M2M support crew report – for Rach Howden (3rd solo female)

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I was a mixture of chuffed, surprised and horrified when Rach asked me to be her support crew for her solo attempt at Marysville to Melbourne. For someone with a tendency to have ‘Jen moments’ at the best of times, and my poor navigational ability (I once got lost in Princes Park), on paper I probably don’t appear to be the most logical choice for support crew.

I’m not all bad though. I am the most organised person that I know. I love lists. And I’ve done the M2M before (in a team). So I actually had fun preparing for it. In the weeks leading up to it I memorised the event program and used google earth & maps to figure out the best route from each leg.  I was still tortured with memories of last years race when Rach beat me to the Westerfolds transition and there was no way that was happening again.

Luckily for me Rach was a very easy person to support as she’s also very organised.

The day before we drove up to Marysville and registered. We stayed the night in a motel which along with having uncomfortably close beds also had a distinct ‘murders have happened here’ vibe. I was enjoying the feeling of not being nervous before a race so I slept okay. Well maybe with one eye open in case I was about to get murdered.

The next morning it was Rach’s birthday! To celebrate we were up at 5am to drive to Dom Dom Saddle to set up the bikes and then drive back to Marysville for the start of the race. Once the nervous runners had started racing I took off towards Dom Dom Saddle to wait for them (even though I knew I had plenty of time). Being in the Territory I had to park in the 4wd/SUV parking and this is where I stuffed up. I was reversing into a carpark (well some bush) when the bottom of our bike carrier touched the ground and damaged it slightly. I was so annoyed at myself.

I was still stewing over it but then once I got settled in transition with lots of the Vigor crew I let it go and had a really good time chatting while I was waiting for Liam to come in. He came in first solo male and then proceeded to do his transition in slow motion while I anxiously hopped from one foot to the other. Eventually he left but it wasn’t long after that Alex Houghton and then James Pretto ran in and then left in less than half the time he did. I wouldn’t have been as worried if they’d been on their own but together I knew they’d be a threat.

Rach came in not too long after, in front of the Dornom sisters and she was super quick in transition, flinging her shoes at me (I sensed she enjoyed it) and then she was off, and I was outta there! I didn’t need to go to Kinglake so it was straight to Westerfolds for me. Easier said than done because the drive down to Healesville took so freaking long I was trying to do sums in my head about exactly how much time I had to get there and I had Liam’s runners and oh my god what if he is so fast he beats me there.

The road was packed with cyclists, and I had a car in front of me (orange ford – you know who you are) who just refused to go around them, even when the road ahead was clear. They got in the way of the cyclists and I called them some names I cannot repeat here.

Luckily they were obviously going to Kinglake so I ditched them through Healesville and headed to the Yarra Glen/Eltham Rd. As soon as I got to Kangaroo Ground I felt I was on home turf and of course made it with ages to spare. I was the 2nd person in transition after Tim Dornom and set up where the nice Rapid Ascent lady suggested I should. I also met James Pretto’s sister Jess who was just as nervous as I was about stuffing up. Tim mentioned the drive from Westerfolds to Eaglemont is the one he’s found to have the most traffic and timing issues – cue more nerves!

After waiting what seemed like ages Liam came in, about 15 minutes down on Pretto, then about 10 minutes down on Houghton but only a few on Polizzi. I knew he could catch Alex P in the run but he said he was feeling pretty trashed and his back was playing up. He took off well anyway and I hoped he’d be alright. Awhile after that Rach came in, a few minutes down on Elizabeth Dornom by now but still no Bern. Another snappy transition and she was off, barking orders for more gastrolyte at the next stop. Bern then ran past me while I was lugging two bikes and bags back to the car.

I was pretty confident my chosen route (of following the Vigor Saturday morning return ride from Eltham) would be fine for getting to Eaglemont, once you get to Main Rd its all really suburban streets except for through Rosanna. Anyway I was fine and the only thing that slowed me down was speed bumps.

I only just missed Liam at that transition but he had others there to support him as we knew I’d be waiting for Rach at Westerfolds. I saw Elizabeth Dornom come into transition and had to work hard to convince Rodrigo (one of the Vigor helpers) it wasn’t Rach. Apparently they both have skinny arms. They DO look alike though.

When I saw Bern come into transition first I knew Rach wouldn’t be far behind. Sure enough it must have been a minute or so later when she came in. I’d teed up some help to carry her boat so I could focus on making sure she was eating and drinking, especially the gastrolyte she’d mentioned at Westerfolds. Getting her bony feet into the vibram five fingers was bloody hard so I left that to her. Eventually we got going and after some congestion at the river entry we got her on the water. Bern wasn’t too far ahead at that point.

I was super relaxed now as I knew exactly how to get to Dights and that I had a bit of time.  I inhaled the last quarter of Rach’s peanut butter sandwich that she gave back to me as I was slightly hungry. I’d been running on adrenalin and ANZAC biscuits so hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast.

Anyway I headed off to Dights and struggled for parking, but decided seeing everyone else was parking in one of the office carparks I would too. I’d heard from Rach’s brother Warren and he was on his way down. I met a few new Vigor people and they were going to help with carrying the boat so I was all good to just watch out for the ‘white surfski, white cap, number 109’. Liam came in while I was there and he looked stuffed.

I’ve never ever seen him like that before, I guess I’ve been racing too in the past, and any race we’ve done at the same time he hasn’t done it solo so this was my first time seeing him really suffer.

