Kowalski Classic 2015 Race Wrap Up

The inaugural Kowalski Classic, held in September 2012, was my first ever mountain bike race.  Barely a month before, I had bought a Giant Anthem X 29er and the furthest I had ridden on a mountain bike was 36km of half fire-road/half singletrack.

Kowalski Classic AI 004
.:Making something simple look so hard:. (Photo: Aurora Images)

I remember my poor pre-race prep, not enough of some things and too much of other things.  I remember riding the Kowalski Brothers’ Kowen Forest trails for the first time and being in awe, I also remember the incredibly painful cramping; followed by the days of DOMS after the race.

Kowalski Classic 021
.:Quads of fire:.

This was my first taste of mountain bike racing, and I liked it.  Fast forward three years and it was time to once again line up for another 50km Kowalski Classic.

Like my first ever race, my prep was lacking in a lot of areas.  Not enough kilometres in the legs and months of illness wasn’t going to help me get through the race.  A quasi-course-recce the week before helped and didn’t help.  My time off the bike had dented my confidence on the bike and the more technical aspects of the course were a concern for me on race day.

But I had to get on with it and with riding buddy Andy, it was soon time to get those legs spinning and those wheels turning.

KC15 002
.:Me & Gerard Butler… err Andy:. (Photo: Jodie)

The start was fairly relaxed with both of us finding our pace and warming up slowly.  A few climbs in and some flowing singletrack later, we were weaving our way to the front of our wave.  The banter between the riders was friendly and even some of the pseudo-hitters racing up from the back waves were polite prior to their inevitable blowing up.

.:Sweet Rocktape/gloves combo!:. (Photo: Aurora Images)

The journey to the 36km feed zone took in some of my favourite Kowen Forest tracks and the always painful Elevator switchback climb.

.:Mouth breathing since 2012:. (Photo: Aurora Images)

The last 14km of the course would take us through the contentious Romper Room and Stairway To Heaven; two of the more technical tracks on the course.  As expected there was a fair bit of walking and rider dodging on Stairway, but certainly not as bad as I expected.

After a little bit of a drop in my blood sugar level, a small pause was needed at the top of Stairway to have a little snack before heading towards the finish line.

.:Totes in the air:. (Photo: Aurora Images)

The last few kilometres was fast, flowing and fun; a great way to end a great day on the bike!

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Capital Punishment 2014 Wrap Up

I made the decision to not race to my Garmin GPS at around the 25km mark.  Prior to the 2014 Capital Punishment I had been carefully monitoring my heart rate, average speed and split times during training rides and races.  Every time I got on a bicycle and started riding I would keep my eyes glued to that little LCD display that was telling me all the information I thought I needed to know while riding.  Sure, there is some data that is useful while riding, but the majority of what a GPS/cycling computer can offer is done in post ride analysis.

My preparation for this year’s 100km event was somewhat ideal; some long road rides leading up; but probably not enough mountain bike endurance riding in my legs at the same time.  Between December and February I had been training quite intensively for the Easter 24 Hour Solos.  Alas, the race was cancelled for a variety of reasons and my motivation to train came to an abrupt halt.  My 400km weeks dropped to 200-250km weeks; while not exactly a tiny amount of riding, it was a struggle to get the bike out of the garage some days.

Couple this with one of my more impressive (read painful) crashes at the AMB 100 and I had effectively misplaced my Flow.  I needed something to look forward to and that came in the form of a 100km marathon race taking in the best of Canberra’s single-track and a few killer climbs.  Plus this was my first race in the new Soldier On cycling kit so I was excited about that.  Last year’s Capital Punishment was my first 100km mountain bike race and I loved it.  I rode my own race and only felt fatigued in the last 10km when I had to stop for some explosive vomiting action before the final descent to the finish line.

