How to burn your energy during the Three Peaks Challenge – Falls Creek

Three Peaks Challenge. 235km. 4000m of elevation. In under 13 hours.

The numbers themselves suggest a tough cycling event but what happens at the 200km mark is what makes this ride really tough: The WTF corner.

Yep, WTF is the official name of the corner at kilometer 200 of this cycling challenge. Why?  Because a nice flat road goes straight into a double-digit gradient that remains that way for the following 12 km.

It drags on. It hurts. It is mentally devastating. And you are not alone!

During the event, carnage is lined up at the side of the road.

Exhaustion. Hot feet. Cramps. Dehydration, You name it.

But is this Falls Creek climb really that tough though?

No question, it is definitely during the Three Peaks Challenge while riding faster and harder than usual.

But how about on a training ride?

I was able to find out last weekend when I  rode the Three Peaks Challenge course with the only difference being the start at Bright instead of Falls Creek. That meant I faced this infamous climb at 153km instead of 200km.

With two extended breaks and less kilometers in my legs, I would get to Falls Creek with fresher legs than during the Three Peaks Challenge in March.

So, the climb must have felt a lot easier, right?

The first kilometer, although steep, seemed ok. I thought, oh wow, maybe Falls Creek is not as bad as I remembered.

But soon enough, I realized how relentless and steep the climb actually was. No, it is truly a tough climb, no matter how I rode it.

This climb is the make or break of the Three Peaks Challenge and thus a pivotal point for the riders’ strategy.

So how much energy do you want to reserve throughout the challenge to survive the last 35km?

If you were a car and you had to use your fuel efficiently for the Three Peaks Challenge, these are my suggestions how to use it (from 100% to 0%):

  1. Descent of Falls Creek: Full tank. Let it roll. Little pressure.
  2. Tawonga Gap: Moderate pace up the climb to get the legs warmed up, Fuel level: 90%,
  3. Flat stretch to Harrietville: If you find yourself in a group with a comfortable pace, great, if not, go your own pace. Conserving energy is priority. With 80% fuel level, you don’t feel any exhaustion.
  4. Mt Hotham: You will burn quite a bit of energy, by now you have used half of your energy level , especially the steep parts of the MEG and CRB hill will drain some energy. Ride a moderate and energy-efficient pace in the other parts of the climb.
  5. To Omeo: Being mainly a downhill section, you don’t have to waste a lot of energy. Take the bumps easy. Fuel: 45%
  6. To Anglers Rest: With a small climb and a fast road to Anglers Rest, try to conserve as much energy as possible while taking advantage of the fast road. 35% fuel.
  7. Falls Creek: You have 35% fuel left in the tank. You definitely feel the past 200 km in your legs but you are mentally and physically ready for the toughest part of the course: Falls Creek. Now you can blow out any remaining energy. But don’t try too hard. The climb will take it anyway.

More on pacing strategy has been published here.

The Three Peaks Challenge is not only a well-organized and exciting cycling event – the course makes it spectacular and one to remember. With its ever-changing scenery and panoramic views, it is an interesting and exciting event. But the strategy and toughness of this course makes it so special.


4 Tips to recover quicker from epic rides

Riding an epic ride or race takes a big toll on the physical and mental state. After a massive ride, one feels tired, exhausted, fatigued and maybe even in pain.

Here are 4 points that help me to bounce back quickly, especially after the 19 hours Everesting and 17 hours Jam for Jamieson ride:

1. Recovery starts during the ride. Getting enough fluids and food during the ride will make the recovery process so much faster. Electrolyte and other powdered drinks make my stomach upset and can be easily over-consumed so I keep hydration to plain water or fruit juices and coke if available.
The key for my food intake is to listen to the body. I eat when I am getting hungry (contrary to what is said that you should eat before you are hungry). But I also dont wait until I am starving, I know my cues when I need to eat. (Food and fluid intake is a very personal choice; but the above said works for me). For example, during the Everesting I was constantly craving pizza. At Jam for Jamieson, I couldnt say no to the home-made cookies and the fruit cake.

