(AKA the Briars Highland Fling 100 miler)
This is a race that I have wanted to attempt for a while but have never felt capable, fit or crazy enough! This year however, the stars aligned mainly because Terra Australis had been postponed. With a lot of Tour Divide training miles already in the legs I decided to give the 100 miler a crack.
The day began in quite a relaxed fashion, albeit early with bagpipes stirring the campers awake at 5:20am. Thanks to the On the Rivet guys I was feeling very happy about the Superfly which was sporting new DT Swiss 240 hubs, Stan’s NoTubes ZTR Crest Rims, a new rear derailleur and fresh cabling. Plus a wash, that always helps!
At 7am I found myself nervously toeing the start with five other ladies, very exciting. The biggest women’s field to ever start and a stacked field it was too: Jess Douglas, Naomi Hansen, Libby Adamson, Meg Carrigan and crazy SS rider Frankie Sanders. Trying not to feel intimidated I took some deep breaths and revisited the race plan: just make it to the finish… The 100 milers got prime position at the very front which meant we got away to a clean start.
The first loop took us through farmland with happy cows in lush meadows helping to divert my attention away from the rather chilly air temperature. Straight away there were some short sharp pinches followed by fast downhills and sandy corners. I was getting overtaken left, right and center but was thankful for being so close to the front when we got to the first river crossing. The rest of the 23km Ground Effect stage passed with no drama and soon we were through the 100 mile lounge and onto the first lap of the 53km Shimano stage.
The Wingello singletrack was fast and flowy and I was whooping with joy at the awesomness of my new wheels. Libby and I were riding at fairly similar speeds and we chatted a bit through the singletrack. I had already noticed that I was struggling to eat and by 50km had barely had more than a gel. When we got to the hills I was feeling strong in the legs and apparently so too was Libby, as she took off near just before the QOM climbs, never to be seen again. Thankfully I found few people to ride with on the windy and exposed slog back to transition.
My bike had been ever so kind to me so I returned the favour at the 100 mile lounge by giving the chain a nice old lube. Unfortunately I hadn’t given myself a big selection of food to choose from and I ended up grabbing another handful of gels and bars. I started my second lap of the Shimano stage utterly alone but trying to perk up by looking forward to having the singletrack all to myself! By partway through this lap however, I started to see something was clearly not right. By the time I got to the QOM climb I was zigzagging all over the road with blurry vision and a terrible headache. A lovely guy who seemed genuinely concerned even offered me his cheese and peanut butter sandwiches which I ever so politely declined. YUCK!
It has been years since I have visited Bonkville, but I knew that today I was well and truly there. Cramps were also not aiding the situation, kicking in each time I attempted any elevation gain. To me it seemed things were all over and I was playing out the conversation in my head which I was going to have with Bev, our 100 mile transition hostess.
“Oh Bev, am I LAST? Is the course being packed up? It is such a shame to have missed the cut-off time, I guess I’ll just roll back to the start now…”
“Yes Beth, you’ll have to stop now. Go and sit down in the shade for a while.”
Turns out I was not last and I was nowhere near missing the cut-off. I was torn between happy and sad. I could finish! But I would need to ride more to finish. Bugger! I sat down and opened my food bag. This was it I told myself, you need to eat everything in here. So I did. Chips, banana, bar, gel, fruit leather and a whole bottle of electrolyte drink. I stuffed my pockets with more goodies and headed out smiling – I was going to finish this thing!
The final 32km Gu stage was a mix of big ups and downs for both elevation and emotions. The fast flat roads out of transition were great to keep the spirits high but the final 30km really put the nail in the coffin. I distinctly remember a few full flingers laughing at me as I stomped up one pinch yelling “I HATE the rollercoaster”!
Living so close we really should get up here more often and ride at Wingello, tracks like these would be fantastic fun with a few less km’s in the legs!
At the ‘chose your own direction’ intersection I gave it one last push and punched it up the hill on the left. No idea if it was faster but it made me smile to clear it with such tired legs. I snuck across the finish line while presentations had commenced in a time of 9:09 and collapsed on the ground next to the car, utterly exhausted and completely satisfied 🙂
I was elated to have finally crossed the line of my first 100 mile race and for achieving my goal of finishing. I am pretty comfortable riding that distance any other day but can safely say that racing 160km is a whole other kettle of fish. I learned a lot about what works and what does work in terms of nutrition; of how to deal with bonking big time; and that mentally I am tough enough to stick at it.
The trails were fantastic, the atmosphere was awesome and it was a mega challenge to have ticked off the list. Having learned so much from this race I’ll be back next year to give it another go for sure. Well done to the ladies: all six crossed the finish line and I hope to see just as many, if not more, starting next year.