This year I set a few goals:
1)  Finish the raceIn the past 4 months I had finished only three out of seven races due to crashes or mechanical issues
2)  Race my own raceIt sounds strange, but to race and ignore all the other riders is a sure fire way to understand what your body and bike are capable of on the track
3)  Beat last year’s timeWhat is the point of racing the same event again if you don’t want to improve?

So in the days leading up to the race I formulated my nutrition/hydration plan, prepped Kate the XTC and finally registered for the race the day before.  Alas my excitement was replaced by a sense of WTF?!  This year’s Capital Punishment was a little different to last years and indeed almost all other marathon races.  Usually you choose which starting wave you want to begin in, turn up and start riding.  The Cap organisers implemented a new seeding system that would allow you to nominate which starting wave you wanted to be in; but also required proof of a similar distance and time.

Not an unreasonable request by any means and to be honest a real step forward in trying to combat over seeding.  Last year I started in Wave 5 out of 9.  I finished in just over six hours and caught the tail end of Wave 3.  Not bad for my first ever 100km race, but during that race I had also stopped to help an injured rider for approximately 30 minutes.  In most timed races there is a “Good Samaritan Clause” in which time spent helping an injured rider is taken off your overall time.  No worries I thought, I sent an email off to the organisers and received a reply that this would be sorted in the coming weeks.

Fast forward to 2014’s online registration and I self seeded in Wave 4 based on last year’s time and some of the enduros I had done in between.  Eventually I was seeded in Wave 6, with 300+ other riders… WTF?! Indeed!

So I lined up in the first few rows of the grid within the stupidly large wave and rolled across the start line.  After a few kilometres of fast fire road the Speedy Gonzales’s of the group were huffing and puffing and dropping back; and then we entered the Kowen Forest single-track.  As always the Kowalski Brothers trails were in immaculate condition and daring every rider to push their limits.  Kowen quickly transitioned into Sparrow Hill and I was riding my favourite trails in reverse; an amazing experience.

CP14 006.:Start of the 2014 Capital Punishment 100km:.

Capital Punishment 2014, 50km and 100km MTB.:Kowen Forest:.

Capital Punishment 2014, 50km and 100km MTB.:Sparrow Hill:.

I had been riding for just under an hour by the time we went under the Kings Highway and back into Kowen Forest.  By this stage my wave had well and truly spread out and it was obvious that the majority of us in the front group had been under seeded as we were already passing Wave 5 riders.  As I rounded a corner just before Quadrophenia I misjudged my entry into a short bridge and watched as my XTC tumbled past me as I hit the dirt with my shoulder then my knee and finally my shoulder again.  From crash to back on track I doubt I spent more than 30 seconds off the bike, but it was enough to wake me up and raise the heart rate.

Capital Punishment 2014, 50km and 100km MTB.:Kowen Forest:.

So with a sore shoulder, grazed forearm, grazed knee and a bruised ego; I set about reeling in the 5 or so riders that passed me after I crashed.  It was at this point I could clearly hear my heavy breathing and heart rate blasting in my ears.  My GPS was beeping at me as my heart rate had exceeded my ‘maximum’ of 180bpm and it was not dropping anytime soon.  As I approached the 25km marker sign I looked down at my sweat covered and dust encrusted GPS and pressed the ‘PAGE’ button.  Now all I could see was my elevation statistics, calories burned and the time.  I looked ahead and attacked the group that passed me just as a fire road climb appeared.

The next 20km’s was a blur of single-track, pine trees, fire road and climbs.  It was on the climbs that I found I was passing riders with different coloured race plates to mine; riders that had started one or two waves in front of me, some of who had started 20 minutes before me.  Clearly the seeding system was working fantastically!  My annoyance was soon replaced with surprise as I saw the 40km feed station appear after a hill and I realised I was well and truly ahead of my planned time at this point.  With the Sutton Forest section coming up with a few pinch climbs thrown in I knew I would be best served slowing to a comfortable pace and enjoying the race for the next several kilometres until I reached open fire road again.

