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Gravity 12 Hour (Male Pairs)

Well, it’s nearly two weeks since I was packing up & driving off to Bright (Northern Vic) to compete in the annual Gravity 12 Hour Mountain Bike race.   

The idea of the race is to start riding at 8am – and ride until 8pm – sounds like a great day out, eh !?    

Smile

The trail is a 16km loop with a bunch of awesome sounding singletrack – I’d been checking the Strava details from my buddies the previous year.

The event is run out of the caravan park in town, with competitors able to camp for free – and so I loaded up the Festiva, and headed off for the 4 hour drive – on the Friday night before the race.   

When I arrived, I met up with some of my Twitter buddies who had driven down from Albury (less than 1.5 hours for them !) – and I set up camp next to them.   I registered at the event centre, and got my bike number – and then hit the hay.

When I woke up, it was DAMN cold – especially camping in a tent !    It seems to be colder than everywhere else in Bright – even in early February.   But – the reason it was so cold was a total cloudless sky – blue skies for the day ahead.

6.30am wake-up and the butterflies & excitement were building.   Some quick chatter over brekky with a few people (muesli + peanut butter sandwich) – and setup my bike – with my bike number, and msg’ed with my other riding buddies who were arriving from Albury (had driven down in the morning).

I actually knew quite a few people – friends via Twitter that I meet up a few times through the year.   Scott & Matt were riding solo – and so was Jarrod – and Jen & Brendan were doing a pairs event.  

Other friends were in teams as well (Matt & Tim) – and I saw Steve running pit-crew for another team.

The MTB guys & girls are always friendly – was a great vibe at the start of the day.

My riding buddy for the day was Jason, also down from Albury – I hadn’t actually MET him as yet – LOL !   

Based on recommendations from some other mutual friends, we organised to enter a team-pair – with the team name of “KESSEL RUNNERS”.    We’d be riding for 12 parsecs, or so it seemed – there’s a Star Wars joke in there for those that ‘get it’.

Our ‘pit’ for the day was at the very end of the start straight section – just before entering for the next lap.   The plan was to just ride a lap – and then tag – and the other rider would head out for a lap.  

I met up with Jason, and everyone was madly setting up gear, and unloading cars – some people rushing to get ready, after an early (EARLY) start and drive to Bright.

We drew straws to see who would ride the first lap – in other words, Jason said “I nominate YOU” – and so that was it.    (LOL !)

The Starting Line

For some crazy reason, the event organisers decided to have the riders do a ‘Le Mans’ style start – so everyone had to find a willing friend or stranger to hold their bike, and then en masse, we gathered at the top of the hill – probably 500m or so from the start line.   There were about 300 riders (at a guess) – so it was a mad dash when the “GO” signal was sounded.  

If you can imagine a stock-taking sale rush, except people grabbing for a mountain bike, instead of discount shoes – that was about the gist of it.   

It was kinda fun – lots of LOL’s – a silly but fun way to start the day.

As I began my first lap, it was apparent WHY they had done the start like that – as it was a peak-hour crawl for the first few KM’s – stop-start, and lots of passing people – and being passed by others.   The ‘self-seeding’ was beginning.

The First Lap (~8am-9am)

Knowing that it was a long day ahead, I “took in” the trails, working out the flow, and discovering some of the hill climb sections.    There were some great trail names – Wombat’s Lair, RollerCoaster, and Gorilla Warfare.

The trail headed out of town, to the nearby hills, and wound around, before heading back – and over some bridges across the river – and then into the caravan park.

Various terrain, including open rocky areas, and narrow pine tree singletrack, and a bunch of forest roads to join sections together.  

A great trail – and I was getting to ride it ALL DAY !

After about an hour, I was back at the caravan park, and tagged to Jason – who headed off for his lap.

Rest Up & Eat

While I had been out on my lap, the marquee had been set up, and tables & chairs too – thanks Gaye – great work !   

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So, I was able to rest, cool-off, and had a drink & something to eat.  My food for the day was some banana’s, oranges, some chicken sandwiches, and a few energy drinks – and water with hydration powder.

