Firstly, a wrap-up of the the very fun Chocolate Foot SRAM Singletrack Mind Round 3 and then the hilarity that unfolded when riding home from the event to Canberra on Monday and Tuesday, bikepacking style!
Chocolate Foot Round 3: Nowra
After a fantastic night of good food, a well stoked fire and great company in Vincentia, we headed up to Coondoo Rd in Nowra for round three of the series. I was a bit apprehensive of how things would turn out after test riding the course on Saturday and finding myself having one of those awkward days where nothing felt right. Having settled on taking the B lines and walking most logs, I was not feeling too elated to be racing the course for the next seven hours. So as not to get in people’s way, I started towards the back and we rolled out. Turns out the course was AWESOME and all I needed was some speed to launch over those logs! Being at the back turned out to be a bugger and was much slower than I would have liked. At one point I knew Liz was right behind me and thought if she passed I would hug that wheel like there was no tomorrow. Unfortunately being less technically inclined, my B line options were no match and she snuck past and off into the distance in the long grassy section. I also never saw Janet, just as in race 1 and 2, until she was standing on the podium. She must start at the front with the big boys.
Out on the track I felt comfortable and in control of exhaustion and nutrition (well as much as one can be when racing for 7 hours) and this shows looking back at lap times which were fairly consistent. However, about halfway through the race my bike was getting squeakier and squeakier. I tried moving pedals around a bit and settled on the fact that it was dusty and I hadn’t stopped for any lube at all. At the top of the switchbacks near the dam I happened to look down and boy did I get a shock to see one of the screws on the rear suspension 99% hanging out. I stopped immediately and when I touched it, the screw came out completely. Without a torque key I was buggered and nobody had one until good Samaritan Ed MacDonald rolled past. The torque key did the trick and I was off and riding laps as before but now with a sense of urgency to catch back up. Unfortunately Ed lost second place by about 30 seconds and I can’t help feeling partly responsible for that! I also lost third place by about 30 seconds. Stupid mechanical!
I didn’t get any photos of the event itself even though I had specifically put a camera in my transition bag. I thought of it numerous times around the course, but then forgot every time I got back to transition. I sifted through the 300 odd Dave Bateman photos but somehow I didn’t make a single appearance – must have been going way too fast for Dave’s shutter! All in all it was a super fun race. Big thanks again to Chocolate Foot for putting on yet another great event.
Getting home to Canberra (the hard way)
Now what most people do after an enduro race is pack up, drive home, eat so much bad food that your stomach hurts, shower and sleep well in a comfy warm bed. This is sensible and what I have always considered typical post-race behaviour. What Al Usher and I did, however, was a tad different!
As the event center was emptying out and the sun was setting, Al and I were making camp. Collecting wood, setting up our bivys and converting our bikes from tired enduro racing bikes to bikepacking machines! Since the last trip I have acquired a Revelate Designs ‘Sweet Roll’ which means I can now accommodate all my sleeping kit on the handlebars. For this trip this consisted of a lightweight bivy (thanks Jarrad!), sleeping bag, sleeping bag liner and a Thermarest. Al’s bike didn’t have any bag attachments as he had his trusty Bob trailer. Most of you would have heard, if you were at the race, that Al actually rode TO the event as well. Enduring freezing snowy conditions on Friday, partial hypothermia, sleeping under a road bridge and lugging Bob all the way to Nowra, only to race the 7 hours as a solo and do a very respectable 13 laps!
After being kindly handed the left overs of the Jimmy Jack tasting selection to wash down a hard day, we huddled around Al’s awesome BioLite stove, charged phones and Garmins and discussed the plan for the next two days. The plan was: head to Sassafras, through the Budawangs to Neriga; down to Wog Wog for camp; through Mongarlowe to Braidwood; Butmaroo Firetrail; Bungendore; hit up some of Kowen; and then home through Queanbeyan. Isn’t it funny how things never go according to plan…
This is Al’s rig at the falls lookout near Sassafras. Quite a pleasant ride with the temperatures soaring to knicks and jersey weather. From the top, looking back you can see all the way back to the coast to Point Perpendicular, very speccy.
Next we descended down into the Budawangs for a great loop with lovely views and varied riding from rocky, open sandy terrain to wooded, grassy rainforest areas. Some cool rock formations there too.
Things were going smoothly, it was perfect weather and we were making better time than expected. Al was pretty gung-ho with Bob attached though. Numerous times we were careering down rocky stuff and I took a second to glance up only to see Bob completely airborne. My comment about the dangerous number of sticks for derailleurs was answered by Al’s comment “Just go so fast that the sticks don’t have a chance to get stuck!”….. Needless to say, I wasn’t surprised when I turned a corner to find Al with a lovely new XO carbon derailleur which was completely mangled to shreds into his spokes by a stick, plus 2 broken spokes and a few others looking fragile.
Now I might be a girl, but I am an engineer, and I came up with a great solution on where Al’s newly laid to rest derailleur could live for the time being, the seat bag!
Quite quickly we converted him to single-speed and limped out of the Budawangs at a very slow pace to Nerriga. After some chips and an interesting conversation with seedy locals at the pub, we decided to bail on our Wog Wog route in case Al’s wheel decided to completely fail. Oallen Ford was too far to reach with only a few hours of batteries between us, so we camped out like squatters in a deserted cottage on the edge of town.
I would have to say that even though we were under cover, it was the coldest night I have ever spent trying to ‘sleep’ in my life. With my summer sleeping bag (rookie mistake), skins, tights, silk sleeping bag liner and bivy I was still visibly shivering. I used Al’s emergency blanket to wrap myself up like a big bag of crinkly chips, but still spent the night with freezing and painful legs and feet. Was also very worried about locals finding us in the cottage and shooting us with their big guns that they were talking about at the pub the day before, so not really any sleep this night either.
On Tuesday, our newly adopted route home favoured ease of rescue by car and meant we would go Tarago, Bungendore and home via the good old Federal Highway. Our road bash back to Canberra was quite uneventful. We didn’t really have a proper breakfast that morning, as the bogan residents of Nerriga were waking and we wanted to get outta there! So when we got to Tarago we both had two chicken and leek pies, a coke, packet of chips and shared a pizza. Poor Al didn’t have much luck finding vegetarian food and had to adopt a ‘flexetarian’ outlook on eating for a bit. I sat on the front into a driving headwind for a good 100km, while we nursed poor Al back home. His gears spun out at 18km/hr but he was more comfortable riding at about 14km/hr. This suited me because the headwind was crazy coming back into Bungendore.
We made it home to Canberra in quite a respectable time. Al was off to the bike shop to hand over what would be a very expensive fix-er-uppera, after clocking up over 500km over 5 days. BIGGEST KUDOS AL! I headed home to complete the last part of my post race routine: eat so much bad food that your stomach hurts, shower (for the first time since Saturday) and sleep well in a comfy warm bed. At least Al and I have similar outlooks on adversity, as we had such an awesome time laughing at the situation, crawling along in the wind, mooing at cows 🙂 Best two days leave I have ever used. Thanks to Al for the idea and the company and to Seb, Ria and Pete for taking all my stinky unwanted race stuff home!