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.

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Training In Review – Update #1

Training – Week 2 – Backing Up A Big Week
After riding 406.9km the week before I was keen to continue the big kilometres – but my quads had other ideas.

I needed to take it easy and was still finding my groove in the new training program.  I mixed the week up with road riding on Sara and dirt commuting on Emma; this seemed to work and by mid week I was finding my rhythm and spending some much needed time in saddle.

Although I was still in a base-building phase in my training (basically just riding as much as I could handle) I decided to inject some heart-rate zone training into my program.  This proved to be beneficial as I was starting to understand and put into practice the basic ideas of endurance training; something that I will need as second nature during the 24 hour solo.

BIKES 130.:Posing on the Centenary Trail:.

By the time I washed my bikes ready for the next week of riding I had chalked up 402.6km – another 400km week.

Training – Week 3 – A Heatwave Hits Canberra
The weather forecast was not looking promising for a big week on the bike.  Sure I could have just gotten on with it, but was riding in 40’C really worth it this early in my training program; no!

So I got up early and rode to work the long way before the heat kicked in.  Having ridden over 800km in the previous two weeks I was finding it harder to ride for long distances.  My knees were aching and my quads were sore to the touch.  So I backed off a bit and finished up with 302.5km for the week.

BIKES 132.:47.5’C on the ride home was horrible:.

Training – Week 4 – #Winning
The week started off with the aim of riding more on Kate the XTC.  I intentionally kept within my ideal heart-rate zone in order to build endurance on the mountain bike.  Surprisingly, riding at a slower pace with a consistent cadence and heart-rate you are are actually faster over longer distances.  There is less recovery time needed as the higher intensity intervals are no longer there so you can just keep pedalling for as long as you want.

I kept to the bike paths early in the week to get my cadence and heart-rate dialled in before switching to dirt and putting the same principles into action.  I quickly found my rhythm and was finding my new riding style a lot easier to manage and exactly what I would need in a few months time.

I took Friday off work and headed out to Mt Stromlo for a training ride with the focus on climbing and endurance.  My aim of 50km was cut short at 35km after it started hailing and the trails became a mixture of mud and ball-bearing like grip.

image.:Fenceline at Mt Stromlo:.

On Saturday I returned to Mt Stromlo and set off for a high intensity ride with a focus on climbing up the mountain with a red-zone heart-rate.  The ride was going extremely well and I was enjoying the heavy sweating and throwing my bike around the trails with renewed confidence.

On my second lap of the course I was riding up Blackberry Climb when I met a Red Belly Black snake on the trail.

My Pics 044 My Pics 045.:And that’s what a snakebite looks like:.
My Pics 046.:Chilling at in the Calvary Hospital Emergency Department:.

Long story short: I was bitten but not envenomated by the little snake.  It did however mean an enforced but not unwanted rest day off the bike.

At the end of my fourth week of training for the Easter 24 Hour Solo’s I rode 224.5km.  While it is a smaller amount than previous weeks I achieved a lot of goals and learnt some valuable lessons on and off the bike.

Training In Review – Looking Towards My First 24 Hour Solo

Another Blog series about training! Gah! Why!?
Well its all part of the training that’s why!  Motivation is one of the key components to sticking with a training program; especially one in its infancy.

I find it easier to continue with a training program if I can share the highs and lows with others.  But this time around I won’t be subjecting the masses to weekly updates (to be honest I struggled writing a new piece each week last time) instead I’ll be doing semi regular updates detailing key milestones, mishaps and interesting things.

So welcome to my new series on my lead up training to my next big event…
The OnyaBike 2014 Australian Solo 24 Hour MTB Championships held over the Easter weekend.

Don’t let the Championship part fool you, there will be no riding for a fairytale podium finish; focus more on the Solo 24 Hour part!
Yes that’s right, I am aiming to ride in my first 24 hour solo race, so naturally I have to do some serious training for this upcoming pain train.

Training – Week 1 – The Long Journey Begins
After a fairly relaxed Christmas break in Brisbane riding in the stifling heat (by Canberra standards anyway) and climbing up the never ending series of steep hills I was in pretty good shape fitness wise to tackle my first week of training for the Easter solos.

With a few days left before I had to go back to work for 2014, I decided I wanted to put some extra kilometres under the tyres and set a big total for the week.  What I didn’t expect to do was ride more in the first week of my training than I have ever before.

Monday saw 87.3km on Kate the XTC during a ride to and from Mt Stromlo.  It was a hot day and I didn’t drink enough fluids.
BIKES 115.:Kate posing at Mt Stromlo:.

