The second part of 2014 my focus was based around doing a 320 km loop around Mount Koskioszko. I was having a blinder heading up to October, but unfortunately I got pretty sick with a chest infection. At first I thought I would kill pretty quickly, but as it dragged on towards the epic, I started to get more & more panicked. I was able to lightly train through this period, but really went backwards. Overall I was sick for a total of 3 weeks and lost a bit of fitness during this period. I was left with the prospect of having only 3 weeks to get myself in shape for a 320 km epic.
Admittingly I just didn’t have enough time to get myself into proper shape. As soon as I got better I had to gamble and throw everything at myself, and killed myself with training. I knew I was walking a tightrope. If I overtrained, I could have really hurt myself and may not be able to do the epic at all. I really hammered myself and from being crook as a dog I managed to get over 1,200 km’s of riding in over those 3 weeks. With a week to go, I felt like I was getting fit. Sadly it felt like I’d need at least one more week of training to nail it.
Alas this wasn’t going to happen so had to do the best with what I had.
On the drive up to Kossi, I decided to go & smash some segments in Lakes Entrance as it was going to be windy. I found a couple of climbs that I should have had a nice tail wind pushing me up them. I wasted a whole heap of energy on a short ride and took 2 KOM’s on tough climbs. My warped logic was that if I wasn’t fit to do that, I certainly wasn’t fit to ride 320km’s the next day.
When we started our 320 km epic the next morning it was freezing. It was only a couple of degrees. I didn’t want to carry too much, so just had shorts on and fingerless gloves. My hands went numb over the first 30 km’s of the ride. We were staying at 1,100 metres, and I really didn’t have a clue about what altitude training was.
Right from the outset I struggled with the pace.
They were awesome roads to ride up. I can see why Sambo suggested we come so far out here to ride, but something didn’t feel right. As we climbed higher and higher I started to struggle to breath. On top of this I was battling against the cold, and was not surprised to see small sections of ice still around late November. I almost collapsed when we got to the highest point of the ride around 1,700 metres.
The boys dropped me easily on the descent, and it was a long 16 km descent, and we descended almost 1,200 metres. Getting away from altitude, I was getting drunk on oxygen. I was getting a bad feeling about today. Knowing the boys were well & truly down the road wasn’t good. I really needed a chance to recover, but the road was heading upwards. Sitting in a comfortable gear I really paced myself over the next 80 km’s. Through a section that threw a lot of challenging climbing my way. I knew something was wrong, and given the distance I still had to travel I was getting really loud alarm bells. The boys had to wait a bit for me to catch up and we descended into Khuncoban for some brunch.
I suggested that the guys just ride off as I was slowing them down, but they were great to want to keep together.
We headed off, and the major climb of the day approached. There weren’t too many segments through this section. It looked to be close to 16 km’s of climbing ahead of us, but what we found was pure hell. We were either descending steep pinches, or climbing steep pinches. Nothing was flat. The road just kept going, up and up and up. Chris & Sam took off on me at the start of the HC climb. I was able to get into a rythmn and kept them in my sights. Under different conditions, I reckon this would have been one of my favourite playgrounds up in the hills. But as we got higher, I started to struggle to breath.
As much as I would suck in, my lungs would feel empty. Even though my legs were strong, I just couldn’t get the oxygen to power them. I got nauseous, and dizzy. There were several sections where I blacked out. It was heating up, and much of the road was exposed to the elements.
Just to add to my woes I started to feel dehydrated on top of it.
I did getting to the Tooma Reservoir, but had to pull over there as felt like throwing up (not the first and not the last I felt this sensation on this ride). Sambo & Chris enjoyed a short respite here, and that was the last time I saw them. I had nothing. We were above 1,400 metres and remained up at this level for the next 30 km’s. The climbing was relentless. It was up then down, up then down. None of the descents were long enough to recover from and they all ended in a pinch that was above 10%. These pinches hurt more and more to get up. I was dying and felt myself cracking at one point, and I said to myself to get to the top before collapsing. 3 km’s later this climb finished, and I got off the bike and fell straight to the ground gasping for breath. Nothing getting into my lungs.
My legs started to sting, and I was thinking WTF.
I looked down and there were hundreds of ants crawling over my legs aggressively biting my legs. This was not my day. I dusted myself and went on. I got to the Tomut Pond Reservoir which was beautiful, and hit this massive descent. Having to have the hands on the brakes the whole way. One km, became, two then three, and I knew that we were heading up to 1,500 metres. So every metre I was descending I would have to climb, and the longer the descent the more I crapped myself. We dropped over 300 metres, and I shuddered that I had to climb back out of there. I won’t use the word climb, but crawl. Admittingly I was death boiled over. I had done 130 km’s & still had 190 km’s to go and I had cracked. When I got to the top of the climb I gave up and went as slowly as I could and went into damage mode and thought of plans.
I just couldn’t get back from here.
