Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Victory at Mt Isobel

Early starts in the South Island are generally not my favourite! On Saturday morning it was crisp as at 5.30am when we packed the van to head up to Hanmer for Mt Isobel. We had the heater on full noise most of the way, it was more than a bit nippy in Hanmer but the blue skies were gleaming and it was to stay like that for the rest of the day. Hanmer was a bit frosty and while there was a bit of ice thankfully there was no fresh snow on the trails. We hooked up a ride with Anton Cooper and his dad Paul (best supporter of the day award!) Even better Anton’s Mum Laila packed a big chilly full of home made goodies for us all … think the chocolate muffins were for after the race but we all had a couple before, highly recommended pre race food!

Mt Isobel has been one race that after doing it a couple of times in a team I’ve been super keen to hit as an individual….and super keen to win! I had heard stories of Isobel being pretty rugged and steep but these stories only hyped up the event for me and made me even more determined. My biggest challenge on the day came from midget Anton Cooper. At the start of the run we were running together and swapped placings every now and again but eventually it became a combined effort which we enjoyed to find ourselves at the head of the race and going for the win. We had our work cut out because the first runner came in 5 minutes ahead of us and was doing the Individual as well. Once we came clear of all other riders we were able to both enjoy the final stage of the mountain bike leg…and from the youngest rider in the open men’s field came the suggestion of a bit of a gentleman’s agreement – he wanted me to cross the line first as he felt I had done slightly more work on the bike than he had. I feel this type of maturity and selflessness is something that Anton can be proud of and take with him as he develops into the next stage of his riding. Who knows who would have taken the win had we not had a quick chat along the way but that’s irrelevant as both of us were clearly capable and it would have been only down to the two of us anyway. To have had such close competition throughout the entire race from Anton made it not only an exciting fast race, but also pushed us to finish at a time quicker than the record set in 1999. Because the record was set on a slightly different course it’s not clear if this will stand in history but my time of 2 hours and 14 seconds was on a course which is rumoured to be longer than the one in 1999, with additional singletrack.

Seriously great to hit up this event again, it’s still got a real local flavour to it – right down to the bbq crew who when they ran out of paper plates to serve the delicious fare on they promptly went and found a whole lot of china plates for the picnicking masses!

I seriously recommend to the North Island riders to pick some of the South Island local events and get down there, flights to Christchurch are cheap as and there are always people travelling from the Garden City to the races to hook up with. In the last month I’ve raced in the Hutt Valley, Rotorua and Hanmer and all three locations have had completely different terrains and trails. It’s this variety which New Zealand is huge for….use it and become a better rider. I’m a big fan of making connections with other riders and families who are into the sport – as riders we should be helping each other to get to these races in different places, or just for weekends of riding. There is no doubt that the stronger the competition the better the riding becomes and in turn the better the sport becomes.

And yes….it wouldn’t be one of my blogs without mentioning Bex! She enjoyed the race, only complaint was not having time afterwards to hit the Hanmer Hot Springs for a well deserved soak. Bex took 3rd place out of a field of about 14 woman in the individual event, once again the strong and gutsy Sia Svendson took the win. Best wishes to Sia as she heads back to Denmark soon to tackle the Denmark Elite Road Nationals in preparation for the Worlds on the same circuit.

Try something you haven’t done before in the sport – you never know, you might just enjoy it!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Four more days to Mt Isobel!

Mt Isobel…starting at the mtb haven of Hanmer and running up a bloody big climb for close to 8kms, then a mad dash mtb ride to the finish. That’s the plan this weekend!

Any excuse to have a weekend away! This race is one I’ve been looking forward to hitting again, having only ever done the mountain bike leg previously I can’t wait to put the run in front. In 2002 a mate and I won the team event and two years ago Bex and I took 3rd in the mixed teams…this weekend I’m aiming for a sprint through the tracks to take 1st in the individual.

On both occasions it was pretty cold with sleat and snow - 2002 I was the first rider through and had to learn how to bash my way through ice puddles and very quickly because I was on a mission. So far it seems like it will be balmy in comparison this year, although after a settled period of autumn weather in Wellington I’m pretty sure I will be blowing frost out as I climb.