2. Right after the epic ride:
I eat whatever I feel like but try to stick to real food. This is not the time to start a diet. Still, I try to keep the sugar content low as it suppresses the immune system. I will carry now a water bottle wherever I am going and remind myself to keep drinking.
If it was a hot ride, I try to immediately cool myself down – jumping in the water, taking a sink shower, etc. The body takes an immense amount of energy to keep the body temperature constant. By helping the body to get to the desired body temperature, it can focus faster on muscle recovery .

3. The next 24 hours:
With a suppressed immune system the following 24 hours are key. Eating good food (especially lean protein), sleeping as much as possible and staying in a quiet place with as little external stress (overcrowded places, cleaning supplies, sun exposure) will give the body the rest it needs to get out of the “emergency” stage. Not only physically but it is also good for the mind, especially when it was a mentally fatiguing ride. If I am not in too much pain, I might do super light stretches.

4. Two days after: Depending on how I feel, I will try to get out for a ride two days after the event – and that as slow as possible. Either by myself or with a friend who understands I will be super slow. The goal of the ride is to feel fresher at the end than in the beginning. The chosen route should be somewhat flat and should not require accidental power spikes. At the end of the ride I evaluate whether I need more rest or if I can get back to my normal training regime.

Although everyone has different recovery strategies, I wanted to share mine so it might help someone to recover quicker.


How to make a 300km gravel ride even tougher – 8 flats and 2 bikes at Jam for Jamieson

A 300km ride by itself is a big day out. Throw in 7500m of vertical gain and that all on gravel, it promises an epic ride.

It would have been a tough day out.

But it wasnt supposed to be.

It would be a lot tougher than that.

So what happened?

It all started at 2:30am waking up for the ride.

The start was at 4am with 12 other riders doing the 300km ride. Lights were required because we were in a very remote area. No street lamps. Nothing that could lit up the way. Only 13 lonely headlamps.

Not even 10km into the ride, I got a flat. It was still on paved road before we would hit the gravel.
Ben and Owen were so nice to stop with me. We fixed the flat.
I brought three tubes with me. With two more tubes left I wasnt worried.
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Dark. First flat 10km into the ride.

We hit the gravel. The sun started rising. The weather was excellent. It promised a great day on a bike riding in remote Victoria.
No cars. No traffic. No civilization besides the odd camping ground.
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All gravel.

While Ben and I discussed world problems, the time and kilometers flew by.

We hit the first checkpoint just before 8am. 70km into the ride. It took us four hours. I forgot how much gravel slowed one down. A bit of calculations and I realized it would be a long, long day on the bike.
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Thompson Dam. Beautiful part of the country.

At some point, I found myself riding on my own. I tried to catch up with the group ahead of me. I caught them at the next checkpoint – Woodspoint – 120km into the ride. Five minutes later I was back on the bike with the group.
With the last 40km on my own, I was glad riding in a group again.

While heavily engaged in conversation, I got my second flat. On a downhill. On gravel.
Despite the annoyance I was in high spirits. It happens.
Richard and Simon stopped for me. Flat was fixed. Back on the road. So I kept chatting with them.

Third checkpoint. Jamieson. 200km into the ride. It was 2 or 3pm. I was told, the toughest part of the ride was ahead of us. Mt Skene. 1500m of elevation, 40km all on gravel. It would take a long time.
I was ready to get started to get it done.

We rode off in a group. Not even on the climb yet and I got my third flat.
This time I was by myself.
It was hot. Flies surrounded me. No soul in sight. I was very annoyed. Keep getting flats made a long day so much longer, draining and mentally exhausting.

I was considering throwing a tantrum but it wouldnt make a difference. So I skipped that part and just went through the motions of fixing another flat.

10 minutes later I was back on the bike. Very well aware that I could not have any more flats.
I had no puncture kits. No more tubs. And no lever.

I climbed Mt Skene through some brutally steep sections with no shade in sight. It got hot.

The van of the event volunteers came by. I told Ray and Andy about not having any more tubes left. They fixed my punctured tube on the fly. I had an option again. I felt like in a video game where I am getting lives back .

I passed Stuart (a 400km rider) and Richard on the uphill. And before I knew it I got my fourth flat.
This time I was in sheer disbelief. I was sitting on the ground trying to get the tire off the rim without a lever.
Both of them stopped and helped to get it fixed. We decided to re-tape the rim. I had brought medical tape along. That had to suffice.

