You know when you've caught too many flights to too many races when the wrong taxi turns up but you don't worry because the same thing has happened once before, and you discovered that it is possible to fit your bike box into a 2006 Toyota Camry sedan, all be it, hanging out the back precariously. You can tell exactly how much your bike box will weigh before it's even on the scales; depending on which bike it is, what you packed and whether your sleeping bag is in the box or your pack. You understand the fine line between keeping hydrated the day before a race and being so hydrated that you need to piss every five minutes on the flight. So the journey to my second Kona 24hr began.
My arrival in Melbourne and a well coordinated fly by pick up by Tom was ruined by an inept airline once again, managing to deliver my bike, but not my baggage. Luckily it arrived later that night as we were enjoying pizza, beer and sign-writing in preparation for the next day.
Early morning saw us off on the 180km journey to Forrest. Getting everything ready for the race was simple enough, l just briefed Langers on my eating preferences, race plan, bike set up and needs throughout the race, then chilled out till the gun went off.
I then rode as far as I could in 24 hours.
First lap = congo line. As usual, the first lap was a pain in the arse. With absolutely every one leaving at the same time, the first bottle neck turned into a stand still. It wasn't until after half way into the lap that we could really stretch our legs.
The daytime trail was good fun, with some very fast sweeping trails, long climbs and slow windy single-track. The terrain at Forrest was beautiful with few rocks and great tree cover varying from dry and open forest to tight rain forest type foliage. Of the dozen or so falls I had throughout the race I sustained virtually no abrasions, even when I landed on my face, the soil was very forgiving and there were virtually no rocks. I did break a rib, but this was purely due to my uncanny knack of crashing in the same spot four times, each fall harder than the last.
Each lap I was greeted at transition by Langers and Tom (the Cripple) holding a fresh bottle, pikelet sandwich, banana, satchels of Gu and lollies. I would literally stop and straddle my bike as the two of them would replace the bottle, empty my pockets of rubbish, refill them with food, lube my chain and wish me well. Sometimes I’d even get a baby wipe over my face. It was a slick operation and something I could never have done myself.
As the first half a dozen lapse clicked over the usual thoughts went through my mind. The doubts as to whether I’ll be able to keep it up, worry that I’m not pacing myself enough and anticipation of the inevitable depression that will hit sometime during a lonely night time lap. Little did I know that the thing that would ultimately bring me untied actually happened the night before, or more accurately, didn't happen; that being a good nights sleep.
I was very happy with my form as the day went on, although a little confused as to how the technical climbs were becoming easier, the laps seemed to be passing quicker and I was progressively feeling better rather than worse. Conversation flowed easily with other soloists, although some didn't want to give too much away and remained competitive even though there was eighteen hours of racing left. I feel that it is ultimately your body's choice to keep going, tactics don't even come into play in racing like this, it's just fueling your body well and pacing yourself really, but each to their own. I began to lap with a couple of soloists, one geared and one singlespeed, the company was invaluable and also made it easier to remain at a sustainable pace.
I was feeling great when we reached 5 pm and I stopped for a longer break and dinner, consisting of a coffee, pizza, fruit and anything else I could fit in for the long run. We transitioned to the night lap, which was of a similar length but without the fast flowing single track, making it safer and slightly easier for the night time racing. It was well designed and good fun, most people picking it as their favourite of the three courses.
The temperatures began to drop significantly and I layered up, my major priorities being to keep my feet legs and hands warm, the areas of my body that usually suffer the most on a frosty night.
As fatigue started to set in after 1 AM, I asked Langers to get me a coffee for my next transition. My eyes were starting to droop and that whole lap was spent dreaming of the taste and effect the fresh espresso that would be waiting for me. Transition came and I was told that the coffee van had closed minutes before my request, I was devastated. It was almost 3 am, I was slurring my words (and, according to Kim, babbling quite a bit), suffering motion sickness, and battling to keep my eyes open. It was more than just fatigue from riding, I was in real need of sleep. But, in an effort to fight through I headed out again.
My first crash came as a surprise, the ground seemed to come up and hit me before I could do anything about it. Winded and dazed I went on. The second crash was a result of a lack of concentration. The third, a micro sleep; and the fourth, I can't even remember. It was bed time and I had no choice.
All up, including an hour and a half of sleep and time for breakfast, I lost around three hours of trail time. I have to admit this frustrated me because the loss of time was not a result of poor diet, lack of training or even a mechanical; it was a simple lack of sleep the night before, something so simple.
Back out on the trail and I was worse for wear as the short break had let my aches and pains come to the surface. Most prominent was my arse chafing, but thankfully it settled down and all that was left to do was ride for another five hours. So ride I did. Last lap chatter consisted of a lot of complaining that the second daytime trail (the third variation of the race) was too hard. I liked it, although the fatigue was settling in and simple maneuvers were becoming an effort. It was fun to watch others crash though, as they went through the same ordeal.
I was greeted for the last time by Langers, this time with no Gu or bananas, just a beer.
It was the best race I’ve ever done. I outperformed my expectations, even with a disappointing nighttime effort. I suffered no ups and downs and finished with enough in me for another comfortable lap. Langers ran a super tight ship and provided perfect support, without which a soloist has no chance of surviving competitively.
So what were the stats? Position - 8th out of 38 riders in the geared solo category, approx 260 km ridden, 20 hours of riding, 28 satchels of Gu, one chafed arse, one broken rib and one gear all the way.
(Oh, and my arrival back in Townsville was great thankyou, sans bike and baggage again thanks to QANTAS!!!!!)