This weekend was a complete opposite to the last two – with no racing planned I was at a bit of a loss on Saturday until I put on my running shoes. Awesome to be living in such a great location for hitting the hills, I went up Bells Track intending to complete the loop which goes up over Mt Kaukau, instead I got a bit sidetracked and did some repeats up and down Bells Track. I learnt at Crazyman that what I thought running down hills fast looked like was very different to the speed other runners could get so it was more of a downhill session than anything else. Hoping it will pay off this weekend as the last 1km or so of the run is a steep downhill scamper.

The day got better and better weather wise so perfect for a spin out to Silverstream on the roadie – and better and better bike wise as I not only got a good 55k flat ride in but also managed to spend some time oogling at bike stuff in at Cycle Science. Of course no Saturday bike shop mission would be complete without a purchase so I came back with pockets full of spanners to complete the build of a new Bergamont Contrail (full sus) for my mate Sam…look out Ngaio, Bergamont is in the hood! Spent the rest of the day tweaking and generally just playing in my bike room (whoops…slip of the tongue…our spare room!)

I haven’t been for many weekend road rides over the last few months and was planning to do a long ride on Sunday but a good group of friends and too much Malibu changed that..oops! As it turned out the weather was yuck anyway so a day of laziness didn’t hurt.

Roll it or run with it..both will get you there! Bring on the weekend!!

Monday, May 10, 2010


Back in the early days of my racing I always looked at 12 hour races as a pain! The thought of being under a small canopy in the rain, changing wet clothes and putting on soaking shoes never really enthused me. The reason I enter in these events now is probably only that the last four years of racing these endurance events I have been fortunate enough not to get caught in the wet.

My coldest was the Mont 24hr in Canberra in 2003 - while doing a lap at 4am my bottle of water was freezing up…no idea why I actually wanted a drink given that it was that cold! In fact at the time I was thinking ‘why am I doing this’ a kangaroo nearly bowled me over out of the darkness! The other extreme was again in Australia, this time in Victoria doing a 24hr in 2007 with temperatures of nearly 40 degrees and man eating flies buzzing round!

I really enjoy this format of racing - doing short laps as hard as possible and always trying to beat the last lap time and racing to be the fastest team. This weekend at Moonride in Rotorua our team was sponsored by Balance Nutrition. We were looked after pretty well with great products to keep us refueled and recovered to bang out the fast laps for 12 hours. It was a bit like a kids party where you get a goodie bag to take home too – thanks Balance, the cupboards are stocked!

We had the fastest team on the day organised by Mark Leishman, who took the first and last lap honours (with just a few more in between!), Scott Thorne, 2010 Xterra Champion and excellent all rounder, and lastly Dave Sharp, a fast Wellington local who has motivation to burn. We were kept on our toes from the fast Rotorua boys but with our consistent lap times we managed to pull out to a comfortable lead of round 7 minutes. Thanks to Keryn (Dave’s wife) who had the team manager business down to an art with every lap and transition timed and accounted for. The tracks in Rotorua are built to be ridden at speed and for an endurance lap race they were perfect, nice to be able to style the laps up with a few jumps and whip round the corners, laps were about 8km each with the fastest lap times from our team around mid-18 minutes.

Leishman pulled out a blinder last lap which included a sprint on a retro BMX to the finish line, had to be there to see it! We finished up with 36 laps one ahead of the Rotorua lads, a great day of racing by all and a crankin’ event to be part of…the night riding on Saturday was hilarious to say the least!

I might have to change my blog title to “Sharratt Racing Team” because over the last month my lovely wife Bex has been getting up to a bit of racing which is awesome. At the last minute (again, bit of a habit forming, that’s a Gemini thing!) she decided to contest the Women’s 6hr Solo, I thought that was a great idea and thought she would do well as long as she ate often and drank plenty. I find it hard to control myself in longer races to be able to push through to the finish, but Bex is quite a master in endurance events and is able to pace herself. She proved this with super consistent lap times right through the 100+ kms that she raced. Bex rode a perfect race and her only complaint was having to stop three times over the 6 hours for us to restock her pockets and drink bottle. Her aim was to reach the 14 laps which the winner did last year, she finished with time to spare riding to a comfortable win with 13 laps which is fantastic effort and was probably only 6-8 minutes off getting that 14th lap dialed.

