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Singletrack Heaven!

By Tristania - Posted on 22 September 2013

NB: Originally posted elsewhere on the Global Riders Network and appears via syndication.
Re: This ride meeting: 
Kowalski Classic 2013
Position (Overall): 
Position (Category): 

Question 1: 650 cyclists approach a track junction with the course marking towards the singletrack off to the left. 50 miss the turnoff and keep going straight down the firetrail. How many cyclists enter the singletrack?

Question 2: A course has a 20 vertical metre climb, a 100 vertical metre climb and a 70 metre climb. The race starts and finishes in the same place. What is the net elevation change in the descending on the track?

Answer 1: Total riders entering junction = total riders leaving junction.
650 = 50 + n(singletrack)
n(singletrack) = 600

Answer 2: Net elevation change = 0.
Elevation change on ascents = Elevation change of descents.
20 + 100 + 70 = e(descending)
e(descending) = 190m.

The above two equations are derived from Kirchhoff‘s Current (The net current leaving a junction is equivalent to the net current entering) and Voltage (The net change in potential around a closed loop is zero) Laws respectively in electrical engineering. I have an exam on this this week which I'm SUPPOSED to have studied for over the weekend, but as you can see, I have nonetheless thought about the principles throughout an exhausting 90km race! A well worth it decision.


The first time I heard the name Kowalski was in Clint Eastwood’s 2008 film, Gran Torino, where the main character is the cynical old man, Walt Kowalski. I came to know this sour man well throughout my HSC for the film the subject of several painful English essays on the concept of “belonging.” Well there was little cynicism (luckily) at the Kowalski Classic, but I certainly was able to establish a true sense of belonging at it.

I read about the event throughout my first ride at Kowen Forest last summer, and then again advertised with the Convict 100 “showbag,” and it looked just like the sort of event that would appeal to me. When it was confirmed that I did not have an exam the DAY after the event, I dutifully registered, eager to earn some more brownie points with my fellow competitors (particularly after they were all burned at the Taree event!).

I had a Wagga 6 Hour Enduro the previous weekend, and I rode well then, feeling ready to take anything on after coming 6th place overall and 3rd fastest single lap overall (other than an electrical engineering exam!), so things were looking pretty good the whole week beforehand, particularly with another good ride at Ourimbah several days before. Judging by my times there, averaging about 21km/h over 78km on singletrack, I figured that 4:30:00 would be a reasonable goal such that I’d average 10km every 30 minutes; or 20km/h.


My neighbour was conveniently doing the 50km, so I drove down with him one the Saturday, and I arranged to stay in a motel with @jp and his friend in Queanbeyan, so things were going together well. We got to Stromlo at about 3pm and had a good 30km casual ride there (I wasn’t the only one who had the idea – we saw Jason English at Echidna Gap Junction!) with an epic descent via Pork Barrel and then Skyline and Luge. After registering just before it closed at 7pm, I was dropped at my motel and had a nice casual pizza dinner before lights out just before 10pm.

Up at 4:45 so I could have breakfast in sufficient time to digest, I then lay down for another 30 minutes or so. Taking a Camelbak this time to encourage me to drink more, I put in copies of the course maps, still bearing memory to the Brownie Points Burner disaster. Darn, it was cold, just above freezing! Nevertheless, getting back to the start at 6:45am, the adrenaline was pumping making me essentially forget the cold, particularly with a warm up and down the nearest hill (which I remember going up prior to Capital Punishment).


I assembled in wave 2 at the race briefing which was aimed for those out to win their category whilst the first wave bailed off. I got a pretty good start, placing in third for wave two up the steep hill, tailing the guy in front of me for several kilometres until he made a wrong turn (where I diverted him back to the track).

The next kays were fast, flowy and fun. I soon caught up the tail end of the first wave and gradually overtook a good number of these riders. I overtook @Dicko a bit under 20km in where he commented that my bike was going me good (in response to his earlier hypothesis that a 29er would decrease my marathon times by 10 minutes). What I like about Kowen Forest is that for every painful ascent, it’s always possible to let loose going back down. And darn I let loose going down. Great fun. I felt I could do it all day. Until I reached the escalator.

The escalator is about 25km in and secedes a very steep firetrail climb, and to add insult to injury climbs up a steep spur with switchbacks every 20m until the top. Unlike the ones around the city were you overtake people who are going standing, there is no such option here; there is only one speed one can ascend here: slowly. It eventually lead to feed station 1, the highest point of the race, where I instinctively grabbed 2 snakes (what else?) and headed back down the mountain for more fun, then pain, then more fun then more pain.

