Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Grafton to Inverell

Now live on PedalTorque

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Commuting as a Form of Training

My latest article on PedalTorque
How I use commuting as the major part of my "training"

Monday, October 7, 2013

Big News

I will now be contributing over at PedalTorque, a new website for those passionate about all things cycling. 

My latest articles:

Thanks for all the visits and comments, and I love to you to keep reading over at PedalTorque, along with some other like minded cyclists, like Rachel Edwards aka Sock Puppet.

Thursday, August 8, 2013 Cunningham Classic 2013

Look away now if you are only interested in dirt, mud and mountain biking.    I have never blogged about a road race.  Mostly because there is not usually much to write as they are short and somewhat formulaic, and as such it would usually go like this "Group ride, with a few failed breakaways with a bunch sprint finish."  Add to this, that I usually miss the important part of these races...The sprint finish.  The Cunningham Classic in general is different, and this one (and I might be a little biased here) was A LOT different.

This was my 2nd Cunningham Classic, with my participation last year in the 30th running of the event, exceeding my expectations and leaving me looking forward to this year's event as soon as I crossed the line.  What I liked was climb up the range, the rarely flat terrain, even the fabled head and cross winds for which the Cunningham Classic is renowned, but most of all I liked the 96k distance.  It certainly makes for tougher and more interesting racing than a criterium at the Nundahdome.

Like last year, Masters B was divided into 2 groups, each with around 50 riders.  I was number 51.  I was happy to see a couple of mates in my group, first timer Dillon Price, and Sean Dench, who knows how I race, and we figured we might be able to make a breakaway work with 10k or so to go.  The main aim would be to keep my nose out of the wind and not chase down every break.

On the start line in Gatton, the conditions for the 31st edition of the Cunningham Classic were looking ideal,  a bright sunny day, around 18 degrees, and only a slight breeze.  However, I knew from my experience last year that the wind conditions in Gatton were usually calmer than over the range.   

Ready for Race Start
Master B1 had race start of 9:30 and we casually rolled off with a neutral zone until we were safely on the main road.  It was not long after being released, that a solo rider made a break, the race had started already.   Sean edged toward the front, and I followed figuring that I'd try stick close to him and we'd see what panned out.  The solo rider was quickly brought back to the bunch without too much effort.  Then a 2 man break went, and almost out of habit, I jumped after them.   For me it was a half arsed effort to try and encourage a bit of a chase from the main group, but, it was at this point I realised that there was still more than 90K to go, and it not likely to be a race winning move to go this early with unknown riders, so I was happy when we were caught quite quickly by the bunch.

I dropped back to find Sean and tell him to "reign me in", but before I could talk to him, he was off the front chasing down a lone rider (Damien Stacy).  I went after them and the breakaway group was formed with just under 90k to go. We worked well together and it was not long before the Moto told us we had a 30s break, and it started to feel so real.   Just like watching the TDF on TV :)  

Approaching the KOM
We were getting updates from the Moto and our lead was extending until we were told there was a 2 man chase closing in.  We continued to work, hoping to make the KOM with just the 3 of us, however we were only part way up the first part of the climb when Jon Hobson and Luke Stenner caught us.  We were now 5, but were working well together on the climb, and especially across the flattish area before the real KOM.  We had a gentlemen's agreement that it was every man for himself at the KOM, but that we would regroup after that for headwinds which we knew would destroy us if we broke into smaller groups.  

The final part of the KOM
Jon got the KOM fairly easily, but we regrouped for the run though to the New England Highway.  We shared turns into the wind, but there were signs of some cracks forming in the group.  When we turned on the New England Highway the Moto informed us that Luke, Jon and Damien had sat up.  Jon and I quickly discussed our options, and decided our best bet was to continue.  The combination of road surface and headwind with just the 2 of us made for some tough going. Somehow I won the "Most Impressive" jersey in 2012 and decided that my best option of winning anything this year was to try for it again.  Jon and I worked well together in to the crosswind, with me spending as much time on the front as I could.  Eventually we were joined by another 2 riders, Jamie Smart and Tim Barnard (I think).  The 4 of us tried to form an echelon as best as 4 riders can.  Just before the turn off the highway at Allora we were caught by a bunch of 6-8 riders.

