Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Contact Epic 2013

I'm never doing this *ucking race again!
83k on my Garmin - permanently etched into my brain as I vented my frustration passing a fellow cyclist, grovelling my way toward Dingleburn station during the 2013 Contact Epic around Lake Hawea.

I woke at 5am to the sound of light rain on the tent. No surprise as the weather forecast was for cold, damp conditions. Banging some creamed rice in I struggled to work out what I would wear for the 125k starting at 7am. 
I like to travel light and was hoping to ride with nothing on my back but it seemed likely that I would have a few layers to remove so I opted for my small and light pack. Without the hydration bladder it would provide room for jacket, Daddy Long Legs and thermals as the day warmed up. I could carry the gels that would have been in my back pockets in the zipped pouches on the side so seemed the way to go.

Standing at the line with my brother Stu I met up with Hamish Grant - another ex-Contours owner. We both commented that we were wearing more than ever before but it seemed prudent being 3 degrees and likely staying in single figures for the day. Hamish mentioned his dog had died that week and that he was only there as friends suggested he should go. His day turned out to be tougher than mine when he realised his bottle was missing from his bike  and had to rush back to camp to get it. Tough day - tough week...

Got a great start. The Ventana leapt up the hill. Still loving the rohloff gear changes - smooth, steady steps allow for even power onto the road. I can only see myself getting better and better as I more fully make use of this feature of the rohloff.  I missed the first bunch but got into a great position in the second. The first guys stayed only a little ahead as we turned towards kidds bush. I wouldn't have held them anyway so I was happy to have the legs to get to kidds bush relativley uscathed.

Not long after Kidds Bush I passed the scene of Rob Roys untimely bike dismount resulting in cracked ribs and I believe broken clavical/shoulder damage of some description. Dr Prags was on hand along with others who took significant time out from their races to help Rob. It's great the way people step up when needed. The Classic was Pragati's first serious race. Way to go - not one to take the easy option! Switching gears back into race mode must've been tough but she got it done!

Temperatures came up a little and I determined to drop the nylon jacket and Daddy Longlegs at the head of the lake but turning south brought an icy head wind. Jacket and leggings stayed on...

The terrain went from smooth to downright rigid unfriendly. This was the fourth time tackling this ride for me but the first time going rigid. Initially I was pleased with how the bike handled the rough but there is no doubt that the impacts and more active input required wear the body down. I grumbled mostly to myself along the river section as I used a lot of energy to force the bike forward. The later climbs although rocky were not as bad as the pace was generally slower. By about 80k I was starting to get grumpy and the earlier enjoyment was giving way to some frustration. I was getting tired and my body bagan leading my brain down pathways it would not normally go. Although I may have been smiling as I uttered my declaration to not ride this race again the intention behind it was deadly serious. I was over it.

Looking at my Garmin later that day I noted that this point was the second of two high points and arguably with all the work done prior - the toughest place to be for the day. Makes sense...

As is always the way, cresting the hill saw the feelings soften. I squeezed in a gel - caffeine and sugar - yumm - drank water and started to feel better on the way to Dingleburn. A quick drink and half a banana at the station saw me dropping down the grass section and on towards the bluffs. I felt ok through this section with some well placed riders bringing out my competitive spirit. I tried working some groups but I struggled to be much use and got caught wanting a few times as stronger finishers pushed forward and left me for dead.

By the last stretch of gravel into tarseal I was feeling stronger. I think my eating and hydration was lacking earlier and I suffered for it later. My time was 15-20mins slower than last year. This was consistent with other competitors results due to the wet conditions.

Post race I was interested to note that as with the Naseby 12hr, I was spent but far from broken. Others universally complained of sore backs and shoulders. I put this down to a focus on core work and consistent abdominal exercises. The addition of teaching pump classes may be a significant part of this as would an increase in consistency on my more heavy weights. The 5 or 6 extra kilos on the body may be providing resilience if not overall speed. I certainly feel stronger and am able to handle multi-session/multi-day workouts and rides much better.

The rigid ride definitely hurt more on the rugged trail sections and I will need to focus more on this aspect in my training if I go this way again. The long rides incorporating the Rail Trail are not sufficient to account for the tough 60k through the middle of the Epic ride. I may beg, borrow or steal a full-sus bike for next year... 

I guess I am doing it again next year...

Contact Epic 2013 (Select the link to view data from Garmin Connect)

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