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Dingo Duo

Dingo Duo!

First off I would just like to say thanks to Fortheriders.com and Giant for supporting me with bikes and racing kit which helped me take on this tough yet super fun race.

This was the first time the Dingo Duo has been raced and it was held at Spicers Gap at Old Hidden Vale, about 1.5hrs drive west of Brisbane. The Dingo Duo had a few race formats that one could enter. “Pup Dash” which was a run ride run for the younger kids. “Dingo Dash” had you running the 5km running course. “Dingo Howl” which was the mass start for the 37km MTB course and finally the “Dingo Duo” where you Run the 5km course, ride the 37km MTB course and finishing it off with another 5km run.

I decided to enter into the Dingo Duo and not the Dingo Howl mainly because I felt it was the main event and I can run fairly well for a cyclist. I haven’t really trained for running since my orienteering/school years but I have done the odd running race here and there throughout the recent years, so I felt like I could pull something together for the event. I had to dust off the runners and tried to remember I couldn’t coast down hills like I could on a bike.

Planning the race could have gone a lot better. Especially when I finished a solid ride on Friday evening thinking I had Saturday to have a bit of a cruisy recovery ride to be primed for Sunday. I hopped onto the computer to check out the event details and immediately felt a little stupid finding that the race was on Saturday. I had just naturally assumed it was being raced on Sunday like most races that I enter. Ooops! So around 10pm I was washing my bike, preparing water bottles and nutrition and making sure I was prepared.

Race day was pretty stinking hot. First thing I did was set up my bike up in the transition area, my little cooler bag full of lollies and water bottles sitting next to it and I was pretty much ready to go. I didn’t really know what to expect for the run and how my body would hold up especially in such heat. I figured I would cruise the run at my own pace and see how the race plays out. I was hoping that I could either make some ground or be able to conserve energy on the ride keeping up with some of the other racers.

The Dingo Dash and the Dingo Duo competitors all started at the same time. The horn went and I started running at a cruisy pace, thinking everyone would come up beside me or pass me and I could just tag on behind them top gauge the efforts. No one did. No one passed and I had a quick look around at half way and there was only fast kid doing the Dingo Dash behind me. I didn’t really expect this, but I came into transition in just under 20 min. I was first in and I jumped out of my running shoes into my cycling shoes, slapped the helmet on tore off. Hit the first climb and it felt like I was riding up a 20% climb with a head wind blasting into my face. My legs were heavy from riding and it seriously wasn’t fun for my legs the first 10min.

I had passed through the second (out of three) checkpoint and I had a full water bottle and a bit left and I felt like I would be fine getting to the final check point. Oh boy was I wrong. I ran out of water and it was all rough, steep, technical single track to the final checkpoint. The final checkpoint was atop of a hill where the air was still and you could feel the heat coming off the ground and surrounding every part of your body. To add some extra suffer points, the climb had soft water bars that were almost as bad as soft beach sand. This was mentally tough knowing I had to save my self for the run, so I plugged away slowly at the climbs. I was definitely feeling it by this point.

The third checkpoint finally came into sight, I could fill up my water bottle and recoup. The two people manning the station said there was only 7km to go so I figured one water bottle was enough. Nope! I drank it way too quickly, then accidently crashed/fell coming up a technical climb and my right quad cramped which wasn’t that much fun when you’re feel pretty tired and sore already. Riding over the last ridge I came into transition in the lead. For the run I took a water bottle and a energy gel. I had forgotten to unload my bike tools so I was carrying some unnecessary weight.

This run was going to be the hardest thing I have done all year. My left calf was cramping forcing me into a grandpa shuffle early on. The heat was just as intense as it approached midday. I had to walk a few times to drink water. About 2km in my body started to feel funny. I know I had energy but my body wasn’t working, breathing was hard and my stomach felt sick. I struggled into the half way checkpoint on the run where there was some water.

