Sunday, November 13, 2011

Everyone Wanted a Dry Race...

..and that is exactly what we got, a dry hot race.  After last years Karingal Mudfest, and a number of other muddy events at Karingal, I was looking forward to hitting this awesome track in dry conditions.  Looking at the weather forecast, it was destined to be the warmest ride I'd done this year.  Just before race start, there was some cloud cover that looked promising to keep things a little cooler than they may have been, in fact, I was kind of hoping for a little shower or two.

The Karingal 4hr is run by the Southside Rats MTB Club, and is a great event and I was entered in the Single Speed category.  There was an alternate fire road start in order to allow the riders to get sorted before the single track.  I did not get as far to the front as I would have liked, and had to pretty much track stand at one point due to congestion.  Part way through the lap, putting the power down to get past some slower rides, I had my chain jump off in what seems to have become standard fare for me on first laps.  My legs were feeling a little heavy, after having done a road crit on Saturday and as usual doing way too much work.

On the second lap, we hit some sections of trail for the first time, with a couple of interesting features.  A little bridge which we hit an angle, followed immediately by a pinch climb, followed shortly there after with a little G-Out that was just horrible if you hit it hard.

Not being able to remember what gearing I had run last year, I settled on 34/20. I think with fresh legs, this might have been the ideal gearing...maybe it still was, as I did not have to walk any sections, and there were some flat bits that still caused me to run out of legs.  I was also running my Gary Fisher Superfly (which is designed for the much hyped G2 fork), with standard forks.  It was handling beautifully, and confirms my suspicion that the whole G2 thing is marketing BS.

One minor annoyance was that my race number kept curling backward, and I had to try push my number forward so the marshals could  read my number, and even then I had to call it out.  By mid race it was getting hot, but I felt like I was keeping up the fluids, and getting the food in.  On about lap 4 I heard that I was in 3rd, but it was not like I could push any harder. The bike was going great, apart from the horrible creaks coming from the crank/BB area, but that was nothing new.  But then I dropped the chain again twice with 2 laps to go, and stopped to retention the chain.

I went through to start my last lap with 24mins left on the clock.  I had that burst of energy you get from knowing it is the last lap.  About 1/3 of the way around, my crank stops spinning, and I look down to see my chain ring all bent and twisted. I pushed the bike up the hills and rolled down the hills, but the chain was rubbing on the tyre or banging on the frame, so I stopped to remove the chain.  This was much better, but due to the bent chain ring I could not position my pedals in the best position for cornering.  With no idea of how close the riders behind were, I hustled as best I could, but MTB shoes are not meant for running, and there are some flatish bits that fast riding that were really slow on foot. By this stage in the race, the track was quite empty, but I still had to keep getting off the track to let riders through.

I was passed by at least one SS rider and  assumed I had dropped at least one spot.  I was so glad to see the finish line. In the end, some how I had  hung on  to 2nd  in SS(by about 15 mins), but dropped a lot of  spots in combined solo. It looks like I was  about 8 minutes slower on the last lap. All things considered I was  happy with my ride, although a little disappointed by the dropped chains and damaged chain ring.

The race organisation was great, the volunteers were awesome and the prizes for general participation were great.  I even managed a little sympathy pack of lube, chamois cream and other stuff for my damaged bike.  This was my final MTB event for the year.  Most likely LunarC will be my first race of next year.  Hopefully by then I'll have my Superfly ready to rock and roll.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Oh so close.

The TWP Matrix 6hr Enduro at Canungra was a hot one.  After finishing 2nd at Dusk to Dawn riding SS at this track just 1 month ago I was hoping for a good result at this one.  Admittedly, 6hrs are typically a bit short for me, but I was riding geared, for only the 2nd race in over a year and hoping to get closer to the front runners.

The race was to start at 9am, which allowed me a fairly leisurely morning.  It was quite overcast and rain looked possible, but at least would keep things a bit cooler.  I arrived at Canungra about 7:30 and setup in roughly the same spot as Dusk to Dawn and just backed the car up to the race track and opened the rear door.  It was the easiest race setup ever.  It turned out that I had setup next to "Zepinator" and "Squirrel", so I had someone to chat to once I finished bike setup.  I was to ride my On One Inbred titanium 29er which was setup geared, but had my Gary Fisher Superfly SS as a spare.

Race start was right next to my pit area, and I lined up in the 2nd row behind really fast guys. There was an extended section of track for the first lap only to prevent a bottle neck at the single track entry that occurred at the 12hr.  By the time the race started, the front row was about 15 riders wide, so by the time everyone got in line at race start, I was deep in the pack.  I lost sight of the Andy Mallet who I expected to be somewhere on the podium.  The only issue I had on the first lap was bouncing my chain off, causing me to loose a few spots.  The pace was quick, and I felt horrible at the end of the 1st lap, but being able to run my own pace on lap 2 I was starting to feel better.

Again the shortness of the laps at this venue starts to weigh on you when look at the time on your 4th lap and see that it is less than 1.5 hours.  It was at the end of the 4th lap that I my front tyre burst off with an loud bang.  There was still heaps of sealant in the tyre, so I tried to re-inflate it with a CO2 Canister.  That didn't work, so I put in a tube and struggled to get it to correct pressure because I my hands were slippery with sealant.  Being so close to the pit I decided to go with the pressure I had and use my track pump.  Once I got rolling, I realised the wheel was buckled, which may have caused the tyre to blow.  I got back to the pit and snails pace, and with the buckled wheel, I decided to swap the front wheel from the Superfly(which was sporting one of my favourite tyres - Kenda Small Block 8).  All in all I the whole tyre problem cost me just over 20 mins, and while I was changing wheels, I saw the race leaders fly past.