Jon, Jamie and Tim sought the refuge of the bunch, but I kept to my target of chasing the MI jersey and rode in a way that many would think insane.  I never missed a turn on the front, and even filled in the gaps as riders struggled to take their turns.  It was already the case that out of the 10 or so riders in the group, only perhaps 5 were really driving.  Updates from the Moto were a fairly constant 1min 30secs, but I wanted to make sure we stayed ahead.  I was about 4th wheel when we turned at Allora, and was quite miffed when the 3 riders ahead of me started to look at each other to see who was going to do the work.  Anyone who knows how I ride, knows that this kind of carry on drives me wild, and true to style, and in keeping with pursuit of the MI jersey, I went to the front.  Things continued in this vein, with me trying to spend as much time on the front as I could handle.  On the gentle rises, I was feeling strong relative to the bunch, often riding off the front and soft pedalling back to the group.  I did this 3 or 4 times, and I was on the front with about 10k to go when Jamie tried to breakaway with another rider .Somehow I managed to go with them.

Everything from here is a blur...

We worked a few turns each until it was just Jamie and I.  Another couple of turns each, and I think we were caught by more riders, but to be honest, I didn't look back to know for sure. Next climb, I pedalled away again, but this time I pushed hard on the descent.  I quickly established a gap, and with about 6km to go it was ITT time.

The Finish Line
 I only glanced over my shoulder a couple of times, and I seemed to be holding the gap, I pedalled every downhill, I started to recognise landmarks from last year, and my Garmin told me I was getting close.  5K, 4k, 3k, then in front of me was what looked like the left hand turn in to the main street that had caught me out last year, but it seemed too soon, so I yelled to the traffic controller, and thankfully he confirmed that I had to turn left.  I turned in to the main street and pedalled like my life depended on it, the final straight seemed longer than I remembered it, but then I saw the 200m to go sign, and I sprinted as best I could after 96k, and somehow after being in a break for nearly 90k I crossed the line in 1st, about 200m ahead of the sprint for 2nd.

A big thanks to the Kangaroo Point Cycling Club and officials.  Thanks to the Dillon and his father, Malcolm, for spending the day to drive Dillon's car so we had a way to get home.  Thanks also to ESI Sports Photography for the pics. The burgers and chips at the Horse & Jockey Hotel really hit the spot while we waited for the presentations.  It was also mission accomplished on the Most Impressive jersey too, so I really could not have hoped for a better ride.  Final results are here.

My Stats for the day...

Thursday, July 4, 2013

MTB Super Series - Race 4 - Murrenbong(Swamp Edition)

The last round of the MTB Super Series was once again to be held a Murrenbong.  After fantastic conditions in round 3 the weather on the days leading up to race 4 suggested the track was going to live up the its nickname of Muddenbong.  Living not too far from Murrenbong and only getting light rain, I was in hope of if only being a  damp track, and then only in the lower parts of the course.  News coming back from those that had done a practice lap was mixed, anything from "Its not that bad" to "I'm going home!"  Never mind, these were the sorts of conditions that got me into single speed MTB in the first place.

There was heavy cloud, but it was not actually rain, so hopefully conditions would improve.   Ever the optimist, I decided to stick with the Ignitor tyres that I had on my Superfly SS rather than swapping the more mud capable tyres off my spare bike.  We were racing in the reverse direction from the direction we generally ride at Murrenbong.  I had geared up from the previous race, but a little less than I may have done in dry conditions.  I didn't see either Jacob or Jeff that ridden so strongly in race 3, but on the start line, I spotted Jeff.  I had a feeling I was running lower gearing, but I thought I could try to ride with him for the first lap.  We had an unusual rolling start, and I got boxed in and by the time I got in the clear, I was well behind the front runners as they turned off the fire road on to the first single track.  Once things settled down, I realised I'd forgotten to start my Garmin, which also meant I was not sure of the race timing(I finally remembered to have a look at the official clock at about the 3hr mark).

