UPDATE: There are some advantages to finishing the same time as the women's champion! The C100 video is now up here: http://www.marathonmtb.com/2014/05/05/video-2014...
That's me at 2:05, finishing just in front of Jenny Fay! Very typical pounding on the pedals as I go over the line!
It’s Thursday night, May 1st, and I thought I’d take an opportunity whilst stuck in a computer lab waiting for a friend to write a pre-blog for Convict.
I’ve had a hell of a week. The previous week was uni “break” where I anticipated I’d catch up on work I’d missed as well as have a breather from it. Unfortunately, I had neither. The week consisted of my sweating myself up trying to do an assignment and the computer just would not cooperate, wasting the precious hours that I did have trying to download the footage for a video I needed to make with it freezing – continuously. So along with getting me behind in that, it in turn has made me behind in all the other assignments and put me in a general low mood. Receiving poor results from my mid-semester exams did little to lift this dark cloud. Cursing, storming out in anger, trying to calm down, 2am bedtimes have basically made up the week gone by and I feel that I’m going to crack at any minute.
However, the bike has been there throughout the whole ordeal. I feel that I sometimes train better when I have very limited time as I’m used to the pressure and can force myself to pack as much into the period as possible. Hill reps, spin bike sessions (killer!), high intensity and extended on and off road rides have all played a part in my recent riding and, at least according to Strava, have shown me to be faster than I have ever been. I’d had all the confidence for a great Convict, particularly with two recent rides on the course, but then came this week.
Although cycling is primarily a physical activity, being mentally prepared is crucial, and this includes having sufficient sleep and as little stress as possible. Why is it, for the weekend where I need to rise at 3:30am, I am up past midnight the two previous days, and rushing around like mad having to cry my way through countless assignments? Of all weeks? Will this affect things? I hope not. I’ll have found out when I return to this on Saturday night.
The Convict 100 sort of is a sentimental event to me. I took part in it two years ago as my first out-of-school race with the hope of simply completing it as a challenge. I hammered it out and finished with a time of 4:44, finishing 7th in Senior and 28th in non-elite. The next year, I came back with harder training, a better knowledge of the course and finished with 4:31, just missing out on a podium and my goal of 4:30 with a 4th.
This year was different. Something had clicked in my riding, I had raced more marathons, had hit the podium three times before, understood the science of racing; not only having good cycling skills but how to use other riders to maximize my performance. Having read more and heard more, I knew how to train well. Not to mention the Trek Superfly that I had acquired over the year, and I was determined to make it a good one. So in my mind as I smashed up the pre-race kilometres was to have a sub-4:15 Convict.
Then the week in the lead-up. Thursday night I again didn’t get to bed until 1am and another killer day of assignments and I was really mentally not there. Had I had any other weekend commitments, I just would have pulled out of them and rested. But it was the Convict and I had to be there. So up at 3:30am for the drive to St Albans. Despite the gloomy weather forecast for the day, all we get is a few drops on the drive up and it’s still dry as we line up. I work my way to start three rows from the front of first wave after the elites.
The horn sounds and we’re off. Not sure if it’s my increased speed but the pace of the first 10km doesn’t feel very fast. I struggle through the crowd to get myself a good position; around tenth before the crowd. I heard someone yell, “Tristan, get up there!” Not sure who it was, but if you’re reading it, thanks; that motivated me to attack! This time I made it up Blue Hill and held my position throughout, despite creating some controversy when I somehow blocked the track causing a minor backlog. Sorry – it DOES happen. The next 14km were uneventful, I kept in the front group of seven or so as we undulated through some spectacular scenery. I made an effort to conserve energy when I could and take any opportunity to not pedal or brake. Reaching the GNR at 33km, it was basically keeping a constant pace in single file for 17km. Pace seemed very manageable, and I could have overtaken, but what would have been the point? You need riders around to draft, follow and pace with, so I just sat back and relaxed whenever possible.
