Return To Racing – RTE Shimano GP Rd 4 Race Wrap Up

Round 4 of the Rocky Trail Shimano MTB GP was my return to riding and racing.

I had a plan, and that plan was to ride my bike and finish the damn race.  I was under no illusions that I was going to be competitive nor was I going to be setting any new Strava PR’s out at Mt Stromlo (for the record I set two).  This was my return to mountain biking after what has been a pretty tough three months for me physically and mentally.

I’ll address the big issue first, my rapid decline into poor health over the past three months.  I was hit by a bout of influenza, a chest infection, enlarged kidney, kidney stones, feeling constantly fatigued and generally dealing with a huge case of the #CBF’s!  Forget about riding, just getting out of bed and going to work was an effort that more often than not ended with me calling in sick and spending the day in bed or laying on the couch playing my XBOX.  There were even entire days where I would sleep, experience raging fevers, chills and have no energy to even sit up in bed.

Finally after much prodding, prompting and nagging I saw a Doctor, had an abnormally large amount of blood taken, pee’d into a heap of containers and BAM!; Seemingly out of nowhere, I’d gone from a very fit, (usually) healthy 33 year old to a diabetic, high cholesterol having, unfit, unhealthy 33 year old.

Oh and those days where I would sleep and it was sort of like my body was shutting down, yeah well, they were hypoglycemic episodes; the sort of thing that can kill people.

<Language Warning!>
Well shit!  That’s fucked!
<Language Warning!>

My next step was to grip this up…  I wasn’t Type 1, so no insulin injections which is good, but I was going to have to look at my diet, so a dietician was consulted.  As with the various Doctors I’d spoken with, it came as a fairly big surprise to her that I was in fact healthy, fit and a vegetarian.  So time to look at exactly what I was eating and unsurprisingly it was time to cut out a heap of the unhealthier things I was eating such as cakes, slices, soft drinks and other high sugar foods.

What would this mean for me for day to day living? 
Put simply, I have to eat healthier, eat more, eat more often and monitor my blood sugar levels

What does this mean for me for riding and racing my bike?
Put simply, I have to eat healthier, eat a hell of a lot more, a hell of a lot more often and bloody well make sure my blood sugar levels don’t drop.

But this raised more questions than it answered.  As most cyclists know, energy gels and bars are the go to for nutrition when riding.  Now I can’t just go and smash a heap of high sugar/high glucose syrup into my body when I feel like it now; but I can still use them.  In fact they are very important if my blood sugar level drops too much.  The key is moderation and eating proper food while riding/racing.  Everyone’s favourite fruit banana is out of the question thanks to an allergy to the yellow bastards so I stuck with my old friends’; Vegemite sandwiches and liquid food drink.

So with a somewhat redefined nutrition plan in mind I started riding what was my first race since deciding to get on with life now I finally knew what was making me sick and holding me back.

So back to my plan, which was to ride and finish the 4 hour race.  Fitness was going to be an issue, a lingering injury was going to be an issue and the ever present Black Dog biting at my heels was going to be an issue.  One lap at a time I said to myself; 4 hours give or take on the bike should get me 5 laps, but I’d be happy with 4 as I didn’t know how my body would handle the riding and how much time I’d be spending in transition during laps.

The start of the first lap was the always grinding fireroad of pain leading up the start of Bobby Pin Climb.  It was during this grinding, heavy breathing prologue that I realised I should have warmed up before the start of the race.  With my heart-rate monitor feeling like a boa constrictor across my chest I could see my heart rate rapidly climbing on my GPS… 181, 182, 183BPM… 2 more BPM’s and my GPS would start beeping at me.  But suprisingly it dropped, it steadied and I was climbing Bobby Pin quite easily, albeit, slower than usual.  Only another a few more kilometres of climbing before the descent back into transition.  Wash, rinse, repeat!

Lap 1 turned into Lap 2 and my thoughts changed from “I wish I warmed up” to “I wish I wasn’t wearing a long sleeve jersey!”  My body was feeling good, my bike was feeling good and the tracks were immaculate.  I was in a rhythm and more importantly I was enjoying myself.  Surely my Flow would be around the next corner or on the next descent.  Of all places I found it on Rollercoaster; a track that in its previous lifetime was a rocky, rutted, churned up track of death and despair.  But Rollercoaster MKII was a fast flowing, tight cornered track that kept the line between fast, fun and faaark! a very fine line indeed.  It was on one of the tight corners that I keep my fingers off the brakes and let my bike do what it was designed to do.  I let it decide how to best take the corner with a little extra speed behind it.  Sweet!!!

