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HIghland Fling second attempt - much better!

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By TG - Posted on 11 November 2015

Re: This ride meeting: 
Highland Fling 2015
Position (Overall): 
Race Category: 
Full - Men
Position (Category): 

11am Saturday morning on Freshwater Beach, I'm supervising my kids in the water, antsy to hit the road for Bundanoon. Meant to pick up my mates at lunchtime but already I can see I'll run late. It's blistering in the sun. On whatsapp to update the lads. They're good to go. A few errands to run, clean out the boot of the behemoth Kia Grand Carnival, and we're ready to be loaded with swags, gear and 3 x MTBs.

Now 1.35pm and I finally rock up at Dave's and he and his family are out on the porch in bemused anticipation. There's talk of bromance and Broke Back and 'good luck dad' as we peel away and head to Carl's. What odds there'd be a wedding shoot in the middle of a quiet Beacon Hill street? But there they are the boys in their tuxes while the irritated photographer waves us through. Carlos loads his gear and we're finally off.

The weather takes a complete u-turn from Picton and doesn't really change for the rest of the weekend - cold, drizzly, bit depressing. But our spirits soar as we leave the Hume Highway with a hasty left hander in front of the highway traffic.

There's something about the night before. Homemade lasagna and sticky date pudding in the local hall. The enthused local school kids manning the tables. Look at that bloke over there - absolute dead ringer for Matt Damon. Could it be? No! We're away from the family for a night and happy to laugh at anything.

Back at the campground and any other night you'd settle in for a blinder. The cold and shitty weather dampens nothing as we pass around a few brews and discuss strategy for the next day. But it's early to bed. Roll out the swag.

I feel good as we head to the start line but the nerves and last night's sticky date have got the better of Carl who's dived back to the portaloos for another run. He tacks onto the side of the start line and we're a group.

I've trained pretty well for this race, all things considered. I'm gonna call it 90% fit. Aiming to go a lot better than my 6.58 the year before. We start and settle into a steady tempo - feels ok - fastish but not ridiculous. Around me people are panting hard and someone comes-a-cropper on one of the gravelly corners. Racing feels different. Sounds different. And you're monitoring, analysing - how are the legs? What's my heart rate? How many kms down? Is the bike performing ok? Have I got enough water? Too much? Should I get on the gas and catch that group ahead?

I'm passing through a green field and there’s a feisty chick in front of me. It’s like she’s determined I won’t overtake. Fine with me lady. We hit the dirt road and she says something about catching the group ahead. I oblige and she hops on my wheel as we TT it only to catch them just when the road ends. Wasted effort, but I cruise into Wingello in pretty good shape.

Then things get interesting. The elites are here in the 5 minute time window and it's like they’re stalking each other. You can feel the tension. Something's up. I pass over the timing mat and moments later - it's on! Some elite is draped over his bars TT style and motoring at full pelt. 2 or 3 blokes with him, and then a chasing group gunning it after em! This is champagne action, and no-one in the whole of the Fling except me and those elite riders got to see it. What a treat!

Wingello singletrack is sublime. I could ride that stuff all day. And it felt like I was. Last year I was completely new to the MTB and was miserable. Now I'm gettin' a bit of flow on. Still clumsy through the narrow trees. Whack! Coulda dislocated my shoulder there! I'm following the wheels of a couple of single speeders. They're old hands. They eat this stuff up. Great Wall. Dan behind me says something about how awesome this single track is. It's quiet except for the tracking of the tyres and the breathing. Bloody great.

All of a sudden I'm on my own but giving out a few woohoos while switchbacking down a fern-lined track to a rocky little creek, where it's then up, up a superb winding climb. This place is freakin awesome.

The genius of the Fling is the way things so quickly come crashing back to earth.

I don’t mind Halfway Hill. It’s when you come out of the forest – the whole mood changes. What was silky and sweet is now harsh and exposed. Ugly thistles growing out of the road. Reeking cow shit clogging nostrils. The orange gel is revolting. And this is really hurting now up The Kick. Legs are tightening up. Soon they’ll scream. By now I’ve had one or two grabs in the left calf – bit of a worry that. I’m not used to this. Meant to be my strength. Starting to regret the 34-36 1x10 set up. Maybe I shoulda gone the 32. Keep pedaling. One at a time. Miss that rock. Track away from that crevice. Catch that bloke in the orange jersey. Breathe.

