The Long Awaited Battle with Kate

The Long Awaited Battle.

10687452 10152348257226003 1121164954393799847 oI had heard it on the grapevine, Kate Penglase was keen to race me before she went off to the WEMBO World Solo 24hr Champs in Weaverville. 
We had a 45 min tussle at the Geelong MTB Club No Frills Friday in a handicap and she came out victorious but it was hard to tell what might have happened had we been in a head to head.

Kate has been on the 24hr and Vic Enduro series scene for a few years now.  In fact I even think I was still coaching one of her support crew and good friends at the time she was racing me.
She has a fast start and can go hard and if you work at something methodically enough over a period of time you are going to learn and you will get better.
Meanwhile back at the Jess ranch, the past few years have been spent building businesses and working hard at other ventures that include bikes, but not so much on a bike.
I don’t dare sandbag, for I still tried my hardest, even if I had put on excess kilos, and trained less, I still always did what I could so that on race day I had something in my lungs and legs and the rest was done with my mind.  The will, the desire to do my best and leave nothing out there, no regrets with what I turn up with on the day.

It was around this time last year that I raced the Scott 24hr Solo instead of heading off to Scotland for the 2014 WEMBO World Solo champs to defend my title for the 4th time. 
A lot had changed since winning the 2013 one in Canberra. 
See above paragraph! 
The thought of training to be a world champ, spending the time and the money to do this, and right before the ‘peak season’ of our mountain bike events and bike hire cafes helped me seal my decision to avoid the stress and just turn up and ‘wing’ the Scott 24hr on what I knew and some form that I had by training in the Otways over winter.

Sitting here today reflecting on that trip to Canberra, it really was adhoc.
Normally we would make a big effort, and stay somewhere nice.
This time we booked a $50 a night dingy motel room near some horsey place close to Cotter Rd and a 5 min drive to Stromlo.  We stayed one night only, the Friday and did a lap of the course in the afternoon, went out to dinner with Eliza in Dickson at a vegan restaurant.  
But this approach left me without the pressure of investment in time, money and energy and so I was really happy.  It was not until that night when we started to talk about the impending race that I realised I was excited.  This is always a good sign.

 The last time I raced against Kate was at the Beechworth Six Hours in The Saddle in the August.  I had shown my hand and I had given her a chance to improve on form for this event.

 We raced, and I won, and it did take a few hours to make an impact on the up and coming Kate and I knew she wanted to do her best, so even though I ended up lapping her, it took me all night and morning to achieve this. She was focused the whole time.

After the race, we chatted and congratulated each other.
Kate is a top chick. 
Full respect for her work ethic and the long and hard journey she has been taking.

Since the Scott 24hr in 2014 a lot has gone on in my life.
I worked my back side off from that weekend onwards until I came up for a breather in early April 2015!
Running the Corner Stores in Forrest and Derby from afar and actually living breathing and working at the Corner Store at Buller from December through to March killed my spirit.
The only saviour was to ride my bike, and maybe it was the altitude I was living at but somehow I stayed kinda fit despite the extra “5 stress kilos” I had piled on.
Each day I woke up hoping that a miracle would occur and alleviate me of the responsibilities that were mine.  Many afternoons I should have been riding but I went to sleep and made my bedroom dark and waited for slumber to consume my worries.
Each morning I woke up knowing that bed time would come again, and I could sleep.  This was what I lived for.
Somehow I stayed focused, happy and giving.  I damaged friendships though and tested many relationships, but I was in survival mode.

1509762 10152545997226003 7232694850670576877 nThen I smashed my teeth in on January 6th, and that stopped me in my tracks.
Weeks turned into months, thousands turned into tens of thousands ($14, 000 to be exact) and eventually my smile returned.

Not just with new teeth and my lips healing but the reconstruction of my life to bring me back to base.
Most moments of hardship in our lives are lessons, bolts of lightening to strike us down and make us look at whats going on and make changes.
I knew I needed to slow down, to get back to my purpose but didn't know how just yet.

So I will go back to Kate, she went to the Bright 12hr in February where Norm was MC, and in 2014 I went and won, but this year I stayed at Buller and worked my butt off.  
Kate asked after me with sincerity, Norm responded with, “why don’t you ask her?” and gave Kate my phone number.
She called me! 
I cried.
We chatted for a long time and did so again.  I listened to her story, she listened to mine.
It was a beautiful gesture.  This gesture gave me the courage to face the changes I knew I needed to make.  Thank You Kate.  I don't know if I have actually thanked you good and proper.