The weekend away was awesome, plenty of laughs and best of all the track was in fine form for super fast lines. A few days of recovery and I will be back in to training for the next event which is down in Hanmer, Mt Isobel Challenge.

I’ve just lined up my winter training weapon – I’ve just taken deliver of one of my all time favourite cycling machines…a Cateye Cyclosimulator. Can’t wait to tap out a few secret sessions as I plan for upcoming races…LOOK OUT!

See you on the tracks wrapped up warm!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Crazyman! Lives up to its name...

I got excited about Crazyman not long after Karapoti when I was looking for an event to do and was keen to do some running as a new challenge. I have always enjoyed running off-road but 18km? and with two massive climbs?? mmm that was my concern…but I soon became confident over the last few weeks leading up to the event. Only a week before Crazyman Bex jumped on the internet to register as a volunteer marshal…and 10 minutes later told me she had entered the individual duathlon instead! Good or bad idea? Well it turned out to be a great idea!

The beach run, about the first kilometre, was challenging. It seemed like you were taking two steps forward and one back, a kind of sinking gravelly surface. We then hit the road for another few k’s which was only a temporary relief for the legs before hitting the first of the two climbs. I had heard stories about how hard this run was going to be but I think my running strength is running uphill…I found instead that my biggest weakness was actually going downhill.

Approaching Mt Lowry the forecasted southerly came in and blasted us with cold winds and heavy rain but the steep hills kept the warmth in the body and once into the dense bush it was quite nice heading through to Wainuiomata. Despite this at the transition point I couldn’t make my hands work from the cold! Our support crew literally had to put my mountain bike gloves on for me! Thanks Tristan, Saskia, Meta and Marilyn (Bex’s Mum).

I had a consistent run and came in 14th at 1hr 33mins, 14 minutes back from the leading individual male competitor (Bex came through at 1hr 46mins – 2nd female and 7mins behind the leading woman). I felt quite good on the bike and started to quickly reel in the riders getting myself up to 5th spot overall on the home stretch of flat riding, straight into that southerly! The course took us up through the rapidly expanding Wainuiomata Mountain bike Park trails onto the firebreak north. If you are in Wellington with your mountain bike make sure you check out the tracks in Wainui – heaps of work going into making them a great destination, and only a short drive from the city.

I was stoked and a little surprised to come home 1st in the Individual Male category in a total time of 3hr 24min, a bit off the pace from last years winner Scott Thorne but with more running I believe I can get reasonably close to that time..bring on next year!

Bex wasn’t too sure how she placed in the Womens category until prize giving when she heard her name as 2nd place getter behind Danish speedster Sia. They are both looking forward to lining up together again at Mt Isobel in a few weeks.

We had a really enjoyable day of racing and it was great to try out another race format, both of us are keen to do the full Crazyman next year…better start looking for a kayak! Also on the cards could be an entry at the Multisport Nationals which Nathon Fa’avae is promoting and organising down in Nelson for February…watch this space!

Awesome to hit up a slightly different scene and be able to be competitive, my aim for the day was to not destroy myself on my weaker areas so that I could maximise my strengths. This race was tough and as much about mental strength as it was about physical ability. Having not completed a race like this it is hard to know what to expect and how to train specifically for it. I went into the race knowing I was new to it and had a lot to learn. As an athlete it’s important to go into new situations with a positive mind, doubting your potential will pull down your performance.

I really liked something Nathan Fa’avae said after the Crazyman. He noted that the competitors he passed had their heads down, and that the competitors he was passed by had their heads held high. Interesting observation.

I believe that what ever your level, whether you go out to complete or compete, your performance will be affected by your self-talk and believe in your own potential. Keep your head held high, trust in the training you have done and be willing to learn from others.