Contact Epic is one of those races I’ve always looked at and thought why would you ever want to do that? Then I found myself debating whether I would do the Epic (125km) or the Classic (95km). Everyone who has done the event has their opinion “obviously you want to say you’ve completed the whole circumference of Lake Hawea”, “The first 25km’s on the road sucks on a mountain bike”. Eventually, I committed to the Classic 95km’s thinking that would be a great enough challenge for my first go. Then on a drunken night at Kai, Shona North convinced me that I should be doing the Epic to the point that I sent an email to the organizers asking to change my entry! I ignored the reply that said it wouldn’t be a problem, lesson: don’t drink and email:)
Heading into the week of Contact I was feeling pretty run down, after a few big weeks at work and just a week after Naseby12hr Solo I was using all my brain power convincing myself I felt totally fine. I hadn’t had a chance to get back on my bike since Naseby other than riding to and from work and was starting to get concerned that my goal of 6Hrs 20mins was not even in the realm of possibilities. Being happy with giving it a go was going to have to do.
Bracing myself for snow, wind, and rain I was pretty stoked for race day to come with warm ideal conditions. My race plan was to ride with Richard Woodward, who’d had the unfortunate experience of racing this in 2013 with some pretty horrible sounding conditions. I should have read his blog before I’d signed up –
Anyways we arrived at the Kids Bush car park with the sun just starting to rise, the traditional start song of Eminem – Loose Yourself starts to play. Rick is still messing around putting his bib shorts into place, adjusting something other none essential item “hey Rick umm…. everyone has started to take off from the start line ya think maybe we should go?” We were literally the last people to head off down the mellow looking 4×4 track, maybe this was a mental tactic because it did feel pretty good to race past the slower riders. We started up the first big climb and my gears started jumping all over the place…. ok not ideal. We get to the top of the hill after what felt like forever, Rick grabs my bike performs some sort of bike voodoo and she was all good to go.
There is no other way to describe this course but relentless- if you’re not climbing you’re in the midst of a technical downhill. This makes it challenging to eat or drink, I kept thinking ok at the top of this hill, no wait at the bottom of this one, surely there is a small flat spot around here somewhere. Dougal Allen and the fastest riders from the Epic (125km) started to pass us before we hit Boundary Hut (approx 31Km in). Man, they were moving SO fast it was very impressive. We crossed the Hunter River (burr) and started to head back down the other side of the lake, with a quick stop at the Green Bush Hut.
While heading up thru the grassy tracks I may have made a small comment to Rick about him maybe needing to go a little faster on the downhills as I was having to keep braking when I couldn’t get around him. Well, let’s just say he gave me “the look” and that was the last I saw of him. I definitely cursed him for a bit thinking of our conversation regarding the repair kit, “Nah we’ll just split it between us”. So there I was with a pump and no tire levers or any sort of tool hoping that I don’t get a flat or any other mechanical issue.
I’d managed to keep myself fairly positive all day, even though I was feeling pretty shit. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks I went from positive just peddling along to hating life! I got into a really bad dark patch like I’ve never experienced before. My body was achy and sore but mostly my brain was dragging me down, I don’t even know how long I was in this head space or what was happening around me at the time. There was just a circle of terrible thoughts running around in my head, “What was I thinking?”, Why do I keep putting myself through this?” “Is this all really worth it?”. I was so frustrated and annoyed at myself for feeling so useless. Eventually, I’d had enough and knew I had to give myself a pep talk, I still had a long way to go with no options on how to get there. I started to tell myself (out loud) “Yes you can, you don’t have choice so put a smile on your face and get on with it” I’m sure the dude biking past me at the time thought I was going a bit crazy:) It worked I pulled it back together started to enjoy the beautiful scenery and the amazing weather, I was here and doing it so no point making it miserable for myself.
When I got to the Dingleburn station my bike was making some sad squeaking sounds. I’ve never been so happy to see Franck who asked what I needed, I replied with “I don’t know umm yeah I don’t know.” He pretty much started throwing bananas at me filled up my water bottle, lubed up my chain patted me on my head and sent me on my way.
Having ridden this section a couple of times before I knew what I was in for with the last 30kms to go and a few good climbs left. I had a nice chat with a man while walking up the Timaru Creek hill together, so close but so far. Finally turning onto Cemetery Road into across wind blowing me all over the place just had to hang in a little longer. The music came into earshot and the pub just ahead, I was very happy to cross the line in 6:39:10.
What a day, what a course, the highs the lows it was a major challenge. The views are amazing, the terrain is relentless it is not just a little ride around the lake that’s for sure. I would like to say I enjoyed every minute but that is certainly not true. I learned a lot about myself and how to climb my way out of a dark spot which is a great accomplishment in it self. It always amazes me how powerful the brain is when you think you can or can’t do something, either way, you’re always right. With my first summer of races under my belt all, I can say is yes you can and you’ll never know till you try! What have you got to lose:) Thanks to Racers Edge Powered by Torpedo7 for the entry and Richard Woodward for the photos.