It was starting to warm up, but I managed to unlap myself after a couple of laps and I was feeling a bit more positive.  I seemed to be pass 1 million riders per lap, but it takes some extra effort for each person you have to pass off the racing line.  The track was getting loose in a number of sandy descents and full attention was required.  On one lap I forgot I was on the big ring at the front, and changed all the way the big ring at the back which causes the drive train to lock up.  Another minute lost while I released it.  Through out the race I had a number of mechanicals.  Twice I had to stop to realign my rear wheel, once to fix the quick release on my front wheel and once for the dropped chain.  Nearly every time I had to stop for a mechanical I was re-passed by 3 or so riders I'd just passed, usually in placed that it was difficult for me to pass them back.

With about 3 laps to go Andy Mallet caught me again, and I followed  him for 2 full laps.  The 2nd last lap was probably the hardes, and I was really feeling the heat and was probably under hydrated.  I downed a gel, and that seemed to do the job.  On the start of the last lap "Zepinator" told me I was down 4 or 5 mins on 3rd.  I couldn't really respond to this information, and basically that's how things finished.  I was 4th Solo and only about a lap and 10mins down on 1st and 6mins down on 3rd.

In the end I did 87k with over 2000m climbing.  Again the track was fun, but too short.  My next MTB event will probably be the Karingal 4hr which has a SS category :)

Photos courtesy of Michael Phipps

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sleep is for...

I've done every Dusk to Dawn since 2008. With the first one at Kooralbyn my first ever night race as part of a 2 person team. There is just something about night riding that I love. It forces you to focus and really look to where you are riding, especially in corners. My lead in to this event was mainly on the road bike, with only a couple of MTB rides since the Epic with practically zero night riding.  Despite this, on top of  last years unexpected success, I went in to this years event with some expectation and a full 3 x 9 geared bike (compared to 1x9 setup last year).    My other secret weapon this year would be support in the form of Andy.

The good thing about a race that starts at 7pm, is that you get the morning to take your time packing. I started by getting my On One Inbred 29er ready by checking the tyre sealant, cleaning and lubing the chain.  I also prepared my Superfly SS as a spare bike or just in case I felt the urge to do some single speeding for kicks.  I got the rest of the car packed and despite some reptile distractions, and were ready to go about 1:30pm.  We arrived at Canungra just after 3pm to a nearly empty camping/transition area.  The timing area was somewhat different from previous events, which caused us some confusion in trying to select a spot to setup camp.  We found a spot right on the race track about 500m past the finish line which turned out to be a great spot.

With camp setup and registration done and bike setup, I went for a walk to say "Hi" to a few friends.   I stopped to talk to Matt Dog and saw he was running single speed and after some talk, Matt suggest since there were 3 single speeders plus me we could see if TWP would create a single speed category. Not quite sure if I really wanted to, but always up for a challenge, we spoke to Libby and 'Hey Presto" there was a single speed category at D2D.  Libby did say there would be no prizes.  Cool I don't do it for the prizes...they're nice, but not the reason to race.

I got about changing over my race number and front wheel from my geared bike to my SS and I wasn't sure if I'd done the right thing by changing to the SS category.  I really haven't ridden much SS since the 8hr in June. Fortunately I put on some nice low gearing 34/22 when I prepared my bikes, which turned out to be about perfect.

I've attended most events at Canungra and seen it develop race after race.  Apparently TWP had made some recent changes adding some new trails and making some changes to the iconic switchbacks.  I was a little concerned that they may have dumbed them down ...I needn't have been.  Relaxing in our camp, I heard a few riders coming back from test laps raving about the new single track and how most of the grass sections had been removed. I went out for a test ride and while I'd been cold minutes before, I quickly warmed up on the new pinch climbs.  All felt good, except that some of the new track was still quite loose and my Maxxis Crossmark was not the best tyre.  I considered changing to a Ignitor like I had on my geared bike, but that seemed like too much trouble and hoped that what I lost on loose stuff, I'd make up on the hard pack.

Night time eventually came and it time to roll.  Starting towards the front with Sean Bekers, Dog and Al, we were off.  I pushed fairly hard and settled in to about 10th and watched the geared bike disappear in the AyUp dust trails.  I was a few spots be Matt for a while and then he too disappeared in the distance. The new sections were run, but a little raw and in a few spots traction was nearly non existent.  The first 3 laps felt terrible, and I was cursing my decision to ride SS.  On lap 4 I caught Dog and settled in behind him assess how I was feeling.  I followed Matt for the remainder of the lap,  'chatting' as best one can, and Matt didn't seem too happy, mainly I don't think he was enjoying the short laps.  When a lap takes less than half an hour, you do suffer from a bad case of 'Deja Vu"..I was feeling it too.  In any case Matt pulled over at the end of the lap, and think that was it for him.  It was about lap 10 when Andy told me that I had some time on Josh and that Matt had probably packed it in.  That took the pressure off a little, but really I had the goal of riding 150k and riding for 12hrs, which meant there was about 9hrs to go, but I was starting to feel good in the legs.  The contact points on the other hand were starting to suffer.

I had an interesting lap when I caught Josh. Firstly I went OTB on a little tree stump that I've never seen before in the 50+ laps I've done over the years.  Then having got past him, I suffered a case of "target fixation"  and drifted off in to ditch. Josh stopped to get the bike off me and decide to let things settle for a bit a just settle in behind him. Then towards the end of the lap, I tried a different line in a series of corners  I was struggling with only to clip a pedal or something and go sliding across the dirt.  That was the most eventful lap of the race. There were a couple of laps where I saw snakes, and couple of Brush Tailed Possums, a blue legged frog and a Bandicoot.

About 2:30 there was a shower of rain, which turned the top layer of dust in to sticky mud that instantly fill the tyre tread, making them slick.  Where I had little traction before, I had none.  The rain continued for a lap or two, so that on some of the older track there were little rivers running down the trail.  A couple of laps after the rain stopped, the standing water soaked in and the loose areas bedded down, making the track awesome.  The Kookaburras started laughing about 4:30 and the sky started to lighten just after 5am.  The morning laps are always awesome as the end approaches and the track starts to fill with riders again.  Andy told me I had first in SS secured, but I was also interested in overall position solo.  I was sitting in second behind enduro legend Clint Pierce. In the end, I crossed the line in 12hrs9mins, 23 Laps, 145k, 3662m of climbing.  1st place in SS, 2nd Solo and 10th overall(including teams).

