The Scott 24hr - the long and the short of it...grab a cuppa

Let’s go back to August, 10 weeks ago when I got back from the World solo Champs in Canada.  I was mentally and physically exhausted.

Even though everyone I spoke to was so happy for my 4th position I was ready to stay under the doona for as long as I could.
Somehow or another I managed to creep by day after day. 
I got some good days on the bike and some pretty bad ones including non – existent days. It was doing my head in.  

Was I in or out of this 24hr racing business? Did it matter? Who cares anyway? People stuck by me, sponsors, my husband, friends, mtb club, my coach, my clients, my family…everyone!!! So when you have people like this around you, you soon start to realise that your worries are so stupid and life is awesome and having that warm fuzzy feeling of LOVE and being wanted and valued is all that one human needs!

That sorted, one still has to get out of bed, train, work, keep a house, be a wife, be a mum, be a daughter to parents, run a business and be a volunteer to a growing mtb club. I gave myself a couple of events to have fun at and then the MTBA National Marathon Champs in Bendigo. So little form – running on empty and just going through the motions to see what I have got left in the tank. The Marathon Champs were fun in Bendigo. I came 5th so walked away happy and a friendly reminder that I still have the base in my legs and the will in my mind to finish these events without too much hassle whilst still being reasonably competitive.
The race was on Sunday 20th September, and on Monday 21st September I came down with my first cold of 2009.

Damn it. 3 weeks until the Scott 24hr and I was going to start ramping it up too. Managed 1 week of decent training and had to just settle with this. 
The cold got worse, the sniffles turned into the snots, and a decent head cold. Not wanting to ruin my chances of racing the Scott 24hr on the 10th and 11th of October I had to settle for reading sports psychology books, drinking fresh squeezed juices and downing any concoction that even remotely promised to be a cure for my cold.
After 5 days off the bike, I got the rollers out and started to warm up my legs.
First 10 minutes I was coughing and spluttering, feeling awfully unfit. 
Finding it hard to manage 90rpm on 53/19 for the warm up.
Amazingly, I came good and started to invent my own on the spot interval session that had enough recovery to convince me to go hard when I had to. Low and behold I got into E3 and felt great. Left the Vo2 zone out of the equation on this occasion and 60 minutes later I was a finely tuned machine ready to shower and get to bed, totally prepped for the Scott 24hr. 

Yes that’s it, a 60 minute Roller session was what got me over the line!
In fact, it probably was and due to what it did to my mental state, I grew some self belief again that perhaps I still had it in me to win the race on the weekend.
The next day I flew to Canberra whilst Norm was driving up with the gang.
Pre race prep was still on the go with my final massage at 1:30pm and lunch with my mum.
Arrived in Canberra late in the afternoon, I was now here and some fun to be had from today on! We went for a practice ride before lunch – checking out the day lap. A great climb of around 7kms to the top with a fantastic descent finishing off with some awesome flowing single track back to base. There was one final section that was a bit annoying, but none the less, a great course.  After a quick bite to eat and a refill of the drink bottles, we headed out again to check out the night lap. More fun! Now I was excited to be racing, feeling happy with the course and loving the flow, my “mojo” was back.

Mentally I was so prepared and physically I just had to do my best. Win or lose, I was ready to ride.

That night about 14 of us went out for dinner, laid back and chilled. 
A great way to get ready to race. Got back to camp around 8pm, brushed teeth and hopped into bed to read.
I was asleep by 10pm with the plan to get 9hrs sleep. Saturday 10th October – Race day.
As the morning came around, laying in bed I was thinking how amazing it is that something you plan for and get excited about for so long eventually just pops its head up and so quickly it is over and done with. 
So today I took my time, savouring the lead up.  Spent more time smelling the roses so to speak and not worrying about anything too trivial.
Stayed fairly low key on the social side and did quite a few trips to the loo in preparation for the start.
My plan was to hang low, stay seated, keep warm, talk little, relax and eat and drink small amounts up until the start of the race. Getting my body prepared for the drip feed effect for the next 24hrs.

At 10am, the Prologue race was underway and it was time to get dressed. Off to the showers for a wonderful hot one and a fresh kit on the bod. Wow I felt good, so relaxed and so prepared. Somehow I just knew I had it in me to pull off a win, if only I could keep myself in this mental state.
So when I got back to camp, had a 5 minute chat to Norm telling him my thoughts and getting settled for the race.
Funny how time flies…and before I knew it I was on the start line! 11:50am, ready to go. Still feeling sweet, ready to race. 
This is the bit I hate the most, waiting for the start. Once I am on the bike and racing it all just falls into place. I am sure this is normal for everyone.
If I remember correctly Norm gave me a big kiss and told me he loved me. I chose to stay back in the second row, just to see what would happen at the start.
With two minutes to go I made sure I was in the right gear to start. BCR, 5th gear. Half a bum cheek on the seat, toe pointed to touch the ground, fingers on the brakes, eyes focused on the wheels in front of me, elbows out, heart rate relaxed and purposeful, smiling at the prospect of the 24hrs to come. …and we are off!

