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World 24 Hour Solo Champs - Part 2

Follows on from Part 1

Part 2 – What happens on race day…ends up getting told eventually (but I will hold back a few secrets!)

Jess at the startThe World SOLO 24hr Championships were held in Canberra at Mt Stromlo on Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th October.

CORC helped run the event for promoter 24hrs of Adrenalin.

The previous 3 years I have raced at Stromlo in the Scott 24hr on this same weekend, so being here felt like I was coming home for a roast dinner!

In 2007 Norm and I raced a mixed pair and came 3rd.  2008 and 2009 I raced Solo and won both years.  As you could imagine, racing here again for the WORLDS was such a bonus and there was no doubt in my mind that my love for this mountain and its trails would get me over the line for a win….if only everything went to plan.

In my first part of this story (read it if you have not already done so), you will see that I spent a large part of my waking moments preparing for this race in 2010.

Race ready Giant AnthemsEverything was taken care of from mind, to body, to bike, to my mental and physical strength, nutrition, clothing, extra equipment and inclusion of some great new sponsors.  There were 1% efforts being made all over the place…it just had to make a difference to winning!

I owe so much to my fail proof equipment and this is my thanks to my awesome sponsors who gave me so much more than I could have wanted, including belief in me as a person and athlete!

Then there are those who looked after me personally:

Giant_Super_VanAs always with travelling to Mt Stromlo to race 24hrs Solo, we arrived a few days early. Normally we are campers, but this time with such a serious result at stake we stayed in an apartment.  We took our choice seriously and decided to stay in Forrest.  So we travelled from Forrest in Victoria, 10 hrs later to Forrest in the ACT.  We felt it was good choice!

Thursday was our first practice lap.  How I love the switchback climbs to the top, so much fun, so little effort.

Pork Barrel was certainly rougher than last year, but still a fun challenge finding the smooth lines.  I must say I was a touch bored by the fire roads out the back, and knew these would test the mind later in the race proper.  They were pure hard work, even on descending they were not highly rewarding.  None the less, every track needs a tough section and for me this was it.  The pure joy that followed was to be the only thing to keep me sane, that being the 10-12 min descent back to the start.  The only thing that worried me about this was being out of the saddle for this long in one hit, would my lower back hurt?  What about my arms and upper body?

The final conclusion was that I loved this course and I was ready to eat it up.  I was confident that my fitness and strength would get me over the line first.

Friday included one more practice lap, just to dial in the bikes, double check line selection and take note of anything we missed on Thursday.

I have never felt so calm and in control as on Friday 8th October, one day out from starting the best and hardest race of my life so far.

Have you ever been at a point when you know you have been 100% true to yourself and there is nothing left to do except do what you have been training for all year long?  It’s such a peaceful feeling.  I could not control what the other girls were thinking, what their plans were, if they would try and smash me to bits.  There was no use worrying, I had the tools, I knew how to use them and now all I had to do was follow the plan.

On Saturday it was quite warm and the sun was out.  I was trying to stay hydrated but my nerves were causing me to go to the toilet too much, this was probably a good thing as I got to focus on that and not sitting there worrying.  All too soon it was time to head down to the race start, get my bike set up for the le mans run start, and wait for my name to be called.

Being ranked No.6, this did not take long and I was on the start line proper waiting…just waiting…

Other girls were being called up and I was shaking hands, wishing good luck, sizing people up and really looking forward to the first lap being over and done with.

Here we are – on the start line, 100 or so elite male and female solo riders, being started 15mins before the age groupers.  Running in bike shoes with metal cleats on hot mix road crit track for 300mts.

D33_4683_LargeBANG, the start gun goes off any my first step forward is a slip.  Oops the track is slippery with cleats!  So I kept my stride short and landing as flat footed as I could and trying to keep my HR controlled so that the transition from run to bike was not too harsh.

Coming in with the top 20 riders or so, I got a reasonably clean get away and we proceeded to grind up a false flat fire road whilst breathing into lungs of fire and blood!  There were probably 3 female riders in front of me here, but careful not to blow up, I kept a good pace and made up places over the next 30 mins.

Being in the front end of the field allowed for a clean run, no dabbing on any switchbacks or technical sections.

The tempo was high, but the load not too heavy.  The first lap saw me and Trudy battling it out – she being faster on the downhills and me being quicker on the up. 
With lap 1 completed, I was in the lead already.  Not the plan, but we will take it!