However I backed it up on Sara the Defy with a 100.3km ride around Canberra on Tuesday.
BIKES 116.:Sara chilling by the lake:.

Wednesday was a New Years Day ride at Mt Stromlo with some of the more dedicated The Berm crew (well those that didn’t race at the Wicked Wombat in Jindabyne the day before).  I rode 27.2km of sweet Stromlo singletrack to ring in the 2014!
BIKES 119.:A fine looking bunch of sober cyclists:.

Thursday and Friday saw the return to work for the new year and joining the Canberra cycling commuting community once again.  In two days I added another 97.2km to the weeks total, just 2.8km short of what I was aiming for.
BIKES 121.:Somewhat hot on Friday afternoon:.

Saturday saw a new bike join the stable and some short rides around Mulligans Flat dialling it in and trying to set some new Strava PR’s!
BIKES 122.:Introducing Emma!:.

As usual Sunday morning comprised of my regular Sunday Morning Social and Breakfast ride with The Berm crew.  A relaxed 56.3km in the morning followed up with a brisk 8.9km in the afternoon on the brand new Emma.

At the end of my first week actively training with a semi-set program and a clear end goal to achieve, I rode 406.9km.

Battle Of The Beasts 2013 – Wrap Up Video

A brief video of my journey through the Battle of the Beasts so far.

The Week After The Beast

The week after riding The Beast has been a quiet one.  As with last year I didn’t actually start feeling any muscle soreness until 2 days after the race and to be honest I wasn’t exactly chomping at the bit to get back in the saddle.

I spent Monday at home cleaning up after a big weekend of riding.  My bike was filthy and sounded extremely second hand and needed a thorough clean and mini-service.  The bike wasn’t the only thing in need of a going over; I finally trimmed my hobo beard right down and had my first haircut in almost 3 months.

BOTB 13 099.:The dirty bike post Beast:.

My Crank Brothers wheel-set has taken a beating these past few months and the rubber on them barely survived the Namadgi trails.  So the tyres came off and went in the bin, while I scoured Canberra’s bike stores for a set of tubeless rubber.  Alas the four shops I visited didn’t have the tyres I wanted so I resorted to buying a set on-line and placed my spare wheels and tubed tyres back on Kate the XTC for the interim.

My first ride for the week was a short pedal up and down Mt Stromlo that ended with me riding straight into a tree on the second half of Luge.  While there was no real damage to person or bike it highlighted how in tune I had become with my XTC with tubeless setup that when I put on the stock wheels I was inches off my normal lines.

Not to be deterred I headed back out on Saturday afternoon on Zooey the Anthem.  She is a great bike especially going downhill where her dual suspension absorbs much of rough riding Western Wedgetail, Skyline, Luge and Duffy’s Descent throws at you.

BIKES 104.:Zooey On top of Mt Stromlo:.

At the end of the week I only rode twice for a measly 23.9km in total.

The time off the bike wasn’t for naught with a lot of time spent emailing the Beast-Worx and Soldier On crews about the previous weekend’s riding, fundraising, upcoming Call of the Beast and of course more Riding For Soldier On.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA.:Nearing the end of The Beast:.

BOTB 13 101.:Congratulating Adam “Rocket” Rolls on his hard-earned 7th place:.

BOTB 13 111.:My right up in the Battle of the Beasts post race report:.

Battle Of The Beasts 2013 Wrap Up

The lead up to this years Battle of the Beasts was an enormous challenge for me.  My primary aim was about raising awareness and fundraising for Soldier On; of which I increased my efforts ten-fold from last year.  I spent a good 6 months fundraising and helping to raise the profile of Soldier On before I even thought about how I was going to tackle a huge weekend of riding.

The Fundraising
I’ve written at length about why I ride for Soldier On, so I’ll skip that part.  In early April this year I approached Soldier On about producing a cycling jersey that I could wear while commuting, training and racing.

BOTB 13 035.:Soldier On at the Battle of the Beasts 2013:.

While Soldier On had a fairly comprehensive list of merchandise the one thing they didn’t have was a cycling jersey; and I figured the running shirt I wore last year wasn’t going to cut it for comfort and practicality.  So with the help of Meredith and John from Soldier On we came up with a design and had a set of jerseys made by On The Go Sports.

SG020.:Soldier On Jersey at the Scott 25hr:.

In just a few weeks of wearing the jersey in Canberra I had drummed up enough interest about my riding and Soldier On that it was time to start a Facebook page to get the word out to a wider audience.  So suddenly I was a mediocre mountain biker representing a charity whose mission it is to better the lives of wounded servicemen, servicewomen and their families.

