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/


Everesting: 177 repeats without going crazy

Everesting is all about repeating the same hill  over and over until you reach a vertical gain of 8848m.

I am not a big fan of repeats.

But I decided to give it a go when I had the opportunity to do it with eight friendly, welcoming guys. And we would even raise funds for a good cause.

I was now committed.

Our chosen hill (there is a strategy for choosing a climb) was short.

1.1 km long with an elevation gain of 50 m.

That meant 177 repeats.

Sounded like I better start liking repeats.

 

So although there is no question about the huge physical challenge, I was worried how I would deal with the shear amount of repeats.

Would I go bananas from all the repetition?

 

Friday 10 pm was the kickoff for many, many laps ahead.

It was a nice, cool temperature. Clear sky. No wind. Pitch black.

 

Lights and bike computers were ready. The countdown started.

We dispersed within the first few laps. Jeremy and I stuck together for a few hours. However, at some point our pace didn’t match anymore.

 

I was riding by myself now.

In the dark.

The only excitement were the other eight headlamps popping in and out of the night.

I got bored.

Boredom is the worst place to be in. I had time to think of all the things I shouldn’t be thinking of.

The remaining distance. The lack of sleep. Body ache.

It was 1:00 am. Only 3 hours into the ride.

I had to come up with something quickly!

 

I usually dont listen to audio-books but was recommended to give it a shot.

I gave it a shot.

5 hours passed and I cannot recall anything that happened around me.

Listening to an ultra-marathoner crossing the Saharan desert made my 177 laps look… normal.  (Audiobook: Running Man by Charlie Engle.)

Time passed quickly.

 

7:00 am. Within a few hours, a massive amount of cyclists, families and supporters started dropping in.

There was so much action going on. Meeting old friends. Making new friends. Eating pizza. Trying the new arrived brownies.

And the laps ticked away.

I realized that as long as I am engaged, I am ok. As soon as I am not engaged anymore, I would get into trouble.

But with such great support around us, there was always something going on. Plus, Danny, a newly made friend, dedicated himself to be a super domestique. He rode 6+ hrs with me until the finish.

My original worry was that the repetition would get me at some point.  But that never eventuated due to the fantastic support we had.

Thanks to everyone who came out and supported us. That was huge!!!

 

Special thanks to:

    • A fantastic Mo-Everesting group! Thanks to Stuart, Joel, Brodie, Daryn, Ray, Eddie and Jeremy for a great time – from preparation to execution!
    • Supporters. Thank you so much for the motivating and encouraging words. For the delicious meals and baked goods. For cleaning the road! For fixing four flats. For taking pictures. And for listening to my non-stop monologue.
    • Alistair for creating and monitoring the live tracking website.
    • Blake for letting me use his solar-driven battery pack
    • Mark O’Gara and Graz Ina for the pictures!

The ride:


What happens when you underestimate Alpe d’Huez!

I am currently in France chasing all the epic climbs.
And it goes without saying, there are a lot!
I am on a mission – filming them for the indoor trainer app called FulGaz.

But there is a problem with spending an extended period of time in the mountains – you become addicted to elevation gain.
At first, it was one little climb – 700m vertical gain that blew you away.
Then it was 1000m, a big one.
Then two climbs, etc.

Well, two days ago I was on the “hell, I am going to do a big day today – two 1500m climbs, Col de la Croix de Fer from both sides”.

After that ride, I also decided I never would do this climb again. (It was just not my gradient.)

In the evening I checked my ride and I saw Alpe d’Huez was so close to that route! It was one of those climbs I was planning on filming anyway so how could I have missed it!!!!

I have to go back!

24 hours later I came to this epiphany I could just add Alpe d’Huez to the 6.5 hours ride the day before.

What is one more climb?
(I might want to add that I am not a big Tour de France follower so I heard about Alpe d’Huez and that there is such a big hype about it but there is a lot of hype about a lot of things, right?)

So two days after the Col de la Croix de Fer ride, I was back climbing it again. (Here goes my promise never to climb it again!)

But then, the most essential part of my mission failed. The camera gave me a no-go!