Unfortunately, the first 5hrs brought cramps in both my adductors on the fire road section after Holden’s Crk every single lap.  Normally I would smash it out in the big dog here, but had to revert to spinning in the mid ring.  There was even a time when I had just swapped bikes about to head off for the 4th lap when I was cramping in Pit row, in front of all my competitors pit crews and I whispered to Norm as he ran alongside, “I am cramping!”  He made sure after that to strengthen the electrolytes in my drinks and give me extra fluids in transition.  By nightfall the cramps ceased.

Jess_douglas2_LargeNow I cannot remember how many laps I was out in front, but at some stage later in the afternoon Eszter from the US passed me and she was flying.  There were a few minutes where I followed her, but then held off as I realised I would kill myself too early if I did.  Amazingly I would find her again somewhere at the bottom of Pork Barrel.  I sat behind her on Skyline thinking I could go faster, but just sit behind her…just chill.  Then on the chute I took at sneaky pass on the high side entry of the berm and “safely” dropped in on her.  She got a bit of a fright and I did apologise, but she commented that she thought us Aussie girls descended faster than her US opponents.  At this stage I came in first again.

Norm was telling me not to stress as Eszter was coming in to transition and appeared to be a little frazzled from what he could tell and from I could see, she was exiting her pit like a bull at a gate.  Once again I decided to take the chill pill and sit back and watch.  It was not long before Andrea the Suisse girl passed me and then there was a battle with her and Eszter.  What a good thing!  Go smash yourselves into tomorrow I was thinking…go on…do it!  Once again, they were only a few minutes up the road for the efforts whilst I managed to maintain my diesel engine pace with far less energy expended.

Come night time, lights on, I was planning on entering a happy place.  6hrs into the race, I was amazed that there was still such a battle going on.  It was somewhere around 9-10pm that Jodie Willett passed me, silently without a word on the back fire roads.  We knew that Jodie would play a part in this dram and here she was! 
I did not respond – yet.  I knew that my time was from midnight onwards and I was just waiting…waiting….for this time.

Coming in on one lap, I was in 4th place.  I told Norm I was disappointed.  He was quick to remind me of the big picture and that I was only 4 minutes down on 1st place and I only felt this way for maybe 10 mins in total.

It may well have been on my midnight lap, they are all a bit of a blur, however it was dark and it was late.

I had been building momentum, finding the flow on the night time laps, really digging my own company.

sportograf-12987311_1024x768The gap was still only a few minutes between first and me.  I had no idea that I would catch the girls on this lap but somehow we all culminated on the back fire road climbs and at one point up a steep dusty double track, I climbed quicker and there was no one on my wheel. No lights over my shoulder, no heavy breathing, no noise nothing!  I risked a peek about 100mts down the track and still nothing.  Ok, grab and extra gear now Jess, get out of the saddle and silently surge, find that 1% and more.  Just pull away.  They have nothing to respond! Oh my goodness, the time has come to make my move.  How nerve racking and how very very exciting.  I have been racing for 12hrs and now I get my chance to make a winning move!  Patience required, I did not want to smash myself or have a crash, so kept the gap conservative to start.  2 minute gap in just ½ a lap! Oh dear, do I allow myself to dream of this win yet?

So now I was whipping out a 1:10, 1:12, 1:13, 1:13, 1:14, 1:18 and a 1:16 lap during the wee hours of the morning.

We were transitioning like clockwork and I even ran out of battery on my helmet 5 mins into a lap, but my Nite Rider Pro 1200 on my handlebars was ample to complete a lap at 1hr 14mins.

Just a side note hear, sure I might carry 1.5-2kgs of lights and batteries at night…but I barely slow up, if you skimp on lights, you lose!

I could see Norm was getting excited here, he was praying that I would be safe, injury and incident free.  So many of the riders were crashing or having mechanicals.  It is a testament to my equipment, my set up (thanks Normie) and my riding style “smooth is fast’ that I made it through 100% unscathed.

For the next 3 laps I really had to find it in me to go that little bit harder and the back fire road was doing my head in.  Coke and red bull was being consumed every lap.  On my 3rd last lap I took it upon myself to have a stretch at the caravan, go to the port a loo and get back on the bike totally refreshed in mind and body.  This was about a 2-3 min break.  I knew it was my last chance to get my only break the whole race and Norm certainly was not going to give it to me back in the pits.

Norm was worried and doing the sums, Katrin was starting to bridge the gap.  But in my head, as long as I stayed upright and incident free, she would have to cheat or be super human to beat me now.