I reached the turn-off for Cabrumurra, and thought that I had lost them. This wasn’t my day. I was lucky to get some reception on my phone and found where they were at the resort down the road. My ride was screwed and I basically dropped in there and looked like death boiled over, and told them that I was done. I couldn’t finish the ride. They tried to talk me out of it but could see I was spent. I suggested that I ride to the next town which was about 60 km’s away. Or best case a further 50 to Berridale and find a hotel or some place and hole up for the night. Then ride back the next morning. It was the only solution I could see. They reluctantly agreed to this. I was lying on a park bench gasping for breath. Chris told me to take some puffs from his Ventalin pump.
I didn’t want to, but eventually saw some sense, thinking it couldn’t hurt. It ended up saving the day.
The boys left me, and I lay in a heap for 10 minutes before getting back on the bike and heading off. I was expecting it to be downhill from here, but given my day was not surprised that I hit 3 Cat 3 climbs. The terrain was predictable. It was a long way uphill, or it was a massive descent. Surprisingly I could breath a bit better, and was able to find a better rhythm up the climbs. Thanks to the Ventalin.
When I hit the flat section leading to the Snowy River Highway I started to be able to ride a lot quicker. Picking up a bit of a tail wind. I had a blinder, and the 50 km’s from Cabumarra to Adaminaby I averaged close to 30 km/h on dead legs. My drink supply was running low and stopped off at a service station to fill up. Having a big rest there. I had pre-determined to stop to spend the night here. But felt I had enough strength in my legs to push onto the next town which was over 60 km’s away. Thankfully I knew I had enough daylight to reach. I decided to ride on, and was shocked to see Sambo & Chris pulling out of town.
I had caught them. WTF!
They seemed shocked, and asked where the hell had I come from? Team BSC united again, and looks like they were going to help me get back…….. They could see that I was riding fast, so thought they’d push hard. We spent a nice 4 km’s riding together before I just couldn’t keep the pace. Adios. I watched as they rode off in the distance. Team BSC became team B again. I was planning to ride to Berridale and find accommodation, but kept an open mind to getting to the end.
I did really well through the 50km’s to Berridale, and was happy. The wind really helped, and it felt pretty exciting riding in such an isolated environment. Though I was conscious of the setting sun. I rode into Berridale, and found a Pub and decided to have dinner there whilst the sun was setting. Some locals invited me to sit with them and thought I was crazy to ride so long. They thought just riding from Berridale to Jindabyne (30km’s), was an epic ride. I had half an hour of rest, and a Chicken Parmigana to fuel the engine.
I said “fuck it”. I’m riding home!
I had the prospect of a head wind from here, but I had good lights on my bike, and seriously thought I could do it.
The sun set, and I had my lights going and the first 15 km’s went really well. I was actually feeling pretty optimistic. That was until I hit the climbs. Most were around 1.5 km to 3 km long around 5 – 6% average. They were relentless. With a head wind to fight, each sapped more and more energy. I went from flying, to pacing, to crawling, to counting down the k’s. There was a steel determination that I was going to do this. But after 15 and a bit hours in the saddle was in my happy place. I had the odd car fly past me. I know they must have been wondering what the hell a cyclist was doing in no man’s land in pitch black.
About 5 km’s from Jindabyne Chris’s wife Sharyn found me. She was out looking for Chris & Sam and couldn’t find them. It was nearing 10:00 pm, and she suggested that I throw the bike on the back of the 4WD. It would have been nice to finish the ride. I worked out the math, and if I kept riding, I wouldn’t get back till close to 1:00 am, and would be riding 18 hours all up. I’m crazy, not stupid, and knew that I was spent. Having ridden 160 km’s further than when I had given up all hope. I looked at my computer and was sitting on 297 km’s. I had to at least get a triple century. Compromise is such a nice word and I asked if she was kool to pick me up from Jindabyne.
I rode the rest of the way.
Feeling delirious, I had so many emotions go through me. I had failed to achieve what I had set out to do, but then I had succeeded as I had given up. That second half of the ride is one of the most amazing rides I’ve ever pulled out. It took me over 3 days till I acclimatised to the thinner air. How I wished that we hadn’t done the ride on the first day that we were there. Two years in a row I did not complete our epic. I can hide behind recovery from illness, but part of why I got sick was due to over riding. The only one I have to blame is myself.
This was one amazing loop. The roads were in excellent condition, and we had the roads pretty much to ourselves throughout most of the ride. There was some incredibly categorised climbs. What hurt most were all the many small climbs that were utterly relentless.
I thought that I had experienced pain on a bike before today. This ride really was something new. I wish that I hadn’t gone through all the pain I had to finish this beast, but have a great sense of pride that I did. I’ve written a number of stories of my experiences. Not all of them have gone well, and I’ve failed quite a few big ones. For every failure I’ve endured, a success like today sure makes up for it. Last year the boys rode 4 Peaks, and this year we did something especially hard. It’s going to be hard to top something like this, but reckon I’ve got something in mind which is purely evil…..