No pain , no gain

 

bob smith was dreading the killer climbs and 5 hour expanse of the race but pushed through the pain and exhaustion to a podium finish. he tells us how he did it

Down at the starting area there was a frantic rush to get into position, jostling for a vantage place, the air was thick with anticipation. Suddenly in this maelstrom of madness the starter goes and we are off a surge of man and machine push forward.

I went out easy and tried to ignore all my regular competitors who were rushing by me up the killer hill that was the start. I kept thinking "easy, easy Bob it is a long race". But I must admit I felt like shit. The body was complaining mightily. “I will never make 5 hours feeling like this” I thought, but like any endurance race you say to yourself “Don’t be a pansy ass and keep riding”.

“I will never make 5 hours feeling like this” I thought

The entire first lap was a killer, but by the beginning of the second the pain started to fade and the pedals started to feel lighter, the legs stopped complaining and I started to look further out in front of the bike instead of at the rock immediately in front of me. “Hey, I am feeling ok.” It’s was as if some kind of internal switch had been thrown.

I was pleasantly surprised with the race course. The last and only time I raced Project-X was with the HKCA and they only did Pak Kok San hillside, which made for very short and brutal race. There were no breaks and you were either pointing straight up or straight down. The addition of the new section which included a nice road stretch and then the pipeline really allowed for the racer a few minutes to recover and shake out the legs.

With 1.5, the 3 and the daunting 5 hour categories to choose from, over 140 racers hit the trail, most of them like me were in uncharted waters, I was racing in the 5-hour solo category. I had been out on the course 5 times over the past 3 weeks and every time I rode it I kept dreading it more and more. The prospect of adding another 2-3 hours to the training sessions that were already crushing me seemed insane. Honestly I had no idea what to expect or how my body would hold up.

I didn't want to get caught up in thinking "I will beat so and so, or I will get on the podium, etc." I started with the mindset that I would go out and ride steady and within my limits. Figuring going for 5 hours without stopping would be an achievement in itself, especially since the weather was very hot.

Lap two, no problem. I settled into the saddle the riding is becoming smoother, faster, more importantly the back hill doesn’t hurt so much. Seeing two of my rivals just up ahead I picked up the pace slightly. Keeping them in my sights I pushed hard to catch them. Top of the hill “Rider on the left.” I yell. One down and the other rider is in my crosshairs and growing.

We battle it out for the next 3 laps. I just manage to stay in front, all the time feeling the pressure, but I know he is fading. Finally I look back and he is gone never to be seen again. Then up ahead I see one of my main Chinese’s rivals. He and I go back and forth every race. By lap 5 he is visibly struggling and the race is only half over. But more importantly I am feeling good, getting stronger and know at that moment he will not be able to hang with me.

He manages to hang on up the long climb, but as soon as we hit the down hill section I decide to let it hang out and bomb the hill, I know for a fact he doesn’t have the technical skills to keep with me. At the bottom I look up and he is not in sight. 3 down how many more to go. I know there are at least two or three more in front, maybe 4, I don’t really know, in this kind of race where you a constantly overtaking or being overtaken, and the field so spread out its hard to tell. But I do know I am in a good position and doing better than I expected.

4 hours gone and 8 laps behind me. I am still feeling strong but fatigue is definitely setting in. Every lap my excellent support crew lead by Alman Wong are feeding and replenishing me with food and a new water pack. Without them I wouldn’t have made it. Period!

Up the hill, down the hill, sharp right turn, up the super steep concrete path, around the graves and into the rocky trail. And there he is….. The Chinese guy I never beat sitting on the side trying to stretch out a leg cramp. Do I feel guilty to pass him this way, is this less than honorable? NO WAY. All is fair in a race.

I think of who else may be out in front of me. I can think of only one guy for sure. “Bob” stop thinking about this and concentrate on the trail. I am getting tired…Focus man, keep your mind on the trail, on your breathing, keep the legs turning “don’t let anything else enter your mind, stay focused”. I keep having to remind myself. Shaun Horrocks is at the top taking pictures and notices two guys walking their bikes and blocking the only line. “RIDERS, RIDER, get out of the way.” He yells as I climb my way up and pass them. That makes me smile. “Keep going your killing it” Horrocks continues as he pats me on the back giving me a great boost in moral.

“Bob, concentrate "there is still an hour to go, besides I want to make the cut off and get in the 10 lap club

Soon however my mind starts to drift again, thinking “8 Laps have passed. I have ridden every single climb all day, no crashes, no technicals” I am getting excited. “Bob, concentrate "there is still an hour to go, besides I want to make the cut off and get in the 10 lap club. I know only the best riders of the day will hit that mark.

Lap 9 begins, but cramps start to set in. Little twinges here and there as I move around on my saddle. I start to worry. Will I seize up? I will not stop, I will not stop turning the pedals I keep telling myself I still have energy and I have a crack at the podium. I will not be denied. At the top Michael tells me I have 40 minutes to make the cut off.

“ You made the cut off by 15 seconds! Do you want to continue?” Michael says to me. My response “absolutely”. Michaels response with a big smile on his face “ Good man” . I am giddy with happiness, literally laughing out loud, whooping and hollering. I am going to make 10 laps. I am going to make the full 5 hours. I decide to put the hammer down and let it all hang out. I can’t believe I still feel good.

