The Nationals

A coupe of things happened post Rocky and pre-nationals race. It was a super hectic week.

Wrist: I got the all clear from the wrist surgeon to ride and punch people. Wooo. Means my bones have healed and they are no longer more likely to break than the other hand. Have to continue to work on function and strength as the pain and swelling may continue for another 6 months and I have no spatial awareness of where my wrist or hand is. It is like its wrapped in cotton wool. There is also a chance I may never be able to put weight on that wrist aka never do push up again.

Mechanics: As there is no bike mechanic in my life yet (can’t imagine why with my none existence dating profile haha), I had to learn how to do a hydraulic brake bleed. And by Batman’s squeaky brakes, it was successful! For me, this was a huge win. The bike was setup in the middle of the lounge room with Mr Professional You Tube for assistance and after a significant time later, I managed to do one. I only did one for fear that if stuffed it up, I would still have a rear brake.

Fitness: I did an RPM class at the gym and thought it was easy. The wet mornings meant I wasn’t able to do any road rides so I succumbed to a gym session. In the past I used to think a 45min RPM (cycle class) was challenging but alas it wasn’t any more. This is not a boast about how fit I am but far from it. I’m struggling with my riding fitness, the Rocky race was a good example. Hmmm I am going to have to do something about this.

Zombie: My consistent post race funk is a symptom of inadequate race nutrition. My friend Super A has a super coach and one of the discussions during our Rocky trip was around nutrition and I am going to have to do something about this. Anyone who saw me last week would understand the exhausted, drained state I was in. The first two days after a race are the worst, I am a haggard wreck.

Food: After some serious research into race nutrition, I found a recipe on the Australian Institute of Sports website that would suit mountain biking. A date, apricot and coconut slice or more like a homemade muesli bar. Got my Martha Stewart one and baked this for the weekends race.

Tyres: The new tyre – the Magic Mary – I was holding out on for Canada went on the front wheel. This was a late night maintenance session in the middle of the lounge room trying to get Poo Brown race ready. Haven’t touched the rear one as I didn’t want to jinx myself with the rear wheel nor risk a flat before the Nationals. Oooo fresh rubber to play with.

Nationals weekend

Toowoomba turned on a classic T’bar winter minus 1 mornings and top of 15 degrees during the day. Though if you stood in the sun it was about 20 degrees.   Me and Super A drove up on Saturday morning, headed straight for the top of the mountain and launched straight into practice. The course is now official and the stages bunted. I have some wonderful friends who were letting me stay the night and my the wonderful Kate (with her broken ankle) spent the day driving us up the mountain so we could get some great practice in and could conserve our energy by not riding up the ridiculous huge climb.

We did four of the six stages and I spent the whole time crashing. The trails had dried out and with the hundreds of riders practicing on them the corners were dry, dusty and had become super sketchy. I was crashing in just about every freaking corner. The front wheel was biting in and I would then hit the ground. I was getting pretty damn frustrated by this stage and I lost count how many times I crashed. The crashes while not huge, were taking there toll on my body as I had handlebars digging in my stomach, ribs; elbows and wrists smashing into trees and the ground, head getting whiplashed around the place as hit the deck again and again. I was beat up, haggard and annoyed. What the hell was going on?! Why do I suck so badly today?! I was playing around with tyre pressure getting desperate for a solution. I had checked all my settings the night before and everything was okay. Then my problem slapped me in the face and I burst into tears. Frustration or relief or both – I had put my front tyre on backwards! The tyres have a specific rotation and I, in my late night bike maintenance session had got it ass about (even though I swear I checked it). It’s something that every biker has done, probably more than once. I crashed several more times getting to the bottom of the hill as this was something that I couldn’t really resolve on the side of the mountain in any type of satisfaction. I had my emergency tool kit with me but I wanted it to be race ready. I left my friends on the mountain practising and went to the bottom to see I if could get it resolved. I had a full tool kit and spares in the car; I just had to get to the top of the mountain again. My next uplift was an hour away; I could have ridden but it’s a bloody big mountain. I managed to get some help getting it swapped over, facing the embarrassing state of my complete rookie stuff up (joked with the guy helping me that this is why I need race support as clearly I can’t look after myself), got the next lift up and did one more run. Stumbled down the mountain even with my tyre on the right way. Crashing all the time takes its toll on the body and the mind and by the 5th run I was shattered. However having the tyre on the right way makes a huge difference (who would have thought… insert eyeroll). I still had one stage to practice but I called it for the day. I was done and I guess ready as I was ever going to be for my first national round race, which is hardly at all. This is the one race I really wanted to do well in and probably the only National race I have a chance of doing okay in (due to the almost home town status of the trails and all the wonderful support I have by my local biking friends).