Half way up the first col! (Just a side note for the flatlanders: Just going down the mountain to repair it is not just a 10 min turn around, we are talking about hours!)

So after climbing the reminder of Croix de Fer, I had to make a monumental decision. Heading back and call it a day or keep going?

I decided to keep going.  I have been riding with a failed power meter, only three gears, a badly-to-be-greased chain and other unidentifiable bike noises for the past two weeks. A broken camera will not make me turn around. Basta!

So I descended the other side of Croix de Fer and four hours later and 1800m vertical meters in my legs I found myself in Bourg d’Oisans – the start of this self-proclaimed, tough climb.

Well, yes, it did start tough.

But then I thought it was only 10km of climbing and 1100m of ascent.

Oh wait, what?

It was starting to sunk in. This might not be the random neighborhood climb.

There were count-down markers for the corners in the… ahem… corners.
Not sure about its intentions….was it meant to devastate or encourage you?

20 corners to go.

I lost my faith in them by corner 19. Either I was already so in the red zone that I made up corners or the count-down person was vicious! Not every corner had a corner sign! (Let’s talk about mental abuse here!)

Plus, my vision got so blurry that I couldnt make up the number anymore!

In short, I was losing it.

And what set me off completely were all those cyclists who were flying down the mountain.

SMILING!

Excuse me! I am suffering here, have a little bit more empathy. A more pitying face would be  appropriate!

Anyway, by corner 15±3 I decided not to look up anymore.

No smiling cyclists anymore.
No untrustworthy corners anymore.
Staring at the pavement was just fine by me!

But another misery was setting in.

I now could exactly follow my progress seeing if any pavement is moving under me.

Was I moving?

Suddenly I heard someone yelling: photo, photo!

I looked up. Yes, there was a photographer in my snail-pacing way to take a picture.

I let him do his job.

Then he wanted to give me a business card.

I think he could see my eyes behind my glasses because he immediately retracted.

At some point, and do not ask me what corner, I looked up and saw two villages above me.
Oh my god! That must be heaven or hell, well, actually both.

Of course, Alpe d’Huez was the one further up.

No time to look up anymore. I had a job to do. Staring at that darn pavement and hoping it would keep moving!

Then signs of “Tour de France this way” appeared in my tunnel vision.

Then the corner signs disappeared.

It must be going straight or only uncornery corners now!

And I made it into Alpe d’Huez.

I was confused.

Where the heck is that damn “Arrivee” sign?

I asked frantically, distressed two coffee-drinking coffee drinkers.

“Another few meters uphill.”

So I climbed those “few” meters….and I still couldnt find that one-and-only sign I would recognize from miles away!

At the seemingly end of the village I turned around and was looking for the sign. More distressed.

And by chance, I found this small, piddling sign which did not represent the size of this massive effort! They must change the sign!

(Well, you might look at the sign and say, ahem Monika, this is a pretty big sign. But I say, if you stare at the pavement for more than an hour, this sign is not exactly in your vision!)

I took my obligatory col picture. I felt disturbed, mentally and physically abused. Why would someone play with you and your legs for such a long time?

And then I descended and Alpe d’Huez became a bit friendlier. I didnt know that it actually had a view:


But back to my mission, I still need to film this climb!

Next time (meaning tomorrow), the corners, the smiling descending cyclists, the photographer and the pavement need to watch out for my Vendetta! This is not how I will leave it with Alpe d’Huez!

Oh wait, the story is not done yet. I forgot that I had to climb back over Col de la Croix de Fer (1500m elevation). And if Alpe d’Huez was misery, this was absolute hell. I was mentally so exhausted that those 50m road sign reflection markers every, well, 50m kept me going.

