This is an account of the http://www.greatdividerace.com/ from June 15th to July 5th, 2007.
I built my mountain bike six weeks before the start of the race. I covered about 500km of trails in those six weeks. I had time to do more, but my inner-city position means that I had to drive at least one hour to get to a dirt trail of decent length. The first long off road ride I did was scary- the Old Great North Road from Wisemans ferry, built by the convicts 180 years ago and haven fallen into disrepair since then. Scary not due to the physical aspect, but because I quickly realised that my technical skills of picking lines through extremely rocky roads were pretty much non existant- I think I was on about 3 miles per hour by the time I turned around, well short of the 10 miles per hour I was hoping to race at. The 10 miles per hour was pretty arbitrary, I couldn’t find average speeds for any previous racers. I think it came from a calculation from 8 hours sleep per night and finishing in 3 weeks. The longest I had ridden previously was about 100 miles on flat road, so I had no idea of what speed I was capable of. I rode the Old Great North Road a few times more, but bypassing the rockiest sections, it turned out to be a great ride- hardpack and hilly, but the furthest I got was 55 miles. I was worried at this point about what I could achieve when racing- but ignored myself because I didn’t have any idea about what the actual trail would be like and I had a non-refundable plane ticket.
A couple of weekends I tried longer, overnight rides with little success. In the western Blue Mountains I froze (even though the temperature was higher than what I was expecting in the US), got lost, then broke my rear rack (Topeak), but picked up some tricks. I again froze riding in the Shoalhaven, and got a little depressed, but had a good ride from Leonie and Ben’s in Mittagong to Wombeyan Caves (several thousand vertical metres over 60 miles). I did benefit from these rides in experience, and it forced me to take more clothing even though most other racers gear kits were pretty skint. However, physically, I would have been better off going for my normal hilly road ride.