Day 7 – Great Escape Tasmania

A bit late yes but we’ve working too hard for blog posting each day. Lots of photos and videos so may go back and post content for the other days.

This is our second last day on the road of our 8 days of supported cycle traveling. To sum up hard, rewarding, well organised and scenic.

Each day (apart from the rest day) tended to fall in the same pattern ;

Get up with the birds (or howling children, barking dogs or the elderly with a single (loud) volume of voice)
Eat a breakfast of cereal, fruit, yogurt, tea or coffee
Wash dishes
Pack up tent and all clothes and camping bits
Pack bags into back of covered semi
Get on bikes and ride for 5-6 hours.
Stop for photos, cafes, provided lunch at rest stop, water drops or to swear at approaching hills.
Find bags unloaded from truck and setup tent
Queue and have shower
Wash riding clothes (in magical hot water producing sink)
Find location to hang clothes
Have a look at town (if time or town even exists)
Have snack from local town food stall on site at camp ground
Drink good tasmanian beer/wine from bar
Eat dinner in giant marquee with 600 other people
Listen to rider (de)briefing
Go to sleep about 8.30pm
Repeat

The above may sound very boring but its the riding that made things interesting when bike touring and the reason why we came. We can use today as our example…….

Todays riding was unlike the last 5 because there were two routes. One was a 45klm off road route and the other was 84klms on the road.
At the previous nights briefing we had been advised that the shorter route was not simply an easier route but would have some tricky riding, hills and would require off road skills.

Since we had already registered to do the shorter route and had sturdy bikes we thought we’d stick with it in any case. In the end we were glad we did but damn it was hard. The height profiles for the two routes looked the same however it was clear half way through that the gradiant was far higher and the road surface made things much harder.

After a nice ride along the edge of Oyster Bay it was over some small hills and into a nice town called Orford which was perched at the start of a small inlet. Lots of nice looking yatchs and fishing boats (this is Tasmanian sea food heaven after all)
We stopped for a real coffee at a large cafe that had some great food and beach side atmosphere.
After a double espresso for me and a single for Row we head out of town.

We registered with the ride marshal for the off road route and were again warned what we were getting ourselves in for. Row was getting nervous about it but a number of people were heading that way and we confirmed there would be a sag wagon if required so we started off.

No more than 1 minute down the road we were lost as the guy riding in front of us turned around and said he wasn’t sure we were going the right way.
I used my mobile to call the rider assistance line. I was told that the path was 8klm after orford and it would be sign posted and have marshals.
We travel a further 8klm on the road with no signs or marshals. Reviewing the map it was clear we were heading in the correct direction but not on the marked route. there were rumours in town of a washed away bridge so we suspected a last minute route change.

On the road we climbed a small hill and passed a magnificent little beach with luxury beach shacks perched over it. With Maria island in the background and the sun still near the horizon it was an amazing vista. We further on entered a nice forrest reserve that snaked around some cliffs leading to more secluded beaches. With the mood increasing with every fantastic view we were soon appreciating our choice of route. Not long after exiting the forest we hit the much talked about dirt track.
It was dry compacted mud with a sandy top layer with large stones occasionally poking out.
It took some time to get used to the feel but eventually I was getting the hang of picking a good line, speeding and breaking without skidding. Row was being far more cautious.

Soon the main ascent started and the going was getting harder. There were more rocks, more sand and more potholes. As soon as the gradiant reached about 10% care had to be taken to stop the back wheel spinning. Unlike descending the main aim was to avoid the compacted ultra smooth sandy line and take the section with the most smooth pounded rocks in it. The rocks even though bumpy would at least give you grip.

I pushed on and Row took a couple of walks.
As we rose higher the road got steeper sitting between 12 and 16% gradiant for a number of kilometers.
At this point I just decided to let it rip and was passing a bunch of people doing around 8klm/hr at 90% of my max heart rate.
I reached what I though was the top and caught my breath waiting for Row. Much to my surprise she came around the corner after about 10 minutes and she was riding!!!!!
She had discussed walking some of it as she still had a strained muscle and wasn’t very confident on the surface. I congratulated her and told she had done very well. Little did I know we were only half way up. The section we had done was probably equivalent to the steepest part of Mt Baw Baw but even harder due to the surface.
After some harrowing descent on a really sandy and rutted section of 16% gradiant we reached the lunch stop. We needed to ensure we weren’t getting any faster than about 5 klm/hr so we could take the corners.

