Tag Archives: Mongolia bike challenge

Go away Mr SS

If you read my blog anytime leading up to MBC you would know I was having terrible trouble with saddle sores. I was doing lots and lots of km’s on one bike, which meant not swapping saddles much, if at all, during the week.

Things settled down nicely when I got quite sick after Mongolia and I didn’t ride for about a month. But now the sun is shining, the weather is lovely and I have been increasing the amount of riding a little more. Unfortunately Mr saddle sore (let’s call him Mr SS) has also made a return. Somehow I managed to grit my teeth at his unwanted company for a 150km ride on the weekend, but that is it. We are not friends anymore. I don’t want to see him EVER again!

The road saddle I have been using is a women’s specific Bontrager which was fitted to my sit bone width when I bought the bike. On my mtb I use a women’s specific Specialized which was also fitted to my sit bone width.

I thought about swapping road saddle for mtb but remembered that we got a Selle SMP saddle for entering MBC.  To be honest, when we got it I was skeptical of the claims of a ‘perfect fit’ that would work for both men and women. Plus, the box instructions listed every bit male and female genitalia and downstairs piece of anatomy I knew, even some I didn’t!

That a lot of anatomy in one sentence...

That is a lot of anatomy in one sentence…

But I needed to try something different and Bleeksie swears by his MBC saddle he got last year. So last night I put it on and even used the spirit level to try and get the angle correct! The ‘nose’ is hilarious looking but when tilted back more so the seat is level, it is not so bad. It actually matches the bike colour scheme quite nicely.

This morning I gave it a spin, not wanting to go too far in case it was terrible.

Selle SMP Dynamic

Selle SMP Dynamic

I have to admit that I was more than pleasantly surprised! It was comfy. I had to tweak the seat height a bit because it seems to have a tad more height than the Bontrager saddle. Will give it a burl on the weekend on a slightly longer ride and see how it goes.

Next year I’ll be riding in the National Road Series in a women’s team and there will be many hours being spent on this bike. Might this saddle be the answer to saying goodbye to MR SS forever? Kind of exciting. Here’s hoping!

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Getting it done- MBC Stages 6 & 7

The finish to MBC was not so great for The Seb and Biking Bethany.

Stage 6 was 170km with the first 50km or so being dead flat and super fast. It was really cool to be riding in such a huge bunch but I was working hard to be there. As the fury was unleashed up the front, riders were going down all around me. People losing control in sloppy mud puddles and loose sand and hitting the deck pretty hard.

At about 50km we passed through the feed station. Some people stopped to pee, others stopped for water. I struggled to locate my bottle and by the time I grabbed it and got going the bunch was gone. I buried myself to get back on, and having spent way too much energy, I ended up dagging off the back in no time.

All of a sudden I was alone.

The hills were big rollers, as far as the eye could see was an ocean of dry coloured grass. The sky was a pretty blue. But that was the last I noticed of the scenery for the day.

As I stopped to lube my chain I noticed that a bunch of a few riders were approaching. Forgetting about the lube I jumped on and rode away with the group which included Bleeksie. Soon though, I started to slow rapidly and it felt strangely like bonking. Hitting the wall. I refused to believe it and scoffed down a gel and then some Gu chomps.

Then my stomach started cramping. It felt like my stomach was turning inside out. I limped along for about 30 minutes, making a whimpering sound and barely turning the pedals over. On the verge of bursting into tears, I turned around to see Seb right on my wheel. He said hi and looked at me in a “you look like you are about to die so I’ll be polite” kind of way.

The Seb had had terrible tyre and pump drama and was happy enough to ride the remainder of the stage with me.

Eventually I perked up a bit and my stomach settled a little. I was able to sit on the Seb train all the way to the finish. It was really really nice to have been able to ride together and I was a wee bit emotional at the end. Erik managed to snap a great photo of us.

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Happy finishers (Photo: Erik Peterson)

That night Seb was very unwell and I was feeling queezy too. We went to bed knowing something was brewing in our bellies.

By the morning of the final stage, Seb and I had developed some type gastro. I was unsuccessfully trying to pack my bag between dashes to the toilet and about 15 minutes to race start Seb walked back into the Ger saying he’d crapped his dacks. Doh.