The flat was fixed from the re-patched tube so I carried on. Stuart and I had different speeds (he had 100km more in his legs) and I tapped along. I had no more tubes left.
There was no volunteer car behind me anymore. Next flat would mean game over.

It was only 1 more km to the top. I could even see the top.
I got that game-over flat.
This time, it got me.
I had no tubes anymore. And my pump didnt work.
I was out of options. I just couldnt believe it.

But no way, I would quit for a flat!

On the practical side, there was no real option to throw the towel anyway. I was not exactly on a bus line. I was literally in the middle of nowhere. There was a reason this was a gravel road and not a paved road.
No one drives this road!

I put my flat tire back into the wheel and was ready to face the seven kilometers to the next checkpoint on a flat.
But then when I looked up an angel…ahem…Stuart popped up in the distance.
My savior!
He helped me to fix the tube – I have no idea anymore how. But then I was off.
Finally I made it to the checkpoint. I never thought I would arrive.

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I looked happier than I was. It took 3 flats and a whole lot of patience to take this picture on top of Mt Skene.

It was 7pm. On the bike for 15 hours. Another 120km ahead of me.
The sun was setting. I had an hour or so of daylight. But another 25km of rough descent.
And I had no tubes and no pump.
At the checkpoint, Andy once again fixed the already destroyed tube for me. Ray figured out what was wrong with the pump.
I left the checkpoint racing against the sunset.

It became colder, darker.

I was shivering from the cold and from exhaustion.
I was losing my concentration, trying to navigate the corners, the gravel, the potholes.

And then came pavement! It would be pavement until the finish line. 65km to go.

It was pitch black. Descending a massive mountain with a significant drop-off on the side into the valley.
It was beautiful and scary at the same time.
Monika, just dont lose your concentration!

I saw the next village already on my bike computer- Licola.
Only 3km of concentration and then I was back in the valley!
Destiny didnt like my optimism so I got my sixth flat. This time the front wheel for a change.

I was sitting in the middle of the dark, dark road exchanging the flat with a double-patched tube and pumped up the pressure to ca. 30psi – more wasnt possible. Another puncture was in the near future – I knew that.

Just after a second I got back on my bike, Stuart passed me. Before I could even say anything, he was already in the distance.

Suddenly, I saw movement to my left in the dark.
I slowed down.
And then a massive wombat jumped in front of my wheel.
I had to break hard.

No idea how I made it the last 3km down the hill but I made it to Licola – to civilization – probably a village of 10 inhabitants but at least there were man-built structures.

And I saw Stuart on the side of the road. I stopped. What was going on?
I forgot why he stopped because I realized I just got that near-future puncture. Number 7.
Poor Stuart couldnt believe it either.
We both realized we ran out of options. He couldnt help me anymore. No tubes left, no patches left. Nothing.

The race organizer and volunteer Gareth and Tim approached by car.

As there were absolutely no tubes for my 35mm tires left anymore, they tried to replace it with a 29er tube. It exploded – number 8. Now not only the tube was destroyed, but the tire as well. It made me laugh.
I was beyond the frustration phase. This has become pure entertainment.

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Weighing my options how to get to the finish line. A borrowed bike was my only option.

The second volunteer car approached.
It was 11:00pm. We were about 10 people in Licola, doubling the population of this village, all trying to figure out what to do about my flat.

One rider, who abandoned the ride and got a ride in the volunteer car, offered his bike to me.
A nice MTB with tubeless wheels. That must suffice for the next 40km.
While I was getting ready on my new no-problem rig, Ben came out of nowhere. That very Ben who I chatted with at the beginning of the ride.

Stuart, Ben and I then rode together the next 40 hilly kilometers to the finish.

At first, they were quiet but all of a sudden they seem to wake up and became so loquacious that I couldnt even talk anymore. That was ok – I was talking for the last 19 hours.

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Ben’s recap of our conversations

We finished at 12:30am.
21.5 hrs on the bike.
8 flats that cost at least 3 hours.
2 bikes.

I cant say thank you enough to everyone who helped me along this ride. There were times I was out of options and without the help of my fellow riders and volunteers, I would be still walking to the finish line.

Thanks to Gareth and all the volunteers for an amazing ride!Thank you, Tim Waters, for the pictures!