My lap was 8am till about 9am – so I guess Jason would be back ~10am.   It was really nice to just sit & chill out, and ‘wait to ride’.   I spoke to a few other riders, and watched the procession of other competitors heading out for their lap/s.

Then, it was time to get ready for Jason to come back into the pits and a hand-slap – it was like that for the rest of the day (lap-on/lap-off at close to the one hour mark).

Lap #2 (~10am-11am)

Jason came back into the pits, and I took off for my 2nd lap.   Knowing the trail the 2nd time out was advantageous, and the crowds had subsided – meaning I was able to ride a little quicker.   

My 2nd lap was actually my fastest for the day – just under an hour (59mins).

My other pit buddies came into the pits – riding solo’s – and I said a hello, and helped them out with some drinks/food – before they took off again.   Riding solo looks tough – I’d like to try it (one day !).

Other Riders

Lots of news about people having troubles – I’d passed one guy who had lost his rear derailleur & chain, and was walking his bike out – poor lad…!

But was worse was for our friend Jen – who’d had a crash in the first lap (only 6km done) – and had a ride in an ambulance.   It turned out she was OK – some deep bruising in her leg – thanks to an argument with a LOG – she’d fallen when negotiating a gully run, with other riders pushing along close behind her.

I’d experienced a bunch of people passing ME – with most guys calling out ‘track’ – or ‘on your right’ – or simply ‘pass when you can’.   I usually felt pressured to move over, but often there was no room – or not safe to do so. 

MOST riders would be OK – and say thanks when passing – but some were rude & pushy – with no words spoken at all.   I yelled at one guy “just call if you want to pass” – he mumbled something as he raced off.   What a tool.

Lap #3 (~12pm-1pm)

After a banana and an energy drink – and a gel – I was well fuelled for more riding. 

3 laps done – that’s 48km so far.  I was updating FaceBook in between laps too – funny to look back and see.  

Thx to Ben for suggesting I “stop twittering and go smash some laps…!”    LOL !

Lunch Break

I made sure to have a decent lunch – with some chicken strips, cheese, lettuce & mayo – nice !   And had an orange – which I slurped down with gusto.

I also snagged a few pieces of fruit cake from Matt – who had unfortunately pulled out of the solo event.  He was pretty sore in the lower back – lots of road riding lately, and he had a brand new MTB ride (Epic) – and hadn’t ridden it much.   He was pretty down on himself – but was happy enough to hang out for the rest of the day.

Scott’s wife & young baby girl had come down from Albury – and his brother Brett & family – great to meet them and chat while waiting for my turn to ride.

Lap #4 (~2pm-3pm)

Was pretty hot & sunny by now – middle of the afternoon – and I was working out the FUN parts of the trail – and the TOUGH parts of the trail.   It was good to keep churning along, with some sections becoming very familiar.

Also, I strapped my helmet cam on for some GoPro footage.  It worked out really well – and you can see the trails that we were riding on (make sure you check out the 1080p version – nice footage !) :

** Rollercoaster

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** Gorilla warfare (my favourite section of the trail)

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** Coming into the pits – end of the lap

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Close to the end of the lap, I rounded a corner, and saw one of my buddies Steve waiting to take photos.  I gave him a goofy grin – and kept riding.   Next corner – there he was again !    And then again !

He had been scrambling through the bush to get photos – for the riders, it seemed like he was teleporting between sections of the trail – LOL !

Thx Steve for the photos :

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P1000752 P1000758 

P1000761 

4 laps down – about 64km.   More distance than the Chase The Sun race event at Lysterfield – and still plugging along fairly well.  

Lap #5 (~4pm-5pm)

The trails were starting to get fairly hard by now – with some sections that I began to dread.   The downhill parts were starting to hurt more-and-more – even the arms on the rough DH sections – and calf muscles feeling the burn.

My back was the biggest concern – but I keep cruising along.  

5 laps done – that’s 80km…!

I made sure to eat a bit more chicken sandwich – and a can of energy drink – and then it was time to think about my ‘final’ lap.

Lap #6 (~6pm-7pm)

I’d been wondering if I’d manage a 6th lap – but ended up going for it – and it took all-I-had-left to finish it.  

I remember stopping a few times, overcooked, and struggling on some of the uphill sections.  

