Thursday, 28 October 2010

All about cream... Thank you!!

Today I had the perfect opportunity to say "thank you" to all the wonderful people who have helped me to make it to the 2010 world solo24hour championships.

Last week I received an email from BBC Surrey radio asking if I would like to come in to talk on their morning show. Initially I was reluctant. My success in live broadcasting has been somewhat, er, interesting. After winning at "24/12" (in July) as a pair I was interviewed with my race partner Ant. Somehow the only thing that came into our heads, which then inadvertently came out of our mouths... and then got published online was, "It would have been good if there had been more opportunities to eat ice cream on the course!".  Huh?

After much thought I decided that I would agree to go on the radio, but that this time - to avoid embarrassment and make sure I said what I wanted to - I would prepare my answers in advance. Like a pro I emailed the news editor a brief about the race and a link to my blog.  I made a list of everything I wanted to say... OK, I knew that I was going to shake with fear but it was radio - no one would notice... Most importantly, I would get to say a big public "thank you" to everyone, making the nervousness worthwhile.

The night before the interview I dreamt of what I wanted to say. 

"...this race would not have been possible without a few fantastic people who gave, not because they had to, but because they wanted to. After I qualified in May, 'the Worlds' was just an impossible dream. Out of my reach financially - in terms of the cost of trip and lost earnings, physically from lack of training and lack of skills on rocky terrain and lastly, logistically. How do we get team plus kit to set up a pit in Australia - we normally take a van load of kit to a race!?

Initially I had contacted some of the big players in the bike world for assistance. The same answer of 'no'  was repeated in various disguises.

I was almost at the point of not going when things started to came in abundance not from where I was looking but from my friends and local contacts" 

I woke in the morning slightly less scared, confident that I would not talk about ice cream!

I arrived at the radio station in good time and waited, expecting someone to run through what was going to happen. 

Suddenly a lady appeared, "This way.. you are on next.....". My heart jumped into my mouth - what?? I found myself whisked into a room where a massive green mike was stuffed in front of my face.  Opposite sat a man chatting into his mike, he looked nothing like Frazier Crane - I was thrown before I started!
I'm not sure if he knew that I had raced at the world champs... He was certainly not keeping to my carefully prepared mental script. Almost from the start we were off at a tangent and heading fast down a path that I did not know how to get out of. He wanted to talk about chaffing and saddle discomfort and before I knew it, the words "chamois cream" came out of my mouth and reverberated around the room - what is it I have with cream and live interviews!?  I mentally screwed up my crib sheet and threw it over my shoulder. Chamois cream, although an acceptable norm in the cycling world, must seem at best odd, but at worst downright pervy to the rest of the world.  I watched in horror as the interviewer latched onto this concept and asked if it was like "Anchor squirty cream", miming his imagined method of application. I blushed - a lot.  

My perfect opportunity to say "thank you" disappeared as I desperately tried not to say the words "minty arse lard" or "bum butter" on live radio. In that respect I succeeded - much to my relief - and the interview was brought to a rapid close to get another interview in as the show was running late, but I couldn't help feeling that I had failed spectacularly because I had not managed to say "thank you". 

I hope that this list below, of people who cared enough about me to make my impossible dream a reality, know how grateful I am.  Without you I would never have reached the airport let alone 4th in the my category at the world championships.

      THANK YOU TO..

Neil Hammerton, a local businessman and fellow mountain biker wanted to help us. His company Natterbox  sponsored us to go to Australia as Team Natterbox. Not only that, but his product (voice hosting) would act as my virtual switchboard allowing me to go out and train/go abroad knowing that all my phone calls would be redirected intelligently to where ever I wanted. 

At the same time Peter Flynn, a friend and owner of Candela Capital, offered his help too, saying that I had helped him in the past and he wanted nothing in return - just for me to "go for it". Actually he said, "if you don't win I want my money back", but I think he was joking..?

