Back in December 2009, this represented only my 2nd ever race and was more memorable for the lessons it taught me than the result. Still using the old Vista Halogen night lights, the single light I had expired after just an hour of night racing leaving me stranded in the bush with only the clinging darkness for comfort.
My first lesson that night was that Mountain bikers are the most wonderful people and possess friendliness and kinship in abundance. Indeed, in my first ever race at the 43 degree Ourimbah Fat Tyre, I snapped my chain on the last lap but was immediately helped out first with a chain link (I didn't know you'd need one of those) and then as I struggled desperately in the heat, another rider stopped to help me mount the chain. So in the darkness, as the first riders rode past without exception they would ask if I was okay. 'Yes, all good' I replied somehow believing I could miraculously ride back the 3 km in complete darkness to the transition area. Then a rider stopped and told me to follow his lead and his light. Minutes later I lost his wheel and then lost the light. The next rider saw this and told me to ride in front this time successfully negotiating me back to the start line.
The second lesson was the need to upgrade my lights and, as was invariably the case in my early riding days, a lesson I clearly did not learn. Four months later at Majura Pines, in the National Solo 24 hour, I thought I had solved my problem by borrowing all my mates Vista light accessories. Armed with, what I believed to be, a plethora of batteries, I found myself without lights at three in the morning. Squealing and wailing and attempting to find an obscure reason to place the blame on my wife Greer; she was already going through the night without sleep purely to support me in my insane desire to ride 1440 minutes without stopping. Thinking my race was scuppered a knight in shining armour came to my rescue again. This time it was Jason Dreggs and he offered up some lights and his support crew who went to work on restoring my bike to the nocturnal animal it clearly had failed to be in the prior yellow glow of halogen.
Nearly three years later, I am a vastly improved rider and one who races for results rather than cycling lessons. I utilise Exposure's excellent lights with the Toro on the bars and the Diablo the helmet light. This was the first time I had ridden this particular race with bottles. Losing the camelbak helps with overall weight and takes the pressure off the lower back.
The track was perfect due to the rain earlier in the week and the sun was shining producing almost summery conditions. After finishing 7th and 6th in my last two Twilight enduros it was extremely satisfying to snatch the last place on the podium and finish 3rd in a field of 30 solo riders.
Incidentally, I did have a scare when my quick release skewer came loose as the back wheel threatened to go on its own solo excursion...surely another lesson this time regarding pre-races checks which I clearly still have not learnt.