We both struggled through the 86km of stage 7, just doing what it look to turn the pedals over and get to the finish line. In the last 5km we could see the finish line and Ger camp up on the hill to our right. But in true MBC style we rode around and over the entire hill, practically circling the camp before even getting close.

That finish was just like the first stage; a slap in the face. Ugghh. Done. It was hard to feel satisfaction when anger was still burning in the quads after that nasty finish.

After a while though, the pain eased and I started exploring our 13th Century National Park Historical Ger Camp. It was easy to imagine we were there with Genghis and his army.

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Our final destination (Photo: Erik Peterson)

Mongolia Bike Challenge surely delivered. It was true to it’s tag line. Like no other race on Earth. The race was hard and the satisfaction of even just crossing the finish line was enormous. The Mongolians were charming and generous people; it would have been nice to spend some more time in the country experiencing the culture at a more leisurely pace.

We did it tough, with a combination of various illnesses and mechanicals… but all six members of Team 3Fidi Nimblewear crossed the line of MBC!

Well done to Bleeksie who won the veteran category, Nathan and Seb got 2nd and 3rd in sportsman. Cam, Marina and I, well, we finished and that was pretty awesome 🙂

An inkling of form – MBC Stages 4 & 5

Stage 4

After the kerfuffles of Stage 3, the organisers announced we would get a bit of a sleep in and that Stage 4 would be shortened from 175km to about 120km.

Stage 4 brought out the true ‘roadie’ in me with the racing being fast and relatively flat. Cam and I got in an awesome group of four just smashing turns and motoring along.

Pacelining on dirt is a lot harder than I imagined, especially when there is a lot of sand. All of a sudden the rider in front starts to slow and swerve all around. You also really have to trust that you can handle whatever the rider in front rides over, because the vehicle ‘tram tracks’ made it hard to change lines quickly.

Nothing exciting happened in Stage 4 except that we got to the finish at 95km, fully expecting we had taken a wrong turn and missed 25km of racing. The carefree organisers shrugged their shoulders and said the 120km was approximate. And so with that, we were finished by 12.30pm with a free afternoon ahead!

The campsite was a makeshift Ger camp on the stony banks of the Kherlen River. A mostly stagnant creek gave us something to wash our bikes in, but later we found the water was actually flowing and further downstream the water was being used in our little single-man cold water shower tents.

Bike washing with a drink bottle and toothbush

Bike washing – Mongolian style

Inside our Ger we had a large piece of felt (obviously a spare side panel for a Ger) on top of a large red carpet. To our surprise, none of the other Gers had this and people were complaining about the dirt floors. We kept our mouths shut but later that evening one of the Mongolians came an took the Ger felt. Doh, at least we still had the carpet!

Enjoying the sunset

That evening the Mongolians killed a sheep for dinner.  I am all for fresh and I know that meat has to come from somewhere, but there was something about seeing the sheep’s head on the washing up table that put me off the mutton pasta and dumplings that night.

Dinner?

Dinner? (Photo Scott Biddinger)

Strava route – http://app.strava.com/activities/82240821

A video interview of me, Bleeksie and others about the day –

Daily MBC video –

Stage 5

My body seemed to be warming to the idea of racing day in, day out, and after the opening 20km of Stage 5 I found myself riding in a bunch which included Sonya, Erin, Jess and Jennifer. Bleeksie and Seb both dropped back in the group at various times and had confused looks on their faces, not expecting me there!

The stage began with a KOM at the 30km mark and another climb to follow soon after at 52km.

After the climbs the rest of this stage was furious and flat. I found myself in a group of six riders which split on the descent into three pairs: myself and a guy, Jennifer and a guy, and Erin and a guy!

Slowly me and ‘my guy’ reeled in Jennifer, then us four worked together to pull back Erin. Erin and I rode together briefly on the next climb before she looked around at me with that “I am going now” look, and sped off. I rode the last 10km by myself, only to hear someone approaching at the 1km mark. Jess screamed past and yelled for me to “get on”. I tired but her technical skills left me for dead on the sandy descent to the finish.