I forced myself to at least walk and continue onwards. Staying focused was just as hard as taking the next step. The very open course had you running/walking out in the Australian heat beating down right on your neck. My body was freaking out, my skin felt cold to touch. About 1.5km to go I was feeling wobbly and really sick now. I needed to get water out  that I had guzzled throughout the run. It relieved my stomach a little bit, then caused it to cramp up at the same time. I figured I couldn’t do much to improve my performance so I plugged on. More or less I ran and walked my way until I saw the final lump that took you down into the finish and I knew I could do it, just not fast.

Readying my game face as I jogged down the hill I had to find something in me to not run through as if I had been dragged through a fire pit full of rocks. I was pretty happy to just stop, sit down in some shade and cool down and collect myself. I was totally destroyed, every bit of energy I had was spent and left out in the sun. Now I just have to recover for Sunday where there is the 75km Bayview blast MTB ride.

Australian Champs, Middle Distance

So this years Australian Championships were held in Alice Springs. I wouldn’t say I performed well, at all. I would say I was the fittest one who rode hard enough to reduce the huge errors and bad route choices I chose.

Alice Springs at this time of year is sunny, cold and windy. When there is no wind the temperature is perfect, you can feel warmth of the sun on your back and you can wear shorts and t-shirts, but once the wind picks up you need to be covered with layers of clothing, although this is coming from a Queenslander where in a 15 degree day I will struggle to leave the bed because it is too cold. (Like I might put on arm warmers for 5 rides of the year in Queensland)

The middle distance race was the first race on the Australian Championships calendar. This one was probably my worst ride of the year, although it’s not hard to beat that since I have probably done less than six MTBO races this year and some of the other Australian Team members have maybe done two. Especially if you’re from Tasmania where there is no MTBO races all year round.

So I will dive into what tricked me up about the middle distance. The middle distance map was a double sided A3 page. This is usually fine with my map board which is a Autopilot which fits larger maps fine. It was way they decided to show the course on both sides of the map was a little annoying and pointless. On one side of the map they fell short of fitting the course and the map on one side to take the mens elite up north where they needed an extra 4-5cm of map. So they chose to make it double sided.

It felt like the mapper/course setter could have moved the map around to only show the necessary check points so it would fit on an A4 sized page and then fit the rest of the map on one side. So you wouldn’t have to refold. What they chose to do is to print the course on both sides, so at the start you were shown a 98% complete course and tried to fold the map to fit everything in. In hindsight I see that I could of just folded the map in half to start off with but it wasn’t so clear in the rush of the 1 minute pre start seeing the whole of your course bar one check point. Reflecting on it now I am not sure if I should have been smarter to realised this or if it was over looked when course setting or controlling.

So these next two pictures are my scanned copy of the Elite Mens Middle (Mens 21) Distance course to show you what I mean by having a double sided for just one control.

Middlea

Middle Distance Side A

 

Middleb

Middle Distance Side B

 

So I have drawn my course on in red. On the map PTO is there to tell the racer to flip your map over to the other side. I have stopped at that control and started to draw where to go on the next side.

Middleadrawn

Middle Distance Side A – Route Drawn

Middlebdrawn

Middle Distance Side B – Route Drawn

For the next set I have circled parts of the course with a green pen to show where I made the errors and where I use the green pen to show where I thought the optimal route was.

Obviously you can find the huge error on the way to the start, I was still folding the map and I felt un-organised and just rode past the turn off. The tracks were very difficult to pick up even though you had great visibility over the landscape.

Middleadrawnerrors

The biggest error is missing the 4th control after having troubles finding a track entrance to checkpoint 3 which more or less didn’t exist, there were a few scratches in the ground which lead you into the control. The same with the 5th checkpoint I picked up a track that lead me to the checkpoint but it wasn’t as shown on the map.

After those early errors I got into an ok rhythm but went to take the right hand track on the way to 10 and it was a gap jump and it wasn’t possible to ride up it. (I know what you’re thinking, “What Chris can’t do a gap jump up hill?!”) I only lost a few seconds. Heading to 13 out of 12 I didn’t look close enough and flip my bike around and road out the way I came in more or less and it was 10-20 seconds slow which is hurt knowing I could of just continued forwards out of the check point.

