Seven hours. Seven hours on my mountain bike riding a 12km loop. Phew. What a race.
I was nervous for this one. I didn’t have doubts about whether I could make it, I had a plan of aiming for 7 laps, and having rests between each lap that were no shorter than 3 minutes and no longer than 10. I didn’t want to break for too long, but I also didn’t want to just rush through without taking proper stock of how I was feeling, physically and mentally.
Before the start, I already saw some familiar faces, including one face I hadn’t seen since high school, the beautiful Sharna! I had an awesome set up, with a super friendly male pair next door, and of course Rex supporting me, as well as fellow solo rider, Dan, from TBSM, and his dad to keep up spirits and smiles!
We rolled out at the start and my goal was to settle into an easy pace. I wanted to take every opportunity to recover on the downhills, to try and gather the easy speed from some of the nice corners, and climb in sustainable ways for 7 hours. I wasn’t sure how tired it would make me, so my lap times were about 10 mins longer than the usual for a single hit up of the course. That seems to have been the best decision, my legs didn’t feel tired for the whole race, but I felt pain in my lower back (that’s a hard tail for you!), forearms and my hands! I need to get some new gloves, I had a pressure point on each palm that started to develop blisters, but other than that I feel that my legs and cardio did amazingly in this race.
First few laps felt very comfortable. I had a huge smile on my face, was probably taking it too easy as I found it quite easy to chat with anyone that I passed or passed me! But, it was the first 7 hour, so best to be a bit conservative. Half way through I had Rex check my bike, just to ensure all the usual bits were tight or rolling smoothly as they should be. I tried to eat a lot, and the lovely Eliza Kwan, winner of the race, came past and told me to eat more! If in doubt, eat! So, I tried to add more and more to ensure I didn’t stay to fade. I did the same with water, I wanted to be hydrated and I did start getting headaches around the 5th and 6th laps, but I ended up feeling fine after a slightly longer break between the 6th and 7th lap, that and I took it super easy on the last lap 😛
Mentally, I felt like I was in a great position for this lap. It felt great, I felt super happy and cheery, I interacted with the volunteers, getting them to cheer me on and joking with them. In saying that, the 5th and 6th laps were mentally the toughest, mustering up the want to do that 6th lap was a bit of a challenge. I knew I would be disappointed in myself if I didn’t ride the 7th when there was enough time, and just to keep my spirits up I asked some of the volunteers if I should do 1 more lap! No one ever says no to that question! I used that ploy as a little mental game to get me excited for my last lap.
It was truly a great race. There were a couple of crashes, some not so bad like the couple of people who washed out in front of me, some a bit more serious, like the organiser who broke 3 ribs, but aside from that, people were generally really awesome! There was great encouragement from other riders and volunteers, especially towards the pointy end of the race, and on the whole the politeness of competitors when they wanted to pass was better than many races I’ve done.
In the end, I ended up coming 5th in the open solo females for the 7 hours, and I also came 1st in the Clydesdale category – a weight based category. I want to add a little bit here about that category. At first, it made me uncomfortable and I wasn’t really sure how to feel about it. I’ve struggled with weight issues most of my life (read it here), so to be classed as a Clydesdale (weighing over 85kgs with your bike and kit) felt really uncomfortable. But then I looked at it a bit differently. I’m comfortable with my body, I am strong, and I may never be as fast as the podium winners, but I get out there and try, regardless of my body shape, we all should. So why shouldn’t I get the chance at a fairer playing field, evening out the odds a little and feeling rewarded for the huge effort that we Clydesdales put in? I hope that I can encourage other women who fit into that category to embrace it – there is nothing wrong with being larger than the incredible jockeys that seem to win endurance events! We are out there racing, we are out there trying, and I’ve got to say, that makes us winners. Here’s to all my Clydesdales!