.:Long sleeve goodness:. Photo: www.outerimage.com.au

.:Long sleeve goodness:.
Photo: http://www.outerimage.com.au

After a change into the short sleeve jersey; Laps 3 and 4 followed without fuss.  More of the same with some cramping starting to set it thanks to my recent time off the bike.

.:Suns out/guns out:. Photo: David B https://www.flickr.com/photos/45916358@N05/

.:Suns out/guns out:.
Photo: David B https://www.flickr.com/photos/45916358@N05/

.:Climbing: Wash, Rinse, Repeat:. Photo: www.outerimage.com.au

.:Climbing: Wash, Rinse, Repeat:.
Photo: http://www.outerimage.com.au

Lap 5 culminated with an extended break to say hello to my Wife, Mother and Daughter who had arrived to see the end of the race.  And of course the little incident of Jamie I falling off his bike and onto mine during his rapid fire transition.  A quick straighten of the bars and it was time to head off again.

.:My pit crew:. Photo: My Wife

.:My pit crew:.
Photo: My Wife

The final climb took a little longer than the previous laps as more cramping set in but with no more time left on the clock it was just a matter of finishing my final lap.  As I crested the final section of Echidna Gap I stopped and enjoyed a brief moment looking out to the surrounding Brindabella Mountains.  With a great view and a big day almost over it was time to say my goodbye to a mate who had recently lost his battle with PTSD.

.:Stand Easy Brother:.

.:Stand Easy Brother:.

.:One final climb:. Photo: www.outerimage.com.au

.:One final climb:.
Photo: http://www.outerimage.com.au

After a quick descent including a little race to the finish line against Adam ‘Rocket’ Rolls my race was over.

.:Hello Flow:. Photo: www.outerimage.com.au

.:Hello Flow:.
Photo: http://www.outerimage.com.au

It was a great event and day to start rebuilding and racing again.  A huge thanks to Carly, Mum and Celeste for coming out, the Rocky Trail crew for another great race and to The Berm, Pedal For Pierce, Onya Bike and Spin Cycle Clothing crew for being awesome and supportive as always.

Capital Punishment 2015 Race Wrap Up

For the 2015 edition of the Capital Punishment mountain bike marathon race, I thought long and hard about entering.  The 2013 event was my first 100km race and was incredibly enjoyable for me.  The 2014 event was a bittersweet event, the seeding system was, for lack of a better term – a shitfight – which saw me start at the back of the race in Wave 6; and concluded with me finishing at the tail end of Wave 2.  I had resolved to not entering the race up until my Wife suggested I race the 50km instead of the 100km event.

Fast forward to the day before the race and I was committed to rolling out and just riding comfortably for 50km.

.:Anna ready to roll:.

.:Anna ready to roll:.

I had intended to ride out to the National Arboretum for the start of the race.  The cold morning combined with the requirement to have lights meant I drove out and would use the long grinding climb up Dairy Farmers Hill as my warm up.

.:Sunrise at the National Arboretum:.

.:Sunrise at the National Arboretum:.

.:Argo and I repping Soldier On:.

.:Argo and I repping Soldier On:.

In the middle of Wave 3, the start saw the usual rush until the realisation that the first 10 minutes was, in fact a very steep climb, set in.  I watched as Argo powered off into the distance in front of me, as I settled into a steady rhythm that got me up the hill.

The first section of the race was out of the Arboretum towards Mt Stromlo.  Heaps of grinding fireroad that kept the heart rate up and the legs spinning.  I glanced down at my GPS intermittently, watching the kilometres tick over, trying to work out how long I was going to be on the bike for.  I did the numbers, thought about the singletrack ahead and worked out I should be able to finish in a little under 2 and a half hours.

The Mt Stromlo section took in a lot of fireroad that included what felt like a hell of a lot of climbing interlaced with sketchy descents and even sketchier corners.  A few times I felt the rear wheel washout which lead to some impromptu dirt drifting.

.:Bobby Pin Climb:.

.:Bobby Pin Climb:.

By the time I re-entered the singletrack I knew I had around 30 minutes of riding time left; which would put me across the line in around 2 hours and 20 minutes.  So I pushed on and increased my pace.

.:Pain train:.

.:Pain train:.

