Thursday, July 30, 2009

World Solo Champs - 9th Place

Well, what can I say? 9th Elite Female in the World Solo Championships for 2009… Still great to be there, but a little way away from the result I had planned for or was expecting. It’s taken me a little bit of time to put this blog together because I spent the 24 hours after the race finished beating myself up about the result. You have all been so supportive and even to the extent that some of you have said you find me to be an inspiration, and for that reason, I felt it was important that I figure out for myself first of all the good stuff that came out of this weekend’s race and how I’m moving forward because being positive about a race and about your abilities is key to success… On the flip side, to back yourself so hard for a result and then to not achieve that result has been really tough for me to deal with.

Firstly, a little about the race… It was a hot afternoon, and we were called up to the start line of the race in our seeded order. I felt good… Nervous and hot, but good… The gun went off and we were off on our Le Mans start… 500m up over a hill or 2 and back to the bike. For those of you who don’t already know, running is not my forte (although I have been working on it), so I had dropped a little further back in the field. Not to worry, I had a full 24 hours to catch up that 20 or 30 metres. When I jumped on the bike and up the first hill, something didn’t feel quite right. I pushed it to the back of my mind, putting it down to pre-race nerves, until I reached the top of the first hill and was sick… On my first lap. I continued on, a little confused at why I was feeling so ordinary so early. I learned later that apparently the temperature had hit 36 degrees in the first couple of hours after the race start. I also had problems with my tire pressure on the first lap. We bled my brakes just before the start because I was having issues with my rear brake (not ideal) and the pump Haydz used must have had a faulty gauge, making them about 5-10psi too hard, so my bike was bouncing around the track like a ping pong ball until I stopped and let some air out. Second lap and I thought I was ready to settle in and peg back a couple of minutes… Not to be when my bottle cage snapped. I’d just done the hardest climb on the course and didn’t fancy going back down to my pit to get it fixed, so I just put the bottle in my back pocket. When it kept falling out, I had to stop for 5 minutes to try and fix it and came up with the ingenious solution of using the rubber band from around my spare tyre to hold the bottle cage together… Incidentally, this dodgy-fix actually lasted the full duration of the race (yes!!!).

Lap 3 and this time, I meant it… I was nearly coming dead last and was not pleased about it. Annoyances and illness out of the way, and a can of Go Fast in my tummy, I was ready to start reeling them in. I rode past my pit and yelled out at Haydn “how far in front is the next female?”. She was 4 minutes ahead. “Done!” I yelled back and took off in my big chain ring after her. I pegged her back on the first hill… Bang, bang, another two down. At the end of lap three I was coming 8th. Next lap, up to 6th, and the lap after, I reeled in another to pull my position back up to 5th place. This was more like it!!! I felt awesome. The tears welled up in my eyes while I rode thinking about my spot on the podium. But I knew, and Haydn knew, that I wasn’t eating enough. The heat was a real appetite suppressant and the course was quite technical, which made it difficult to find places to eat and drink on the bike. I had pre-determined places where I would drink and eat, but it was occasionally too tempting to catch someone or stay ahead of someone by caning it along a fire trail instead of settling down and taking a drink and some food.

I headed into my first night lap quite strong. The first night lap was always a test of how you would survive through to morning and for the first half of it, I felt good. It was dry and dusty and visibility was very poor as the lights reflected back off all the dust as it encroached on your lungs. Half way through the lap, I was sick again in a big way. It took me a good 10 minutes to manage to start moving again. Luckily I was near the half way feed zone, and I managed to grovel my way up the hill to Haydn. I felt better for having been sick, but the problem we were faced with now was trying to get my stomach to keep food down. It was just before midnight and I was on my hands and knees in the feedzone dry reaching and coughing up green globules of dust. This was not good half way through a 24 hour race… at the 20 hour mark, not too much of a problem, but I couldn’t do another 12 hours of racing without eating. What had I done wrong? Was it the heat? The dust? Had I gone too hard when I was trying to make up the time on my competitors? While I was in the feed zone, the girl in 6th place passed me…

I must have been there for at least half an hour. Haydn convinced me to get up and ride the rest of the lap so I could reach my pit area where we could try and get some food into me. We did this, and all the while I lost placing after placing. While I was in the pit, Tony Hogg (our fellow NZ team and pit mate)also came in. He was in first place and quite a substantial margin up on second place. We were both in a world of hurt.

I got on the bike a bit before Tony and headed out on a slow, arduous lap. About a quarter of the way through the lap, Tony came steaming past me again. He was back on! WOOHOO!!! I was a little surprised to come across Tony on the side of the trail, barely lucid with another rider holding him up waiting for the medics. He couldn’t stand up... I felt really gutted for him. He’d been riding so well.

The rest of the evening went slowly, but fairly uneventfully, but the above events of the 12 hour mark had a substantial effect on my ability to continue lapping at pace. Despite my best efforts, I wasn’t able to peg the deficit back and finished in 9th place. There’s a lot that has to go right for a 24 hour race to go your way, and it was a hard lesson to learn so far from home.

So, where to now??? Well, I have 9 days left in Canada and to do a bit of road tripping… This will, indeed, involve going riding (not training) in some very cool places, and I’ll be sure to tell you all about them. Upon my return to NZ, I’ll put together my race schedule for the next year and an events schedule, which will hopefully involve some more international events and obviously I will be seeking revenge against myself at next year’s 24 hour solo world champs. The Wednesday Nite Ride Series at Woodhill this year was a great success and I hope to do this again next year and also have some other very cool ideas up my sleeve. We will be looking for sponsorship/support for these events, so keep watching this space if you want to jump in and grab a piece of the action!

Peace out for now

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