Not long after that Rach’s brother arrived after I’d given him a hurry up text message as my support crew sixth sense was telling me Rach wasn’t far away. And she wasn’t!
Elizabeth Dornom had a bigger gap now, but Bern was still within chasing distance.
The portage was horrible, it was a long way to run/hobble for poor Rach, and try and eat and drink. Her Dad was there as well which was nice, so I bossed him around a bit too.

After getting her away it was just a matter of navigating into Lorimer St! I had decided to wing this part a bit, and I knew how to get most of the way, by driving to my work which is on the corner of Collins St and Batman Hill Ave. The hardest part was turning into Johnston St, after that it was super easy and I got almost all green lights right into the CBD. Google helped me out getting around Docklands and I even snagged a great park once I got there!

I unloaded a pile of chairs, thermarest and Rach’s warm clothes bag onto friends at the finish line and by then I was starting to feel very hungry so had an awesome vegie burger. I was about two bites into that when I realised Liam had come in and was sitting next to me. So I didn’t get to see him stagger over the line because I was stuffing my face. Sorry Liam!

After I had a bit more energy it was back to pacing up and down waiting for the top 3 women to come in. I saw Tim Dornom running back to the start line so guessed Elizabeth was coming in, what an amazing achievement! But who would be 2nd!!

More pacing and waiting and then I saw Tim running back again, if Bern’s coming in Rach can’t be far behind! I thought I might go over to his spot out on the boat docks and I was almost out there was I heard everyone screaming at me to get back. I knew that’d happen! So I sprinted back and just got there as Rach was getting lifted out of the boat, I gave her a hand up as she was a bit wobbly and then she took off for the finish line.

Awesome finish and I was so happy for her. She didn’t stop smiling every time I saw her all day and had a great attitude the whole time even though she was obviously hurting a lot. To get on the podium was an awesome result!

The support crews job doesn’t end at the finish line, I still had to dry her cold bony feet and get her into some warm clothes! Luckily this year it was much warmer down there than the other two years so waiting for presentations wasn’t as painful. After presentations we eventually got going and I just had to navigate back to Clifton Hill. My brain had gone on strike then but luckily a combination of directions from Liam and Rach meant we didn’t end up on the Westgate (that has actually happened to me before).

So to sum up. It was absolutely no surprise to me that Rach did so well. Even though she trains nowhere near the amount that the first & second place getters do. She’s never done an ironman or raced for that long before like they have. But, and this is what I said to everyone all day, she just has this ability to suffer for a really long time and to just keep working really hard. Not everybody has that mental toughness. Just to scare her competition even more, she even looked like she was having fun doing it. What a way to spend your birthday!

Bet you didn’t think a support crew report could be just as long as a race report.

– Jen

2013 Mt Buller Road Race – C grade

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With happy memories of last years race I didn’t find it hard to talk myself into entering this year. We have family nearby, its a 2hr drive from home and you get to climb a mountain. It really is the perfect race for me.

Fuelled up by a spicy meatball and pasta dish whipped up by my not so evil stepmother-in-law which I ate a LOT of and of course an enormous serving of my usual Vigor bircher muesli this morning it was a wonder my bike would even move when I got on it!

Those cheeky devils at cycling victoria brought the start time for our race forward which actually worked better because I had less time to stand around being cold and nervous! I shouldn’t complain because we actually had a ‘c grade’ this year. Although there were not enough of us so B & C got lumped in together. This worked out well for me later on though!

Speaking of cold. It was FRICKING FREEZING. Snow was falling at Mt Buller overnight and my usual habit of over organising was a bit of a fail. I still had the choice of fingerless or regular gloves and a windvest but most chicks were wearing toe covers or booties AND a wind vest and gloves. Knowing that I get HOT when I ride I went for fingerless gloves and no wind vest and crossed my fingers and toes (in my uncovered shoes!)

Best decision ever because I’d pushed my arm warmers down after the first 10kms and was a cool magool!

So, the race starts finally and unlike last year its fairly civilised rolling out along the undulations towards Merrijig. I was nervous about a push on a downhill like last year where I *almost* got dropped so despite saying I would take it easy on the way out I hung out close to the front and rolled turns. It was fine and I didn’t feel like I was overextending myself at all. I was debating about when to have my 2nd gel, now or wait until Mirimbah? Nah do it now in case anything happens!

Lucky I was up there and lucky I had that gel because a few kms past Merrjig, Deb Richards (Hawthorn CC B grade) put the foot down and took myself and four other C grade chicks with her. Deb made it clear from the outset we were going to work or we could leave. I chose to work as we’d made a decent gap on the bunch and it was my assessment that there was definitely some decent climbers back there.

We raced into Sawmill Settlement and before I knew it we were at Mirimbah and the toll gate which signals the start of the climb, and then I started dropping off a bit. Still, with a sizeable gap on the bunch I wasn’t too concerned and ended up just pushing hard as the climb was young and anything could happen up in front of me!

About halfway along I noticed a chick creeping up behind me…dammit!!! Ah could be a B grader…they *should* technically be in front! It was not to be and Verita (Total Rush) a mate of Manny Marasco who I’d met at the crit the day before and sized up as being a good climber flew past me. I told her the others were ‘just up the road..a few corners’. Not sure how helpful that was!