At lunch we learned from a martial that we were only half way up but the remainder was not all as steep as the last part. He did say that was still some more pinches of 16% to come.
He was right and as soon as we started we were back into he hard climbing again and this time in the heat.

After another 20 mins we reached the top to get a great view of the next stretch of coast line and glittering water.

I sped off downhill feeling fairly confident to hit 30 klm/hr since the road surface was getting better the closer we got to civilization. Rowena took her time but as the road wound around the valley I’d stop to make sure I could see her safely appear back over the other side and then head off again.
After passing some trucks we were soon amongst one of the largest dairy farms I had ever seen. The normal brown drought fields we had seen throughout tassie gave was to the rolling green fields we had seen in Europe. They were being irrigated from large mobile horizontal irrigators and in the distance we could see hundreds of cows marching across a ridge to the milking sheds.

We soon came to some nice houses and the smell of cow crap. Amongst the farm sheds along the road were a number of small pens where 30 or so calves had been separated from their mother’s. They looked at us with great interest and weren’t the least bit scared pushing their heads through the fence to try and get to us.
They didn’t look any more than a day or two old and were sadly suffering some separation anxiety or were hungry for food. Not sure if they were male or female but there was a feeding trough in the paddock so they had been fed at some point. We took some photos and swore off steak for at least that night. They seemed intregued by the clicking of the SLR. We rode off with the cows running in the paddock after us and crying for us to bring them with us.

After another 20 minutes riding we reached the route marshals and checked ourselves out of what turned out to be a very interesting section of road.

We reached Copping and grabbed our luggage and setup for the night. Speaking to the local guys taking care of charging 600 people’s garmins, phones, battery’s and I suspect a few hearing aides, they told me the only things in Copping were the showground we were camping in and a winery. Based on that information we hit the showers and had an unusually dissapointing dinner.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Vic Alps December 2012

Perfect weekend with lots of riding and pizza.

 

First up I rode an epic ride with Craig from Omeo to Mt Beauty on the Friday afternoon after a long drive from Melbourne.  Luckily Shedlon arrived in the car back from riding Dinner Plain at exactly the right time as it was getting dark and cold (8 degrees) as we got to Falls creek village.  I decided to descend the front of falls by myself anyway as I had lights. It was fine for the first treacherous section but after the river it was starting to get very dark. I was glad when it was my turn to be picked up in the car.

 

Saturday i tried to head up the front of Falls by myself late in the afternoon which was a big mistake. 30+ degrees in the full sun and ran out of water. I decided at the 2/3 distance to head back to the pool for a swim.

On Sunday Craig and myself headed out borrowing Sheldons car to drive to Buffalo since Craig hadn’t climbed it before. It started bucketing down on the way over Towonga gap and we were considering whether we would actually ride it or not  (no such luck for Sheldon who was already on the bike part the way up front of Falls Creek when it started pouring). 

By the time we had got to the base of Buffalo it had started clearing and the car park was starting to fill with riders and walkers watching the sky nervously.  The radar looked good so we set out.

We had a great ride and the sun came out and it was getting hot  20 minutes into the climb. At the top we took a few photos at the chalet and then head back down for a nice fast descent. The road was dry roads but covered in lots of litter. 

We then jumped in the car and head to Hariettville for a parma, a beer and to consider an attempt at Hotham.  Lunch was good and I was feeling keen. Craig took the wiser choice and decided to head back to Mt Beauty in the car.

Luckily this time I had Craigs water pack so had plenty of clothes, food and fluids to continue on.  I had a slow climb most of the way and was feeling pretty sick after the first 1/3rd of the way. The parma, chips,  beer and altitude wasn’t sitting too well and  soon the strong southerly was getting cold and making the false flat section pretty hard. Eventually i got to the gate feeling better. The wind seemed to be down so I started up further thinking I would turn back. Yeah right.
Got over the first steep part and down the bottom to the start of CRB Hill and got my first taste of the 60klm gusts.  As soon as the cover protection from rocks or trees stopped the wind tried to push me sidewards off the bike.  It actually worked to my advantage in a couple of places as I could feel it giving me a massive push up some of the steeper parts. 

