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


Baw Baw Cycling Classic – Taking on the hardest climb in Australia

When I first heard about Baw Baw Cycling Classic, I was intrigued.

It sounded tough – yep that would be something I would enjoy.
For those who haven’t heard about the Baw Baw Cycling Classic, here are some numbers:
The race is 103 km long, 3200m of elevation with the last 6km averaging 11% and a few pinches of 20%. (64mi, 10,500 feet elevation, last 3.7mi averaging 11% with 20% pinches). More info on the Baw Baw climb here.
Considering that the last 6 km only cover an elevation gain of an odd 700m, you can imagine where the other 2500m of climbing coming from. You dont exactly start the last climb fresh as a daisy.
Here is the elevation chart.
Very deceiving!
 
Just as a side note, you see that little rise just before km 30? That is an elevation gain of 100m. Not as insignificant as it looks on this chart. 
The final decision if I should race was when my fellow Hurt Box rider, Meredith, told me it would be even tougher than I imagined it to be. It was not just a climb. It was a brutal 4+hr ride.
 
Music to my ears.
Speaking of signing up – the number of participants shows the respect for this race. Only 15 women in total signed up. It is not without a reason that Baw Baw is said to be the toughest climb in Australia.
So here I was at the start line with 14 other girls. Perfect weather conditions.
The race was split into two parts for me. Part 1 – The first 40km were tame with A grades setting the pace. At 40km, the eventual winner put in an effort and there was a natural split between the grades. I spent the next 10km or so riding with another girl and then I was by myself.
No soul around besides the occasional appearance of carnage from the categories ahead of us. 
50km on my own. 
I was hoping that I would create a gap so I wouldn’t get caught at the Baw Baw climb.
And then, I got a feeling, I usually get after riding 300+ km – I couldn’t push beyond a certain power anymore.
I just had nothing in my legs.
Anything above a certain perceived effort would lock my legs up.
I got worried.
Would this “lock-up-cramp-threshold” be high enough that I could ride up Baw Baw? 
It is not uncommon that riders push their bikes up Baw Baw. 
And then the massive wall appeared ahead of me. Six very focused, zigzagging  kilometers. (It could have been 7km from the amount of zigzagging) Any inattention would have made me swerve which would have caused me to fall over. 
It is hard to describe what you experience when riding this climb in a massively exhausted stage of fatigue. You calculate every move and hope that those 11% might ease up to 9% for a few meters. 
But instead you are greeted with two back-to-back corners of 20%!
I am not a climber and snailed my way up. Would it be fast enough to hold my competition off?
One moment to the next, another female racer (but not in my category), Steph from my Hurtbox training group, passed me. I couldn’t believe how quickly she climbed. 
Now I got seriously worried. 
So back to crawling my way up to the finish. 
2km to go. What? I didn’t even see the 3km-sign!
Monika! Of course, you did. It was just sooooo long ago that you have already forgotten about it!
Another eternity passed.
1km to go.
The games you are playing with your mind are just amazing at that point. And if you are playing that game long enough you will see the 500m sign before you know it!
Believe it or not, the mountain has a top and I finally reached it!
And I more or less pedaled the last few exhausted pedal strokes over the finish line.
So happy. 
Super exhausted. But worth the effort.
I learned later I had a spare time of 12 minutes.
 
Hill Climb Champ. VRS leader. (For my category)
And man, I will be there next year!What an awesome race!
Huge thanks to my coach and the The Hurt Box crew for their continuous support. Thanks to Alistair for the feed zone support and for Justine’s great company over the weekend!


Tour of East Gippsland – Tough racing for GC win

Tour of East Gippsland would be my first state-level race after some 3 years. I had no idea how I would do. My thoughts about the race ranged from “I-will-absolutely-smash-it” to “I-hope-I-don’t-get-dropped” depending on training, mood and randomness of day.

