Monday, 9 September 2013


There are east coasters, and then there are west coasters. In the world of MTB’ing the two seem worlds apart, so when I was invited to race the DwellingUp100 I was curious to find out what I was missing out on. I went in blind. I had no idea what the terrain was like, the recent weather and even the competition. It was my first time in Western Australia on knobby tyres and as excited as I was to not only race there, but be back racing, I had one question that weighed heavy on my mind…Would my back hold up for 100kms?

I managed to muster up a casual 'two rides a week' with minimal pain, and a few solid days in the final lead up. These hard days, combined with six straight 9-hr days at work saw my back start to weaken again. The pain was stronger and lasted longer, and the flight to Perth only made me more skeptical about my condition. I met up with Target Trek team-mate Brendan Johnston (Trekky) at the airport, and picked up our AUDI A4 (nice choice Tony) – and drove the 1.5hr journey to Dwellingup. This tiny town, with a goggled population of 400, houses a pub, café, corner store, petrol station and holiday park, which not surprisingly is where we stayed. Although people and activities may not be in abundance, passion and character certainly are. The place is just mystical, like a fairytale come to life with 1000+ MTB’ers and supporters.

Trekky and I shouldered by the local Wembley cycles boys on the start line
The terrain is unique, with pea gravel, tight single-track, limited climbing and ‘Hell’s Gate’ the highlight acts. I was grateful to have Reece take us on a tour of the track pre-race day, which gave me a chance to suss out my main competitor in Jo Bennett (Giant). Although I had never raced Jo on a MTB, she had been an idol of mine as a triathlete and the word going around was that she was on some good form! When race day arrived it didn't take me long to find out why. As is the norm, I never warm up for XCM so was grateful that the first 15min was raced on road and fire trail at a leisurely speed. When we hit the single-track I put the pressure on, and when Jo passed me at the 15km mark my heart sank a little. Then to make matters worse, as we twisted through the tight tracks my back pain started to kick in..I was in for a long day.

In some pain as I come through the 40km transition area
I focused on being smooth as the accelerations were sparking the pain, but struggled to keep pace with Jo. As the roads opened up toward the treacherous descent of Hells Gate people began to scurry to the front so I sprinted to the top and nailed the run down it. Yes! I climbed hard out of the gulley to chase two men for a sit on the fire-trail. I’m not sure if I gapped Jo up the hill or down Hell’s, but I remember turning around to see that she was 50m off the back and I saw my opportunity as the single-track loomed. The next 15kms were torturous as I yo-yoed on and off the wheel of these two men. All the time my back was in excruciating pain. I tried to stretch it but the twisting track was never-ending and I had to compromise pedaling for stretching. The pace was hot and didn't ease until we approached the 40km mark in town with a small margin of 80 seconds on Jo. I forced myself to ease off the pedals and focus on stretching, hydration and riding smooth through the next 30km of trails I was yet to see.
At the 70km mark I was starting to hit the wall. A few guys caught me and I feared that soon I would suffer the same fate with Jo closing to less than a minute after I stopped for a bottle re-fill. I was overheating and getting dizzy so I popped my final three gels before the 80km mark in an effort to recover and knowing that I only had Hells Gate, 10km of single track and 5kms of fire-trail to take me home. From Hells gate onward I was back to being hard on the pedals, racing to stay out of sight of Jo, because I knew that if she got a sniff, she would be upon me. I was hard into and out of corners, suspension locked out, sprinting on fire-trail and stretching on the downhill’s to ease the pressure on my back. I was riding desperate, and am lucky to have ridden enough marathons for my body to be comfortable with that feeling. I was so grateful to see the one-kilometer to go sign that I nearly cried.

First-aid only put a Band-Aid on Trekky's elbow...maybe they're on rations?

Tony Tucknott had come back on the lead motorbike to chauffeur me in and I was glad I hadn’t let him down. I finished in 21st overall after 4h44m of racing, as the lead female, 3:40min ahead of the chasing bulldog Jo Bennett (no resemblance to her lean mean figure). I felt so many emotions afterward. I was ecstatic to win another race (they are all special to me) and I was proud of myself for battling through the pain, but I was shattered physically, and broken to think that this pain might continue. I have to believe that this injury will get better! I couldn't complain to Trekky about it, because he had passed out in the ambulance after a serious crash on the first lap. He broke his shoe and scored himself up pretty bad but somehow managed to get back on and finish. Meanwhile, Reece had won the 40km..again, this kid’s winning ways would bore me if he wasn't our latest recruit for Target Trek MTB Racing.

Reece powers to victory in the 40km as his final race for Wembley Cycles
Thanks go to TriEvents for a well-hosted race and to those that jumped on board to support the affiliated Muscular Dystrophy foundation that have nearly tipped $100,000 in fundraising. Thanks to Dave, Pete, Deb, Jimmy and Amanda for volunteering their time over the weekend and most importantly to the man of the moment; Tony Tucknott – thank you! This man and his team (there are just too many to name) have put an immense amount of work into this event; building new tracks, manicuring old ones, two full days of course marking with Dave. I know that this volunteer group exists at most races, but this time it was nice to meet them all and thank them for their time :)

Results: Dwellingup100