19 May 2017
There’s no doubt about; I’m getting older. What hair I have left is rapidly greying, and my morning mobility routine has stretched from a casual five minutes to a sweating, heaving half hour with additional exercises heaped on by various physios over the years to keep damage from previous injuries at bay. And though my body is breaking, my mind is unflinching – save, perhaps for my fading memory - consequently I find myself railing against the storm of old age, like the sea captain tied to his wheel screaming at the storm. But my tempest is time. And my scream is my refusal to sit still.
And what better way to rage against this unrelenting storm; this tide that continues to rise, than to do something physical, something active, something to test not only my endurance, but my mental capacity and – dare I say it – grit. I would ride in circles in the dark for eight hours.
Fortunately for me, the team at In2Adventure had just the event for me – and on my birthday no less! It even had an appropriate name – the LunarC! Eight hours of riding around some bush through the night. What more could I ask for?
Some reminiscing perhaps? For not only did this race involve pushing myself to my limits, but a road trip! It’d be like being a teenage boy again, driving far, far away from home to sort my thoughts on the open road. More than that, it was to be held just north of Brisbane – a city where I spent some formative years of my distant youth.
You may have heard of In2Adventure from previous race reports – their adventure races (2013, 2014 and 2016) and when I finally managed to get to their Snowies Mountain Bike Festival in 2016. They run fun events, with an excellent atmosphere, and the LunarC was no exception! Part of the Moreton Bay MTB series, it was held at Murenbong Scout Camp, just north of Brisbane from 10pm through to 6am, with a rich field of entrants – or should I say, characters.
I arrived at gate two of the campsite with about an hour and a half to spare – the site is private property, so we weren’t permitted inside until the official event start time. Consequently, I had an hour and a half to wait. One of the benefits of age (hopefully) is wisdom, so I spent this free time – after spending all day driving and just prior to undertaking an overnight event by putting the finishing touches on the Urban Polaris race report.
So the time flew by, and the next thing you know I was parked next to a monster camper-truck at the HQ. As it turned out, I was right beside the track, so elected to let the ute serve as my transition area rather than pitch the tent or make anything comfortable – after all, I was there to ride, not rest. Taking advantage of the waning daylight, I quickly put my bar-lights on the bike and set off with the bare minimum of gear for a reccy lap.
The track started out with a long bit of firetrail, giving me a good chance to spin the legs up to speed (it takes a while to get everything working...) then it was into some descending single-track; with some tight-trees, drops and roots – followed by some climbing which was interrupted by yet more roots. And this wasn’t even the hard track they had specifically mentioned in the race description – Mordor – I was starting to wonder just how I was going to do in this race!
But then it was onto more firetrail, albeit loose and gravelly, before more winding single track, some of which held a few little gotchyas that I took note of (no doubt they would get me around 2am!) By this time I had to turn my lights on, as it was getting dark. And they almost immediately dimmed to below half-strength. Fortunately, it was still twilight, so I could pick my way through the twisty, climbing track and spot the incredible number of logs that lay across them.
Once I reached Road Rage, a long stretch of firetrail, my lights gave out completely, and I pushed into Mordor and darkness. I elected to get off and walk at the first steep run down. I have to say, walking that track in the dark intimidated me. It was almost all steep climbing switchbacks, with off-camber turns. Many of them right (I can’t turn right; I can’t turn right on my bike; I can’t turn right in my car; I certainly can’t park right. I don’t know why I can’t turn right).
Out of Mordor was Madness, so I thought I’d try turning my lights off and back on again, and they started working for a while. After the track, I was back on firetrail, with the HQ in sight, so I headed straight back and did what any sane person would do after riding an intimidating course in the dark. I went and ordered pizza.
Because there was a wood-fired pizza place on site! With a range of pizzas! And they were good. Not good as in the only hot food within an hour’s drive, but good as in I’d probably ride another hour to get to this pizza. Best birthday cake ever!
Thus refreshed, I changed the battery on my lights, and put NiteLights on my helmet – then loaded spare batteries for both in my pack, before hopping back in the car to relax and wait for the race start. The front seat of a ute can be a very comfortable place for a nap when you need to!
The race briefing commenced about 9:45, and we were all ready to go. Given my experience, and trepidation about the course, I put myself way towards the back of the pack, and headed out at an easy pace. With full lighting I wasn’t actually having much trouble with the course – I was even enjoying it! By about half way around I found myself in a little trio of riders – all going at a similar pace, with a tad of banter. So, when that lap finished, we stuck together for another lap.
It was nice, and relaxing. We were just riding around, chatting, swapping jokes and stories and the course seemed to be getting easier. Well, some of it. Mordor was still hard. And there was a steep, very sketchy climb just as we came back to the HQ that certainly wasn’t going to get any easier as the night went on!
After a bit rest to recover from the last climb, our trio headed out together again. This time, I was out front pacing us. Which is never a good idea! So we swapped back for the next lap, then I made my foolish mistake of the night. While the other two (one of whom was from Hamilton Island, so we were the two most-travelled riders of the night!) had a decent rest, I thought I’d pop out for another lap and see if I could push myself a bit harder.
Did I mention that I had driven up from Canberra? Canberra, which is rapidly approaching its notorious winter. The temperature on my last ride to work was already in the negatives. And here I was, riding around in temperatures which were exceeding Canberra’s current daytime high. I started having trouble; I may have been overheating. Or I may have been paying the price for my roadside diet of the past day or so. But I had to stop after that lap for a decent rest, to sit, relax, and let myself cool.
I pushed myself to get back out at four; that would give me time for at least two, maybe three laps before the race closed. I managed to be back on course around 4:15 – just in time to be overtaken by Adventure Girl – one of our earlier trio. She was riding fresh and well, as though she’d slept through the night and started again (save that she’d actually been lapping consistently!) I couldn’t keep up and watched her ride away while I continued in a solo effort.
About halfway through the course, as I once more climbed Killer Python (if there was ever a trail that should have a bag of snakes at the start – that was it!) I decided to throw in the towel on this lap. Sure, I’d make it back in time to start another, but chances are that lap would take me two hours, and I still have a decent drive ahead of me after the race. So, I elected to pull the pin at the end of that lap, and packed up the car instead. After getting a coffee, of course. Priorities.
All in all, it was a fantastic event. The course was technically challenging and physically demanding, and the atmosphere was friendly and fun. Well worth travelling over 1,000km for! Though, I’d recommend coming early and having a day or two of rest before starting the event! Naturally, it helps when you book in some recovery time staying in the Moreton Bay area too...
I’d like to thank the great team at In2Adventure for putting on another fantastic event, and all the volunteers – and other riders – who somehow managed to remain cheery and enthusiastic throughout the night.