On Sunday 26th May, I raced my first mountain bike event! It was a women’s only event hosted by the Bendigo Mountain Bike Club. They offered two distance/abilities – Blazers for beginners and Blitzers for the more intermediate riders. I signed up to Blazers and solo rather than in pairs. As I am new into this sport, I didn’t want the pressure of letting others down.
The weekend before, I joined in a mountain bike skills session by the Bendigo club which went for about 3 hours which helped me dramatically in preparing for the day ahead and understanding the terrain. Much similar to Castlemaine, the course is rocky compared to any green trails I have done in Melbourne. If it wasn’t for the skills course, I don’t think I would have ridden so much of it, I would have been walking and more nervous throughout the day.
I left the house at 6am hoping to get there around 9am. The race briefing started at 9:50am with the race start at 10am. I stopped at Woodend for a break before the turn off the highway towards Spring Gully. I arrived around 9:20am with time to collect my number plate, another toilet stop and to prepare the bike and hydration pack.
I had purchased a new hydration backpack as my Camelbak was too small to carry nutrition and a basic first aid kit. During my past rides, I have been putting my phone, keys, ID and nutrition in my jersey pockets as the small bag could only carry the 2L bladder. Due to the frequent falls, I needed to carry a basic first aid kit. I only needed some alcohol wipes and some large bandaids and hand sanitiser. The Osprey bag had a different hydration spout system where the tube hangs across your chest and held up with a magnet. During the course of the ride, the spout didn’t stay on the strap of the magnet and ended up hanging down for a lot of the day, it was a bit annoying.
I was never nervous leading up to this event as I knew that my aim was to stay upright and do as best as I could. My nerves really increased when I started to prep my bike. When I rode down to the briefing, I saw a few familiar faces and chatted to them. The briefing was informative but there were a few incidences where they mixed up the blazers and blitzers requirements. The blitzers started first. The standing race start (Le Mans) meant that we stood about 100m away from our bikes which were placed on the ground. When I heard that this was the way we started, I placed my bike in a position where it was easy to pick up and facing the right way.
The blazers started about 5min after the blitzers. The run up to the bikes was not great and I didn’t take it too seriously as I didn’t want my heart rate to be sky high. As soon as I got on my bike, I rode behind some of the girls in my group and we came to a halt pretty much straight away due to a few unprepared obstacles from riders ahead of me.
After the lumpy parts of the start, we rode on the section of the course where we joined up with the blitzers and this is where the course became pretty busy with two groups and the faster riders wanting to overtake. The climbs were not too hard, the terrain was pretty rocky and I started to just trust my bike when we reached those sections. There was one part of the course where I unclipped as a girl in front of my had fallen but it became the only section of the course where I unclipped for the rest of the day. I am pretty sure I rode over it during my skills course but I just didn’t want to jeopardise my event. The descents came about half way through the event and it was not much faster than the first half as I am not great at high speeds. There were a few tricky hairpins and falls but I just rode through them at a slow and steady pace and stayed upright.
I looked down at my Garmin after I had finished the first lap and it was about 22min. Based on this timing, I knew that I was able to do 6-7 laps within 3 hours. I consumed a bit of my gel within my flask after 2 laps which was good timing as I felt tired…I had ridden at threshold for 40+min and this is about the duration of my crits. I could see the benefits of being in a team as you can have a chance to take a break. I didn’t want to stop and rest so I kept going. On the completion of my third lap, it was about 1:10. At that time, I was pretty confident that I could do 7 laps instead of 6 and that was my goal.
I couldn’t remember anything interesting from laps 2 through to 7 as it was just about riding the same laps over and over. Not like road riding, mountain biking requires constant mental concentration as you are always required to ride over obstacles. Towards the end of lap 7, I increased my pace as I wanted to finish lap 7 at 2:50 so it gave me a chance to get back out there for another lap which is what I did. I saw a lot of the ladies along the side lines, they were either done for the day or are part of a pairs team. There wasn’t many riders back out during my last lap. I started to cramp badly on my quads especially when I was contracting them.
I thought the last lap was my slowest as I couldn’t pedal hard due to the cramping and I was just tired. But as there was not many riders left, it was a lap where I didn’t have to move to the side much or having to overtake. Throughout the 8 laps ridden, I think the ratio of me pulling over so that a faster rider can overtake to me overtaking someone ahead of me was about 70-30.
I remember being really hungry at about the 2 hour mark and just craving something calorie dense like hot chips. I couldn’t wait for the 3 hours to be done.
When I was finishing my last lap (1:05pm), I was coming in with the dirt squirt (kids) and so it wasn’t the fastest lap. I crossed the line and pulled off the side. I was relieved that the 3 hours was up. The presentations was at 1:30 so I knew that I had time to put the bike in the car and put on a warm jumper. I saw a friend from Footscray CC and she told me that I had come 5th which was a massive surprise so I stayed around for the presentation so I could see if it was true.
I was very pleased with my results for my first 3 hour mtb solo event. I was proud of myself for pushing through with the aim to get as many laps in within the allowable time as I could. I have already looked into my next 3 hour race in June which is at You Yangs and the race will be on the Kurrajong trails which is very do-able for me. I really enjoyed the event as I was not out there all alone and I was able to push myself to my limit. Mountain biking is still new for me so I am really enjoying the sense of accomplishment for doing something new and out of my comfort zone.
- Felt really accomplished for doing an event out of my comfort zone and being able to place (not last)
- I am more confident about the descents even over rocky and loose surfaces. I don’t think I would have entered the event if I knew the terrain was what it was 3 months ago.
- I actually can’t wait for the next race in 3 weeks time!
Negatives (to work on):
- Need to see what I can do about the cramping. It may be just muscle fatigue as I drank an entire bidon of electrolytes on my drive up to Bendigo.
- I may not be drinking enough during the event as I had plenty of fluid left in my bladder after 3 hours. I reckon I only consumed 750ml over 3 hours which may have led to the cramping as well.
- I need to work out a better way to carry my hydration bag as the magnet was not strong enough to maintain the tube across the chest.
- Still not great on cornering (on descents) and therefore I am still not flowing through the trail.