, an extra 10kms for my day of riding and spent the afternoon relaxing in my hotel room. I have noticed that after races where I push myself incredibly hard, I get emotional. I was watching Mean Girls and sewing on the bed, and ended up in tears! I spoke to my oracle, Eliza Kwan, who won the 50K despite crashing, and she told me it was a common occurrence. After pushing your body that hard, the influx of adrenaline, you can experience a bit of a come down. Knowing that, I just let it happen, try to relax, not try to do anything that is going to push my mind or body too much, eat what I like and of course, get some quality rest!
I followed the next day with a 2 hour spin around Sydney at sunset, and surprisingly that felt great. Thankfully it’s all flat around here so it could still feel fast without tiring me out. The weather was unbeatable, the company was awesome, and the route was great. I take that as a reinforcement that my training has been helping, being able to follow up a massive race with a comfortable 2 hour ride makes me confident that if I keep this up, the Scott won’t be too unbearable!
Looking forward to the next race, but first, my 30th birthday, which will be a crazy amount of mountain biking, and great company with loved ones! Woohoo!