Might as well bung the report here.
I got seconded into this caper barely ten days out from the race by one of my HPVing friends. Talk about jumping in at the deep end!
It turned out that my sailing crew was also unavailable this weekend, so it removed that clash of interests, so I basically said, "stuff it, I'm in!"
We were nearly going to be a Mixed Four, but one of the riders realised she had already booked something else and so we were three. With all of us being nuts to one degree or another, an option for the team name was "Mixed Nuts", but ultimately when Tim put the entry in, he decided on a p!ss-take of all the others who come up with super witty very clever team names by entering us as....
Super Witty Very Clever Team Name.
I headed down on Friday, still unsure of tyre choice. Never having been to Forrest before, my plan was to get down early enough to do a recce lap to at least get a slight idea of the place. It was still sunny, so I left the Crossmarks on & headed out. There were still a few slightly mucky bits, but at that stage most of it was in good shape. I did the marked lap - 15.5km - in about 56 minutes; not a bad guide of time, or so I thought.
Having completed my lap, I decided to reserve my tyre decision for the following morning, retiring to the pub for dinner with the Red Hill Riders crew. Flashes of lightning over the hills as we returned to camp were an ominous sign for the day to come.
Saturday morning dawned cloudy, and the drizzle soon followed. Looking like it was settling in, I made the call swap over to the "gumboots" - Geax Barro mud tyres. The Crossmarks went over to the spare wheels & got parked in the back of the pit tent. And stayed there. It was while setting up that I was informed we had a lineup change; our SS 29er nut Brianne had decided to pike, subbing in our mutual friend Ryan - who is also nuts so fitted right in
- on his 26" SS.
Team Boss Tim took the first stint, racking up three laps (plus prologue), in roughly an hour per lap. He broke a gear cable near the end of the first lap, so tweaked it around to near the middle of the cassette so at least he had three decently useful gears to get around on. He also had a stack or two as the front end just buried itself in mud holes.
After three hours or so, Tim pitted & Ryan set off into the rain. As he completed his second lap, in a vastly quicker time he explained as he passed that "they've cut a huge chunk off the track". Not for the last time it would turn out.
Nearly four hours after heading out, Ryan decided to pit & it was my turn to see what a mess it had become. It was my first ride on the mud tyres in the stuff they're designed for, so I didn't really know what to expect from them. Looking ridiculously narrow at 1.7", they just bite amazingly well, while others were slithering all over the place. I soon saw which chunk had been cut off the track, and I was actually mighty glad it had gone. While fun in the dry, the tree roots, & mud-filled dips, gullies & twists would have been carnage. I got two laps in on the edited Day loop, both clocking in at around 45 minutes. It was getting very dim by the time I finished the second Day lap, but I knew when I went out that I'd get the change to the Night course while I was out there. The rain had eased a bit by the time I got out, so it wasn't quite as messy as it had been earlier on, but not clean by any measure.
Hitting the night lap had some dramatic mental effects. I'm normally very conservative when exploring new tracks, and I like to be able to see what's coming. So here I am, in the rain & pitch blackness, on my second ever night MTB ride (which is vastly different to commuting or HPVing at night), on tracks I've never previously seen, riding WAAAAAAY beyond my comfort zone; one one hand thinking "what the f*&k am I doing here", yet at the same time being mighty proud of myself for sticking with it. However it was during the first Night lap that the event occurred that would ultimately curtail my riding. I saw the tree root step-up just on a curve, but not the stump on the apex. Just as I was setting up to hop the root, I pedal-struck the stump. At the same time the front wheel hit the root & swung around, sending the handlebar on a collision course with my rapidly ascending right knee. The two met, quite forcefully, although I managed to not fall completely. It was a big knock, but still OK to ride on for the time being.
The night course seemed to drag interminably, and my lap time was out to an hour as I came through the timing point. I had said I'd go for three hours, and as I was "only" on 2 1/2 & still feeling good I set out for another one. I had another spill, hitting a wet tree root in the middle of a curve. The front wheel just slid straight out from under me, but at least I had a soft landing on the grass at the side of the track, only collecting a couple of minor scratches. As the lap progressed, tiredness began to set in just a bit (it was around 10:00pm after all!), it was wet & mucky, my knee was just starting to tighten & the two spills had started to destabilise my brain a bit. I made it back to pit OK, after 3 hr 33 min 36 sec on the bike.
Only to find out that the power had gone & as such the showers were not working. I managed to get enough of a trickle out of a tap to wet the jersey & use it as a sponge to wipe the worst of the crap off, before grabbing a late dinner & off to bed.
By virtue of us all being enduro nuts, I knew the night stints would be taken care of by Tim & Ryan, so I managed to get a decent slab of sleep. As arranged, Brianne woke me as Ryan started the last lap of his stint, so I had about an hour to get ready; fed, caffeinated & otherwise woken up. I told the crew I'd do two laps & take it from there. I took a little while to get the groove, which isn't that unusual at 6:30 in the morning, but once moving again the legs still had a decent bit of power left. The rude shock came about halfway around though, when we found some steeper little pinches. My bashed knee grabbed big bites of its internals every time I needed to put a bit of grunt through it, so even on moderate inclines I was down in granny gear 'cos it was all I could roll over. I stuck to my guns for a second lap though, but as I passed the pit to start it I called out that I could only do the one more. As I nursed my way around, a bit of dejection set in. The legs were warmed up by this stage, the muscles were working well & I had energy & power in reserve but I couldn't bloody get it through to the bike. The tracks on the new day loop were also drier & a lot more fun, but I just wasn't able to make the most of it. I made it around & pitted, after a two-hour stint. My final stats; 6 laps, for 87.06km, 5hr 37min 46sec, average 15.4km/h.
Tim took our final stint, another little three-hour jaunt, deciding to call it a day with just over 30 minutes left before they closed the course. It wouldn't affect our place if we got another lap or not. We wound up 35th overall, and 4th in the Open 3s. Not bad at all considering we were really just in it for sh!ts & giggles.
EDIT: Just found out that the team we thought were behind us snuck an extra lap in, so officially we're 5th in 3s.