Eventually I got to the second highest point (mini baldy) that was completely exposed.  It was here the wind hit me like a brick wall.  I had no choice but to get off and walk.
It wouldn’t have blown me off the side of the mountain but it could have easily blown me over flat and sent my bike over the edge.  I hobbled the 300 meters or so gripping my bike with both hands tying to keep my head down leaning into the  wind to stabilize myself.

See the footage below of the wind picking my bike up in the air while i was walking  it (the thing flapping around infront of the camera was my helmet strap);

I really should have turned back at that point but could see the top only a couple of klms away so really wanted to finish it.

It took me almost  40 minutes to cover the last 4klms to the top.  The weather was perfect apart from the wind so figured it had to be done.  All the uphills in the wind were fine but any downhills I had to unclip both feet and roll slowly.

I finally reached the top after much struggling as the wind seemed to be blowing right  into my face mercilessly as i climbed over the highest road section (eastern facing).

Once at the top i put on all my extra clothing and braced myself for the decent. It was very slow and i did more walking on the way down than i did on the way up. A couple of cars stopped for what i assume was to offer help but i couldn’t hear a word they were saying through the wind.  

I just gave the thumbs up and kept moving.  After reaching the toll booth the wind was down and I could start riding without concern of being blown  off.
It was a fast and eventful descent with a bird attack on my helmet camera and getting stuck behind a car doing about 50klm/h. Payback i guess for holding up cars while riding on the flat.

Once at the bottom it was a relief to be back into the warm 20s again. I knew the southerly would be on my side this time so I decided to ride  back to Towonga gap and make the most of it before considering a call for a pickup in the car.
The 20klms flew past and of course I started climbing Towonga instead of getting a lift.  I hadn’t climbed it from that side in over a year  and thought I’d be over it in 35 minutes.  Not the case. Its about 13klms and i was so tired i was only averaging about 12klm/hr.  As crossed the top the sun was starting to go down and i had the road to myself for a 10 minute descent on the other side.

Good rides with good company and some mostly good weather.

Some photos of the weekends rides

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Melbourne Marathon 2012

Hang on. This is a  (semi-abandoned) cycling blog. Why am I talking about running when I won’t even talk about cycling.

(Sorry but no photos or video as I draw the line at attaching a camera to my head while running)

Running isn’t a natural fit for cyclists. The secret being cyclists despise running unless they are that strange breed known as a triathlete.

The satisfaction of sitting at my desk at work after punishing  myself in training or after an event is very high. Additionally it’s nice to be able to say ‘Even though I’m currently sitting in my office at work or eating chips on the couch but if I wanted to I could go outside and run for two hours without dropping dead’.

So in this interest of doing stupid things to my body (often mistakenly described as ‘challenging oneself’) and thinking I should because I’ve completed endurance cycling events, I wanted to tick running a marathon off the list.

I’d already completed half marathon in minimalist shoes and figured that a marathon couldn’t be that much harder.

I had a scanned training plan from Marek (the all-round fitness guy). 16 weeks averaging around 50kms a week with long weekend runs between 10-33 kms.  Despite best intentions my training was pretty abysmal due to catching two colds, one Achilles injury, three visits to the physio, numerous blisters and 3 or 4 all-nighters at work.  This all resulted in me not running anywhere near the total number of kilometres in the training plan. I only completed  319kms of a recommended minimum 552kms. I’d given up the idea of running in minimal shoes as I wanted to finish and this was just one more thing that would get in my way.

I started off with the Advanced training plan and dropped myself back to the Beginner plan shortly after realising that I was indeed a Beginner.  What I did seem to excel at and made sure I didn’t miss was the long weekend runs.  The 5-10km runs throughout the week, while important, just didn’t interest me and in the scheme of things don’t indicate that you are going to be able to finish a marathon or in what time.  As part of the training you need to be hitting at least the half marathon  distance in training to ensure you are will have the stamina.