Petra cycles from Oxted, my local bike shop have been incredible all year. Chris, the talented mechanic, always on hand to look after my bike. I'm a typical girl in that I'm not good at spanners and grease - Chris has been ever patient in keeping my bike running smoothly throughout the race season and dropped everything to prep my new race bike to make it work for me - only a local bike shop can really get to know you...

AQR.(A quick release holidays)  Ian and Kate potter have been my guardian angels from the start. Not only did Kate inspire me to race in the first place but they have been generous with their advice and experience. They run AQR, a guiding company in Luchon, southern France and came to my rescue when I realised that my skills were vastly inadequate to ride the technical terrain at Mt Stromlo. A week under Ian's tuition gave me the confidence I needed to conquer the rocks. Not only that, but they also lent me Kate's designed for the purpose, prototype, 24 hour race bike - a Cotic KP 24 which I had ridden all week in Luchon and fell in love with. It is the perfect 24 hour race bike. (please make more Cy, it really was fantastic!)

Exposure Lights. Rory Hitchens lent me the brand new 6 Pack light and Joystick with piggyback batteries galore, giving me light throughout the 12 hours of darkness, without a recharge. The brightness of these lights was awesome, not only causing possums to fall out of trees (yes really) but allowing me to ride confidently without fear of hidden rocks, corners, spiders or snakes. 

Clare Fone at Westminster Physiotherapy and Pilates Centre for allowing me to take lots of leave to train and indulge my dream of cycling at the Worlds.

Sudhir Daya, Physiotherapist at WPPC, who helped me finely tune my core with a set of exercises that made every inch of my body shake. 

For Goodness Shakes for their recovery drink, allowing me to train 'the day after'.

Maxxis for providing amazing tires that gripped, rolled and bounced in exactly the right amounts.

Richard Sterry, fellow vet solo endurance mountain biker, who helped me with advice, lists and logistical planning.

Oxted MTB, the group of people I ride with at home. The best riding buddies anywhere! They tweeted, face booked and texted all through the race - keeping me going in my dark moments. 

My girlfriends and our families who avidly followed my progress, offering support and encouragement through out the year and the race. In particular Simon's family for learning how to use facebook and twitter, blasting them into the scary realms of social networking ;-)

Ducan for making me ride every Tuesday, for making my tires tubeless with minimal swearing and mess and willingly using my pink flowery screwdriver for any of my diy catastrophes. 

My Kids for tolerating me being distracted for the last 6 months and for believing that I could do it. For wanting to come to Australia to help wash my legs and dust my bike, but also for understanding that their school work came first...

Ant Jordan, long time friend and the other Natterbox race team solo rider for making our trip to Australia an absolute hoot. The most cheerful and upbeat 24 hour racer anywhere. An inspiration. 

Carole Armstrong, the best Pit Mum in the Business. I have never had bite sized banana and warm tea fed to me at 4 in the morning with such care. 

Team GB for being the loudest, most enthusiastic pit crew in the solo arena.

Deborah Reynolds, owner of Magnolia Cottage Canberra. The best rented accommodation in ACT by far, who lent us all the camping stuff we needed for the race weekend - saving our excess baggage allowance. 

Jolyon Welsh, acting British High Commissioner, for supporting us and the GB team at the race and to Simon, his staff member and bike mechanic, for pre race bike building even though his wife was expecting. 

Steve at Provision for our superb race kit - it takes a real bike pro to produce that kind of race quality clothing, at the price and in the turnaround times we needed. 

Kalibizar of Oxted for the fabulous team tops - and Ned in particular, who put in so much personal effort to make sure we looked right as a team.  

Lastly to Simon, my Partner and Pit Manager, who had no idea what he was taking on when he met me:-) for embracing all my bonkers plans and enhancing every one of them.