Super A and I were staying with some friends in Toowoomba so we didn’t have to make the drive home and back the next day. First stop was food. We were introduced to PhatBurgers for a late lunch. OMG, if you are ever in T’bar, I highly recommend eating here. Their sweet potato fries where to die for – made with the white and purple sweet potato nom nom nom so good! That night we all huddled around a fire, under a blanket chatting, sipping wine and just generally had a wonderful evening.

That night as I changed into my seven layers of pyjamas to combat the cold, my days crashes started to revel themselves on my body. Black and purple bruises everywhere. The inside of my legs look like I am battered housewife and my right ankle is just one big fat cankle with a hole in the middle of it. Washed down some painkillers and tried to sleep. The date, apricot homemade muesli bar and banana I ate today were in full affect and I was farting like a champion. If the hole in the ozone layer is reported to be growing, I would not doubt it was because of me. Oh my batman’s bat spray, my own gas was making my eyes water. I was laying as still as I could under the thick doona but the smell would waft up and hit me in the face. Oh jesus wept, I STINK! Note to self perhaps a different type of homemade muesli bar for next race.

Round 1 of the Australian National Gravity Enduro Series aka Race day

The format for a National race is a little different than the local races I have been competing in. They split all the different categories up into Group A and Group B and give each rider is given a designated start time. There are six stages and we have to complete the stages in the allocated order. Each rider is also given a start time for two of the Stages and you must be at the Stage by your designated start time otherwise you are disqualified. I was in Group B and my start time was 9:50.30am – looking at the list, I was going to be the very last person leaving the event village. The first riders left at 8:30am. I had the number plate 222 – 222 riders entered into this race and I was bestowed to be the last one. I was still waiting to start my race and riders were already finishing the first stage and on their way to the next stage. It was a very weird feeling to be rolling out as the last competitor. There was a DJ at the race village so I danced and jigged my way out and I was off and racing.

Photo stolen from

My Stage order was 4,5,6,1,2,3 (Group A started at Stage 1). I had to be at Stage 4 at 10:35a and Stage 1 at 12:45p.

Stage 3 was the biggest of the day and it was going to be my last. This meant I had to get to the top of the mountain and ride all the way down to the race village. This was also the longest and most physical track of the day.

Got to Stage 4, waited for my turn and cheered as loud as I could for all the other riders on before me. Once they had all departed, then it was mine turn and it was deathly quiet haha. At the marshalls at the start gate gave me some cheek so at least that was something and as last rider out the gate with no one to cheer me on, so I cheered myself. Ha! Stage four was full of nasty powdery dusty corners that have settled on the rocks which you can’t see until the bike was slipping all over the place. I had a few foot off the pedals moments but generally made it down the hill in one piece. My heart was screaming at me and I couldn’t breath at the end of the stage. The wonderful ladies I was riding with, waited for me to finish and we all cycled to the next stage together.

The next two stages were a little shorter but rocky, rocky, rocky, rocky and rocky.  Did I mention they were rocky? There was a nasty uphill pinch in Stage 5, however I made the climb and got to the end with my heart once again exploding in my chest. At least I stayed on my bike, not like yesterday where I spent the day rolling amongst the jagged rocks. Pushed back up the hill for Stage 6, the one stage I didn’t practice yesterday. Being the last rider to start, meant I was the last rider for every stage. I found this stage soul destroying, as it was virtually flat and a bloody rock field the whole way. It was impossibly difficult to get speed, even harder to maintain it. I just felt awkward the whole way and I spent the whole time praying that you don’t get a flat and that I don’t ping my rims on one of the rocks. I didn’t. Phew.

Three stages down over two hours with three stages to complete within the two hours remaining. Now just to push right up the mountain to the very top of the mountain to do Stage 1. My friend with the broken ankle was sitting up here cheering us on. I got up there with 20 minutes to spare and used the time to try and eat more than I usually do. Stuffed down so more fart inducing muesli bars. I really like the next three stages as they are the most technical and difficult but also have the most incredible flow sections. Stage 1 has a series of drops in it, into a sketchy corner, followed by some more sketchy corners then down a rock chute. Nailed this section was super happy with how I was riding until the bloody uphill sections on the stage which just about killed me. I swear there are sadists in this sport that enjoy torturing people haha.

