Week 15 of my training for the Battle of the Beasts was my return to the saddle after almost a month of not riding.
In the months leading up to my Wedding and Honeymoon I debated and weighed up the pros and cons regarding racing in the Kowalski Classic. The 2012 KC was not only the inaugural Kowalski Brothers signature event it was also my very first race. I remember starting in the very last wave of the 50km race and finding myself at the tail end of the third wave riders before the feed station at the 30km mark. I did very little lead up training and the longest I had ridden on a mountain bike up to that point was 32km on fire roads. I loved every single minute and pedal stroke of my first race including the debilitating cramps in my calves; and the four days I couldn’t walk without pain afterwards.
The Kowalski Classic will always hold a special place in my heart; so opting out of this years event due to time off the bike and travelling back to Canberra from Melbourne was a hard decision. From all accounts I missed out on a tough but enjoyable ride through Sparrow Hill and Kowen Forest’s finest singletrack.
While I was travelling in Vietnam and Cambodia I managed to pick up a little chest bug that was still in my system and causing me to dry cough and also cough up blood. Because of this, Week 15 didn’t kick off until Wednesday morning with a slow ride around Mt Stromlo with my friend John. It was the perfect ride to ease back into training; slow, steady and finding my flow.
I backed the morning ride up with a Wednesday night ride with The Berm crew around Sparrow Hill and Kowen Forest as prep for the following Saturday night’s CORC 3 Hour Twilight Race. I felt good; albeit a little tired from the morning’s ride and a day slaving away at work. 36.9km of singletrack on Kate and my quads and calves were cramping and sore. Welcome back to the world of cycling Chad!
After spending Thursday sitting in my office at work with quads sore to the touch I decided I would break out Zooey the Giant Anthem for the upcoming CORC 3 Hour. A quick lube and 10-point safety check of my trusty dual suspension stead on Friday morning; I strapped her to my roof and headed out to Mt Stromlo for another quick loop. Considering I had only ridden Zooey once off road since buying Kate the XTC, I quickly found my flow and rhythm and was relishing the smooth riding and her ability to launch into the air on the smallest of jumps. After a very enjoyable 15.1km I decided Zooey would be my ride for the next evenings twilight race.
I was very excited for Saturday night’s 3 Hour race at Sparrow Hill. I hadn’t ridden a 3 Hour race this year and was looking forward to riding out there at night. I’m not the greatest rider in the world by any means; but I love riding in the forest at night. It’s a Zen-like experience riding through the pine trees with just you, the bike and lights. Factor in a few dozen other riders feeling the same buzz and you’ve got yourself a race.
The Canberra weather had turned on the high-winds for a few days leading up to Saturday and a number of trees had fallen over on the course. Nigel had marked out some new tracks and made the immovable trees clearly visible and soon we were on our way.
The first lap was surprisingly fast as we settled into the singletrack and headed into the first climb. As promised there were a few detours in place and a few tree trunks requiring some bike lifting and running jumps to clear; but despite the unexpected cyclocross additions this was a super-fun course. I settled into a steady but quick pace and was enjoying my second lap until my chain broke and I was forced to up-end Zooey and attach a quick link to get back on the course. I spent less than five minutes making my repairs in the pitch black forest and didn’t see another rider; let alone a set of lights. The field had well and truly spread out.
At around the 8km mark I felt all the tension in my cranks disappear and realised my chain had broken a second time. I came to stop and looked at my rear derailleur and discovered that my chain was no longer anywhere near my bike. I searched an area of about 50m along the track I had just ridden and couldn’t find it anywhere. Relegated to the fact my race was now over I wanted to complete this lap as quick as possible so I rolled down the hills and sprinted up the climbs as I headed back the registration tent. I retired after two laps and spent the remainder of the race on the sidelines braving the cold.
Not wanting to push it too much for my first week back on the bike I didn’t ride at all Sunday; instead I washed and serviced my bikes in preparation for Week 16.