Thursday, 14 October 2010


The recovery process is an important factor post 24 hour racing. It normally takes me at least two weeks and probably up to six weeks to feel like my legs are anywhere near normal again. So imagine my anxiety when I found myself taking part in a 5 hour endurance event in Thailand less than 4 days after the most strenuous 24 hour race I have ever done…

The mud was tenacious, the rain freezing, my muscles more beaten up than after the World’s.  Worst of all, I had to wear nothing but a hairnet, flip-flops and a pair of black mesh ‘boy-shorts’ throughout!  As you may have guessed, this event had nothing to do with bicycles. We were ‘’treating” ourselves to a day of post-race “pampering” in one of Bangkok’s finest spas...

It seemed like a good idea at the time - a day in a spa in Bangkok to soothe our aching bodies before we headed up to the northern hill country (with our bikes).

Simon and I naively looked through the menu (neither of us spa experts) and choose a 5 hour option - Jacuzzi bubble bath then exfoliation, tea, Thai full body massage and a facial thrown in as this month’s special offer – how lucky are we!

So, I have been brought to the treatment room, a dimly lit chamber with wooden carvings of Buddha everywhere, 2 black marble slabs, a massive bath and mood lighting.  The lady gives me 2 small packages.  I stifle a giggle as I discover a hairnet and shorts.  Standing there admiring myself in the mirror wearing said items I discover as I experiment with their elasticity that the shorts could happily keep me covered from my chin to my knees. Without warning the door opens and Simon comes in carrying the same packages - they ‘do’ couples together... I am afraid - very afraid!

Once in the bubbling Jacuzzi I try not to laugh at Simon who, wearing the same as me, is trying to look comfortable in a metro sexual, “this is not a problem for me”, kind of way.  Above the Jacuzzi is a massive stone Buddha looking like he is smoking a joint.  On closer inspection it is a merely a water spout coming out of his mouth used to top up the bath.  2 Thai ladies walk in laden with bottles and gesture for us to get out of the bath. They are neither as young, nor as pretty as the ladies at reception. I can see Simon looking conned - I am a tad relieved.

I lie on my front and get covered in gritty mud- the type that eats away at brake pads. It sounds like someone is sweeping the drive and as the Thai lady sets to work grinding the mud into my pores it seems that the top layer of my skin is being eroded - this must be exfoliation… I end up feeling about an inch thinner and am certainly a lot pinker when she finally finishes. Turning over as instructed I see Simon’s face- a look of bewilderment and mild amusement.

I know how long it takes me to wash my bike when it is as muddy as we are and I wonder how we are going to get clean. At that moment, a torrent of cold water, slowing to a tepid trickle empties from the ceiling- its raining?! There is a long oblong showerhead over both marble slabs which soon washes the mud into a grey pool onto the floor- efficient, no doubt but I was left shivering with shock and cold. In true ‘mountain biking in the rain’, style there is a cup of tea close at hand. Simon and I sit, still in our black pants, huddled next to a naked, grinning Buddha, trying to warm ourselves with steaming jasmine tea.

So far I have got muddy, cold and soaking wet, but I still wasn’t prepared for what my muscles would feel like after the next stage - back on the slab for an oil massage – like they were being torn off my bones with a blunt instrument. The oil massage was more painful to my back and limbs than at any moment during the 24 hour race.

By the time this was over it was four hours into the “treatment” / endurance and I found myself using the same tactics of mental and physical survival that I use for racing … only this time lying on my back covered in towels with only the facial to go… an hour of agony from lying still on my bruised back while my face was polished, scrubbed and covered in grease.

At last it’s over and Simon sits up looking totally exhausted. He can’t quite open his eyes, His hair is sticking up, his face bright pink with small dollops of face pack around the edges. His body is covered in red marks from the massage and his pants are at a jaunty angle – he looks like he has just ridden over Mount Stromlo for 24 hours!

The irony of the situation suddenly makes me burst out laughing. Luckily Simon, who could so easily have had a sense of humour failure about what we have just been through, smiles back and just shakes his head.