During the last section of the race I started to catch the tail end of Wave 1 and looked at my GPS.  I was going to finish the 50km race in under 2 hours and 20 minutes.  So with a cramping left calf I spent what was left in the tank.  I finished in 2 hours and 16 minutes, 20th in my category and 56th overall for the 50km race.  Not a bad result for a middle of the pack hack with roadie noodle arms!

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.:2015 Capital Punishment 50km finished:.

Soldier On Ride 2 Remember 2014

On Sunday 2 November, close to six hundred Soldier On supporters strapped on their helmets and got on their bikes for a ride around Lake Burley Griffin to show their support for Soldier On and Australia’s veteran community.

The ride also saw four of the seven Trois Etapes 2014 riders don their TE kit to take part in a casual loop around Canberra’s iconic lake.

It was great to see so many people out and about wearing Soldier On shirts, and of course, the many people wearing the Soldier On Cycling kit

Photographer extraordinaire, Matt Connors, was out and about taking photos of the event.

Below are some of the best (of course some including me!).
Matt’s full gallery is here: Matthew Connors Photography


 

 

The Mont 24 Hour 2014 (Part Deux) Race Wrap Up

After the aborted Mont 24 Hour from April this year, it was good to finally head out to Kowen Forest knowing the race was going to happen this time.

That being said, I’m not a huge fan of team racing.  Sure it is fun and you get to race against other teams as well as try to out-ride your team mates; but there’s just something about it that irks me.  I’m a solo person and enjoy riding by and for myself.  Yes I race, and yes I ride with groups often, but racing with a team is just not my cup of tea.

However, for the Mont 24 Hour 2014, I put aside my prejudices and put a team together that would ride and fund-raise for Soldier On.  Our MK 1 team had a rider change when our ethnic rider Gian was swapped out for Man Mountain and fan of hair removal products, Colin.  So after many months of waiting, our team of vagabond riders assembled at Kowen Forest for some mountain biking and flag waving for Soldier On.

The Mont 001

.:Race plate for 2014:.

Like all good plans, this one had a few hiccups.  Firstly, logistics meant John and I had to set up on the Friday while Chris and Colin travelled from Melbourne.  Secondly, Chris was struck by a severe bout of diarrhoea that would cause problems for him throughout the weekend.

The Mont 002

.:Chris rocking the XL jersey will trying not to poo:.

So the time came when our first rider had to line up with the other several hundred riders for the rolling start.  As it was John’s first race/event he got the honour to start the race for out team.

The Mont 004

.:John chilling during the rider briefing:.

The Mont 007

.:The Mont mass start madness:.

In a rush of bikes, people and dust, John took off into Kowen Forest and started the race for our team.  I had typed up a lap/timing spreadsheet and the next rider up was supposed to be Chris.  With his dodgy stomach I geared up and head up to transition to wait for John to return.  It was hot, stupidly hot and after John tagged me, I pedaled off for my first lap of the race.

Mont 24 2014

.:Lap 1 – “Oh there’s a camera, I better do a jump”:.

After me was big Col, followed by Chris who was on a one way trip to struggle town.  I mentioned before that it was hot.  Well it was really hot and then it rained and it got hotter.  This was during Chris’ lap in which he had to stop a few times for a cheeky spew track-side.  After he tagged John out for his second lap it was very obvious Chris was not going to be riding again until at least tomorrow morning.

My second lap started after 18:00 which was the mandatory time for lights to be fitted on the bikes.  I rolled out with my bar light and battery attached but they weren’t needed.  I made it back in time to watch the sunset over Kowen Forest; which meant Col got the first night lap of the team in.

Mont 24 2014

.:Less sun – still hot:.

I like riding at night, but my two day laps took a lot out of me.  I came into this race with maybe three or four short rides under my belt since the Scott 24 Hour 3 weeks earlier, and I was quick to fatigue.  My first lap saw my heart rate average 190bpm, which is not awesome even when I usually have a high heart rate as it is (80 resting/185 max).

We were all hurting, and with Chris out for the night we made the decision to take a break after Col’s night lap and start fresh in the morning.

Mont 24 2014

When morning broke I was woken up by John’s incessant coughing which signalled he’d be back on the track very soon.  By the time I got dressed and exited my tent, John was heading down to the transition to start us up again.

A little over an hour later I got back on track for my forth (and final) lap, and it was hot once again.  My mind wanted to ride fast, but my legs said “no” and my gooch said “get out of the bloody saddle!”.