The tour consisted of 3 Stages in 2 days:  
Stage 1 (Sat morning): 8km TT
Stage 2 (Saturday afternoon): 72km Road Race
Stage 3 (Sunday morning): 54km Road Race
So there was no messing around between the stages. It was a full on weekend.
Stage 1: So all racers can smell blood (probably their own) and get some nice lactate boost in their legs, we started the tour with a 8km Time Trial, 4km uphill, turn around and then 4km uphill (ok, maybe it was more downhill but man, it felt like an uphill to me!)
Result: I got fourth, 35 seconds behind the leader. And I can clearly state the reason for this slack: no TT bike (15 sec), no aero helmet (5 sec), no racing wheels (14.7 sec), no TT gloves (I am sure that counts for 300 milliseconds). (Please do not quote me on the accuracy of the times as I might have pulled them out of my BS box). But you get my point, I had a solid amount of excuses lined up.
Stage 2: To stir up the so-said lactate production from Stage 1 earlier that day, we were facing some lumpy 72km road course. If I say lumpy, I am not talking about some rollers you can push over but some never-ending minutes hills when hit right, you might end on the top by yourself (your choice if dropped or ahead of the group).
So off we went. The temperature and the terrain would produce the perfect “cyclist-BBQ”- first getting beaten up by the hills and then grilled to perfection so we will be fully smoked by the finish.
The race became interesting when two racers got away on that aforementioned hill and I was not one of them. I chased them like hell and guess what!
I caught on!
But by literally one second when a corner came and they accelerated out of it. Well, I was already in acceleration mode and my engine light was blinking wildly indicating momentarily explosion. In short: I couldn’t keep up.   
Misery sunk in. Dammit! Scheisse!
I looked back. Three riders a few hundred meters behind me. I waited.
Four of us worked together and chased the other two up and down the hills in the heat. One of the lead girls got a flat so it was one girl in visible distance to get. The chase would take another 30km.
We had one more serious hill to climb before the finish and 10km to go.
All of a sudden it hit me like a rock.
I had a good shot in winning this stage! (It might have been my delirious, exhausted melting self-confidence talking and apparently it was not connected to my legs. Because my legs told me a different story. Something like “Shit, another climb! How the hell are we getting over that one?”)
Anyway, we went up the climb together and as soon as it flattened out I started pushing some big gears and got the German diesel going.
I looked in the shadow to see if anyone joined me.
No one.
Then I saw the follow vehicle of the leader.
Passed follow vehicle.
Passed leader.
And then that time started where seconds feel like minutes and minutes like hours. I was deep in the pain cave. Heart rate maxed out.
Would they catch me?
The follow vehicle pulled up: “35 seconds gap”
Ok. That means I had a shot for General Classification (GC) if I keep that pace.
Back into the pain cave.  The kilometres didn’t pass. It seemed forever.
Finally the turn to the slight uphill finish stretch.
I shifted in the small ring. Absolutely no legs left.
And I made it! I couldn’t believe it!
Result: First place and got the GC jersey. 1:19min lead over second place. Fully exhausted but massively happy.
Stage 3: If there was something left in anyone’s legs, then that would be the perfect stage for them. 54km of more undulating terrain. I knew this would be a very different race for me than yesterday.
From offense to defence. I had to take on the role as a herd dog. Whoever tried to run away, I had to chase. If not, I am a happy camper in the herd.
Although two got away, my GC was not threatened so I rolled in with the peloton.
Result: Bunch finish. But GC lead!
Result 2: Since this was the first VRS race of the season, I got the jersey as well.
Happy ending. Getting ready for Three Peaks Challenge in two weeks.

You never wanted a spoon that bad – Cycling in Port Fairy

Everyone knows a movie from the “old days” played in a small town where everyone knows each other. Cars are honking to greet each other, the latest gossip is caught up at one of the busy town cafes and phones are not necessary because you see each other every day anyway. Adding a strong cycling community with a famous local club race that convenes in a community hall to announce new racers or famous returning locals before every race and you think I am dreaming.

Well, maybe there is a reason for the town name but I felt like in a fairy tale when I had a chance to visit Port Fairy. This “old days” mentality is vividly ingrained in the 3000ish soul town with gorgeous beaches, beautiful architectural town structure and welcoming and community oriented people.

I, myself, had the fortune to meet one of the most active couples in the Port Fairian community: Jenny and Jeff. If they did not work on maintaining the cycling rail trail, they are leading a group ride for their fellow Port Farians or help kids new to cycling with their first ride.

A word about cycling in the Port Fairy region:

Although I havent quite recalled a Swiss climb in this region (the steepest and most vicious climb is getting out of a crater which is an experience in itself), cycling is not all fairy-talish. The wide open region (which reminds me very much of the American Midwest) gives the wind full access through the countryside like a leaf blower. A good workout is guaranteed!