I hammered down the firetrail past Clare’s “Bridge” to TMH, making the most of the gradient, and shoved down some gel in the process. I didn’t stop to refill; I still had a bottle left, but all those with me did. I knew it’d be senseless to ride away as they’d just catch back up, so I just rode the first bit of the climb at an easy pace and let them get back and we hit the next rocky section in a group of three or four. I do this regularly so know the lines well. I’d also realized that someone had destroyed the ramp we needed to get up big step (you know the one), so I had prepared to walk it. I had the beginnings of cramps, but stood where I could and luckily they dissipated before Shepherd’s Gully.
I reached the bridge and refilled. To my surprise my Mum was there and gave me some encouragement, as well as my friend Graham, and he videoed me crossing. Someone in the group of four flatted and another dropped back, so I rode off with one other rider. Although it’s important to get as much speed on the flats as possible, this was the point to stretch my legs, so I’d stand up for all the descents and basically made the most of these 5km before the pain began again. Shortly later, Jenny Fay (whom I’d passed as she walked the bridge) and another rider caught up. I had no idea what time I was hitting – I felt we’d been going slow – but I figured if I was with Jenny (having started 10 minutes after her) I had to be doing well.
Despite having ridden Womerah the previous weekend and having a better understanding of what it consisted of – three peaks up to 85km with short downhills in between, it was still painful. But I kept a steady pace, always had a rider around me and ground up the painful hills, again making the most any flats or downs. Womerah really is a spectacular track and I recommend riding there in “slow time” to enjoy the views, but now I just wanted it to end. I crammed down some water, gel and chocolate and ground on, up the last steep ascent to Jack’s Track.
I said goodbye to the rider I’d been pacing with and smashed downhill, catching up to and passing Jenny and crashed down the insanely steep final section. Now was when the 8km high intensity sessions came into play. I just pounded myself, but realized that I wouldn’t be able to hold my own, so let Jenny and the another rider catch up and we worked together after the water crossing – which I walked, I don’t get how people ride it - and took turns at the front. Until the end was in sight. I took off and pounded across the finish line, just ahead of the other two. Nobody paid any attention to me coming in – everyone was too fixated on Jenny setting a new female record of 4:22 to notice, but that was okay. I checked my watch and had done it in 4:15. Fantastic. Indeed, upon checking the results, I indeed got 4:14:03, 1st in Senior and 7th in the non-elites. Later I saw I’d beaten half the elites as well, overall probably about the best I’ve done.
Does the Convict 100 ever get any easier? No, it NEVER gets any easier. You just go faster. Racing is about getting the maximum speed with the smallest effort, but in order to put in your best race, you need to have no energy left at the end, and this is why I’ve been going faster. Indeed, everyone else seems to be going faster. Nine years ago, my time would have won the Convict. Now it’s only good enough for 16th! You’ve got to love and loathe Convict – such a classic course with a bit of everything which brings everyone (who finishes) back having really pushed themselves.
Thanks to Anthony – it’s a large part your advice, training and racing tips that have led me to this result, and actually feeling like I’ve “raced” and not just “ridden well.” I’m sorry you couldn’t ride today but you did an excellent job as MC! Also thanks to Brad (Fankles) at Turramurra Cycles for your run through of my race plan and a thorough inspection of the bike and what it needed to be at its peak. And all nobmobbers and all other athletes and non-athletes for the encouragement they give me. I may not show it, but it is invaluable. But the biggest thank you goes to my Mum, Karen. She’s the one who had to put up my diet of cursing, frustration and stress as I rushed around trying to sort out all my gear whilst smashed with uni work, not to mention coming to all these competitions to do nothing but wait and worry about me. Without here, I wouldn’t be here.
Well done to all who finished and set new PBs.
Now it’s time to get back to the pain of electrical engineering. If my semester is a Convict, I’m halfway up Womerah with three peaks to go. I hope I get to Jack’s Track soon…
Below: pre and post C100. The white on my face is dried sweat!