MiddlebdrawnerrorsYou can see around control 14 I nearly rode off the map, I think I actually did. I was feeling fairly puffed after the climb. I knew I had to turn left just after the top of the hill and it was on the turn. When you got there, there was no track off to the left. Nothing. After riding past, then returning to where the track should start, I rode across the ‘unrideable’ yellow. After 20-40m of riding through the open a track appeared and lead you to the check point. A few other people had this problem as well. In the end it didn’t matter since I completely missed check point 4 earlier in the race.

Here at the WinSplits for the middle distance:
Middle Distance Class Splits

Middle Distance M21/Elite Splits

 

New Zealand Trip Recap

Well New Zealand was amazing as it is always. I only wish I had performed as well as I would had of liked to, but the riding was awesome and the competition was fierce.

This is the link for  the information on the event, click here. At the top of the page you will find the results tab for each day. If you want to find a detailed report of the week click here for another wordpress blog from NZ, just click this link.

I haven’t done any Mountain Bike Orienteering events or practiced my Nav training since World Champs, and at the moment I am a bike down and my road bike has been cracked

(oh yeah, I didn’t end up writing about how my rear derailleur on my road bike popped off into my spokes as I was cruising up hill and got spun around and cracked the top stay. Plus the hanger is built into the frame so I have to get the top and bottom rear stay carbon fixed with the hanger build into it.) 

so I am using my fathers mountain bike and the single speed we own. I think I did ok, but nothing special. The second day that I won, I had a fairly smooth ride. I was hoping to repeat that effort but I never did.

Some of the problems through out the carnival I struggled with, especially in the sprint was the huge light changes coming out of a dark forest into blistering bright sunlight which would reflect off my map board cover and blind me, then you would head back into the dark forest. I rode past a few controls in the sprint because of this. Also I was looking for controls on stands like I have been all competition until now, where they were strapped to the trees.

I looked at the split times for the sprint and I was in the lead until I rode past the control that was only a few meters from me.

In the bulletins for the Australian versus New Zealand they had mentioned that there would be green dotted tracks that were able to be ridden, also white on the map which is generally forest and you’re not allowed to ride through it was the reverse in New Zealand, which is cool. Also since one of the days was on Rotorua they marked directional arrows on the map so we didn’t ride down tracks the wrong way, since most of the tracks are one way only.

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Most of these rules were fine, but I didn’t like the fact that they were only used in some parts of the map to open up route choice. I missed a crucial route choice in the middle because there some specks of white to allow people to cross onto a track and there was a huge part that didn’t register in my eyes for me and I lost a heap of time, but I can’t complain since I seemed to be the only person to be tricked up by this.

There was a big  down side to this competition which was the long distance. The organisers were very unlucky, it was on and off rain and sunshine. Usually this isn’t so bad, Only that the ground soil was clay base. Meaning that getting to the start up the hill was extremely hard for 80%+ of the competitors. Not only was the track up to the start almost impossible to ride, the whole course was practically impossible to ride. The first track you road along was bogged down and would seize up your wheel. Turning someones 10kg light weight bike into a 20kg+ bike.

Again, you can’t criticize the coniditions since everyone else had to ride in them. So I tried to be fairly persistent. Until I chose one route choice which was bad considering the conditions. After banging out my wheel 4 times and clearing the mudd off my bike I had enough, so I decided this wasn’t a race, this was a course to survive not show who was fastest.

When I got back I realised that I would have been disqualified anyways, since right at the start there were two tracks paralleling each other. One being a smooth, wide fire road. An off road high way almost, and running beside it was a shitty undulating fire road that was bogged so badly that when I was riding past I saw dozens of people walking their bikes.

