Every year Murwillumbah Cycle club holds a road race that attracts people from afar to experience quality fields and a course through part of the Green Cauldron that on training days is jaw dropping and for racing its leg busting.
Stacey and I drove out to Tyalgum and it was the first time we had both competed in a major event together since her hip was broken 18 months ago.
We’d been able to share some training prep , race talk and anxieties.
Stacey would tackle Div 6 Womens C – 43km and myself Masters C 86km. it was great to see Stacey jumping with excitement… I wasn’t quite reciprocating, just reserved and praying my legs would feel good.
Start lists indicated that most guys from my club grade had gone into the 43km Div and some from the higher grade were in with me… add to that a few other known entrants I knew I would be out of my comfort zone.
My main stress was that I was going into to race really only conditioned for a quality 45-50K if I I rode true to my nature.
From a time perspective I had done a hard 2 hrs bike/run the previous week and my swimming has been swarmed with both lactic tolerance and short high intensity stuff – The recovery from high HR had been noticeably very good. I knew this would help me somewhat today
All of that aside I needed another 40km of bike legs I couldn’t borrow today so this ride would be a test of courage. Far gone where the 100km TT rides from Janurary… I needed to suck it up and return to a new level of strength endurance.
The race unfolds with a reasonably flat 20KM from Tyalgum into murbah then some rolling hills start to feature through crystal creek to Chillingham.. The business end of each lap is Zara Rd that rolls at the footsteps of Limpinwood / Border Ranges and features a pinch climb that takes your legs away following by a descent quickly into another long climb called Dump hill that kicks and seems to have an extension on it… beyond that it’s a knarley descent into town where you either carry on fro a second lap or upon finishing hit a sharp right hander at the bottom of the hill to find the finish drag off up the main street.
I was sitting towards to back of the bunch for the first 5km … there was no movement and I was quite happy at that stage to just settle and find my legs and head space, stay out of trouble. I think at that stage I was planning to sit there a fair while, but when the guy in front of me moved all the way to the front of the bunch my instincts kicked in and I followed… I then spent about 85% of the entire first lap on the front. What was I thinking…
Pre race intentions was to not ride in fear and I figured my best outcome of being in the moment and getting a good condidtioning would be to just get into the race at the front on lap one if the chance presented. If I dropped on lap 2 I would not care as long as I was all in.
So I'm sitting on the front and off the front.. feeling million bucks, pushing ahead to each of the crests and corners to stay clear of trouble and bloody hell I was having fun. Meanwhile in the back of my mind I thought of the energy being saved had I of been mid pack. Patience game not great, the energy was flowing through me and I wasn’t wasting that shit. My high game carried on until we reached the top of 1major Climb 1 of 2. I had my hand slipping and shifting into bigger gears mid way up the climb which was forcing a stupid amount of force thorugh my already partially burned quads. I opted to stay in the gear as opposed to risking a bad gear change/dropped chain/ collision..
The cream was rising. I was now sitting about 5thor 6th wheel moving up Dump hill and by half way up I was wishing I wasn’t 6’3 … quads cramping .. the effort went deep and my legs had been crucified..
We descended and kicked onto laps 2 and emotions and physical state was in complete contrast. Self inflicted .. Now I sat on the back of the bunch taking on water, gels and working on getting my head out of strategising a phone a friend plan when I reached Murbah.. talk about north to south. Rainbows to pitch black. The pace settled a bit but every slight increase I felt the catastrophe in my quads. Messages to the brain were not great and I honestly thought I would not make it back through the hills – Either with the bunch or sadly on my own. Surely one lap was enough. Sadistic.
And here was the challenge accepted, its not just the pushing yourself when you feel good its being able to work through the low moments and that’s the character building test I wanted today deep down. What sealed it for me was that im always preaching to my junior athletes about challenging themselves and simply said I need to suck it up and practice what I preach. Accountability.
Lap one I was singing songs to stay patient and run with the high .. now I was singing songs to stay on a positive channel.
We got through Murbah and I moved up to mid pack. I was in for the haul. I just prayed for survival. Each little section we conquered I started to taste the satisfaction of finishing.. And no matter how much those last 2 hills would disgust my legs it would be worth the ectasy at the end.
The first one I climbed well, about 10 riders cleared the climb well enough to break away, I powered down the hill desperate to get back on… just in contact as dump hill curved. That was it from there its up and over the hill. Those who had the legs stretched up the road and would descend for the win.. I was holding my position and see sawing up the climb with a couple of guys who had to listed to the foul coming put of my mouth that was complete rebuttle from body to brain. Inside I knew I’d done it, I didn’t care for the pain.. much. Final decent gassing hard to try and hold a couple off, I passed then lost 2 places on the right hand turn, bunny hopped my bike with a few final watts I didn’t have and then hit the wall to subtley roll across the final 150m.
I had finished 53 seconds back in a strung out front pack , beyond me there was a fair bit of daylight to the next pack. I had a blast on lap 1 and won my own battle on lap 2 / overall.
Stacey had a good race coming in a strong 5th place. She was proud and admittedly was shitting herself the whole way both in pack dynamics and descents. Fair and expected after an accident but the highlight was strong climbing and a renewed belief and enthusiasm for competition.
Thanks to Murwilluimabh CC for an amazing event.