The Highland Fling is the highlight race of the season, everyone who is a marathon racer is there and everybody wants to do well. I was no exception, and with the added incentive of having the SXC Team at the event in numbers we all wanted to perform well.
With work commitments, illness and other family pressures the 2 mths leading up to the event were less than ideal. Brian and the other SXC team members were eating up the training miles, Strava KOM's everywhere, whilst I was doing well just to make at least 1 mtb ride a week. with Ant (Pepper Coaching) we worked, reworked, and then re-jigged all the training plans so many times - just to get me ready and to be competitive on the day. We devised a simple plan, and I followed it to the letter.
Come race day, I was lacking motivation, but the SXC crew at the start line picked up my spirits, I got focussed and the race was on. My basic plan was to leverage the strength of the SXC crew around me - Doc, Brian, Mike and Gazza, and then see what I had left in the last stage.
Things started well for the first 10kms and I was with the lead group. It wasn't until we hit the first of the rolling fireroad hills and the long paddock that things started to go awry. The SXC boys and the lead riders were driving, and I just didn't have the peak fitness to hold on. I let them rollon and settled down for what I thought would be a long day. It is funny we all have those dark moments, but I have never had it in the first hour of the race before - self doubt, HR soaring - whats wrong I thought ! The thing is - Ant had explained to me the week before this is exactly what he thought would happen.
I hit stage 2, and picked up young Lucas from Altitude Training Systems, we were racing through the ST, and I was actually enjoying myself, and forgetting about the position. We passed Minter with a flat tyre, and he indicated that the main group were not that far (2min) up the road. That was all the encouragement we needed, and with a couple of hard efforts, we had the main group in site at halfway hill.
My confidence was now rising, I had been eating well, and my legs were strong. After a quick chat to Mike he indicated, Gazza and Brian were just a little bit further up the road. So off I went. I was surprised the main group didn't follow, but they were pacing about 1kmh slower then what I wanted to go. I picked up Gazza on the next hill, and could see another rider about 500m ahead. I was now entering the open fireroad area in stage 2 and didn't want to get isolated, so I bridged over to the next rider, and we worked together through to Wingello.
My confidence picked up even further when I saw Brian in transition. The way Brian has been training, I thought I must be doing well to be here at this point in the race. Now some tactics came into play. Brian took off solo, and the main group behind me had just arrived about 1min behind me. If I could wait a couple of mins until the main group were ready we should be able to catch Brian up. this relied on the main group only spending 4mins in transition. with a bit of revving up I was lucky, and the group took off again just in time for me. with a couple of us, me Fozzy, Crosby driving hard off the front we caught Brian back up quickly.
At this stage, I was feeling 'REALLY' good, well comparatively so, and the same hills where I got dropped on stage 1, I broke away from the main group, so that I could ride the ST solo. This worked out well, because of the traffic, I didn't want to negotiate this traffic in a group situation. I kept looking behind at the top of the climbs but could see no one chasng, so just kept driving on.
With 5km ago it was head down, down the road, up the road, across the paddock and the finish line was in sight. What a relief. It worked out that I gained an average of 5mins on the group in the last stage.
Brian and Gazza crossed shortly after, with 5 of the SXC crew finishing within 20mins of each other. Great team effort guys.
Some special mentions. without our sponsors, Essential Sports Performance Nutrition, TotalAutoFinance , Round the World Experts, and Lupine , SXC Racing would not be possible - Thankyou.
Thanks to Specialized Cyclery Northside for all those little things that just make race day hassle free, mechanical free and for the best marathon bike bar none - Sworks Epic. Looking forward to the new bike coming soon !
Finally, Ant (and Kyle), the mentoring, the coaching - you now how I feel, what I need and keep challenging me to different levels of possibility. This race was not my greatest result, but considering the lead up, this would be one of my greatest achievements - thankyou.
What's next, Brian and I are heading to the Cape Epic in Sth Africa in March with some lofty goals. You can follow our lead up to the race at http://sxcracing.com