Even in the wet, the track was a heap of fun in the reverse direction. Conditions on lap 1 were OK, until we got the creek section, and the first crossing was bottom bracket deep.  Otherwise there was some hope that the track would improve throughout the morning, but after 3 or 4 laps the track deteriorated until some parts were slop.  Grip on some of the climbs and descents was almost non-existent, with a couple of logs crossing the trail nearly taking my rear wheel away from me many times.

I started to have difficulty seeing, with the mud covering my glasses.  I manage to clean them a few times, but eventually discard them when I stop to change bottles and grab a banana.  Eating and drinking without getting a mouth full of dirt was impossible, and really meant that I was definitely under fuelled.  Fortunately you can get away with that a bit in a ...4hr race if you start well hydrated...especially when it's not too hot.  Otherwise, I was feeling pretty good.  The whole track was rideable, it just took some extra concentration at each log.    The last couple of laps was particularly treacherous, with the top layer of mud in some sections coming up in whole, sticky layers, turning my tires in to slicks which led to lots of 2 wheel drifting...and lots of fun.

I crossed the line in 4hrs 11mins, which was good enough for 2nd in the Single Speed category, and 8th overall solo.  Jeff Toohey was in a class of his own, winning the single speed category and finishing 1st overall solo. I was turned up enough times in the series to win the 4 race SS category, with Hallam Brooks in 2nd and Jeff Toohey in 3rd.  Although I'd prefer a bit of a mix of race lengths(ie longer), the series was well run and well attended.  Thanks to the organisers, sponsors and assistants.

Monday, May 27, 2013

MTB Super Series - Race 3 - Murrenbong

Race 3 of the MTB Super Series was back at Murrenbong, where all of last year's races were held.  After what has been a tough week for me and my family with an emergency trip back home.  I didn't get to touch my bikes until Saturday afternoon, and my race bike still had it number on from race 2...which also says something about how little MTB I have been doing between races.  I did not really study the course profile, but my knowledge of Murrenbong should have seen me increase my gearing quite a bit.  However my hectic week, lack of prep time, reluctance to make late bike changes and most of all laziness meant that I left the same gearing I used at the much steeper Mt Joyce track.

One of the many things I like about Murrenbong is that is only 20 minutes from home, and I only left home after 8am.  I arrive to see that Jacob was racing this round after missing the first 2 races, and that if last year was anything to go by, I was about to get schooled.  Jacob pointed out that the track did not really go through the area where the majority of people had set up.  I also heard that there were a greater number of SS riders this round, and it turned out that there were 7 riders, up from the 4 in the first 2 rounds.  

Again there was to be an alternate fire road start to avoid too much bottlenecking into the single track.  We got away early, and my plan was to stick near Jacob and see how I went.  It became immediately apparent, that despite spinning my legs off, that I was under geared.  Not only were the geared riders disappearing into the distance, but so were the fast half of the SS field.  

With the knowledge that I was running lower gearing that the guys in front, I could only push the gear I had, and hope to make some ground back at the end of the race if anyone was over geared.  On a course I know quite well, I was able to make good time in the single trail, but the flat and downhill fire roads were killing me, and I was easy picking for the average geared rider.

Towards the middle of the race I came across a cramping SS rider who has possibly over geared.  I thought at this stage that I was possibly in 3rd behind Jacob and Peter.  However, I was unaware that former 24hr Age Group World Champ Jeff Toohey, had entered SS until he passed me with 2 laps to go.  I managed to  stick with Jeff for the remainder of the race, not sure if he was lapping me and therefore in 2nd, or passing me, and we were possibly fighting for 3rd.  With about 500m to go, I decided to push ahead of Jeff in case we were racing for 3rd..turns out we weren't.