Not long after that Grace Phang came past and I reassured her she was in 2nd place in B Grade and got a rest on her wheel for a bit. Before long she turned on the afterburners and was off, always *just* out of reach.

I’d been managing my nutrition fine, probably should have packed a spare gel but I’d had one right at the start, one at Merrijig and was now starting to feel a bit flat so had another one, leaving me one spare for the last few kms.

By now I was past Lower Tyrol and in the last 4kms and able to look down and see…no one. Boo yah! Again, lucky because I was starting to feel a bit crampy in both my quads, ah have another gel and some more drink I was *almost* there. The last few corners were pretty tough but with Tony Reekman lurking around Hells Corner taking photos I hoped I looked like I was having fun.

Then there I was getting waved at by The Man and cheered on by Tom and then I was across the line ready to hand my bike off and cough and splutter for a bit.

THEN..I realised how freaking cold it was up there. Quick change into warm clothes and then handing back the transponder and race numbers and we were outta there!

So. A good race. Taking a punt on going with the break paid off as Strava is already showing faster climbers who were behind me. All those Tuesday night world cups paid off!
Very, very happy with myself. I know where I need to improve and I’m comfortable with that.

Also, a special mention has to go to Lisa Barry winning A Grade against some very strong climbers. Excellent team work by her fellow BSS teamie, the Irish Clare Dallat on St Patrick’s Day! Guinness for all post race!

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Until next time,

– Jen

Tour of Bright 2012 Race Report (C grade)

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So I just finished my first Tour of Bright (and probably last..for awhile anyway!) It was exactly as epic and hard as I imagined but I had a lot more fun than I thought I would. 

I could not have been any more prepared or trained any harder for this race so went into it knowing that if I got dropped or I came last then so be it because there was nothing else I could have done. That was a pretty good feeling. 

About 4 months ago I got wise about how the training I’d been doing, while fun was not going to get me faster or race ready. With time to fix that and two trusty training buddies (@mattunderground and @tim12p) we set about a weekly set of repeats up Monument, Tuesday night worldcup smashfests and plain old nice recovery rides and epic weekend rides. I also had one good ‘proper’ race, and one shocking race.

I’d also like the record to show that @mattunderground and I rode right through winter and out the other side. It was tough and cold and I was so proud of us for doing that. 

So now, all prepared and organised I ventured to Bright. I was so excited. I was excited about registering, about putting my number on my bike about reading the race program even though I’d already read it about a hundred times online and committed everything to memory. Thankfully I was also relaxed enough that I even slept okay – pretty weird for me before a race.

Stage 1 started well, rolling through Bright to applause from the locals…I could get used to that! The pace was good, I did momentarily forget about the sprint points and thought the girl next to me was going off the front..errrr. Anyway we rolled along, taking turns and working together when who should we come across at the bottom of Rosewhite Gap but B grade. 

I remember I was next to Rach at the time because when we realised we were going to have to go around them I distinctly heard a “oh get f****d!!!”. Anyway we got around them, well some did and I was trying to hang on to that bunch but just, just dropped off before the top of Rosewhite. I descended like a madwoman but just couldn’t get back on (saw 65kmh at one point!). A grade men came past and then B grade chicks again and then a few more from my grade.

I worked so hard with them to try and catch the bunch Rach was in, the turns at the front were killing me until we got closer to Tawonga and I could hold my own on the undulations. I almost got spat out the back a few times but knew it was all over if I couldn’t hang on. Once we reached the turn off to Tawonga Gap I was well and truly on my home turf having previously spent a winters day doing repeats on the damn thing with @mattunderground and I took off. I took great joy in catching a couple of girls from the lead group and finished 6th overall for the stage. 

After a dip in the river, some food and a nap I felt completely… rubbish about the time trial. My legs felt crap and I felt terrible after I woke up. Just do it I thought – then you get to go and have a coffee. I was really really hoping to get around 28 minutes, my previous best was about 29 minutes but I hadn’t pushed *that* hard then so thought 28 minutes would be achievable. I am sure we had a head wind out and back…but either way I was stoked with 28.12 – unfortunately this dropped me back to 8th position. 

I was rewarded with a swim in the river, then coffee AND cake. Boo-yah!

Rach was by now looking at a podium and we had to trot off to presentations for stage 1 and 2 where she had picked up 2nd and 3rd place respectively. Presentations ended abruptly when a massive storm hit and sent us scurrying home for dinner!

With the thought of climbing Mt Hotham ..sorry RACING up Mt Hotham in my mind I didn’t sleep that well but felt a heap better than Rach looked the next morning. For the first time EVER she looked nervous. I tried not to enjoy it too much (sorry Rach). 

All too soon we were at the start line and had a chuckle at the Commissaire telling the B graders to ‘have a race today’ and then we were off and headed out to Harrietville. MOST of us took turns and we were moving along nicely with a few scowls thrown towards a couple of cheeky riders sitting at the back with their feet up (not literally). That’s racing.

I was waiting for the climb to start as I thought the first bit would be interesting, its kicks right up at the start and stays fairly unpleasant for the first 700m I would estimate. Should be enough to shake up the bunch. So I thought.
It was good to hear some heavy breathing going on and lots of clickety clack of gears crunching and for me to enjoy feeling strong (FOR ONCE).

