Five LOOOONG months! That’s how long it has been since we had been away in the camper, and we sure had itchy feet! We were looking for any excuse to get away, and the ‘Back Yamma Big Foot’ was it.
What’s a Back Yamma? And does it really have a big foot?
Well, two big feet as it turns out!
Back Yamma is a State Forest south of Parkes in the central west of NSW, and the ‘Big Foot‘ is a Mountain Bike race that is conducted in the state forest. A few months ago ‘Burgs’ and I decided that it would be a good idea to enter the race, and bring the families out for a camping holiday at the same time.
He entered the Big Foot event – which was 50km or one full lap of the course. For some reason, I thought it would be a good idea to enter the Two Big Feet event, which was over 2 laps of the 50km course. Yep… 100km.
So with the benefit of a couple of days long service leave burning a hole in my pocket, the Trackabout Camper Trailer was packed and we trundled out of Sydney in the early hours of Friday morning. For one reason or another we stopped in every major centre (and even a couple of minor ones) between here and there, before being the very first to arrive at the designated camping area in the state forest on Friday afternoon. (At least I won something!)
We were all very excited to set up the camper again. Probably none of us more than Lucas, however, who spent the afternoon enthusiastically pointing at the trailer all set up and declaring “pampar!” I was keen to see how well the new kitchen shelf would work and was really happy that it seemed like it came that way from the factory. Already, we don’t know how we every made do without it!
This was our style of camping. Nobody else around, state forest, so relaxing. Another family arrived and set up their tent as we lit the fire and settled in for the evening. I may have even relaxed enough to enjoy my first few beers in about a month! (Been in serious training y’know!!)
An early night to bed was interrupted by Lucas deciding to scream his lungs out. Perhaps it was a good thing we were practically alone in the forest. (If a baby screams at night in the forest, do the trees hear it??) He had a pretty unsettled night, spending most of it in our bed, which fortunately, is plenty big enough. In fact he only really came back to normal in the morning when we opened the window to the awning and could see the kitchen. “Pampar!” he said, and was his usual happy self again.
Saturday morning we went into Parkes to check out the dish and pick up a few bits and pieces before returning to camp to prepare a little more for the race. Burgs and another local riding friend Richard and their families were going to join us at the camp site for dinner, before returning to the supposed luxury of their hotel rooms for the evening. (Yes, Burgs and family were originally going to camp, but word got out that the campsite didn’t have hot running water for showers nor maidservice to fluff the pillows, so the Burgers went soft and took the hotel option!)
We met plenty of other campers on Saturday afternoon, all enthusiastic about the tracks we were going to ride. Ella made some new friends with our neighbours who had set up nearby. Matt and Amanda’s two girls took Ella under their wings and had a cubby house set up in their trailer before (I’m sure) it was even unpacked. Turned out, I’d only just recently read Matt’s blog. Definitely worth a read!
Plenty of carbs on Saturday evening, a good night sleep, baked beans on toast and a banana for breakfast on Sunday were the fuel I needed for the long day ahead. At 8am the 100k race started. I was pretty nervous about how I would go, so decided to start right at the very back of the pack – trying to pace myself as much as I could to ensure a reasonable finish was achieved.
About 10km in I stopped for another rider with a flat whose pump wasn’t working. About 10 minutes later I was on my way again, this time without the choking dust in front of me that had been lifted by all of the other riders. The challenge now was to not ride too fast to try and make up time – I need to keep to my own pace that I knew (thought) I could maintain over a long period of time. I settled into a nice rhythm over the next 40kms and, aside from a slightly sore lower back, felt really good coming into transition at the end of the first lap.
A few minutes off the bike to have another bite to eat (power bar and a banana), re-stock my supply of gels, refill the water, stretch, and off I went again confident that I’d be able to maintain the same pace over the next 50 and finish strongly.
Which I did… except that I needed to stop and stretch my lower back about every 6-8km as it was becoming very painful. I also made the mistake at this point of having the odometer display on the GPS. 67.5, 67.6, 67.7… each km seemed to take forever to churn out. Over 30km to go and this was where the mind wanted to waver. Could I deal with the pain of the back (and now my butt as well) for more than another hour? Riders who I was passing quite comfortably whilst riding were then re-passing me each time I stopped to stretch. I was dropping further and further down the standings.
Those 20km from about the 70 to 90km mark were by far the hardest. Not necessarily from a physical point of view as the course was quite flat, but mentally. Even the fun bits of singletrack (of which there were many) were not so much fun as the whole body seemed to ache in sympathy for the really sore bits.
I stopped for the last time at the 92km mark. Got back on the bike and rode with another guy who was struggling far more than I was for a while. Down into the gulley and back up again a few times and I’m sure a smile appeared on my face. I was less than 10km from the finish of my first 100km race. And I knew now that I could do it. I WAS going to finish. The legs still had plenty of strength, so I started to push harder, enjoying the singletrack and enjoying each of the remaining kilometers.
Finally the odometer said 99.9…. 100.0 and I looked around. No sign of the transition area. I knew I was close, but not being able to see it was very difficult. Then, finally, the yellow banner appears and I coast under it to be classified finished in 143rd position of 151 finishers and 184 starters.
I was spent! Physically. Emotionally. That was hard work. It was painful. It was immensely challenging. And I loved it!
An icy cold Coke followed by a warm shower made me feel a little better before heading into Parkes to meet Burgs who had successfully completed the 50 a couple of hours earlier for dinner. The chicken schnitzel at the Parkes Leagues Club was demolished, even if I was unable to even finish a single, lonely beer!
Needless to say, I slept very well after I managed the climb up into bed that night! Thankfully, so did the kids – we all had our best night’s sleep in quite some time.
Monday morning we packed up and were back on the road at 10am heading back into the rat race. What a great way to spend Fathers Day! We’ll be back next year for sure!
Oh, and that takes our total to 31 nights. Not too bad in the first 12 months, we need to renew registration for the first time this week.
As always – here’s the trip profile! Hopefully shortly I’ll be able to upload the ride profile to Runkeeper and will share here too.