Around the the 3 hour mark, the track was shortened, presumably  to allow a rider who had gone down to be carried out.  I wish whoever it was a quick recovery.

The final results were Jacob, Jeff and Peter, so congrats to them.  It also turned out that Jacob and Jeff were 2nd and 3rd overall solo.

Another great event on a great course and in fantastic conditions.  I could not believe how awesome those not at the point end were in giving up track for faster riders.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

MTB Super Series - Race 2 - Mt Joyce

From all I'd heard about Mt Joyce, I was expecting a tough course for race 2 of the MTB Super Series.  On paper it looked interesting, with about 250m of climbing in under 4K, followed by a descent of similar proportions. Having never ridden at Mt Joyce, I had no idea of what to expect.  The good news was the weather conditions were nearly perfect, especially when compared to the mud of Race 1.  On the negative side was my total lack of MTB riding since the 24hr, and an attempt on Friday afternoon to remind myself of what SS MTB was all about, ended in a fairly heavy coming together with a tree and a massive bruise on my left forearm.

From my home on the northside of Brisbane Mt Joyce is a 90min drive.  I arrived just under an hour before race start and with the transition a little way away from the carpark, I really didn't have that much spare time to get set up and ready to race.  The transition area was very exposed, with no shade from trees and only those organised enough to take a portable gazebo having any protection from the sun.  I managed to set up my gear with Paul Fletcher and Emma Thomson.  I registered, and it looked like there were only 4 single speed riders.

The race started with an 800m gravelly fire road climb, with a very steep pinch before the single track that offered some climbing respite before turning uphill almost immediately for a further 3km of climbing.  With the team riders and faster geared riders heading off into the distance, I was leading a group of 5 or 6 riders, pulling away in the steeper corners, but being caught up on the more gently climbing straights.  After what felt like 100 switchbacks, we crested the top of the course, and let gravity be on our side at last.  Surprisingly, I caught up to a small group of riders which I had thought were much further ahead, and I was feeling fairly good.  The downhill was an absolute hoot, and made the climb so worth it.  The remainder of the course was undulating, but the fast descent to the start/finish line was potentially treacherous if taken too fast.

The first couple of laps seemed to go quickly, up then down, not really catching other riders, or being caught.  The track was fun, but finding somewhere to eat and drink was tough.  Essentially the run in to the finish, and the fire road climb were the only places.  I stopped bothering to carry food and I would just scoff down what I could immediately after transition.  I rode  a couple of laps with Peter Winfield,  with me leading up the climbs and him providing me something to chase on the way down.  Trying to keep up on the undulating bottom section was hard on the SS, but when Peter stopped for food and I did not, I caught back up and we were back in formation for 1 more lap until I stopped for water on the next lap

It warmed up quite a bite, and by the 2 hour mark, I was sneaking in a drink at the top of the climb. I was still lapping consistently, and enjoying the down hill and honing my descending skills.  I had no idea what was happening at all in the race.  I thought for a moment I was about to be passed, but realised the SS rider I saw was actually in a team..  With 2 laps to go, I stocked up on drink bottles, and grabbed a banana.  On the climb, I passed 2 single speed riders, who both looked they were struggling a bit, but still rolling OK, but I figured I was in 2nd at least.

I crossed the line in 4hr:17mins having covered 71K and climbed 2413m, 1st in SS and 14th overall in another great turn out of 75+ solo riders. This was my first time at My Joyce, but I can't wait to go back and investigate further.  Another well organised event, on awesome trails and fantastic attitude by all...apart from 1 team rider who was really quite aggressive in passing.  Race 3 is just up the road at Murrenbong, which is always a fun track.

Thanks Paul and Emma for the use of your Gazebo too.