And this is exactly what I did until I reached the Majura Military Training Area.  In hindsight I know I took it a little too easy on the Sutton Forest stretch but the fact I was able to walk without pain after the race tells me I made the right decision.  I pushed out a little on the fire roads and soon found myself crossing Majura Road and running a gauntlet of heavy construction vehicles to get over Mt Majura and into the untimed section for a refuel and slight rest.

By this stage last year I had walked two of the steeper pinch climbs in the Training Area and Mt Majura, this year I got out the saddle and pedalled my way up.  As I crossed the timing mat into the untimed section I was feeling pretty good but in dire need of a bottle change.  I rode briskly through the suburbs into Dickson and stopped at the second feed station.  Bermers Di, Ben and Maree were there with words of encouragement and after 15 minutes I turned around to see Bermer Alyssa pulling into the station behind me; wow, she was not mucking about!  I headed off to the start of the Black Mountain section and stopped to take advantage of some of what remained of the 55 minutes of un-timed section to have a bite to eat, nature stop and psych myself up for the next 30km that would be comprised of a lot more climbing.  Luckily I like climbing, I may not be the fastest climber but I have endurance and on long climbs I find I pass a lot of others that try to lead out early.

Black Mountain was fun; tough climbs up and loose sketchy descents down.  There was plenty of braking and skidding but by the time I was weaving through the cork plantation leading into the Arboretum I was still smiling.  Immediately after the cork trees disappeared the climb that almost made me swear last year came into view.  A long, loose and sometimes pinchy fire road that lead to a few shorter climbs.  I decided to attack this climb; I don’t know why, but something in my legs told me to do it.  I picked a gear and got out of the saddle and climbed.  Last year I walked most of this hill and this year I wanted to own it; albeit in my own slow and steady way.

The Arboretum was comprised of hot and dusty sections that lead into the Cotter Road tarmac section that took us into Mt Stromlo.  Last year this small stretch was difficult for me, I was running on near empty and it was a huge struggle to get my dual suspension Anthem, Zooey, to maintain any momentum.  The slow grinding climb this year was made slightly worse with a drive train that sounded like half of my bike was grinding against the bitumen.  As I entered Mt Stromlo’s first section of single track signalling I was nearing the last 12km of the race, my bottom bracket decided to start making life extremely difficult for me by partially seizing up.

Capital Punishment 2014, 50km and 100km MTB.:The National Arboretum:.

The free flowing tracks of Holden’s Creek and Fenceline were quick despite the horrible grinding noise coming from my bike; but it made the next 7km ascending the mountain terrible.  I had a choice of three gears in which my cranks would actually spin and allow me to continue moving forward.  I was out of the saddle most of the climb and by the time I reached the start of the Western Wedgetail and the welcome descent down the mountain my quads were burning.  I started the run home to the finish with a little tail whip (not my style but I figured why not) and hoped I wasn’t about to slow down any riders behind me.

Capital Punishment 2014, 50km and 100km MTB Capital Punishment 2014, 50km and 100km MTB Capital Punishment 2014, 50km and 100km MTB Capital Punishment 2014, 50km and 100km MTB.:Mt Stromlo:.

Skyline lead into Luge then Old Duffy’s Decent and finally the final stretch onto the crit track.  I had been passed by one rider on Luge and decided I wasn’t going to let this Wave 4’er beat me (despite the fact he started the race a good 15min before me) and pedalled as fast as my body would let me.  I bunny hopped the finish line and pulled up with a mean cramp in my left hamstring from the final sprint.  I was met by my wife and the few Bermers that had started and finished before me.  I was spent, but I was extremely happy; even more so when I found out I had finished under 5 hours.

CP14 008 CP14 011.:Finished!:.

A huge thank you to my wife, the volunteers, fellow Bermers and the other riders for an amazing event.

