Stage 4 – Port to Port MTB

Don’t try this at home.

I had been sick in bed for over a week with cold/flu and only marginally started to feel better, so I thought I would try and tough out 45km at Stage 4 of the Port to Port MTB. I had a back up plan, Roger was going to meet me halfway so I could drop out if I felt like death. I’d already missed out on riding the 3 previous stages of the Port to Port MTB and I also missed out on running the UTA22 last weekend, so I was going a bit crazy.

In hindsight I probably should not have ridden because I feel a little worse again today, but I was feeling really grateful for the friends and family who had donated over $2,000 to the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse who looked after my beautiful young cousin who passed away from cancer earlier this year.

So there I was at the start line with Roger and a friend Roccet who I knew from Runlab in Newcastle, he was going to ride with me and he had also ridden at this event before. I warned him of my slowness and told him not to wait for me if he managed to get ahead, I promised myself I would take it super easy and just enjoy the ride as much as possible. There were self-seeded start waves and I was going to be in the last group, so we sat back and waited for the other riders to start and took in the sunshine, good weather and great atmosphere.

It was soon our turn to start the race and we rolled out through the big blow-up arch and onto a small road section. After this we motored through the beautiful Belmont Golf Course and onto some flat fire trail past the wetlands. The first 10km was very flat and we managed to get a bit of speed up and overtake a few riders. We wanted to be at the back, but not last!

We eventually hit Redhead single trails  and I lost Roccet who was riding much stronger than I was. I hoped he wouldn’t wait around for me too long as I don’t like holding people up and it’s hard to talk when riding on MTB trails anyway. This section was lots of fun and I played leap frog with a few riders while we twisted and turned through the trails. I could feel my lungs burning and I was coughing quite regularly, but I didn’t feel as bad as I had anticipated. I was surprised to see so many burnt out and rolled cars on the trails. Some of them were in quite obscure places so it was really strange, and they seemed to be everywhere.

I crossed Oakdale Road and into some more single track, you could see riders to the left and right on a few sections as we switched back and forth through the greenery. A rider came off ahead of me at one point and as she fell she twisted her ankle. I stopped to help her up and she tried to walk but sadly she was in too much pain even to stand. Eventually I rode ahead and got the medics sent back down the trail to her location, there wasn’t much else I could do to help so I carried on my way towards the half way point. I knew there was a beach section coming up too, and it was just before I would see Roger (my back up plan and exit strategy).

The trails were a hell of a lot smoother than Stromlo (thankfully) but still some technical and climby bits to get the legs and lungs pumping. I started to question whether I had the energy to keep going as my legs were feeling a bit jelly and my coughing was quite constant. I just told myself to keep moving.

Eventually I hit the sand section and the first part was quite rideable if you went down near the waves, but that didn’t last long. The sand got deep and boggy so we were all off our bikes and walking them, no pushing them through what felt like quicksand. I tried to keep my walking pace up to save time and because I was looking forward to seeing Roger, and I managed too pass about 8-10 riders.

I should mention that I had 98% decided that I was going to pull out here at Dudley Beach and get Roger to drive me to the finish line. That sand was super nasty and it left me feeling completely drained. So naturally when I saw Roger on the beach and told him how I felt, he replied with “Nah, you can do this and besides you don’t have far to go”. He checked with the course volunteers and there was only 16km to go from this point. I had made it way further than halfway and so with that I scoffed down some more Tailwind, got my bike cleaned to remove the sand from my brakes, and told Roger I’d see him at the finish.

As I was riding away there was a lovely course marshall with a big smile and a joke who sent me off with a better attitude than when I had come into the beach. Thank you whoever you were, it really helped!

This next section started with some fire trails and had some beautiful views of the ocean and the beach we had just ridden across, I mean walked across. I caught up to an older man and we chatted for a small section before I took off ahead of him to make up some time. The trail got technical again which always slows me down a bit, however I had gained a bit more confidence by now and was feeling more comfortable on the bike, so I sped up a little on sections I probably would have gone slower on in the past.

Then we hit a steep, steep climb that had loose gravel and leaves and I ended up off my bike pushing it up this climb as there’s no way I could have ridden. I caught up to a guy pushing his bike up the hill and we laughed about how the elite would have sprinted up here riding. I got to the top and a group of riders were stopped catching their breath and getting some food in, all I could manage to say in-between my panting and coughing was “Fuck that” (sorry Mum), which got high fives and a lot of laughs from the other riders.  This was Glenrock Mountain Bike Park and it really was lots of fun.

This section went very quickly and soon enough I had hit Scenic Road which was the big downhill to the finish at Dixon Park. I motored along and checked for cars behind me, then gunned it down that hill as fast as I could. Strava says my top speed was almost 50km down that hill, I don’t think I’ve ever ridden that fast before.

The final ride along the road beside the beach was great, lots of people out and about and cheering us through and finally I was riding under the big inflatable arch to get my finishers medal. I had made it, wow.

I looked around to find Roger and couldn’t see him anywhere so I grabbed my phone and gave him a call. He had gone to the spectator point that was a few kms back because he thought I would be going slower, and he said he was holding a Ginger Beer to give me to cheer me up for the final section to the finish. He was bummed that he had missed my finish but impressed that I had done the last section so quickly. He arrived shortly after to help me celebrate the finish and I scoffed down the Ginger Beer, always my favourite drink at the end of a hard ride or run, it’s the best!!

This one was for you Dylan #restinparadise

Bike: Focus, Spine
Nutrition: Tailwind
Donations: https://give.everydayhero.com/au/hailey-rides-point-to-point-mtb

AMB100 MTB Race

I probably should have done some research about this event before I signed up as I was in for a few (nasty) surprises. A few of my friends from the Helensburgh Off Road Cycle Club (HORCC) had posted about the event on facebook and I thought it would be a good training ride in preparation for the big Port to Port ride I’ll be taking on in May.