The only disappointment in the whole thing was the way they treated the SS category as a "social" category, actually worse. It was the only category that wasn't called to the podium, but just read out names.  I can assure everyone that SS is as completive as any other, and to be honest had more entries than some that got prizes...and for once the prizes looked pretty good.

Big thanks to Andy for the support.  It can't be understated the extra something that having dedicated support makes.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

My 1st Epic

While this was a totally different format to previous Epics, it was a course deserving the name Epic.  This was both my first Epic, and my first race that wasn't doing multiple laps on the same course.  I was entered in the 75k version, the longest of various races over the weekend, and after much deliberation I decided not to race single speed for the first time in about a year.  The race started and finished at Spices Old Hidden Vale with some serious climbs, some flat bitumen sections and some fantastic single track.  With $5000 up for grabs, the starters list saw a number of high profile racers lining up with 1100 or so riders across the weekend.  The race was started in waves based on expected ride time. I figured I could get the 75k done in 5hrs which meant I was in the last group along with the elites.

I started mid pack and the elites at the front got away at a smashing pace. The rest of us were still riding pretty hard along the dirt road. I was feeling OK as the pace started to settle and we hit the grassy and bumpy double track climb, and we had already started to catch the wave that had left 15mins before us. So far the gears were working for me, but on the first of the bumpy descents my chain dropped off on the inside.  I managed to recover it without stopping, but some time on the next descent, I thought I had dropped the chain again.  I tried to recover it in the same manner, and when I couldn't I realise that I had lost my chain altogether.  Most likely 1 of the speed links had come undone.  I walked the up hills, "scootered" the flats and rolled the downhills wondering how I was going to get back to the car.  Fortunately we exited the bush on to a road section where one of the SES volunteers was stationed to control traffic.  At this point I thought my race was over and asked the SES volunteer how to get back.  There was also another rider waiting with his rear derailleur snapped.  He saw my predicament and started to fiddle with his chain.  I asked if he had a quick link on his chain and he said he did, but he couldn't get it to release, but if I could get it off I could use his chain. I borrowed a leatherman with pliers from the SES and put the chain on my bike and I was off.  Thanks Andrew(#221).

I'd barely travelled 20m and there was "Hubcap" repairing a flat.  He needed a pump to put a bit more air in his tyre as the CO2 canister just didn't quite do it.  I stopped to lend a hand.  We had no end of problems with getting air in to the tyre, but eventually we were off.  Hubcap got a head start(cursing all the way;) while I put the pump back on my bike, and he took some catching. We rode together for nearly 20km and worked the bitumen like the pros on TV :)  Then the MASSIVE climbs started.  This is where we really started to catch big bunches of riders.  The descents were almost as demanding as the ups, and my brakes were squealing horrendously, which actually worked quite well to let people know I was coming through.  At some point I managed to get a stick through my wheel, bringing me to a quick stop, but thankfully not doing any damage.

At some point I lost my bottle with my electrolyte mix.  This left me with just 2l of water, and I was a little concerned how I was going to manage the rest of the race.  At least it wasn't too hot, and I did have some  gels to help with electrolytes.

I caught a bunch of about 20 or 30 riders in the single track at about the 40k mark and there was a lot of stop/start riding/walking with a lot of riders hopping off on anything that looked slightly technical.  This section of track should have been fairly fast and not that much of a challenge.  The second bit of outback single trail was much more fun as I hit that pretty much solo.

With about 25k to go I came across "Matt Dog" repairing his 5th flat and showing the signs of having been down hard.  I lent him a tube and suggested that I ride the rest of the race with him, and I knew he'd do it for others. Back on the bike I let Matt set the pace since he was riding single speed rigid.  He was moving OK but I heard the odd comment on the real bumpy stuff due to his wrist.  Back to OHV proper we hit Rock Bottom and Escalator, trails I have ridden so many times in the last year.  Then it was Snake and the resurrected Gully trails for an awesome way to finish an epic ride.  With the finish in sight, Matt urged me to power on, which I did with a heap of energy left. Even with the various stops, I finished under 5hrs and wonder what might have been.

Thanks Tailwind for another great event and to all the volunteers for making these events possible. To top it off, the boys up front managed a dead heat for 1st.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Super Series: Race 4 - Chased by The Dog

It was time for the final race of the Super Series, an 8hr enduro at OHV. I felt about as good as I have before any race this series. With a slightly lighter than normal commuting week and a full day on Saturday to check bikes and pack the car, it was a pretty cruisy preparation. If I was lacking anywhere it was in nutrition, and all I had was muesli bars and gels, plus some treats of licorice allsorts. THe forecasts were for fantastic weather. On the drive out I saw the outside temperature plumet to 2 degrees on the car thermometer.
I arrived at OHV to find transition was setup at the Billabong rather than the Resort.  Andy and Lee had already set up camp.  I registered and picked up my goody bag.  There were about 7 riders in the Single Speed class, making a reasonable field.  As I was putting my number on the bike, I noticed riders riding across the land crossing in the billagong, and viewed from a distance it looked really cool.  We were to realise later, that the crossing was quite muddy.  These days, it seems there just has to be mud.
Race start seemed to go extremely fast.  One second there was 2 minutes to go then it was 10 seconds, and I was still trying to fire up my Garmin as the race started. I was further from the front than I would have liked, but by the time we got on to the first climb I was following Al Cook as he made lots of passes.  By the time we got to the dirt road we could see Matt Dog and caught him up.  We all rode together for a while. Swapping and changing position.  I have to admit at this point I was feeling like I hadn't ridden a Mountain bike for weeks.  Once we got through Rockbottom Matt was an orange dot in the distance.  I though about chasing him down for fastest lap, but figured it was going to be a long day.  Climbing Escalator I had small off, clipping my foot on a rock on the trail edge.