And yes, there is a crater in the region filled with wild animals….basically anything that could knock you off your bike. But as an European, it is quite entertaining if a mega-duck…oh wait….an emu is running across the street.

And there is this infamous spoon race….

The local bike race called the spoon race substantiates this extraordinary community. All racers meet in a community hall before the race. The race promoter mentions every racer by its name and introduces newbies and welcomes returning local heroes. After the ceremonial introduction, the race starts casually in waves according to strengths of the racers. But dont underestimate the importance of this event as the winner receives one of the most highly sought spoons in town. Some people have been racing for years and still eat their soup with a fork.

Oh and just a word of caution, you may or may not get lost if you dont know the course. Let’s say I speak from experience. This might be the secret way of the locals to gain advantage so the spoons never leave the town. 🙂

Port Fairy has kept its small town character despite its attraction to tourists. If you seek a weekend escape from Melbournian’s hustle and bustle, Port Fairy is the place to be.


Tour de Timor – the race where you gain more by getting less

Tour de Timor is a five day Mountain bike stage race in East Timor, one of the poorest countries in the world.

Although the race itself is a true challenge, don’t sign up based on the race itself. You get a lot more (or less, depending how you look at it) than that:
The race
The race entails five stages totalling 395km and 8200m of climbing. The surface ranges from smooth pavement to crater deep potholes to gravel to throw-you-of-your-bike rocky terrain to deep sandpits. But even as the most untalented mountain biker, I myself could handle the terrain. Although the race course is challenging, other factors make this an epic experience:

 

Accommodation
Camping of some sort was the theme for most stages. But don’t imagine a nice quiet camping area with a BBQ grill. Camping is done in or out of basic building blocks with livestock casually passing by. With the regular bark or cock-a-doodle-doo during night time, you were ensured that breakfast and lunch have not gone missing yet.

Cleaning facilities

The Timorese wash tradition entails a scoop and a bucket full of water. Throw the water with the scoop over your head and you got your shower. The water quality ranged from see-thru liquid to microbiological aquariums. For the most part, the dirt on my body outweighed the dirt in the water bucket.
Food
If you are gluten-free, lactose intolerant, wheat allergic and paleo, you are in luck, because Tour de Timor provides almost for every type of diet. Having rice and meat served every day all day, you can be ensured that you will not accidentally get milk, wheat or any other Western intolerances from this diet. Just don’t mind the occasional diarrhoea or stomach cramp.
Spectators
If you are looking for big crowds cheering you on, you came to the right place. Children of all age will never leave you wondering if you took the wrong way.
 Racers
The best of all were the fellow riders though. As you might be able to read through the sarcasm in the previous lines, we went through a lot of ups and downs. Sharing the glory, the pain, the suffering, fatigue and the joy of accomplishment with this great group of people made this experience very special. We grew together as a group, got to know each other’s habits, food schedule, blisters, and other pains (I spare the details but the other riders know what I am talking about).
Tour de Timor is not just a mountain bike race – it is an experience of a very poor country and what comes with it – lack of clean water, cleaning facilities, variety of food and sleep quality add to the strain of body and mind on top of the race itself. By getting pushed out of my comfort zone on so many levels, I gained so much more out of this experience than just fitness.
I want to thank the fellow riders, the med team and the fantastic support team for sharing this incredible experience with me!

Many thanks to River City Cycle for providing me with an awesome Salsa El Mariachi for this race.


How a dating service gets you through a 1000km race – Tortour in Switzerland

Three weeks before the race

I got a strange email question from a still unknown person : Would I want to join a four person team for the Tortour? Ahemmm YES!.

I knew about the Tortour too well. It`s a 1000km race around Switzerland with 14,500m elevation gain that not only requires some serious physical fitness but, if not more importantly, a well organized support team, a similar format as the Race Across America.

So from one day to the next I was on the team to join them only three weeks later.

I would learn soon I had the fortune to be on a fantastic team that not only was organizational top notch but funny that would even make the most serious German smile.

And here goes the story in pictures and videos:

Thursday, 14 August: Morning

Everyone was excited on the way to the race (f.l.: me, Stefan (racer), Isa (racer), Ariella (support))

 

 

A lot of gear is required with the hope you can find it when you need it.

 

Every racer got a box which should minimize chaos. I successfully created chaos anyway.

Thursday 12pm 

At the race briefing. Being surrounded by 500+ other excited racers and supporters made for an incredible atmosphere. If you werent excited before this briefing, you are definitely now! The anticipation was rising!

