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What a difference a year makes

Pyrate's picture

By Pyrate - Posted on 09 November 2015

Re: This ride meeting: 
Highland Fling 2015
Race Category: 
Full - Men

So, last year was my first time to the Highland Fling and I gave the Half Fling a go.

At that stage I had been riding for just over 6 months and so I was given a rather rude shock with that race. Finishing was a feat unto itself for me and I got around in a little over 5 hours, finishing in the bottom 10% both overall and in Masters.

This year, I was after some redemption. I had been more rigorous in my preparation and simply had 12 months worth of riding under my belt, and so I was hoping to get around in a little under 4 hours, mindful that the course was shorter this year.

I started with the second wave and ticked things over with the pack until Early Bike Wash, where I was a little taken aback with the number of people taking their shoes and socks off to cross the creek. I'm not sure what they were thinking, but I jumped off my bike and ploughed through the middle and was up and riding again in no time.

Up that first little climb I was expecting to continue climbing up Stingray Road as per last year (and as Fatboy actually did again this year) but saw that they had kept us going straight ahead which was a pleasant surprise.

Anyway, all rather uneventful on the way to the second creek, apart from getting a bit loose on a downhill corner drifting my wheels in some gravel but managing to keep upright.

Rode right through the middle of the morass of mud just before the second creek crossing - again others being a little precious I thought by trying to skirt around it - and got to Wingello pretty much on target.

On the way down to the third creek crossing just before Jacks Jaunt, I was hammering downhill from the vineyard and kept going straight after the gate. I clearly missed what ever signage there was and followed what appeared to be a track, but which turned out to simply be flattened grass from a 4WD which, in my defence, followed pretty much the course from last year.

Some helpful fellow behind me called out "Wrong way Mate" at about the same time I was questioning myself and so saved me a bit more grief than I had already got myself into. I pointed the bike to the left to head back up towards where I could see other riders and was motoring through the tall grass when the front wheel found a hidden wombat hole and I got flipped out over the bars, but thankfully landed on the deep pillowy grass. I guess I lost a minute or two there, not as bad as Fatboy's wrong turn by any measure!

Up and running again and made it to Jacks Jaunt bang on schedule. First twinge of cramp in almost exactly the same place as last year on the single track climb but pushed through with a number of other riders.

Got to the start of Roller Coaster exactly on schedule, but had little tweaks of cramp firing off whenever I stopped pedalling and was grimacing to get through them. Into the pinch climbs which I walked, in part to try to stretch some of the cramping out and in part 'cause I was beginning to blow smoke, but was still basically on time for a 4 hours finish I thought.

By the time I got into the the first bit of single track, the cramps had subsided, but I had lost time. Rode the first half of Broken Back Mountain, walked the second.

I was actually looking forward to Bakers Delight et al this year, having worked on my singletrack skills for the Kowlaski Classic and was certainly heaps faster than last year, but frustratingly got held up on a few occasions by a few guys in some rather awkward spots on the track.

As I cleared the single track I realised that a sub 4 hour effort was a bridge too far at that point and so I then aimed to get around in an hour under last years time.

Got overtaken by one of the guys who had caused a bit of a log jam in the singletrack which was annoying, but also got overtaken by the leading 4 of the Full Fling Elites. The whirr coming off Andy Blair's tyres on the hard road back to the finish actually had me thinking "What fool is on a motorbike in the middle of a race?" - then he passed me like I was standing still - just awesome.

Though my bike wanted a free beer, I wanted to lop that hour off last years time so I resisted the temptation and kept on going.

So, in the end, with a wrong turn, a shorter course but some heavier going than last year, I got around in 4 hours 9 minutes and 17 seconds, which was 59 minutes and 41 seconds faster than last year.

From being in the bottom 10% in positions last year I moved up 174 spots overall (bottom 21%) and 66 places in Masters (bottom 23%). A fair improvement I thought and very happy.

Will be aiming to bring one in closer to 3 and a half hours next year.

Antsonline's picture

Nice one!
Thats a great story.

I love the socks and shoes off! Madness!! I must admit, I actually got really surprised out in Wingello when I caught up to some of the leading Full Flingers and noted that they were slowing down to go through puddles!

Still - thats what makes it fun to be out there. Well done. Next year, another hour off?!

Lach's picture

... you're hooked! Keep up the good work.

sikllama's picture

And a massive improvement from last year well done.

My wife asked me whether I took my shoes and socks off at the creek crossings - the look I gave her was priceless Smiling

Fatboy's picture

Great read. Yes those Elite guys are amazing aren't they? I recall my first event 11 years ago when my mates and I had just set out for loop 2 of the Convict 100 when eventual winner Paul Rowney rode past us on his last loop and said hi. I remember saying to my mates "did you notice he was riding in his big chain ring and wasn't puffing?" That got me hooked on racing enduros.

Well done on the big improvement from last year.

jp's picture

Nice work Pyrate, no doubt you'll keep getting faster!

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