Marathon races have come and gone in Australia. The list of racers which won’t run again can be depressingly long. The Angry Doctor, Wombat 100, Highland Fling, Capital Punishment, 3 Ring Circus – all gone. But the Convict 100 has stayed true, and stayed strong. It’s a point-to-point race that runs in one big loop to and from the hamlet of St Albans, sitting on the Hawkesbury River north-west of Sydney.
With options for 100km, 68km and 44km, you’re not committed to a huge day out on the bike – you can bite off just what you can chew. Or throw yourself in the deep end with the 100km race – it’s your choice! With the race falling on Saturday 5th May, you’ve got Sunday to recover anyway.
Like any marathon, the Convict 100 has its intricacies. From timing your arrival or departure to avoid ferry queues, negotiating the kayak bridge, even understanding how to best manage your nutrition. We rounded up some #protips from experience riders, and winners, at the Convict 100 to help you get over the line in one piece.
Get your accommodation right at the Convict 100
“Camping is the best option Friday night,” says Jason English. “Just make sure you get there in time to try out the gozleme. But the mobile phone service is pretty rubbish, so make sure you know where you are meeting your friends before you get there!”
James Downing suggests that camping might not be the best bet, if you’re really invested in the event – although the night before isn’t as essential as the run in.
“If you are investing hard earned dollars on the best equipment and devoting your hard-to-come-by hours on training rides, don’t compromise your potential fitness by getting sub-optimal sleep. Sleep is when the magic happens! Your body recovers and repairs itself from your previous activities. If you are travelling to a race and staying somewhere other than home, the sleep 2 nights before the race is the most important. You’ll probably be restless the night before and not get much quality sleep, but if the week leading up to the race was good, you should be ok on race day. Everyone is unique, but aim for around 8 hours a night.”
Don’t underestimate the Convic profile – and how it shapes the race.
“Whether it is run clockwise (reverse) or Anti-clockwise (traditional), after 10-15mins there is a steep hill that will likely define your race,” explains Anthony Shippard. “It’s really important to push through the top of this hill, as groups are formed at this point and riders will struggle to cover gaps.”
The last 10 or so kilometres of this race are a killer, so keep some energy in the bank,” suggests Imogen Smith, winner of the race in 2016. “When I raced the new course in 2016, I remember thinking that after the last descent off the fire road everything would be sweet, but that’s not really the case. You come down onto a long, winding gravel/bitumen road with a bunch of tiny rises that absolutely ruin your morale. If you have saved some energy, you’ll be able to jump into a group and roll turns, or at least hang on.”
Jason English confirm this point, as the road sections offer great time bonuses if you’re not alone. “Find someone to ride with along the tar sections if possible. There is a good section around 30km into the race and the last 7-8km is also tar.”
Take care of nutrition and hydration
“The lollies and cakes are great at the feed stations, but pack what works for you,” says Jason English. Although the race falls in May, the day will heat up, and dehydration can take a toll. James Downing is well-versed on how to avoid the problems of this.
“There is considerable science behind this one, but the bottom line is that your fluid requirements will increase significantly when cycling. Exhaled breath and sweating basically reduce your blood volume, which ultimately makes the heart work harder, and you’ll end up going slower, which sucks. By the time you feel thirsty you will already be dehydrated, so try to drink small, frequent quantities of water or a sports energy drink throughout the ride. If going for a ‘sports drink’ figure out in training which brand\type will work for you. Everyone responds differently to different types of drinks. Don’t be that guy who responds on race day!”
Be ready for the terrain
“The Great North Road holds many surprises,” explains Shippard. “If you don’t get a chance to ride it in advance, practice hitting sets of steps – often two or three at a time. It’s a uniquely technical experience in the middle of a marathon.”
“The rocky sections on the Great North Road are tricky because there are tonnes of different lines heading off in all directions,” says Smith. “Two tips. Pick one line and stick to it. Don’t get distracted looking for the best line, just barrel on down. It’s techy, but not that gnarly, so if you’re loose and light on your bike, and get back, you’ll have nothing to worry about. BUT if you need to pick a line, look for paler areas of rock. That’s where the old sandstone has been worn away by tyres over time, so it’s usually the best bet.”
“The duallie is a much faster bike on this course,” says English. “The amount of rock ledges and death cookies floating around are impressive.”
Don’t think that rough means slow though, and sub 4hr winning times are done with hard work, not an easy ride. “Don’t be fooled by the relatively short 100km winning times. It’s a race that hurts more than most because you spend so much of it in the red zone! There isn’t a lot of time to recover,” says Shippard.
All that rock can take a toll – you have to have your bike ready, and your spares, for what damage that can cause.
“You know how it is….you get a flat, then another one 20 minutes later. How are your walking skills? It would have been really nice to have 2 tubes or even a puncture repair kit,” says Downing. “Ever busted a derailleur hanger out in the forest? Got a spare one in the kit? Or what about when the ride went for an hour longer than you thought it would and you only had food and drink for the original expected time. Stuff happens, you don’t need to pack the house, but having that extra gel or two, plus the right set of tools and spares to get you home so you don’t have to do the walk or call of shame can make your day one to remember for the right reasons!”
Downing suggests that this preparation should also run into your build for the event too, as you don’t want to jump right in the deep end and hate the experience.
“Do a long ride pretty regularly, 50 – 100km on a mountain bike is a pretty long ride. That’s a small understatement but if you’re doing a 100km mountain bike race, that is the reality. Check the results of any race to see how long the fast guys and girls take. Then scan the results to see how long other people take. It’s a loooong time on the bike!! The best bet is to do a long ride weekly or fortnightly. The long ride will build your endurance and also make you more efficient at utilising fuel. ‘Long’ means anything longer than what you would do daily – so anything from one hour upwards is recommended, depending on your fitness and goals.”
More than that though, Downing is insistent on consistency and sustainability if you want to have a good crack at the Convict 100 or other marathons.
“The best way to be happy come race day is to have made sure the weeks and months leading up have been good. Consistency = Training\Riding with regular frequency. Getting out for an hour 6 days a week is probably going to serve you better than doing a single 6 hour ride once a week. Sustainability = making sure that you can repeat and hopefully build up each week. A good rule of thumb is not to increase any volume on the bike by more than 10% each week.”
Don’t forget the basics – enter the Convict 100 online.