Nothing is ever what it seems
The weather forecast for Wiseman's Ferry was for a sudden drop in temperature, as an icy winter blast was due to blow in from the north west, removing any last trace of summer. Evading a freezing night in a tent, I decided to drive up in the early morning and, therefore,set my alarm for 3 am. I awoke at 2.30 and within 45 minutes, I was on the road to the Convict 100, Marilyn Manson pounding from the stereo. I passed a stationary police car on the side of the road and, sure enough, blue, flashing lights brought me to an unscheduled stop. Driving at three in the morning with the car stereo cranked up with heavy rock music, surely meant I was drunk and on my way home, without a Plan B. But, to the surprise of the police officer, I was sober and merely driving to a race. Nothing was as it seemed.
It wasn't long before I was able to make a move on a early climb and muscle past World Champion Jason English, who was locking horns with eventual race winner Cory Wallace, from Canada. Minutes later, the warm-up complete, we were all on the start line, ready to begin. This was to be my 5th Convict race and, for the first time I can remember, I was not shivering in a thick early morning fog. The morning was actually quite mild, and the weather doom-mongers had been wrong once again. Nothing is ever what it seems.
This was the centenary edition of the Convict 100 Marathon Race and the historical convict trails, which nestled in the Hawkesbury Valley, lay ahead. I exchanged pre-race banter with Dave Langley and Michael Schmitt before suddenly panicking that I was about to miss starting in the wave following the elites. Luckily, the three of us made our way through the starting gate, but there were a lot of riders ahead of us, not all of whom looked like they really should have been in this starting wave. Self-seeding rearing it's ugly, ignorant head once again. All three of us scrambled to move quickly through the mass of riders, which succeeded until the pace slowed and it was impossible to pick a way through. The steep technical hill climb arrived 12 km in and, as expected, riders ahead simultaneously unclipped, and it was necessary to run past walking riders. I remounted the bike and rode the remainder of the hill untroubled.
One of the unique and most exciting features of this race is the kayak bridge. Sixty eight kilometres into the race, riders are faced with the decision to either ride (left) or walk (right) across the bridge. I always approach this particular section with much trepidation but I feel the best way to negotiate it is firstly, not to stop and overthink it and secondly, to hit it with some speed and a slightly higher gear. The bridge will sway, but more so at each end, and it is important to focus straight ahead. I have made it across this bridge five times without an ignominious fall into the cold water below. Many other riders are not quite so fortunate.
For me, I now have the following weekend free of racing, before the Chocolate Foot STM series starts in Taree on Sunday 18th May. My dilemma with this, is to find a TV in the early hours of Sunday morning, in order to watch the FA Cup Final between my beloved Arsenal, and Hull City, as the Gunners attempt to secure our first item of silverware for 9 years. We are massive favourites but, as I've outlined here, nothing is ever what it seems.