With a slightly earlier start this post might have been named Elise Peak. Pat, Georgia, and I drove into the Rainbow to the locked gate and then cycled to the start of the Lees Valley Track. We went for a walk up the valley and then took a right, bush bashing up a ridge. We left the bush into sunshine and continued to the top of the peak 1718 m. It was then down another ridge and back out to our bikes. A good day out.
I left Nelson at midday on Friday and drove down to Hanmer arriving there in time to cook dinner at a picnic table near the race registration. After picking up my race pack I followed the shingle road that lead up to Jack’s Pass, avoiding the many possums on the road stunned by the car’s headlights. I pitched my tent in the grass and heated up a MTR curry to add to my still warm rice.
I woke to the sound of vehicles and got up as the organisers set up the transition area. There was a heavy frost on my tent and it was a clear morning. The mist that had rolled in in the evening but had gone again in the night leaving a sky full of stars. I left my bike in the transition area and drove down to the start line at the bottom of the hill.
Some hours later the race started. I had decided to be pretty cautious as it was the first running race after rolling my ankle last year. It felt like half the field got away to begin with but then some people began to drop back after the initial excited sprint. We left the road and started up the single track. I took photos as we climbed and was pleased to see that once it got steeper I was faster than those around me. I passed a bunch of people with another guy and we talked at times as we ran. Well, I say ran. “It’s more of an angry walk” my companion noted.
We continued the angry walk passing more people and I pulled away until I was alone. I reached the saddle and started heading along the ridge and up to the summit. The first runners were starting to come back down. My running buddy caught up and we made it to the summit. The descent down the ridge was ok but busy with runners still coming up. The route turned off at the saddle and headed down to Jack’s Pass. It became very steep for a while and I picked me way slowly down. It became more runnable and then less again and we were at the pass.
1) It was good weather for the Mt Isobel Challenge. It was a fresh clear morning. I took my camera with me like any dedicated athlete would do.
2) I took happy snaps on the way up the hill.
1) From the saddle we made a small detour up to the summit of Mt Isobel. 2) The route took us back down to the saddle and then down to Jack’s Pass. It was steep and technical down to the pass and I kept my camera in my bag. It was then into the bike ride again without photos. I did however stop to put my go pro onto my bike, such is my dedication.
I faffed around for a bit at the pass changing shoes and getting my bike computer going. The ride starts with a descent. I rolled down eating a banana as I went. Once finished I started to ride a little faster but then decided it would be a shame not to have a bit of video so stopped to attach my GoPro. A couple of groups of cyclists passed me but I passed some of them again. The route around the the gravel road to Jollie’s Pass was nice. The road follows the Clarence River although I kept my eyes on the gravel mostly. We turned right and headed up the road to Jollie’s Pass. I passed a few people who were slowing down on the hill and was passed by a speedy girl. I stayed more or less with her for the rest of the race although she made gains on the downhill. We finished climbing and descended down the very bumpy and rocky road. The organisers had painted arrows directing us around the worst of the ruts. I reflected that it would have been sensible to be wearing cycling gloves.
There were no calamities and I got to the sealed road at the bottom and accelerated thinking it would be a quick 4km TT to the finish. I’d forgotten the route though and we turned back onto gravel roads slowly ascending, crossing a much fuller than expected river and climbing, climbing. At one point it really became quite steep and I passed some people pushing their bikes up the hill. I got to the last downhill and descended on the gravel road to the finish line.
I finished in around 2.5 hours, which I guess was ok. It seems I’ve ridden the race three other times in the past, although I don’t remember riding it so many times. Apparently in 2004, 2005, and 2009. I can’t find the old results but it looks like it took me 2 hours 12 minutes in 2005 and around 2 hours 23 minutes in 2009. I remember one year the course was slightly different and we took a small single track for a little bit while ascending Jollie’s Pass. It’s hard to know whether to be happy with my time. I think it’s probably ok considering I never felt like I was pushing really really hard and it’s the first running race in a long time. I dug up a GPX file from 2009 and using Strava compared my 2009 and 2021 bike ride. I was actually faster this time. Interesting.
I remember cramping one year on the running descent but this time I felt fine with just the slight hint in my calf muscles when I first started to climb up Jollie’s Pass. Would I have got a better time if I’d pushed harder or just got tired?
Above: I finished in 2:32:58 which didn’t seem too bad considering.
Mt Isobel Challenge 2009 (9km/1000m run, 24km/300m bike)
Time: 2:23:58 Overall place: 47/166 Cat place (senior male): 24/54
Georiga, Pat, Benni and I went for a big mountain biking mission down the rainbow road and around the St James Cycletrail. It was a big day out with 12 hours riding (moving time) over 186 km and 3200 metres of climbing.
We camped in St Arnaud the night before and got up early and drove to the rainbow. We parked, loaded our bikes, and began riding in the fresh morning. At the toll gate we learned that a freak storm had gone through the night before and the road was washed out in parts. We decided to try our luck anyway and continued riding. Perhaps 15 km further we found the first debris flow that had covered the road in a thick-like-custard mix of mud and stones. We tried walking across it carrying our bikes. It was like sinking sand. There were a number of these sections as we continued South down the road. We found a bunch of sad looking four wheel drivers with a truck stuck in one of the debris flows. They were young guys who looked like they’d had a lot to drink the night before, still not quite awake and in their sleeping bags.
We got down to the start of the St James Trail and immediately were joined by many cyclists who were riding the trail as part of a race that happened to be on the same day. Riders rode past until our pace began to match theirs. We cycled down Maling Pass and at some point we left the race. A few minutes later a motor bike came zooming up behind us to check that we hadn’t gone the wrong way, no no, we aren’t racing, thanks. The next section was really nice to ride, single track through meadows with the sun shining.
We crossed a bridge later and joined the race course again. The track ascended steeply and it was very hot. Pat and Georgia got ahead and I rode behind a few slow people from the race. We had lunch later beside the track and then carried on to the Homestead, taking a break there to say hello to JJ who’d won the running version of the race.
We joined the dusty road and started riding North. I jumped in the river a couple of times to cool down. I was feeling cooked and slow. I struggled up Island Saddle and met the others waiting for me at the top. As the heat subsided and the sun began to drop my legs came right again. We stopped to pick up the coke bottles we’d stashed in the river earlier in the day, consumed their cool sugary contents and continued riding. The debris flows and hardened by the time we were back and some more riding and we were back at the car after a long long day.