I think the video says it all:

And just for the record, this is the ride:


My (mental) preparation for the Three Peaks Challenge– Melbourne to Mt Buller (260km/5000m elevation, 161mi/16400ft elevation)

 

When you are planning on doing something longer and harder than you have done before, the extra weight of five kilos on top of your neck will be your key asset. (Your head)
Having decided three weeks out to ride the Three Peaks Challenge, one of the hardest one day challenges in Australia (235km/4000m elevation), I needed a long tough ride beforehand. I wanted to see how my legs feel towards the end of a long ride but more importantly I needed that kind of ride as mental preparation. Getting my head ready for whatever lies beyond the failure of my legs. There is a “going into the red” for going anaerobic, I call it “going mental” for going beyond your perceived body’s ability.
I heard on Thursday that a mate, Damian, is planning on riding the next day from Melbourne out to Mt Buller. 260km (161mi). 5000m (16400ft) of elevation. 40km (25mi)  of gravel in unknown condition.  35 degrees (95F) temps.
That was exactly what I was looking for! It had the length, the pain and the uncertainty to make it very challenging.
For those kinds of rides, key is to be able to motivate myself on the toughest parts. Naturally climbs and in this case the gravel section would be something that would drain my mental energy. So for the short time I had to prepare for this ride (12 hours), I learned all about elevation gain, gradient, length of climb that could give me the ability to measure my progress while climbing. Plus, the more numbers you have to play around with, the more you can make all kind of (un)necessary calculations to keep your head busy.
The gravel section seemed to become my lowest mental point. With a limited pool of mountain bike skills, I had a very tough time to navigate through a very rocky terrain, no matter if uphill or downhill.
We just didn’t make any progress. That put me off.
In those situations, I try to either sing to myself or compare my current misery with an even worse situation from the past.  Keeping perspective is key and not letting emotions take over.
After the gravel section, the toughest part was actually just starting. Mount Terrible*. A 10 odd km (6mi) climb all exposed to sun and heat.  It was north of 35 degrees (95F). We were already dehydrated from the lack of water supply in the last 120km. We were 11 hours into the ride. I dealt with very painful hot feet. So in short: A great time to pull the plug, especially considering that our next stop, Jamieson, has a nice coffee shop to cool down, relax, refill and eat properly. Why would you want to leave?
As this the most dangerous time to waste time stopping, I was in “adventure racing” mode. Quickly refill on water and food and get out of there in the quickest time possible.
But when I strapped my helmet back on after all necessary refillings, I realized that Damian hasn’t even touched his food.
“Are you alright?”
“No, my head is still spinning, my heart racing. I am severely dehydrated. No way, I am getting out of here until I feel better.”
Wow. I was flabbergasted. I knew we were both dehydrated but I didn’t see that coming.
He must have been seriously dehydrated.
After an hour of recovery and rehydration in Jamieson, we decided the ride is over and we would ride to Mansfield. I left Jamieson still with the belief that I could get Damian safely to Mansfield and then push on.
But as soon as we got on the bike, all the adrenalin and excitement vanished. Seeing my ride mate in such a terrible condition plus the length of the stop put me mentally into a different state of mind.
Should I really ride on alone into the night?
Although it was only right to join him to get him safely to Mansfield, disappointment and a huge sense of failure set in. I couldn’t believe it. I was so determined to reach the top of Mt Buller. Now I had to give up short of it.
With those feelings setting in, I lost my motivation for this ride.
However, Damian seemed to wake up from the dead. He rode off strong and visibly got his energy back.
Although I had no desire to keep riding, I asked anyway if he wanted to change his mind to keep going up Mt Buller. I expected a “no” but to my big surprise he said, “let’s do it!”

What?!?

Thinking that the gravel section was the toughest mental part, this mental adjustment from deep disappointment to “hey let’s rock this” was huge.
It took me a few minutes to readjust my motivation to ride for another 50km (31mi) with 800m (2600ft) of elevation. But man, this overbearing sense of disappointment evaporated and hell, I was ready to finish this sucker!
With us both being aligned in our goals again, we made the next 50km as fun and exciting as possible. We both just came from very different ends of disappointment and here we are facing a legitimate climb in the darkest of dark, 15 hours into our riding. And we are having fun doing it!
The cherry on the ice cream was some surprise visits! Blake knew we were about to climb Mt Buller and stopped on the climb, cheering us on. Andy and Nicole stopped on the way handing us pizza! How awesome is that?!? Things like this make a huge difference in such a ride!
Damian and I truly enjoyed the last kilometres and it became a little bit celebratory finishing strong on top of the climb and completing what we planned to do after 18 hours.
A huge sense of accomplishment was setting in…….. A veeeeeery addicting feeling.
When can I do it again? Ah…right, Three Peaks next weekend!

