Ed McDonald: 24Hour Solo 'Recovery' Race
Over the Easter weekend, Ed McDonald finished second at the 24hour Solo National Championships. (You can read his insightful blog of the race here.) Below is his blog about what he did the weekend after: raced and won a solo 7 hour race at Mt Stromlo. On a single speed.
Immediately after racing a 24hr, you know a few things:
- Everything hurts, particularly joints such as knees, wrists etc
- You can feel OK on the bike, but you're actually down about 20% in power
- Sometimes the massive endorphin high lasts a while
Backing up for a 7 hour the next weekend is, therefore, probably not the best idea. But at the heart of endurance racing is a desire to push limits, and I was curious to see how I'd back up after the 24.
One of the other goals was to redefine the racing vibe a bit. The 24 had been a very stressful race for a number of reasons, so I was looking forward to remembering the "other " part of racing: just cruising around trails in the sun on a singlespeed.
Singlespeed is great for an enforced "fun" attitude in long races. It's almost impossible to get a good start - especially given the prevalence of overseeding - and you can only go as fast as your gear dictates. In many ways, the whole concept of racing a single-speed bike is so silly that you have to shrug, grin and toddle around. Singlespeed racing is a curious phenomenon that has become rather huge, simply because you can find the "Happy Place" easily - and it's great to see Trek recognise this with bikes like the venerable Rig and Superfly Single.
So, on Sunday morning, I turned up at Stromlo for Round 1 of the Rocky Trail Shimano MTB GP, armed with a box of bottles and a bunch of bananas, and my Superfly Singlespeed. I rode this race without any clue of race standings, and basically focused entirely on intrinsic motivation (just enjoying the ride) throughout.
The course wound its way up to the top of Stromlo via the usual climb with 10^6 switchbacks, and then down via the new Pork Barrell descent. This has some fun jumps and drops, and had me wishing for a 6" duallie for some quality messy hucking. The course returned to transition via Party Line and Breakout for a fun 13km loop.
I soon discovered that there really wasn't any power in the legs, so it was time to relax a bit and aim to ride to a nice easy rhythm in the sun. Singlespeed enduro pace is a nice social pace, so it was great to catch up with pinners in the 4 hour such as Paul Brodie, Callum McNamara and Jamie Bailey (1st masters, 1st SS and 4th overall respectively). Funnily enough - and in contrast to the 24 - I had absolutely no idea about the race situation this time around, and was basically riding around in the a blissful and oblivious bubble of single-speed happy place.
Coming through the last three hours of the race, I started doing the mental arithmetic concerning the possibility of an 11th lap. 10 seemed like a nice round number. Having been self-supported all race, I had absolutely no idea about the racing standings, and was happy to hear from Brad Morton (before commencing my last lap) that I was over 20 minutes clear of second. This meant the last lap could be a fun cruise, aiming simply to keep the rubber side down and avoid any mechanicals. Having said that, I couldn't avoid the temptation for a few dirty whips down the jumps on the course!
It was great to follow up the 24 with a nice win and a long, stress-free day in the sun on the singlespeed. Unlike most 7 hour races, this one never really hurt at any point, and it was interesting to see that it's easier to back up with low-intensity, long-distance than with short-distance at high intensity.
A big thanks to On The Rivet and Trek Bikes Australia for the support - doing multiple climbs of Stromlo is made easier by a stupidly light singlespeed! Thanks also to Rocky Trail Entertainment for a great fun race. Riding bikes is fun!
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