Sunday, April 29, 2012

800 km Challenge

This month I signed up for the Strava Ride Hard to breathe easy 800 km challenge. The aim was to ride 800 kms during the month to approximate Karen Munro's ride from Adelaide to Melbourne after being diagnosed with lung cancer.

I know a couple of people recovering, or sadly not, from lung cancer and needed a challenge to keep me honest and aim for a goal so this one had it all and the Easter long weekend and some scheduled rides gave me a good shot at achieving it.

I'm happy to say that today, with 1 whole day remaining I completed the distance and will finish April with 803kms under the wheel.

It's been a pretty good month, have ridden a couple of audax 100s and finished my first (and quite tough) BRM 200 for a long while. It's been more difficult to ride regularly during the week, mostly because of early starts and late finishes at work, so I'm doubly pleased to have made the goal.

This weekend I still needed 200 km to finish. The first 100 or so where pretty straightforward. A cafe ride yesterday to Kiama plus a few noodling kays on the way home left me with 70km left to ride with two days to go.

I went out this morning, under darkening skies and after a mostly dry first 10 kms,  experienced driving rain and strong southerly winds that dampened more than my enthusiasm and saw me turn for home with about 37km done. I had another day left but  I was worried that Monday, with an early start for work and commitments in the evening, reality would dash my hopes.

I pottered around the house most of the afternoon while the wind and rain seemed to abate and at 4.30 this evening with the rain mostly gone, the wind definitely dropping and dry road out front, I was reaching for a beer and realised that I should reach for the bike. I togged up, switched on the lights and headed off to finish off the remaining 32kms.

I headed south, through Unanderra and across to Port Kembla for the first half of the ride and then turned for home, following the coastal cycle path to Fairy Meadow (with a tail wind). The bikes earlier hours in the wet were taking its toll on the drive train, gears where skipping at crucial moments and the brakes weren't providing a lot in the way of stopping power but I was nearly done. I arrived home with numb feet (8 degrees for the last 20 minutes) and aching knees but a happy state of mind.

Tea will be late, but the beer tastes doubly good knowing that I pushed that little bit harder.

Mileage in Kilometers = 2038

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Berrima 200

I returned to the world of brevet riding today with the Berrima 200. The route looked a beauty and at this time of year riding in the NSW Southern Highlands is very pleasant, mild weather, light winds with only the hills to spoil the fun.

2 others had committed to the ride, while another couple came as far as the Pie Shop in Robertson before turning back, and we set off from Dapto at 7am looking forward to the day ahead. I hadn't completed a brevet for about 12 months and in the interim the longest ride I had completed was about 100km. Despite feeling a bit ague-y during the week I really wanted to ride, partially because I just wanted to do a long one, but I also needed to prove to myself that I could, bung foot and all.

Climbing Macquarie Pass was challenging and slow, but I was pleased to be coping with it, once at the top it was a short hop across and down to Fitzroy Falls for the first controle. A quick coffee and water top up, we headed off as a group, but somewhere along the Nowra road I began to feel a sharp stabbing pain in my achilles tendon. Crap, bung foot now buggered ankle. I spent the next few kilometers wrestling with myself and the pain, doubts looming large about being able to complete the ride.

At last I reached down to massage the tendon and realised that the zip on my leg warmers was digging itself into my ankle, a quick flip and behold the crippling achilles tendon pain was gone. A mixture of relief and embarrassment ensued, but it did give me more confidence to continue.

We stopped for an early lunch and Bundanoon and then headed off towards Wingello. Mark and Kevin were making good time into the slight headwind at this stage, and I was able to hold their wheels but soon realised that I didn't have the kays for it and would need to ride my own ride. I dropped off the back and happily pootled along, enjoying the birds (Black cockatoos and two yellow tailed cockatoos and lots of rosellas) until I caught up with them at the Wingello General store, our second controle and welcomed stop.

A couple of kids, brother and sister, were pretty impressed that we had ridden up from Dapto, asked lots of questions and showed us their bikes, even perform some daredevil tricks, as we left they rode their bikes around furious demonstrating power slides and wheelies. They were great.

After a short ride through pleasant bushland/farmland we joined the Hume Hwy for the next 30kms on to Berrima, I settled into my rhythm and let the others roll away, content to adopt a slow down and enjoy the ride approach. Soon I was exiting the Hume and aiming for Berrima where I stopped for a berry muffin and caffeine sugar hit. 20 minutes later I was back on the bike and cycling up out of town. The first hill was persistent, then the next - Bendooley Hill - was a real tester after 130kms. Eventually I road over the KOM 500m marker and knew I would make it to the top. From there, the view was just fine.

In my mind I began to break the ride down into doable sections. With 70kms to go, and the last of the checkpoints behind me I needed small goals, nothing too far, so I could keep my head and manage my increasing fatigue. Mittagong was next, 14km - easy peasy I kept repeating to myself.

And within 45mins, I was tracking through Mittagong, next stop Bowral, 7kms. Laughably easy. Good thing too, as there is a slow climb between the two and I was glad when I crested and coasted up and along the main street.

Veering out of Bowral onto Kangaloon road my next Target was the turn off to Tourist Road. This section was relatively flat and I realised that I was really, really enjoying myself. Longest ride for a long time and was confident, for the first time that I would make the distance.

After the initial first steep uphill on Tourist Road, the descent down to the valley in the late afternoon light was a pleasure. Riding along the valley, I switched on my headlights as I noticed that cars were coming at me with their lights on, then commenced the slow climb up to the Pass. This was tough and my foot began to complain but I promised myself a break at the top and kept the wheels rolling until I crossed the railway bridge that marked the practical end of the days climbing, only the descent to Albion Park and the short stretch to Dapto left.

Checking the time, I realised that I was well ahead of my 12 hour target, so I stopped and feasted on energy bars, took off my shoes and stretched out my aching foot before suiting up in wind stopper, long gloves and reflective vest (it was now almost dark and getting cold) before I took to the long decent of the Pass.

As always it was exhilarating, and apart from a few passing cars, I had the Pass to myself. At the bottom, I felt strong and refreshed, my foot was fine and my resolve was firm. Dapto here I come. Curiously, the closer I came to finishing the ride the stronger I began to feel, picking up pace and enjoying the blooming night sky until the lights of the conurbation began to wash them out. Before too long I was coasting back into the station with a tremendous sense of achievement and a time of 11.40.

The station Master told me that Kevin and Mark had arrived about an hour earlier, which was great news and I retreated to the car to pack and head home for a well earned beer. It wasn't until I uploaded the data from my Garmin later that I discovered the vertical gain on the ride was over 2400m. That was about 800m more than I had thought it would be, and I must confess that I'm glad I didn't know that at the time, it probably would have put me off, ignorance is underrated. And so ended my first BRM in 12 months.

A great day out on the bike.

Mileage in kilometers = 1697