Dressed and out into the foyer we gingerly sit down, only to be offered a pink blamange to eat… what?!  Again the irony makes me laugh.  I tend to use For Goodness Shakes recovery drink after exercise- and this reminds me of their Superberry flavour, so here we are doing much the same…

Recovering from a 24 hour endurance event with another endurance event in a Bangkok spa is definitely something worth trying simply for the novelty value. But in future I will stick to the more conventional approach of recovery tights and recovery shakes. I know the tights look just as ridiculous as mesh boy-shorts, but they are slightly more acceptable to wander around in. And if I am really honest I am not sure I see the point in paying to get covered in mud, rained on and pummelled- I can get that for free when ever I ride my bike!

Monday, 11 October 2010

I didn't know I could fly so high and sink so low THE RACE....

... the last 24 hours has stretched my emotional and physical capacity to the absolute limit.

Taking part in a world championship race, standing on the start line with athletes who you would keenly search out to get their autograph, is an over whelming experience. I am wearing subtle Union Jacks on my Natterbox team top, my bike is racked at the start line, my race number has my name and country on it. Pinch me - is this a dream?

Standing waiting for the running start I glance round at the other athletes. nervous, inane chatter and steely 1000 meter stares. 400 plus athletes - One goal, one race, 24 hours in the saddle...

Bang! We sprint for our bikes. The clatter of 400 pairs of cycling shoes on concrete sounds like frantic gunfire- adrenaline is flowing.

Spot the Union Jack a mile off - jump on the bike and away I go. Only 23 hours 59 minutes to go.

We had pre ridden the course several times so I just put my head in, "pedal, pedal, pedal" mode and focus on taking the smooth line. Just under a mile in, my line was taken by someone else, forcing me to go though a rut. I heard a loud click underneath me, nothing broken but my saddle had tilted backwards. Not by a lot, but enough to cause serious saddle/body interface malfunction if not sorted. I had had a good start and didn't want to stop and loose my place. The further back in the field you fall on the first lap the more you get held up, getting stuck behind less technically adapt riders. I decided to carry on but to avoid sitting down until I had a decent lead on the stragglers. The first 10 km was a gruelling  technical climb over rocks and around tight hairpins. It was not easy. (Matt Page, the UK 24 hour champion reckoned it took him 30 mins to do this climb- I took slightly longer!) If I sat down, the saddle was the wrong angle for climbing so I stood the whole way. Luckily my legs coped really well thanks to all the core training I had been doing. At the top I sorted the saddle which took longer than I expected loosing valuable time because it was really fiddly and I was shaky after the climb.

But what a fantastic course! After the difficult start I began to enjoy myself. I nailed "Pork Barrel", the uber technical decent, and ultimately flew down "Skyline", the amazing, long, swoopy, bermed trail into the pits. All the time Ian Potter's voice banging round in my head "heals down - look round the bend - heals down" - Yes!!! This was brilliant!! I was so pelased we had been out to Luchon for a training week with Ian and Kate of AQR - I really couldn't have coped with this course without them and for Kate to lend me her bike...

My saddle still was not quite right, but as I got to the pits they were so efficient that before I knew it I was spat out the other side and back onto the course with clean face, energy gel, water and a massive cheer from the pit crew. They had told me that I was 7th, but not by much..that was all the motivation I needed. Pedal, pedal... Standing up as much as I could to stop the saddle from bashing me. The next few laps were brilliant, each one better than the last. The leaders had lapped me by this point and I was being overtaken constantly by these amazing riders. They all had encouraging words to say to me as they passed. As the race went on I saw the course in safe overtaking points and I was always rewarded with a keen "thank you" or a compliment on how I pulled in /over. The Australians course etiquette was without exception, amazing. I was now being overtaken by some of the elite ladies and I was tempted to up the speed but I knew I must not. Canny riding would get me to the finish line.

The Cotic KP24 was awesome to ride. Several people did a double take as I flew past them. It really came into its own on the twisty, rocky, narrow descents: the handling was superb. It was Ian's advice to use the Maxxis Crossmark tyres- they rolled fast and gripped right round every bend. Everyone else was complaining of back, shoulder and hand pain- not me!  It was not a Giant, Specialized or a Yeti but I was nailing it. "C_O_T_I_C - whats that?" I would have told them if they could have kept up!

