06 October 2009

Duke of Endurance

Well Saturday was a day of many mixed emotions and started off at 4:30am when I woke up and unable to get some much needed rest.

Having gone through the morning ritual of coffee on, toast on and clothes on, I started to get the bike and my kit ready for the BikeNavi King of Endurance race that myself and Michael were participating in.

The ride down route 45 was very pleasant and warm at 6am and I had to remove the windbreaker I was wearing and started to feel very Positivo about the weather forecast for the day…. How very wrong I was!

Registration was at 7am and although they were set up and ready to roll the event organizers were strict to the rule and did not start handing out race numbers, RFID tags for the bikes and the free goodies for those serious or crazy enough for the race a head until 7am on the dot. I would also like to point out that “Roadies, Fixies, Messengers, MTB’ers and mamchari” riders were all treated fairly and the same.

After stashing our kit we headed out on to the course to give it a few warm up laps and to familiarize ourselves with the course and it’s potential hazards and by this time we started to get a few little showers and some cross winds on the course.

At 8am we all set up on the starting line and I took the chance to see just how much grip my slicks would have on the running track as I was worried that the bike would slide at speed. Amazingly the bike stuck to it like glue and it was very hard to lockup the back wheel.

With the unsynchronized cheerleaders done with their routines and the local talent getting a temped “genki” in return to her cries the heavens opened and unleashed a new psychological weapon on us just as we were about to start.

Both Michael and I were lucky enough to be positioned relatively close to the front of the pack so when the starting gun sounded we took the outside line to put ourselves in the best position for when the green flag was dropped and we could get a good sprint line away with the serious contenders and form a breakaway group from the onset.

The pace was blisteringly fast and the adverse weather conditions didn’t make it any better for those in the front 3 groups. Having learnt from my last race I was wise enough to put some training rides in the week before, including in the terrible rain on Friday and thankfully my muscles and mindset were in the right place.

Having completed the first few laps at around 36-38kmph averages we started to drop people from the group as well as start lapping the less serious of the riders out on the track. 1.5 hours in Positivo was doing very well with both me and Michael in the top 20 and still keeping pace with the group we were in and everyone doing their part in the front. Although later on that afternoon that same team spirit and dedication for the group was not reflected by other riders and I started to get annoyed with the wheel leaches.

After 2 hours it started to become more of a battle of the mind than the body as the legs continued to pump like pistons and my heart rate was very happy to sit around 145-150 bpm. Now it was down to telling myself to keep going in the appalling conditions with spray hitting me from every direction and riders crashing out on the more technical sections of the course.

The access ramp in to the arena was taking its toll on even the hardiest and dedicated of riders, with slipped gears, snapped chains and exhaustion taking its toll on those trying to climb the short steep ramp. I decided from the very beginning to drop in to 34 at the front every time I hit the access ramp and it really paid off, especially at the end of the race.

The running track was also another nasty place as I tended to zone out while looking at the white lines and almost resulted in me going in to the back of a slower rider and also missing my line when leaving the stadium.

By the end of the 3 hours I was exhausted, both physically and mentally and not sure if I could get back in the saddle for the 2 hour race that concluded the King of Endurance title.

My legs were starting to stiffen and I seriously need food and liquids in me. Fortunately I had packed power bars, Protein drink and also my trusty HIGH5 4:1 drink for endurance and I highly recommend it! But my body was crying out for rest and fuel and it was only until I found out that I had placed 13th in the 3 hour race and 7th so far in the “King of Endurance” that I was able to drag my battered and weary body back to the bike.

Michael also finished in the same group and was in 14th place for the 3 hour Endurance and 8th so far in the “King of Endurance” so Positivo was now a force to be reckoned with, yet more motivation to get back out there.

Fueled, fed and an attempt to wash the grim of my face and glasses I was back on the start line for the final two hours, very worried about getting cramps in the legs and being able to keep pace with the remaining contenders for the “King of Endurance” knowing that I was 7th so far was winning the psychological war raging across my body and with the starting gun going off we were back at it.