If anyone has any photos they'd like to share, or I could use on my Blog, drop a link in the comments, and I'd be greatly appreciative.


Monday, April 1, 2013

Kona 24hr...Solo

With no 24hr events in Queensland in 2012, it's been nearly 2 years since I last did a 24hr event. The Kona 24hr was my 4th attempt at a 24hr MTB event solo, a discipline I have only ever ridden on a Single Speed.  As per usual, it was a small field of only 4 riders, but that was 1 more than my last 24hr and more than some age groups.  This race was at Spicers Hidden Vale  on a slightly longer and more technical version of the 2010 and 2011 24hr races making it a 16.8k lap.  The circuit had 2 transitions for the teams, allowing them to do 2 roughly 8k laps.

The Easter weekend date meant that we could have a fairly relaxed race preparation.  Arriving Friday afternoon and camping the night.  My wife and other great friends were in a 4 person team would provide support.   One of my main concerns in the week leading up, was what gearing to run.  In previous years I have run 32/21, but an "interesting" rule that any spare bike for SS riders must have the same gearing, and the only gearing I have 2 of was 33/21.  I knew that would be no problems for 1 or 2 laps, but for 24hrs...  On Friday, after setting up camp, Ben, Ali and I went for a test lap. (See video)  As I heard a number of times over the weekend, this was a "Real Mountain Bikers" course!  It was raw, rocky, technical with enough fun to keep you going out for more, and I was OK with my gearing choice and the weather forecast was looking good, slightly hot, but no major rain forecast.

The race was scheduled to start at midday, giving plenty of time to install race numbers, check tyre pressures, lube chains and generally get things ready, and still have enough time to catch up with friends.  Part of the action on race day was a 4hr race(starting 5 mins after 24hr) on the full track, and a kids 24min race on a much smaller loop.  My eldest boy entered his first MTB race in the kids race, and I was on photographer duties.  By the time that raced finished there was less than 1hr until race start.  The race start was on the main fire road, and designed to allow for the field to spread out before we entered the first single track, and from what I saw it worked very well.  

I started towards the front, but behind Larry Dyer in his distinct pink kit who was also riding SS.  Thankfully the fire road is slightly uphill which makes it easier for single speeds to keep up with the geared bikes.  The start was fast and furious, but I managed to keep Larry in view, and dragging him in ever so slowly, but it was not until towards the end of Aeroplane that I finally managed to pass him and concentrate on just running my own race.  The temperature was in the low 30s for first couple of laps and I was trying to keep the fluids up.  I was also conscious that this was a long race, and I tried to back off a little from the super fast pace of the first couple of laps.  I'd decided on the first lap to take the B-Line switchback up ladder to save the legs from the punishment of the fire trail, even-though I was able to ride it Friday afternoon.

With lap times just over an hour, I was starting to think that I would need to carry lights well before it got dark.  As I rode in to pits at the end of my 5th lap I thought I heard on the PA, that lights were compulsory, however despite this I did a bottle change and headed back out, but as I approached the pit exit I saw Hayden (probably checking for lights) and I remembered.  I headed back to our site and mounted my lights with the assistance of Ali and Ben.  I was told I had about a 40 minute lead, which was good news, but with so much of the race remaining no time to sit back and relax.

The night laps are my favourite, especially at this time of year when it does not mean ridiculously cold temperatures.  For me night riding brings with it a sense of focus.  The great thing about an Easter weekend date is that it means a full moon and slightly higher level of ambient light.   Sometime early in the night I passed all 3 SS riders.  I rode about quarter of a lap with Larry, and we just chatted generally about cycling.  About 8 or 9 I stopped for some warm food and a coffee, which gave me a new burst of energy and a change from the muesli bars and bananas.

Midnight and we were half way, but I was starting to hurt.  My hands, back and feet were the worst, but the fine dust was quite abrasive, and every other part of my body in contact with clothing(including my HR monitor) was getting rubbed raw.  My eyes too had been filled with their fair share of dust, but nowhere near as bad as in 2010 where my vision became very cloudy.  I was also walking the climb from Ladder as it was as fast as riding the B-line, and the occasional bit of walking felt good for my back. 