Training Week In Review – Week 5

For the first time in a long time I was looking forward to tackling another week on the bike. After taking a few hits mentally during the past couple of weeks it felt really good to want to spend more time in the saddle. Thanks to the previous week’s 250.3km of fairly high intensity riding I started the new week quite tender and fatigued.

While I had grand plans of long commutes on the roadie, Canberra decided it was going to be a very wet week with lots of fog. It is a fact that skinny tyres and wet/icy asphalt don’t mix so I prepped Zooey the Anthem with some lights, higher pressure tyres and dragged out my waterproof jacket.

I wanted to ride at least 50km each day while commuting; a goal I achieved on both Monday and Tuesday while riding in some light rain each time. Even at this early stage of the week I was feeling a lot of muscle fatigue but was still making gains while getting very wet and muddy.

Wednesday was dry enough that I was able to ride the roadie, but the aforementioned muscle fatigue was now in the fully fledged DOMS stage and any aspirations of a massive road ride were halted before the wheels began to even turn. But I still reached my 50km/day goal with a short commute into work and a longer commute home. I even managed to wash both Zooey and Sara taking advantage of the break in rain and brief sunshine.

Thursday was another mild Canberra day so I decided to take Kate the XTC into work. After riding Zooey and the ultra stiff (in a good way) Sara, riding Kate felt amazing. By swapping out a few components I’ve managed to keep my carbon hardtail under 10kg. With the front forks locked out and a good tucked position I quite often overtake most road bikes on the commuting climbs; something I relish doing. There’s nothing worse than tackling a long and difficult climb and having someone pass you looking cool, calm and collected. I aim to be that person; especially on a 29er while my prey is on a road bike sporting aerobars.

…But anyway, I took Kate to work on a particularly foggy morning the longish way and managed to push out 31.1km prior to work. On the way home my quadriceps were incredibly sore; but I wanted some off road time. A quick spin around the more fun tracks at Bruce Ridge went down a treat and I then headed off home covered in mud.

Thursday was also the day an article about my fundraising for Soldier On was printed in the Australian Army News.

Army News Jpeg

Friday was a complete wash out for commuting and to be honest I don’t think my aching legs had much more than a slow roll left in them. My bikes stayed at home and instead of riding I signed up for the JetBlack WSMTB 12 Hour at Dargle Farm on 10 August 2013. This will my first 12 hour and I’m looking forward to pushing myself over an extended period of time to test my body and mind before October’s Battle Of The Beasts.

This will also be my last race before my Wedding in September; so in some roundabout way the race will be my Buck’s Ride and I’m looking forward to spending the weekend riding with some of my good friends from The Berm.

At the end if this week I managed to push out 215.3km in four days riding.

Next week will be a much smaller week for riding as I only intend to ride on Sunday due to spending some time on my board in the snow.
Snow Gear

Training Week In Review – Week 4

Week 4 was going to be a larger week for the numbers from the get go.  I needed to break past 150km; a weekly goal I had only achieved once in the past three weeks.

I had decided I was going to spend more time on the road bike, but also knew I didn’t have the endurance to smash out the long rides I wanted to do.  My fitness has improved dramatically over the past few weeks but my quads are constantly screaming at me for a rest.  The only option was for some good paced commuting to work.

Monday I took the roadie to work along the short commute racking up 18.6km in the chilly Canberra morning air.  On the ride home I took in a more scenic 30.1km around a bit of LBG and exploring some of the bike paths near my suburb.

Tuesday was the day my beloved Kate was booked in for her first service at Onya Bike Civic.  I had experienced a fair bit of gear skipping during the previous Sunday’s CORC XC race at Kowen Forest.  As always the service, both mechanical and customer, was first rate and I soon had a singletrack eating machine firing at 100%…. Well for a about 6km of Bruce Ridge actually!  I managed to clip a stray fallen branch and snapped a spoke on my Crank Brothers Cobalt 29er front wheel.  After cutting my ride short at 7.1km I managed to fix the spoke with a spare included with the wheels.