Apart from the final laps, Lap 2 was the most drama filled for me. About half way around the lap, something did not feel right and I thought I had a puncture. I almost riding off in to the trees trying to look at the rear tyre. I had definitely lost pressure, but it was still ride able. I rode on taking it easy in the rocky stuff, hearing(and feeling) a few rim strikes!! With Al riding off in too the distance, I made it back to transition with about 12psi in the tyre. Andy grabbed a track pump and pumped it back up to my desired 30psi. It felt like an eon at the time, but in the end I lost about 5 minutes.

Back on the bike I pushed to catch Al. It took a couple of laps, but I finally caught up on lap 5.  I rode with Al for a while, then decided to pass him on the dirt road leading up to Aeroplane. As I did, Al says to me "Dog" and pointing up Aeroplane to where Matt was about 200m ahead.  With a new lease of energy Al pushed on and I followed.  We caught Matt as he was passing my friend and super MTB Chick Lee :) and another rider.  So the SS boys had come together and it was looking like an interesting afternoon, but as we dropped in to Rockbottom, Al must have said something nasty to Matt because he disappeared like the proverbial "Bat Out of Hell" :) Once Al and I got out on to the flat of Bear Valley, I decided to chase Matt down and thought that Al would come with me.  I'd almost caught Matt by the time we got back to transition, as when he stopped to get water and food I took the lead.

By this stage the Billabong crossing was getting very muddy with many riders walking. My legs were still feeling good, the rear tyre had maintained pressure but my fingers were starting ache and there was a Dog chasing me. The next couple of laps were fairly uneventful, concentrating on pedalling circles and keeping focus on the non technical stuff. On lap 7 or 8 I lost the front end on the 2nd berm on Happy Gilmor, and I noticed later just how loose this berm had become. No major damage, just a graze and scratches on my left thigh.
ith about 3 laps to go I passed Graham "Wingadelic" Menzies and he came some encouragement that gave me another boost. It was on this lap that I again clipped a rock in the grass while climbing Escalator. As I hit the dirt road on the way back to transision, I noticed my Garmin was gone! I realised that I must have knocked it off as my chest brushed the bar when I nearly came off the bike on Escalator. I was now riding blind, not sure of how long was left in the race and what lap times I was doing, not to mention that was going to be expensive to replace, but hoping Graham had seen it on the trail and that it hadn't fallen in to the grass.W

Laps 10 and 11 were spent looking over my shoulder.  I'd seen from previous laps that Matt was still chasing me down.  I'd figured from when I still had my Garmin how many laps were remaining, realising I was going to cross the finish line at about the 7hr50min mark and that Matt would also make it under the 8hr mark and that an extra lap was going to be necessary and that was going to be one lap too many for me.  I knew too though that Matt would be hurting a bit too..even if he is part machine :)  Looking at the final lap times we took turns at faster laps and in the end I mad it home in 8:34:42, just over 1 minute ahead of Matt.  Thankfully too having my Garmin handed back to me.

In the end, I covered 154km(11 laps) in 8:36 to finish 1st in the Single Speed class closely followed by Matt and Tim Clarke(who I had a great chat with after the race). Clint Pierce took out the 40+ category and overall win, Sean Bekkers was 1st in the open category and 2nd overall.  I was 3rd overall with Matt in 4th, so a good show in the SS category with the closest fight of all categories, although Rachel and Kylie had a great battle in open female category too.  Another great event by Tailwind, and thank for all the support from spectators and fellow riders.  A special mention to Andy and Lee for packing up my gear and Graham for finding my Garmin.  Full Results.

Congrats to Matt for taking out the Series.  I had a ball, with a couple of hiccups along the way, but lessons learned and look forward to next year.

Edits to add some hyperlinks.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Super Series: Race 3 - 24hrs of Brutal.

After the first  2 races were mudfests it was a delight to see some fine weather leading in to the Merida 24hr..  Race 3 was back at Spicers Old Hidden Vale and roughly using the same trails as last years Merida 24hr.  Last year I loved this track, and having assisted with some trail care the weekend before, I had a fair idea of what to expect and what gearing to use.  Accompanying me, my wife Ali and friends Andy, Lee and Jason who would be racing in the 4 person mixed category, while I raced in Solo Single Speed.

I expected there to be the usual suspects from the earlier races, however, only series leader and part man, part machine, Matt 'Dog' Powell was there and one other John Warren, making a total of 3 competitors in SS.  A little disappointing after last years field of about 10, but I guess that was due to the fact that the event was a qualifier for 24hr World Solo Championships held in Canberra last October.

For once I started towards the front of the pack, but nearly crashed before we got out of the transition area in the loose sandy conditions at the first turn.  After we rolled down Happy Gilmore, the the faster team riders disappeared into the distance, while I settled in behind Matt.  The climb up "Old Man's...' is a great climb with the right SS gearing and flattish area across to 007 would be a great place to eat and drink later in the race.  007 was a blast, and Matt made it look effortless as he pulled away.  I was back behind Matt as we hit the fire road, and there were no other riders in sight.  I felt comfortable sitting behind Matt, but though I might be annoying him by sucking his wheel and decided to push on up the fire road and along Aeroplane. I dropped in to Rockbottom with no riders ahead or behind, however it was not long before Matt was back with me.  We had a clear run all the way until Escalator when we caught another rider and paced ourselves up the climb.  The final run along the dirt road to transition, with its corrugations was both a blessing and a curse, but that was lap 1.  As it turned out, it was sub 44mins.  I only realised our pace, when part way through the second lap I expected to see that we were well in to the 2nd hour only to see only 1 hour had passed.

