A 100ker as a female racer brings with it some different tactics to those you sometimes hear about from the Elite Blokes. Longer race times mean different nutrition plans and a longer recovery period, smaller bikes often allow less space for biddons, a thinner rider density makes for multiple individual time trials and, while most guys are pretty complimentary out on the track, every now and then, someone says something ridiculous.
For me, the challenges above pretty much characterise my Highland Fling. Actually, that’s not true. Periods of awesome and periods of hurt pretty much characterise my experiences at this year’s Fling, but neither would have been possible without an esky full of energy drink, my Vaude hydropack to chase it with, and enough gels to make the bottom of my knicks look like I’d stuffed the kitchen sink up there as well. Interestingly, the impact this nutrition plan had on my time trial plan meant my final leg of the three-stage-format 112km course was comparatively stronger than that of most other riders. Something worth remembering next time eating seems like the last thing you want to do three hours into a race that has another three or so hours to go.
Despite taking all week and the first 25 minutes of the race to shake off Gong legs, I felt surprisingly strong on the first and second stages of the course. The promise of a Red Bull willed me to the last transition and propelled me into the beginning sections of the third and final stage. Until now, every hill simply signalled one less hill to go, but then all of a sudden every hill was a reminder of how tough this race really is. My mood started to reflect time between gels at this point too. Pre-gel: in the gutter. Post-gel: laughter and unicorns. Not that there were really any unicorns, just more hills, which maybe had unicorns grazing at the top.
Eventually the 5km to go sign arrived, and with it the promise that the end was near and hurt and awesome were about to combine in that special way that only marathon racing can bring. It was also about this time when, as I was charging up the road, some guy makes a joke about not wanting to be passed by a girl now. While perhaps not as sensical to me as it was to him (was I supposed to sit behind him to be polite?) and certainly not as ‘up there’ as the guy who once told me I “ought to get my hubby to buy me a dually”, I turned to him and said, “Mate, I just want to finish”. The remainder of the course disappeared very quickly as he sucked my wheel and I sucked down the joy of completing one very tough day out indeed.
Big congratulations to everyone who got out there, nudged someone along, or gave it a nudge themselves. Thank you to the Dark Side and Wild Horizons crew for pulling together such an enormous day out and for creating so many fundraising opportunities for community groups in the Southern Highlands. I was proud to take part and can’t wait to come back!