Monday, 18 May 2015

Dirty Gran Fondo - My Fondo Race Report

My longest off road ride was 35km - it was done during last year's Dirty Gran Fondo (my first off road event) where the mini one was 35km rather than 30km. Lately, the rides on the mountain bikes have been somewhere between 1 through to 2.5 hours. I knew that I was going to step out of my comfort zone with the 65km.

I did some calculations last week and estimated that I would take more than 5 hours to do this event. My aim was going to go out there and do a ride rather than trying to race against others. I am still not fit enough and don't  have the confidence to tackle the up hills and fast descents respectively.

With regards to nutrition, my plan was a gel per hour so I packed with me enough for 6 hours. I had my hydration in my CamelBak as I wanted to be able to just drink without too much fiddling around with bottles and chewing mud. I kept my spares and canisters within a small tub and kept it in my bottle cage instead.

Our morning didn't start off too well. Apple Maps took us to the middle of nowhere in Wondong so by the time we arrived onsite, we had 20min or so to pick up our race numbers, toilet stop and to prep our bikes for the ride - read - I didn't really touch the bikes, the Canadian did it all for me whilst I went and picked up our numbers.

The Canadian and I got all our shit together just in time as the briefing started and I rode to the back of the line to start the event. We all rode off at 8am and I stayed at the back towards the left so everyone could ride past me without being in the way.

The first 2km was pretty muddy - I tried to pick the right line and tried to be more relaxed. I don't remember much of the first climb apart from getting warm really quickly. I had on a merino wool base layer, my FYXO jersey from last year's Roobaix, fleece arm warmers, fleece knee warmers, fleece ear warmers and two pairs of wool socks.

The routes for the DGF changes every year and this year, they took out that crazy descent which meant that I rode for most of the first 10km. My first "walk" was at the 13km mark but I think it was a short one and where I took off my knee warmers. The second walk was at the 16-17km mark. I could hear the music playing in the distance and knew that I was coming close to the first feedzone. At the 18km mark was where I decided that the arm warmers also had to go.

I really enjoyed the ride after the first feedzone. It was undulating but very manageable (for me). The terrain changed several times but the scenery was great. I walked around 27km mark before reaching the 2nd feedzone around the 35km. At this point of the ride, I realised that anything I do after this will be a PB for me as I have not been on the MTB further than 35km before. Others who were riding the 90km distance also came through this feedzone on their way back towards the finish line so I wasn't too lonely from this point onwards although all of them flew past me in a blink.

I don't really remember much of the last 30km apart from my confidence on the bike improved - I was able to ride descents without applying on the brakes and was able to enjoy the fast speeds without the anxiety of losing control and falling off the bike.

Once I rode through the last feedzone, I knew that I was on the way back to the finish and it was mainly downhill. The Canadian (who rode the 90km) flew past me with 5km to go. At this point, I looked down at my watch and knew that I could finish this ride well within 6 hours. I was happy with the official time of 5:33 even though I had placed DFL in my category (Womens 65km). This was my longest off road ride and I had no idea how I would fare with a ride more than 3.5 hours long, which has been the maximum duration of my long rides since Ironman Melbourne 2014.

I am absolutely amazed at the times that others completed the event in. I am looking forward to getting fitter on the bike and improving my time for next year's event. I am pretty sure that I will do the 65km again on the mountain bike unless I become a cycling machine with awesome bike skills to be able to handle 90km or participate on the CX bike. Next year, my aim will be to not come DFL and to reduce my time closer to the 4 hour mark for the 65km.

Comments/Lesson learnt:
  • The strength sessions I have been doing for the last 2 weeks have helped especially with activating the glutes. 
  • Trust in my abilities more especially when riding downhill on the descents
  • Trust in my abilities in riding up hills on the mountain bike - I was worried more about not being able to unclip off the bike rather than staying on the saddle and pedalling through the climbs. Need to maintain the momentum by spinning my little legs up the climbs.
  • I didn't have the urge to go to the toilet at all during the event which surprised me as I am a frequent go-er - although I would recommend that toilets be provided at the feedzones. Being a female, we were not able to stop and pee like the boys on course (unless you are comfortable with that sort of thing).
  • I had so much fun throughout the event - at no point did I regret signing up for the 65km. At the 18km mark (Feedzone 1) I actually thought that there was no way that I would complete the 30km as it would have been finished in a blink and I would have gained nothing out of it. 
  • Smiling when riding up hills and looking ahead (but not upwards) really helped when I could climb. During the rare moments when I was in the zone, I could actually grind up those hills. It was when I looked up to see how much more further and steeper I had to climb was when I stopped pedalling and walked.
  • Next year - 65km - aim for 4 - 4:30! Having done this distance/duration, I know where improvements can be made.
Some Stats:
  • Total Distance (according to my Garmin 64.18km)
  • Total Moving Time 5:15, total time of 5:33
  • Total Elevation 1870m
  • Average Speed 11.6km/hr
  • Average Moving Speed 12.2 km/hr
  • A whole lot of fun! 
Special thanks to Big Hill Events for my 2015 entry. You guys once again did an amazing job with everything - from marketing through to ensuring that everyone would have an awesome time! I am already looking forward to next year's event!

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