The next couple of laps Matt and I passed each other a few times, not racing as such, just riding our own race.    At one point(lap 2 or 3) I had a gumby stack at transition, in the soft sand as my shoe did not unclip, falling on my already injured left wrist.  The track was mega fast, bumpy, but a pleasure compared to the mud last time we raced there.    I don't think my forks were taking up the bumps as well as it might, and my fingers were starting to hurt. I made some random setting changes to the rebound and suddenly heard the suspension starting to work and if felt like an improvement. There were still a few patches of mud to keep things interesting and to catch out the inattentive.  I was lapping consistently, eating and drinking well and feeling great.  I was ahead of Matt, and had not seen him for quite a while.  If I had any complaints, it was that my music was stuck on some random, hour long playlist that repeated over and over and over. Quite maddening, but if that was the biggest issue I faced all day I would have happily put up with it.  

I started to think about the night laps and stopped to mount my lights and batteries.  I think in future I will start with these mounted.  As darkness fell, it became time to test the new 40% brighter AyUp light I was running as a bar light...the verdict, they are awesome bright.  I’ll be looking to do the upgrade on my helmet lights next.  I love night riding, following that beam of light through single trail, forcing that extra bit of concentration.   It was on the 1st full night lap, about to lap John, that I heard that dreaded hissing sound that denotes a puncture.   I’d managed to slice a sidewall on my rear tyre in a little mud patch at very start of Escalator.   At first I decided to see if the Stan’s Sealant could do its thing, but it didn’t.  So I thought I’d run the nearly 2k back to camp and fix it there, with better light and a track pump, but as I thought about the long flat haul along the dirt road, I decided to try fix it on track with a tube.  I quickly discovered that the brand new tube had managed to get a hole worn in it over the preceding 7.5  laps.  So I tried a sticky patch, but that didn’t work.  At some point Matt passed me and I had lost me lead.  With no other option, I legged it back to transition, somewhat dejected.  In the meantime Matt had let my crew know to expect me with a flat tyre.  The guys readied my 2nd bike and were waiting at the start line, and off I went with a new energy.  The bikes are setup quite similarly, but the major difference was the tyres, with the tyres on my 2nd bike more suited to loose or even muddy conditions.  I never gave this much thought until making a turn on some hard packed dirt on the Billabong track, I lost the rear and slid into a tree.  The impact was not overly hard, but I managed to take a strip of  the top layer of skin from my wrist to my elbow.  The other difference on the 2nd bike was the higher gearing, which on the most part was not a problem but combined with some tiredness caused me to fall heavily on a large square edged rock on Escalator bruising my thigh.  All up I recall about 4 little crashes on that lap, and was happy to see a new tyre on the Superfly when I returned to the pits.  I stopped for some of Ali's wonderful risotto and put on some warmer layers.

I went out for a couple more laps, but let the pain from my injured wrist and thigh get to me. After lap 11 I decided it was time for a coffee. I hopped off the bike while the kettle boiled, and there I stayed. My thigh was hurting, and I really couldn't care if I lost my 2nd place. I was off the bike for nearly 8 hours, but only slept for a couple of hours at most. I rested as Ali, Andy, Jason and Lee kept rotating laps, and I recovered my desire to get back on the bike and go out with Ali on her next lap and just cruise around and let my leg warm up. While we waited for Lee to return Andy looked up the results on Facebook(what a revolution that was) to discover that I was last, but only 30mins behind John in 2nd. I headed back out and felt pretty good, and smashed out a 50min lap, and early on the 2nd morning lap I was back in to 2nd. I kept pumping out laps around the hour mark and was enjoying myself until I got another puncture. Another disastrous lap on bike two, dropping the chain a number of times. Again the guys did a tyre change and I returned to the Superfly. I managed to do 6 laps in 6hrs Sunday morning, totalling 84km. All up I did 17laps for a grand total of 240km.

The biggest highlight of the race was seeing my wife smashing out quick laps and looking awesome doing it. Also the support from everyone, spectators, the stars in the timing tent and fellow riders was fantastic. The camels, even though I have seen them nearly every time I ride at OHV, they are just so surreal. The bridges on Rock Bottom at night were super cool, branching across the black void below.
There were a number of firsts for me in this race. It was the first time I got away at the front of the pack instead of losing minutes to the leaders. This was the first time I slept and went out to ride again and it was the first time I finished a 24hr out on track, both of which gave me a credible result.

From L to R: Me, Matt, John
This was only my 3rd 24hr solo, and there was much learned, and still much to be learned. I consider myself to be mentally strong, but I capitulated in the face of quire minor adversity.  After a flawless and mechanical fee ride last year, I let a few unplanned things weaken me mentally, but I can learn from that. I think a plan for the things that can be controlled is necessary. Having goals outside of placings is important to provide motivation and having someone to remind you of those goals in the dark times that inevitably come. All things considered, with the injuries I took in to this race on top of the ones I picked up during the race, the overall result was not a disaster. With nearly 8 hours off the bike I still managed about 14th overall. Really 2nd in SS was good for my points in the series, but nothing more. But then as Peter Creagh said at the presentations,"You have to be in it to win it." In any case if guess if someone wants an easy podium, they are giving them away in the Solo SS category :) This was far from my best ride. I am most annoyed that my legs could have powered through easily.

There were super rides by, overall solo winner Clint Pearce, womens winner Jodie Willett, SS winner Matt Powell, Graham Menzies, the young AyUp team and last but not least the whole "People that know Ali" who managed to keep someone on track for 24hrs and place 3rd in 4 person mixed category, all while keeping me going.

Tailwind Promotions again turned on a fantastic event, great venue and organisation.
The final race in the series is an 8hour race in 4 weeks. Hopefully we will see a few more single speeders and it will be a fun race. In the meantime, some work to understand my suspension, review some other types of grips and find some tyres with tougher side walls. I also plan to avoid being hit by cars and having silly training stacks that mean I start races injured.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Super Series: Race 2 - 6hrs of Mud

I don't think I could not have had a worse race prep and still been able to race.  The critical moment for this race really started 6:45 Friday morning on my regular commute to work.  Enter large 4WD from stage right, straight in front of me.  With no time to stop I was able to shape up and take the brunt of the collision on my right shoulder.  After recovering my breath and exchanging details with the driver, I felt OK...for about half an hour until the adrenaline wore off.  Then I was in a world of hurt.  My wife drove me to the hospital and as soon as I mentioned bike vs car accident it was action stations, neck brace, ECG, team of a least 5 people checking me over and X-Rays.

