Sunday, November 14, 2010

Canberra: WSC 2010

Time seemed to speed up during the weeks before I left for Canberra... days passed in a whirl of list writing, planning, replacing worn out bike parts and wondering just what I was getting myself in to! A week before the race we loaded up the van, said goodbye to the cat and headed for the airport – and crossed the first major hurdle when we arrived in Sydney and collected my bikes, which had survived the journey with no damage. Phew!
My first impression of the track was that it wasn’t too bad... then we headed up the hill and started to meet some rocks, some switchbacks, more rocks and a couple of fairly tricky sections. A quick check of the map showed that these were still the ‘easy’ trails! Then I met the infamous Pork Barrel trail. Rocky steps, rock rollovers, rocks... you get the picture. I think the polite way to describe the effect that it had on me would be ‘character building’ – in other words it scared the pants off me! In general the track was a lot tougher (technically) than I had bargained for. Lisa arrived on Thursday and somehow convinced me to ride the entire track – not in one hit, though – and, although I managed, I was a shaking, nervous, exhausted mess afterwards... technical riding requiring bravery has never been one of my strong points! At this point I realised exactly what I had gotten myself in to and was feeling pretty out of my depth.
Race day arrived all too soon... after a stressful morning we set up in Solo Pit Row... the bikes and I were as ready as we could be, so nothing more to do than catch up with a few of the kiwis while the clock counted down to the start. Le Mans starts are not my favourite thing; it seemed to take forever to shuffle along the couple of hundred meters from the start to where Lisa was holding my bike, then I was on board and away. Nothing to do now but pedal... the first lap was fairly awkward – passing, being passed, queuing for single track and the general sorting out that happens in this kind of race, multiplied several times due to rider numbers! The day got hotter and hotter and I started to feel thirsty, although I was getting through my bottles on every lap. I was riding all but one of the ‘scary’ sections and started to feel like maybe I belonged out on the track after all and started to enjoy myself after about 5 hours. I was lapped by several of the elite/faster NZ riders & exchanged words of encouragement – they all seemed to be riding really well. No real incidents before dark – just an early fall which resulted in a broken bottle cage and some repair work for the pit crew... and a lesson for me in drinking from a bottle in my pocket!
Unfortunately the technical track took its toll and by 10pm I was making all kinds of silly mistakes, falling over in easy corners and doubting my ability to clear the gnarlier rocks... I was really disappointed to be riding less than I felt I ought to be, although the track had deteriorated it was still rideable – just not by me in that mental state. I can usually ride through that kind of mental ‘fog’ – but normally it comes on much later and I was convinced that I’d crash monumentally on the unforgiving rocks. The long laps made the night seem to pass quickly... I didn’t see any snakes, although I was looking out for them, but I did see plenty of spiders, centipedes and some enormous ants. I knew that sunrise wasn’t far away when the birds started up –
everything seemed to be louder in Australia – familiar magpies alongside some others that I didn’t know. I stopped for a feed and a coffee while my lights were taken off... I was more shattered than I could ever remember being, but it was time to get back on the bike. My lap times had dropped way off during the night... my crew was hoping that they’d pick up again once I could see, but I never really got my confidence back – it was pretty much all I could do to drag myself around the track again and again until it was time to set out for the last time.I was passed by Charlotte on my last lap – we’d managed to not run in to each other for the entire race thus far! I’d heard from my pit crew that she’d had some trouble during the night, so I was stoked to see her back on her bike and storming away on the downhill. My focus for the last lap had been to hold myself together... as soon as I crossed the finish line I burst in to tears, headed for our pit tent and just sat with my head in my hands. My brain felt like it had been toasted, micro waved and then deep fried to finish it off!
I’m still trying to process all that I’ve learned from the race... I’ve got a lot to work on before I try another event at that level.

Thanks to Gav for his superb wrenching skills, Shane and Lisa for keeping me on my bike and believing in me... even when I don’t!


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