It was great to be able to feel a bit more competitive now that my health was on the way up, and actually feel like I was bike racing. I was lucky enough to escape a fairly large batch of food poisoning that went through the camp that night, forcing a few rider to retire from the race, and left others facing an unpleasant 170km stage the next day. Maybe it was worth avoiding the sheep after all?

Sadly in the afternoon while Seb and I were asleep in the Ger, two Mongolians appeared inside, one with arms firmly crossed, the other pointing at the rug. After playing dumb for a while, we gave up and the Mongolians confiscated the rug from under our feet. Onto the dirt for us that night!

Strava route – http://app.strava.com/activities/82240811

Seb and Nathan both on the podium for Stage 4

Seb and Nathan both on the podium for Stage 4

Sharing the germs around – MBC stages 2 & 3

Stage 2

In my opinion, Stage 2 had the best scenery of the whole race! The first 80km were quite uneventful as we rode from open plains to big rolling green hills, through some lush green forest and up valleys encircled by beautiful rocky outcrops. The last climb of the day came at about 80km. Far in the distance we could see riders traversing the enormous ridge to the left but it was so spectacular I hardly noticed the pain. We were grinding along at such a slow pace it was easy to take everything in. Yellow, purple and white wildflowers, the smell of cedar and pine trees and the cooling air as we climbed and climbed.

I was feeling OK: still a raging sore throat but it seemed all the congestion in my head was slowly making its way out. Our Aussie buddy Cam on the other hand, was not so lucky. He seemed to have some mutation of the thing I had and was feeling crap at best and so we ended up riding the whole stage together.

Cam and I enjoying the mid-race views

Cam and I enjoying the mid-race views

On the decent of the final hill I was giggling and yelling at how amazing the track was but all of a sudden had to screech to a halt with blood spurting out of my nose. The rapid change in altitude had given me an epic blood nose and because my heart was pumping so fast, it just wouldn’t stop. Cam and I spent a good 15min on the side of the hill with every rider stopping to see me lying there with my face covered in blood. It looked so hardcore, but it wasn’t.

Even after a mid-race face clean it wasn't pretty!

Even after a mid-race face clean it wasn’t pretty!

Drama over, we continued on towards the end of the stage still alone in our pair of misery. At about the 90km mark we started crossing rivers. Once had you gotten off, heaved your bike to your shoulder and waded through the freezing water, you were back on for maybe five minutes tops, before having to do it all again. Some of these rivers were deep and flowing fast, so I was very happy to be riding with Cam in case I got completely swept off my feet.

When we finally reached the end of the stage we were both ruined. It had been such a long slow day, with our elapsed time being close to eight hours. The goal of ‘just getting through’ was a struggle in itself and I envied all the race talk that was going on around camp. RACE!? I could hardly ride. With a 170km stage looming for the next day, we ate a huge meal and got to bed early. It was raining heavily and I fell asleep overhearing a local racer saying that rain was forecast and it would be about five degrees in the morning. Mongolia was really putting the hurt on us.

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Strava route – http://app.strava.com/activities/82240843

Really awesome Stage 2 video –

Stage3

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river crossing

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Our breezy Ger

Stage 3

Indeed in the morning it was frigid. We started in the drizzle and nearly every rider had their long pants and raincoats on. It was quite an amusing start to the stage, with riders spreading in every direction dodging mud and huge puddles. It quickly became apparent that these freezing muddy puddles were impossible to avoid and within 15 minutes we were all drenched from at least the knees down.

I found myself in a group with my friends the Spaniards again and we set about pacelining across the valley into a bitterly cold headwind. A bumpy, ass-pounding climb brought us to the top of a swampy marsh like area. We headed partway down hill, the bog getting increasing deeper, until we came across the convoy of bogged race vehicles. Through the swamp (finally) we bombed down a crazy steep downhill and crossed a raging river. Around the corner we came head to head with the race leaders. “WHAT THE HELL?” We thought initially they had gone the wrong way or something but it turned out a river was impassable and we were being sent back the way we came.

Back across the raging river, up the hike-a-bike hill of death and, of course, back through the swap and passed the convoy of vehicles who were now bogged going in the opposite direction!

