Two roads lead to Donna

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I took a very big gamble riding 100 km last weekend in the shape I was in.  It was a tough week, but I was able to move forward with my rehab work.  I have decided to commit myself to doing the San Mirinda Gran Fondo in the King Valley next Saturday.  Resigning myself to the fact that I won’t be able to do well.  My focus at the moment is to get myself in good enough shape to be competitive.  I decided to hit the Yarra Valley this weekend. I needed to start hitting some hills.  But I had no idea how the legs would hold up and wanted to take it as easy as possible.

I had trouble sleeping and after 3 hours sleep woke at 3am and just couldn’t get back to bed.  I was fluffing around on social media, and I was surprised when I got a text message at 4:30 am “hey buddy are you still planning on being in Seville around 7?“.  Stryder noticed I was awake and hadn’t slept himself and we’ve done some very epic rides together.  We’ve finished 2 Everests together, and virtually every ride we’ve done has been epic.

It was an understatement to say I was happy to have him along.

We met past Seville and I didn’t have a loop planned for the day and was going to play it by ear.  Stryder suggested to climb Mount Donnna Buang from the dirt side which is a good tough 28 km climb.  It was a bit harder than where my fitness was at, but I would never back out of a good ride.  The climb up through the Don Valley was easily one of my favourite climbs I’ve ever done.

This was Stryder’s first Everest; Don Road which is the first part of this climb, and the road is special to him.  The road was all misty and still, & it was cold.  Thankfully I had the right kit on and it was just beautiful winter conditions.  Stryder hadn’t slept and was exhausted.  I was lucky that he was happy  to stop every 5 or so metres for me to take a photo.

I was like a kid in a candy store, and was having the time of my life.

Lilydale Warburton Trail

There is a 13 km section of road which is sealed during the winter season.  Its pretty easy to pass your bikes through the gate, and it is such a great adventure to ride a fully sealed road.  This road isn’t maintained and there is debris everywhere.  We had to get off and carry the bikes over a number of fallen trees.  It all added to the sense of adventure.

As we climbed, the weather got colder.  We both had high hopes of seeing some snow and was not disappointed.  I foolishly had not packed any food.  In my back pocket was two gels which I had consumed at this stage and was absolutely starving.  Yes I was starting to struggle.  Of course when I am at my worse I usually come up with a crazy/ dumb idea.

There’s no secret that I love to put a lot of thought as to what my ride title is.  I always hope to come up with something iconic, that helps to define the ride.  Several years ago I did a ride where I climbed both sides of Mount Baw Baw & called the ride “Two roads lead to Baw Baw“. I wondered whether I could climb Donna from both directions today.

I knew I would struggle, but when I saw the snow, I was drawn to climbing back up.

The Mount Donna Buang Tourist Road was quite wet.  It was under 2 degrees at the top and I was worried I would struggle on the descent.  I did well, and am very familiar with the descent, and just cruised down it in auto pilot mode.  I was really enjoying myself, and optimistic of having a great ride.  About 4 km from the base of the climb my rear wheel exploded.  I was sitting on about 50 km/h, but thankfully kept the bike upright.  I opted to roll down on a flat tyre to the base to assess the damage, & really took it easy.  We realised pretty quickly that there was a gaping hole in the wall of the tire.

It wasn’t something that we could safely jerry rig.

We headed across to the Cog Cafe in Warburton.  They were fantastic, and dropped what they were doing and replaced the tire.  I lost a lot of time, and I wasn’t sure if I could do Donna as a result.  I foolishly gave it a go.

Not really thinking of the consequences if I was late.

My feet were pretty wet, and I started to get the shakes, and knew I was struggling a bit.  I bought a pair of socks from the Cog Cafe which warmed my feet up a fair bit.  But unfortunately I couldn’t dry my shoes first, and my feet were still a little wet.  Stryder unfortunately was tired from not sleeping and headed home from here.  He ended up riding 157 km & really deserves a lot of Kudos.  Here is a link to his Strava Activity here.

I headed back up Mount Donna Buang, which is 16.8 km in distance.  This was the first time I climbed it since Everesting it earlier this year.  I have this hate hate relationship with this climb.  No climb has given me more grief and pain as Donna has.  I’ve copped hypothermia, heat exhaustion, injured myself.  I’ve bonked more times than I care to admit.  Pretty much every time I’ve climbed her has resulted in a fair bit of pain.

Today was no exception.  I struggled!

All I could do was to focus on my pedal technique, and really tried to get that sweet spot.  Alas I could only keep a good tempo going for the first 6 or so km before I bonked.  All I could do was go into my happy place.  When we first came up the saw the snow I was like a kid in a candy store.  You couldn’t get the smile off my face.  Now all I saw and felt was the cold.

I was exhausted and was not enjoying this climb one bit.

Why did I do this climb, I asked myself?  I looked at the time & realised that I was screwed.  My brothers 40th birthday was on tonight at 6pm in Doncaster.  We needed to leave around 5:15 pm.  It was 2:30 pm and I was 57 km from my car, and completely exhausted.


I felt comfortable on the descent.  Given the roads were really wet had to be smart and averaged close to 41 km/h all the way down.  I was hungry & needed to get some food, but just didn’t have the time.  My only hope of getting back 40 minutes late was to completely smash myself.  Do a TT it back down the Lilydale Warburton trail.

I was really stuffed & knew that I could really hurt myself doing this, but had no option.

Most of this trail is flat, and I was able to settle into a tempo.  It was hard going as I had a slight head wind which meant I had to push that little bit harder.  As I progressed the k’s flew on by, and I was consumed managing my pain.  Occasionally I had to ease back to give my legs a chance to recover, but overall I was pushing pretty hard.  I stopped every now & again to get a photo, and a chance to rest.  The sun was finally out, and this was a magnificent afternoon.  I wished I could ease up and enjoy the sights, but had to push.  3:30pm, became 4 o’clock and I was still 10km from the car.  My heart was racing a million miles an hour, but I couldn’t ease up.  I don’t do late.

I managed to walk through the door at 5pm, and quickly threw a change of clothes on & we were practically straight out in the car.  We were somehow only 10 minutes late, and I was wrecked.  We didn’t get home from the party till 10:30pm that night, and it was such a long, hard day for me.

Looking back, 10 days ago I was struggling to get through a half an hour session on the indoor trainer on the start of my recovery. 10 days later I completed a challenging 150km ride in the mountains.  I am well away from being in shape, but have had some tremendous improvement in such a short  period of time and are very happy.  There’s not a great deal of improvement that I can get from now till next Saturday where I will participate in the San Mirinda Gran Fondo, but will do the best I can.






Two roads lead to Donna
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3 thoughts on “Two roads lead to Donna

    Reflections on 2015 « The Dandenong Ranges said:
    December 31, 2015 at 11:14 am

    […] Two Roads lead to Donna […]

    jeff said:
    October 26, 2016 at 9:37 pm

    What an adventure mate! Epic tale. Loved it.

      Brendan Edwards responded:
      October 27, 2016 at 12:27 am

      Thanks Jeff. Still one of my favourite rides I’ve ever done, & will always try to get back to Don Road at least once each winter 🙂

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