Through the woods , up to the difficult left turn switch back, down the backside contour with all the rocks, back along the other side with the bigger rocks and tricky sections, The big climb for the last time. I make the top, and down I go, looking far out in front, feeling totally in control of my bike, confident, powerful riding like I just started the race. Back up through the tough switchbacks and steep short sections, back on the road, down the road, up the road, through the pipeline….

Wait…is that Pui in front of me…. No shit. I see one of the best riders in HK struggling in front of me when I go into the pipeline. I am a few seconds behind him but can’t seem to reel him in. He knows I am back there and I think he makes a final push. I didn’t catch him but the fact that he was that close makes me feel good.

A few minutes later it is all over. I have made the 10 lap cut. I have ridden my best race since I came to Hong Kong. Exhausted, jubilant and just happy to be off the saddle, its beer time. What a great feeling.

It is really a great feeling to be standing up on the podium with a trophy. But it is even more gratifying to be able to use that platform to recognize the efforts of the dedicated HKMBA volunteers that do so much for our sport.

As always, many thanks to Michael Maddess for putting on this event. Without Michael we wouldn’t’ have proper mountain bike races in Hong Kong. Thank you Michael, we really appreciate your efforts.

 

RACERS REVIEWS

The course was so hard that the race came down to a war of attrition where the last man standing (or still able to ride their bike) wins. I was one of the many who fell victim to last lap cramps so bad I could barely walk, let alone ride!.... my legs now feel like they've been steam rollered by a truck! Shees- hardest race I've done in HK....

Edward Cluer

 

It was one of the most enjoyable and memorable race I ever had. The course was well prepared. You guys must put a big effort to make it safe and racing friendly. Except the stairs, the whole course can ride. No question Lamma now become the best mtb race course in Hong Kong. I like to see more mtb races, even international races held in Lamma.

I think the cement road along the pipeline section should be cancelledl. It creates a potential dangerous to all riders. Serious injury would happen if someone crash on the concrete pipeline block.

On the finish line, I quite like the idea of putting a big display race time like on the original Lamma enduro. I think putting a digital clock to count down the race time left should be fun and informative for everyone.

Jeff Chan

 

The race was a really enjoyable day out for people who just wanted a good time... the course was fun, the transition area was a good place to hang out with other bikers and watch people try to deal with the unexpected drop-off at the end of the downhill section".

The work on the course prior the event was great. Getting the grass cut transformed much of the course. The extended start was good, and cutting out part of Project X also made the course much more doable to most competitors.

I was good to have so much Gatorade and bananas. The safety aspect of this was encouraging. On the other hand, they should have had more people capable of making informed decisions on safety- some muppet had his bike in pieces, fixing his rear wheel, at the bottom of the downhill section where most the crashes were. He was there for at least 15 minutes until I walked down and yelled at him to get out of peoples' way.

Jeff Lam

 

"The first half-lap was like a train wreck - jamming gears, people coming to a near stop at the bottom of big hills, and novice mountain bikers who had charged their way to the front only to block the trail at the first sign of a rock. After a while, though, things started flowing and it was really enjoyable. I caught up with Mark Leeper and we passed each other a few times, and I was glad he was there to pull me back on track when the heat got to me and I started going the wrong way around one of the graves. It was a great course, but I still prefer the original enduro route - this one had fewer technical sections and seemed to have more concrete and off-the-bike climbs. Even so, an hour-and-a-half was plenty for me."

Me and Ben Lun got first and second in that category, and our trophies were pairs of socks. Oh well, at least there was lots of free beer.

Brandon Kirk

 

Marshalls were well placed around the course and actually seemed like they knew what they were supposed to be doing.

The course ran very smoothly and was well prepared. I especially thought that the grooming on the downhill was quite effective and may have been a major reason for few injusries on the day. It would have been nice to see more technical sections, but at the end of theday if the course is too hard then very few beginners and weekend warriors are going to come out….

I feel that the extra effort put into clearing the pipeline path was well worth it, as this ection provided a short but very welcome bit of shade.

It was a great location for friends and family to come and support, which is quite rare for these kind of events. I thought this lead to a great atmosphere.

As planned, it was undoubtedly the hardest race of the series. I’ve heard complaints that the course was better suited to the super fit as opposed to the excellent rider, but I truly don’t think the top of the standings would have changed much (or at all) if the course was made more technical.

I thought that the awards ceremony was a lot more enjoyable than usual, although the Chinese guys should ease up on the beer wasting. Don’t they know that beer doesn’t get you drunk when poured on someones head.

Charles Cosman

 

I have never cramped up so much as on this course. In fact, I have never cramped as much ever! Whether this was a result of the course (lot of hill work) or just tangential I couldnt say. Or maybe the result of doing the 'stop, start' team relay. That said, really enjoyed the race, and was getting stronger with each circuit, but was bedeviled by cramping in calfs and thighs; even the hamstrings were threatening to shut me down at one point. Anyway, my team mate Rob and I got in a very respectable 10 laps between us while probably giving away at least 15 years to others in the Mens Team category. My one criticism is that this is a course that never really lets you get your heart rate down. As soon as the old ticker got to a 'safe' rate of pumping life-giving oxygen to complaining muscles, you had to painfully crank up another steep hill. My heart rate stuck at 180 all the way round, and only dropped to a steady 174 on the final lap. Probably cos it was so knackered it couldnt tick any quicker. The highlight of my race is that I overtook Bob Smith (no matter that he was doing the 10-lap solo, it felt good to best him as he is an amazingly fit bloke!)

Alan McCormack

 


 

   
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