It was short lived as we reached ‘The Meg’ and while most of the field went backwards about six went forwards! Tom Barry was there and shouted at us to stay with them and hang on! 
I tried REALLY REALLY hard, but I just couldn’t do it. I did almost throw up so I was trying. 
Another girl had also dropped back so I stayed with her for a few kms but slowly she got away but then I noticed another girl had come off the back of the front group. This was by now just at the start of the false flat. I worked to catch them and then probably took it too easy through this section. At the end of the false flat we got caught by 3 other riders but dropped two of them almost immediately. The two girls I’d come through the false flat with disappeared up the road in front of us as we got to CRB Hill and I was surprised to note I hadn’t lost my new riding buddy, and she overtook me on the descent, then I overtook her on the next bit. We had a bit of a chat and she asked if I had enough food which was lovely of her – wait..why was she asking this? Because she was going to unleash all hell on me? Nah, she’s just being nice.

I asked her if she knew exactly where the finish was and she estimated about 4 corners away. That’s 4 corners pointing into the sky so about eleventy billion years away. 

..Shortly after that we reached the 1km to go sign and I had a think about how this was the end – the end of a massive year for me doing something I didn’t ever think I could do. While I was having these deep thoughts I was also keeping an eye out for Speedy Long Legs to try and take me before the end. Soon enough the end came and I rounded that corner and crossed the line. 

My final placing was 7th and I was pretty happy about that. My goal was to finish in the top 10 and I’d done just that! Awesome! 

Rach blew me away again with her strength, when things get tough she just gets on with it and she ended up with 2nd which is phenomenal! B grade for her next year!

A very successful race for both of us!

So now, to the thankyous. 

Thanks to Liam who I will still call my coach for putting the idea of me being able to do this race in my head. Also thanks for being an awesome soigneur (yes I had to google it) over the weekend. I couldn’t have done it without you. Thanks for being such great support this year.

To my trusty sidekick Rach, thanks for being an awesome friend and again such great support this year. I hope you spend your $10 on something nice (coffee perhaps?). 

Tom Barry at Osteohealth in Albury. Thanks so much for all your advice and help over the past few months. Thanks for checking my bike and I over before the race, body and bike felt perfect for the race. 

Pushy’s Bike Warehouse in Albury – you guys really looked after me, especially Ash so thankyou. My bike was flawless. 

My main riding buddies @mattunderground and @tim12p, thanks for your patience and hanging out with me all winter and making me work so hard! It paid off big time! Thanks. 

The man. Thanks so much for your patience while I had a go at this. And thanks to you & Gus for coming to watch and support me. 

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– Jen

Learnings from the Sam Miranda Road Race sufferfest

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This weekend just gone I met a few of the Vigor crew at the Sam Miranda winery in the King Valley for the 100km Sam Miranda “Strade Nero” Road Race which included the Strade Nero, a 6km dirt climb.

Like the Mansfield to Mt Buller Race there was no C grade women’s option offered so we were forced to race B grade. I’m still unsure how women who aren’t convinced by their coaches to enter are supposed to get a start in cycling but that seems to be the way that it is and the way it will continue to be.

I do wonder if Cycling Victoria took a punt on a race like this and offered a C grade, and really put it out there so people were aware of it, if more women would enter?

Since the Mt Buller race I have moved to Albury and considerably upped my riding. I would say I am much fitter than I was back then and was therefore not as uncomfortable about riding B grade and was certainly not entertaining thoughts about coming last this time.

About 15 minutes before the race it was announced that A and B grade women would be starting together. Before I could panic Mr Osteohealth (Tom Barry) pointed out that with A grade at the front I certainly wouldn’t have to do anything up there. Nice. That sounds logical. All we had to do was hang on.

As soon as the race started, it was ON. Rach and I exchanged quizzical looks and a couple of ‘frogging hells’ and almost got dropped on the first corner. Right away I noticed I didn’t feel well…at all. We managed to catch up and Rach remembered how to change gears with her new racer Marco (as in Marco A-pollo) running SRAM Red rather than the Shimano 105 she is used to.

The pace was definitely quick and you could quickly lose a couple of metres if you weren’t paying attention. I lost a few metres when someone in front of me got a bit too close to the person in front of them  and took evasive action which got a few heart rates up…or up more than they were anyway!

It was about 10 or 11kms in when some bright spark up the front decided to attack and it was almost all over, three of us dropped out the back, someone from Hawthorn CC, Rach and myself. With Rach behind the other rider my grand plan was too have a nibble on some bartape get the Hawthorn girl behind me and Rach behind her to catch us back up. The first half of my plan went beautifully, Hawthorn got on the back of me, Rach on the back of her, we caught up and… then I blew up. Hawthorn rode merrily away on the back of the pack while I tried not to throw up.

It was then I thought “what the hell is going on”, I’ve been training heaps, I should be keeping up! I felt dizzy and nauseous and just had zero energy. I had a good rest this week and should have been raring to go.

Rach offered me her wheel to sit on as we watch the race disappear up the road and out of sight and I had trouble even hanging on then. A few times I really thought I was going to yack and was fairly sure I wasn’t going to be able to finish.

Not being able to eat made things even worse, just the thought of food was making my stomach quiver but luckily I was drinking well and had carb drink and water which was something.

We had a chuckle at the sprint stage, which I basically rolled through with Rach taking the ‘win’ in our ‘unofficial C grade’ race. We got just through the first KOM when the B grade guys caught us, well four of them and their spares car. After the descent the rest of B grade passed us in a bunch then the rest in dribs and drabs.