I chose the 66km (2 lap) event because my longest day at Port to Port would be 60km, however I probably should have taken into consideration that the longest mountain bike ride I have (ever) done was less than 20km. But I never do anything by halves and I couldn’t drive all the way to Canberra just to do 1 lap (30km). So….. why not.

We stayed with some good friends the night before and had fun catching up over pasta and wine (carb loading). I got to bed a little later than usual but was happy to be spending time in great company.

The alarm went off and my nerves kicked in straight away. What was I thinking?! I can’t ride 66km on hardly any training. Shit, this is going to hurt. I had only done a couple of rides over the past few weeks but not enough to have me prepared for this. Holy crap.

I had some porridge for breakfast and realised that it was very cold and wet outside. It had rained quite a lot overnight and this was a bit of a worry as stupidly I had not packed for cold and wet. Idiot. I borrowed some arm sleeves/warmers from my friend and packed a windproof jacket, it would have to do.

For my hydration and nutrition I had decided to use a Nathan Hydration vest so I could use Tailwind nutrition, mainly because I don’t like to take my hands off the handle bars and the bladder meant I could ride and take on everything needed (water, carbs, electrolytes) at the same time. I also packed some GU Stroopwafel as I’d used these for nutrition on some of my recent runs/hikes and it was really tasty. I also had some gels as backup if all else failed.

We headed outside and stored the bike on the roof rack of the car and headed off to Stromlo Forest Park. I checked in and met with Mille and Celia who were from HORCC and also doing the race. We setup an area with our extra food/gear and got ourselves ready for the start. Millie was a gun and would start up the front with the fast riders, while Celia and I both wanted to be back of the pack as we were both newbies. The race director did his briefing and then Celia, Millie and I made our way over to the start line. Millie seeded herself up the front and so she should have, she’s super speedy and had a high chance of winning. Celia and I made our way up the back and fought for the last spot with a couple of other novice riders.

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We had a few laughs with the other riders up the back as everybody wanted to be last, and eventually we were off.

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I chatted with Celia as we rode along the first section which was a dirt road that wound its way up a slight incline until we hit a single track. I realised during this first section that my friend Brett was just ahead of us and I caught up and chatted to him for a bit too. I rode behind Brett for a while and tried to keep up with him, but as soon as the trail got technical I slowed down as I wasn’t confident and really did not want to fall off my bike. Celia and I rode together for most of the first loop and this gave me someone to follow which I liked because I could follow her line and relax a little.

However I took a tumble near a rocky secton and slid a few times going up and around the steep bends, I really did not feel confident and was more than just a bit nervous. This trail was much more technical than most of the ones I had ridden on and I decided to get off the bike and walk a few spots because it was too rocky and I did not want to break any body parts.

 

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I felt really slow and lethargic. I was being overcautious and it meant that I spent a lot of time riding by myself. My competitive spirit wanted to kick in and go barrelling down some of the trail but after spending 18 months recovering from my past injury I really didn’t want to push my luck.

There was a lovely man giving some directions near the last part of the loop and he was very supportive. He sent me down the easier section and eventually I got into my own rhythm and finished the first lap without too much difficulty.

I scoffed down some GU Stroopwafels and water and strecthed my back out some more because it was stiffening up again, this seemed to help and I hoped it wouldn’t get any worse during the next and final loop.

The next photo was taken on my second lap when I was just not feeling it. My back pain had gotten worse and after about 3km into the trail I almost turned around to go back and not finish the race. But I’m stubborn. So I kept pushing myself and I tried to smile for the camera (see below) but I couldn’t even fake that.

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I stopped about 100 times to stretch and give my back a break but thids wasted so much time and I just wanted to be finished. Why wasn’t I enjoying this? I love trails and being out on the bike exploring new places. Maybe it was the cold and wet conditions. Maybe I just needed to toughen up and stop being a pansy.

I thought about my young cousin Dylan who had just lost his battle with cancer about a month ago. I thought about what he had gone through and about how we should never give up. I put aside my negative thoughts and focused on the endless positives I have in my life, I really had nothing to be down about.

My smile returned and I gained some courage to go a little bit faster in the second half of the final loop. I could hear my coach Dave’s words in my head as I went over some large rocky sections, his technical expertise had helped me improve so much over the past few weeks and I really was lucky to have the HORCC crew.

Rocky Trail Entertainment's AMB100, Mount Stromlo, 2018

Rocky Trail Entertainment’s AMB100, Mount Stromlo, 2018

Finally I rounded the last bend where Roger was perched to get a happy snap of me speeding past towards the finish (below).

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I crossed the line and thanked myself for not quitting, for getting it done.

Celia (below) met me at the fnish line and she had come 3rd in her division, how awesome. She even got some beer with her name on it, even though she doesn’t drink. I did offer to drink it for her but she was going to give it to her son I think.

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We saw Millie (below) again too and she had won the Elite category, what a champion!!

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I had a quick chat with my friend Brett at the finish line and he had done well finishing quite a distance ahead of me. By this time it was really starting to get cold so we didn’t hang around too much, just long enough to scoff a burrito and a coffee to warm me up.

This was a tough course and the cold, wet conditions made it a little more challenging too. I’m going to put this one down as ‘character-building’ as I really felt like crap for most of the ride, but I think that’s my own fault for being a little under-trained. I’ll make sure in future that I’m better prepared both physcially and mentally.

Bring on Port to Port in just over a month, read more about my upcoming race and how you can support my charity here.

Hails x