Thursday 15:30

Then, the prolog in the afternoon. Merely a kilometer or so of high intensity to place the teams into an order for the next day.

We won the prolog in our category. That meant we start first at 2:33AM, a minute ahead of the second placed team.

Friday 2:30AM Start

The starting formation. The team to the right and the follow vehicle behind.

 

Just imagine about 130 vehicles with `Caution Bicycle ahead` driving around in Switzerland….Bikes rule the next 48 hours
No idea why we were waving to the follow vehicle. I (pink arm warmers in the front) was occupied with other things apparently.
And then the countdown. 1000km ahead

 

 

Ariella and Mirco…let the fun get started

Friday 10:30AM: 8 Hours – 233km

There were three team stages (first, middle and last). The other ~850km were split between the four racers.

We had highly concentrated drivers. Not only the cyclist had to ride 1000km, our support crew had to drive those too!
I wasnt aware that we had a mountain goat on the team. This woman can climb!

 

The views were breathtaking….in two ways.

Friday 14:30 PM 12 hours – 340km
As hard as we were working, we had at least the same amount of fun (here on the way up the 14km climb, Flüela pass.)

Friday 18:30 – 16 hours – 480km

Not a lot of rest time between the individual stages: Transfer to next check point, eating and getting clothes ready for next stage do not give a lot of time to relax
The weather couldnt decide. It was sunny. 10 minutes late it poured down.

 

Saturday 4:00 AM – 26 hours – 770km
After some 30 hours of having fun and riding, the energy was slowly draining and I got tired. My last shift (before the team stage) was about to start. It was 4am. 26 hours on the road. 50km to ride to the next check point.

It was dark. It was wet. I was tired.

10km into my stage, I was falling asleep on the bike and swerving around the lane.I needed some entertainment. I asked our support team to tell me a story.
Of all the stories Barbara could tell me she chose to give me the pros and cons to date her two brothers. After a 30 minutes very entertaining monologue she decided herself, it might not be a good idea to date either of them.

And all of a sudden I was at the checkpoint.

Saturday 13:29 34 hours: 1000km

After the last team stage and 34 hours of being on the road we crossed the finish line.

 

We made it! From left: Max, me, Isa, Stefan

Then, the entry into the arena onto the stage with our song. No matter how often I watch this video I am still getting wet eyes. It brought all the fantastic memories into one moment.

 

The moderator asked me three questions back-to-back. Sleep deprived, I forgot all of them and answered my own.

Thanks to a fantastic team: Stefan, Max, Isa, Ariella, Barbara, Betty and Mirco!


Preparing for a new level of EPIC – Alpenbrevet

There is no shortage of tough rides in the Alps, especially considering the endless possibilities of climbing up passes without a lot of flats between them. This ride was a preparation for the highly respected Alpenbrevet race. I was pretty exhausted after this ride of 147km and 4,300m elevation. The Alpenbrevet with an additional 130km and 2,700m elevation gain will ask for a new level of toughness in two weeks.

The route:

The elevation:

Barely any flats, climbing from 500m up to 2,400m

 

 

 

 

On the way down from Grimsel with the view towards Furka Pass

 

But before testing my climbing legs, the non-stop 1000km Tortour around Switzerland will challenge the endurance of my team and I. With a highly organized five person support crew, a camper, a follow vehicle and a loooooot of food, we are ready for the challenge starting this Friday EARLY morning. We hope to cross the finish line 39 hours later, Saturday evening!

You can follow us via live tracker. Link will follow.

Oh, this race will be so epic!


I love riding in Minnesota – 100mi Fulton Gran Fondo
I forgot about the pain.

I forgot about how loooooong 100 mi could feel.

I forgot about the wind!

But four months away from Minnesota did not make me forget how awesome its cycling community is. 

Today at the Fulton Gran Fondo I was able to be part of it again. There is this energy in the air; that anticipation to have fun that gets me excited to ride my bike. 

It’s easy to fit in. Only rule is to be nice. 
It doesn’t matter what kit you wear or how fast you ride. Enjoying the ride is the motto. 

The Minnesotan cycling community rocks! Thank you for a wonderful day!

Thanks to the Fulton Brewery for a great race! And huge thanks to Foundry for putting me on a great bike!


