It would have been nice to recover from the Flight Centre Epic last weekend but it was quickly back to reality. Client’s legs needed massaging and their programs need writing. I had been so pumped for the last couple of weeks of racing I think I’d emptied the enthusiasm tank. The prospect of backing up for consecutive marathons was also a trip into the unknown. My legs still felt really bad and I was quite exhausted by the time I boarded the flight to Canberra.
The Kowalski Classic was a late decision but I had heard about the quality and quantity of the single track which enticed me away from summery Queensland conditions. I didn’t expect to be shivering in 1 degree temperatures on the start line in the middle of a field outside Queanbeyan though. Staying in the car for as long as possible I attempted a warm up along the fireroad but this became an exercise in irony. Eventually I found a sunny spot near the start line and just stood as still as possible and I ended up doing the entire event in arm-warmers feeling very comfortable with my choice.
The race headed straight up a climb after the start and five girls took off ahead of me. I quickly realised my legs were still toasted from the previous weekend, compounded by lack of warmth and I had no choice but to let the others go and hope I saw them later. With the course consisting of about 90% singeltrack though, it was hard to tell if they were 30 seconds in front or 5 minutes. Plodding along at my own pace and taking time to drink and have a Shotz gel on the rare occasion we were on a fireroad the first couple of hours passed swapping positions on the trail with some male riders. Concerns about being impeded on the narrow trails were allayed as the ‘wave’ starts meant I was riding with people of similar speed and ability. Following one rider who was taking some smooth lines reminded me to stop fighting the singletrack before I completely exhausted my upper body.
At around 2 hours I had passed most of the other female riders and Jo Bennett and I were riding together when we hit the 50k feedzone back at the start-finish. It was so great to see a legend out on the trails again after knocking out twins and I remembered how she thrashed me at my first Red Centre Enduro. I could not get rid of her on the singletrack and I knew my upper heartrate zones would be no-go areas for this race so all I could hope is that my endurance would last slightly longer than hers. Working the hills in some of the technical muddy sections I got a small gap, kept the gas on and hoped it would hold. Again, it was hard to tell how big that gap was and every time I hit a fireroad I was looking over my shoulder.
With about 30 minutes to go I was slightly hallucinating. The course-marking signs were moving in my vision and I kept seeing things out of the corner of my eye which just weren’t there. Except that exceptionally large blackish wallaby – I’m pretty sure that was real. While the singletrail was fun for the first half, that constant swinging back-and-forth was making me a little nauseous now and open road was a nice reprieve. As usual it was great to climb off my bike under the finish arch and take the win, with Jo less than two minutes behind me for a Liv/giant one-two.
Photo credit: Mike@marathonMTB.com
In only its second year I am surprised at how well the event was run – easy registration, parking, started on time and the course-marking was spot on. The trails are everything people said they were, but I seriously underestimated how taxing riding that much singletrack would be. My arms and back are sorer than my legs! As Jason English said on the podium: Canberra has some amazing trails and I’d live here – if it wasn’t so cold.
I’m looking forward to taking some time away from mountain-bike racing for the rest of the year and gear up for a summer of criteriums and the Hell of the Mariana’s road race in December. Now I just need someone to massage MY legs.
Thanks to Self Propelled Enterprises for a great event and to my sponsors: Giant Bikes, Ride Mechanic, For the Riders, SRAM, Progressive Coaching Systems, Louis Garneau, Shotz, NS Dynamics and Schwalbe.