Mont 24 2014

.:Last lap goodness:.

Mont 24 2014

.:Don’t eat it in front of the camera:.

Mont 24 2014

.:Jump!:.

After a fun ride in which we all started to feel the aches and pains of not enough training, we cut the race short by a lap and started the arduous task of packing up and heading home

Even with a few spanners thrown into the works, it was an enjoyable weekend on and off the bike.

A huge thank you to Soldier On for providing the entry for the team, Col, Chris and John for riding and everyone that donated to the team’s fundraiser.

Scott 24 Hour 2014 Race Wrap Up #TwentyFailHour

What more can I say?  My debut 24 hour solo ended with me laying in a defeated, exhausted, dehydrated and distraught mess.  To say I am disappointed with the result is an understatement.

As I don’t have much riding to report on for this Race Wrap Up, I’m going to quote some numbers before I get into the nuts and bolts of the time I spent on the bike.

Kilometres ridden in the two months before the Scott: 1167.8km
Metres climbed in the two months before the Scott: 23’851m
Time spent on the bike in the two months before the Scott: 56 hours 31 min
Average body weight while riding during the Trois Etapes72.5kg
Body weight 5 days prior to the Scott: 78.2kg
Body weight the morning of the Scott: 76.4kg
Body weight after retiring from the Scott: 71.2kg
Body weight 2 days after the Scott: 72.3kg

MCP 080

.:On top of the world…Um Col du Tourmalet:. https://www.facebook.com/matthewconnorsphotography

The Prep
My preparation in the weeks leading up to this event was ideal.  I was in the best shape of my cycling life, I was mentally prepared and my race plan was ready to go.

And then all my prep went down the drain.  Three days before the race I started feeling sick.  A feeling that rapidly evolved into a serious bout of diarrhoea and vomiting.  I effectively stopped eating solids and concentrated on trying to stay hydrated.

On the Friday before the race I headed out to Mt Stromlo with my Father, and set up my marquee and tent for the weekend.  I was lucky in that the twenty-four hours before the race start I was able to eat a proper meal without fear of having to find a toilet immediately.

On the morning of the race I woke up with my stomach churning, I felt hot and dizzy.  After I tried to eat something for breakfast I found myself alternating between sitting on and kneeling in front of the toilet.  Not a great start to my debut 24 hour solo racing career.

The Race
The hours and minutes preceding a race are quite strange.  I can range from jittery to anxious and calm before I even cross the start line.  On this day I was somewhat anxious.  I knew I was in a bad way physically before I even started pedalling, but I had invested too much time preparing not to start the race.

In the hour before the start I had vomited twice more and hadn’t eaten anything in the four hours since breakfast; which didn’t stay down.  I’ll be honest, I didn’t stay around for much of the rider’s brief; by the time it reached the ten minute mark and the sponsors were well and truly lubricated with an excess of accolades, I headed back to my marquee to get changed and ready to ride.

This skipping of the rider’s brief meant I missed the announcement that the solo riders were starting first.  After working this out I had about four minutes to get to the start line and begin what would become an excruciating experience in the saddle.

SG 003

.:A steady roll off the start line:.

I started the race feeling relatively good to begin with.  I kept my cadence high and my heart rate down for the first lap.  I was being passed constantly, which for a 24 hour rider is apparently the norm.  I was running a 32T chain ring and 11-34 cassette on the rear.  I’ve never had any issues with this combo on steep climbs to date and was confident it would serve me well over this race.

SG 005

.:The first climb:.

The first lap was a brisk 43 minutes, a little bit faster than I intended by I still felt relatively all right considering the day’s leading up.  I rode through transition and headed out onto my second lap.  By the time I reached Bobby Pin Climb some 3km into the lap I was sweating profusely and feeling the urge to vomit.  I kept grinding along and by the time I reached the start of Tall Trees I had pulled over and purged my stomach contents all over the ground next to me.  This sudden and violent vomit fest enabled me to continue riding and reach transition for my third lap.

As I rolled into transition I stopped for a few minutes to swap out some bottles and check in with my support crew.  I put on my long sleeve shirt and knee warmers and  headed out again for what was to become another lap with another spew stop.

S24H 07

Laps four and five were similar with water being the only thing I was able to stomach without instantly retching and vomiting.  As I descended down Breakout towards Old Duffy’s Descent, I knew my race was going to end very soon.  Not five minutes later as I headed into the Crit Track I felt my stomach begin to cramp and I started to shiver uncontrollably.