The eventual prognosis Grade 1 AC joint dislocation.  Not too bad I thought a week or 2 off the bike, then some road and MTB.  However when the entrants list was posted with only 4 entries in SS, I started to think maybe I could go do a lap or 2 for series points.  I mean, the race had been paid for and I had to be there because my lovely wife and a heap of friends were all racing and at worst, I could just walk the lap.  If I felt OK after 1 lap I could do another.

Ali smashing out laps in the mud.
Race day; I arrive at Murrenbong with Andy and bump into Al Cook, OK that makes 5 in SS and may be 1 or 2  more with on the line entries.  Andy and the guys set up...I am injured after all :)  I was allocated the super cool race number 99 and mounted it on the Superfly.  I planned to ride it with the same gearing as LunarC, and since  its only going to be a lap or 2  I don't worry too much about my other bike.  I go for a quick test ride and felt good, but a quick roll is quite different from muscling the bike on downhill descents and uphill single trail.  With this in mind, I don't try to start right up the front.  In fact after being delayed checking Ali's tyre pressures I am as deep in the pack as I have ever been for a race start.  We roll off slowly in a stop start fashion, while the leaders blast away.  It is not long before we are in deep mud, much worse than we were lead to expect and even worse than my worst expectations.  There is about 1k of horrible, sticky mud, finished with a pinch climb that I never rode all race.  To make it worse I feel some pain in a glute muscle after a rapid dismount when someone stopped suddenly in front of me. Out of the mud, it is time to actually pedal, the fire road was a chance to pass some riders, but the single track did not allow any passing, but at least the casual pace took the strain off my upper body on the bumpy descents. From the half way checkpoint, the course was fast and quite fun.  One lap down and I felt pretty good.  The second lap and I was able to clear a lot more riders, but it was not until lap 3 that I was able to run my own pace and really test the shoulder.  There was some slight discomfort, and not wishing to come off, I rode conservatively.  In fact, it was pushing the bike through the mud that hurt the shoulder more than riding.

Race number is on the Superfly.
On the 4th or 5th lap the bottom bracket on the Superfly locks up firm.  One of the BB cups had come unscrewed, but I worked out that if I pedalled backwards every few strokes I could keep going.  I finished the lap and changed bikes....the unprepared bike, that had had a flat rear the night before.  Then about halfway around that lap I heard a strange noise and the rear felt dead flat.  I decided to ride on keeping my weight over the front and see how it felt.  I managed to limp home taking it easy on the bumpy stuff only dropping a minute or 2.  I exchanged wheels with the Superfly which had a more mud oriented tyre, but I wanted to keep the gearing the same and had to change cogs between wheels, and I had so much trouble.   I couldn't find the preferred tool for the job and as I try to unscrew the track nut I see all the riders I'd passed on the last lap pass me back.  Eventually, with help of the kids, I got the job done, and I headed off again....into the mud.  While some parts of the mud were developing a dryish line, some parts were totally unridable.  Then there was the poly pipe which runs under the track, surfacing every now and then and super slippery.  I accidentally managed to put a wheel on a section of pipe running parallel to the track and find my bike face back the way I had just come, while I still faced in the correct direction. Yes, this is as painful as it sounds.  The drying mud became more claggy and the minimal clearance on the Reba fork meant that on most laps I had to stop after the pinch climb to stop clear the mud.  It was a tough choice between looking for bumps to shake the mud off and smooth lines for the shoulder.

Did I mention the Mud? 
Unfortunately at about the 3hr mark I pass Sean Bekkers walking back in the other direction having broken his second derailleur, his race was over, and he was not alone in that regard.   The mud is brutal on gear.  The second half of the race went by pretty quickly.  I did have one small off, just before I was due to take my next dose of Ibuprofen and it hurt a little.  Through out the race, I actually felt pretty good with some slight pain in the ribs, shoulder and back, all on the right side.  It was tolerable, but it did play a little on the mind.  

Me, Matt Dog, Al Cook
At about the 4.5 hr mark, I wasn't really sure of my lap times, but I started to figure that I was going to finish a lap just before or just after the 6hr mark.  My last lap was fairly leisurely, and I am even more casual than normal passing riders, and I almost came to a stop on the last climb to make sure I didn't have to do another lap.  I only missed by seconds, and find out a little later that Al Cook was waiting at the finish line to do one more lap if necessary.  Imagine a lap like that, wheel to wheel after 6hrs.  The final wrap was 3rd place in SS an 9th overall, only 2 mins behind Al in 2nd, while Matt Dog rode strongly to put a lap on us both.

The next race in the series is the 24hr in 5 weeks.  Hopefully I can recover and train well leading in to it....Oh, and no mud please.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Dirtfest 2011 - The Longest Short Race Ever

Dirtfest 2011 was at a new track, after being relocated from Slickers at the property owners request.  The new location was Ewen Maddock Dam, Landsborough....or as I noticed when leaving, the aptly named Ewen Maddock Wetlands.  As is nature of MTB riding in South East Queensland of late, it was another muddy race. Possibly my wettest race ever. Certainly on par with Karingal 4hr 2010, and worse than the Super Series 4hr of a few weeks ago. 

With a the expectation of such conditions, I'd put a Continental Mountain King on the rear and was thankful that I did. Up front was a Continental Race King, which at times left me pretty much a passenger at the will of the mud gods.  I was thankful for my long fingered gloves, because I must have smashed my hands on trees a dozen times because I drifted off to the left or right.