Myself and Marek had run a number of the long distances together where he proved he was going to bury me (just like on the bike). I also managed to injure myself during a mid-week speed session which basically bought me to a complete halt.  It felt like a shin splint but in my ankle and I couldn’t even run 100 meters without being in serious pain. I’d also started to get extremely bad blisters in unusual places on one foot. This logically led me to believe one foot was bigger than the other and  left me at a quandary as to what to do. I was considering the oft use feminine course of action for confusing or stressful situations i.e. purchasing new shoes would cure all my mental and physical angst.

Instead, unlike most men,  I decided to actually take myself to see medical professional and I’ve very glad I did.  Unlike most GP’s the physio could tell me exactly what the problem was within about 5 minutes of looking at me.  This involved measuring the bend in my knee while keeping my heel on the ground.  Left was 12 and the right was 7.  She said she had never seen such poor flexibility in someone archillies.  The achillies tendon had basically been damaged due to a) never stretching it properly and b) doing speed work in very minimal shoes.  It was so badly shortened that my gait was all out of whack and each time I ran my achillies was twisting like a coiled up rope.  She said eventually it would either snap (no walking for 3 months and probably not ever running again) or I’d eventually break my ankle (unfortunately I wouldn’t get to choose which).  Stretching twice a day , drugs, ice, painfull massages and a week off running !!!

The stretching was the most interesting part. I told her I stretched it a lot but it didn’t feel like it was doing anything.  She asked me to show her my ‘stretching’ so I gave her my pushing on the wall with one leg slightly further back than the other routine I’d seen those short shorts people (serious runners) doing all the time. She then told me that my stretching was useless and showed me how to do it correctly.  What a revelation. It actually worked and I was fixed a week later.  Great. I’m better so let’s go run 33klms.

I ran a 25km by myself after this which went very well but was at much slower pace . Far better than the first 28km I had run with Marek (before my injury) which resulted in me walking and Rowena picking me in the car of shame. I was having serious cramps, which I suspected was due to a lack of food and salt loss on what had become a  hot day. Stupidly this run was also carried out after having only done  a number of smaller runs less than 10kms.  This was nowhere near enough ramp up for this distance.

So after a very mixed bag of long runs I was getting worried that I wouldn’t finish and was regretting telling anyone I was going to run a marathon.  I was about to lower my expectations yet again.   After a fast start we were powering down the Kms so I added in a bunch of hills in the hope this would test me out later on. We ran half way around the city and realised that if we kept going the way we planned we would be up for over 40kms.  After 5 minute rest stop we shortcut back through the centre of the city and by the 28km mark I was extremely fatigued.  The legs felt like lead and the last 5kms back to Brunswick felt like I was running on sand.  I was craving food so once again it appeared I hadn’t planned food for such a long journey appropriately. One good thing to come out of this run was the feeling that I was pushing on through the wall. In the end  every step I took while in this zone was preparing me well for what was going to happen on the day of the marathon.  I did it as part of that run but didn’t like the thought of  having to do so for another 7km.

Even though they were flawed these long runs had taught me some very important things;

Lesson 1 – Pace (or don’t run as  fast as Marek on race day because you will be crying by the side of the road by km 35) – Even though Marek was a great motivating training partner and I thought he was being very patient running at my pace I realised he wasn’t doing anything of the sort (he was training with me a lot slower than he could have been so I must have hampered  his training somewhat.).  He was actually running a fair bit faster than I should have been because he is a lot fitter than me !!!  It’s actually  not as bad as it seems because this is exactly what you need to do in training. Push yourself faster than what you would normally. The reason I was struggling in our training runs was because I had assumed our pace was correct because that’s what I could run at for 10 or 15kms (4.5mins per km). This was fine for these distances but not between 20-42kms.

Lesson 2 – Nutrition .  On a number of these long runs I had not drunken,  eaten or had enough salt.  Endura gels hardly have any salt in them at all and the Powerbar gels have about 20 times as much. To summarise…I am a f@#$ salty bastard. Every time I finished a long run I looked like salt and pepper squid. Soft and tender on the inside but coated in an outer crust of human flavoured sodium.  Lack of sodium leads to cramps and once you get them you trouble. Magnesium and salt tablets seem to keep the cramps at bay and to work pretty quickly. Better to get in ahead of time though to save some pain.
Lesson 3 – Spend more time ramping up and doing hill work.  I jumped into some longer runs way too early and didn’t have the muscle endurance I needed on the day.  My cardio system ate up the kms and gave me the impression that I could go all day. My calf muscles were telling me otherwise. The general running wisdom  refers to getting injury’s if you don’t ramp up correctly. This might be the case if you are starting from a low base but in my case it appeared that I didn’t recover as well from these long runs resulting in muscle fatigue. If I’d built up over a longer time I might have recovered better and been able to just do more running and may have even avoided getting sick twice.

