My best 24hr EVER! how the race was won.

27 October 2013

start line And its time to hurt... In some way it was good to get called up last in the Elite field and take my spot where it suited.
I got to sit in behind a bunch in the middle, I did not want to be boxed in on the inside and made a concious decision to search for gaps and get away from wheels that would hinder me.

The start was a quick spin around the crit track with an exit up a fire road that would take us to Cockatoo switchbacks entrance. I felt good, yet had no idea that I would feel so zippy in the legs for the race start. I passed people, I passed other elite girls and saw that I was in a good position.
The aim was to get past the Ukrainian girl as she did a good start but was slow in single track.
sportograf-44348745 lowresVery quickly it was myself, Erin and Kim in a group of 3 girls for the next few laps.
The first thing I noticed whilst I sat at the back of the group was the apparent lack of drinking during the lap from the girls. I was taking a sip every single fire trail crossing but I couldn’t see them doing it. I also noticed that loads of energy was being expended on the climbs and even on the downhills with lines being smashed hard and bikes and bodies being battered early on. Whilst I felt this would serve well in a XCO race or even a 100km marathon, not so well in a 24hr. So I focused on my race from the very first lap and let my competition smash hard. Even on transitions the anxiety to receive drinks and food was high yet Norm and I were quite relaxed and methodical. I used the mild uphill into a head wind from the timing point to finish of my bottle as soon as I turned to go to our tent, it was slight downhill into a tail wind. The girls were getting into the trail before me, but I would soon catch them with food and drink taken in whilst it was on an easy surface.

Whilst I cannot recall exactly, it was perhaps my 3rd or 4th lap that Eliza and Liz caught our bunch. Eliza exclaimed that it was a much nicer pace that we were doing and I asked if they wanted to pass. They both declined. And so we kept moving up Mt Stromlo and descended altogether in a bunch of 5.

sportograf-44352567 lowresThe transition was then hectic. Liz and Eliza smashing their way through timing to get to their support first but I continued to be methodical and not get caught up in their race. Kim and Erin were just ahead of me and we just let the other two go. It was early days and their pace was high.
The heat was in the day, no shade on parts of the trail, this was a very important time to prepare for the night. Still time to eat and drink and settle nicely into a 24hr race. It is the experience of racing a 24hr that allows me to not worry, to run my own plan and stick to it. Norm and I had discussed in the lead up that if the race plan was not clear by midnight, for him to start to tell me what to do and me to just do it.

Myself Erin and Kim were enjoying our lap. At this point I suggested that we work together in keeping our pace honest. Swapping the lead to up the average speed, stick together and use each other for good energy and be allies until the natural selection take place. Not much talk, but we continued along until next lap. At this point I cant remember where or why or how but Kim dropped off. From her blog it seems she explained not being to give anything as she was overheated? Whatever the case, it was just Erin and I chasing the other 2 upfront.
I sat behind Erin and kept an eye on what was going on in her race, yet focusing on my strengths and making a mental note on how I faired up against Erin. I felt like I was cornering better on the uphill switchbacks on this lap so kept this in my memory bank. Then the downhill sections whilst Erin was fast and fearless I chose my own lines and kept them smooth and flowing maintaining a stress free environment.
sportograf-44337017 lowresThere was an equation going on here in my head. I eventually would use less energy and less wear and tear on my bike and body and that would equal the ability to dig deep when it hit midnight, the final 12hrs of the race. And so I stuck to my plan. We came through transition together and me out front this time. As I was in front I started to notice and feel that out of each corner up Cockatoo Switchbacks I was exiting about 3-5 meters in front of Erin. So on the next couple of switchbacks I did not go any faster, just rode with total concentration and purpose and found myself about 20 meters up on Erin. Was this my breakaway chance? I gave it a shot. Corner, pedal hard out of it, and repeat. By the time I got to Bluegums and then Bobbypin I could not see Erin. I was away. So now I was third and it was still daylight. Next lap down and it was time to swap bikes whilst Norm put a full compliment of lights on my No.1 bike.
Eat drink, be methodical. Ride the smooth lines, drink on the fireroad connecting trails. Be accountable, believe and follow through, think positive thoughts, affirm the end result.

sportograf-44336455 lowresAs night fell, I felt myself gain energy, build flow, enjoy the riding, get into a rhythm and start to execute my plan to become a World champ for the 3rd time. 18 hours to go and we are loving every second, every minute, every hour! Eliza and Liz were battling it out, from my understanding Eliza had pulled away for 1st place.
Around 10pm Norm suggested that I was gaining on them both and I would soon catch liz and then Eliza.
It was about midnight that on the same lap I passed Liz, I also caught Eliza.