Why I go so many flats? Absolutely no idea. Wrong tire, wrong tubes, wrong air, wrong rim tape, wrong riding line.
Whatever it is, I am looking now for the best tubes, tires, wheels and pump that is out there!
Any suggestions would be highly appreciated!

Less than 24 hours to go: Join me virtually for the 300km (186mi) Jam for Jamieson gravel event

Join me virtually this Saturday for the 300km Jam for Jamieson gravel ride:

http://share.findmespot.com/shared/faces/viewspots.jsp?glId=0LIZZ8ZE9FjIipl60u1zhu3mYfcGxuZiP

All participants: (My dot is called “Mon”)
https://spotwalla.com/locationViewer.php?id=397

Start time:

Melbourne: 4:00am Saturday, Dec 3rd
Munich: 6:00pm Friday, Dec 2nd
Madison: 11am, Friday, Dec 2nd

Route details: 300km (186mi) gravel with over 7500m (24,600ft) of climbing.

Route:

More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/1577746759220169/


Join us on our Mo-Everest Challenge – 170+ laps and 8848m verticals

A few more days and Joel, Stuart, Daryn, Ray, Brodie, Jeremy, Eddie and I will be riding 170+ laps to complete an Everest (8848m of elevation gain) while fundraising for Movember.

Join us for a few laps.

Time: 10pm Friday, 18th November onward. Planned finishing time: Saturday 19th November afternoon/evening.

Location: Lake View Road Saint Andrews VIC 3761

A little intro to our team:

More info on our Facebook Event page:

https://www.facebook.com/events/1508797692469480

See you there and stay tuned for social media updates while we are busy counting laps…

UPDATE: Here is the post on what happened at the Everesting:

http://www.radmonika.com/everesting-177-repeats-without-going-crazy


Have you ridden 8848m/29028ft in one go yet?

In the recent past, a new kind of challenge has crept onto the bucket lists of hard-core cyclists who love pushing their own limits: Everesting.

The term coined by Andy van Bergen describes climbing one single hill of choice as many times until the elevation gain of the height of Mt Everest – 8848m – is achieved. The number of repeats range greatly. Alpe d’Huez would have to be climbed almost eight times, a small neighborhood climb of 40m vertical gain would require 221 repeats. There is a lot of strategy involved what climb to choose. But there is only one rule: It has to be continuous riding so no sleep between.

When I heard about Everesting the first time last year, I was intrigued. I love challenges that pushes me to my physical and mental limits.

But then I realized what that meant. Doing something repeatedly. Seeing the same corner, the same tree, the same crack over.
And over.
And over.

I am not good in that. I don’t do crits for exactly that reason.

So Everesting was off the table. Off the bucket list. Nada. Done. Won’t do it.

But it was tough to ignore it. The idea kept tickling me, cyclists from everywhere were doing it. It popped up on Strava, on Facebook, friends were talking about it, friends were doing it and randomly you come across a strange arrangement of furniture and food at the start of a climb in the middle of the night. Ah, yes, someone was in the process of Everesting.

Besides being surrounded by the omen of action, there was something else about this mystical circle of Everesting that made it increasingly appealing.

There is not a lot of talk about it. There is no pressure of doing it. No boasting. Just action.
I kind of like that!

But Monika, this is still not for you! The repeats don’t become fewer because of that!

Well, but then two weeks ago I was pushed over the edge to the side of serious Everest commitment business.

For two reasons.

The first reason is the main reason I ride my bike: the community. I will join seven guys who know how to have fun on the bike. A few of the many, many laps ahead will be absorbed by laughter, awe, tears and silence. More about this crew will be shared soon with some sweet film shoot material!

But another reason made me decide to do an Everest:

This is not about me.
This is not about a personal accomplishment.

It is bigger than that. It is to raise funds for Movember – a foundation for men’s health issues. Now, all of a sudden, the 120 something laps seem a minor obstacle compared to what bigger problems are out there in the world.

18th of November is the showdown.

A month to go. A month to get ready for the most elevation gain I will ever have ridden in one single ride.

Stay tuned for the next posts about the Everest challenge including introducing the crew, my preparation, training rides and anything else what I am not aware of yet!