Saturday, 18 August 2012

Da Colley Thriller 2012 - second attempt

After last year's Cooley Nightmare (read about it here), I was wondering whether it was the course that was not suitable for me or maybe last year I just had one of those days. There was only one way to find out...

The day was beautiful, and after week's rain the sun was shining again and the sky was cloudless. I had prepared all my bottles and food the night before, after careful calculations of possible calories expenditure so this time I wouldn't have my far-too-often-happening stomach issues , and was full of hope, although with expectation kept low, just in case ;)

The race started shortly after 10am with a short loop around a town and then the whole group cycled up a fireroad and into a short singletrack. I didn't fully succeed in positioning myself well at the start line so now got stuck behind people who had some problems with covering obstacles, but the section wasn't long so I hoped that little misfortune wouldn't affect the over-4-hour long race.
After the singletrack we entered a road, unlike last year I knew it would go for approx. 10km so was prepared for a long climb. I was trying hard to catch some people in front of me and managed twice to stick to the wheel of the people in front, but in the end had to find my own pace and slowly climb up the hill. Finally, after an hour I saw some cars and people maybe 1km ahead, I finished the first bottle and pushed harder on the pedals to get to first feed zone. However, they were just spectators! The feedzone was further ahead (and up). Got there happily in the end, spent a few minutes too long trying to borrow allen keys to reposition my new saddle, stuffed my pockets with bars and gels and headed towards a steep and rocky climb to the masts. Last year I had to walk it all, this time however I cycled up, ovetaking a few bike-walking racers and being cheered by everybody. Almost gave up at the top but that would be pretty embarrassing so I just pushed till the end ;)

And then, after an hour and 10 minutes of climbing, the real fun began - a stony chaotic descent, one of those "close your eyes and hope for the best" ones. It was pretty wet and muddy, but the mud wasn't trying to tear your hangers off, it was mostly slide-able. I started overtaking people, some of them caught up with me a moment later and there was a bit of yoyo-ing but nonetheless I was moving up.
I was feeling great, having fun even when sliding around, flying down the hill and smiling at my lovely bike. It felt mush better than last year! Maybe because I know how long the first climb will be, maybe because I'm less scared of stones now, maybe because I tried to have a glimpse around every now and then and saw the sea below us, and the heather and gorse around.
Then there was more climbing. And more fun descents. And climbing again. I didn't know where I was position-wise but I knew I had to just cycle at my own pace and remember to drink and force-feed myself regularly. I hadn't seen any of the girls at the start line and as I was getting some confusing information during the race (that I was 4th, 3rd or 1st), I decided to ride against the clock. 4 hours was my target however when I realised how slippery the course was I knew it might have been difficult to achieve. Anyway, I pushed hard.
Every racer in front of me became a target which I was trying to get close to. Once I caught him, the guy in front became a new one. And like that I was cycling for over two hours, slowly but steadily picking a rider after rider, not being caught by anyone, feeling great about it and enjoying the day even more.

After 35km I started to feel tired. Couldn't swallow much food, forced myself to drink and just kept repeating that now it was close to the finish, too late to pace yourself, just keep pushing and then you can go down ;)

The second, and the last, feed zone. A short unnecessary stop, a sip of coke, a gel pushed down the throat and the last climbs...
I was done. A granny ring was used a lot, rocky ascents were walked, three people overtook me (oh no! I managed to catch one of them later). And then there was the last descent. My break pads were gone, and I pulled with all my strength to slow the bike down a little, my forearms were hurting but it didn't really matter. I had the last piece of fun going down that hill and after 4 hours and 10 minutes I crossed the finish line. Slightly above my target, but taking the muddy conditions into account I felt satisfied. And then they told me I came first in Elite Women :D

Two hours later. After a freezing shower (it's good for the muscles, right?), and chicken curry, we were enjoying ourselves in the sunshine. Time for prize giving. I wasn't called up. Hm, interesting... As it turned out I had taken some shortcut, apparently like most of the people. Even with the added time I should have still been third, but it didn't matter. Even if the course was mistaken by so many riders due to the poor marking, it was the riders who were punished. Pretty frustrating. What can you do though?

Evening, at home. I compared my GPS file with Sean's one. The shortcut was worth approx. 1.2km and 8 or 9 minutes. Which means I could have come not only 3rd but would have had a realistic chance for the win anyway.
So frustrating. And heartbreaking. And it doesn't really matter, after all.

This was a good day. I overtook many riders who are generally stronger than me. I learnt about the ways of treating my fussy belly. I enjoyed the course, and the day. I took 50 minutes (16%) of the last year's time, despite much worse conditions - very good :)

PS Sean got 2nd in the Elites, with the time of 3:15! :D

Notes for the future: A lighter dinner the night before. Gels, IsoGels, Nakd bars, torq bars: yes. Snickers: no (as healthy as it was). USN Epic-Pro: yes (maybe 3 bottles for the first three hours, instead of only 2). One drink bottle per hour. Approx. 250-300kcal eaten per hour, aim for 350.

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