On the map there was small tiny arrows showing you could only go up the shitty fire road and back along the high way like fire road, and I had gone up the wrong way. Also there was no other route choice unless you wanted to add another 3-4km of shitty clay track riding. Competitors found out later that the course setter had only done this for a dog leg for lower courses, and didn’t want them riding on the high way fire road.(!?) I think many were a bit bitter about this course setting.

The best and worst thing was decided on that day. The Long Distance wouldn’t count in the Aus/NZ challenge and instead they would use the last race, which was on Rotorua, as the long distance event. “Great!”, everyone thought, but the poor choice to follow, I think was allowing people to be given awards for winning their course when a lot had taken the illegal route choice.

Also I had forgotten to mention that NONE of the bitumen roads were marked as no ride/out of bounds on the map, yet they had put tiny text around the out side of the map saying it was out of bounds (because in MTBO everyone stops to read the super tiny text during a high intense race…). Many people took bitumen roads, I don’t blame them and I don’t think anyone should get disqualified but I don’t think you could call any of the race fair or legitimate, especially with no marshals watching the key areas where people could get disqualified. Oh, and yes, they did have a sign at the start of the race saying that roads were out of bounds, although I think everyone was too stuffed and concerned about the sticky clay like mud building up on the soles of their feet and bikes.

In the end, I think the long distance could of been avoided by seeking a map that had far better tracks that would provide more route choice and avoid using arbitrary direction arrows just so people don’t ride on the same track in different directions.

Besides buggering up a route choice heavily on the Rotorua race there wasn’t much else to comment on.

All of the days, besides the long distance, had superb courses, lovely tracks and maps as well as fantastic competition. The event areas were well set up for the numbers that showed up. The people were amazing and the vibe of the whole carnival was excellent. I think the New Zealand folk did a top job and I can’t wait to get back and ride some more trails.

I know there was a lot of talk about the bad things, but it is what stuck and to me at least, was interesting to think over and see what could be avoided next time or how to minimize damage to the competitive side of the carnival.

Wobbly wheel

On Wednesday I was referred to a bike shop in Ivera to get my wheel looked at and repaired. There was a nice squiggly looking climb on the map a little way away form it towards the mountains. Alex and I decided to do our training on it that day.

The climb it self was extremely nice, one of the nicest climbs I have ever ridden. It was about 10-13km or smooth 4-8% climb and I had found this easy rhythm. I felt as if I was spinning like Froome, yet in awe of the mountains and valley that we were ascend up and over. Although on the climb, Alex didn’t fair so well. He was still finding his legs after his LONG flight. (he arrived about 12hrs after I did on Monday).

Once we reached the top where a town was, I showed interest on climbing up further through the town and up the hill side along narrow roads and this percentage was very steep compared to the climb we had just rode. We pushed on and the road just went on and on and on! We reached a point and thought we shouldn’t kill our selfs and turned back around.

I had ridden the puff out of Alex on the climb but he wiped me off the board on the descent. I hadn’t seen anyone descend so fast and balanced. Cornering like a pro and I was cornering like a Schleck.

After our ride we shot off to the bike shop and booked in the bike. After some time of trying to explain what was wrong and when we should come back. We had a lot of help of a friendly Italian man who spoked english did some translation for us. We had some of the best Pizza in Ivera, seeing a very old Yeti still looking sexy as ever.

I have limited internet so stay tuned for more!

How many Dingos?

I had too much fun doing repeats of a track at Gap Creek today. Going up and down a technical section of a trial on Mt. Cootha, Gap Creek.

One repetition was going down then back up. And I was to do 20. Twenty of these I did. Loved every second of it getting fast through the rocky sections and going fast over wet roots and rocks then hooking into berms before spinning the bike back around and climbing back up again.

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Rough, Tough and down right STUFFED!

After the selection races I have gone back into base training. Which means, you know it – lots of hours on the bike! This is fine, and since Monday I have been waking up at 4am and going out at 4:30-5:00am to do 3.5-4.5hr road rides. This also included some easy/fun MTB sessions in the afternoon to help regain some confidence in my single track handling skills.

