Chocolate Foot

Putting our best foot forward

Jet Black 24 Hour

Rach and PipI was really chuffed when young gun Rach asked me to race with her at this event and as soon as I’d said yes, I booked in a weekend to do a recce lap of Awaba. I struggle with confidence on the mountain bike, especially if I don’t know the trail, which makes it really hard to go all out in a race situation and I’ve often found that I’m held back by my lack of confidence rather than fitness, which is really frustrating. On one hand, I can ride Manly Dam, which is pretty techy so it should follow that most XC courses are less technical than the trail I ride most weeks, so I should be able to race them without an issue...  

One of my main focuses for this year is to explore more trails so that I get used to riding different terrain and learn new skills (and how not to be quite so brake heavy!) I would love to be able to turn up to a new trail and just race it. That said, Awaba had been on my list of trails to ride so it made sense to ride it before the race. The weekend before the race, my husband Joe and I headed to the Central Coast, to ride Ourimbah and Awaba over the 2 days, starting with Ourimbah as it’s more technical. Unfortunately we managed to pick the hottest weekend since records began (!) and after we’d completed a couple of laps of Ourimbah on Saturday morning, we were informed that because of the extreme weather conditions that were forecast, all state forests in the area were closed for the entire weekend. Awaba recce lap - foiled! It wasn’t all bad though, I absolutely loved Ourimbah (in stark contrast to the last time I attempted to ride it when I absolutely hated it!) and it did wonders for my confidence.

Race day came and we headed to Awaba. At this stage, I must make it clear that although the race is called the 24 Hour, we (well, Rach, very cleverly) chose to do the 6+6 format, which meant we did the first and last 6 hours and had 12 hours off overnight - genius! After the scorching temperatures of the previous week, everyone was worried about the heat and they were right to be, well initially anyway … Saturday was hot and steamy and it was 35 degrees when the race started. There were a lot more people than we had expected but we set about getting our event shelter and tents sorted to take our mind off any pre- race nerves. Soon enough it was time to start, Rach went first and looked strong as she flew past with her customary smile plastered over her face! As neither of us had ridden the trail before, we weren’t too sure how long it would take to do a lap, especially taking into account traffic on the first lap. I headed to the start line way too early as I was paranoid about missing Rach come in but it provided some entertainment for the MC and some company for others in the same position!

Cycology Banner Feb 2014

You could see the riders approaching the transition area and Rachel’s beaming smile and distinctive Chocolate Foot kit stood out from the crowd nicely! We high fived and I was off! I was excited to be racing and felt really good so probably went harder than I’m used to and on the first corner I ended up on the floor! It was really dusty and dry and I just washed out, I wasn’t hurt so picked myself up and set off again. After my early fall, I was a little hesitant but soon got into the swing of it and loved the trail! I rode the B lines but had a look at the A lines and decided that I could do them next time round. Before I knew it, I was back at transition high fiving Rach as she went out on her second lap!

As the lap was only about 12k/ 45mins long, there was only enough time to catch your breath, have a drink, get as much Fizz in as possible, have something to eat, a quick sit down and then head back to transition again! It was a great format though, I loved going as hard as possible and then resting, the only downside was not spending any time at all with Rach!

The time flew by and before we knew it, we were into the final hour. By this stage, the weather had started to turn, the sky was an ominous grey and there was thunder and lightning rumbling and flashing all over the place. Poor Rach thought that she was being followed by a horde of photographers and was smiling the whole way round (nothing new there!) only to be told later that it was lightning! The rain started when I was about a third into my last lap of the day and to start with it was quite refreshing and a relief from the heat, and then the trail turned into a river! Funnily enough, this lap in the rain was the only lap I didn’t fall off on. I'd become a bit of an expert at washing out on dusty corners! The first 6 hours were done and we’d had a blast! Despite it being on some pallets behind the toilets and essentially just using a garden hose to hose ourselves down, we had THE best shower ever! Once we were fairly clean and almost dry, we headed back to the tent and had some dinner and a race debrief. We felt a little guilty sitting under our shelter on the side of the trail eating and catching up while the 24 hour guys kept on pedalling past us but at least it had stopped raining!

We were woken up at 5am by a really distinctive and oddly appropriate song and after happily noting that it wasn’t raining, we quickly realised that it was still pitch black and highly unlikely to be light enough to start at 6am as planned! The race start was put back by 10 minute increments a number of times and we eventually started at about 6.45am. The trail had dried out pretty well overnight and it was lovely and tacky and in reasonably good nick considering people had been riding it all through the night. The first thing I noticed when I got back out there was that some of the 24 hour guys had formed little groups and got a bit anxious if their pack was split! There was a really good atmosphere out on the trail and everyone was encouraging each other, especially those with bloodshot eyes who looked like they couldn’t wait to go to bed! There was a great atmosphere at the finish line welcoming in riders and encouraging them to go out for a final lap and before we knew it, the race was finished! Rach and I won the female pairs 6+6 which we were really chuffed with - all in all a great weekend!

Cycology Banner Feb 2014