After reading other blog posts about the Hurt Hunter Trail Race I became inspired to write something of my own experience. Ollie has dropped the ball with his blogging at the moment, so I’m having a go. Thanks to Ross and Brad for the photos stolen from Facebook, hope you don't mind.
On the Thursday night previous to the Hurt, at 10pm, after I had come home from a day of turmoil at work, Ollie and I are sitting in bed discussing our lives at present. “I’m just not sure I can do the Hurt, life in general is just a bit hectic and stressful right now” were my words. “Me too” Ollie replied. He had just returned from racing the Trans Savoie (still no blog on that one yet) and hadn’t even been back at work a full week yet. But the following night we were both sitting on the train to Newcastle, bikes and associated gear at hand. I’m not sure how or when or why we came to the conclusion to go ahead with our plans, but we did, and there we were.
Ollie hopped off the train at Woy Woy to stay with Chad and a bunch of hooligans down there while I continued on to Adamstown. There was a plush inflatable bed waiting for me at Ross and Suses’ house. I was so tired that night, when I lay on the bed it felt like I was sleeping on clouds. The next morning Ross customized some settings on my GPS which I’m told would be better for moral, like not showing current speed on the main screen. He also MacGyver’ed up a leash for my GPS, which at the time I thought was overkill, but later learned that it wasn’t. Thanks Ross.
|My little bike all loaded up.|
We went down to the train station and met Joel Nicholson, the only other competitor in the small Hurt. Ollie and AK were participating in a larger event, the Big Hurt which started in Woy Woy. Ross sent us off and we biked along a smooth bike path out of town. Not very far into the ride Joel experienced some issues with his brakes and I later learnt also broke his chain. I expected he wouldn’t be long fixing it up and I would see him further down the track. But no such luck. Reflecting on my experience I think there are two things that would have seriously challenged my attempt at completing the Hurt, mechanical issues and rain. There is no doubt in my mind that had either of these two things happened upon me I would have thrown a tantrum and called it quits.
|I am ready to go!|
The first thing on my agenda for the day was getting to a shop where I could buy bakery treats. I achieved this about two hours into the ride. I’m not entirely sure where this was, maybe Speers Point. After that I was pretty happy knowing that I would have enough food to last me a good while. The whole first day just feels like a big blur. There were lots of sections I couldn’t ride, had to push and got a little lost on several occasions. As it was getting dark I started to feel like I was a bit behind schedule. Not that I knew what the schedule should be. I arrived in Cessnock at around 8pm. I was happy to see civilisation, feeling very tired and a bit sore. My legs felt fine, my back and arms were what hurt. I had scratches from bushes on my arms that made me look like I was someone with serious self harm issues.
|The HuRT kind of is a form of self harm.|
I found a Chinese Takeaway, went in and ordered and when I came back there was a very bearded man waiting with my bike, Brad! It was great having a chat and hearing how the others were going. He had seen Ollie earlier in the day and said he was super stoked on the ride. He also suggested that from here I ride up the hill out of Cessnock and camp a little past the lookout, warning me that the climb was pretty tough. I imagined the worst possible trail I could just to prepare myself but was pleasantly surprised to find it was a gravel road all the way to the lookout, and then a nice trail from there. This was the only pleasant surprise in regards to trails and expectations. I was so tired I stopped riding at only 9.30pm and set up camp, waking at 5.30 the next morning. So I had a huge sleep but still didn’t feel that perky the next morning. Thankfully the Paxton shop opens at 6am even on Sundays. I got a slightly warmed pie and a coffee and made my way towards the start of the Great North Walk which would take me up into the Watagans.
|Chinese takeaway at Cessnock.|
In the description on the Hurt website it mentions ‘man handling your bike up some fairly rocky out crops’ in relation to the climb after Freemans Waterhole. It doesn’t say anything about these kinds of manoeuvres for the climb up into the Watagans after Paxton. When scrambling up the side of the mountain this occurred to me and I wondered if these ones aren’t worth mentioning, what must the next ones be like? Eventually, after a lot of pushing, pulling and grunting I made it to the top and was greeted by lovely views and nice fire road trail.
I did have one very confusing navigational problem which sent me trudging through the bush and wandering around in circles probably wasting about an hour’s worth of time. Morale was pretty low at this point. What kept me going was the fact I wasn’t in a very easy to be rescued position, I had to keep going until I was near civilisation for someone to come pick me up. Further down the road were trails that I had ridden earlier with Ross and a bunch of keen mountain bikers. Once the trails started looking familiar I started to make better progress. I managed to get myself to Cooranbong where I had a big sit down and ate lots of food. While I was sitting in the shade a man jumped out of his car down the road and gave me a big thumps up, told me I was doing great and to keep going.
So with that encouragement I decided to push through to Freemans Waterhole and then see how far I could get after that. This was the turning point for me, where I committed to getting it down as soon as possible. I also found Coke-a -Cola. I drank a can at Cooranbong. I felt so good and road the section between Cooranbong and Freemans Waterhole really well. I couldn’t quite figure out why I felt so good until finally it dawned on me... the coke. It had such a huge impact on my riding, I wonder if it should be added to the band substances list. (NOT!)
Once at Freemans Waterhole I decided to use the public toilets to try and clean up a bit. I washed my face and arms so that I was almost presentable enough to go into the store. I still got some funny looks when ordering my subway sandwich. I sat in a dazed state eating and thinking about what I had to do next. I had a feeling that the next section might be the hardest to come yet, but dared to hope that it would be like the climb out of Cessnock up to the lookout, smooth gravel road. Those hopes were crushed less than five minutes out of Freemans. I recall standing at the foot of a ‘rocky outcrop’ wondering how in the world I was going to get myself AND my bike up there?!?! I’m not sure how, but I did. I think darkness was an advantage at this point because if I could see how far there was to fall I probably would have freaked out. I kept going at record snail pace. The motivation now was to get as much of this hard stuff done so that in the morning it would be behind me. Finally I found myself riding downhill rather than pushing up hill so I just kept going. At 11.30pm I realised that I was pretty close to the finish, about 30ks to go. I did some quick guesstimations and figured that at the pace I was going if I pushed through it would mean I’d finish around 2 or 3am. Not ideal. So I put up camp to finish it off in the morning.
When I pulled into the finish at the surf club I wasn’t sure that it was truly the end. It didn’t feel definite enough. I wanted to phone Ross and ask, but my phone was dead. I asked a passerby if there was a pay phone close, and he offered his mobile phone for me to use. Ross confirmed that I was at the finish, congratulated me and informed me that Brad was on his way to pick me up. How lucky am I? So spoilt. Brad and I sat at the beach for a little while and chatted about the event, then he drove me to Ross and Suses’ place where I had a shower and Suse made me coffee and toast, yum. She even dropped me off at the train station.
|I made it!|
Man it felt good to get home and sleep in my bed. Mean while Ollie was still riding the big hurt. To put things into perspective, I rode 325kms in 2 day, 2 hours and 15 minutes. Ollie rode more than twice that distance and only took a day longer.
The Hurt was really hard. It was probably the hardest physical challenge I’ve ever attempted. Parts of it were heaps of fun. The overall experience has given me confidence in my ability to ride hard stuff, to ride for a long time and to be brave at night camping on my own. Go me. J