Our strategy to sleep in the kitchen to stay warm worked perfectly, but no one mentioned that the kitchen sink was the only place for teams to refill their water before departing! I think I slept through the first fifteen people coming in, but eventually it got a bit ridiculous. Thankfully it wasn't too long before we were scheduled to get up anyways. We had agreed in advance that we would get four hours of sleep immediately following our hot breakfast, and deal with the transition itself once we woke up. We had also been presented with the third and final stage of the course and had our maps to plot. We still had to cover,
- Trek 43km
- Mountain Bike 76km
- Kayak 22km
- Mountain Bike 91km
- Trek 90km
- Mountain Bike 60km
My ass hurt just thinking about all the riding we still had to do...at least Megan's tire hadn't gotten any worse, but would it hold out for another 227km!!
After a solid and focused transition we departed at 11:12am. It was not ideal to have lost almost five hours of daylight already, but our bike issues had thrown our race plan out the window days ago!
The trek was only 30km if I remember correctly and it was on a prominent hiking trail. Very little nav involved, in fact it was so easy I even took the maps! Had we been able to run we would have flown through this stage, at a decent hiking pace we covered it in 4hr08 for the 17th overall trekking time. I thought our transition to the bikes was rather slow taking us a full 45min, but in the end it ranked as the 9th overall transitional time...and a full 60 seconds faster than Dart's time...although they were almost an hour faster than us on the trek itself!
We all let out a groan as our butts tried to find some form of comfort on our bike seats. We started with a decent climb and by the time we hit the downside the pain had seemed tolerable again. The sun seemed to set on us in a matter of minutes and at dusk we all commented on how it felt more like dawn to us. We were heading into pretty much the only technical riding section of the course, at night.
As fast as we felt we were travelling on the downhill sections at night there was no doubt that teams who covered this leg in the day had a serious advantage. The route was pretty unrelenting and with each significant climb there was a serious descent. Most of the route was filled with big rocks, ruts and just generally unfavourable terrain to be navigating on a bike at night.
There was pretty much only one puddle of mud in the entire 800km course...and I found it...all of it. We were on a fairly fast downhill and as usual people were yelling obstacles. I heard the words, "MUD" and started to slow, but I think I was on the front break as I came into the slick and before I knew it my bike had gone left and I was doing a superman impersonation to the right. I could see exactly where I was about to land and remember the disbelief going through my head in that fraction of a second.
"How in God's name am I about to do a face plant into the mud on a course through a section of Australia that has practically been in a drought for years!"
I had mud in my teeth, my ears, my nose, my pants. I mean, I really nailed it straight on, couldn't have hit it more perfect if I had tried. I stood up, soaking wet and dripping from head to toe. It was all my teammates could do not to laugh at me, and I almost laughed at it myself until I immediately started shivering. It was late at night and the temperature had dipped significantly. I only had a few items of spare clothing and worst of all, I could no longer wear my padded bike shorts. I dreaded hitting my bike seat with no extra padding on my butt. Thankfully Mark's backside had been hurting so badly that at transition he put my spare bike shorts on over his own.
"Oh c'mon man, can't you go without!"
Shortly after this we came across our first snake of the event. It was fairly small and jet black. I spotted it and thought it would make great footage for our race video so I hopped off the bike and reached for my camera. At about that time Nick rounded the corner.
"MATE! Get back on your bike NOW!"
"That is the second most deadly snake in the world, let's go!!!"
I hadn't peddled that fast in days!
Meg's was the next to bail, although I did not see it I got the commentary on film. We were on another downhill section and while doing 30-35km an hour she caught her wheel in a rut and immediately landed on her forehead! She was able to laugh it off within a few minutes and we were off again.
Nick had a great slow motion crash as he started to go over the handlebars, paused for a second like he had intended to do it and then landed on his back. Mark was the only one left and he eventually managed to skid out as well. I think the scariest thing that occurred all night was when we were biking along a flat section with a steep drop off to our left. I heard a bike go into the bushes behind me, followed by Megan yelling. Nick had fallen asleep at the handlebars! Had he gone just one foot further I'm sure he would still be eating his foods from a straw and peeing in a bucket. We flicked the music back on a started singing as loud as we could!
Once again the bike leg was long (yes we did confirm with others teams and it wasn't just an uncalibrated bike computer). Even though we had slept 4hr the night before we were all starting to fall victim to the sleepmonsters. We had intended to sleep for about 3hr on the night and instead of doing it in the next transition we started looking for other options en route. When we passed a three sided bus shelter we knew it was nappy time. We hit the dirt and instead of setting an alarm I decided to see just how long we could actually sleep for. At worst the rising sun would wake us in just over five hours.
As it turned out we were all able to sleep for longer than expected, go figure! After 4.5hr of no movement the brightening dawn drew us from our slumber. We had stopped for about 5hr total and the final 10km bike ride to transition served to wake and warm us for our transition to our final kayaking leg. With our sleep, wipe outs and limited speed at night we clocked the 34th overall bike time...but it was our first biking leg without a flat tire!!
Team 'Capital Stamina', who we had met earlier in the event, and then passed at the end of the previous bike stage, had passed us back while we slept. The had then decided to sleep themselves in transition. It took us 1hr15m to pack up the bikes, inflate the boats and get out on the water, which was 13th overall transition time while Dart were out in 53min with the 6th fastest time (at this point in the race Dart were already 18hr ahead of us, and the leaders of the race were just under 24hr ahead of them). We hit the water just ten minutes behind 'Capital Stamina', and one of their racer's by the name of Liam, and I exchanged a friendly glance that said it all...'GAME ON!!'
Short but sweet, there was a lot of sleep in this section due to our 6hr stopover. I'd write more but am liking the idea of sleep myself right now!