Before I knew it we were pacing up the fire road to enter the first bit of single track, one solo rider up 10mts and the rest of the bunch sitting on my wheel. I turned around to Jase English and said,” mate, c’mon, I am a girl, you’re a big tough boy, get on the front would you!” 
I tell you what all those solo male wheel suckers, what were you doing?
So I started climbing the switchbacks with the rest of the crew and these were happy times.  I could see every now and again on the climbs glimpses of Trudy who stayed in 2nd place the whole race.
Early on Phil Bickerdike and I were riding together, enjoying the flow of the trails and the hearty spirit of all the solo riders. At this stage, the trails were smooth, the rocks were fine, causing minimal dramas to my mental or physical state. 

Lap one down, Craig handed me a bottle as I threw the empty to the ground, Norm gave me a peanut butter sandwich as I rolled past.
With lap 2 underway, up the first switchbacks, I could see Trudy maybe 800mts back. So I just kept digging deeper, with my plan to just push 1% harder than I believed I could. 
Politely asking to pass people in the most efficient way possible. Each cluster of people I got to, I made sure to put in hard to get past in the hope that she would be held up even 20 seconds longer.
Up the climb, having fun, down the descent, even more fun. Back to transition for more to eat and drink. Same process as before, drink and food on the run, facts are that Trudy is about 1 minute down.
So now my next 5 minutes of lap 3 is full on, pushing hard to sneak in another 20 second gap. It works, as I get to the switchbacks, she is not in sight until I am well past where I viewed her last time. Good I say, and proceed with my 1% rule. 
I am breathing ok, snot streaming out of my nose, but keeping it clear constantly with the bush hanky method.
Have now consumed 3 x 700ml bottles of Torq Energy, 1 gel, 2 x peanut butter ½ size sangas.
Back into transition with some facts that I am about 5 minutes up on 2nd place.

Now the laps just merge and I am not really thinking anything. 
A Robbie Williams song is constantly on play in the background noise of my mind and I really do not even like Robbie. I have never owned a CD or downloaded any of his music. What the?
So my thoughts are things like:
• This next corner is tough, got to make it, smooth, weight forward, pedal now, good, you made it.
• Must try and pass this person quickly, “track when it’s safe, when you’re ready ok? No worries..on your right? Thanks so much and have an awesome race!” Gee most of the riders are nice.
• Got to have a drink at the next flat spot.
• I wonder if Norm has been doing the Twitter feeds, must ask him. …..and the list goes on, the mind cluttering chatter is what keeps a solo rider company really. 
I don’t know how people wear IPods. I like to hear my inside voice, my breathing and riders around me.

When the lights finally went on, it was a full lap before I actually had to turn them on. 
When I did, this is the time I hate the most. You sort of want to be warm and cosy, sitting in front of a fire with a cuppa in your hand, not out riding in semi darkness trying to make out the track as its not quite dark enough for the lights to work properly yet.
The first proper night lap is always awesome. It’s the start of the race for real. 
This is where you start to lose track of riders in front or behind you, you cannot see anyone, you just ride your own race and rely purely on auto pilot and support crew feedback.
The heart rate starts to slow down and somehow or another 12 hrs just seems to go by. 
Every time I get to this point I am a little scared of what is to come, but I tell myself that just as surely as night is here, the morning will come, time will pass and before you know it, the race will be over…so just enjoy!
It is also the time of the race where other people tone down, campsites become quiet, chatter on the course becomes less and it makes it for a lonelier tougher time. I have no idea upon recollection what time of night it was when things happened or Norm told me things…somehow the night just goes. But I do remember sometime around 10pm I got a burp flat on the Skyline. Must had hit a rock the wrong way, got a bit of dirt between the rim and the tyre and it just would not reseal.
Aaron one of the Course Marshalls stopped and helped me put a tube in to fix the problem. He even offered for me to call Norm and tell him to be prepared for this mishap and that I would be running a bit late. Initially I was a bit worried that this would take off some of the time I had put into Trudy in second place, but did not let it stress me as I knew I had a spare tube and all would be fine. Thank you Aaron for your prompt assistance mate.