Stage 2 was flow, fast, berms, little jumps and pops and then a hard right-hander down into some fresh black loamy soil. Stayed upright and once again had my heart exploding out of my chest. Stayed on the bike and didn’t crash. No idea how I am tracking as the live timing check points haven’t registered any of our times. However Group A live timing was up and I was super excited to see Super A in second place! That inspired for the final stage of the day. Stage 3 the epic downhill track, the longest and meanest track of the day. It was a long tough climb up and watching the riders come down, I got to see how beat up the track had become.  At the top of the mountain my friends had come along to cheer us on which was lovely as I was really tired.

I probably had the scariest moment of my entire race on this track. At the top is a really steep rock chute that is on the side of the mountain, it drops down into a nasty right hand corner into a another rock drop. Half way down this rock garden is a bump that has the potential to stop you dead, you have to make sure you pull the front wheel up to help the suspension get you over. By the time Miss last rider on the mountain got here, Miss 222 the rock chute was covered in dust from the sections before it. The corners had turned to fine bull dust and covered the rock chute. I came in with a little more speed than I usually carried (white line fever kicking in), ass hanging over the back wheel of the bike, tried to lose speed but the back wheel started to skid sideways on the dust. Zero traction. Had to take my hands of the brakes to straighten up and then I was onto of the bump, just managed to get the wheel of the bump, went sideways into the corner, foot out trying to stay on the track (it’s a near vertical drop down the side of the mountain if you come off and I don’t think they would find my body if I did go over the side), my foot was sliding in the dust. Zero traction. Sphincter puckering action at is greatest. Managed to stay upright and on the track, lost a lot of speed but got through. There are huge rocks all over the track and I buggered, struggling to hold on.

My wrist was aching like crazy and I was terrified that I didn’t have the strength to keep holding on. While the bones have healed, I have no spatial awareness of where my wrist and hand is. The best way to describe it is, the palm of my hand feels like it is full of cotton wool while trying to hold onto the handlebar. I’m constantly trying to wiggle it around to ‘feel’ where it is, not the best idea when careering down the side of a mountain.

The infamous triple drops on the Mckenzie Frenzy downhill track that claimed so much carnage on the weekend. Thanks Element Photo and Video for the photo! These guys actually waited until the very last rider (me) came down the hill.

I hit the three drops that causes so many people trouble and made the washed out corner after it. The rest of the run was fun but lung busting. I arrived at the event village that was teeming with people, I collapsed over the bars gasping for air unable do anything for several minutes. My first National Gravity Enduro race was over. Handed in my timing chip, smashed some food and waited for the results to be displayed. I rode all the technical sections that I had been working on (except one), got the drops, some of the jumps so from a technical point of view of was happy with that but I felt slow.

Over the 4 hours and six stages, I had 32 mins and 42 seconds of racing I found myself in second place with just eight seconds determining who was first. I was disappointed with my result as I just wasn’t as fast as I wanted to be. I got most of the technical sections that I wanted to hit but I was slow. I heard that first place took all the B lines (easier and longer options) and still she was faster than me. I posted a video on social media of me hitting some of the drops for the first time in practice and I was slammed with comments about how slow I was. Out of the 222 riders, I was 203rd overall. I really don’t think my pedalling fitness is that bad (or maybe it is), I think I’m going to have to face the reality that I’m just a slow rider.

Maybe I’m just slow. I’m always getting in trouble at karate for going too slow (my life isn’t all about biking). Can you train an old elephant to be agile and fast? It takes me two days to recover from a race. I had a fabulous weekend with some wonderful people however I’m tired, beat up and disheartened but I guess that’s racing for you. This one was extra tough for me and I was so fatigued for the two days, I was on the verge of tears. The price you pay when you give something everything you’ve got. I wrote most of this in those two days however I’m feeling alive again. It’s going to be an emotionally crazy year with more races on the cards – just a heads up to those around me – it’s not you it’s me haha,  The next national round is in Canberra so beware my Canberran friends (if you’re reading this), there way be a request for some accommodation for Poo Brown and I of the 16th September while I try and find those damn 8 seconds.

One thought on “The Nationals

  1. They say no pain no gain Michelle. I think you are getting more than your share of pain though. Hope you heal quickly. Take it easy. Love.xx

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