I had probably overtaken about 20 wave 1 riders or so by this stage without anyone overtaking me. That was good; a good confidence booster, and I rolled through the rest of the first loop with confidence until somehow my darn chain jammed. Fixing it in 30 seconds, I was out on the road again, speeding downhill where I caught up to Brian just before the timing tent – the 50km. We chatted for a bit and I told him it was 9:56 – at this rate we could under 4.5 hours.


Dropping Brian as he refilled, I was off on my second loop, and feeling the best I ever had at this point in a marathon, I rolled out on still-fresh-feeling legs. Several kays in, I stopped dead, however, as I recognized the road crossing as having done it in the first loop, bringing back memories of Brownie Points Burner where I did a 10km loop that took me back to where I’d come from. Was I on the right track? I didn’t want another of these experiences. So I got out my trusty map and ascertained that there were indeed some common segments. Thank God! It was definitely worth the minute or so to check! Being here for the second time, I saw the effect of having 1,000 riders go through a mud puddle – it was so much worse than before that I didn’t even recognize this as the same section.

I kept on going, up and down, passing another ten or so riders as the kilometres went by (seemingly very slowly by now). The rock garden about 60km in took me by surprise – about 3 big step ups followed by a sharp right hander, making me work. I just kept going. I couldn’t pull out now. At 70km in, my watch read a few minutes to 11am – just over an hour to do 20km if I wanted to meet my goal. I was getting worn out, but pretty determined. I remember in Convict I was gasping for air at the 70km mark and here I wasn’t too bad. After my chain jammed again, I lost another 30 seconds but nevertheless caught up to several more riders; the opposite of what has happened in Convict, confirming I have improved at pacing myself. Reading just before 11:30am at 80km, I knew I could just do it, but saw that my average speed was dropping. Shoving some more food down and most of my remaining water (with High 5 tablets for extra energy), I gritted my teeth and kept going.

I wondered my position I was; I really had no idea. I thought it’d be cool to get a place, but as I didn’t count the number of Wave 1ers, it was hard to judge. Where was Jason English? Who knows?

But where was Tristan White? At 82km in, and exhausted; this was my breaking point. That final hill on a mix of firetrail and singletrack, I thought it was going to take the life out of me. No, no, I was going to take the life out of IT. Or try to at least survive. How long till it started to descend? Well there was only one way to find out. I ground up as well as I could until finally, finally, it began to descend on fast firetrail, and then, like in the Book of Revelation, I saw a vision of a heavenly city that made my heart stop. Praise the Lord, it was the finish line!
I pounded through the last few hundred metres, past @jp, who had my camera , but was too late to shoot (darn!).




After changing my soggy, dirty TORC kit for some nice warm trackpants and a jumper, I went back to the finish were I swear I heard my name read over the mike. Checking my results on the computer there, I found I came 18th overall and 2nd in Open Male. Wow. First podium; I’ve never done so well before. As presos were done eventually after some good food and chats with fellow NoBMoBBers and others, I received my prizes – a tyre, gloves, socks and new goggles, all of which do not go astray. (The 26’’ tyre obviously doesn’t fit, but my lucky friend who I am selling my Anthem to can have it.)

My thoughts on the event? Fantastic. Well organized, and that type of course is not nearly as painful as Convict due to the singletrack forcing significant upper body work, but forcing a good amount of fitness to do well all the same.

My thoughts on my performance? I probably couldn’t do any better; even the time lost checking the map and fixing the chain didn’t cost me any places as the person ahead of me was 5 minutes which was reassuring, though obviously this won’t always be the case. Having the new bike has definitely helped, as has much recent racing and riding experience, and hope I can continue to improve on this as the Highland Fling approaches, which I will do under the condition that there isn’t an exam the next day.

Thanks to all the organizers, and those that have encouraged me be the best cyclist I can, which has motivated me to spend a fortune to do all this when I SHOULD be studying or earning money! Congratulations to all NoBMoBBers who made the journey down, particularly to @Brian who got a sub-4:30:00 time as well and 3rd in 30-40 division, great to have a couple up on the podium if possible.

Now it’s back to study… and daydream about more races and rides I can do… and study.

BELOW - Before & after 90km of fun, speed, finess, excitement and pain & on the Kowalski Open Male podium!

Well done Tristan. Another great ride. I'm just glad they split the veterans out from the opens on this one Eye-wink . I'm had those exact same feelings on the second loop thinking I went wrong

PS. I'm not in the 40+ yet Eye-wink

well done Tristan !

And whoops, gotta change that clumsy blooper of mine!

Another good ride and a good result.

Awesome result Tristan Smiling

Looks like the new steed has stepped up the pace! Evil

Great result, and happy 20th birthday for today! Looking forward to watching you get faster and many more podiums in the years to come.

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