Scott 25 Hour 2013 Wrap Up

I was really looking forward to the possibility of racing in the Scott 25 Hour after riding in The Mont earlier this year as part of a six-person team for The Berm.  It was a little difficult organising another Berm team for the Scott due to Mt Stromlo being the venue, the Scott being smack bang in the middle of the spring racing season and a week before the 24 Hour Solo World Championships.

A month out and it wasn’t looking like I would be donning the lycra and riding laps around Mt Stromlo until Adam “Rocket” Rolls threw me a lifeline needing a ringer for his team of four.  I jumped at the opportunity and would soon be riding with team Slow Spokes.

The Lead Up
I drove out to Mt Stromlo on Friday to set up my tent and check out the event centre.  The weather was forecast to be a perfect Canberra spring long weekend and the Mt Stromlo trails were in excellent condition.  My lead up training for the Scott had been less than ideal with a month spent off the bike and I was still dealing with the final stages of a chest infection.   I knew I wasn’t going to be posting super-fast times during the race; but was more than happy just to be riding.  When the whole team, Adam, Nigel, Dave and myself were all there we registered for the race and headed back home for a big dinner and good nights sleep in our own beds before a weekend of caffeine, junk food, no sleep and lots of riding.

S25H 09 S25H 11.:The Scott 25 Hour event centre:.

Day 1
I arrived at Mt Stromlo early on Saturday morning to find the entire area a hive of activity.  The venue was already in full swing with a heap of riders getting in some last minute practice before the course was closed.

We went about setting up our race HQ track-side; just up from transition and the event centre.

S25H 14.:Our race HQ:.
S25H 01.:Kate waiting for her race plate:.
S25H 05.:My home for the weekend:.

There was a little bit of hurry up and wait leading up to the 11am race start with some last minute bike maintenance, gear set-ups and race briefings beforehand.

S25H 16.:Team Slow Spokes Jersey:.

Once the rider’s brief was over Adam limbered up and got in place for his short sprint in the Le Mans start.

S25H 20 S25H 21.:The Le Mans start:.

Once Adam was on his way we sat down and worked out the order the rest of us were to ride.  I drew third rider and so began the confusion of which lap each of us would be riding on for the next 25 hours.  Lets get one thing straight, it isn’t a difficult concept by any means, there are two loops; the Red Loop and the Blue Loop.  We started on the Red Loop which meant Dave would be riding the Blue Loop after Adam finished the Red Loop and came through the transition point at the Blue Loop start point.

My first lap of the course was the Red Loop which was up the Mt Stromlo switchbacks and down the mountain via the bottom of the downhill track.  A few hours before the race start I discovered I had been practising on the wrong part of the course and had in fact never ridden the last 2km of the Red Loop before.  Not to be deterred I figured I’d just take it easy and learn that part of the course before I had to ride it in the dark later that night.

I took off out of transition and powered along the crit track into Fenceline and then into the switchbacks starting the ascent of Mt Stromlo.  I enjoy riding these tracks and soon found a nice rhythm all the way up and onto Western Wedgetail where I set my forks to ‘descend’ and took off down the hill towards Skyline and Luge.  Once I exited Luge I entered the part of the course I hadn’t seen yet.  I will never be a downhill rider based on one factor alone: self preservation.  I baulk at drop-off’s and very rarely launch my bike into the air on purpose.  So to be faced with multiple drop-off’s, jumps, and steep declines into sweeping berms; I was well and truly out of my comfort zone with my self preservation light blinking brightly in front of my eyes.

I made it to the bottom in one piece and quickly speed around the crit track into transition to send Nigel on his way out onto the Blue Loop.

I was feeling fairly good after my lap and tucked into a plate of dutch pancakes with ice cream to celebrate.  Nutrition and hydration are extremely important when riding and even more so when racing.  Everyone is different and has different dietary requirements.  A lot of riders eat fruit, especially bananas.  I can’t as I will vomit most fruit and I’m very allergic to the potassium in bananas.  Because of this I rely on a rotating hydration plan of water, protein drink and electrolyte drink.  I can hydrate for days prior to a race and be on top of my electrolytes during and still get cramps.  Whatever advice I am usually given about cramps is doesn’t help me as most ‘remedies’ will actually make it worse for me.  The only real thing that helps is a low electrolyte, high carbohydrate, high protein hydration/nutrition combo during and after each lap.