We’d just hit the Strade Nero (6km dirt climb) when we came across a lone B grade rider doing the awkward ‘I’ve got a puncture shuffle’ and stopped to see if he was okay. He said he had a spare in the spares van but that had gone with the break and wasn’t behind them. I gave him a tube and some co2 but the valve on my tube was too short. The A grade guys were passing us by now so I gave Rhys Pollock a cheer, and then the A grade spares stopped and gave the guy a wheel.

He kindly rode with us for a little while and had a chat and when a couple of A graders who’d dropped off went past he hopped on their wheel and was off.

By now we were climbing in all kinds of strange dirt, some slippery mud, some gravelly bits but it was interesting enough I didn’t feel like I was climbing! Tom drove past and said only a km and a half to the top, which I actually heard as ‘only an hour and a half to go’..either way it wasn’t pleasant!

I think luckily for us, Marita had long gone from the top so there was no way back for us except to ride. I know I would have been pretty tempted to get in if she’d been waiting there, but it would have killed me to do that. I would much rather really suffer for another 40kms than DNF. So suffer we did. I still wasn’t eating, I tried a little nibble on a dextro bar but my stomach said that was a terrible idea so gave up.

The next 10 kms were great fun descending into Whitfield, where I stopped at the pub for a wee. What??! You can do that in recreational rides!! On the way down we saw one female rider waiting with the sag wagon, and another walking along with her bike with a bad tear in the tyre.

After we got out of Whitfield it was really time to suffer, but I managed to get the dextro bar down which helped. The headwind…was challenging. Time to bite some bartape! I was struggling to even get to 30kmh in the wind and it honestly felt like we were doing a turns of few hundred metres and swapping, but strangely I was feeling better and better. Somewhere around here Rach mentioned the sag wagon lumbering along behind us and we were both pretty adamant we were NOT getting in it. Thankfully they stayed a good distance behind although we did feel a bit of pressure!

With around 20kms to go I think Rach said the words I’d said about the start of the race “I’M FROGGED”. We both popped a gel, well I got half of mine down before deciding the rest probably wouldn’t stay down.

I was counting down every few kms out loud to Rach and with about 4 kms to go I started to question whether the race was exactly 100kms. I didn’t voice my concerns outloud because we were both in agony but when we got to 98kms with no familiar landmarks I realised it was going to be longer.

About that time when we were both ready to throw our bikes into a paddock Steve and Marita drove up next to us and cheered us on and said it was only just down the road and then a right hand turn and then a left hand turn and ride over a rainbow and then you are pretty much there. We glowered back at them and there was some banter about how we’d already done 100 frogging kms and could they please pull over ASAP and let us in.

Not that we would have. There is something quite weird about what your mind does when you are SO close to finishing a race but it feels so FAR! Maybe its a just me, but I love it. Sicko.

For probably the last 30kms of the race there’d been a little carrot in red and white in front of us, not sure which grade he was from but we tried so hard to catch him, probably missed him by a few hundred metres in the end! It definitely helped having him there though!

But eventually we finished and somehow managed to get off our bikes. Tough, tough race.

ImageSo, what went wrong? After checking out the results from the rest of B grade we were still well off the mark of being competitive. My upset stomach and the combination of A + B grade into one mega-awful grade were the two culprits.
I was sick for a couple of days after the race and am just feeling human again now, but I didn’t eat well at all the week before the race. I was away for work and while I was well rested I probably stuffed up nutrition wise. Not being able to eat much during the race made it even worse.

Unlike nutrition, the combination of grades is something I have no control over, but it most definitely impacted on us, the C grade riders who had to ride B grade. I do wonder if my stomach had been okay and we’d just raced B grade without the combination of A grade, if the result would have been different. I hope so. Although had we stayed on rather than dropping off the distance probably would have been a challenge later.

The only way to get better at this is to race more. Also…maybe do some speedwork and practice cornering :-p

Thanks again to Rach for looking out for me. And Liam, Steve, Marita, Tom & Lisa for your support!

Also thanks to the organisers, it was a top location and the fact you could get a good coffee before the race, and good wine afterwards….its the way bike racing should be!

Bring on Tour of Bright…(ahem!….in c grade!).

– Jen

Marysville 2 Melbourne 2012

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Three weekends ago I competed in the Marysville 2 Melbourne multisport race as a team of 2 with ‘my mate Rach’. Somehow the responsibility for entry to the race fell to me, giving me the honour and privilege of choosing a team name. I’m not entirely sure Rach fully understood the power she was bestowing on me when she sent me a panicked text message saying “early bird entries close TONIGHT can you enter for us”.

And THAT, dear readers is how the “Vigor Vultures” were born!

First things first, how does the race work? We competed in a team of two so had to work out between us which of the three of six legs we would each do.  It starts with a 19km hilly trail run from Marysville to Dom Dom Saddle, then a 50km ride from Dom Dom Saddle to Kinglake, 40km ride from Kinglake to Eltham, 14km run from Eltham to Eaglemont, 15km paddle from Eaglemont to Dights falls and finally a 16km paddle from Dights into Docklands.

Rach being the gun runner was always doing the first run, the question was could I get myself ‘run fit’ enough to do the 14km run or was poor Rach essentially running a marathon while I did both bike legs?

