Mount Magnet 1400, Tony Smith

Mount Magnet 1400, Tony Smith



Is a 1363 kilometre race from Perth to Geraldton, Mount Magnet and back to Perth. It is a timed event of one stage so your total time is what is recorded. A big part of the race is the tracking, where “dot-watchers” can follow the progress of participants via an app or website. It started Saturday 24th November. I’d decided around July to give this a crack, as it could be a once in a lifetime opportunity to do a local bike-packing race. Idea is that you are solo, unsupported, do it all on your own.

Insta #mountmagnet1400 for some pics

Or facey:


The start and Day 1

I rolled the 11 km from home to Elizabeth Quay in an attempt to quash some of the nerves that were getting to me. It let me make sure nothing I’d packed was rubbing tyres or going to fall off.

We lined up at 7:58 for a photo and then set off on the bell toll of 8am.

I was escorted out on the ride by fellow UWA triclub members Phil, Quentin, Adrian, Alexandra and Daniel. I watched as nine out of the 11 starters smashed it off the line full gas. I had a plan to not get into the big ring for the first three hours so that I wouldn’t get carried away. I chatted to UWA clubbies as I went with each eventually peeling off. Great to have you guys roll out with me. Also had a chat to Bumblebee – a last minute entry from Sydney, come to tour the WA outback roads.

 I stopped about four hours in near Guilderton to re-sunscreen and do some stretches. At this point a couple of guys I had passed dropped back past me. I kept things ticking over pretty easy and moved into the big ring to go down the bigger rollers, still keeping power nice and easy.

I just kept rolling pretty much until Jurien Bay at 5:30pm (about 260 km in) where I stopped for half an hour for salty chips and water resupply. Came across a couple of others who had gone out a lot harder than me and were starting to suffer a bit, cramping, salt stained and run out of water about a half hour earlier. They were planning to get to Leeman. Just up the road another 40 or 60 km then stop for the night.

I kept rolling and went straight past Leeman and on to Dongara, making the most of the persistent tailwind. Got there and everything was closed so continued on the route looking for an easy spot to stop by the roadside for a sleep. I kept riding til about 1:15 am when Spencer messaged me and said I should keep safe and sleep soon. I agreed. I found the St James Church in South Greenough that I had seen and admired on a recon trip in September. Set up my bivvy next to it and  got to sleeping.

I mucked up my Garmin and Suunto – pressing wrong buttons with a fogged brain – but from the course route looks like about 408 km in 17.25 hrs – at a pace of about 28.5km/hr when moving. I had a slow start so it shows that the wind was a major factor later in the day. Currently sitting In 3rd place.


Day 2 – South Greenough onward

Got up feeling pretty rested on about 3 hours sleep and got rolling, past the leaning tree , and into Geraldton past the lighthouse and to breakfast at Dome. I hung out there and waiting for Shaun Dynan – another participant starting in Geraldton – then rolled out with him around 8am. We leap frogged to Mullewa where we stopped for a countery and a brew at the pub.

I continued leap frogging after lunch and then got a bit of distance on Shaun and then the Spanish Mackerel came past not far out of Yalgoo. We had a bit of a chat and then he took off leaving me behind. He’d told me there was nothing open in Yalgoo. I stopped at Yalgoo and topped up with water and then pushed on. I had enough supplies to keep me going. 

After Yalgoo it got dark and although it was nearly a full moon, it seemed to be taking ages to come up, in contrast to the previous evening when the moon seemed to come up very shortly after sunset. I pushed on but my left knee was hurting, I think as a result of my right sitbone hurting. About 9pm I made the decision to stop, adjust my cleat and get some sleep.

I’d totalled about 320km between 5am and 9pm with good breaks at breakfast and lunch time. Paced had dropped from the previously day to about 26.5 kmh. Not sure what position I was in here but think probably around 5th or 6th as people went past me while I was sleeping.

Day 3

I slept for about 3 hours and got going at 12:30 am Monday. I had 70 km to get to Mt Magnet or about 200 to get to Payne’s Find. This night ride was hard, but what I had done specific training for; going out at night for a 200 km ride after being up all day.

Luckily, my knee was starting to recover after changing the cleat position, and I just had to keep concentration levels up. It poured rain about 10 days ago up there so there was standing water all around, which meant lots of wildlife. There were a lot of kangaroos on and around the road one jumper went within an inch of knocking me off my bike. Shortly after a bird of some kind flew into me. I had visions of the Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas scene – the bats, the bats.

I battled on and must have accidently turned up my light too much and it ran out of battery about 3 hours short of expected time. I had spares, but this was not something I had planned and would have to adapt to for later in the ride.