Each time I got to the pit,  6 pit crew descended on me and in double quick time they had looked after my every need. Suncream on, chopped food, tyre pressure, tight bolts, clean glasses, new camel back, quick kiss from Simon and out with a massive cheer! Their enthusiasm was infectious, and spread to the neighbouring pits. By the 4th lap the whole pit lane was cheering every rider who came or went- such a lift to us all.  I thought I was hallucinating when on one pit stop the British High Commissioner and his family were standing there. What a boost to morale to see them!! Jolyon Welsh had invited us on a bike ride the day before and afternoon tea at his house. It was a fantastic surprise to see them again. Although I was more than slightly embarrassed after I stuffed an entire energy bar into my mouth in one go and then mumbled an apology for my poor manners with my mouth full to bursting.

Each lap I upped a place until I was in second. But by this time I was elated, but really suffering in the short /saddle department. No matter what I did with the saddle it kept gradually tipping back.
It was a suffering like I had never had before. My lap times started to slow because the pain was all consuming. Muscular pain I could deal with but this was a whole new experience and I wasn't sure how to handle it.  I wanted to cry but I knew it would waste valuable energy. Each lap got worse but we just couldn't get the saddle to stay put. The saddle had bashed me to bits and as I struggled into the pits on lap 6 I had to be lifted off the bike. It was my dinner time stop so while I ate hot stew, mash and neurofen the pit crew tried to put the saddle at a comedy angle to try and alleviate the pressure.

 I got back on the bike and had to bite my lip in an effort to distract away from pain. I had dropped back to 5th at this point and I was struggling to stay positive. I could not imagine being able to ride for another10 hours. The pit crew were absolutely fantastic. Quick pep talk, (a few twitter and facebook messages read out from back home), the biggest cheer yet lead by Andy who I think reached the entire camp, and off I went into the night. The next 2 laps were ok, the sun had set and with my startlingly bright exposure lights I was able to keep riding well on the technical terrain. My climbing had slowed as I was still having to stand up.

Amazingly my legs felt really good, so I focused on that, concentrated on the fantastic course, the great views over Canberra at night and my lovely bike (still no pain at all in my back, shoulders or arms)
By lap 10 I had been riding for 14 hours with less than 20 minutes break, the neurofen has taken the edge off the saddle sores but I wasn't in a great place. I sat down gingerly in the pits, the heater was on and suddenly, I really didn't want to move. Simon, (I found out later) just wanted to hug me and tell me to stop, but he knew I would always regret it. So with all his courage, and against his nature he managed to get me wincing back on the bike - another immense cheer from the pit lane and off again.  In my head Ian Potters voice- "time spent in the pits is time going backwards"- I was going to keep going forwards!
At the top of the first climb my crank suddenly lost all traction. Damn! my free hub had gone. I still had Ian Potters voice in my head and the words  "go forwards"  Rational thought process is never going to happen 14 hours into a race at 2am. I decided it was perfectly possible to finish the lap forwards rather than go backwards. It was only 12km running with the bike and free wheeling the downs.

In a funny way this piece of bad luck was just what I needed. I wasn't going to let this stop me, it was just one of those thing that can happen in a race which is no ones fault. I had set out to finish the race - so I would! Striding out I pushed the bike, jumping out of the way of racing riders and scooting flat or downhills. Harder than it sounds as there really were not any flat bits at all and with no pedaling ability the downhills became really scary.  I was so appreciative of Rory and the burntimes of his Exposure lights, without which I would have been fumbling in the dark for sure! Strangely, I really enjoyed this lap. I was able to look at the dawn views, see (and avoid) the spiders, gulp! and the walking gave my bum a much needed rest. Gradually I could feel my body waking up again.

3 hours later (ouch!) I got back to the pits knowing that my spare bike would be there ready. I did not want to know what place I had dropped to, I just wanted to ride. The quickest pit stop yet, onto the spare bike - I had some catching up to do!

