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 !?
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 !
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 !).
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 !
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 !) :
** Gorilla warfare (my favourite section of the trail)
** Coming into the pits – end of the lap
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 :
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.
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 !!
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 !)
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 !
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 ??