Having learnt all the above I began to formulate a strategy for the marathon and by doing so started to feel a lot better.  It seems obvious but the initial part of my strategy was to just finish. I knew it was going to be hard and that I might not be able to push through the pain barrier similar to the one I had previously experienced. Alternatively I could get painful blisters or bad cramps. I was going to finish even if that involved walking or crawling. A very valuable skill.  Lower your expectations and be surprised.

The second part of my strategy was to aim for something better than just finishing. Just in case I was having a great day.  Standard running lore indicates take your half marathon time, double it and then add 20 minutes. OK great that makes me 4hrs 20.  The problem being that there was a partial cut of time at 11am at the 35km point after which you had to run on the footpath. You still had another 2-3 hours to finish but you had to continue your march of shame on the footpath avoiding all the prams, sk8rs and disgruntled Melbourne cyclists.  No way.  I’d settled on 4hrs as a realistic target that would let me beat this cutoff (10km/hr or 5.75mins per km average).

I’ve since discovered that 4.5 hours is the average marathon time for US marathon runners (run fatty run). Looking back at it now if I had of known that I might not have been so ambitious setting the 4hr target. Once we arrived at the start I was even feeling quietly confident that I might even do better. Perhaps 3hrs 45mins or dare say it even 3hrs 30mins.

In all endurance events pacing is very important. The hardest part is knowing when you are pushing yourself past that point or whether you are under doing it.  You really have to find out through training and tools such as heart rate monitors or power meters.  You are going to feel great until you no longer feel great and in a marathon if this comes early you are in deep shit.  Once fatigued, hungry, mineral deficient or thirsty you cannot recover without losing time (rest).   This is  a classic mistake I make on the bike all the time. I’ve done it for all the Three Peaks I’ve ridden and for Amys Ride a couple of weeks before the marathon. Feel great, go hard, feel the pain consider having a nap under a rock in the rain rather than keep riding. I was adamant I was going to stick to my target but perhaps try and ramp up the pace within the last 10km.  I had learnt my lesson…… or had I ?

3.00am – Wake up in a panic (probably work). Get up and have a drink. Lie awake for 59 minutes. Fall back into the deepest sleep ever.

4am – alarm goes off, jump out of bed and almost fall over feeling dizzy, eat, stretch, dress, tape toes, fill socks with drying powder, pack bum bag (bum bags are (still?) cool in the running scene apparently)

6am – pick up Marek

6.40 – park and walk to the start line. Marek drops off clothes I queue for toilets (anyone still reading ? )

6.58- Marek gets back from the MCG with 7000 other runners at the same time, I wonder where all these people came from and how the hell we are going to get past them all.

7am – start running like a sardine in a can (??!?!)

7.15 – St Kilda road is full of runners, weave through the runners with Marek pondering why everyone is going so slow, look at my heart rate monitor, see why and slow down, I feel a twinge in my left knee (!!!),  an itchy ear (!!!!!!)

7.30– 5klm mark.  I manage to catch up with the 4hr pace runner. He has a flag and balloon tied to him and is approximately 75 years old, I decided this is the man I want to spend the next 4 hours with so Marek takes off on his own, I promise to catch up with him in the last 10 klms.

15klms – Get around Albert park and past the grand prix pits feeling great.  With Marek gone I stick in my headphones and get started with my running playlist. This is going to be a piece of piss. I see Rowena who hands me a chocolate bar as I head onto Beaconsfield parade. Feel good so I decide I can speed up a fraction. The sun is out, it’s still cool and the large packs of runners are starting to break up.
At this point two things are going through my mind. Go faster and you will win the race and slow down you idiot. I decide to just stick to 11kms/hr.   My music is trying to convince me to go faster but I decide I’ll keep my current pace until I get to at least the 20klm point.