Getting onto the spare bike made me appreciate The Cotic even more. The terrain was no longer smooth. My spare was a top brand race bike, but I had to fight to keep in a straight line as we attacked the bumpy course. Luckily the 3 hours off the bike had taken the edge off my saddle issues and I was flying gain. The grin returned and I took giggled overtaking rider after rider. My legs felt ok, it was my arms, back and shoulders that started feeling it now. I was back up a place or two and time for possibly 2 more laps. I wasn't sure if I could creep up any more, but I was going to have a go! Inconveniently the event's timing live feed wasn't working so the pit had no way of knowing where the other riders were. Dig deep! By this time my concentration had started to go. I was mentally exhausted from pushing myself and concentrating on riding safely on the very technical course - there really had been no let up. A crash on a relatively easy bit helped me make my decision. I would rather come 10th than come home in a box. The pace relaxed and again I had time to enjoy the course and chat to other riders. The final descent I met up with Jane and Ricky, the two other female members from team GB, perfect! we could finish our last lap together!!

A cheer to beat all cheers as we came down into the finish area! It was over!! I had finished.
Not only had I finished but I had come 4th!!

I felt fantastic! All the pit crew were cheering and waving their Union Jacks, Jolyon Welsh, in perfect, smart casual dress had also come to see us finish the race. I was acutely aware that I was standing there swaying whilst shaking his hand with my minging, oily cycling gloves on, in 24 hour old dirty, sweaty clothes, mud on my face, and barely able to talk!

This was without doubt, the hardest 24 hous of my life. The toughest race completed for the majority of the riders. I had highs and lows and a whole range of everything in the middle. I could not have done it with out my amazing pit crew who ignored my winging and made me ride further than I ever imagined I could.

There are so many people who helped make this race happen for that I think they deserve a blog of their own. Keep reading!

As I said in my previous post its the journey, not the destination - the last 24 hours had been the most amazing journey but the destination feels pretty good too.

Friday, 8 October 2010

The day before the race

Epiphanies are few and far between in my busy life but at the top of mount stromlo on my third practice lap in the warm evening sunshine I stopped my bike and took in the immense view and saw things slightly slightly differently.
 Spinning legs up a long long climb is particularly therapeutic in a medative sort of way . Keeping my mind switched on and busy during a 24 hour race is how I keep physical pain to a minimum and my legs working. As I peddled up that first climb my mind meandered onto the previous years events on how I got here- yes it really is a long climb!!

 I was thinking back  to my sons school speech day this year which was particularly painful. Trying to clap enthusiastically for over 3 hours as boys of gradually increasing size, hair length and swagger walked up to receive their prizes.
I was ready to slide off my chair with boredom until the invited speaker did the final address. His speech went something like this

" I am fully aware that the only thing that lies between being here and the summer holidays is me , so I shall keep it brief. Well done to everyone who has got a prize, but to the boys who have not, success is not everything.  Success is transient, it means nothing. It it is the relationships we make along the way to success which are long lasting and far more meaningful" What a cracking speech!

It reniforced my belief that it is the journey not the destination.

Tomorrow is the world championships and I feel a bit sick with nerves and excitement.
My bike is prepped, I have bought all the strange things to eat that I might crave over the next 24 hours ( tinned man size super chunky chicken stew, instant mash potato, rice pudding , pork pie, jelly beans...) My Natterbox team kit is neatly folded ready to put on. There is nothing left to do except go to bed.

 Just one last glance at my bike before I turn in, and I see my race number on the bars. Apart form the fact that it has my age on it ,  (Grr!) It also has my Name and the Unoin Jack next to it.  How cool is that!!

I have loved the journey to the world championships because I have met some amazing people and been given kindness at every junction. Thank you

For me this has to be the lasting memory of the road to canberra.

 The race tomorrow will be the biggest challenge  - I feel really proud to be racing on the same circuit as the worlds best.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Perfect venue, perfect bike!

The course could not be any more perfect for me or my bike. It's like someone had asked me to fill in a questionnaire about my ideal 24 hour race course and plonked the results at Mt Stromlo.
We rode it twice today, just because we could, whooping all the way!

