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.