The laps and Ks kept ticking over, but returning to the pits each time to see Ali waiting was like a power boost that gave me the energy to get back out there.  I was told all the other SS riders had stopped riding, but my goals were to rack up as many Ks as I was able, and while it was not super cold, the fast descent out of the pits felt much worse after a long stop, so stops were short.  My bar light went flat right at the end of one lap, and although I carry spare, my helmet lights were bright enough to make it back safe.

The Kookaburra's heralded the approaching dawn, which would also mean there was only about 6 hours to go and no more battery swaps.  I was still keeping stops short and plugging away.  The fun of riding Rock Bottom, 007, Gully, Western Creek Track and even the first part of Ladder were out weighing the hard slog of Old Man's, Woodworm, the fire road from Ladder and Escalator.  The camaraderie of fellow solos and encouragement of team riders all making it worthwhile.  On one lap the courteous question of "You right?" to a stopped rider came with the response "No, my chain is stuck!"  I decided that I could afford to stop.  The chain was stuck between the spokes and cassette and a little brute force and it was all good to go.

With about 4 hours to go I had a lead of 5 laps, so I stopped for some more real food, and contemplated my options.  I was keen to have a shower, and while there was the off chance that I would need to go out for another lap, I could not relax.  After nearly an hour off the bike I decided to guarantee the win and went out for one last lap.  I had a gumby stack on Woodworm and was practically picked up and put back on the bike by Matt "Dog" and Sean Bekkers.

I rolled home with 18laps 307k in 22hrs20mins, which was good enough for 1st in Single Speed and about 7th overall.  Thanks to Hayden and Fleur for another awesome event and fantastic trails.  All riders were friendly and courteous (it's pretty rare that they are not).  Now to contemplate the next 24...

Thursday, March 21, 2013

MTB Super Series - Race 1 - Adare

If you've read any of my posts over the last couple years, you probably know that 4hr races are not really my thing, but it's always fun to catch up with the MTB crowd and ride new and interesting trails....and lately it seems racing is the only MTB riding I've been able to do.  I'd never ridden any of the trails at Adare before, partly because most of the opportunities to race there have been "sprint races", and because I thought it was further away, than it turned out to be.  I only entered the race on the Thursday before the event, waiting to see what the likely weather conditions would be.  The forecast was good, and with no real rain in the previous 2 weeks, I was hoping for a track in good condition.  When I arrived at Adare, there were riders returning from test rides.  The general consensus was that the track was in great condition, with just a few wet patches.  Sounds perfect...

As soon as I got out of the car, I was hit with a wall of heat.  It was going to be a hot one, not the conditions I have been riding in lately with all the rain and general lack of riding.  My setup for the day was an esky with food and hydration sitting on the side of the tack.  Waiting for the race start the temperature was climbing, and with little shade we were sweating just sitting around.

I was told at entry there were 6 or 7 rider in the Single Speed category, which was a reasonable field, but I had expected more in such a short race.  I was hoping to start somewhere towards the front, but I couldn't get with in 30 riders of the front row, which isn't so surprising looking at the results which show that there were probably over 150 riders on the start line.  I got away to a reasonable start and made up a few spots on the flat sections before the single track.  The "Maze" section was tight and twisty, but most of all fun...and there was dust.  It's been months since I last saw dust on local trails.  Out of the Maze a short sharp descent then a grass section, followed by a reasonable climb that presented good passing opportunities for me.  More fun single trail  and a long off camber corner that took me 6 or so laps to perfect.  Then came the climb that on a normal day would have been the iconic section of the course.  Averaging 10%, but with sections approaching 30% and a killer switchback.  From here it was down hill to what on the first couple of laps was a damp section, but still ride able.  Another gentle climb and it back past the homestead, some flat single trail and back thought the start/finish chute.  Before the race I'd been given some false info on how we were to go  through the chute, and followed "Hubcap" out to the teams transition area.  Lap 1 was complete in under 20mins.  For me, short laps make for a mentally challenging was going to be a long day.

