Sunday, December 30, 2012

Festive 500 Finished

Finished off the festive 500 today with a relatively short 42km ride.

It's been an interesting week, with fatigue becoming a constant friend. It was, however, a really good challenge and despite the aching muscles I enjoyed the riding which included a long run into the National Park, a commute to work over the pass, an 80 kay lake loop, a 37 km dirt ride and a couple of shorter runs up the coast to round out the numbers. It was good to push myself that little bit harder to get over the line.

So I will likely get another ride in tomorrow but so far its 512km with 5253m climbed and 22hours in the saddle.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Festive 500

For the last year now I have been having fun with Strava which if you hadn't heard is a web site that you can upload your gps tracks of rides, compare them to other riders, on the route or on particular segments. Strava is pretty good at tracking your performance and from that angle has been working well for me. I also enjoy the supportive community aspect of it, where you can comment and give kudos for effort.

They also have occasional challenges and the most recent and perhaps the most daunting is the Rapha Festive 500. You must ride 500kms between Christmas Eve and New Years Eve, or about 75km per day. If you complete the challenge you will receive a natty patch from Rapha .

Today was the first day and hoping to get off to a good start, Ben and Harvey and I set off for a run up to the National Park, thinking to go for about 120kms or so. Early on we realised that time was precious so cut it short to a hundred to Waterfall and back.

After clearing central Wollongong we spied a large bunch ahead, bedecked in Santa hats, being led by a riding in full santa suit. Hilarious we thought so sped up to catch them. We eventually did after a chain drop and the wrong phasing at lights for about 5 minutes beore our paths diverged and we headed north for Bald Hill and the RNP.

We made pretty good time and were soon enjoying the heat and humidity at the top of the hill beneath to Hargreave monument. The tap is excellent

From there we plunged back into the cool of the National Park, enjoying a rapid descent until we turned to climb up to Waterfall. I had not ridden this climb before so took it easy as Harvey raced away. It wasn't too bad but the last 1000m or so get a bit steep so I was glad to see Harvey just below the commuter carpark so slugged on up. Turning at the top I noticed a familiar vehicle and cyclist in the carpark and stopped to chat with Barry M who was planning a quick ride through to Garie and back up as part of his AAC training.

We chatted for a bit before setting off down the hill and parting at the bottom of Lady Wakehurst Dr as we turned back towards home and Barry turned on towards Garie.

Riding in the RNP is lovely and today was great, with very light vehicular traffic - saw more cyclists than cars or motos and lovely cool conditions. Chatted with another rider about 29er mtbs (he was riding one and I want one!) and various spun and mashed our way out of the park. As we reached the top of the climb and got back out into the sun we again found it very warm and I was glad most of the climbing was behind us.

The ride back home was uneventful, and had a tailwind, so saw a few extended efforts to improve segment times where I could. At the end of the ride we had completed 100+kms, 102 for me so that's only 398km more to ride for the festive 500.

My plan from here is a short ride on Christmas day and Boxing day then commute to work on Thursday and Friday which should have me sitting around 410km. I'm planning to ride a 35km audax dirt series ride on Saturday and then that leaves the remainder to be ridden on the last two days of the challenge. Maybe a bit further if my mates need encouragement.

Mileage in Km = 6270

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Meryla Exploration

I've ditched quantity for quality and today rode 52 awesome kilometers with Shane recce-ing his audax dirt ride From Fitzroy Falls, down through Meryla to Kangaroo valley. We decided to forego the car shuffle and take only one vehicle and ride back up Barrengarry as good Alpine Classic preparation.

The dirt bit was great, after a bit of exploration, and startling some Wallabies, we were able to find a side track that led us through the Falls lookouts and up to the fire trail and from there down into the valley. for a great descent and creek crossing watched by a Goanna and a water dragon. We paused for photos -

Meryla ride

Meryla ride

From the creek we had a bit o' climbing to get out of the valley. Shane aced it, while I lost concentration and lifted the front wheel and had to walk the last 100 or so metres to the gate. From there we undulated along (it's all downhill from here says Shane)  until we found bitumen and headed to the end of the route at the Barrengarry Pie shop, where we had a well earned pie and long cold drink.

It was getting close to midday and it was really getting warm as we headed off to get back to the car. My Garmin had the temperature topping out at 42 as we approached Barrengarry Mountain. We encountered 3 broken down vehicles on the side of the road as we made our way up, all overheated and got to watching the NRMA guy drive up and down the pass rescuing them. We also encountered a lot of positive support from motorists, both the broken and the mobile during the ascent. I'm sure they thought we were mad.