A couple of weeks prior to the race I’d been off in Tassie for 2 weeks, doing not much of anything besides eating cheese and Easter eggs…and getting some cheeky 10-13km runs every second day. I got back feeling extremely un bike fit, stoked with my running and carrying an extra few kilos. Perfect race prep.. not…well the running was good.

While I was away Rach had: ridden the whole 90km ride course, raced up Mt Baw Baw as part of the Baw Baw Classic and been training ridiculously hard as always. That combined with missing her training buddy saw her lose a few kilos (pretty sure it was the missing me part).

As I was happy with my running I was tasked with the 50km ride, 14km run and the 16km paddle to glory in Docklands.

The day before was Rach’s birthday and extremely hectic trying to pack, bake a cake and sign docs for a house purchase! I ended up outsourcing the cake making to my sister Shell, thanks Shell!

Now the thing with this race is, unless you are doing it in a team of 6 it is pretty much imperative you have a support crew.

You need someone calm, someone experienced with racing, someone who knows their way around, someone good with a map…someone like..Brendan Hills. In a recruiting coup for the ‘Vultures we managed to secure Brendan as support crew with the promise of sweaty, stinky, somewhat stressed chicks to drive around all day who may require feeding and general moral support. When Brendan didn’t bat an eyelid at a 4:00am wake up we knew he was our man.

Image         See – obviously the perfect choice!

All too soon (well following dropping our gear at Brendan’s and eating our usual pre race meal of tofu stirfry) it was bedtime and before I went to bed I ensured I charged my Garmin. Important!

Now I like to think I’m an early bird. I do early. But it turns out there is a limit to the early, and that limit it 3:50am. It was so early in fact that when I set my alarm, I set it for 4:50am as if I knew it was ridiculous to get up THAT early. Lucky Rach didn’t have the same brain fade but it made for a startled wake up for me. I like to think that is why when I put on my carefully laid out clothes I forgot to put on my heart rate monitor which was sitting with my clothes.

It wasn’t until we were flying along the freeway that I uttered a few words I don’t think Brendan was prepared for at 4:30am when I remembered I’d left the Garmin plugged in charging in Rach’s kitchen. I was so cross with myself, how would I know how far I’d gone or how fast I was running!! I stewed on my stupidity all the way to Marysville.

Once we got to Marysville I forgot all about it and just enjoyed catching up with all our mates there and we got Rach ready for her run. She was understandably nervous, and COLD!

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There was no mucking around with the race starting without about as much fanfare anyone who had been awake since probably 3am could muster! Some people missed the start and were seen legging it after the runners disappearing up the hill..ouch!

That left Brendan and I to hotfoot it to the car to drive to Dom Dom Saddle to get my bike set up and wait for Rach. I was nervous but much less so than I have been in other races, partly because we had ridden the course the year before, it was dry and I like hills! I was already feeling a growing pit of doom in my stomach about the run though.

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As predicted Rach smashed the run, coming in as first female across the line and after I managed to wrestle the bib over my head and got it the right way on and not inside out I was off! Now readers you are in for a real treat! Our wonderful support crew stuck a go pro camera on my bike (see above photo) and you can SEE my ride! Thankfully he edited out the parts where I got overtaken by people and just left in me passing..also the camera fogged up after the descent. Whatever, it’s got a good soundtrack and will make you feel like riding it next year.

I enjoyed the ride, I was ready for the cold descent and remembered all the hills correctly, I did get a surprise screaming around a corner leaving Healesville and coming across a wooden bridge – you can see that on the video actually.

The climb up to Kinglake took forever and I finished the ride with a time I wasn’t really happy with. Having said that I didn’t have many people to draft off and was worried about trashing my legs before the run. Anyway, over to Rach and off she went!

We got going pretty quickly because we were conscious of the fact Rach is fast and she didn’t have too far to go (40km). As we drove I lamented my ride time and Brendan said how we were doing so well and could podium it if I smashed my run. I think he said something like “you don’t need your legs after the run so you should totally smash yourself so you have nothing left and every time you think about your Garmin or how fast you are going run HARDER because you shouldn’t be able to think”. I think agreed that sounded logical..I remember thinking “Jen, you just have to smash it and don’t let Rach down”. Just smash it rarrrgh! What a motivational support crew!

We passed Rach on the bike just before she took the turn off to Mt Pleasant but we figured we would be fine to make it there before her. We certainly hadn’t been stuffing around. When we got to Eltham, Brendan dropped me off and I found a toilet, then trotted down to the transition. I strolled in and stood there waiting for Rach. Next thing I knew I was being verbally abused by Rach who said “where the hell have you BEEN”…I was dumbfounded about how she got there so FAST!!! Horrified about having her waiting (apparently for two minutes) I took off, flying past a shocked Brendan who was just arriving in transition after parking the car.

I was running…and felt terrible. I had no way of knowing how far I had gone or if I felt terrible because I was going fast or because I was stressing, and then I remembered RUN HARDER BECAUSE YOU SHOULDN’T BE THINKING OH MY GOSH STOP THINKING AND RUN HARDER!

Right about then this guy ran past (#174) and I thought right that is it, stick on his heels and don’t let him get away. So I did. If he went faster I went faster and just hung on. I think after about 5kms he acknowledged me and we ran ‘together’ rather than me just panting and thudding along behind him. It was constantly on my mind that I was going to blow up, what if we’d only been 7kms or something and that was only half way AND OH MY GOD JEN SHUTUP SHUTUP SHUTUP AND..RUN HARDER.

