It was tough. It's probably the toughest, hardest race I've ever done - and I only did the 40km version as opposed to the 70km. The Cranky Penguin had been self-proclaimed to be the hardest race for its length in Australia. Now when I read this, I looked at the distance, the elevation of the marathon, and I shrugged it off. I pretty much said to myself and my Dad, who was also entering 'How hard could it be'.
We arrived at Penguin (Obviously why the Cranky Penguin has its name) and what was there to greet us, but penguins - and lots of 'em! The whole town was covered in miniature penguin statues (and big ones), signs and they even had penguin bins with their mouth as the hole! This race must have been a big event for the town, as the 'Top Dog' penguin was dressed and ready to roll.
Because we arrived the day before the event, I was able to go to the Penguin mountain bike park, which was to be the start (besides a massive hill climb through the town) and the end of the race. They had a few A and B lines there which from what I could tell, didn't really give you any time bonus - it was just a series of obstacles to show off and impress people. The above is an example of such an obstacle. Anyway, I got the practice in, still brimming with confidence about how easy the race would be. Boy was I was in for a shock the next morning.
Getting high on the walls
The next morning I was all set to go. I had scoped out the opposition, secretly planned a race strategy with the guys I knew from down south so we could beat the guys from up north (there's a bit of a rivalry going on, but no ones talks about it and everyone denies it). The 70km racers left 10 minutes before us, which gave us 10 minute of standing around getting nervous - or as I was, brimming with confidence because I still thought the course was easy and no real problem.
The gun went off and we all left in our big pack. To start with, there was a 'cruise' stage through the flat part of the town with all the townsfolk watching and cheering. There was a lead-out car in front of us, which was to stay at a steady pace and then disappear once we got to the hill which led to the mountain bike park. What I realised was that we were able to 'nudge' the car to go faster, and faster, and faster, until eventually the pack of 100 or so riders was so spread out that it was just me and my arch junior nemesis.
We went for it. We went fast, and eventually we paid the price. It was much. much. much harder than I had originally thought.
Another fun part of the mountain bike park.
The race proceeded to have continual changes of the leader. One minute it was me, then my arch nemesis, then the guys I plotted secret plans with, then my arch nemesis again. A defining part of the race for me was when we caught up to the stragglers of the 70km race - on a long, technical descent. The two guys in front of me had made it past them on the climb before, while I was stuck - with no room to overtake. With this aside though, I pushed on to eventually win the junior category, and come third overall (having the other two guys that I plotted with beat me by 3 or so minutes).
It pretty much felt like I'd won a World Cup when I finished (Like Nino, above), only it wasn't for the victory - it was for the relief that I was able to stop, curl up into a ball and move between life and death for the next 10 minutes.
Overall though, it was a great event - and seriously tough - but in saying that I can't wait for it to be on again in February 2015!... nor should you! http://thecrankypenguin.com.au
Gladly accepted my prizes while I was on the podium.