It took me quite a while to realise that I was in fact one of these Soldiers that Soldier On aims to help.  And each and every-time I put on the jersey I was showing the public and other veterans that you can empower yourself with something as simple as riding a bike.

When it came time to register for the Battle of the Beasts, I signed up for both days of riding; the 42km Flowing Beast and the 72km The Beast.  The decision to ride both races was an easy one; I rode one race last year, so this year it was only natural that I would ride two races.  With the ongoing support from Luke and Dan from Beast-Worx, and John, Meredith and Anna from Soldier On; I started my 2013 fundraising campaign.

Regular updates on this Blog, Facebook, my fundraising page and Twitter became the norm.  Soon I was attracting “likes” and “followers” from as far away as the USA and slowly the donations started to trickle in.

I wanted to branch out more this year so I contacted a number of Defence-aligned companies and local Canberra businesses.  Out of the 27 companies/businesses I contacted only stepped up and helped out.  Pushys Bike Warehouse at Fyshwick supported me by providing awesome deals on products in store that kept my bike rolling.

Of the other companies/businesses only 6 replied; with 2 of the replies bordering on offensive to not only my request for support but to all Veterans of Australia.

The Lead Up Training
From the moment I decided to ride The Beast again I knew I would have to actually train for this years race.  Last year I lost almost 7kg through sweating, vomiting and post race bleeding from the kidneys (clearly my hydration/nutrition plan was a failure).

BOTB 048.:Post Beast 2012:.

Despite riding to work and racing quite regularly I knew I would have to put more kilometres of dirt under the tyres with more emphasis on climbing.  So I started a 4 month training regime; and posted my weekly training updates on this blog.  As the weeks turned to days and then to hours before the first race of the Battle of the Beasts weekend; I knew I was fitter and more mentally prepared for this years event.

The Preparation
My prep was simple; working bike, working body and enough fuel to keep that body going.  I had spent a lot of time working out what was the best way for me to keep hydrated and fuelled through a lot of trial and error.  I sat down the day before the Flowing Beast and mapped out a plan for both days of riding; and I’m very happy to say I stuck to the plan for The Beast.

The Flowing Beast on the other hand…well I’ll get to that soon.

The Flowing Beast – Saturday 19 October 2013
First of all I didn’t intend to actually race the 42km course.  With the Beast the next day and being fairly warm and sunny; I thought it best if I just pedalled around the course for two laps and saved my legs for the next day.

BOTB 13 047.:Drumming on the bars waiting for the race start:.

BOTB 13 052.:And we’re off for the Flowing Beast:.

Well the original plan went out the window as soon as I found myself passing the majority of the field on the first fire-road climb.  Somehow I was in the lead pack just behind the Dynamic Motivation crew.   As we entered the first lot of singletrack I back off a bit and let a few riders pass; but I soon chased them back down as we entered the second half of the 21km course.

BOTB 13 057.:Brettski was out taking photos on the course… Pushing up the hill lap 1:.

As I headed through transition and swapped out bottles I found myself alone as I started the climbs of the first half of the course.  I kept looking behind me and anticipated the inevitable call of “track” signalling a faster rider was bearing down on me.  For the first time in a race ever, this didn’t happen.  In fact I started passing more and more riders as the end of the race drew closer.

BOTB 13 065.:Brettski was out taking photos on the course… A little more pain this time on lap 2:.

I knew I wasn’t going to catch the elite riders but I also knew I was going to post a good time so I pushed on and ended up catching the race sweep before changing to the big ring and powering up the final climb and towards the finish line.

BOTB 13 060 BOTB 13 062.Crossing the finish line:.

By the end of the race I had ridden 44.2km in 2hr39min.  An effort I was very happy with; but something I would undoubtedly regret the next day when my legs would start screaming at me.

Something I’ve been doing lately is taking before and after race photos.  Below is my before and afters of the Flowing Beast; I lost 2.7kg during the days riding.

BOTB 13 045.:Before the race:.

BOTB 13 063.:After the race:.

The Beast – Sunday 20 October 2013
Fizz from The Berm said of last years race: “there are those that have done the Beast event, and those that have not“.  To be honest he is right.

Many riders complained before last years race that 72km on a fire-road was too easy.  Well considering the number of DNF’s for the race was in double figures I wasn’t surprised to hear the same people complain that it was too hard by the end of race day.

I wasn’t physically or mentally prepared for last years race but I finished and that was something I was incredibly proud of.  Along with finishing the race I raised $5’702 for Soldier On; which made the blood, sweat and tears worth it.  As I detailed in my 2012 wrap up it was the hardest thing I had done physically outside of the Army.