18klms – I see Marek running down the other side of Beaconsfield Parade and give him a wave. Awesome I’m not too far behind.

20klms-  I get to the 20klm section and realise that I’m half way but don’t feel as great as I did at 15klms. I see another guy with a flag and a bolloon and assume he is the 3hr 45 pacer. Dig in a bit to try and catch him up and find he is  a 4hr pacer which I was sure I had passed !!!  WTF is going on ? I lost energy chasing a guy I’d already passed. He seems to be really sticking to 10klm/hr so I slowly creep past him too.  I finish my second gel and place my empty wrapper into my back pocket. Shortly afterward and stand on some else discarded gel packet sitting in the sun. It sticks to my foot and I run another klm before realising and try and kick it off. Its stuck solid so I have to stop and pull it off with my hand.  Perhaps I’ll speed up at the 30klm point.

25klm – turn around at Elwood and its getting hot. My average speed says 11.2km/hr. Awesome. Heaps of people giving out lollies along the side of the road.  Pass two people wearing Five Fingers and no toe socks !!!!  Crazy. I see one runner jump to the nature strip like a cat surprised by its own tail.  He hops on one leg, rotates a couple of times like one leg to short and immediately enters the cramping pose (looks likes like someone who has just had a broom handle quickly inserted in their backside). I pray I’m not doing this later and take a salt tablet.

I get to St Kilda again and turn onto Fitzroy street. Rowena is waiting for me with a coke and more chocolate. A kiss and I’m off again as I know the  30km banner is just around the corner and I’m looking forward to it.

30klm – still feeling pretty good and running at around 11km/hr. Turning off into St Kilda road things start to fall apart.  At almost 2/3rd of the way to the finish mentally  I’m expecting to be nearing the finish. My calves are feeling very fatigued and its getting warmer.  I keep checking my timer and I’m struggling at 9 km/hr,  are being overtaken by lots of runners now and the kms seem to be passing at a crawl.  I worry that pushing myself faster earlier is starting to come back to haunt me.  I feel better than the same point after my 33km training run but this time I still have 12 kms to go.  My right calf starts ache in a menacing way hinting of cramps. Either that or a slight torn muscle.  The music that was earlier tempting  me to go faster seemed to have no effect now.

34klm – finish two more gels, and a magnesium tablet and some more water to keep any cramp at bay. The feet are starting to blister in the usual places and I can feel myself running into the wall.  The food makes me feel better but I’m cursing considering how far the remaining 8kms will be.  I see Rowena riding her bike down St Kilda road and she takes some pictures of me while I wave pathetically. In any case it gives me a bit of a boost seeing her cruise along so effortlessly.

35klm -  I see a number of people collapsed on the nature strip being attended to by first aid. One rather healthy looking runner is curled up in grass and looks to be napping peacefully. Somehow I suspect he wasn’t having pleasant dreams. Rather perversely this made me feel better about myself so gave it another kick picturing the finish line just around the corner.

36klms – Unfortunately not. When they were planning the run I suspect they miscalculated the distance so had to add in some additional kms somewhere. As a joke someone must have said ‘Lets make them run around the Tan. Runners love going around the Tan’.  Bastards.  It’s up hill but since I knew this part well I started to speed up looking at my watch and realising there was only about 30 minutes to beat my 4hr target.  The legs were weary but I was dying to finish.  By this stage about ¼ of the people were walking or off to the side of the road stretching out cramps.

39klms – Crossing the flinders street bridge I run back into the 4hr pace setter who had frustratingly got back in front of me (again damn it !!!!). I exchanged the playlist on my iphone for something more upbeat and break into a sprint to try and beat the magic 4hr mark. I am determined to beat the cheating 4hr pace setter.  I pass a lot of other runners and heading into the MCG there is a large crowd by the side of the road cheering loudly.

42klm- quick lap around the MCG in the sun and I’m done. I can hardly believe I’ve just beat my target time by about 5 minutes. I feel totally wrecked from the waist down and consider some push-ups in the grass to even up my vertical fatigue ratio.  I’m not hungry or thirsty but after pausing to find Rowena for 10 minutes and catch my breath my legs start setting like stone.  I have to start hobbling out of the ground with thousands of other runners doing the same. I think everyone looked happy for it to be over.