Fortunately the rain had stopped but the surface water was terrible claiming many riders who were already fatigued and weary from the previous race and Michael did very well to control his bike when his wheel locked up on one of the hairpins on the course while also fighting off the cramps.

The pace yet again was blisteringly fast and it was hard not to feel frustrated when riders who had only entered the 2 hour race zipped past in a fashion that made soft pedaling look hard. Michael also got away from me when he got on the tail of a very fast group, fortunately I was able to muster several other riders that wanted in and we caught up with them and remained on the tail for some time.

Although as I mentioned before it got to the point where only 3-4 riders were doing their bit at the front while the remaining wheel leaches were content with letting us do the work and it resulted in me pulling out of the pace line and waving other riders to the front.

I’m not sure where I lost Michael but towards the last hour the race became a very personal battle between myself and two of the Team Ari riders, not wanting to name names but one of them spent the whole ride speaking to himself and I decided to try and breakaway from him and his constant ramblings to get some peace and quiet, especially in my safe and hurt free place in the white lines on the running track where the mind drifted to hot baths and cold beers.

The last 20 minutes of the race was a very fast with me and 3 to 4 other riders riding together to make the most of the remaining time and also to keep an eye on each other in case one of us made a break for it to increase our standings in the final rankings. I had no idea where they were currently placed but I was not having another Zero prefixed rider beat me over the line and potentially go ahead of me in the “King of Endurance” title.

On the last two laps I was able to summon my reserves and went at it hammer and tongues. Setting my pace at what it had been on the first few laps of the morning race and only 2 of the other riders were able to keep pace leaving them to battle the head winds on their own.

With the final lap and 1km out I put my head down and went for it, broke away from the small group with myself and 1 other rider making it to the access ramp in to the stadium, this is really were my tactic of dropping in to my 34 at the front came in to play as I was able to accelerate myself up the slope and through the tight turns on to the final straight without spinning out due to the short distance, while the other rider already exhausted by the pace and unable to use the momentum to get up the slope stalled and was dropped as he no longer had the momentum and the cry of despair was a melody to my ruined spirit.

Head down and legs pumping like mad I crossed the line 6th overall in the “King of Endurance” having completed 52 laps in 5 hours 6 minutes and 53 seconds, 1 lap off the winner and an average speed of 32.53km/h with Michael making the top 10 also finishing overall in 10th place completed 52 laps in 5 hours 8 minutes and 35 seconds, 1 lap off the winner and an average speed of 32.35km/h.

Full results can be found here:

“King of Endurance”

“3 hour Race”

“2 hour Race”

Garmin Data will follow soon.

4 comments:

David L. said...

Congratulations to James and Michael on a VERY STRONG showing at the stadium enduro. Dukes of Endurance, indeed. By the way, I see that Hashimoto-san of Microsoft (who must be the same Hashimoto-san who did the Brevet with me two weeks back) was right in there with you on both legs and ended up 4th overall. Maybe we can recruit him for the P.E. team? ... and I'll ask your forgiveness in advance as I fear I will be the weakest link in the chain next month at Motegi.

Also congratulations to Ludwig on his recent triumph at Shiobara. Closing in on the JCRC D-Class championship? A mathematicl certainty?

laurent said...

Very impressive effort and a very nice report. Congratulations to both.

Judging from the weather, maybe The Ducks of Endurance would have been a better title? :-)

James said...

Thanks guys and yes Ducks would be more apt!

It was a very tough race, I remember the Microsoft guy and was with him towards the end but he made his break earlier than me and looking over the data I should have gone with him and tried to get an extra lap in..... its very hard to do lap calculation 4.5 hours in to a race on how many laps you could possible get in with the remaining time.

TOM said...

Fantastic result. Good job Michael & James!