Most riders I talked to about last weekend’s Australian MTB Marathon Champs described it as tough. The full length course took riders up to the top of Mt Stromlo six times, forced them to pedal their legs off on an extended fire road journey around the Western side of the park, demanded good technical skills for the great selection of singeltrack on offer, and threatened contenders with two degree start temps. But if it wasn’t tough, would it have been as fun?
Enjoying a good, tough race is always easier if you are feeling amped and rested. I reached the start line feeling fragmented and fairly cooked. Experience tells me this makes for an extra four or five minutes an hour on the race track, so I rolled up to the start line determined to enjoy every bit those extra minutes allowed me to. With so much quality singletrack to rail and so many pedally sections I could use to shake out my thoughts, I was so keen to have a solid, fun ride, clear my head and get ready for the weeks ahead.
So that’s exactly what I did. The hills showed me how much strength I’ve built over the year, and reminded me how much I love the challenge of a steep, loose climb. Each time the course twisted into a new favourite singletrack section, I found myself yelling ‘woo hoo!’ to the trail signs. The trees have taken off since last time I rode Stromlo and getting sideways through the pines offered such a great glimpse of how this place is going to look in the future. Riding all of this with a new set of eyes was the most extraordinary thing of all. I never realised the dirt at Stromlo was so grainy – no wonder it feels the way it does! Subaru-MarathonMTB.com super soigneur Pete Figg kept throwing food and drinks at me as well, which makes it so easy to head out of the feed zone ready to tick off the next section of the course.
Thank you to CORC for stitching together all the infrastructure needed to allow the racing to take place and congratulations to all the other riders out there who also put together a solid ride. I reached the finish line feeling so much better than when I started. A result of tenth was pleasing, too. Fun but tough: the perfect formula for resetting and recalibrating for more fun toughness ahead.
I learned after the event that a fellow rider had passed away during the race which transforms the months ahead in very different ways for his family and mates. As I rode down Willo’s Link during the Marathon Champs – a trail built in memory of James Williamson – I instantly started reflecting on Jimi’s joyful attitude to riding and how this is the kind of trail you want to ride along, chatting with mates, enjoying the moment of ‘right now’. I hope that as time passes people who knew Justin find comfort in many good memories too.