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Bogged in the bog

We spent a few hours holed up in a friendly local lady’s Ger where we were fed some peanuts and coke. 40 riders sitting around in wet muddy lycra which they had been in since 7am. You can guess how good that Ger smelt. Poor lady, she will have probably built herself a new house by now.

Eventually we got transported to the camp at the end of the stage in the race vehicles. In true Mongolian style we were told it was maybe 40km and shouldn’t take more than an hour or so. Very vague…

Four hours later the sun was setting and we were still driving. Getting thrown all over the vehicle, smashing heads on the roof and crashing into each other as we careered through the Mongolian countryside. We passed time in our car (which was two guys plus Erin, Jess, Marina and I) by conjuring up meals that we would like to eat. It seemed roasts and Asian food were the flavour of the day.

So from race start to getting the camp the ordeal was about 11 hours. That is a long time to be cold, hungry and in the same set of lycra! By far worse than riding the 170km which we were mean to. Some of the amazing volunteers didn’t get back to camp until 1am. What an adventure!

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Pungent wet and muddy cyclists crowd around the fire

Most photos are © Eric Peterson

Grit your teeth girl – MBC Stage 1

Unfortunately and often to my own detriment, I am a fiercely competitive and stubborn person. Happy to admit this. So telling myself to take it easy, just get through these first few days of Mongolia Bike Challenge with minimum effort, that was a hard thing for me. But I agreed with what others were telling me and faced with the only other option of not starting the race at all… well that wasn’t an option!

As we were speeding away from the larger than life stainless steel Genghis Khan statue, my ‘race autopilot’ took over. Vying for wheels, trying to get a good position, hanging onto that front bunch. God they were going fast!

Needless to say, by the first hill I was in no-man’s-land: dropped off the back of the fast bunch, overtaken by a few other smaller groups, but ahead of the back markers. My heart rate was high.  By myself with no vans or other noises about, I could hear my heart pounding like it was going to explode out of my chest. At the top of the second hill I was wheezing and gasping for air, in between coughing up chunks of gunk. Not even 50km had ticked over yet…far out, this is going to kill me.

These were not hills, these were mountains! But at the top of each climb, from what felt like being up in the clouds, the views were spectacular. The scenery throughout the day was so varied; vast open plains, huge grassy hills, rocky peaks with crazy-fast descents. The sections of spruce and pine trees offered some respite from the hot sun, but they were vary rare. We learned later on in our travels that only about 9% of Mongolia is forested.

That day turned out to be super hot and a lot of people got cramps and dehydration. I rode by myself a lot towards the end but made good friends with a few of Spaniards, including the lovely Caterina, who I ended up riding with for the first three stages.

A fellow racer described the stage perfectly “That was not a welcome to Mongolia hug, it was a slap in the face”. Ouch! The relentless hills were tufts of grass that made climbing bumpy and slow. A lot of the hills finished with a steep pinch that meant walking was the only option. My garmin recorded 120km and 2500m of climbing in 7 hours. Nearly double the scorching time set by Cory Wallace.

Immediately after I finished I went to our Ger. Sitting on the floor, all covered in mud and cow shit, quite dehydrated and completely shattered, I questioned my ability to actually ride my bike the next day. I certainly hadn’t expected the terrain to be so physical and demanding.

Thankfully, starting early in the mornings meant we had the afternoon to debrief, shower, clean bikes, refill water bottles for the next day and eat. Did I mention eat? This week was going to be a race of attrition, and even just lining up to start the next day meant eating eating eating! By the time I crawled into bed I was feeling satisfied. I made it through day one and I was still alive.

I reckoned that the next morning would be it, the make or break. I was either going to wake up horridly sick and unable to race, or my body will have gone through the recognition phase and accepted that yep, this was happening so better get used to it. Sunrise would tell.

Strava file for Stage 1 – http://app.strava.com/activities/82240872

Most pictures ©  Erik Peterson, others by and The Seb

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Getting to the start line of Mongolia Bike Challenge

Rolling under that start arch of Mongolia Bike Challenge Stage 1, I breathed a big sigh of relief. I was here and this was finally happening. Getting to this point in time had been more of a challenge than I hardly dared to admit to myself, let alone the riders around me.