I got to the Mt Magnet turnoff – and decided that as everybody else was asleep (I had reception so I could check were everyone else was) and nothing would be open in Mt Magnet for a few hours, I would push on to Payne’s Find. I did. It was a block headwind the whole way. I had averaged 26.5 kmh  for the first portion of the morning’s ride, but by the time I made it to Payne’s Find my average pace was down to just over 20 kmh. Through this section I passed everybody and got to Payne’s Find to find that Callum, the leader, had pulled out with a sore knee. Currently in first position.

In this section I made a big mistake. It was cold when I started and was layered up. It got progressively warmer as the morning went on, but I kept on a medium weight long sleeve jersey and leg warmers, to stop myself getting fried from the insidious sun. My core temperature was getting too warm. I got to Payne’s find and I think that warming of the core temperature combined with fatigue didn’t let me realise that I was too warm.

I resupplied and got away after a decent lunch. As I got down the road after lunch I didn’t feel too good. I realised I was too hot and had to cool down. I stopped by the side of the road, took off the hot things, and tried to lie in the shade for a while to cool down. But the ants wouldn’t let me. They crawled up my bare feet and legs and started biting. I got redressed, but foolishly, back in to the same hot things. I had a cooler jersey and sunscreen – they are the option I should have taken right then.

I kept going again until my body had had enough. At about 8pm I saw a parking bay and pulled in and crawled into my bivvy. I didn’t undress, I didn’t eat, I didn’t drink. Just went to sleep and said to myself that I would sleep as long as I had to until I started to feel better. And that was when Cashie, eventual first place getter, went past me. Last part of the day was a bit over 100km from Payne’s Find at just over 20 kmh. During the Payne’s Find to stop section I had gone from 1st to 4th place.

Day 4

I did not sleep well. I had to use all my will power to get up and make an effort to get going at around 3 am. It was at this point that I conceded that I was no longer racing, but seeking to get home in one piece. My sit-bones were both really swollen and sitting on the saddle was difficult in the first stretch of the morning to Wubin. But I ate a toasty on the way and started feeling a bit better. Quick stop and stretch at Wubin and then on the Dalwallinu for breakfast – could not manage 20 kmh for this section even though it was basically flat and no real headwind.

After a lengthy breakfast at the Dally café was feeling way better and then rolled out towards Miling. It was at this point that I realised that I had got completely cooked the day before and that I should immediately stop and get into light jersey and take off leg warmers. I did and felt more comfortable straight away. At this point I moved water bottles around and found that I could sit on my saddle way more easily when they were in their new position. Score.

Stopped at Miling and topped off water feeling better. Had a mission the get to New Norcia for lunch time. Cracked out over 26 kmh for this section and got to New Norcia and indulged in the fantastic Monks bead. I had a look at the tracker and Cashie had just finished and saw UltraCyclingLife was coming fast. I waited and waited and he didn’t come so I took off.

Traffic was getting heavier on the way back into Perth and I had to proceed with care. I was a bit over it at this stage. UltraCyclingLife got me at about 100 km to go. Had a quick chat and he took off. I battled insane sea breeze cross winds coming down from Chittering Valley and onto the plain and Swan Valley from Muchea to Midland. Then cruised in to the Spandu sculpture at Elizabeth Quay around 8pm to great reception from family and UWA clubbies Alex, Dan and Phil. Final position 4th place as RoadRunner had a major mechanical on his way in to Perth and had to DNF.


The wash-up

Hmmm. Don’t really know what to say.

I think you need to have a bit of a personal checklist to make sure you are ok and go through this mentally with yourself every hour or so. That would have helped me avoid what seemed like a physical and mental implosion on day 3. Sometimes, if you are lucky, you work this out, but often only after a bit of reflection and too late to do anything about it at the time

If you want to race one of these beasts, you need to maximise efficient moving time. And also you don’t hang out at the pub, or wait for people. I have heard ultraendurance bikepacking race described as Hunger Games on Wheels. I think its more like survivor on wheels. Outplay, outwit and outlast.

Some of the guys who went flat knacker on the first day never really recovered. Others played a very steady strategy with similar kilometres and sleep each day. Mine was a little adhoc, based on moving forward for a long time each day – more an outlast strategy. This fell flat when my self-monitoring became non-existent.

I lost 4 kgs over the course of the race. Most of it on day 3 I would expect and have been feeling sensitive to heat and cold since then.

Anyway, one checked off the bucket list and will be back to being a triathlete in the new year, and stick to watching the dots for a while.