Stepping up from last year’s first time effort at Dwellingup 100, this year’s entry was into the 70km course, a distance that I wasn’t entirely familiar with but keen to give it a go. For those that have never heard of the Dwellingup 100, it is a mountain bike event inclusive of all levels of mountain bikers with several course distances through the forest in Western Australia. In recent times trail runners have joined in on the fun with the Mighty Jarrah Trail Run hosted alongside the day’s activities.
Race day was buzzing on Dwellingup’s football oval as riders lined up for their plates, set up their bikes, warmed up all over the place and gathered around the pump track and skate park. The turnout and atmosphere is really testament to those that work behind the scenes to make this event happen, which also raises funds for the Muscular Dystrophy community in Western Australia. For a participant it is great to be a part of the day!
The 70km course was sectioned into two loops, the southern and northern of which both began and ended at the Dwellingup football oval. The frost was still on the grass when riders were called in to line up, smells of the sausage sizzle from the gazebo lingering in the air. The 70 and 100 km participants set off to cheers and hoots leaving the oval for the southern loop.
The first 5kms on road was dominated by the chilly air as I headed with a group of riders in the direction of Lane Poole Reserve, disappearing into the territory of beautiful West Australian Jarrah forest. Once off road it wasn’t too long before entering a daring (relevant to my skill level) steep single track descent through what I thought were possibly pines? Sounds of brakes squeaking as we snaked our way down and along the damp ground. The southern loop treated us to views across the forested valleys, vista scenery I hadn’t really seen in Dwellingup before. Excitingly the course incorporated an area of the new Murray Valley trails. Year 1 trail dished out fun thrills through quick wide turns and flowing features. Returning to the top via the shuttle road and into the next one called, Boom Boom which required a little more concentration for the natural features that popped up very quickly on the descent. Absolutely brilliant trails and following the smiles, hill climbs followed and so did another fun steep descent through the pines again. I wished away the last couple of kilometres on the southern loop because I was ready to eat and get into the northern loop.
As I returned to the oval, I didn’t know and really should have planned my snack times before the race, if the timing stopped for a break. Instead I decided to continue out onto the road into the northern section. When I reached the dirt trails I stopped momentarily to move a muesli bar and banana from the back pack and into the back pockets of my jersey before taking on the next couple of climbing sections. My legs were burning on the Homestead and Lolly Gobbler climbs, but little did I know there was another one to follow out in the sun along the power lines. One that was slow to get up. Once on a flat section I ate a bit of food.
While the southern loop ground was damp and I was often with other riders, the northern loop was dry in parts, warmer and quiet, at times I fell into my own rhythm and thoughts. Familiarity from last year’s race crept in as I took on some rocky single track. Last year I encountered quite a few set backs moving over the rocks, but this year and 50 kms into the course, I felt the real improvement of what a year of riding can do. Mentally I was in a nice place to keep pushing through the fatigue that was beginning to surface.
I could hear some of the top riders of the 100 km distance approach and as I made room for them to sneak pass, it appeared to be, they more or less and impressively floated over that rocky single track. Words of encouragement on the way past was just enough to help me up the next hill.
The P.O.W trail popped up and I relaxed into the flow, giving the legs a good rest before being surprised by a small planked bridge and photographer. As I travelled through the gently sloping Marrinup circuit I picked up the pace, weaving along the last of the single track for the day. Last year the front tyre slid out somewhere along the Marrinup trail and I received a bloodied knee, but this time I was accident free. Winning already! I continued on by a couple of doggie dash participants. 5 kms out from the finish line felt so close but so far away at the same time, I started to feel a little emotion brewing within, tearing up (joy) at the thought I was actually going to cross the finish line. On the outskirts of town I came into sight, to be cheered on by those at the Dwellingup hotel. In the daze of exhaustion I missed giving the kids lined up high fives but as I entered the oval I saw some more kids with hands out and rode right past with my hand out stretched before happily crossing the finish line.
Within minutes of finishing the race I headed to the Handle Bar tent that was set up by the Shire of Murray for celebratory beers with my other half, we sat watching track side as riders filtered in and the podium awards for the trail runners took place. Over the second beer I recalled the day’s events like a little adventure. It definitely beats the responsibilities of a working week!
I highly recommend giving the Dwellingup 100 a go whether it be to enjoy a touring ride, a personal challenge or something a little more competitive. If you missed out, don’t worry as the trails at Dwellingup are waiting for you and I am sure there will be a repeat event next year!