The winning move occurred in transition.
One moment I was 5 minutes down, ride through timing and I was in 2nd place behind Eliza, exit my support crew and I was in 1st.
Unbeknown to the rest of the world and those reporting the race, I was 8 minutes up just by exiting transition in a timely fashion. Thats a fair way up the hill climb already before either of them were on the bike pedalling again.
Now it was time to do what I came here to do, win and totally love the night.
During the night, the wee hours of the morning, I always lose my appetite and my desire to drink. I know that the first 10hrs have been about nutrition so let my body act this way. The desire for anything sweet is non existent so I had some warm chicken risotto reserved for that time. I do remember that at midnight I had done 12 laps.
I was astounded that time had gone so quickly yet a little fearful of that moment that would be yet to come when I wished it was all over. This normally happens from around 3am – 5am. However this year, at this race I never got to feel this way at all. The laps just kept going and so did I. Before I knew it the sun was rising and I was still in 1st place.
1398136 637291399625936 1451543369 oAt this point its certainly a little scary to imagine that there is another 6hrs to go, perhaps 6 laps, 6 more climbs and 6 more bottles to drink.
And so rather than think I just did. I would arrive at transition, take my bottle, listen to Norm and ride another lap. With 3 hours to go the alarm bells went off. I had no idea it was coming. Absolutely no idea.

sportograf-44353142 lowresThe lap before Norm was cool and calm and we were rolling along nicely. I came through this time and there was the urgent request from Norm to put in a sub 1hr lap as Kim Hurst was killing it, that she had just done a 60min lap and gained 10 mins on me.
In my head I was thinking, “ Oh really? I have to fight to win now? After all this time, it comes down to the final 3hrs? Really? Oh shit.” But instead of yelling at Norm to shut up and don’t tell me what to do, instead of rolling over like a submissive dog and letting Kim just have her way, I rolled out of transition with this thought, “3hrs of hard work left, go in the big chain ring and don’t get out of it, call for track early and win this race and show them who is worthy of being a world champion. Its only 3hrs and thats about 50k, you can go hard race pace for 3hrs! Lets do this and thank you Kim Hurst for the game on!”
The next 3 laps, I was not allowing myself to get out of my big chain ring and if it got to hard I would just get out of the saddle and pedal hard. I kept my descents smooth and off the brakes as much as I could saving every second and gaining every meter. I would look ahead and call for track really early and I got it every time, it was like clockwork.
I came in after the call to action from Norm in a 59:13 lap. Sub 1hr!
Norm was very very excited. So excited I felt he didn’t really give me feedback like did I need to do this again?
Did I make an impact? How was the gap now? I assumed all was ok, if it wasn’t he would have told me. But what if he got it wrong, what if she had more in her?
And so I pushed hard again and did another sub 1hr lap.
At this point, I came across a fellow rider, Kevin, who did me a big favour, rode ahead and told Norm I wanted coke, water and ice in my last bottle. Thanks Kevin, the coke/water combo was the treat I wanted as it neared midday and the sun was heating up for the final lap.

My final lap was still done with some urgency but I was a bit more relaxed about passing on the track and came in with 2 minutes to spare before the 24hr mark.

I rode in with Norm waiting just outside of timing telling me I could roll through and win.
I was prepared to go out again if I needed but being told that I had won now, well I was pretty happy with that news!

64217 585563048148297 1451310927 nAs I rode through timing and won the World Solo 24hr Championship for the 3rd time I couldn’t wait to give Norm a big hug.
This was my best race ever.
We were a magnificent team.
So much went on behind our win that I did not know about, Sam and Andrew helping Norm out, my Dad giving some time splits for Norm and of course Norm and his amazing ability to watch the race and know all the right information at the right time.

I won.
I won again.
I won with integrity and won because I really really wanted it.
It was my best win ever.