Would I do it again ? Probably not but given the title of this post includes ’2012′ perhaps that means something. I’ll have forgotten about it by the time I get up for work at 5am tomorrow but perhaps while bored sitting at my desk at work  I might start to ponder whether I could complete a marathon in 3.5 hours……

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Three Peaks 2012 – Mt Hotham Ascent

After a quick trip down Tawonga Gap (beating my PB) we hit the valley floor with a large bunch of about 30 riders. They were moving quickly so Marek kept with them and Andy and I dropped off to ride at out own pace.

P1010909

P1010910

P1010911

Unfortunately Andy’s Garmin 500 had been playing up since the Tawonga gap descent with it doubling his speed and the gradient !!!  I find really irritating to see the number of problems people (including myself) seem to have with these units such as corrupt files, haywire altimeter readings, random resets and  lost chunks of data. If there were more alternatives I wouldn’t recommend anyone get a Garmin bike GPS unit if they wish to regularly record large rides. If you log a Garmin support ticket for these sorts of problems and they will tell you reset to factory defaults and try again. Great advice except having to ride Three Peaks again to see if their buggy software causes problems again isn’t really going to be practical.  I think they are made and tested for people who do shorter rides of under a few hours in good weather. Anyway I digress……….

P1010912

(Cursed Garmin’s)

After being dropped we cruised along by ourselves knowing that we weren’t planning for a long stop in Harrietville we would end up ahead of most people anyway. After a quick stop in Harrietville we caught up with Marek again and started the climb. It was still rather cool at the bottom but the sun was out and there were plenty of riders around to keep pace with.

We started up through the treed section and there seemed to be masses of motor bike riders also hitting the climb at the same time as us. After we got to ‘The Meg’ Marek took off at his own pace while I rode with Andy. Luckily the Meg is early enough in the ride that anyone can get up it.  I was concerned for a couple of people who were struggling up it and I wondered whether they knew what lay ahead.

P1010917

P1010936

(Back down to Harrietville)

As we climbed higher it appeared the day was going to be a total reversal from last year. I was feeling great, we could actually see the top of Hotham far across the valley (which had been covered in fog the previous year) but Andy was not feeling stellar.  I was relishing the thought of climbing Hotham and putting in a bunch more km’s but I think Andy was thinking the total opposite. Outside of a small headache I felt great and was keen to go faster. After what happened last year I was happy to keep pace with Andy and be passed by other riders (for the moment). The advice given to us at the riders briefing from the first place finished from last year was clear in my mind…… it’s a massive day so don’t burn all your matches too early. If only I had of followed this advice the previous year.

P1010947

We soon reached the half way point after the rest stop where the tree’s thinned and the gradients got hard again.

P1010948

P1010949

P1010954

P1010956

P1010957

P1010964

P1010967

At this point last year Andy was easily riding up ahead of me and I was suffering from dizziness and leg cramps were starting to make themselves known. On this occasion  however I was feeling great so left Andy behind and I started overtaking other riders through the steeper sections.  He was doing ok so said I would wait for him at the top and get some photos.

P1010968

P1010971

P1010973

P1010974

P1010977

P1010984

I waited at the top for about 10 minutes  and then we rode through the Hotham village onto Dinner Plain for lunch.  Marek was missing but we ran into most of the other guys we were staying with so it was good to catch up with everyone again and see how they were faring. Everyone was happy and confident which was good to see. We left all our excess food and change of clothes to be sent back to Falls Creek since there was plenty of food around and the good weather meant I wasn’t going to use the colder weather gear I’d left for this section. I was however hoping that I wouldn’t regret leaving the food but it would have added an additional 10 minutes so in the end I’m glad I didn’t.

After lunch I was stuffing around putting sunscreen on (amongst other things) so Andy took off to Omeo knowing I’d catch him up after not too long.  In the end I did but I certainly put in a big effort to do so riding by myself in what was turning out to be a hot day. I knew if he got too far ahead of me in a large pack I might not catch him up for a while. Lucky for me he was taking his time up all the numerous bumps that make up the Dinner Plain descent. This is  my least favourite part of the trip to be honest. Hot and exposed, lots of rolling paddocks and a couple of small climbs that only seem to annoy.

