The start can't come soon enough as lycra isn't ideal to standing around in with the current temperature.
The race begins and there is a crash and fall of a couple of riders to the right of me. That avoided and onto the road. Heart rate is under control as I hit the first farmers paddock and climb. Moving well and Tim comes by and sit on his wheel.
Start eating and the instant I do, my breakfast repeats. Awesome. Try to ignore it and concentrate on moving forward. On the front of my bunch now and I see Jess and her group 40m in front of me. Time to close gap. 40m, 30m, 20m, 20m, 20m. I can't get on and watch her pull away after the river crossing.
Another farmers paddock and more food down. It tries to come straight back up. I think I may be in trouble here. Notice I have done nearly 19km which means I have a steady 5km climb. The heart rate and speed are still good. Every now and then I can see Tim just up the road. This is a good sign cause we both have similar goals. We are aiming for the 5 hour mark for the 112km.
Round the oval and into the transition. Stage 1 knocked over and I within a couple of minutes of last year. Not ideal, but not too bad either. In the neutral timed zone and try to eat. Now it is drastic. I can't get food down.
Back with Tim into the single track. By the time we come out of the first section I am bonking. I am supposed to be eating 6 Clif Shot Bloks an hour and I can only manage 2. Now I am in trouble. Tim disappears into the distance. It is the last time I see him for the day.
Descending towards a hard left handed. Here it comes, set the gears and prepare myself for "The Wall". I manage to get to the first "step" before I unclip and walk. Even walking I am getting passed. Crest the top and into some more single track. Allow the bike to run and have fun. I don't need to use a lot of energy. "Everglades" was the highlight. Don't get caught in here but that becomes another story once I am back on the road.
Downhill at 60kmh. SHIT! I see the corner too late and supposed to go right. Straighten the bike up and hit the brakes as hard as I dare. Don't quite pull up in time, so a few seconds are lost as I pull some of the undergrowth from my bike. Poor bugger behind me nearly followed me into the scrub.
The next test is Halfway Hill and the KOM which I fail. I had nothing during this point. With 1km to go to the top I glance down at my Garmin. My speed is 1.5kmh. I am completely broken and mentally spent. There is still 20km to go to the final transition. In such a dark place that I just want to stop. Cramp is kicking in. I just want to pull over and sleep. After 64km the elite guys, who started 45 minutes behind me are coming through.
The transition is getting closer and I am having doubts. Fuck it! Keep going. Thats it, keep the legs turning over. The next section of single track is what keeps me from stopping. Into Wingello for the final time. I have a can of lemonade thrust into my hands by a spectator. I can't recall tasting it and it is down before I know it. He stays close making sure I get water into my Camelbak and offers encouragement.
Food is easier to get down and the increase of fluids is now making a difference. My luck continues when I head out and latch onto three other riders. Andy Blair is in front of us and it spurs us on to push. The mind is back into the race and use the other guys to help me through. This lasts until the next farmers paddock. It is a little too rough to maintain the speed of the other guys. Doesn't matter, that was a quick 5km knocked over.
Feeling as good as I can be and starting to think about the single track, and the climbs of Brokeback Mountain and Your Call. The first part brings a smile. The last two, not so much.
Through the pine plantation and there it is. The right hander into Rollercoaster. Suffering cramp in both hamstrings and there is no way I can walk any of the hills. If I do, there is no guarantee I can get back on the bike. The pinches hurt.
Into Sherwood Forest and I no longer getting passed. I am actually starting to pick people off. No idea where the energy comes from. Now my head is fully back into the race.
This is it, Brokeback mountain. Focus on not using up my legs and tackle the hairpins one at a time. One, two, three, four and now over the top to the sound of drums.
Bakers Delight comes easy and even at this stage of the race I am enjoying it. In the midst of the slower Half Fling riders and without exception, move over. I have never gotten by riders to easily and it was always appreciated. Thank you. Out of the single track now the only obstacle remaining is Your Call before a gentle run into the finish.
The legs are still cramping, so the steeper, shorter and rockier left side is not even contemplated. Bury the head and tackle the last climb as hard as I dare. Short road section and now less than 2km to go. I notice that Jenny Fay, the women's leader is coming behind me.
There is the underpass and in between it and me is a huge loose rock. I can't swerve to avoid it. Jenny is only a few bike lengths behind me to the left. 250m from the finish and I have the biggest moment of the day. No idea how I got away with that tank slapper. She comes past safely just before the underpass.
Sit up and roll through the finish in 5:36:13.
I have come to realise that I am a very much a confidence rider. It takes me a while to turn myself around mentally when things aren't going so well.
I put down the inability of keeping food down to having too big a breakfast within 100 minutes of the race start. From there I managed to only get down 14 Shot Bloks. I was supposed to consume 30. No where near enough for the 4300 calories burnt.
Other than a lack of lube on the chain for the last 15km the Giant XTC Composite was flawless and is now perfectly set up for me.