The format for this race was 50K or 7 laps.  Race start was at 8:30, with the Elites off first, then the single speeders and then the rest of the field.  Across all categories there were nearly 100 riders start the race.  For once I started up the front, and settled in to 3rd or 4th for the first quarter of the lap, then we started having to pass the slower of the elite riders, which made it difficult to maintain the rhythm and Freddo broke away.  For a while, I was riding with Peter Winfield and just sitting on his wheel.  I made the move past Peter at exactly the wrong time. Since I was in the lead of a small bunch when we came to a branch in the course and the marshal who was supposed to be directing us was daydreaming and I rode past the turn, but I woke the marshal enough for him to point the riders behind me in the right direction, leaving me to back track and tag on the back of the bunch.  This was also where the real mud started, with some fairly steep downhill single track and 20-30cm deep mud that developed in to wheel guiding grooves as the race progressed.

The course would have been great in the dry, and I would have been well under geared if it was.  I did not much like the fire roads with 2 way traffic, although it did provide opportunity to see friends and opponents heading in the opposite direction.  Passing in this section was tricky as you needed to pass riders by crossing in to the other lane when there were no riders heading toward you(much like overtaking in a car on the highway).  There were some quite technical parts, with some ramps, a particularly technical climb and a very tricky narrow bridge that must have been chaos on the first lap with the bigger groups.

By lap 4 my front brake pads were gone, but I had to just push on.  Eating and drinking were tough due to the mud, and I definitely neglected my nutrition and hydration, but that had little to no effect when compared to my lack of steering ability and lack of brakes.  On lap 5 there was a heavy downpour of rain, and the course was transformed .  In many ways it was for the better.  The mud was softer and easier to ride and steer through, but conversely there was more mud in the face and with my glasses off, it did cause me some problems.  I put my glasses back on, but they were so muddy, I couldn't see.  I got some new glasses next time through transition and it was a lot better until the glasses fogged up.  I then had a stick flick up and derail my chain, causing me a significant stop to get it back on.  Other than that, the Superfly was perfect.

Race finish was less than perfect, with once again messing up the alternate ending.  This time mostly because I thought I had 1 more lap to do.  My GPS was only reading 42K, exactly 6 laps I thought.  Especially since when I asked on my previous lap I was told 2 to go.  As I headed out to do another lap I was told I was finished.  Then not realising I still had to do the extra loop around to the real finish I got tangled in the bunting trying to make my way back to my gear, fell over and looked a right gumby I am sure.  Needless to say that whole episode cost me close to a minute, but thankfully no positions.

In the end I came home 4th in SS category and 8th overall.  Congrats to Andy Fellows who smashed the 50k 1st in 2 1/2 hours and Simon "Freddo" Fredericksen who was crowned "Qld Single Speed Champion" and 3rd overall only 20 minutes behind Andy. All up the single speeders filled 5 of the first 9 spots. The full results  can be viewed here.

For me the low light was losing front brakes, but it was a lesson learned.  The highlight was the support through transition, and call out from MC Coach Jeff each lap, and I tried to oblige him with the requested wave.

With the next race only a week away, Sunday afternoon was spent demuding the Superfly and giving it some much needed TLC.  With rain forecast for the week, it might be more of the same, but I have a feeling Murenbong will hold up somewhat better in the wet.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Super Series: Race 1 - 4hrs of Mud

The Super Series is a series of 4, 6, 24 and 8 hour races. Race 1, 4hrs at Old Hidden Vale was a short race as far as enduro races go and should have been relatively straight forward. Enter some heavy rain early in the week and it suddenly becomes a whole lot harder.

The weather fined up at the end of the week, and the drive out was showing all the signs of a beautiful day, with not a cloud in the sky. The rumour on Friday was that there were some patches of mud, but it was not too bad. Entering the property looked promising, the dirt road looked hard packed with no dust. A bit further in though, there were puddles. Decision time...Which bike, which tyres? Usually the tyre choice for OHV is all about puncture avoidance, but the potential for mud threw some more variables in to the mix. I decided to stick with the SuperFly as it was my "Race Bike" after all, and this was a race. I also went with the Hutichson Pythons, that have got me through many races. Their tougher Tubeless Ready sidewalls gave me some puncture protection, and I was convinced that there might be some small sections of mud, but on the whole the track would be hard packed and it turned out, I could not have been more wrong. I decided to stick with the gearing I used at LunarC which was 32/19 which should have been OK for a 4hr race. Decisions made, the rest of pre-race was fairly casual catching up with friends, puting on races numbers etc.

Race start was at 8:30 with the teams heading off with a 3 min headstart. I made my usual mid pack start, when I really I should be getting myself in to a position further towards the front to avoid time costing traffic on that first lap. The fast descent down Happy Gilmore was a vast contrast to what awaited us at the bottom down by the billabong. There was some 2km of barely ridable was going to be a long 4 hours. Surprisingly the Pythons and Small Block 8s felt OK(it was really only when I changed bikes I realised how poor they were). The section at the start of the fire trail known as Old Man's Schlong was tough, sapping so much energy for the climb itself, but this is where an SS 29er excels although passing was tough with a couple of sections where bunting reduced it to single track. Then at the little pinch climb in the single track after Old Man's Schlong I dropped my chain as I pushed to pass a slower rider. As I put the chain back on I watched most of the riders I had just passed, pass me back. The descent through 007 also provided very little in the way of passing opportunities. The climb up Gully allowed for a lot more passing. Down Ladder and up Snake again saw me managing the challenges of riding SS in traffic, especially up Snake. It was then back on to firetrail with a chance to put the power down and back to transition and time to do it all over again.