I also have a video of about 20 minutes of the climb take from my helmet camera. Lots of the video is in fast-foward so hang in there for the early part and then it gets going at about the 10 minute mark once we start reaching the top.

Posted in bicycles, travel | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Three Peaks 2012 – Tawonga Gap Descent Video

After regrouping with Marek and Andy we rolled through Mt Beauty to the start the Tawonga Gap climb. I stopped to remove the jacket and take some photos and Brian and Damien caught up and three of us started the climb together. After having a chat at the start we broke up to ride our own pace all the way to the top.

P1010874

P1010875

P1010883

After my 2011 effort where i stupidly flogging myself up this climb i was going to take it easy. I sat pace with most of the other riders heading up this hill but got passed and had a chat with the official 10.5 hour pace setter. I was trying to get an idea of how much stopping time he planned on having throughout the day for a 10.5 hour time as this is the area we were trying to improve on this year.

P1010892

P1010893

P1010901

As the photos show it was a nice pleasant climb with the air still cool with the sun out reminding us that this year was going to be very different from the last two. After a quick stop for fruitcake at the top and regrouping with Andy and Marek it was back on the bike for some fun.

The previous two years it had been raining heading down Tawonga but in this case the road was dry so we were going to make the most of it.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Three Peaks 2012 – Falls Creek Descent Video

I have spent some time sifting through the footage from my helmet cam from Three Peaks and have started putting together a number of clips for the significant parts.

The first video is the early morning descent down the front side of Falls Creek from the village. Starting at the starting line (obviously) with around 1100 other riders we queued from 6:30am. They was some music playing in the background which was adding to  the nervous energy in the air.  We had managed to get into the start of the pack being only a couple hundred of riders away from the front. As we started to roll out the sun was beginning to light the night sky from behind us.
The road was rather damp at the top but after about half way down it started drying out.  It was still very dark amongst the tree’s making the camera struggle to get a decent picture.
As good as the GoPro HD is in full sun it really struggles in the dark. In saying that I think the grain and lighting added a certain something and let me play around with some video FX to cover the really crummy parts.

This was one of my fastest descents of Falls Creek howevermost people were being pretty careful and not rushing down.  I was initally waiting for Andy but after a few minutes i couldn’t find him so took off and left Marek behind also.  I figured since the roads were dry i might be able to make up a bit of time over the day by pushing harder down the hills

(video from the start line before the sun had even started rising. Check out the full moon)

Up next Towonga Gap.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

MAD ride

With Three Peaks  done and dusted (and mostly forgotten about apart from the video editing)on the spur of the moment we decided to join the Melbourne Bike Touring Club on their annual Melbourne Autumn Day (MAD) ride. Having gotten up far two early and rushing out the house we were in Woodend in under an hour. I was expecting a small turn out but after arriving at the Woodend sports ground I was surprised to see so many cars. After having completed most of the Cycling Victoria Challenge series where there is sometimes only a couple of hundred riders I thought this event would be far smaller. Offering a 40, a 65, a 120 road and a 60 MTB course there was probably about 500-600 riders in total. Given the length of the non pre-registered queue most people must have also seen the weather the and decided to have a go on the day also.

After considering the 120 or even the 60 MTB on our cyclocross bikes we sensibly took the safer 60klm road option instead.

I turned out to be a great ride through some very nice quiet back roads in an area which we hadn’t seen alot of before. It reminded us of Tasmania  with lots of greenery, rolling hills, cows, bush and small towns.

After three hours in the saddle Rowena was happy to be nearing the end with the last 30klms back to Woodend ridden into a headwind. I was just happy to be out on the bikes in the sun together before winter hits.
Approaching Woodend we could see mt macedon rising up in the background but I put aside all my schemingof a side trip to the top as the day was early, there was far too much  to do at home in the afternoon and Rowena hadn’t done much riding recently.

I had to have a chuckle at the below sign at the start of the only real hill of the day (300 meters or so over 5klm).

Clearly the Melbourne bike touring guys didn’t think that most of those riding the 60klm route fell into the Three Peaks 10hr finishers category.

(Maybe the 120klm next year)

In other news our house will soon be having a new bike member of the family with Rowena wiggling another town bike. More details on that to follow later.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment