Oct 26, 2010

Stratford to Maffra Rail Trail link

After recent trail work being completed out front of my parents place it was time to check out my hometown rail trail again. Stratford to Maffra Rail Trail link is part of The Gippsland Plains Rail Trail. I love rail trails for their easy gradient and safety aspect away from road traffic. But It’s the bicycle friendly connecting paths, in and around towns, that I really enjoy taking time to explore. One such path is the Avon River Heritage trail at Apex Park picnic area in Stratford that takes you around to a viewing platform overlooking the Avon River. The Rail trail starts on the other side of Avon River Bridge in Stratford, it’s a flat ride on smooth gravel  and continues to Maffra approx 10km away, through farmland. The Rail Trail ends at edge of Maffra township but  you can take the road passed the Station building and at the end of Station St, another one of those very pleasant around town cycle paths takes you through Macalister Park and around the Port of Maffra, to the other side of town. You can follow the Macalister River further around to Macalister Wetlands boardwalks, then return to cross the Macalister River bridge and take a new section of path to rejoin The Gippsland Plains Rail Trail which continues to Tinamba (7km) and then on to Heyfield 20km away, on the now closed Traralgon-Stratford railway line. 

Oct 16, 2010

Glutton for Punishment

So when Peta asked me to feed her and Jarrod for the Melbourne to Warrnambool, I readily accepted. That was 2 days before the 24 hr mtb race, AND before our long trip home from Canberra AND before cramming a week's work into 3 days for the second week in a row. I had also not bothered to check the weather forecast for that weekend....BIG mistake. Call me a glutton for punishment!!!

Set the alarm for 2.30am and hit the pillow at 9.00pm on Friday night. Woke at 11.00pm to a phone call from Peta checking to see if we were still coming. Maybe she was secretly hoping that we'd changed our minds and she could have a sleep in. Up and on the road before 4.00am, arrived at the Werribee Racecourse just after 6.00am. It was absolutely freezing and I couldn't believe that all these lycra clad idiots were going to jump on their bikes for 260km in the cold howling wind. The race started on time and we made our way to the first feed station at the 82k mark at Inverleigh. Peta was well positioned in the main peloton and happily chatting to anyone that would listen to her.

Getting to the second feed station was an absolute nightmare. I wanted to turn right just out of Inverleigh but missed the turn as a heap of motorbike scouts came past at the same time and I didn't see the sign. Sat on 20k/hr for a few k before I was able to take the next right turn. I seemed to travel forever down a dirt road before hitting bitumen again and headed towards Cressy. Came up to the Hamilton Hwy and was stopped by the police and a scout. They weren't letting anyone through as the head police vehicle had gone through which meant the riders were coming. Funny thing though, we could see a couple of k down the road and there was no signs of bikes. After pulling the crocodile tear act they decided to let me through but refused to let the dozen or so cars behind me through. Needless to say, there were some very irate people sitting there with feed bags that they couldn't get to their riders. I got to Lismore and had to wait almost an hour before the first cyclists came through so I thought that maybe the road closures were based on the estimated time of arrivals from the original mocka....but this was not your average day as the cyclists were battling strong head and crosswinds.

Peta rolled in a bit behind the peloton and called it a day. It was always going to be a tough call to back up after the 24hr the week before and the grueling conditions didn't help. Her knee was playing up and 150k in those conditions was good enough in my books. I was more than happy not to have to drive on down to Warrnambool and was looking forward to a good steak sanga and a chocolate milkshake anyway. The race was described by many as the toughest conditions ever....not too sure about that but it was definitely tough out there!!!

Will we go back??? It's a damn long way and I hate point to point races with a vengeance. There is so much organising involved in getting transport for the cyclists to the end point. I prefer the Bay Crit Series and races like the Scotty's Race. But at the top of my list at the moment is definitely the mountain bike racing. The people are friendly, the venues are great and overall it is just a lot more relaxing than sitting in a car all day following the car in front and stressing because you can't get to the feed station just to watch them whiz past.

Oct 12, 2010

Mission Accomplished!

What a weekend!!! I can honestly say that I have never enjoyed an event as much as that one. For the last 10 years I have carted Peta all across the country to club races, state titles and national and international events and nothing compares to this. It's Tuesday now and I'm still on a high.

Now I have to be honest and say that I really don't know much about bikes mechanically. On Friday, Peta told me that there had been a few comments about her doing the race on a hard-tail and not a dually. I had to have the difference explained to me...that was when I started having some concerns about her getting around for 24 hours. Not to worry, Peta told me that if Jason English could do his first 2 24 hrs on a hard-tail....she could too.

We set up the pit on Saturday morning before the race and all I kept wondering was if I had everything that I would need. I kept sneaking a look into everyone else's tents to see if they looked similar to mine and started to feel a bit better about it all. The start was madness, I had no idea what I was doing and one of the guys next to me explained that she would just run and grab the bike and take off. It was scary watching them come at us....there were a few that took tumbles but I don't think that anyone was seriously hurt.

All went well for the first few times through pit lane, we changed bikes over at the end of lap 6 and she was set up with enough lighting to see her through till about 3am. I saw Jarrod come charging into the pit area at the end of lap 7 and couldn't believe that she had punctured a tubeless. She had rimmed it for the last 5k into the pits and sat and had a feed while Jarrod repaired it because we hadn't set up the other bike with lights. All ran smoothly until lap 11 when she took a big stack. Peta came in quite emotional having descended with no lights after they had been damaged in the crash. Jarrod was out on the bike in the team event and the lovely pit crew of Linden Bleijie came to the rescue and taped her light back onto the bike while I repaired a snapped seat. Everyone kept telling me that she would feel better once the sun rose. She was out on a lap with the sun rising when a lone piper began playing just as she neared him. Peta told me that it was a beautiful moment and you really had to be there to experience it. Daylight came and with it a new lease on life. Peta managed to pump out the 1st and 4th fastest laps in the women's for Sunday morning.

At the end of the day I looked at my pit and realised that I must have taken a truck load of stuff with me. I have enough jelly snakes to keep me going for a while, the grandkids will love them! I will now go away and make some notes of what worked and what didn't. Who knows....maybe she may do another one day.

I experienced most range of emotions throughout not only the 24 hours of racing but also the 6 hrs leading up to it and those following. It's been many years since I pulled an all nighter and I really thought that I would struggle through it. It's pretty hard to fall asleep though when there is so much going on, the no-doze helped as well.

Who said I only had to stay awake for 24 hrs??? More like 40 hrs!!!

I am so proud of Peta and what she achieved. If she asked me to pit crew for her again I would do it in a heartbeat. I feel very lucky to have been able to share in the experience with not just her, but also the other 400+ riders and their pit crews. I met some wonderful people over the last few days and it heartens me to see the encouragement and support between the athletes themselves. It was a weekend that I won't forget for a long time and I will treasure the memories forever.
ps....she did finish with a smile on her face.....mission accomplished :)

Bike adjustments since last ride

- lowered seat a little
- shoe cleats back a little