It was a tough and slow climb on the MTBs but as with all things, it passed - and we were soon at the car most satisfied with the days riding.  Driving back, we watched the outside temperature climb as we descended Macquarie Pass until we arrived at Shane's place for 37c, and we both glad for the cars air con.

We'll be back in a couple of weeks to ride it officially.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Jamberoo, it's where you control the action

Indeed, to quote the popular amusement park, though action is relative I guess.

Earlier this week I proposed, in a Tolkienesque manner to a few likely suspects that a climbing of Jamberoo mountain road was in order.

It's the last of the local escarpment passes to wear my name and as an AAC preparation was non pareil. Early enthusiasm was dampened by reality so only Harvey and I set out at 6am this morning to tame the beast.

The climb start about 30km from  my place and the approach includes some very familiar roads plus the added advantage of going over Mt Terry and past the action park before turning off Jamberoo Rd onto Jamberoo Mountain road.

Having driven up the road a few times to walk at Barren Grounds and reversed the climb on my bike a couple of times I knew that it was steep for the first few kilometers and defficult after that.

As we approached the first steep section, Harvey climbed away from me, hunkered down over his machine, churning the gear while I settled into a conservative rhythm, aiming to keep whatever I had after Mt Terry in reserve.

The first ramp of the climb goes on endlessly and straight so you can see the reality of what's ahead.  Harvey started to flag and nearing to s bends on the steepest section pulled off and dismounted. Having found my rhythm I was slow but steady and feeling good continued on, lest I fall off and tumble back down.

The road relents momentarily, letting you catch your breath then rears again at a sharp hairpin, which I chose to take very wide, but after that it was OK, relenting to an easy in saddle spin with the occasional steep grunt.

After the Abbey and the few hairpins up from there, I reckoned from my previous drives and descents that I was nearing the top. The terrain started to flatten out and I saw a sign for Barren Grounds NP and realised I'd made it. Going through the last tight curve, an oncoming car looked familiar so I smiled in the gasping for breath way I do on a climb and soon glided into Barren Grounds turnoff, where I decided to wait for Harvey and relax a bit after the effort.

Before long the familiar care returned to say Hello, being my work colleague Viv and her husband Norm who is a keen mountain biker. They had been holidaying in the area and had spent the morning at the Illawarra fly to see the sunrise. Viv recognised me so we had a nice visit before they set off and I started posing the bike.

Before long Harvey hove into view, though he had succumbed to the steepness of the climb and was walking the last bit. After a brief rest we moved on and I realised that there was still more climbing to do before we reached the top of the road and the lookout. We stopped there any way. The view was grand.

From there, we still had a couple of hundred meters to climb along undulating terrain and a long drag up to the pie shop before we could call the ride topped out. It was hard going at times, quite cold, before we could see the Pie shop and say goodbye to the climb. The pies were delicious.

From the pie shop it's pretty much all downhill so we made short work of the pass (another traffic free run for me) and returned via Marshalls Mount and the highway to town.

100kms for me with about 1400m of climbing and a major climb under the belt, one which has been psyching me out for years, so a good day on the bike. In the last few months I've ridden every escarpment pass nearby (excepting Bulli pass) so am feeling increasingly confident about my climbing.

Next month will bring on the Tallowa dam 200 as well as the AAC, and I'm feeling quite comfortable with them after today.

Mileage in Kilometers = 5941

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Berrima 200

This past weekend saw the running of the Berrima 200 and my second tilt at the ride, which is fast becoming a favourite.

There was a bit of interest from other rides, including the local contingent and a few guys from Sydney, so we were a healthy group of 7 riders at the start.

The weather forecast was looking grim and as the ride drew nearing we were expecting to be confronted with storms and hot temperatures in the high 30s. Surprisingly, as the morning dawned I was surprised to find that it had been raining and temperatures were cool and humid.

After the paperwork at the start, we headed off after a short delay while we waiting for the last rider to join and then we set off at a fair clip heading for Macquarie Pass.

Once at the Pass, we encountered light rain for the duration of the climb, which was a welcome relief as it was becoming warm. For the first few kilometers we stayed in a loose group, which is unusual on the Pass where you tend to suffer in solitude but as the climb wore on the fit and the riders with Triples began to pull away.

