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?”
“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.