Well I have been counting down to the Fling for what seems an eternity and was very pleased with preparation. Inspiration was not only coming from the impressive riding from the other SXC lads, but also wanted to erase the memory of not finishing well last year.
A cool day for the race was good in my book, taking dehydration out of the picture. But standing in the cold drizzle at the start chute, we cringed a little thinking ahead of the 100 milers heading out for their second loop of Wingello and wished for ourselves that rain would hold off till after the finish.
First challenge for the day was to get a good start, stay out of trouble and if possible keep together as a group as long as possible. I usually see the other SXC boys start much faster and leave me behind, but today I kept loose contact just dangling 50 metres back and all going well. That was until I had a couple of episodes of dropsies with food and gel and had to stop to retrieve them and they were gone. Oh well ! Arrived at Wingello transition feeling fresh and a couple of minutes behind time, so I rode straight through in the hope of making contact again but not to be.
Hit the road to Wingello forest with a couple of other guys at a good pace and on through the early single track in good shape. I enjoyed having clear single track mostly and it seemed that any bunch of riders that came together was only for short periods and soon split again, and new bunches forming again around climbs. The drizzle had settled the single track nicely and I really enjoyed the red loop section. Into the yellow section and riders had thinned some more. I was struggling a little on the rocky descents with hand injury and numb finger tips and I couldnt feel front brake lever. That meant swapping positions with a couple of other riders who would whiz past me the descents and then I'd catch them again at the next crest. Outer limits was approaching and I was starting to think of the road to Wingello and finding another wheel to work with. Unfortunately I couldnt hold a couple of stronger riders on the last descent before the road, and ended up soloing back to Wingello.
Back to Wingello transition again and still feeling pretty good. A quick drink and picked up Mike and I was grateful for some brief company as we headed for home. Into TT mode as we headed down the road and soon I was on my own again, chasing a rider in green up ahead. Came to the creek crossing and had a moderate cramp in both hamstrings as I hopped off the bike. Aaah, deja vu as I had bad cramp at this same location last year. I was now struggling with some gremlins, energy was gone, couldnt see through or over glasses, no flow on the slippery single track. Heart rate had been down all day but now it was right down and didnt seem to reflect effort. What was going on ? The last 25km was tough as I navigated around back markers struggling over obstacles and I felt very slow over the rocky single track. Got to hold it together, keep it smooth and push on I thought, as I now found it difficult to change gears as I had somehow mangled the tip of my thumb and blood smeared lever was not co-operating. Getting close to home and very slowly up the "short" your call, then some riders picked me up for the last dash to the line to which I could only chase in vain.
Standing in the rain at the end in a semi daze I thought what a blood hard race this is. I thought I had paced myself well for a strong finish, but on reflection I must have made an error in not eating on Outer Limits and the road back to Wingello and paid the price. In all I was very pleased with a top 10 age category finish, which seemed a big ask at the beginning given the start list. But again I missed that elusive 5 hours target.
Thanks to the local volunteers for their assistance on course in some ordinary conditions and a big thumbs up for the burger at the end which really hit the spot.
Well done to all the riders out there completing the race in trying conditions.
And a big thanks to SXC team mates once again. The finish order was up for grabs so it seemed today, but maybe not. Another Fling done.
p.s. Had the aircon dialled to 26deg on the drive back home but still didnt really feel warm !