I was quite envious of Matt Page (the UK champion) who we bumped into after our second lap. Not because he had seen kangaroos less than 10 minutes after he saw us on the trail, but because he was going out on a night lap too!

Mt Stromlo is barely 20 minutes dive from our cottage in northern Canberra. A strange little mountain which because of the forrest fires 7 years ago is only covered with young vegetation with the occasional charred tree. The trail surface is a fine grit or coarse sand dusted over hard packed earth - which makes it fast and loose. The trails are also littered with enough sharp rocks to make the climbs interesting but not too many to make the descents a death trap. I was so glad we had taken time out to train in Luchon with Ian Potter at AQR - not only because he gave me soooo many tips about how to ride rocks and loose, tight corners but also because he had ridden here before. It was Ian who put us onto Maxxis Crossmark tyres - which not only ride fast, but also have nobbles right round the profile allowing grip no matter how tight the corner.  Having ridden the trail I now know why he recommended them and we spotted many of the locals with the same ones - thank you Ian!

 The course starts from the bottom of the mountain at the main arena, from here, the trail winds like a beige ribbon up the front of the mountain into a long, technical "singletrack" climb. Plenty of tight hairpins, rocks and the odd root make this climb interesting if taken steadily - a lung buster if taken at speed. Massive views of the solo pits (where Simon and Carole will be based) and the region towards Canberra and beyond grow and grow as you gain height. At the top you pop out next to a large white observatory glistening in the sunshine - tempting to stop at the visitor centre but from here the trail drops off the edge of the world down the back side of the mountain forming a technical, rocky descent. Fun as it was in a scary kind of way I can imagine this will become many racers downfall as their concentration fades and limbs weaken through the race. Line choice, optimum momentum and balls of ...531 are crucial to be able to ride with conviction.

The climb back up gives the adrenaline levels a chance to recover with a loose fire road slog with a couple of small kicks up. Back at the top you cross over the previous line - images of strip the willow come to mind...! There is a pile of wood at the top where we spotted a massive light brown headed snake who, less than a foot away, stared at us before slithering away. . I'm glad that it was later I found out that this snake with the brown head is the most aggressive and poisonous type. I'm sure the night laps are going to keep me on my toes as I hallucinate that every root/shadow and stick is a snake ready to strike!

From here on down is the best bit of the whole course - a sweeping bermed descent back into the pits. A few rocks , lots and lots of hairpins, and a few jumps drop you quickly down the front of Mt Stromlo with a grin so wide that you might find it too large to fit though the narrow gate back into the pit area.
As much as I fell in love with the course, I fell in love with my bike more. It was purpose designed and built for this type of race and I love it.  It's the best of all worlds. Super light for the climbs, it is also nimble and deft like it's stable mate the COTIC Soul for cornering. The full suspension makes it comfortably iron out the terrain and help my body cope with so long in the saddle. 24 hours on this course would be brutal on a hard tail, but I am now absolutely confident that the Cotic KP24 will just do what it was designed for. The limiting factor is definitely going to be me!

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

The 'Anti jet lag' Joystick :-)

Traveling half way around the world is a really daft idea for a 24 hour endurance bike race. By the time you arive you are already exhausted from the endless organisation, gathering together correct kit and last minute panic. Add to that nerves, a cold and killer jet lag and you get the picture of me in Sydney 1 day after our arrival.
Trying to remain positive after a second night of broken sleep and a day of waves of nausea/heavy head syndrome I decided to do something useful and charge up my "still warm off the press" 2011 Exposure lights which Rory Hitchens had kindly lent to us all for the race. Compared to my old lights it was going to be like cycling into wembly stadium on match night rather than trying to navigate through a nightclub wearing welding goggles.