At one time early in the morning, Norm told me that I was about 10 minutes off lapping Trudy. I remember thinking that I would really put in on this lap and make it my job to have lapped her, and I did just 5 minutes before the end of the lap. At around 4:30am I could finally relax a bit. I sat down, had a quiet chat to Norm about my plan for the next 6 hours or so and waited until Trudy came in before I headed off again.

It’s amazing once you have gone through all the hard work and get the chance to take a breather, how much it starts to hurt. From here on all I could think about was how many laps I would have to do before I could win the race. 
I had now lost count of what lap I was up to, just the facts were all that mattered now. My body started to ache in all the spots where the impact of the course took the full brunt. Arms, forearms especially and the lower back. 

On the day lap, from the very top of the climb for approx 10 minutes it was an out of the saddle descent. It hurt so much to absorb all the rocks and ruts.
The moment I could sit down again and pedal was literally heaven. 
My muscles felt like they were being shaken off the bone, fibre by fibre. It was at this point of the race I knew I was going to win and slowed right down, took my time, got off the bike and walked sections so that I could mentally have a break from the course.  I got to meet people and chat and even have a mothers club meeting on the top of a climb with a bunch of solo riders keen for any excuse for their last lap to take as long as it needed to so they would not have to go out again. I even picked up Ben Culton and got him to ride with me for a bit and keep both our spirits up. This guy kept going all day and night and it was his first time solo 24.

As I write this, on my last lap, I can remember riding with happy thoughts of finishing, what was I going to feel like tomorrow, oh all the work I had to follow up with next week when back at home, and most of all of hot shower and bed!

But before I got to the end of my lap, I have to mention here the planned Beer O’clock break that was offered to me by the boys at the top of the climb through the tents before the final stretch onto the finish.
James and James wrote funny things on their white board and then always said hello, gave me high fives, shake and bakes, and then the beer. 
It was nice to stop and talk, drink half the beer and proceed to the finish line slightly tanked. Right now, I could go back to that moment in time and savour it some more, its moments of humanity like this that remind me how special mountain bike brother hood is!

So I came in for the finish line, had to get my face washed apparently, and there was the media, photographers and microphones and I didn’t even give a finish salute or nothing as I passed the finish. I was just a bit overwhelmed to care really. I could not talk properly, coughing and spluttering, trying to hold myself up and look half normal.
Here I was, I had won a race that I really really wanted to win. 2 years in a row!
Oh and I was going to be $1000 richer…if only I could make it to presentation.
Keen for a sleep, shower and maybe a shot of some wonder “feel no pain” drugs, I started to wonder how I was even going to get on the plane tomorrow to get home.

After the 20 minutes of media commitments, I went back to our tent, had a sit down, tried to have a chocolate milkshake and then got ready for my shower. 
This hurt as I could not bend down to wash any dirt off, had trouble getting dressed and eventually walking down the stairs.
Norm was waiting for me and I was starting to fade real quickly. Straight to bed and feeling like I wanted to call an ambulance for a trip to hospital and some go to sleep quick drugs. 
Everything was hurting and my whole being was shaking and shivering. 
My knees were throbbing and I needed some drugs pretty quick.  I told Norm at this stage I would not make it to the presentations and he would have to do it, as I coughed up big chunks of green stuff from my lungs. He left me be and 30 minutes later and 3 paracetamols later I was up and ready to get up on the podium. Somehow I came good and was able to finish off my final task of the day.

Wow…still cannot believe it…I won the Scott 24hr Solo women 2009. 
Whoop Whoop!!!!

Thank you to:
Norm Douglas – support man No1.
Craig Armour – support man No.2
Adam Kelsall – go to support man and general nice guy.
Karri Golding – wow man, you offered to loan us your wheels and you were serious, thank you muchly, they were awesome.
Brendan Rowbotham – my supportive coach who somehow deals with my week to week whining and whinging!
All the MTB Skills RDS crew who were there – you are my inspiration. 
Torquay Cycling Factory (Lorenzo, you are the man!)  • Giant Bikes (Darren and Mike, you are both enthusiastic and great for the sport and the Anthem was damn fine as was the marquee!)  
Jet Black Products for my Nite Rider lights and other MTB peripherals(Mr. Trent Fitzgibbons is always so cool and casual even under all that stress mate!) 
Torq Australia – thank you Gen and Dean for your continued support with your awesome products. No cramps, or energy issues – Again! 
SRAM – The Famous Mr. Rob Eva …maybe one day soon I will see the XX on my bike if I ask nicely enough??? 
Rotor Bike Components / Q Rings for MTB – Ken from Unlimited Bicycles for a great deal and support with this awesome product.
Bike Box – Guy McCausland for support with Schwalbe Tyres