By now we were passing people and while that sounds good they were really just solo people that were obviously hitting the wall..hard. I did get passed here by a female team which I was shattered about but there was nothing I could do as #113 was way too fast for me.Eventually #174 got away from me and I was running as hard as I could, but luckily starting to recognise the trails from MTB’ing and sooner than I expected I was running into transition and staring around wildly for Rach. Apparently they hadn’t quite expected me to take Brendan’s words so seriously! Then we were off to run Rach and her boat to the boat launch area. I was so happy right then. I had totally destroyed myself…and then my left ITB packed it in right after Rach paddled away.

Did you know support crew duties involve lining up for you at the portaloos? Me either but while I desperately tried to stretch the newly installed steel rod in my left leg where my ITB used to be, Brendan lined up for me! Winner!

Now I was worried about Rach beating me to the next transition at Dights so we hurried there and on the way I refueled with peanut butter sandwiches and enjoyed the massive endorphin rush from that run. It was a beautiful day, that pesky run was done (and smashed) and I just had my favourite leg, the paddle to go.

We watched a few of our mates come in at Dights and I realised it was quite a way from the 1st paddle exit to the 2nd paddle entry. Probably about 400metres….and I had no legs left!

When Rach came in Liam was there and he and Brendan grabbed our boat and took off leaving Rach and I to change the timing band and bib and…RUN after them. It really really hurt so I was looking forward to having a nice sit down in the kayak.

I had no idea where we were coming at that point, I knew a team had got past me on the run but didn’t realise then we’d passed them again on the transition to the 2nd paddle.

I was also a bit worried about my nutrition for the paddle, I had a dextro bar and a gu gel (chocolate outrage flavour of course) but was worried about having to stop to eat. My camelback had electrolyte drink in it and I was just hoping I wouldn’t run out of energy.

I’d only paddled that part of the river once before with the Vigor guys and it was more than a year ago and I hadn’t been right into the city. It felt like I was crawling along, and thought I really need someone’s wash to sit on, when along came a few guys a bit faster than me.

Bingo, it could have been a Friday morning desperately trying to hang onto Liam’s wash and so off we went. After awhile they dropped me but I was close to Herring Island by now and the unfamiliar territory made it a bit more interesting. I was feeling a bit flat so ate the dextro bar and had a big drink. I kept thinking I’m almost in the city, almost in the city but it took FOREVER! I managed to pick up the pace and by now had collected my own little wash rider, a guy doing it solo. Massive respect for the guy but he was pretty worn out. He had a mate on a bike riding alongside the river giving him encouragement “how are you feeling mate” “aww shithouse mate”..and as bad as I felt I dropped him..

Vultures swoop in for the kill, they don’t tow people to Docklands. Well I did imagine telling Rach I went slow for a guy because I felt sorry for him and then I imagined her throwing me in the river and/or hitting me with my paddle.

Finally I made it into the actual city and was flying past the tennis centre and Flinders St station. I chowed down on the gel.. and then the waves hit. Cruiseboats and water taxis made for a nerve wracking few minutes, the scariest bit was when a massive boat was headed right for me, and I couldn’t turn right across the river because another big boat was going past. I paddled really hard to get under the next bridge before the waves hit. I can really understand how people fall in!

I was starting to wonder if Docklands had moved when I saw the massive ANZ building on my right, that was a great feeling knowing I’d almost finished so I made sure I was in the moment and taking it all in. Then I saw Shell cheering and paddled faster to the end where I was unceremoniously hauled out of the boat and dumped on the jetty for the final run to the finish line.

Didn’t feel any pain at all on that run, it was really awesome running along to the finish line with Rach.

And we came 2nd!

Here are some photos:

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A massive, massive thanks to Brendan our support crew. We had a great day because you made it so easy for us, thank you. Sorry for being stinky after my run.

Thanks to Shell for coming and cheering us on, I cannot underestimate how awesome it is to have people cheering you on in a race and especially sharing in all the excitement afterwards.

And thanks to Rach for a great day, it was heaps of fun, I had a blast!
Until next time….
– Jen

Race Report: Bullen Merri Challenge (part two)

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Where were we? Ah yes, something about a race. Probably about time I got to that part!

Anyway Sunday was a bit chilly and there was some misty rain happening as we put the three bikes (Nick’s, Rach’s and mine) on the back of the beast and drove to the lake. We’d arrived in plenty of time, and all of a sudden I was helping put up a tent for the registration area and putting energy bars into goody bags. Meanwhile Rach and Nick were doing normal pre-race things like setting up their gear in transition…and getting coffee!

I eventually escaped and went and got organised. All too soon we were sorting out the boats and pfds, and after a small issue with paddles we were good to go. There was a race briefing which I didn’t really pay much attention to, knowing that I would be following everyone else but it did make me think that it would be useful to know the course inside out if you had a chance of placing in a race.

Then we were in the boats, and here was my first mistake of the day – I positioned myself in the middle of people who were slower paddlers than I was.

The gun went off (alright, well I think Liam yelled GO! into a megaphone) and we were off. My positioning really impacted on my paddle because I was stuck between two people, and not even able to paddle properly. I made my frustration known and they moved out of the way but by then I couldn’t catch up to everyone else and I was paddling on my own with no-one to wash ride off. I still did well, although paddling around a lake is extremely frustrating as you can see exactly how far you have to go!