Lap 2 was nearly as quick, but by lap 3 the track was deteriorating in the low area.  By lap 4 it was an axle deep quagmire, and mud in the brakes sounded horrible.  It started to feel like my rear brakes were stuck on for the uphills, and barely working on the downhills.  Just before the 2 hour mark, I was starting to think about withdrawing from the race. I really didn't feel like replacing my brakes, and usually any stop in a race this short really compromises any sort of result.  I think I was really feeling the heat, and in the end the thing that kept me going was the need to do some more MTB racing before the up coming 24hr.  At this stage I was really just riding to consolidate my position in the SS category.

Somewhere early in the race I managed to get some scratches on my arm and with heat, they were stinging in a mix of mud, sweat and dirt. I was being very generous when letting other rider past, and each lap the mud hole got deeper and the hills got bigger.  Looking at the track profile earlier in the week, it had looked harmless enough.  LunarC was similar, and it was an 8hr race, so I figured I'd get away with similar gearing of 33/21.  I probably didn't factor in the short length of the track meaning that the steep bits were coming around twice as often.  I also hadn't factored in the heat or mud and the last couple of laps really hurt, and despite still being able to smash past most geared bikes on the bottom of main climb, I had to resort to walking the part leading up to the switchback.  Getting back on to the bike was tough, and descent was not as much fun as it might have been with my brakes only just doing their job and knowing that at the bottom was that horrible mud pit.

I crossed for the 2nd last lap with about 15 minutes to, and for the first time I was glad it was a short lap, but with a little bit of extra energy knowing it was the last time to wade through the mud, I was off.  Imagining every rider coming from behind as an SS competitor, I pushed as hard as I could.  I finished with 11 laps in a time of 4hrs 14mins covering 57.4K.  I didn't see another single speeder once we left the start line, so I had no idea if I was first or last.  In the end there were only 4 riders in SS, and I managed to finish in 1st place, and about 15th overall.   So, my first time at Adare was a success, albeit a very hard race in trying conditions, on what was a tough SS course with some steep stuff and a fair bit of flat that would have been fun to smash in a bigger gear.   Congrats to everyone that got out there and gave it a go, thanks to the volunteers and organisers on a well run event.  Thanks John P for the fantastic venue, I can't wait to ride it in the dry.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

8hrs of LunarC IV

I think it is fair to say that  LunarC  is my favourite event each year.  The 8hr lengths seems to suit me, so do the cooler temperatures of night racing.  This was the 4th running of the event, and the 3rd at Murrenbong.  Having done well in this race in 2012 and 2011, this was definitely a race I was hoping to do well again this year.  Preparation had gone well over the New Year, with lots of rides with friends and commuting.  However with less than two weeks to go, I managed to hurt my lower back and was barely able to walk, let alone ride.  A couple of visits to the chiropractor, and I could walk, but still could not ride.  The with just over a week to go, on the advice of a friend, I visited an osteopath who adjusted, massaged and performed some acupuncture and I was like new person...not 100%, but at least able to start some short commutes to work. Eventually managing only 50K in the 2 weeks prior to race start, and no recent night riding.  LunarC was going to be a ride of discovering how my back and legs were feeling...more than usual.  My confidence was down a little too, so mentally this was going to be tough.

Conditions on race afternoon were not great, and driving home in torrential rain, I definitely considered not showing up.  A quick call to Ben setting up, suggested that Murrenbong had had less rain and the track would be fine.  The rain continued as I packed, and I only live about 5K from the track.  Still thinking about pulling out with the risk of a slippery track increasing the chance of hurting my back.  By the time I headed out to the track, the rain had lifted, but the dirt road in to race HQ was slop, and thoughts of previous mudfests at Murrenbong came flooding back.  I found where Ben had set up, and went to register.  There were only 6 single speeders registered, but there was always the chance category changes, especially due to the expected conditions.