I summited with Paul who had come down from Sydney in and was attempting his first 200 and we soon caught up with Mark and Terry, also down from Syndey who had paused to wait for Paul.

With one other rider yet to complete the climb I decided to wait for him to arrive and then proceed onwards to Fitzroy Falls. It didn't take long and we also collected Harvey at the Pie Shop and made a small group zipping through the countryside in fairly good conditions, high 20s,overcast and a slight, but cooling cross breeze.

At the falls we had our brevets signed and caught up with the others who were waiting for their breakfast. Ben Harvey and I decide that Bundanon would be a better lunch stop so pressed on after a short stop, filling bidons and camel backs before heading west along the Nowra Road.

Along here things began to warm up and we leap frogged each other as we worked to find our rythms. I had left my Garmin at home in my rush to leave and was finding it difficult to judge my pace. I like to average about 25kph over the ground, but not knowing my current speed was making me chop and change, but in the end I began to relax and just ride.

Stopping in Bundanoon for an early lunch at the Bike Shop Cafe is always a treat, and we all stopped except for Shane, who after eating a very large big breakfast at the Falls, and spending the last stage digesting it, pushed on.

We were soon away and rode to Wingello en mass, enjoying the growing downhill and the mostly overcast conditions which were really keeping the temperatures down. We took turns on the front with most of the work being done by Mark with a cheerful, "have a rest (insert name here)" and then proceeded to ride off the front, or maybe I was just tired. Turned out, when I caught up with him, that he wa not long back from the Bright Bootcamp and was in great form. We really didn't stand a chance.

At the control we met up with Shane again who was downing a Coke not have realised that we "all" had stopped for lunch at Bundanoon. 

From Wingello control it was a short hop to the Hume Freeway, as Shane and I rode across the railway tracks we assured everyone that we would proceed slowly, however it's mostly downhill and and we got carried away talking about the dirt series route that Shane is organising for the end of December and before we knew it we were at the intersection with the freeway, and it was hot. The cloud cover had blown off and the reflected heat was quite awesome.

We paused for a moment and saw the rest of the group approaching the intersection so rolled off on the downhill slope, enjoying the cross breeze even more so as we began a long drag up a freeway ascent. At the top I suggested we wait the others, I was planning to play a sweep roll on this section as the more inexperienced riders would be starting to push their limits, the freeway is littered with debris that can cause punctures and I'd rather be cathcing them from behind than riding back. Especially in the heat.

Everyone passed us in good time and we set out after the last rider passed, I suggested that Shane should ride at his own pace as I was  going to sweep and we soon separated into a lead group and the lanterne rouge which was myself and Harvey who was struggling with the heat a bit.

Ironically it was I who punctured half way up a hill nearing the Sutton Forest service centre, so I suggested that Harvey should carry on and I'd see him in Berrima at the next control. It was hot on the road and getting hotter for a while as I set to replacing the tube and setting off again I got a call from Harvey who had taken the wrong exit. As luck would have it it was just where I was passing so I waiting and he returned to the Freeway, only a couple of bonus Km in his legs.

Riding onwe had about 6km to the exit to Berrima and enjoyed high temperatures and a section of resealed road that left a lot to be desired and forced me out into the traffic lane for a nervous while. Soon though the Berrima exit hove into view and we looped under the freeway to find Terry with a flat and trying to fix it.

Terry's first words to me were that he hadn't done this for a while, well since he was a kid so we offered assistance, and after realising that one of his spare tubes was holed, replaced it with his last and got him back on the road.

When we eventually arrived at the control we found the rest of the bunch looking concernedly at their mobiles and slightly relieved that we had t last arrived. Terry soon followed us in and we where able to patch his tube so he had a spare, eat some delicious pastry, drink, ablute and share tales of suffering. At this point of the ride the on road temperature had hit 41 degrees, but thankfully cloud was coming in and temperatures dropped back down for the rest of the ride.

We still had a bit of climbing to do with the steep climb out of Berrima itself and the feared Bendooley Hill. With 70km yet to ride, and through the tough conditions earlier, we stayed as a group for much of the way, after the climbing breaking into two groups that rejoined at Bowral, or last chance of supplied before heading down the pass.

While everyone was getting tired, some were feeling it more than others and as 3 guys were now well passed their longest rides a more conservative pace was being set and we stopped frequently to let stragglers catch up and others to have a breather. I was determined to see everyone finish the ride and get their Brevet and thanks to the early conditions we had a lot of time and the pleasure of a 10 km descent of the pass to look forward to. I  brought this up a lot in conversation with the others. Sure you odo says 160km but 12 km of that is all downhill so you only have 28kay to go." Not sure if they believed me.

