Rise Like a Phoenix
En route, I picked up James Lamb, and he was able to calm me down in his own inimitable way so that I arrived at the event centre at peace with my current troubles. I was able to sleep through to the morning, my problems dispatched to a unwelcome place I revisited on only a sparse number of occasions during the race.
The late start of 10.00 seemed weird, but as is my forte, I somehow managed to leave my preparations to the last minute, culminating in a late arrival to the start line. I tried to burrow in from the front, to take a position on the second or third row but my path was blocked. I relented but then suddenly realised I was now in the front row.
I powered down on the pedals, and like a scolded cat, I flew out of the starting paddock. Two hundred metres evaporated before us and I was in about eighth position. We climbed the firetrail and I could see the race leaders, only a few bike lengths ahead. My heart rate was relatively comfortable, as was my breathing. I had made a sensational start and, as we hit the singletrack, I didn't even have to slow my cadence, gliding through the first sections smoothly. I completed the first lap in 31 minutes which had opened up a 90 second lead on Jamie Vogele.
With each passing lap, the gap continued to grow. I was receiving excellent support from Mike Israel and training partners Briony and Linda. It makes racing so much easier when a pit crew is ready and waiting at the end of a lap and is able to provide a fresh bottle, gel, a time check and, most importantly, an encouraging smile and a few friendly words. I passed Wendy Stevenson after four and a half hours. I was feeling strong, and I think she was quite surprised to see me so early.
Temperatures were to peak at 16 degrees, the winter sun struggling to pierce the high clouds, but when it did the warmth was most welcome. I was getting time checks, suggesting Jamie was holding a minute, so I continued to charge, hoping the elastic would eventually break. The sun dropped low in the sky and Andrew Lloyd came past with the news that Jamie was struggling, informing me he was at least 10 minutes behind. This was the news I had been waiting for. Soon after, I was hooked up to my night lights and the last five hours would involve sensible riding and keeping well fed and watered. So much for great plans.
Half way around the track, and on the last section of singletrack, my handlebar light dropped, my Exposure Reflex hanging limply against my number plate. Fortunately, it was not yet dark and a quick pit stop and a helping hand from James Lamb allowed me to calmly set off into the night. A few minutes lost, but I had a comfortable lead of around 15 minutes.
The lights came on, and it was immediately apparent how much dust was being thrown up. Before catching a rider, their presence was given away by the cloud of dirt that had been temporarily unsettled.
Temperatures continued to fall, bottoming out at about five degrees. The layers continued to go on but I had stopped drinking, my main source of fuel. My gels were buried under shirts and coats and so I failed to refuel enough, a mistake I would nearly pay ever so dearly for.
I drained my water and a light flickered on deep in my cerebrum. Impulses surged from grey to white matter and down my spinal cord, firing the motor neurons in my legs. Perhaps inspired by a combination of the image of Brett Bellchambers and Event Organiser, Martin Wisata's insistence on playing the Eurovision Song Contest's transgender winner, Conchita Wurst's song, Rise Like a Phoenix several times that night. Out of the ashes I was reborn and I was moving more freely as I approached the final descent into the event centre. I kicked for home, making it across the line a mere four minutes ahead of a charging Jamie Vogele. I had secured my first win of the year, a hattrick of Jetblack 12 hour wins, but only just. Clayton Locke was third, one lap behind, with Kevin Wynne-Smythe a creditable fifth in his first twelve hour solo race. James Lamb and Paris Basson finished with line honours, while Jason English beat Andrew Lloyd in the elite solo and Wendy Stevenson won the Solo Female Elite.