The mudfest that was Otway Odyssey

Since joining the mountain biking fraternity a little over two years ago, there has been one race that has been the most talked about, on the top of many riders bucket list, and dare I say the most feared on the race calendar.  A race that I once heard a lady say she had found “harder than giving birth.” It was no wonder the week leading up to Otway Odyssey I was waking up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night!

“…I once heard a lady say she had found “harder than giving birth”

In the 6am complete darkness I attempted to warm up my legs and elevate the heart rate when just 5 minutes before race start greater priorities hit, I thought I had lost my credit card, $20, and our only set of car keys, as well as realising I had about 5psi in my front tyre! Needless to say this sent the heart rate through the roof.  Lesson two: even when you think you are prepared, you are not. The Elite women set off 30 minutes before the main race start in a bid to stamp out pacing by males. This proved to be very advantageous as we experienced no bottle necks and the track would have been in better condition for us.
“The winds at the top of the climb were ridiculous, and I even heard that one guy got blown off the edge!”
The climb up Wild Dog Road proved long and arduous, with the peloton spread out from top to bottom. The winds at the top of the climb were ridiculous, and I even heard that one guy got blown off the edge! Finally after what felt like an eternity of bitumen, largely due to the wet weather course redirection, we hit a 4wd track.
Initially uncertain about how to approach the massive puddles that the track lied beneath, I soon discovered that bottom back, closing my eyes, clenching my teeth and hanging on as I flew through them was the best option. This worked 90% of the time. The other 10% saw me fly head first into knee deep puddles. Oh well, at least the landings were relatively soft! Being hesitant through the puddles only spelt a certain plunge.
Soon enough came the first real muddy mudfest of mud. What felt like about a 500m descend of pure clay brought many riders, myself included literally stuck in mud. A quarter of the way down and both wheels had locked up with an exuberant amount of mud and what felt like half of Forrest stuck in my front forks, rear triangle, chainstay and every other component of my bike. I fell over no less than 10 times just trying to walk my bike down the hill. Looking back up was hysterical with rider upon rider scrambling, sliding, nose diving, ploughing and doing anything they could to themselves and their bikes down.
After scooping about 10kg of mud from my bike I continued on and made the decision to stop at the next creek crossing and spend a good 5 or so minutes cleaning my bike, wiping and re-lubing the chain before embarking up another unrideable claggy mess of a hill. This decision proved wise as I passed at least 6 riders over the duration of the race cursing their bikes for not having a working granny gear. The mud definitely added another dimension to the race, with riders either loving or loathing it. Some riders went passed squealing and whooping in sheer excitement and joy, whilst other were cursing and having tantrums, it seemed to really make or break the riders.
At the 40km mark I stopped to fill up my Camelbak with a supplied CarboShotz tablet and some water and saw a guy eating the tablets on their own. Yikes! Suggesting he might want to chase that up with some water, we proceeded on our way and he spent the next 10km doing the most impressive and disgusting burps I had ever heard in my life! The next 40 or so km’s were predominantly single track and I found myself experiencing some low times here, too stuffed to enjoy the sweet flowing corners, log rolls and drop offs I must admit I was feeling very defeated and sorry for myself.
This all changed however when I go to fang through epic berms at Mariner’s Run. Put a smile on the dial and I managed to find some much needed motivation to get my butt back into gear and finish the race strongly. Coming back into Forrest Football Ground at the 89km mark gave me a new found confidence and desire to finish off strongly. My coach JP had outlined the game plan of taking the first 50km easy, eating lots, drinking lots and taking time to clean my bike in order to finish the last 25km strong.
At the 90km mark I breathed a sigh of relief, only 10km to go. However, upon reaching ‘Britney’s Breakdown’ I soon had flash backs to the Ingerrekke Red Centre Enduro whereby I’m certain the Rapid Ascent team had deliberatly made the final 10km of the race the most physically and mentally challenging. Got through Britney’s Breakdown, up Sledgehammer and then down some extremely boggy and slippery single track to finally reach the finish line. I was absolutely wrecked but already super keen and excited for next year’s race, I was stoked with the 7 hours of muddy awesomeness that was the 2011 Otway Odyssey.
 To finish off I would just like to share with you the race report of my partner Al, who for those of you who’ve read my other entries will know he hasn’t had much luck in the way of his last few races, which have included broken ribs, concussion, 2 broken derailleur and food poisoning.
We were sure the Otway Odyssey was going to finally be his race, how wrong we were. At the top of Wild Dog an almighty gust of wind blew him across the road and into another rider, sheering his rear derailleur in half and rendering it useless. Instead of giving up, he decided to turn his dually into a single speed (about a 32/16 tooth) and continued to ride on for 50km’s, breaking his chain along the way. Still convinced he was going to finish the race, he quickly fixed it with a powerlink and continued on. However, dually’s aren’t meant to be a single speed and at around the 60km mark his bottom bracket packed itself in as the bearings had been crushed by his interesting little setup. This resulted in his cranks falling off, and with steely determination he walked the 9km back to the Forrest Football ground, bike in hand, cranks in the other.
Lesson learnt: don’t ever give up unless you don’t have a crank set on your bike.
Friday rolled around a little too quickly and at 3pm we set off on our 8 ½ hour car trip from East Gippsland to Apollo Bay. Lesson one: Get time off work when race start is 6.45am the next day and you’re not going to get to bed until 11.30pm that night. Waking up during those brief hours I did manage to sleep, all that could be heard was gale force howling winds and rain. Which I must admit did bring a smirk to my face as I knew this added challenge of the elements would make it a tougher race both mentally and physically, defeating a few people before the race had started.
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