Superbly written, bro - even though it took me 8 1/2 hours to get through...
Thanks for your efforts, and well bloody done to you both.
not up to the standard of John's writing style, but....
ride report; AK09. Longish but no compulsion to read it!
Matt and I knew we needed some extra training for the Cyclic Saga in March 2009. I'd distinguished myself at the 2008 Saga by falling off a small bluff in heavy mist into some Spaniard grass, getting mild concussion in the process and losing sight of Matt. I then proceeded to explain to another team that my compass was not working properly and that was why north was actually south, but that I was OK.
The AkAttack seemed the perfect solution. I'd been on holiday in Australia since round 3 of the National XC in mid January and the race kit was still covered in mud and in need of tender care when I got back on Thursday. The front UST tire was flat after having burped then ripping it off in lap 3, refitted on a wing and a prayer, so there was plenty of maintenance to do on Friday evening after work.
Working to a 7 pm dinner invite deadline, had me mentally checking what I needed to do when I got home, getting to bed just before midnight. A few red wines and a stout or two had completed the red/golden carbo loading. Alarm set at 4.45 am, I checked the tires were still up and the map holder was the right way round. Normal breakfast of big bowl porridge and toast with extra lashings of peanut butter; downed two coffees.
Rode to meet Matt at 6.30 am at the Shamrock and I got my first look at the area by virtue of the 1:50,000 topo map.Tried to make light of the close little lines.
With a back pack containing four bananas, plenty of chocolate and sports bars, plus rain coat, extra polyprop, first aid kit, blanket, CO2 air, two tubes, 2 litres in camelbak, etc, I did not feel like a cross country racer.
We found that the only other team in our class was not likely to turn up so a hollow class win was replaced by a desire to ride as many of the permitted short cuts we could find. We thought 4th or 5th might be achievable given the talent on offer.
The hour given to look at the two control maps passed quickly but I was confused when a large part of the field headed left towards the toilets and what I thought was out of bounds. We headed right after conferring.
Control 31 was easy as there was a steady stream of riders and a queue. This settled the horses a bit as I knew how to get to 101 so I headed off ahead of Matt determined to avoid queues. Lots of other riders were walking up some of the steep pitches but foolishly I rode them. While it looks good it saps more energy and I found you cannot still do this 8 hours in.
Grabbed 12 and decided to leave 11 if time permitted on the return. Control 61 again involved a steep pitch which I rode and in the descent to the creek met Simon and John coming back. Following too closely to another rider, who chose to stop, I exited right into a gorse bush, so saving me from a greater slide downhill. Back up, I rode up but others more prudently walked/rode as the steepness varied. I was pulling high 180's on the HR which is foolhardy in such an event. Got to control 81 first and did my German short haired pointer imitation.
Still essentially visiting the control points with Ant Bradshaw and Richard Smith we were riding as a foursome up until 84; Ant wondered out aloud whether the track was a bit cluttered with two teams travelling together. We all enjoyed the single track getting to 82 and then onto the pylon track. If we had known the decision we would make in respect of 74 [SE corner], we'd have left 84 and grabbed it enroute to 102. At this point, Ant and Richard were heading south but Matt and I decided to get the north out of the way and give them some time alone.
We were both riding strong, travelling fast down hill and making no wrong turns. Uneventful trip along the river. Grinding up to 73, and ahead of Matt, I found the unmarked lower access track to 73. I rode it, confirmed it went south as well so shot back down to Matt to direct us to further climbing.
Enjoyable riding to 93 especially the high lines up and down with the big ruts just waiting to snare us. Gave encouragement to another team we met going down as we came up.
Control 92 was a gimme, with the faint single track being excellent riding.
At about this point, we both reached the conclusion we were quietly getting knackered. I was keen to head down to 74 but Matt was not. His reasoning was sound; it would be very hot; we were low on fluid and the climb back out to get to water was too far away. His plan was to grab 85, but I wanted to go to 102, then ride the river to 85. Control 102 won out and leading the way I entered the first crusty bog in the big ring. Rapid deceleration and stinking mud up to the knees was my reward. I skipped all other bogs thereafter. Had lunch beside 102, then through to the river was lovely riding with Matt picking the better lines. I was starting to fatigue quite badly at this point but the river run freshened me up.
My cognitive skills were dropping away as I rode a direct line through an innocuous little bush that turned out to be Onga Onga. Hot legs cooled by the river made for my first onset of cramps climbing to 24. Matt got ahead of me as I had to walk a bit. Back on, I caught him and rode while he walked a steep pitch; I knew if I got off I might not start again. Getting to 24 early, I punched the card and then reasoned the water must be in the little shed to the east. I had a quick look around calling out to Matt, who by now had reached 24, that the water was gone. He said it was by the control point. This is one of those seminal moments in a team where I suspect Matt now doubted my state of mind. After downing some water, filling the camelbak and adding powder, I demolished a couple of chocolate bars, noting for the first time I had my wallet, house keys and credit cards with me.
A plan was forming that rather than try and find 72, we could go as far west as 63 before taking what looked from the contours like a fun descent to 65. Matt was not in the right frame to take this on board as he wanted to grab 34, 43, 64 then head off to 65 directly so I kept the 63 option private.
We made excellent progress grabbing 34, 43 and 64 and I suggested at that point we could grab 33 as it was not much of an elevation change. At 33, I said we could get 63; Matt seemed resigned to his fate at this point. We found the single track down from 63 easily but for good measure I rode west just be absolutely sure as neither of us had the legs to cover a mistake. As the route was at my urging I headed off down hill; normally, I'd leave Matt with his better descending skills to find the best way down. I very nearly went over the last drop which may have well been the end of my riding that day. I yelled to Matt to stop and he barely did, burping his tire in the process. We slid down the slope using the bikes to arrest our progress and encountered the swamp full of felled trees with the proper track a short but hard won distance away.
From 65 to 71 we had our only real disagreement; the need to ride up the direct route and then take the bike carry through the young pines to the pylon where 71 lurked. Not sure if I bullied Matt here but we did take the short route and it certainly made my cramps even worse.
Control 83 confused us badly. We stopped too soon; I saw slight evidence of a track so said I'd walk to the control point while Matt rested and if correct, come back and we'd ride there. I was wrong, so coming back out we found the blue tape a 100 m on and got 83. We made 63 in good time, then drifted too far away from the fence on a line that clearly had been ridden, before we realised we'd lost too much elevation. Matt found the gate and I found some women but the gate won out so we headed off to 41. I was not coping with the cramp at this point and so would spin then coast, Matt having to wait for me. From 41 to 51, and out to the farm land the cramp left my body so I enjoyed the descent immensely.
I mused about going to 32 as I knew that part of the course from riding a PNP race 4-5 years ago but Matt was having none of that. Ok, so 22 then a quick blat to 11 and an early finish.
Having been passed by Simon and John early on and knowing the errors we'd made, I thought we'd be middle of the field. Ant and Richard, arriving back with a few minutes to spare, had a few less points than us which came as a pleasant shock to us.
A swim in the creek after the event perked me up and I came back from that to find we'd scored the same points as Simon and John.
I thoroughly enjoyed Matt's company over the 8 hours; I felt we brought complementary skills to the event. He made some critical observations that really helped us. I learnt you cannot take a XC racer's mind set into these event; race anaerobically for 2-3 hours then expect to be still functioning after 8 hours. I am equally confident that Simon and John are going to come back next time with an emphatic statement but we'll savour the short lived anomaly!!