This week was going to be a 1,000km week, but I mentioned to my coach that I have a XC race at Toowoomba on Saturday (which is very steep and rocky) and a Long distance MTB-O race on the Sunday. So we still decided to have a hard week but half the amount and I managed to rack up about ~400+ kms by the Thursday and did a promotional shoot for MTB-O with the ‘Totally Wild‘ show which is a Channel 10 show on the Friday.

 

So today I was feeling a little rested, but I was doubting my chances for staying with the leaders after having ridden the course on a practice lap. It was rocky, and I mean ROCKY, as well as steep. I felt, O.K. on the climbs in the practice lap but it was a whole different story when the race started.

I knew it would be an absolute shit fight to get into the single track due to the lack of overtaking chances on the whole course and the sudden rough technical climb. I think there was about 100m of track that was viable to overtake, unless you wanted to spend a huge amount of energy to ride over rocky ground in the bush faster than someone else on smooth or rocky track.

So the race starts and I hit the first climb hard to get an O.K. spot, then about in the first 100m I knew this wasn’t going to be a race against the other guys. This was a race to see if I could make it around four times. My legs felt shot and they weren’t recovering and the close trees and rocks where making me nervous and slow.

The rough descents were effecting my left shoulder and my arms were already fatiguing on the first half of your course on the first lap! I have done mainly road cycling since I was given the O.K. to cycle again but the rough track shook me to bits, let alone my whole body already feeling like it had done the course four times.

It was a mind game and I was losing the game. I came around through my 2nd lap and stopped and had a talk to with Dad and I had already felt defeated for awhile. My back was telling me to stop and my arms were barely keeping control of the rough and narly descents. Don’t get me wrong, they were fun and I loved them but my body wasn’t dealing with it well.

I pushed out a third lap but I was exhausted and my arms were weak and the shoulder was doing weird things. Having seen stacks on the course I thought I would play it safe by pulling out and resting. I wanted to do four laps, but my body didn’t have it in me that day.

The winner Ben Forbes powered through for a victory with a healthy lead of Michael Illing who also had a healthy lead over Aiden Lefmann.

 

There is a lot of work to do to bring me up to speed. I know I am slow on tight windy tracks and I don’t quite have the explosive speed as the other guys. improving my technical skill is crucial as well. Heading into this race I could have trained differently, but this isn’t what I am training for.

My focus right now is the World Mountain Bike Orienteering Championships in Estonia and I need to get kilometers into my legs then put some speed into them. I do want to improve my XC performances seeing as it will be better to aim for to have competition to push me to go faster and train better.

Kirwarrak North

43 minutes and 56 seconds later I rode into the finish at Kirwarrak to get back and find out that I was the fastest on the middle distance making it a third win for the Australian Champs. I managed to keep my head together and my body in tune to get three wins. It was a nice way to finish the Australian MTBO season as the Australian Champion for the Junior Elite, with it being my last year. The middle distance was raced in the same location as the sprint; Kirwarrak State Forest. They had some additional tracks on the map extending slightly further south. It was a fantastic area and course for the Australian Middle distance.

Left to right: Chris Firman (me); Karl Withers; Paulo Jun Alvear Fujii

I wasn’t totally smooth as I would have liked in the todays race but it was enough to keep my self in the lead of the other riders. I had a hesitation at checkpoint 3 to make sure I was choosing the better route choice to go north and then south back into 4 or to go south from 3 and then north into 4. It turned out that the way I went (north then south) was the quicker route. Another forced hesitation was checkpoint 7 to 8. I rode down to the main track then took the fire road south and around down to 8. Finally my last notable error was I nearly rode from checkpoint 11 to 13. Stopping directly at the entrance into checkpoint 12. I knew something felt funny!

Now it will be quiet for the race period until I head down to Victroia for a MTBO training camp that goes through New Years! Until then base training. Looking forward to some big rides and some nice single track sessions. Hopefully I can get some more of my overseas trip organised.