My training leading up the event was focused and with two weeks to go I was feeling strong. I had done a lot of hours on the road bike, working on moving my big enduro base to more high end intensity. I had also done some big and long hills on the mountain bike. Things were looking positive!

But somewhere between that good feeling two weeks before and the start line of Mongolia Bike Challenge, my health fell in a bit of a heap. Antibiotics and off the bike for a saddle sore. A terrible yeast infection. Then two days before we left the country I got some kind of viral chest infection. I started on a second round of antibiotics the day we flew out. Flying with a head full of mucus was heinous and I hardly got a wink of sleep due to the crazy pressure build up in my ears.

Walking around Ulaanbaatar I was in a bit of a daze. I could hardly keep my eyes open, I had a raging sore throat and ringing ears which I couldn’t relieve the pressure from. The city was confusing. There was so much construction going on; dirt and pollution everywhere. Old buildings that looked like once they had been beautiful but now were completely run down. Parks full of weeds and rubble which looked like at some point they had been nice places to relax. The traffic was a honking, hectic mess of SUV, luxury 4WD and Toyota Prius. Shops were boasting Gucci and Prada and things that I couldn’t quite comprehend would mean anything to nomads who were now living in suburbia.

That afternoon I was too sick to do anything. Seb ever so kindly put my bike together while I slept up in the hotel room, desperate to get some ounce of recovery into me before this adventure even began.

We loaded bags into the race vehicles and buses and headed out of the city. Ahhhhhh! It was a nice to leave the craziness behind and head for the rolling green hills. When we arrived at the enormous Genghis Khan statue, you could feel people’s moods lift.

In the lovely afternoon sun we went for a ride to freshen the legs (my first ride in about five days)! We explored our custom made Ger camp (Mongolian version of a yurt) before being treated to a fantastic opening ceremony and banquet. After a decent night of rest that was it, the gun was off and we were dashing away from the Genghis statue towards what I would soon find to be the toughest day I had ever experienced on my bike.

Stay tuned for a recap of our ups and downs, excitement, tears and crazy stories from seven hardcore days of stage racing around Mongolia.

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Bringing it all together, or not really?

The last few days have seen a few tough months of training take the wind out of me a little. I know I have complained about my chilblains all winter, but the last few weeks I had to succumb to another cycling inflicted devil that is the saddle sore. Unfortunately it wasn’t from bad seat position, it was just an infected hair, turned boil, turned horrid pustule of a thing. So antibiotics and a few days rest was what the doctor instructed. Ugggh!

On Saturday I was back on the bike for a mad fun lap of Stromlo before jumping in the car and heading out for the fabulous Back Yamma Bigfoot 100km! A fun roadtrip with Mr Ed McDonald and Cam to the Back Yamma State Forest for a blistering fast lap of the 100km course.

The course is notorious for hidden tree stumps and sandy corners, so I took it pretty easy. The goal was to get around, test the legs and the bike as a last hit out before Mongolia.

In a pretty good ‘taking it easy time’ of 4:48, I was stoked. Plus I got some decent cash in the wallet, a new tyre and a wicked Bigfoot trophy! If you ever get the chance to race the Bigfoot, I highly recommend it. My writeup of the event last year is here. Fast, dusty, furious and awesome! They desperately need more chicks to participate too. Nothing technical about the course and only 1 or 2 little hilly bumps – why wouldn’t ya??

So yesterday I started my Mongolia packing mission, with a little sniff here and there. Yesterday morning the throat was sore and the head was heavy. Today it is clearly the flu with fever and chesty cough. Perfect prep! Hopefully by Sunday I will feel ok to ride!!!

So, apart from a less than ideal last few weeks, the base is there and the intensity is there, so I can’t wait for this amazing adventure to begin. You can follow us on the website: http://www.mongoliabikechallenge.com/. Last year they were very good at providing race updates, as there won’t be any mobile reception for us to be doing that on the Mongolian Steppe!

Nathan Versey, Robert Bleeker and I are riding together for 3FIDI-NIMBLEWEAR 1; Seb, Maria and Cam are 3FIDI-NIMBLEWEAR 2!

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