Soon I was off on my next laps; a loop of both the Red and Blue Loops.  Once again I made the ascent and descent of Mt Stromlo and rode into transition; but instead of tagging the next rider I made a sharp u-turn and headed out onto the long fire-road up to Blackberry Climb.  I had mistakenly thought this was to be the easy loop due to it not incorporating a fairly steep climbing section; but I was wrong.  Each track included an ascent of some sort and in comparison to the downhill section of the Red Loop there was very little time for free-wheeling at speed.

S25H 23.:Me riding down Double Dissolution (thanks to Brett for this awesome picture):.

After an hour and half rest it was time to put the lights on my bars and helmet and head out for my fourth individual and the team’s twelfth lap.  It was still light by the time I headed off but I needed the bar light on for the last 3km of the Blue Loop.  When I got back to our race HQ it had already cooled down dramatically it had now transitioned into night riding with a number of teams retiring for the night.

The Night
S25H 24
.:Transition at night:.

Night riding is a special experience for mountain bikers.  You can have your entire bar covered in lights and your riding will still be vastly different from your day riding.  I run a double bar light and single helmet light set-up that I use on low to medium setting when riding at night.  I find I can see more of the track detail with the lower settings than with my lights burning shadows onto the trees.  So as I headed out for my first night lap of the Blue Loop I was confident I knew the tracks well enough to stay out of trouble.  I was glad I had donned my knee warmers and long-sleeves as the temperature had dropped to single digits.  The lap itself was non-eventful as a large portion of the field was only riding during the daylight hours which opened up the course and allowed passing and being passed easy and a rarity.

I was able to get a couple of hours rest before my next ride; another double loop.  I emerged from my tent still wearing my long sleeves and now wearing my full length leg warmers to meet the now colder Canberra night.  This time it was the Blue Loop followed by the Red Loop.  The Blue Loop was almost a blur; I only saw four other riders and only one of these passed me and that was very late in the ride.  The Red Loop started off normally with the ascent followed by the descent towards Red Octane; the lower part of the downhill course.

It was at this point that my tiredness got the better of the me and I second guessed myself and switched which line I was to take at the drop-off.  Through-out the day I had taken the ‘A-line’ and hit the drop-off with speed and held it without any real issues.  Well at around 2am I turned right towards the ‘B-Line’ and missed the corner and experienced a front wheel washout that sent me onto my shoulder and halfway down the drop off before getting back up and heading back into transition.

S25H 25.:3am post double lap snack:.

I was lucky enough to draw the dawn lap of the Blue Loop for the start of Day 2.  I needed my lights on during the first few kilometres and then watched as the sky turned pink and the sun rose over Canberra.

S25H 26.:David B’s awesome photo at the end of the Blue Loop:.

Day 2
My second last lap was the Red Loop in what felt like stifling heat.  I pushed up the climbs trying to avoid what felt like cramping about to hit.  I alternated my position in the saddle to give my quads a slight rest before digging a little deeper to get up to Western Wedgetail in an attempt to make up some time on the downhill into transition.

sportograf-44002166_lowres.:Western Wedgetail:.

My final lap hurt; I won’t lie.  I had started to cramp up but was still keen to get my tenth lap under my belt to get over the 100km mark.  I took off for the Blue Loop as fast as my aching legs could take me.  I enjoyed this lap immensely and knowing that my wife was waiting for me in Race HQ I pushed out of the singletrack and onto the crit track as hard as I could.  When I finally got back to the rest of my team I had ridden a total of 111.5km.

S25H 30.:At that is the end of the Scott 25 Hour for me!:.

The Wrap Up
As a team, Slow Spokes completed 38 laps and covered 417.24km to finish 20th in our category and 74th overall.

I enjoyed riding in the Scott 25 Hour in 2013 immensely.  It was a fun and challenging experience; but it lacked a little something.  It didn’t have the vibe that the Mont 24 Hour had and because of that I found the motivation to keep peddling lacking at some points.  Would I do it again next year?… I believe so.

