Unicon Marathon Race Details

Unicycling

For the past two weeks I was participating in Unicon 15, the bi-annual unicycle convention held in Wellington, New Zealand. Unicon is also known as the Unicycle World Championships.

This is the first time that I have ever gone, and and I had a very exciting and fun time. First of all, it was in New Zealand, a beautiful place I have been dying to go to for quite a few years. But even more exciting was that I actually won a very tough race to become the marathon world champion, riding 27 miles in gale force winds with lots of climbing and fast descents. I already posted a few pictures that Jeff Wilton took at the end of the race, but I also wanted to document my experience so I wouldn’t forget what happened. The Unicon website already has a good writeup, mainly focused on the local rider, Ken Looi: http://www.uniconxv.co.nz/2010/01/07/looi-wins-bronze-in-unicycle-marathon/

The Raceway

The race had a tough layout that included a large hill climb, a gravel path, lots of tough turns, and a small downhill paved (but bumpy) walking/bike pathway that was barely wide enough for two cycles. Oh, and lots of wind.

Here is the overall race layout, ran counter-clockwise (correction from Tom) with left hand turns on the left side of the road (open to traffic). The little green dot is the starting point, which was downwind and flat:

Screen shot 2010-01-07 at 6.46.21 PM.png

The hill started after the 90 degree turn at the bottom of the map, heading back north all the way to the next right hand turn past the prison. Here’s the elevation profile for more details:

Screen shot 2010-01-07 at 6.45.59 PM.png

The Race

I had a good seed for the race, since I placed 2nd in the 10km behind Scott Wilton. This allowed me to pull out front early on, and start to set a pace. Unfortunately, there were two speed bumps shortly after the start which slowed me down. I took the first one conservatively and it went quite well, so I figured I would hit the second one at a faster speed (about 18 mph) and not even slow down, but I quick learned this was a major mistake. It was a bit steeper than the first and actually launched me a foot or two into the air. I thought I was going to smoothly land it as the wheel did a loud “squeek” when it hit the ground, but I couldn’t control the force and I was promptly thrown off. Luckily I ran it out, but my worries quickly switched over to someone else behind me running over my unicycle and causing a major pileup. Everyone was quite skilled, and maneuvered around my uni as it was skidding across the ground, and all was clear.  I immediately downshifted my geared uni by hand, hopped back on and realized my handlebar was majorly tweaked to one side. A couple of whacks with my hand straightened it out, and I was shortly back on my way in about 7th or 8th place pumping my legs to catch back up to a group of 3 or 4 leaders.

I slowly moved forward catching back up to the leaders and then settled behind Jan L. from Germany. He took the first sharp left turn a little wide, and I cut in tighter and took the lead up the first hill. I didn’t maintain the lead very long, as everyone else is a lot stronger at climbing. I was soon passed by Ken, Jan, Dave, Sam and Martin as they all flew up the hill. I took it easy and just climbed on up at a steady pace in low gear on my 36 until I hit the top of the hill by the Prison.

I shifted it into high gear, and descended down the hill at a rapid pace. Sam was not too far behind me, but had an unfortunate fall, scratching his arm and breaking his brake. I passed Dave Cox around one tight corner, again taking a sharp inside (steep) descent instead of going wide — the corner was quite tough, and Ken even fell on it the first time through. The road then came to a dead end, with a tight paved (and bumpy) pathway leading back to the ocean. I approached it at a super-high speed, and quickly passed Ken, Jan and Martin all in succession. I popped out at the bottom in the lead (the lower right most portion of the route on the map above), and pulled into the headwind. I took on the wind which forced me down to as low as 5 or 6 mph in low gear, but I loved it as soon as it was a tailwind on the backside heading back towards the starting line, and pushed 18-22 mph all the way until the hill on lap two.

The hill on lap two slowed me down considerably, and Martin on his geared 29’er caught up and took the lead. The wind was starting to pick up, and I believe I saw Martin get pushed off at one point, forcing him to remount (but it could have easily been someone we were lapping). Ken was close behind, and almost passed me as I reached the top of the hill by the prison, but I pulled away on the downhill — but Martin was no where in sight, so I pushed *really* hard (hitting 27 mph) and again caught him at the end of the “single track”, allowing me to pull back ahead on the backside upwind.

By the third lap it was clearly a battle between me and Martin, as I hadn’t seen any sign of Ken on my quick backwards glances. I was in the lead on the uphill, but he again quickly pulled past me. I stuck on his tail until the gravel single track, where I decided to take it easy and allowed him to pull away from me a bit with my hopes of catching him on the downhill. Luckily, my power on the downhill again allowed me to catch up in about the same spot, and I really pushed hard into the upwind to gain some time. It was quite tough, especially with the wind getting stronger and stronger, but I knew where the downwind was and shifted consistently and pushed really hard to gain some time on the last lap.

I worked the uphill on the last lap concentrating really hard to not let the wind blow me off, as I knew a dismount would easily loose me precious seconds. I didn’t see Martin behind me, so I just kept on moving at my normal pace, pushing hard again on the downwind and finishing pretty strong with a three minute lead. I only dismounted once — my crash at the start within the first kilometer.

The top three times:

1.Corbin Dunn (USA) 2hr 5min 39sec,
2. Martin Charrier (France) 2hr 8min 35sec
3. Ken Looi (New Zealand) 2hr 10min 41sec

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Tom Holub

Great race! One comment–it was run counter-clockwise.

Brian
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Great job Corbin!

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