I pulled into transition and got off my bike.  I found a comfortable spot in my tent and laid down for the next 45 minutes and contemplated what was going to happen next.  I had in my head that I could rest for a few hours and do a night lap or two, rest until morning and finish off with a few more laps before the 12pm cut off time.

S24H 09

.:Sad selfie:.

My overly ambitious plan was also deeply flawed.  There was to be no more riding.  I was medically retired from the race just after the sun went down.  I was exhausted physically and mentally.  I was disappointed and I felt ashamed.

I had trained hard and had planned for this race.  I had carried the reputation of Soldier On and it’s supporters on my back and had failed.

This won’t be the last time I attempt a 24 hour solo and it won’t be the last time I ride for Soldier On; but for now it’s time for me to get back on the bike and enjoy riding again for what it is for me.  Recovery.

A huge thank you to everyone that sponsored me by donating to Soldier On.
An even bigger thank you to my Wife and Parents, friends, family and the Soldier On crew.

Scott 24 Hour Update – The Night Before!

After a few days of being quite sick with a stomach bug and something resembling a head cold, things are starting to look up for me.  I haven’t explosively purged my stomach contents in a little over 24 hours.

At this point there is no turning back for me.  Too much time, money and effort has been invested into this race and a DNS is a lot worse than a DNF at this stage.  So tomorrow at midday I’ll line up and start what will be a gruelling 24 hours on my bike that will threaten to break me physically and mentally.

I don’t expect to stand on the podium and I don’t expect to ride for the entire 24 hours.  I’m not racing against the rest of the field, I’m not racing against the clock – I’m racing against myself and I’m racing for those that served this Nation and lost their battle with PTSD and depression to suicide.

.:My Fundraising Page:.

IMG_1147 IMG_1153

Scott 24 Hour Update – 4 Days To Go!

The time has come for me to start my race day preparation for this weekend’s Scott 24 Hour.  There isn’t anything more I can do for fitness wise for this ride so it’s safe to say my tapering has begun; no more high intensity rides up Mt Stromlo resulting in mid decent spews.

I’m in probably the best shape I’ve been physically in a number of years with most little niggling pre-existing injuries behaving themselves.  I’ve managed to put on close to 5kg since returning from the Trois Etapes in France and can confidently say my roadie arms are strong enough to keep my face from smashing against my stem.

The next few days are going to be a battle to keep focused on the upcoming ride while not letting my highly intrusive work derail my mental preparation.  I’ll spend the next couple of days ensuring my lights are ready and charged, my nutrition plan is sorted and of course my bike, Kate, is in tip-top form.  I plan to set up my race HQ/camping area Friday afternoon with a not-so-early arrival at Mt Stromlo for the race on Saturday.

I have had a lot of support flow in from friends, family and far away supporters recently.  I’m very grateful for everyone that has taken the time to send well-wishes and donate to Soldier On via my fundraising page.

.:My Fundraising Page:.

Rider List

Mt Stromlo Scott 24 Hour Photo Shoot

With a week out from the Scott 24 Hour I headed out to Mt Stromlo with fellow Trois Etapes Soldier On Cycling rider Andy, and Bermer’s Brett & Mel for a little photo fun with TE photographer Matt Connors (Matthew Connors Photography).

The decision was made quite early to wear my Trois Etapes Soldier On kit for my 24 Hour Solo debut.  It’s super comfortable, looks good and hopefully will stand out and raise awareness for Soldier On.

.:My Fundraising Page:.


Scott 24 Hour Update – 9 Days To Go!

My preparation for the Scott 24 Hour has been going reasonably well.
I’ve been riding the mountain bike a fair bit, started my race plan, organised my equipment for the race and most importantly; feel ready to ride.

There have been a few minor set backs but nothing that will keep me off the bike.
(A second bike for back up would have been awesome but… a) I can’t afford one, b) I can’t justify buying one, c) I guess this isn’t the time to be Treking…)

I haven’t been as aggressive with my fundraising as I have the past two years either.  The kitty sits at $1000 out of my goal to raise $3000.  With so much resting on finishing the ride I won’t risk the added pressure of embarking on an intense campaign to raise funds for Soldier On.

 

However if you would like to donate, please go here:

.:My Fundraising Page:.

Scott Poster1