S25H 32

JetBlack WSMTB 12 Hour Wrap Up

As I rounded transition for my eighth lap of the Dargle Farm course I knew my first venture into 12 hour mountain bike racing was soon to be over.

Initially my lead up for the JetBlack WSMTB 12 Hour went according to plan.  The week preceding saw me ride more than 350km including some long stints on the mountain bike and some solid racing during Round 4 of the CORC XC series at Mt Stromlo.  I felt fit and confident leading into the week before my first 12 hour race.

I started feeling the signs of an oncoming head cold on Monday morning when I woke up and got ready for work.  I started taking cold and flu tablets and increasing my fluid intake to try and limit the duration of what starting to build in my sinuses.  I decided if I was going to beat this thing I would need to stay off the bike and out of the Canberra cold.  By Wednesday I was feeling the effects of a full blown head cold complete with sore throat, headaches and blocked sinuses.  I still hoped I would be able to get some, albeit short, time in the saddle.

On Thursday I picked up a Soldier On banner to set up at the event centre, I then packed my race bag, camping gear and prepared Kate the XTC for the drive up to Dargle Farm the next day.  Health-wise things got a little bit worse for me.  A case of gastro set in and I was riding the porcelain bus for the next several hours.  My ideal lead up had well and truly sailed off into the distance.

Friday morning I packed the car and headed up the Hume Highway / M7 / M5/ back-roads / random car ferry and arrived at Dargle Farm to set up my camp site.  Fellow Bermers; Ben, Adam and Nigel were already there and almost set up.  My minimalist approach saw my site up and running in a few minutes.  Without much coaxing I was lycra’d up and soon Ben, Adam and myself were off for a recce lap of the 9.9km course.

I didn’t know what to expect from this course; I had been told it had some technical singletrack, open fire-roads and a tricky climb near the end complete with a rocky pinch to overcome before the rewarding downhill back into transition.  The first part of the course was a short stretch of fire-road leading into some impressive singletrack.

The thing that immediately struck me was the construction of the trails.  More often than not; trail-fairies will manipulate the landscape to suit a more fluid track.  Dargle Farm was the opposite; the trails had been built to accommodate the natural features and embrace the various obstacles.  After overcoming a few tricky corners and drops complete with some tree hugging from Adam; we were off onto the next part of the course.  Some short fire-road linking into some fast and free flowing singletrack.

About seven kilometres into my introductory lap of Dargle Farm I rode over a small branch and tore open my rear tyre.  I had been contemplating changing my Crank Brothers wheel-set to tubeless during the week but opted out due to the valves not sealing properly last time.  As I pulled a three inch long stick out of my tyre and tube I knew even a tubeless set up wouldn’t have kept me pedalling.

I wasn’t too keen on flipping the XTC and changing my tube in the thick mud so I limped back to the staging area and did my repairs and finalised my prep for the next day’s race.

Dargle Farm 2013 002.:The Berm Banner on display:.

Dargle Farm 2013 001.:The first bonfire of the weekend:.

I woke up with a fairly stuffy head from the cold night before and tucked into a breaky roll and coffee before getting changed and ready for the rolling start at 9am.

Dargle Farm 2013 004.:The Berm / Pedal4Pierce / Soldier On Race Headquarters:.

Dargle Farm 2013 010.:Just a few thousand dollars worth of carbon and aluminium:.

Dargle Farm 2013 005.:Dargle Farm getting busy:.

Dargle Farm 2013 008.:Race HQ:.

Dargle Farm 2013 012.:Ready to tackle the Dargle Farm course:.

The race began slowly with a rolling start with a couple of hundred riders heading down the fire-road and into the singletrack.  As was expected it was slow going and plenty of walking the bike until the field spread out and passes were able to be made.  I started with a steady pace averaging 16.9km an hour over my first lap.  Already I was starting the feel the heat and was sweating profusely.  I was very happy to have shed the knee warmers and opted not to wear my usual long sleeve shirt under my jersey prior to the race start.