Our route: Melbourne – 1 in 20 – Warburton – Reefton Spur – Eildon-Warburton Rd – Jamieson – Mt Buller

* On the way down from Mt Terrible a lyrebird ran actually in between my wheels. That was luck to both me and the bird that we actually got out of it ok.


The start into an exciting ultra-endurance season: 700km in 36 hours in Mallee, Victoria


I am back to where I belong!!
After a four month flirt with triathlon (this might deserve its own blog post at some point), I am back to ultra-endurance racing. With plenty of space in Australia, there is no shortage of long rides!
To test my current endurance I decided to do the Audax 600km Mallee ride and 5 days beforehand I signed up. 
My preparation? Well….does a 200km ride two weeks prior count, my longest ride in a year?  
I decided to let the problems come as they occur.  The good thing when you haven’t done such a long ride in a while (this would be my longest ever), is that you forgot what you need. I was assured I would remember very quickly.
A dinner with all the riders took place the evening before the ride. It was a humorous and chatty group ranging in age between 29 and 65. 
Topics were: Why should I get a recumbent bike, how long do Magpies charge at you, and watch out for kangaroos hopping out in front of your wheel.  
I also met the 29 year old Joel whose plan was to set a record. 
I was intrigued.
His plan was riding 1000km with a 30km/h average.
30km/h? That sounds reasonable if I sit on his wheel, I thought. 
“Hey Joel, do you mind if someone is sitting on your wheel?”
“No Monika, having company would be great!”
“What distance are you doing again?”
“1000km.”
“One thousand kilometres, ….that is a lot….”
After a let’s-think-about-this-for-a-second moment, I changed my registration from a 600km to a 1000km ride. 
So I had 12 hours (and dont mind the time to sleep in there) to figure out food, riding route, water and everything else I don’t remember that I would need to get ready for. 
It never really sunk in what I just did – just casually adding another 400km to the ride.
My new plan…oh wait, I didn’t even have a plan before….so I guess now I got a plan which is stick with Joel as long as I can.
The morning off, Joel and I were off for the first of three loops. (All three loops ended at Hopetoun, the epicentre of homemade apple crisp with vanilla custard, lasagne and a warm oven.)
The first loop consisted of 360km. We hit the first 180km spot on, even a tad high averaging 32kmh. But then, we were facing 100, let me spell that out…one hundred kilometres of headwind! 
But Joel was determined to keep up the pace. Even in the backseat I felt the pain of the headwind. It was quite exhausting. 
After a 14 hours round trip, we made it back to Hopetoun at 8pm. I was considering my next move over the last hours and I decided I want to get going as soon as possible; otherwise I wouldn’t get going at all. 
My legs were fried. The food too delicious. The oven nice and warm. So an extended stay at home base would be detrimental to the ride. I booked a hotel 100km up the road and planned on staying there the most crucial time during the night from 12am to 4am. Joel’s plan was to sleep now and get going at midnight. So we split.
Now I was alone on the roads of rural Victoria. 
It was quiet. Semi-dark, we had full moon. An occasional car passing. Nothingness. Very relaxing.
Except a few unnerving things like a dead bike computer, 10% phone battery and some gunshot noises that kept me on edge. 
Lets say, I wasn’t really enjoying the stars too much, instead I was constantly surveying my surroundings for deadly animals and everything else that could stand between me and the nice warm bed in the hotel up the road.
At 2am, after 460km and 20 hours of riding, I arrived at the hotel in Dimboola and I was sleep before hitting the pillow.
After a solid three hours sleep or rather nap, I was back on the road. 
The first two hours were rough. I couldn’t clip into my pedals, I couldn’t reach for my gels in my pocket, it was too dark, too cold, too windy, and everything else that would annoy me because I was not lying in a cosy, warm bed. 
But eventually, I faced realty and got settling into riding again. But there was one thing I totally missed. I forgot to eat breakfast!!!! Now I was out of food and starving. I had another 10km to go to the next town.
No way that I would leave the next town without food.
Minyip, the next town had two cafes, one shut-down hotel and gas station, one supermarket and one bank. I know this so well, because I rode this very strip of road 20 times up and down to find something open at 8am on a Sunday morning. Wishful thinking! 
Finally I came across another living creature. At 9am the supermarket opens, he said. I pondered whether to waste an hour on waiting or keep going and start bonking. 
I waited. Apparently, the supermarket is the biggest attraction on a Sunday morning at 9am because half of the town was in front of it eagerly awaiting its opening. 
After some curb-side-sandwich-assembly action I was off to the next town, 40km to go with a solid headwind. 
While cruising along from town to town, I was able to take in fully my surroundings.
Rural Victoria was a concoction of Iowa, Manitoba and Cyprus. Take the fields of Iowa, mix it with the pancake flatness of Canada’s Manitoba, throw some Cypriot flora in it and replace the Midwestern wild dogs with Magpies, and you got a pretty good picture of rural Victoria.
Now a word about those Magpies. I never looked out for birds so much in my life until now. Those birds are attacking cyclists if you are in their territory. Attacking meaning they are swooping from behind to either just stop short of your helmet or they actually hitting your helmet. 
The territory, so I learned, was 200m long. They will charge at you when you are in and leave you alone once you crossed that invisible border.  In short, it is basically a interval game where you have to sprint for a maximum of 200m and the Magpies decide when to sprint. I didn’t like the game but I played it about 20 times during my ride.
So the day went on with the second loop of 340km came to an end. The last 5km became a solid sprint effort as an entire Magpie community charged at me one kilometre after the other. 
After 700km and 36 hours of riding, it was the end of my ride due to time constraints and physiological reasons. I was ok with it as I rode 100km more than originally planned. It was a fantastic season starter for plenty of ultra-endurance events to come. I cant wait for the next one!
It was a great organized event thanks to Simon Watt and his crew who made this possible! Next up is Tour de Timor in two weeks – a 5 day Mountain bike stage race.

