Bike Buller MTB Festival - March 2014, Stage 1

10007488 10151955092226003 647224267 nSitting in the luxury of a bed, blankets on, pillow propped up on my back, mineral water by my side and freshly showered...todays race is already a blur – as I knew it would become.

I am at Bike Buller MTB Festival 2014.
Day 1, Stage 1.  50km Marathon 

I have been doing this event since 2009 and no matter what happens on a given day during this event, I still love it year after year.
It seems I have a good year, then a not so good year, and so on...
This year I will admit my greatest fear is my “race start” fitness. Its certainly something that is missing from my regime. Get me going in 20 mins and I can put some pace on, but out of the blocks...well I know that I will miss valuable opportunities for position in the singletrack.
You are probably aware that I am hard at work in many spheres of my life, I still love my racing and today was another zap to remind me to get proper race fit again as it hurts knowing you cant respond, physically and mentally.

Aside from that I had a friendly chat to a few girls on the start line, wished them luck and got on my way up some tough leg burning lung busting road climbs. Unbelievably my bad start had me coming good within 5 minutes and as we were climbing past ABOM, I was feeling like I could reach the front runner girls ...well almost. So I put in all the way to the Arlberg and beyond and made sure I passed as many people as I could. Giving myself a slightly better position for single track entry. Today was a little different too, our route change was to avoid the 4wd track from Cornhill to Howqua gap and go straight over single track on Cornhill. Much nicer preference for me. After gaining some positions before we entered Gang Gangs I was still behind riders that were painfully slower than me, but thats my fault for being slow on the start. This part of being unfit is not great fun and I promised to store this memory away for motivation to get back on track again.
In fact I am seeing loads of mistakes that I would be teaching my students NOT to do, it still amazes me every day that these people could be better without even getting fitter and it does not take balls of steel to be that.

But back to the race, finally heading out onto Cornhill climb and there are more people to pass on the techie switchbacks and I am feeling freaking good now. I mean, my legs my breathing, my mindset, my motivation to go faster...its all there. And then I catch Amity on a climb and I say hi. Within 30 seconds of catching her I feel that my tyres are losing air, I am fishtailing around front and back and feeling rocks on my rims. I know we just set up these wheels with new tyres and new rim tape and I am fearful that even though it was a couple of days ago, its not holding well. Down the descent I have to let Amity go as every slight turn or braking results in that fishtail feeling and I have to stay upright and light.

Down the bottom of the singletrack at Howqua Gap there is a track pump free to use, I pump up to 40 psi just to be sure as if I am losing air maybe I can get to the top of Stonefly before they are back down to 20. The climb up Stonefly is initially tough, as 20 or so people passed me as I was putting air in my tyres. So the fun begins. Pass them back again! This is a fun game, if ever your race plan goes out the window due to mechanicals, then focus on regaining the places you lost and some.

A third of the way into the climb the rear tyre is not holding air, I have struggled to descend smoothly so make the decision to put a tube in.

On these epic races, I always aim to carry more than I need. 3 tubes, 6 Co2's, tyre levers, chain links, multi tool with chain breaker, inner tubes cut up for supporting side wall tears, lube, tubeless valve posts, Co2 adapter, normal pump, electrical tape, cable ties and I think thats it.
Point being, you can never 100% guarantee a perfect run out there when you ride at Mt Buller or anywhere for that matter. Chances are you will be just fine, but some days you just cant win. This is mountain biking.

Pumped and packed I am off again up Stonefly, playing the passing game, this is fun now as everyone knows who I am, they just saw me minutes ago! Due to my 2 mini rests I am certain I am feeling fitter and faster. Even on the section at the top where we have to climb Mt Stirling to the top, I made it totally dab free for the first time – ever! Stoked.

But now...I feel the front wheel has started to lose the air I put in and there is a lot of descending. So I decided again to stop and pop ½ a c02 into the front and risk it. Ahhh the feeling of a firm tyre as you descend is confidence inspiring and I am playing that fun game – yet again...

Once at Circuit Rd again, I made that grueling climb back up to Bluff hut. Its about 3.5km and just winds on forever to the top. Here I was feeling awesome again, loving the climb, able to spin it grind it get up out of the saddle, whatever, and I was pulling back all those boys again. Ahhh...such a fun game when you can no longer podium. Finally after making it to the top of Stonefly I was now a significant way behind the field and knew that I would be catching 30km riders on the descent. Adding to the fun, I kept seeing how many people I might be able to reel in before the bottom. I had a great run but happy to see Circuit rd, knowing that the end is near!

A fast descent ending in a bit of a climb before heading onto River Spur, I caught Louise and just put it all out there forgetting that I had a tube in the rear and just smacked it down, trying to pass at any opportunity I guess I was not the smoothest. Yep, you guessed it, close to the turn off up to Box Corner, I got a pinch flat on the rear. I was angry for many ½ a second and then just laughed to myself. I am getting good at this caper!

I am certain this is my last repair for air, pop another tube in and pump it up to a hard 35 (ish) psi.
Here we go again, probably another 15 people to pass now. (loving this game)

The last stint hitting the road up Buller, I gave it everything and kept up my passing regime all the way to the chair lift.

I finished 5th overall in womens. My time of 3hrs 55mins and 56 seconds was tough going, and I forgot to take out gels or any bars at all. Luckily I used Torq Energy in my bottle and camel back.

Despite my bad luck, my Schwalbe Racing Ralphs were awesome, grippy and the only issue was in the tubeless set up.  The Liv/giant Lust Advanced 0 27.5 was such a joy to ride and I used my dropper seat on many descents, especially Stonefly! My XTR Shimano gear is always bomb proof, such a pleasure to ride on these epic races.  

What did I learn from today?

Despite setbacks, so long as you are prepared and have the right equipment and mind set to see you through, you can always finish and go as hard as you choose to.

In life or in a race, if we can no longer see our opponent we tend to slow down or get lazy or throw it in. But just because we feel like you have lost “your chance” we can always have another go. And another. And another. I never gave up. I kept fixing my mishaps, I knew how to fix them and had to tools to do so.  I also knew that my attitude was a big factor in having a good experience or a bad one.

This is just as empowering as having the energy or the will to go on.

Today, of course I am disappointed of my result, but if you asked me “Jess did YOU race well? Did you give it everything? Did you?” I would say YES, I gave it all and never gave up.

Tomorrow is another day and a fun one at that!

And a Huge well done to my fellow competitors.

1.April McDonough 3:28.16

2.Jody Bush 3:29.16

3.Amity McSwan 3:37.19

4.Louise Cook 3:48:44

5.Jess Douglas 3:55:56

My actual ride time was 3hrs 38mins...I wonder if I could had the legs to go any harder without my little rest breaks?