Wednesday was a short commute to and from work on Zooey my Giant Anthem X 29er…  Not a lot to say about this apart from riding a 29er dualie on the road is a lot harder than sub 10kg road bike running 110psi.  I earned those 38.6km!

Thursday’s commute to work was on the roadie in subzero temperatures.  I was relatively warm in my leg warmers and wind-stopper; but still had ice on my legs when I arrived at work.  The commute home was a shit-fight of epic proportions; twin punctures, spat at by a bogan and a small stack due to a moron who didn’t have her inbred dog on a leash. <end rant>

Friday saw a ride to work in subzero temps and some incredibly thick fog!  There was even plenty of ice on my legs and crotchular region!
Ice Crotch
The ride home was almost as big of a fail as the previous day.  The dirty little secret of Canberra cycling community is the abundance of glass littered in cycle lanes and cycle paths.  There is a stupidly large amount that never gets cleaned up because TAMS (Territory & Municipal Services) couldn’t give a rat’s arse!
TAMS Tweet

<end rant>
After copping my fifth puncture in two days I called the girly and got picked up 2km from home.

Saturday was supposed to be a few laps of Mt Stromlo with some of the guys and girls from The Berm, but alas due to an oversight in forgetting my front wheel thru-axle that plan was aborted and I ended up riding in the afternoon.
My ride around Bruce Ridge and to home pushed me over my 200km goal for the week.

The close of the week saw a ride into Bruce Ridge and a spin around the grippy singletrack before the usual breakfast at Edgar’s and a steady ride in the pouring rain to home.

By the time my all my bikes had been cleaned and stowed away, I had amassed 250.3km for the week.  All in all I didn’t push myself too had and despite a few mechanical issues with two of my bikes I was happy with the end result.

Stable

Recovery Week In Review – Week 6

It has been two months and two days since I crashed at Mt Stromlo during Round 10 of the 2012/2013 CORC XC Series.  During that time I’ve been trying to get back to my pre-injury fitness by slowly building my strength and endurance levels.  Between 1 January 2013 and 14 April 2013, when I crashed, I was averaging 250km per week on the bike.  I had ridden in the Mont 24 Hour, 100km Capital Punishment, some short course XC races and plenty of 70km+ rides on both the roadie and MTB.  In total I had ridden 2’242.4km in just over four months.

It’s no secret that I ride bikes as a form of therapy and rehabilitation.  Exercise is an amazing tool to soften the edge of anxiety and depression.  Mountain biking is something I can fully immerse myself in; the riding, the technology, the competitiveness and the social scene.  Canberra has an amazingly inclusive and tight-knit mountain biking community.  One of the reasons why I have enjoyed riding so much these past nine months (the first time I ever road singletrack was on 9 September 2012 at Bruce Ridge) is because of the people I have met and ridden with from The Berm.  It doesn’t matter if you are a novice or an elite rider, if you enjoy riding you are welcomed with open arms.

So this week was supposed to be the start of my new training regime.  The plan was to restart my daily commuting on the roadie and get as much singletrack in between as the girly would tolerate.  I have a lot of ground to make up and the weather in Canberra is not very accommodating; we have had a lot of rain and sub-zero temperatures.  This past week I have woken up, checked the weather on my iPhone and walked onto the balcony to gauge my tolerance of the early morning temperature.  Only once did I brave the cold and ride to work.

I did however use every opportunity before and after the heavy midweek rain to ride my new Giant XTC 29er 1 – Kate.  I managed to get a couple of rides in at Mt Stromlo, two at Bruce Ridge and two at Sparrow Hill/Kowen Forest.  For my sixth week of recovery riding I ended up having my second biggest week in the saddle since my crash.  After today’s 66.6km road ride around Lake Burley Griffin I amassed 209.1km.

So after six weeks of Recovery Riding I am now transitioning  in Training Riding.

Rec Week 6 03