Sunday, 8 August 2010

The Bull Raid 12 Hour SOLO

Friday night I arrived after driving through 1 hour of rain. It did not look good on the journey to the event. The race HQ was already set up. Start/finish line, Pit areas for each type of racer, Solo nearest the line then two person then 4 person teams. There was a number of bike washes with all cleaning products needed. Hot showers for after the race and a great PA system. I pitched my tent and had a quick check over the bike. Registration was fast Name and category and I collected my race kit. Computer chip for timing a t-shirt and an assortment of Lucozade energy gel products. The organisers had some pasta and chicken for us for dinner. I had mine then decided to get to sleep.

Number 105 Solo Raider. I didn’t have the best nights sleep as it was the first time I had camped in a long time. 5:30am I had breakfast early so it would be settled before the 8am start. Thankfully it was dry and was to get better as the day went on. Another bike check and then I took my race kit to my pit area. I used a plastic box with a lid so it would stay dry if it rained. (Next time I will bring a chair and a gazebo) I had tubes, tools, water, gels, energy bars, bananas, spare shirts and rain gear.

I thought as it was only a 10km loop I would take one water bottle a spare tube, small tool kit and a gel, Stopping to get more if and when I needed them. We had a race briefing about the course and about some of the features. The drive into the race HQ had a bridge crossing seen below. On first look I thought no way are we going up or down that. At the briefing they told us yes that was on the course. It turned out easy enough and not as steep as it looked driving passed. We would travel up the left side and then on the down side we had a 90 degree corner. It just took a slight brake and a bit of concentration.

The Race

We had a le mans type start with a run across a field to the bikes. We traveled around the pit area and across the start line. 11 Hours 59mins to go.... The first lap I decided to use as a sighting lap. No point pushing to hard and burning up to early. We travel around the side of a field and onto the MotoX track. The track was very fast at the start. Berms and jumps then it levelled out with a few steep climbs that would be jumps for the mx bikes. Another steep descent with a berm and then a climb up off the track.

This was a great start to the course. After the motox track there was a steep lane leading to the field with the bridge crossing. From here we had a small natural wood very narrow but all very flat. A few tricky sections with stones and muck but nothing to serious. There were a couple of bridges to cross. At the start were easy but as the day went on and the stone ramps moved made for a tricky crossing at times.

The course now joined a lane that took us back to the other side of the HQ field. We travelled along the side of the field and into the forest. This section was both my favourite and my worst part. The trail started on freshly laid gravel. As it had not bedded into the ground it was hard to pedal through in places. The course started to climb with switch back corners leading up into the forest.

The climb felt fine on the first lap. As the pack was fairly close together the chat and the craic seemed to get us up without noticing the climb. There was a few sections that people walked and as the pack slowed it was hard to keep the momentum around these corners. More climbing and with a few walls to cross the pace had slowed quite a bit. The course had the usual technical sections like roots and step ups and rocks. Which were fine after the first lap. First drop was about the size of 4 big steps. Hitting it with speed was the way to do it and the rocks mad it feel like going down steeps. A tricky exit as it was on a corner but again after the first lap it was fine.

Some more climbing and a section that was very mucky with rocks all around it. First lap it seemed there was no way crossing it on a big and most people jumped of and ran over it. After this a final climb before a big drop onto a wooden north shore section that passed over a wall. I had no trouble on this section and got faster as the day went on.

The course now started to descend around trees with rooty corners and a few rock drops. The course was very fast in this section and I think Technical descents and the downhill sections is where I made the best time. Half way through the first lap and my gears stopped working. The mud, grass and branches just stuck to the bike. I pushed on and as the gear was a comfortable one I could climb and descend without to much bother. We now turned back along the edge of the forest heading in the direction of Race HQ. This part was rolling with stiff climbs and long flat sections. The next part had a mixture of rocky crossings to climbs to technical descents. The first was a step off camber with a rock drop half way down then a tight corner onto a bridge with a steep climb on rocks and roots. An Army Helmet marked marshal was our marker point to remind us of this descent.

The next technical section here was a steep drop over roots, over a rock and a final rock drop. The rider in front of me rolled it and didn’t lift the bars. He went over the handle bars and crashed quite hard. I helped him up onto his bike and he said he was ok and for me to continue on. The next bit was a climb and then a very fast section of open trail. I really got the legs going here. No brakes just hard pedalling and sideways around the corners. This was one of the most enjoyable sections. There was another section with small climbs and also a technical wall crossing. This was a steep incline over the wall then a wooden north shore slope off the other side. The final section was just a flat section through the trees and then into the Race HQ field. We crossed the field around the pit area and lap one was over.

I continued on without stopping now I knew the course and with the pack spread out I could ride at my own pace and take the technical sections faster. Lap 2 was a great lap and after a brief stop at the end of the lap for a water bottle and some gel I set of for lap 3 faster again on this one as I knew I was going to take a small break. Then I got a puncture in my rear tyre. Most people that passed asked if I needed anything or I was o.k. which was nice to hear but thankfully I had a spare tube and my pump in my pocket. I got the wheel off got the tube out and checked the tyre. A thorn sticking through which I removed put in a new tube and off I went. I pushed hard and caught 4 riders that had passed me as I changed the tube. This give me a great feeling but I still had to resist the temptation to go too fast and burn up. I had one main stop for something to eat and after two mouthfuls of pasta I couldn’t face any more. I knew I was hungry but couldn’t eat the pasta. So Bananas, energy gel and water was my lunch. Pushing on at a steady pace I got another puncture front wheel this time. This time it took longer to fix as I was getting tired and there was a lot more muck on the tyres. I took my time cleaning out the inside of the tyre. I didn’t want to put a new tube into a mucky tyre.

The day rolled on slowly and I took a lot of punishment both mental and physical. The bike took a beating. No gears and two punctures. It took a lot to keep going but keep going I did. I crossed the finish line having done 9 laps at a distance of 95km I was happy with finishing my first 12 hour solo event. I have learned a lot from this event and can go to the next better prepared both mentally and physically.

Have to say a big thank you to Tony Kelly event Organiser and Cuchulainn Cycle club. Also all the marshals out on the course as I'm sure it was a long day for them. The event was well organised and had everything you could need for 12 hour race. Great course and a great BBQ after.

Here is a video from the 12 hour race. Have a look for me at 1:20 and 3:04 What memories. I cant wait to take part again this year.

Entry is open for this years event. Anyone in Ireland on Saturday 6th August 2011 why not give it ago. More info on the 12 hour Bull raid website Here