I kept imagining what 20 mins was like in distance – not time.  So I would time 20 mins from transition and almost to the top of Stromlo, now when you think of it like that, it’s a pretty big gap to bridge!  But as Katrin well knows, you have to hope, you have to keep trying, you just never ever know what might happen.  I would be the same if I was in her shoes.

With my final lap to go, I started to do the sums, I thought I would probably come in right on time, and would win, even if only by 15 mins, it was a win and I had fought for an entire 24hrs for this.  What a lap.

I went through transition very quickly and my chain sounded terrible.  Tim Ferris told me a trick about using a gel as a temporary lube, so a wasted 45 seconds and lubed up with gel!  And it worked, there you go, always carry a spare gel for lube.  My chain shut up and I could ride with a bit more confidence.

I went a bit slower on Pork Barrel to keep it safe, pushed a little harder on the fire roads, kept it smooth and fast on the descent and when I got to the 3km to go sign, I allowed myself to believe I had won.

D33_5691Oh wow…I had won the World Champs today!  Crazy things happen when you allow yourself to dream and follow through.

Coming up to the tunnel bridge at the end of the 4X track, all I could see and hear was Norm, I knew he would be crying.  But he tells me there was a massive crowd yelling and cheering, not just him!

Once I hit the crit track, I was less than 1 minute from crossing the finish line.  Russ Mullens was there with the Aussie flag held up nicely by nothing less than a bike pump!  What a thrill to cross the line as a winner, holding the Australian flag, knowing that the journey was over and I did not have to pedal another moment.

The flurry of the media was next, Amanda grabbing me and bike and pulling me away.  I had no idea what to do where to go, what to say.  I stunk, I was dirty, my sweat encrusted face showing every wrinkle earnt by such a feat.  The reception I got as a female rider was amazing, it must have been something to do with how hot I was looking??? Or perhaps the depth of the competition in this most incredible event?  The fact that the front runners were racing, not riding, but racing for 24hrs!  Can you imagine telling yourself to run from a man eating lion for 24hrs, out smart, out run and beat them, you would not believe it to be possible, but it was!

Before I sign off and have a well earned rest from being the author of the race of my life I must thank firstly the Elite Women’s field.  Eszter, Andrea, Erin and of course Katrin who took out podium finishes.  Not to short change the other girls, including Jodie Willett, Peta Mullens, Trudy Nicholas and Alex Kiendl just to name a few…you were an integral part of the podium result.  To all the other girls, just being there and racing, no matter where you finished and for whatever reason…you were there and did your best and most importantly kept me honest for an entire 24hrs.  Without you there is no race.  May you reach your goals!

A final thanks to Rebecca Rusch, whilst it would have been awesome to race you here in Australia, you had other things more important and we honour that! But your dominance and athleticism has been integral in producing the best SOLO female field to date at the 2010 World Solo 24hr Championships.

Then there is the appearance of all sorts of people as I came through Pit Row, It was like I was Dorothy on Wizard of Oz, waking up from a dream and asking Norm, did I see Rob Eva? Did I see Snozza?  Did I see Jano?  Oh Hi Jano, I remember waving and smiling at you.  And many more that will come to mind over the days to come, thank you!

Well done to all the boys I know and especially my mate Brad Davies who recently turned 40 and came 5th in Elite men.  A lot of miles in those mature legs of yours and a well deserved podium finish.  Imagine….cant wait to race with you at Terra Australis.

Finally…without these 2 great men, I would not, could not have won.

Jess-podium_LargeNorm Douglas my best mate and husband of 19 years and my great bro in law, Rick Douglas. 
Thanks for sending me out, making me drinks, cleaning my bike, keeping track of my competitors, telling me positive things only and helping me win!

We make a great team.  Rick I hope we can pay you and Nikki back in your first solo events at the Jeep 24hr in Forrest in November.  Can’t wait.

So that’s it for me today…

Where to from here:

23rd October – Female Pairs at Surf Coast 6hr with Belinda Harrison

29th Oct – 2nd Nov – Mt Buller MTB Skills Annual Camp. 4 days of crazy riding for fun.

7th Nov – 50 or 100km Dirt Works at Wombat trails in Vic.

27th – 28th Nov – Jeep 24hr in female pairs with Belinda Harrison

4th & 5th December – A grade women “tour of Bright”

19th Feb – Otway Odyssey

12th & 13th March – Bike Buller Stage Race

…and the grand finale that I am working towards 20th – 26th March Terra Australis.  Mixed Pairs with Brad Davies.

 

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