I have been anxiously awaiting today for two weeks, excited about the second edition of the BMC 100km Classic that would double as my very first MTB race :) I was excited about today...until today actually arrived. Jarrod and I drove to the race through thick fog, drizzling rain and cloudy skies. We were running on schedule until arriving in Cammeray Waters, Woodend (60km NW of Melbourne), at the same time as 1200 other competitors! After a dirt road traffic block, an extended wait for an unhygienic portable toilet, and collection of race numbers and transponders, I donned my kit in embarrassment. I had entered the Elite Category, was racing in my Jayco VIS gear, and was sporting, once again, a Dual Suspension Ninety-Six Carbon Team-D Merida MTB (this time courtesy of Ronnie McCulloch)...what if people wrongly assumed I was good?!
The 100km adventure was to be raced through the Wombat State Forest, combining three loops over varying terrain. Race kick-off was delayed by half an hour, having the 635 athletes tackling the 100km course on the line until 7:30am. When racing did start, I was thankful I had positioned myself toward the front, because the first section over fire roads was absolute mayhem. I was in my comfort zone for mere minutes before hitting the first section of single track. Immediately people were wanting to pass, and a combination of poor bike skill and nerves soon saw me wrap myself around a tree! Trees were the least of my worries when I unclipped through a patch of mud... For the remaining six hours I found myself stopping at regular intervals to find stray sticks (not hard in the bush) to clean out my cleats.
There were many other things I wasn't used to...dirt, logs, rocks and nobody said anything about bridges! But perhaps my biggest hinderence was self inflicted. Racing in long fingered gloves was a new occurrence for me, and feeding wearing long fingered gloves was something I simply couldn't do. After three hours of riding I had drunk half a bottle of water and eaten absolutely nothing, and began to suspect I was hunger flatting when I starting taking wrong turns and flattening small trees at every second corner! The thought that the arduous single track section was behind me was the only thing that kept me sane through to the second support stop at 65kms, where I found myself sculling litres of sports drink and inhaling jellybeans until the bowl was empty.
By this time I had found a friend in Daniel Doherty; a younger guy who was leading me through the technical single tracks and waiting for me after every crash, of which there were many! At first I appreciated the 'kilometers to go' countdown he was giving to the finish, but every time I asked, I only made myself more emotional. As a female, I was grateful to have somebody to complain to, because physically my legs were smashed, mentally my head had rolled off, and had I known where the hell in the bush I was I may have been headed for a DNF. Of all the bike races I have done, including every training ride I have ever endured, this experience was by far my most challenging. Time has never passed so slowly...
When Daniel informed me the finish was near, an elated smile crossed my face and remained for hours. I was covered in mud, starving for a sausage in bread and more than ready to get out of my knicks! Jarrod had been finished for two hours and was waiting for me when I crossed the line, whether it was for congratulations and support, or for the complimentary beer I received that he was eying off...I'm not quite sure. Of the 653 starters, 91 were classed DNF. I finished 202nd, giving me eight in the Elite Women's category (aka 'last'). I'm not all that phased about my result, because MTB'ing is more than a race, it's an achievement and an experience...that I think I have fallen in love with :)
Results: Overall: BMC 100km Classic, Woodend, Cammeray Waters
Photos courtesy of Aurora Images