Heading down tourist road we again split into two groups and proceeded along at a reasonable pace and made the top of the pass before dark. From here is was like falling off a log and I was greatly relieved that barring a major incident, everyone was home and hosed.

So I set off down the pass in the cool evening air like a rat down an aqueduct until I saw a line of brake lights and parked cars ahead. Fearing an accident lower down I discovered that a truck was stuck on a hairpin bend and felt cheered by this, until I saw the truck.

It was in fact very stuck and probably shouldn't have been on the road as it had no chance of making this particular corner. The truck occupied every inch of available roadspace (a credit to the driver really) and we had to crawl under the trailer with our bikes to get through, much to the amusement of the cars waiting either side. Well at least I interpreted it as amusement. Things were actually pretty tense, and we didn't hand around for photos but took advantage of the fact that the lower reaches of the Pass would be relatively free from traffic and took off for an epic, fun descent.

Shane soon arrived alongside me and we reverse our earlier route back to Dapto to find Mark and his friends had arrived shortly before us and were draping themselves over the grass and pouring cold water on hot bodies.

10 minutes later Ben and Harvey rolled in to complete the 100% success rate and we all left soon after, salt stains on our knicks telling the story of a long hard day out .

 Mileage in Kilometers = 5860

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Coastal 200 and Berrima 200 two down on The quest for a Year Round Award

One of my goals for the coming year is to complete a Year Round Randonneu (YRR) which requires that you must complete a brevet of 200km of more each month from November to November.

With that goal in mind I have so far successfully completed the Coastal 200 permanent as my ride for November and this past weekend the Berrima 200

The coastal 200 is a double loop ride from Dapto to Otford and Dapto to Kiama taking in a few of the more invigorating climbs on the seaboard side of the Illawarra escarpment, notably Bald Hill and Mt Terry. I'd lined up a fellow YRR hopeful in Ben and as the ride date coincided with the Strava 79 Mile challenge another local Audaxian, Shane joined us for part of the second loop.

We started riding early with a 6 am start at Dapto. The weather was warm and humid but presented pretty good conditions for the day so we set off only to find that Railway track works had close a critical part of the early route and we were forced to return along our route and take an alternative path.

Otherwise the first 100kms passed smoothly and I was enjoying sampling some homemade trail putty and sharing it with Ben. At the first controle I discovered I had left my ride wallet at home when leaving, so had no cash or cards on me luckily Ben is a generous guy and bought me a coffee and on the return leg we were able to deviate to my place and collect the wallet which turned out to have fallen from my saddle bag in the garage.

As we returned to Dapto to start the second loop we rode over the freeway overpass at Figtree and enjoyed the sight and sound of the Camp Quality Truck convoy. A bunch of truckies get together to raise money for a kids cancer charity and put on this convoy of over 600 heavy vehicles every year. It's quite an awesome sight. Soon after leaving Dapto we were joined by Shane who had planned to come with us to Kiama and then head further south in search of a mountain.

The weather conditons were changing however, it was getting hotter and windier, and we encountered very strong gusts from the North east on our ride out to Kiama, especially on the apex of the climb over Mt Terry.

We fragmented under the conditions but soon regrouped in Kiama and feasted at the Headland cafe before saying farewell to Shane as he turned south and we turned north by northwest into the teeth of the prefrontal wind - but on our homeward leg with only 50kms to go so spirits were high

It was a hard grind back, both hot and windy and we found little relief from either along the route, the effort took its toll. Riding into a headwind is the equivalent of riding up a hill, however you don't get the sense of achievement of reaching the top or the rest during the descent so you must "find a gear" and get on with it. We eventually made it to the end of the brevet, and in pretty good time considering the late conditions so enjoyed a brief rest at Dapto,  but we both had another 12km to go, into the wind before we were home so before long we were back on our bikes, heading back into the wind to get home.

Those last few kilometers where character building to say the least, however the ride was completed successfully, as was the Strava 79 mile goal and then some and the beer afterwards tasted just fine.

Not long after we arrived home a powerful southerly change arrived, and we were sparing thoughts for Shane who we imagined was still out there riding towards his goal. Luckily he was nearing home but encountered very strong gusts approaching 90kph as he neared the end of his ride.

Berima 200 to be continued...