The day started with the long drive out to Caloola Farm and re-registration.  I had left my race plate on my bike from the previous day and considering it was attached to the roof of my car; it didn’t survive the drive home.

I attached the new race plate to Kate and set out to mingle with some of the other riders and the Soldier On crew.

With the bike ready, knicks and jersey on it was time for the pre-race brief from Beast-Worx Luke.  Along with the obligatory course info and safety brief; Luke called me out in front of the other riders and explained about Soldier On and introduced me and spoke briefly about my fundraising efforts.

BOTB 13 072.:Out the front with Luke:.

Minutes later we were lined up near the start point.  Last years Beast’s Jeremy Ross and Anne Broadbent soon headed off with the elite pack chasing a few minutes later.

BOTB 13 077.:The start line:.

After the elites had crossed the first creek the rest of the pack headed off.  I had a plan committed to memory; I had broken the course down to 15km sections with an average speed and time-frame to achieve.

BOTB 13 084 BOTB 13 085.:I started with Adam “Rocket” Rolls before he powered off into the distance:.

Even after riding the Flowing Beast the day before I felt somewhat fresh and watched as the kilometres started increasing on my GPS.  With a different bike, sans Camelback and with a lower temperature and cloud cover this year; I was soon reaching checkpoint after checkpoint and riding up climbs I walked the year before.  On the steep climbs I did walk; I only dismounted when my speed dropped lower than I could walk pushing the bike.

With just two bottles on board I monitored my fluid intake carefully.  Despite the lower temperatures I kept to my plan and consumed food and water to plan and stopped at each checkpoint to refill my water.  While riding with last years riding-buddy Argo; I was making good time and resisted the temptation to push out.

Last year Argo took the lead and I followed him; without his encouragement I doubt I would have finished.  But this year I had to tackle this course on my own; I needed to tame The Beast solo and soon I found myself climbing the steep inclines and braving the steep declines by myself.

I was methodical in sticking with my riding plan and didn’t alter from it until the final 8km of the course.  After getting up Mt Soldier On by jogging to each water bar, resting for a count of ten and then repeating.  I was soon on the way to the finish line.  I had a moment of pure elation when I rode on the track named after me, “Dobbsie’s Run”, and screamed out a “F**k yeah!” for all the valley to hear.

I sped down the hill to the final checkpoint and refilled both of my bottles with the intention of throwing my riding plan to the wayside.  I had a time-frame I wanted to finish in and I was nearing the start of that bracket.  So I zipped up my jersey, changed into the big ring and started pushing to the end.

For the next 7km I didn’t see or hear another rider.  I ignored my GPS and pushed past my intended speed and soon I could see the main fire-road that would take me back to the event centre and the finish line.  Soon the last few kilometres disappeared, I hit the grass and rode under the finish line banner to end The Battle Of The Beasts for 2013.

BOTB 13 088 BOTB 13 089 BOTB 13 090.:And just like that, it was over:.

It was a good feeling to finish and an even better feeling to know I wasn’t completely spent and had shaved off over an hour off of my time from the previous year.

image.:Before the Beast:.

image.:After the Beast:.

image.:After the first bit of real feed post race:.

The Wrap Up
I’ve read a few race reviews and wrap ups from other riders since the race finished. While most riders get the point of the race some others don’t seem to. It is not designed to be a test of endurance to rival the harsh conditions that servicemen and servicewomen face on deployment. If that was the case there would be the ever present risk of improvised explosive devices, indirect fire, small arms fire and multitude of other dangers that are thrown at our men and women in uniform. And believe me; no one that has ever experienced this would like to see others subjected to it.

The is a race designed to test you both physically and mentally by giving you an opportunity to tackle an incredibly difficult ride and raise much needed funds for Solider On. By completing The Beast you achieve what many others won’t attempt; you tame Your Beast. This race is designed to try and break you mentally, this race wants you to fail, and this race puts climbs in front of you that many people wouldn’t even consider riding. But by crossing that finish line you achieve what the Beast-Worx team wanted you to experience; you found that little something deep within that you rarely let out; you pushed through the pain and emotion and achieved your goal.

This is why we choose to ride The Beast; not because it is easy; but because it is difficult and because we need to test ourselves to be better.

Training Week In Review – Week 16

Week 16 was my week of training and preparation for the Scott 25 Hour.  The week started with a long weekend in Canberra thanks to Family & Community Day on the Monday.  So what better way to commemorate than to go for a spin around Kowen Forest/Sparrow Hill.

With fellow Bermers Roger, Tony, Alyssa and last years Battle of the Beasts riding buddy Argo; I enjoyed 34.7km of my favourite trails.

Wednesday was my first night ride at Bruce Ridge, partaking in the Regular Berm Loam’n’Lard ride.  A great ride followed by an awesome chicken schnitzel at Edgars Inn afterwards.

I stayed off the bike until Saturday morning when the Scott 25 Hour began at Mt Stromlo.  I rode a total of 111.5km during the Scott and a total of 167.3km for the week.  Not a bad second week on the bike after taking a month off.

If you want to read my wrap up of the Scott 25 Hour 2013 click here!!

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

Training Week In Review – Week 15

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!

BIKES 098

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.

BIKES 100

Training Week In Review – Week 11

A good training regime is broken down into many parts.  It’s not just the riding and strengthening of muscles that gets you fit; there’s nutrition, hydration, rest, and mental preparedness.

I try to find a balance with all of these things and pay particular attention to my nutrition; I am usually pretty disciplined with my meals and race preparation.  Anyone that has sat down and ate with me will know I eat a lot.  The average person consumes around 8’000kj daily; including approximately 300g of carbohydrates.  When I’m riding a lot I can consume more than double that amount; and if I’m including gym work at least 3 days a week I can sometimes triple the daily averages.  This is a good and bad thing.  I’m getting the fuel my body needs; but I’m also speeding up my already fast metabolism.  Because of this it’s very difficult for me to gain weight so I sit anywhere between 74-77kg.

Lately I’ve been eating a lot and not riding as much hoping this would help me put on some weight.  Having overcome a fairly serious muscle tear in my chest; I’ve started light weights again with the aim of building more upper body strength.  So far it’s working as my left shoulder/chest/neck feels really good after ditching the chest brace I’ve been wearing for the past 4 months.

This last week was a testing week more than anything else.  As I’m about to spend almost a month off the bike and out of training I didn’t want to smash myself into the ground.  Instead I spent the few days I had on the bike testing out a new nutrition/hydration mix and enjoying the brilliant Canberra weather.

At the JetBlack WSMTB 12hr, fellow Bermer Adam told me about his beverage mix of choice; Perpetuem.  We have similar sporting backgrounds in endurance running and cycling and have very similar body and fitness types.  I often get cramps when I ride long distances and increasing electrolytes doesn’t really help me.  After doing some research I discovered that while my hydration was pretty spot on, my nutrition was way out.  Ordinarily over an endurance race you rely on caffeinated energy gels and sugar snacks to keep you going.  Some people eat bananas, but considering I’m somewhat allergic to potassium; explosive diarrhoea and vomiting while riding makes bananas are a no-go.

I trialled Perpetuem over two different rides earlier this week.  All of the CORC XC races are short-course races where I’ll ride at maximum intensity anywhere between 10-20km.  This quickly saps my energy levels and I get very few opportunities to drink.  So on Monday I went for a short spin of Bruce Ridge where I rode short stints at maximum effort and tried the new bidon full of Perpetuem.  The drink itself is a milky, fuller mixture and is quite filling.  It’s more like a meal replacement drink without the dairy feel to it, however there was no after taste and I felt hydrated.  It passed the test for short-course.

On Tuesday I went for a longer endurance ride of Mt Stromlo.  52km of medium to high intensity riding on a beautiful sunny Canberra day.  It was a perfect opportunity to test out my hydration/nutrition for endurance rides.  While I was struggling a bit in my last few kilometres I was pretty happy with the plan I came up with and will certainly put it into effect during my next enduro; the Scott 25 Hour at Mt Stromlo.

BIKES 097.:A perfect Canberra day at Mt Stromlo:.

Wednesday was a difficult day to get back on the bike after the previous day’s ride.  My legs were tender and my lower back was a little tight.  But I headed out for an easy loop of Kowen Forest/Sparrow Hill.  Once I was weaving around the pine trees I started to push out.  All was going well until I hit Rolling Thunder and decided a good old fashioned Strava run was in order.  The track was surprisingly loose and I took a corner a little too fast.  Cue some heavy rear braking and then some sideways action and I was looking at tree coming towards me at speed.  All I could think of was “save the carbon bike” so I did my best Neo impersonation and put my hand out in defiance.  I hit the tree with my hand and ended up on the ground; body and bike intact.  It was at this point that I decided to end both my day and week on the bike.  With only a few days until my Wedding and a heart-racing close call already I thought it best not to tempt fate with any more time in the saddle.

Ride By
.:Don’t blink:.