Unlike previous years when the race started at Midnight, this year it was scheduled to start at 10pm.  This suited me because the wait for midnight did seem to drag on, and an earlier finish sounded better too.  This did however mean more of the race was in the dark, and therefore more batteries for lights.  Another change to the track for this year was adding about another 2km to make the course just over 10km, which is a better length for the solo for an event of this length.

So after some setting up, deciding on which bike to ride, it was time to see how I really felt for my first MTB ride in 3 weeks.  The fire trail was better than expected, and I felt OK on the bike, maybe I would manage more than 1 lap.  I lined up on the 2nd row, hoping to get in to the single track in good position with the false flat fire trail separating the riders and quite favourable to my SS gearing.  The plan worked, and I hit the single track in great position.  The track looked good, until we hit the creek section, which was quite muddy.  I didn't have the best of tyres for mud, but I was fairly confident that in a lap or two, they would be the perfect tyres for the majority of the track...which they were.  There were some sections which filled both my front and rear tyres with mud, and it was a case of pointing in the general direction you wanted to go, and hoping for the best.

I got through the first lap and felt pretty good, maybe this was going to be OK.  Thankfully I'd set my bikes up with lower gearing than last year because of my back issues, and I would have gone even lower had I known how wet it was going to be.  The climb to what has been aptly named Mordor was still as impossible as last year, but the new sections like "Crying in the Chapel" were fantastic and well suited to single speed.  On the 2nd lap my glasses started to fog up, and I eventually had to take them off, and left them at camp.

I was getting passed by more riders than normal, and not really passing that many, and I felt like I was not riding well at all and my back was starting ache. I had not seen many single speeders but did get passed by one like I was standing still.  It turned out to be a team rider, but at the time it was a little demoralising.

About 3:30 the heavens opened, and the course became even muddier than the first lap.  It was nearly impossible for me to ride some climb because I had no grip.  I went down once when I just lost momentum and could not get unclipped in time. Later that same lap, came across another rider that had suffered the same fate.  Now with out glasses and the return of serious amounts of mud I was also having problems keeping my eyes clean.  At this stage I was suffering quite a bit of back pain, and my feet were sore from pushing the bike up Mordor every lap.  The heavy clouds also made for a later sunrise delayed the great morale boost that comes with it.

My lap times had dropped off from 35 mins to about 50 mins, I considered pulling out, but I know that quitting hurts more in the long term.  I always prefer to finish these timed events "on the bike" and I worked out that I was going to sneak in that "extra" lap.  I desperately wanted to know if I needed to do it or not and given my lead up to this race, probably would have stopped if I could, but there seemed to be no results that Ben or Andy could find, so I had no idea, whether I was first or last.   It turned out that in the single speed category I did not need to do the lap, but I suspect overall results may have changed significantly. Of course now I am glad I did the extra lap because it feels like I finished the race as it deserved.

So in the end there were only 4 single speeders that showed up, and it was a close run thing for 1st with only about 10mins back to Ashley Howlett in 2nd who pushed me again this year.  Overall I was about 7th solo, but also on 12 laps.  It was also another great ride by John Sloan who for the 2nd year in a row was actually the fastest solo rider, showing the young guys how it is done.

A big thanks to Ben and Andy for support, to the Robyn and Simon for an other awesome event (I've come to expect no less from I2A) and to all the volunteers and helpers.  Also a massive thanks to Brisbane Holistic Health Center who took me from just able to walk to an 8hr MTB enduro in 8 days.

I'll try to update with some more photos if some become available.  Check out the video by Element Photo and Video Productions above.

Compared to most others and the published track distance, my GPS reading about 10% under and should have been 120K.


About Me

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