Well that couldn't have been planned any better. I checked my timetable last night to discover I had a day off uni today. Let's just say the legs are quite heavy and I don't plan on doing much more than eating, drinking and lazing around today. Will get out for a spin later though which will hopefully bring the legs back to life. Why you ask? The inaugural BHE marathon.
Close to 200 riders were greeted by perfect conditions, sunny and low 20's following a bit of rain the day before to dampen the trails and keep the dust down. 9.30am was race start and the gun went smack on time. Unfortunately, I'd entered the start area with only minutes to spare and had to start from the back. My plan for the day had been simply to sit on the back of the lead group as long as possible but with more than 100 riders between myself and them that was out the window. Riding in the scrub beside the starting fire roads I got to the front of the main bunch but the lead group of elite riders had already ridden away never to be seen again. So I settled into a group with World 24hr Masters Champion Craig Peacock along with fellow Master Brian John and our fixie riding friend Duncan Murray (who thankfully had decided on gears and brakes for today). I got a little gap on them in the first of the more than dampened by rain singletrack (read, extremely slippery) but ended up riding with them again after losing some time taking a wrong turn at Anderson's Garden and riding up an extremely steep fire road.
The bunch worked well until we hit the toughest climb of the day, 2km at I don't know what percent but I was glad I'd opted for the granny ring. Setting a steady pace I hit the mid climb plateau to find only Craig was with me and was quite keen for me to keep pushing as he saw an opportunity to gap his only competition in Brian. Myself, I was only happy to as I had a carrot up in front in the form of elite rider Erin Francis which meant the lead group wasn't far up the road. We crested the climb and I kept pushing, losing Craig but catching Erin. I soon learned the lead group was still a fair way ahead as Erin had lost time with a mechanical (American Classic Wheels, you know the rest). He was also able to tell me that I was either leading or 2nd in my category as there was only one person ahead that could have been riding in the 'Open Men'. We road together through the first feed zone and kept pushing, gaining a Veteran rider along the way and that was my bunch for most of the day.
Working well together we pushed through the second feed zone, and then disaster struck. We found ourselves back at a crossroads we'd already come through, yep, another wrong turn (or more correctly, a missed turn). Heads down, bums up and we'd ridden straight past the arrow. Anyway, the trusty volunteers (of whom there were plenty and all did a marvellous job) soon had the map out and we figured out were we'd gone wrong, retracing our steps we soon found the turn and set about blasting past those who hadn't missed the turn. We didn't know how many positions had been lost but we were certainly going past a few, the question was which categories they were racing. Through feed zone three to collect more of the muffins, danishes, endura gels and water that was on offer at every feed in this fully catered event and we set about section four which was billed as a tough one.
It was through this section that we lost Erin, Ashley (I think that's his name looking at results) and I with a bit more to ride for knowing that we were still in with a shot of a podium finish in our respective categories. Multiple times I thought, this climb will be the end of me, the very same thing being voiced by Ash. I'd got the early warning signs of cramp in the hamstrings and so was just concentrating on the pedalling technique (thankfully I did get through without cramping).
Feed zone four was a welcome sight - as it meant very little climbing remained. The shock though, now came a decent chunk of single track which wasn't exactly what the body was looking forward to, especially considering the damp conditions and the tyres much better suited to the majority of fire road the course had. I negotiated the crazily rutted descents very cautiously and was very impressed by Ash's skills as he road everything thinking I wouldn't see him again. Then we hit what was billed as the hundred dollar climb, that's right, $100 if you could ride it. No one could do it in the dry, and now in the wet, it was barely walkable. Eventually scrambling my way to the top (anyone want comedy, watch some lycra clad cyclists in cycling shoes try to walk up a steep muddy hill with their bikes, hilarious, unless it's you) it was back on the trusty duallie and I was on the downward run. As the first 10km of the race had been slightly uphill, the last 10km was all down, and it flew by. I caught Ash again, left him and tried to catch one more rider up ahead.
I didn't, losing out by three seconds on the line but luckily he was a Vet so didn't cost me a position. I ended up finishing in in 4 hours 15 minutes, 30 minutes down on the Elite and overall winner in John Claxton and a mere 7 minutes down on the Open winner in Elliot Long for 16th overall and 2nd in the Open category. Very happy with the ride but of course wondering just how much time I'd lost as 7 minutes would have been about right. I don't know how much distance it was but it was an extra 100 vertical metres climbing over the rolling hills after the missed turn. Props to Elliot though, as all reports had him riding extremely strong over the last climbs.
Thanks must go to Rohin and Bruce of BHE, Joel and his motoX mates for trying to keep the course marked with some troublesome motorists ripping down markings, all the volunteers for their support, the local bakery for the bakery treats, Endura for the gels, the Sleeman's for timing and giving me a lift out there. Finally Shannon at MTBPrecision, the bike was flawless - no mechanicals, and it always helps to have the mental comfort that you have the most reliable, stiff and light wheels around in Industry9 and the most powerful and light brakes around in the Formula Oro Puro. Both contributed greatly to keeping me as fresh as possible all day.
A final note, latex tubes are the bomb - after packing the bike in the back of Sleeman's ute I noticed something green on my tyre. On closer inspection, it was under my tyre, the tyre had been ripped open with the green goodness of the latex tube sticking through but did not puncture. At 125 grams they're light, they ride like tubeless in terms of comfort and rolling resistance and it looks to me like puncture resistance is pretty damn good.