I caught up to one of the Vigor guys, Al just in time to see him fall in going around a buoy. Poor guy!

Anyway,  I made it back to shore and was told “well done, Rach is just ahead of you”. Just ahead my arse but it worked.

In transition it seemed to take forever to get my shirt off (calm down I had a singlet on underneath) and get into my cycling jersey and vest, then the bloody zip on the vest got stuck.. that transition was just a disaster. I’d considered not taking the vest, but all my food was packed in it so on it went..eventually.

After a few hundred metre long climb from the lake onto Naroghid Rd I started pedalling away, looking behind me to see when the inevitable chase from the not so strong paddlers but strong riders would come. I also started trying to eat a dextro bar, I still find eating and riding hard to do. I managed it though! I also chowed down on a couple of gu chomps and tried to drink a bit too.

Once I’d done one lap, it was straight on to the other, all the worse now knowing what I was in for!  By now I’d been passed by Al, but I can’t remember if anyone else did. It was just after the monster hill when I noticed the two girls I’d been looking out for coming up behind me. They were better than me at descending and quickly overtook me. When we came back into transition though, I arrived about the same time as one of the girls, Beth.

We joked about needing to pee, but in the end neither of us detoured to the toilet and both got running. Beth was well out in front but catchable I thought.

Quick story detour —>  the last time I’d run around Lake Bullen Merri my ITB played up, and I ended up hobbling around for two days…you can guess what happens next..
</end detour>

I caught up with Beth and we ran together, which was nice as I was getting bored talking to myself. It was then, almost at the exact same spot as last time that I felt the familiar twinge in my ITB. So annoying, I ran through it for probably a couple of ks, then conceded defeat and walked. I knew I only had about a km to go so alternated running, hobbling and walking.

I looked behind me and saw one of my other friends, Jenny Kennedy had almost caught me. With the sign for 100m to go, I legged it.

I felt pretty emotional (happy emotions) crossing the line, especially after running through some nasty pain, but disappointed too that my body had let me down again.

Still, it was done! All over in 3:32! And Rach, the champ that she is came 3rd! In 3:07!

As usual, here are some photos:

Paddling hard..well not really, I was coming into shore here.

Managing to smile during the ride.                     Not managing to smile during the run!!

Finished! Note, Jen K in the distance!!


All smiles now the endorphins have kicked in –  with 3rd place getter, Rach!

– Jen

Race Report: Bullen Merri Challenge (part 1)

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I’m home sick and was going through a few photos and thought I should write about my first ever solo multisport race. Granted, it was a short race – nothing like doing Anaconda or even the King Valley Challenge, but for me it was a pretty big deal.

The race took place on the 27th March 2011 on Lake Bullen Merri about 2 hours west of Melbourne just outside Camperdown.

The format of the race was:
– 10km paddle around Lake Bullen Merri
– 31km ‘undulating’ , 15km x 2 lap circuit of the lake
– 12km run around the lake

I arrived the afternoon before and we were staying at a motel in Cobden with some friends also doing the race, Rach and Nick* and a few other Vigor regulars.

After we got settled in we headed over to ‘Wuurong’, the family home of Captain Liam’s wife, Ren. This is where all the logistics and race setup was being worked out. We arrived to see two huge 2XU buoys being inflated..or attempted to be inflated.

Noting our arrival Liam had us driving around the lake about 5 minutes after we got there, putting out arrows for the run leg. As he mentioned that no one could possibly get lost, everyone looked to me…yes I am the person that race directors have to worry about. My claim to fame is getting lost in Princes Park one night at run group. I’m very special that way!

After watching Liam hammer in arrows we headed into Camperdown for a pre-race dinner with about 20 others. There was lots of debate about what the best meal to have, but lots of the meals were sold out. From memory I think I ended up having a stir-fry and it was actually okay. Rach and I decided to get a glass of red to help calm the nerves, but forgot how generous people are in the country, I had trouble carrying the glasses back without wine sloshing over the edge of the glass. I don’t think either of us finished our glass, and I went straight back to inhaling water.

After that it was back to the motel for an early night. Rach and I prepared our breakfast of legends which got us through our Anaconda race last year (and I suspect also gave us the dreaded ‘Anaconda Belly’) – anyway, its delicious bircher muesli and I couldn’t start the day without it! Nick prepared his ‘race mix’ and I strongly suspect Vigor should start having drug testing after events as the stuff looks like rocket fuel. He insists its just gatorade and other goodies…but I digress.

Back in my room I knew I need to get ‘organised’ in an extreme way only way I can. It was important not to forget anything, like runners, helmet, gloves, energy bars etc and so to get organised in the best possible way I divided my floor into 4 sections, one for each leg of the race, and one for ‘misc’. You always need a ‘misc’ pile.

From the top left:

Paddle gear: booties, camelbak, thermal top, bike shorts, skins
Bike gear: helmet, shoes, socks, bike top, wind vest, dextro bars (x2) , gu chomps (x1 pkt), 1 x bottle of water, 1 x bottle of nathan electrolyte drink.
Run gear: Runners, hydration belt, Vigor singlet
Misc: Bananas (ooh!), deodorant (no one likes a stinky Jen), extra energy bars and a towel.

I’ll add in some learnings about my gear when I get to writing about the actual race.

After getting all of that organised I hit the hay…and tried to sleep.

..continued next post.

– Jen