It was easy on the roller coaster that is Happy Gilmore, to forget the mud waiting at the bottom,. At least much of the muddy section was wide, allowing for some more passing. About half way through the second lap I was had found some clear track and was able to run my own pace, only having to pass the occasional single rider rather than groups of 3 and 4. 007 was a heap of fun, except for the little pinch climb in the middle, which was tough with 32/19 gearing. On one of the muddier sections during the 3rd lap, a massive amount of mud managed to splash up inside my glasses and I had difficulty for a while trying to remove the grit from my eyes while riding one handed. It was also on the 3rd lap that my rear brakes really started to feel spongy, but I had decided to persevere rather than have to wash 2 bikes. Then my chain came off again right at the end of the 3rd lap, and since I was returning to transition to get some bottles, I decided to change bikes.

The Continental Race King tyres front and back, were awesome by comparison to the Pythons and combined with the slight improvement in track conditions, I was able to get a bit more traction around the billabong. On the other hand the track conditions seemed to have deteriorated at the start of Old Man's Schlong. It was this 4th lap that I started to catch riders I thought long gone after my terrible start, and I got renewed motivation. By the 5th and 6th laps things were starting to warm up and all thoughts were towards the finish. I was trying to figure out how many more laps were possible. On the 6th lap I realised I was going to fit in one more lap, and I crossed the line with 10minutes to go. One last stop for a bottle and out to smash that last lap. Part way down 007 on the last lap I noticed my front tyre was feeling a little soft, but with my pump on the SuperFly and not wanting to waste a CO2 canister, I decided to just take it easy for the last 4k to home. So concentrating on picking smooth lines, and keeping my weight over the rear wheel I was able to get home, although some of the corners on Ladder and Snake caused the tyre to really roll. I was still feeling pretty good at the end, and even had a little race to the finish line with a geared bike along the fire trail for fun.

The final result, was 2nd in SS.(Well done Matt Dog) and 6th Overall Solo. I did push fairly hard but had an absolute ball despite the mud(or maybe because of it?). The next race in the series is the 6hr at Murenbong. Thanks again to the BA&A crew for putting up Gazebos, pulling them down and generally helping me during and at the end of the race to pack up.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

8hrs of LunarC II

This event marks the 1 year anniversary of single speed racing for me. It was a different venue from last year due to heavy rain over the New Year. So I had no real idea of what the track was like and what gearing to select. I ended up going with, what is for me a very racey 32 x 19, and I think I lucked on the perfect ratio.

Training for me this year has been almost entirely
on road due to weather and commuting. So I was really expecting this to hurt. Race week prep was not ideal either due to out of town work commitments and only arriving back home at 6pm. I did have the bikes ready on the weekend, and my lovely wife did some food shopping for me, so after some quick packing, I was good to go. I managed to lie down for about 1.5hrs, but only slept for about 30mins. With the thermometer sitting on about 25C, I arrived at the track at about 10pm and prepared my race numbers, food and hydration. My weapon of choice was my recently aquired Trek Superfly SS which was debuting at the event where I last rode a 26" MTB.

Finally it was midnight, and with some eerie music playing the race started. I tried to get away towards the front, and the slightly up hill fire road suited SS quite nicely. Heading in to the single track I was just holding station, as it is a long race and there are few passing opportunities in any case. On one of the climbs, I dropped my chain and by the time I managed to get it back on 20 or so riders had passed. I joined the procession, but riding SS so deep in the pack
is not much fun and I looked for an opportunity to pass. When one finally came, I accelerated and dropped the chain again, letting some riders past. Thankfully this was the last time the chain came off, and in hindsight I think I had too much tension in an attempt to compensate for issues with losing tension with the Superfly.

Completing the first lap, I realised this was going to be a tough race on SS. There were a couple of tough climbs early in the lap, followed by a couple of bumpy descents, a few gnarly log rolls interspersed with some nice single track. It was not until about lap 4 that I was able to set my own pace and it was happy days for quite a few laps. Someone had a MASSIVE stack behind me on one of the fast fire trail descents, but the rider insisted he was OK and to go on.

As the morning continued, the humidity was stifling and there were a couple of spits of rain which never fulfilled their promise. Some of the climbs were becoming really hard and the bumpy descents were killing my hands. My rear brake was spongey, and I was considering swapping bikes. I was told I was in 3rd, and even with the promise of lower gearing, I didn't want to waste time swapping my race from one bike to the other. Around this time I finally caught back up to "Matt Dog" who I had been following when I dropped my chain the first time. He was doing it tough on his sweet looking Ti rigid as I passed, and I was now in 2nd in SS.

Day broke, and with about 4 laps to go, I caught
Sean Bekkers and Al Cook, putting me in 1st SS and 2nd Solo. I rode the next lap with Al hot on my heels. With 2 laps to go, I could see Bekkers not too far behind and riding strong. I struggled on the 2nd last lap and was passed by Bekkers and I dropped one spot overall, but was still in 1st SS. Crossing the line with 20mins still on the clock, it was out for one last lap. On the final lap I went all out, and manage a sub 30min lap.

The final wrap was 1st single speed and 2rd overall solo. Exceeded my expectations by a long way. It felt like my hydration and meal plan was OK, but I now think I was significantly under hydrated. Apart from the dropped chains, "The Fly" was great, but not noticeable superior to the Ti Inbread I raced at the worlds. Tubeless tyres are awesome, but me decision to leave the Conti Race Kings on was not great as traction was a problem at times and I think these tyre are better for sandy conditions.

As always at top event by I2A. It was awesome seeing so many familiar faces and the friendly/positive vibe out on the track. Big props too, to the guys and girls that just get out there and ride all night just enjoying the fun of MTB. Big thanks to Ben and Lee who regularly get lumped with packing my stuff and I recover. Thanks guys.

I'm not sure what my next dirt event will be. Possibly Del XC on ANZAC weekend.

The stats and GPS can be view here but in summary,
Distance: 121k (although based on quoted lap distance and number of laps was 134k)
Climbing: 2406m
Av/Mx HR: 159/188 bpm
Calories: 4491
Av/Mx Spd: 14.8/45.4


About Me

QLD, Australia
My interests include Mountain Biking, Rockclimbing and Photography