An elite chick in Giant Liv gear approaches. She looks shiny, brand new. We’re scrambling up a loose steep pinch and I can hold it while my orange mate and Liv girl clip out. A small victory, and she says ‘good work, mate’. Those simple words – so uplifting in that moment. Funny thing is she’s walking up the hill just as fast while I’m doubled over the bars and pretty soon she’s off. Strong. I work out later she’ll go on and win the women’s race.

I remember this dreadful headwind from last year, all the way to Wingello. No need for any heroics here.

Whoooshka! There’s a train on my right all dust and cadence. A strong man in black up front, pulling the second-placed female, and then some hangers-on. Ok, I’ll hang on too. Hard effort to get on and we’re really moving here. I must be picking up minutes here on this train, but it’s coming at a cost. I’m straddling threshold. Not sure this is such a good idea after all. Man in black drives it all the way to the tarmac.

Paddy calls out ‘Tony!!’ really loud at transition and Tracy has her camera out. I’m flushed with pride to have supporters. I tell them Dan’s not far behind. But I’m disoriented. Where’s the water refill? I’m taking ages here. Bloody camelbak. Can’t get the bladder back in. Hands all shaky. Get back on the road you idiot!

Stage 3. The final assault. The clock is looking good too. On track for sub 6 hours if I can hold this together. Riding Han Solo again.

The vineyard and golf course give off a sense off ease and comfort that seem ludicrous right now. But I’m enjoying the Penrose singletrack. Legs ok.

Hey hang on, there’s too much water in my pack. I’m convinced. It’s dragging me down, gotta be costing me dearly. It’s a dumb internal quarrel looking back on it. But it’s eating away at me, so after walking the creek crossing I pull it off and release some water. Another rider comes trudging up from the swollen creek. He and I will duel to the finish from here. He says ‘I needed that, my feet were way too dry!’ and off we go, the hardest part of the race looming.

The way a dark storm sits off the coast.

I get up all bar one of the pinches in Roller Coaster and feel ok but I’m not setting any records. Get past those single speeders who are at a real disadvantage here. Take a punt on a fast approach to the creek crossing. Can’t see much. This could go either way. Crash or crash through. All good.

Don’t get cocky now.

Catastrophe strikes. That bit of singletrack like ribbon, before crossing the creek on the big flat rock. Cramps where I’ve never noticed them before – high and inside leg. WTF?! Now to pull up this ruinous steep farm road. There are kids playing around on a 4 wheel motorbike. I hate them.

I tend to think we don’t have much control over our lives. The circumstances we are in follow from a chain of events pre-dating our birth. Everything that’s ever happened to me – and that includes being given a brain from birth that thinks a certain way – has all conspired to have me in this mess I’m in. My legs are a dashboard with all the emergency red lights going off. Pinging everywhere. Threatening to stop any moment. It’s ok. It’s ok. Hold it steady. Push through this. Slow as you can go without stopping. Slow down. Don’t stop. Pedal from the hips mate. Hold your form.

Thoughts are music. In and out images drift. Shards of the past enter and exit. I can’t remember this.

Just miss that rock. And track away from that crevice.

Survival. Weirdly, that was the worst of it. Worked up Broke Back methodically. All ok now?! The rocky section was actually fun at times. At any moment I was expecting full leg seizure. Didn’t really come, but I have nothing. Think I’m running on fat stores. Did I not eat enough?

That was slowgoing. Sub 6 now looking touch and go. Left at Your Call. Nup, wrong. That’s a prick of a little climb. Rocky, ledgey, steeper than I anticipated.

Not the strong finish I had planned for. But I’ll go under 6 and, most importantly, I’m first among my mates.

Official time: 5.54

Position: 20th Masters, 68th overall, 1st against mates

Heart rate: avg 135 bpm

jp's picture

Excellent work - great result, and a really entertaining writeup that had me cheering you on.

Well done!

the pedaling donkey's picture

glad to of escaped the real world and bludged work for 10 mins to read your cracking tale, mighty fine words, loved it
massive kudos to you for the 100 kays and the day out, impressive work

Fatboy's picture

Very entertaining and a damn good time too!

markleby's picture

Enjoyed this, thanks for taking the time to write it up and good effort Smiling

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