When I signed up to participate in the Wallaby 42 km course of the Dwellingup WA 100 MTB Classic, my motivation was fuelled by excitement of the prospect of challenging myself and giving it a good go in the forests trails whilst all the while supporting a good cause, Muscular Dystrophy WA. I also find great joy exploring the trails in Western Australia and haven’t really cycled much of Dwellingup, so perhaps another good reason to participate.
Race day dawned in North Dandelup on Saturday, and as expected in winter, it was freezing cold. Following a short hot shower, we chow down our oat and coffee overnight jars (a nifty recipe we use on riding mornings from Cook Republic’s blog) and rush out the door of our cool airbnb stay to drive further south to Dwellingup.
As we arrive into Dwellingup, the small town is teeming with mountain bikers in every corner of the street, activities well underway of setting up bikes, warming up, having a coffee with the family at the cafe and the last minute toilet stop. The race which included several distances of 17 km, 42 km 68 km and the classic 100 km would commence from the town’s football field which was transformed into a small race village for the day.
We make our way through the crowd as race briefing is underway. Riders needed to self seed and to us this meant picking a spot to start the race where we thought our riding capability stood amongst other riders. It was encouraged the front wave should be riders that maintain an average riding speed of 18 km per hour. I slot myself just after half way of the group.
Minutes seem to linger as we wait in anticipation, but soon enough we are off by the sounds of the siren and myself and 1,000 other mtbers progress along roughly 5 km of Del Park Road. The procession of riders is rather quiet with only the sounding of tyres rotating on the bitumen, I think we were all cold and attempting to warm up at that point in the race. I recall the memory of frozen hands in my gloves. Riders ahead veer onto the good stuff, a gravel fire track and I smile leaving the bitumen road.
The course delves into Marrinup State Forest, switching fire tracks as we continue in and out of the forest, up a hill and down another, we ride some tracks eroded from rainfall and then well graded ones. The trees rise up and glimpses of the valley can be seen off trail. The bush closes in and the sun rises higher filtering through the green foliage. Given it has been a wet winter for 2018, the weather is supreme today with that familiar West Australian blue sky above.
The flow of the first hill section slows as movement of the group I am with isn’t fast enough to clear the rocks and ruts. Those that walk the bike up the hill stick to the left, allowing those unaffected to be able to remain on the bike. Some riders break at the top of the hill and there are several more hills to cycle up. A really muddy, slippery section challenges a few of us but this is the only true muddy section of the 42 km course. We all push on and further into the course. As the kilometres increase the riders disperse even more and it is a chance to redeem positions. From here on in, I don’t experience any more congestion on the trails, it appears to have been a good idea that the first 10 km was held on wide trails to allow riders to settle into the course.
Sometimes I am alone on a trail or cycling close to three or so riders. Occasionally I find myself in a friendly game of tag with a few riders, I pass on the ascent to be passed on the descent. I feel pretty good, enjoying the ride and maintaining a consistent pace with the main aim of finishing the race. Although I was initially not particularly enthusiastic of the thought of tackling hills, I am doing well on the ascents and the atmosphere out on the trails motivates me even more.
From the Block, I am alone again for a while and immensely enjoy a descent of 350 metres down to 219 metres on several connecting single tracks surrounded by bush. From memory, gold rush definitely gave me a rush with that steep descent!
Aside from being physically challenged on an endurance event, there is also the mental aspect, but today I am relaxed and constantly enthralled by the changing conditions on the course, a highlight would have to be descending down trails eroded by rain because sometimes it’s nice to ride technical trails shaped by the weather. Words of a mountain biker!
The trail stops and in front of me a body of water which presents several choices. Go left or right, ride or walk the bike. I decide right and walk the bike through the water, coming out of it with wet feet and minus an incidents. After the race I find out Derek went left and rode the bike, he ended up waist high in the water so I think I made the right choice.
I knew at some point I would experience fatigue and by the 30 km mark my legs were feeling tired. I had stored a gel satchel and museli bar in the pocket of my shorts and whilst cycling a flat section I proceeded to locate the mango gel. I’m not a big fan of using gels but in this situation of needing to absorb energy very quickly, it worked a treat. I felt a renewed boost and as I took to the familiar Marrinup XC section with under 11 kms to go on the Wallaby course I pedalled faster and harder. Around one of the corners, the front tyre slide out and I grazed my right knee. The ground was slick which I was aware of, however up until this point I had paced myself to exert the final section to the finish line and that is what I did. With 2 km remaining I persisted, saving the application of bandaids on the knee for later.
The last 2 km is gruelling and it’s not so much to do with the course, more so due to my own realisation that I was ready to finish and exerted all I had to give on this endurance ride. I also looked down and my graze was bleeding and that threw my concentration out a bit. I rolled into town, the traffic wardens flagged me through an intersection and I cleared a corner to the call of cheers and then pushed to the final stretch, crossing the sweet finish line. A feeling of achievement came rushing to me, I had just completed my first endurance race, 42 km the longest distance to date for me.
This MTB event offered something for all riders and everyone seemed to have their own reasons for competing. The race was also a round of the national marathon series of Mountain Bike Australia, so was quite unique to ride alongside race riders as well as, leisurely weekend ones like myself.
It’s great to be able to cycle outdoors through forest and bush, events like today reflect just how much we all love the outdoors. 1,000 riders is just incredible and this would not have been possible without the hard work and commitment of the event organisers and volunteers. The WA 100 MTB Classic continued a 10 year mountain bike tradition in Dwellingup that almost didn’t go ahead this year when it came out via social media that the Dwellingup 100 event organisers were experiencing financial difficulties.
I did some preparation leading up to the event which was basically the usual weekend MTB rides, except closer to the day I started completing full runs of the the Railway Heritage Trail loop in the Perth Hills and the single track network at Langford Park in Jarrahdale. Some weeknights I would take the road bike out on cycle paths to build a base ability for covering longer distances making sure I tackled a few hills too. I think it all definitely contributed to a stronger cycle and fun experience on the 42 km course.