Only 156 hours to the Royal 162! Oh man, I cant wait to race gravel again!


How I prepared for Trans Iowa
Trans Iowa was the most epic race for me this year. I was nervous. What did I get myself into? Would I be prepared? What equipment, tool or nutrition am I missing? Would I be able to hang with people? What should I know that I don’t know yet?
Looking back, I learned that 80% of this race is mental. Yes, it would be a good idea to get a few centuries in before but Trans Iowa was not decided how fit I was (of course, a certain fitness is required) but how I dealt with myself in my darkest moments. I was teaching myself a certain attitude that nothing can stop me – whether it is weather, sleep-deprivation, hunger, thirst or the blister on my pinky.
But to successfully apply this “No obstacle is too big” attitude, I had to train it.
To get ready for the worst, I had to train in the worst. I had to ride when it was the most humbling with no glory or Strava segments to get. Most of those rides were alone. No one else wanted to join. That was the best indicator for a bad ride.
I still remember one particular time that tested whether I stuck to my own philosophy. Every Wednesday I joined a group ride which was 15 miles away from my place. One day in January, I decided to ride to the group ride. On the way it started raining. The group ride was still happening but we shortened it because it got colder, windier and darker. Everyone was shivering. During the last few miles when we were heading towards the end point of the group ride I was debating with myself. I could easily ask one of the riders to drive me home, sitting in a nice warm, dry car, preferably with seat heating. Or I could ride the 15 miles in this wet, cold, and dark condition home.
The car option was winning!
But then my conscience reminded me of Trans Iowa. Would there be an option on the course where I could get a ride? That would be called “giving up.”
I had to ride home!
To avoid someone potentially offering me a ride I didn’t do the usual stop and chit-chat at the end point and just headed towards home. It was cold, wet, windy and dark, but I made it. I realized that more treacherous conditions had to come to make me give up!
Trans Iowa is like an obstacle course with unknown hurdles along the way. Every rider gets their own personal obstacles. It will not be perfect so it’s about how to deal with the imperfection. On a few rides, I simulated running out of water and food. I was thinking of every “worst-case” scenario possible and how I would deal with it. What if I get lost? What if my lights run out of battery? How will I feel at 2 am and how my body will try to convince me to stop and how I will convince my body not to stop. (Cinnamon rolls did the trick for me)
Trans Iowa is an epic event; it is an exciting journey with great people. It is an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment when crossing that finish line! I am very excited for everyone who will race TI 2014!

Inflated tires are overrated – The Filthy 50 race
It was a gorgeous fall day. In the 50s and sunny.
Having learned my lesson from Heck of the North, I enforced my traditional carb-loading the day before. However, instead of apple pie, I found this delicious walnut-cranberry bread from Whole Foods. Quantity will not be disclosed. (Otherwise I will see my name at the next food competition roster)
About 300 racers lined up at the start line. It will be a fast race.
For the first 30 miles I was staring as far as the wheel in front of me, my tongue collecting the dust and my legs in huge argument with its biggest enemy namely lactate. I didn’t dare to make any movement that didnt cause forward-motion.
I could get dropped any second.
When I looked up I found myself in a group that was way too strong for me. Why the hell was I here? I was a marionette and played along until someone would cut the strings.
The playground became a cemetery when my legs died at 32mi on a climb: Nature Road. Once on the ridge, it was time to chase. Head down (I was told the course was very beautiful. I missed out on the scenery but I can tell you all about the dust collection on my stem). I caught a few stragglers along the way.
With about five miles to go I could feel the gravel under me more pronounced than normal.
Do I have a flat?
Wait, do I want to know the answer?
No. Ok, then keep riding and just don’t look.
After a few miles it became too apparent. I had a leak in my front tire. How inconvenient! Even more inconvenient for the wheel because I am not going to stop!
When I hit the pavement the last three miles, I was riding the rim. No air in the tire. Nothing. Nada. Null.
I must say, it is quite strenuous to ride uphill on a flat. The constant banging of the metal against the tarmac attracted some attention on my way to finish line. But it’s all good. My HED wheels don’t even have a scratch.
Congrats to all the finishers of the race! I hope everyone had fun! Huge thanks to Trenton for a phenomenal race. With his entire family, neighbors and great sponsors as support, the race was a well-organized event and suited every kind of rider. A 50 miler is the perfect distance for newcomers to try out gravel racing and for veterans to change up the pace.