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WD-40 for my Racing Skills!

By Tristania - Posted on 08 February 2015

NB: Originally posted elsewhere on the Global Riders Network and appears via syndication.
Re: This ride meeting: 
AMB 100 Marathon
Position (Overall): 
Position (Category): 

I write this at 9:30pm as I am sitting outside my tent at Stromlo about to turn in. It's about 16 degrees, an almost full moon with a few clouds and a light breeze blowing. This is paradise. As many rides and races that I do, few of them seem to have these type of stress free nights before them and I am deeply grateful to be able to just enjoy some peace and quiet. I sometimes wish all my life could be this stress free but at the same time, it is only because of all the stress I seem to find myself facing that I really notice the lack of it, even if only for a couple of hours.

I've had a good day today. Slept in, and joined Jonathan (jp) for the road trip down where we enjoyed good conversation, ranging from MTB (duh) to our mutual electrical engineering degrees (his albeit 25 years before) and the business side of sport, and before we knew it, we were at Stromlo, where Anthony happened to be preparing for a recon ride, which we joined him for about half a lap of the course.

After Jonathan left to his overnight house, I set up camp and rode over to Woden at which a presentation for the Crocodile Trophy was being held (just to give me some more ideas). Fascinating to hear the stories of that epic race; makes everything I do seem easy!

And here I am now, enjoying the night and some time alone, having enjoyed a moderate dinner of salad and pumpkin soup. Tomorrow will be tough. 34 degree heat predicted and 84km to ride (so actually it's the AMB 84), and up against some big hitters, so it'll be some effort to get a remotely good position, but a great opportunity to practice my racing tactics and bike handling skills for the bigger races to come. But now it's about the calm before the storm. Just the way things can get extremely still before a cyclone hits, I likewise am completely motionless as I recline on my seat. Only after tomorrow morning will we know how big that storm actually is.


Having not done the AMB "100" before, I was keen to give it a go as I knew and liked the Stromlo tracks, and although a relatively small field, due to the national series being held the previous day, it's like the top results are just chopped off another start list so I'm still up against the same competition. For those that don't know the course, each lap involved 3 climbs of Stromlo - the first via the "leisurely" Cockatoo switchbacks, then up an an ultra-steep 600m fire trail from the back end, and again via the techincal Blue Tongue and Heart Breaker. It's about 150vm to the top, so you can do the maths on how much climbing I'd do in total. And for anyone wanting some race practice, this is definitely a good one to do, though I wouldn't recommend it to a novice rider.


It's Sunday night. The storm has come and gone. And I have survived it. But I will describe it as the WD-40 for my racing skills. You know how when your pliers don't move after you haven't used them for awhile (See the engineering flowchart below!), it's because they've got rust all over them - just spray some WD-40 on them and they'll eventually work. So likewise, although I'd been training and riding hard, I hadn't raced (in marathon-style) for a while and I hence was a bit rusty with the racing tactics, but the mistakes I made were valuable lessons for the bigger events to come. So I thought I'd do something different to focus on these mistakes I made and how one can learn from these in future events.


For the first lap, riders were sent up a big fire trail climb to supposedly spread the field out. Knowing that there were some big hitters there and not knowing who they were, I seated myself 3 rows from the front, figuring that with my hillclimbing ability I could get me in a good spot if I was better. Not so. The trail was basically only wide enough for two files, and after my lovely experience at the Highland Fling, I had no desire to risk ruining someone else's race by trying to cut through these. So as a consequence, I got caught up in the Conga line (couldn't get much longa!) going up the entire first climb. Basically, it is crucial that I make an effort to start in the right place otherwise you get held up or hold other people up.

2) A and B LINES

On the Stromlo course, there are many places where sharp/steep/techincal but generally shorter "A-line" diverges from the more moderate "B-line." On our practice ride, it was a good time for me to evaluate in which instances I'd take the A and when I'd take the B. However, on one particularly sketchy A-line (which I knew I could do), I came off because the rider in front of me did and walked up, holding me up. On other occasions, my simple lack of coordination, along with fatigue prevented me from getting up other A lines, collectively wasting me more time. Basically, one needs to remember that in a race, line selection is conditional - based on your fatigue levels, other riders around and the like, so when examining a line, it's beneficial to think about how to approach it in each condition.


Although having been doing a large volume of training, including some distance rides, 84 km on singletrack that is not only often techincal, but steep, and I found myself starting to cramp up after completion of my second lap. Although I wasn't at the point of having to stop and stretch, there were points that this resulted in me having to let other riders get away from me, something that breaks my heart every time (you know, just like when the love of your life moves to another country!). The 9 climbs of the mountain obviously exacerbated this, but fortunately, I was able to lower my gear and change position in easy sections of track so I managed to pull through. Basically, this is something I should practice more, as by definition, endurance races are tiring, and the prospect of cramps is never going to completely disappear


The good thing about a multi-lap race is you can re-fuel when you go back through transition, so I set up a chair with all my food to reach for between laps. Initially I planned to have 4 gels per lap, as well as a fruit puree drink and a couple of other "goodies" depending on the need. (Check out my chair) However, in all the flurry of changeover, I completely forgot to take anything but the gels, and possibly this contributed to fatigue in the later part of the race. Basically, I needed to be thinking about this more as I rode into transition as I definitely felt the effets of this at the end. Nutrition is important!


At times, I chose to hold onto a wheel for a while, but at others, my lack of focus, among other things, prevented me from givng chase to those in front of me that I'd have been able to keep pace with. Although the physical effects of drafting are diminished on pure singletrack, being near other riders is always helpful to me as it helps mentally give me a feel for what pace I should be moving at, often in a situation where it's hard to guage, and I need to hang on wherever I can. This will be MASSIVELY important at predominantly fire trail races like Convict and Fling.


It seemed common practice that I would overtake a rider whilst going up a big hill - such as that wall-like one on the firetrail, only to have them catch up/overtake me going down Skyline or Pork Barrel (two of the main descents for those that don't know). Although proportionally, one spends a lot less time descending than climbing, getting dropped on a downhill can be bad news and cost you a lot - it cost me a podium at Wollombi Wild Ride so I should know. I am definitely not a terrible descender, but my climbing ability by far exceeds technical descending capacity, so I think that it's important to practice high speed singletrack descents, along with smashfests on uphills which I am so used to.

Oh, and one other fun lesson - the combiniation of dirt, sweat and sunscreen is a LOVELY mix to have in your eyes when you try to shower it off your face.

Despite all this, my 9th place in the Elite category with a time of 4:21 - so an average of about 19km/h - was not at all disappointing, and I'm looking forward to seeing how future events go after a bit more specific training. I guess I just need to "keep those pliers moving" to prevent any more rust from forming! Now time to hibernate for a week as I face my wisdom teeth removal in three days. I'm sure the pain of that won't be anywhere near that of a MTB marathon though! See you down in Canberra again for the Death Penalty - aka CAPITAL PUNISHMENT!

Below: 1) My lovely campsite; 2) the Tristanian nutrition stand; my new addition to my bedroom wall (top of 3rd column); 4) the location of WD-40 in the famous engineer's flowchart

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