Sunday, 2 July 2006

Sunday 2 July 2006 - Coffs Harbour Mountain Bike Marathon

It's been a while coming, but here's a ride report for the Coffs Harbour Mountain Marathon.

It was a 100Km race through the hills behind Coffs Harbour and Nana Glen on the first weekend of July.

The day started crisp and cold - and that was near the beach at Coffs. I drove over the ranges inland to Nana Glenn showground (Russell Crowe's "home" town), and on the way the temperature dropped from a cool 9 to 3, 2 then 1 degree at the showground for the race start. The sun was still behind the hills and fog was still sitting on paddocks around us. As the 180 or so riders got their bikes out and kitted up, there was a slight reprieve and it seemed to lift a degree or two. I did a couple of kay’s as a warm up, but by the end my feet were numb and my face felt like it was about to crack up. Oh the joy, and I hadn't climbed a hill yet.

After a short delay for the start, suddenly they did a 10,9,8 count down and we were all off. It started with a 3k flattish section, and everyone hustling for a decent position. My HRM went straight to 160, as I tried to get into a decent position before we hit the first of the hills.. so much for my plan of "pace myself in the beginning"... and keep below 145!

It was about 12 years since I'd raced competitively and suddenly I remembered why... all those seriously fit (and young) guys that do serious training do this sort of thing. Hmmmm what am I doing here?

The first "hill" was a 45 min, 12k grind. My plan was to pace myself for the first 50-60k then see what I could do with the last 40. The pace was pretty hot, and there were tight cut-off times at the one and two third checkpoints. If we didn't get in by the cut off time, we’d get diverted back to the start. From the top of the first "hill" we descended down some gnarly fire trail into the next valley. Suddenly the "heavy" Turner came into its own territory, and I made up some time on the racing whippets. The descent came to a sudden end with a foot deep, wide water crossing. Wet feet were inevitable, and sub-zero mountain water brought me back to my senses. Bugger, had just warmed up.

The course undulated through the next valley along a mix of firetrails, some downhill sketchy gravel fire road was interesting as I was drifting around a wide corner on the edge of traction when a family 4WD appeared out of nowhere in the middle of the road, kind of right on my line. Somehow I made it round but probably left them with an image of desperation that wasn't the best ambassador-ship for mtb!

The valley gave way to some overgrown fire trail that was really sweet single track. Good grip, undulating and a steady climb. The pack had spread out and where I was in the field (about 2/3 down), there were clumps of two and three riders. Before long I hit the half way point on the top of the second ridge. At this point I had ridden close to 3 hours at an average heart rate of 150, and was starting to feel it. I had some food, a bit of a stretch and carried on my way after convincing myself I couldn’t chicken out now and take the “easy” short cut back to the start. I'd been pacing with a couple of other guys and we took off down another excellent descent. A mix of old and new fire road, single track, water bars, blind corners, creek crossings, wheel swallowing ruts etc. I survived to the bottom with a few moments, and made up a few places. (Go the Turner!) Into another valley and ....mud, more mud and wheel sucking ...mud. The bike put on a few kilos, and seemed to grind forward. It soon cleared, but the extra effort brought a new level of pain .... cramps. My quads were saying enough, but there was 30k and another ridge to climb over. The track turned into some of the sweetest single track - like Ourimbah for a few kay’s, and that gave me new wind. It soon passed as we began the "big climb" - 10km of uphill grind.

My quads were burning, but I pushed through, and by the top had picked off about 12 riders. Happy with that! The final 12km descended the initial climb and was a welcome blast through the rainforest down to Nana Glen. Did the final 3k hardly able to push on pedals without cramps locking me up.

Arrived at the finish without ceremony, in 6h 14m the young un's having finished over an hour before.

Didn’t totally disgrace myself in my age group though :)



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