I dropped a chain too – when changing down gears – and also had to stop to wipe sweat out of my eyes – that stings !

I was starting to count DOWN the final few KM’s – there were signs every 1km – and so it was a good motivator to push myself to the end.

I rolled into our pits area at about 7.15pm – and said “that’s it – I’m done !

6 laps – 96km – only 4km shy of my furthest MTB ride – and in ~6 hours.

Jason wasn’t keen to head out again – he didn’t have lights, or much night-riding experience, and chose not to do a 6th lap.  

And – so we were DONE !    “Kessel Runners” had finished 11 laps.

The Finish Line

I was feeling pretty good – mind & body – just exhausted.   Thankfully, there was a beer to celebrate the finish line – and some pizza on the way.

After 10mins of sitting & relaxing, I headed off for a clean-up – greatest shower ever !   I was pretty dry & dusty – and sweaty too – nice to have a wash.

When I got back to our tent area, Scott had just arrived after finishing his race – his 12 laps !    He rode DOUBLE what I did – amazing.

His body gave up on him, and he sat down, and was start to shiver & said he felt like he was going to spew.   He was totally spent, and probably dehydrated – and people were helping him get some warm clothes on, and get him back to normality.

His sense-of-humour was just fine though – we were LOL’ing about a story of when he had stopped to “take a leak” – and a female rider had stopped and asked with concern “are you OK ?” – and that she had ”copped an eyeful” – ha ha !

He ended up finishing 10th in the solo male category – brilliant.

Pack-up

The other guys were heading back to Albury, so they loaded up the ute with bikes, esky’s, marquee and gear – and they took off home.   

I was staying overnight, so I loaded my bike into the car, and then crawled into the tent – and was in bed asleep about 9.45pm – on a Saturday night !   

Sunday morning, was rise-and-shine, and take down the tent – and then 4 hour drive home – and headed off to a kid’s 4th birthday party in the arvo – phew !

Results + Data

Jason and I were pretty happy with how our “Kessel Runners” team went – we were essentially doing 1hr laps – or there abouts – the fast elite guys were doing 40min laps – but we were happy with our efforts.

And – we finished 17th in the list – amazing !!

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My times were fairly consistent – which I was pretty happy with – about 63mins average – Jason’s times were a little quicker than mine – but only just !    (LOL !)

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Wrap-up

It was great to finish my first 12-hour race – good to do in pairs – and not have to ride the entire 12-hours.   I’m sure I’ll work up to that – maybe next year ?

Pretty cool to see the laps on Strava – and a suffer score of 549 !

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The Strava recording shows a lesser distance, due to GPS inaccuracies – but the event planners list it as a 16km circuit.

And – I checked a rider who did an exactly 1:00:00 lap – his time was 16.4 km/h – showing that it was a 16.4km lap.

*** Thanks heaps to Jason for being a great team mate – although I think we only spoke for about 1/2 an hour in total – for the entire day !    

And to my good MTB buddies Matt & Scott – you guys rock.   Scoota – you’re an inspiration !

Same time next year ??

Smile

4 Responses

  1. Well done and a good write up. I keep meanin to sort mine out!

    It was me that Steve F was pit-crewing for along with my missus’ they both did an awesome job! First solo 12hr done and dusted, tough going but an exhilerating feeling to finish! The road ahead to the WEMBO 24 is a daunting one for me… No pain no gain hey?

  2. Great work on the 12 hour solo – how many laps did you complete ? I’d like to try it – aim for 8-10 laps – that would be 130-160km !

    • I finished up on11 laps in 11hrs 44mins. Good enough for 16th. The extra lap would have taken me to 15th, and I had time, but too be honest, I didn’t have the head to get me around the lap, I reckon i’d have made a mistake somewhere and would have had an off. I was exhausted and had left everything out there. For a guy who 12 months earlier had just bought his first mountain bike and who’d taken 5.5hrs to get around the 50km Otway Shorty it was a pretty emotional ride!

      • Wow – amazing effort ! I remember my first MTB race was 33km (Avoca Nemesis) – that was hard work ! And did Wombat100 – in 8hr 10mins – I’m hoping to smash that next time.

        I haven’t done Otway Odyssey – maybe next year – good luck for it !

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