11933407 10153534030723350 6969310255716976068 nFinally after all this, the highs, the lows, I finally got to race Kate again at the Beechworth Six Hours In The Saddle, 2015 version on Saturday 29th August.
I had looked after myself better by now, mentally and physically and had been back into training for 4 weeks.
The facts were harsh - Kate had been training like a world champion, smashing out many of the 6hr Vic enduro races and availing herself to as many opportunities of hurt that she could fit in.
The form was outstanding and on this race day, I knew that this could be the closest we had ever raced and she would be a far better hill climber than me right now.

All I could do was internalise my self talk into ‘what can I do?’ and not worry about ‘what Kate could do.’
A 6hr race is still a long time and even if my start wasn't outstanding there was another 5hrs 55mins to make amends.
Norm was MC again this year, and even with his duty of talking up other peoples races, he was still 90% good for being there for me.

The race started.
10am down the bottom of a horrible hill.  Its about 1km long and is a leg burning false flat to start, stepping up slightly to a climb which feels a bit nicer to have pressure on the legs, until the next step up is a bit steeper and pursuiter lungs ensue and vomit starts to creep into the legs too.  This is where Kate made her move and pushed ahead of me.
She has a high cadence on her 29’er and kept about 1 bike length ahead of me.  
I had a choice, let her go or stay.  I chose to stay, I mean its only pain.  Nearing the entrance of the single track, I made the next choice to pass her and enter first.  She let me and sat hard on my wheel.  We rode that first lap sucking in the air and progressively passing riders together.

Lap 1 was done, we came in tight together and I veered slight left to get a bit of food from Norm and Kate used this to pass me.  
Time to sit on her wheel and wait.  In my head I was like cool, imagine if we get to race together for 6hrs!  I was fine with this concept and so patiently sat behind Kate.
I was surprised when she made an uphill technical error and at this stage I passed, expecting her to be on my wheel.  From this point onwards I was on my own.

The trail network winds itself closely to the other trail and is like an intestinal tract.  Leaving lots of opportunity to see where each other was at.
For the next 4.5hrs the plan was to stay steady, make no errors, put in on each climb, flow on each downhill section, stay hydrated, eat at each feedzone and stay happy.

In my mind all I had to do was win, didn’t matter by how much, just win.
And so the laps went by, the trail became fun and I almost forgot about the battle.
Its always slightly devastating to find out you have one more lap to do, as I came in with 10 mins to go before 6hrs.  I grabbed some food and just rolled onto the next lap.
I came in about 4.5mins before Kate.
She raced hard, she did her best & I did mine.

11951930 754461428033598 6915900591894938117 nWinning this race was hard work, and I know Kate will attest to that too.

As I write this story,  Kate is now in the USA getting ready to race the WEMBO World 24hr Solo champs.  Good luck mate, you have great form and a great attitude.  
24hrs goes fast, make every single second count and have zero regrets on the Monday when its all said and done.

11221530 754483964698011 1246394760140282911 n

Whats in store for me?
I am off to do the Red Bull Bushranger 12hr at Castlemaine tomorrow and then go to the Scott 24hr which is also the National champs for 24hr solo on 10th & 11th of October.
I am really very happy with how my training and approach to life and racing is going.
I have invested time back in friendships and family and enjoying the people I had almost lost.

Riding my bike, racing, being at my best, it allows me to really give back and be the Real Jess Douglas and its been a blessing to have sponsors not only support me but continue to join me on this journey.

Cannot wait to see if I can manage a 3rd Aussie 24hr SOLO title and jersey.
I only have 2 of these and at 42 it would be extra special to tick all the boxes, be my best on the day and come away with a win.  Well thats the plan anyway! 

See you out on the trails and please stop and say hi, you are important and I always have time to listen to your story.


A few facts:
What does a vegan eat for the 6hr race?

  • medjoul dates filled with cashew butter
  • torq gels
  • bread with cashew butter
  • red bull
  • torq energy electrolyte powder

11887834 10153007255166003 3714434259908160433 nWhat did I ride?

  • My bike is a 2105 Liv 27.5 Lust Advanced 0
  • I am running Shimano XTR Di2.  It was fully charged before the race and did not lose any of its 5 bars on the battery checker for the 6hrs of the race (there are a lot of gear changes at Beechworth)
  • I wear shimano xc90’s on XTR pedals.
  • I recently changed my forks from 120mm to 100mm.  I loved it, I feel like I can race again.