All charged up and ready to go I unplugged the "Exposure Six Pack" and turned it on. I shone the solid beam of pure light through the window and a sartled creature fell off next doors roof in surprise - Awesome!!! Next the Joystick - a very bright head torch. As I unplugged it the light switched itself on automatically... slightly strange, but I shone it out of the window anyway. It did not quite reach next door's roof so I pressed the button to change the intensity of the light. Nothing happened. I pressed again- nothing. If all else fails... I did the boy thing and read the instructions - hmmm.  I couldn't turn it off.

 We were staying in an open plan appartment and our friends bedroom door was open, as was their child's. The joystick sent a massive amount of light (thanks Rory!) out of our bedroom door into both other bedrooms and the living room too!! It was now bed time, nothing else for it but to close our bedroom door to put the rest of the house back into darkness. Instruction booklet in hand I looked at the extensive burn times for the joystick and groaned - at best 3 hours of enforced daylight in the bedroon, at worst 24 hours. My excitement over the fabulousness of the mark 5 Joystick was starting to wain.
 Luckily, Simon saw the funny side, said let's deal with it in the morning,  rolled over and put the pillow over his head. nothing else for it- I did the same- My body was so messed up, what was another strange night's sleep.
To our surprise we both slept amazing well. By morning I was bizzarely feeling 100 %- no nausea, no groggy feeling and no sore throat!

The joystick had turned itself off eventually at some point in the night but I was still concerned that it might not work for the race. My fault for not testing them before I flew out.

I always think the sign of a good company is good products, but the sign of a great company is great customer service. A quick SOS to Rory in the UK and a plan was hatched to get me a new joystick from the UK to Ausralia, guarenteed to arrive in time for the race.

 In the mean time, I was feeling full of beans, no sign of jet lag at all after my night of enfored light therapy fom the joystick.
So Rory, if you read this, firstly THANK YOU for sorting out my replacement joystick- you are a complete star! Secondly, have you thought about branching out into anti jetlag products;-)

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Define “It’s sorted”…

We have arrived in Sydney! Not without adventure!

My theory on the M25 ‘’Severe Queuing from next junction’’ warning is that the M25 is simply a government scheme to keep as many cars as possible off all the other roads at busy periods. Reaching Heathrow in time made us feel quite smug having foiled said government plan by expert m25 Friday evening rush hour avoidance navigation.
Pride comes before a fall… the lady at check in found that Simon had no Australian visa. I had ‘sorted’ our visas a month prior so this was not what we were expecting. Having said that, I had also ‘sorted’ out holiday flights the previous month for the wrong day making us turn up to our AQR “training week” a day late and I had ‘sorted’ our flights back from Australia a day earlier than we had agreed. Sorted, you might realise now has a new definition for the team!

Luckily a quick phone call to Oz immigration in Canberra at 5am their time and another 30 quid down and we were on the plane.

Once on the plane, we realised that our carefully “sorted” extra legroom seats meant that we were sandwiched between two single mums with excited toddlers on lap.  Thank you to the purser who saw my face and moved us to a quieter place. Simon’s 6 ft 4 body concertinered neatly into the seat, onto the isle and beyond, into the kitchen. Luckily, no one seemed to mind stepping over him.

Dropping into Sydney on their bank holiday weekend, it was difficult to differentiate it from London- grey clouds and heavy rain bouncing 2 ft up off the runway. The weather didn’t seem to dampen the humour of Australian immigration, who were very jolly despite having to dive into my chaotic, over laden bags like a lucky dip for any signs of mud. Looking at my tyres, they insisted they needed washing. These were the brand new, never used tyres kindly donated by Maxxis for the race.  (I think he just wanted a tea brake.) I admired his superb cleaning ability as he returned with them ‘spotless’ but wet and I promptly offered him a place on our pit crew as chief bike washer…

Meeting up with Ant, our other Natterbox team rider, at the airport was soon followed by a slick transfer to the car hire company to pick up our double cab, closed top UTE. We had “sorted” a vehicle to be large enough for the team and all our kit. 4 bike bags and 4 massive kit bags ‘fitted’ into the trunk much like Simon had ‘fitted’ into the airline seat. Knees to chest and creaking door hinges, team Natterbox is on the road!!