How to succeed at tough races

Two months ago I signed up for one of the harder races in Switzerland: the Alpenbrevet, a 276km race with over 7000m of elevation. However, with a new job I have less time for riding and only two months ago I hopped on my bike maybe once a week.

Still, I signed up for the longest and hardest distance of the three racing options.
Finishing a race of that magnitude is not an easy goal, especially if your training capacity is mediocre at best.
However, although physical fitness is very important, what gets you really up the mountain, through nasty weather conditions and across the finish line is your mind!
Here are a few suggestions that help me get through tough challenges, even with less training:
Never doubt your success. You gotta be on the start line thinking that you will succeed. Any doubt will later, in tough times, knock on your mental door and question your sanity. During the first climb of the Alpenbrevet, all the different distance groups (Silver, Gold, Platinum) rode together. I asked a few riders what distance they will ride. A lot said `I will see. I was thinking of Platinum but if I do not feel well, I will go for the Gold distance`. All of them set themselves up for not completing the highest goal they could achieve.
Don’t focus on the pain. If you do it will only get worse. It`s the same with feeling sick. If you think about getting sick, you will. Distract yourself. Especially on long challenges, try to distract yourself with something else than your current activity. Sooner or later, you will find yourself thinking about it all the time anyway. Now, when it is easy to entertain yourself with other things, like chatting (if possible) with other riders, enjoying the nature, counting the white stripes of the middle lane, will make the latter and tougher part of the race mentally easier.
Tell as many people as possible about your goal. Because you would have to tell all of them you had to quit. Then try to imagine what you would tell them. If it sounds like an excuse, keep going.
Play worse-case scenario. If you are getting tired climbing up a mountain, ask yourself: How could it be worse? The grade could be steeper. It could rain. There could be headwind. It could be a cobble way. All of a sudden, your current condition does not seem too bad anymore.
After all it all boils down to:
Pain is temporary but failure lasts forever.
Plus, crossing the finish line after a very tough challenge is an indescribable addicting feeling.
What gets you through a tough 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!