I was sticking to my hydration plan of one bottle per hour so after finding my flow for the second lap I rounded transition and pushed onto my third.  I had found a pocket of similar paced solo riders and followed them through the singletrack and pushed past them on the fire-roads.  I had to slow down a little to avoid blowing up too early and was soon being over taken by the team riders.

At the end of my third lap I was averaging 16km an hour when I pulled into race HQ for a bottle change and quick feed.  Already the temperature had risen to 22’C and I was feeling the vast difference between here and the relatively freezing temperatures of back home in Canberra.  I started off on Lap 4 and saw a bunch of slower riders heading into the singletrack.  Not wanting to get bogged down and lose momentum I pushed past them and powered through the first singletrack section and down the rocky drops into the first section of extended fire-road.  Coming out of the cool trees into the full sunlight was a shock.  I could feel the sun starting to burn my skin and see the sweat dripping across my glasses and onto my bike.

JetBlack12hr 009.:Digging Deep and trying to avoid hitting other riders:.

Halfway through Lap 4 I felt the familiar rumblings in my stomach.  My digestive system wanted to purge itself of the morning’s breakfast and coffee… and now!  I rolled through transition and onto Lap 5 and then made a detour towards the toilet block.  I’ll spare you the details but I wasn’t feeling the best.  I pushed onto Lap 5 and found I was starting to get a headache.  I had been sticking to my nutrition/hydration plan and felt reasonably comfortable in that regard.

Lap 6 was more of the same.  I had slipped into a routine of casually riding the first section of singletrack, pushing out on the fire-roads, dealing with the technical singletrack and then attacking into the climb.  I was enjoying myself and relishing the times I was in the trees and out of the sun.  Although the climb was tough and easier to walk most times, I pushed up as best I could and looked forward to the downhill section leading into transition.

JetBlack12hr 023.:Dargle Farm – Down the Hill:.

I took an extended 20 minute break before I pushed onto Lap 7.  Even though I was feeling quite sick already, I made the effort to have a bite to eat and swap out my bottles.  I pedalled off onto the seventh lap and instantly felt my energy levels drop and dizziness start to set in.  Lap 7 was the beginning of the end for my 12 Hour venture.  I found the final climb incredibly difficult this time around and walked the pinch with a lot of other riders.

I decided to push on with my eighth lap even though I knew I would soon be stopping.  My legs were feeling good but the rest of me had started to give up.  I had a blistering headache and was starting to feel nauseous.  Halfway through the lap I began to vomit and any attempt to take on fluids was met with immediate evacuation from my body.  I was experiencing a form of ground rush and dizziness was starting to affect my balance.

JetBlack12hr 015.:Rider 29 – The new Mayor of Struggletown!:.

As I rolled past the timing area at the end of my eighth lap I headed straight back to our Race HQ.  My race was now over and I found a nice shady spot to lay down and try to cool down and stop the world from spinning.

While my first 12 Hour had been a failure in many regards I put this aside and started focusing on helping out the Pedal4Pierce team and solo rider Rocket Rolls.  Preparing the bikes for night riding was on the agenda and so was sorting out new bottles and food.  Adam was keen for pizza and I made sure it was waiting for him in between laps.  The P4P team were smashing out the laps and amazingly Ben was riding his fastest laps in the dark even after riding throughout the day.  While the boys were tearing up the course, P4P co-founder Nigel was busy in the DJ tent busting out some phat beats.

Dargle Farm 2013 017.:DJ Nigel:.

As the night drew to a close, both Adam and Ben smashed out their final laps minutes before cut off time.  At the end of the night the course was closed and the presentations completed, there were smiling faces everywhere; and even a unicorn.

Dargle Farm 2013 022.:Unicorn:.

On the Sunday morning I packed up and headed for home feeling tired, sick and dejected.  After all my gear was cleaned and packed away I contemplated if I would ever attempt another 12 Hour race again.

It wasn’t until a few days later when some words of wisdom were imparted on me from fellow Bermer Kris:
“It’s good to have a failure race.  You need to know how it feels to DNF, to bonk, for little things to not work so when the time comes when it has to work you know how to fix it and deal with it.”