A Spartan 300

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I was talking with Christian Purnomo, who has been helping me in the background with this blog, and I knew that he has wanted to step up to something big.  I just threw him a curveball and asked him if he’d be interested in doing his first triple century.  He said hell yea!
We knew that we’d need the full day to complete this ride, and agreed to head off at 3:00am.  As a bonus, the night before my mate Clint asked if I wanted to ride, and told him what we had in mind, and wasn’t happy with getting up so early, but agreed to come out & ride the first part of the ride, as long as he could get back before 10:00am, otherwise his wife would kill him (well maybe be a little upset).
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The weather forecast almost seemed perfect.  If only I had a crystal ball.  This ride reminded me of a Stranglers song “Always the sun”:

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“Has the weatherman ever told you stories that just make you laugh”.
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There was a forecast minimum 8 degrees, and I wanted to bring some extra clothing, but knew it would be hot for most of the day, and didn’t want to have my pockets filled with lots of clothes during the hot part of the day, so opted on shorts, & fingerless gloves.  It was a little chilly when we headed off, but I just told myself to suck it up.  We headed out towards Pakenham and our spirits were high, and there was a lot of banter between Clint, Christian & myself.  I was pretty cold, and my hands started to go numb by the time we reached Berwick.  We kept hitting these small pockets where it felt like we were entering a freezer that really wore away at me.

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Christian was wearing the kitchen sink with a Merino thermal, Jersey and thick gillet with hand and leg warmer as well as inner glove with short gloves and said the he could barely stand the chill.  He said that his toes went numb after a while, Clint said the same that his feet were absolutely frozen.  The temp was hovering anywhere between 0 degrees to around 5 celcius, and struggled especially when descending where there was that extra icy bite.

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Heading up Officer Road we came upon a Wombat crossing the road.  I bonked shortly after.  After getting only 3 hours sleep I was pretty tired, & I had never ever felt my hands so cold in my life.  I tried shaking them, I tried rubbing my hands against the warmth of my legs, I tried blowing hot air on them to get any level of warmth, and had no sense of feeling in my hands.  I got hit with a dizzy spell, and had to go into my happy place for a short space of time.  I came out of it, but was still really bloody cold.

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We went up the Toomuc Valley Road, which is a gorgeous road to ride in the daytime, and one of my favourite dirt sections of road to ride.  I thought that it would have been nice to ride at night, but as soon as we hit the first kilometre, we started to get bounced around as the road was heavily corrugated and it was one wild and bumpy ride.  It was pitch black and we were in no man’s land, and I don’t think Christian enjoyed this section and dropped right back.  He said later that he absolutely hated this section, and with only 30km’s into a 300km ride was wondering what the hell he had gotten himself in for.  Then we came upon the gravel climb which is 1.5km’s @ 10%, and is frekin hard.  I found it difficult to get into a tempo, as any time you stood up you’d cop some wheel spin, and it was hard work finding a steady tempo.  When Christian caught up to us he was silently cursing me for putting this section in our ride.

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After 2 hours of riding, it was still pitch black outside, and was still freezing cold.  8 degrees my ass!  We headed down Koo-Wee Rup which is dead straight and 14km’s long.  I was glad that we were doing it at night, as it’s not a road I wouldn’t ride down normally.  It’s a narrow road with heavy traffic.  I was surprised that at 6:15 in the morning the traffic was heavy, and having two tonne trucks fly by you on a narrow road where its pitch black was not fun.  We made good time down here, but about 8km’s down the road we came upon a heap of gravel on the road.  Clint pulled on his brakes and his bike went a little sideways avoiding gravel and trying to find traction on the road.  I did the same, and hoped Christian was ok behind me.  We were riding on this beautifully paved road to suddenly find that they had ripped the road up, and was suddenly riding on gravel.  They were apparently upgrading the road surface and were building 3km sections at a time, and we had a lot of gravel in front of us, and had to dodge and weave lots of little pieces of gravel in the dark of the night.  We had to ride a bit in from the shoulder due to the gravel, and there were no lines marked, and every car and truck that flew on by threw a tonne of dirt into our faces blinding us, and I was coughing out crap from my system.  Given it was pitch black out there I had huge concerns that someone would just ride into the back of us.  This was a nightmare, and one of the worst experiences I’ve ever had on a bike.  After riding through 3km’s of dirt and dust, we survived dozens of cars and trucks flying past us.  We came out coated in dust and muck, and with a heck of a long way ahead of us, we at least had one sight to behold. To our east the sun slowly started to rise, and it looked to be a glorious morning.

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Riding is all about highs and lows, and as soon as we hit paved road again we Who-hoed!  What a relief it was to survive that hell.  Then the sun came up, and we saw an incredible sunrise.  It had been one of the strangest rides I’d been on, with lots of highs and lows.  With the sunrise the temperature dipped, and my frozen body went into overdrive.  Clint was fantastic throughout these long dull stretches.  He offered to take the lead and paced us well.  Heading down the Gippsland Highway I remember Clint trying to talk with me.  I wasn’t taking much in and started slurring my responses.  I was pretty frozen.  I started to shake on the bike, and kept on telling myself that it would warm-up in a couple of hours.
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We stopped in at Tooradin, and saw some amazing scenes there.  I had trouble taking photos with my I-phone as my hands were shaking a lot, and had trouble pushing the button.  I looked at my hands and was shocked that my fingers had all puffed up like a balloon, and my fingers were starting to discolour.  4 hours of numbness had really screwed up my hands, and alarm bells were ringing.  Christian had a spare pair of gloves which really made the difference but then I noticed the cold.  We headed off, and my teeth started chattering for the next 5 minutes, and I was shaking on the bike.  The sun was starting to rise but not quick enough.  It was bloody cold.
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Right place at the right time
After we turned off onto Baxter-Tooradin Road Clint had to leave us.  It was amazing the effort that he put in to ride with us, and taking the lead on the long flat stretches of road really helped us glide through some of the ugliest sections of our ride.
To nail 150km’s before 10am takes balls & deserves a tonne of Kudos.

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Here is a link to his ride here:

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We took a detour and turned off towards Quail Island, and sat and had some hot chocolates whilst appreciating the views.

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I could feel that it would warm-up soon, but started to assess the damage.  I had just ridden 4 and a half hours whilst frozen, and must have expended a tonne of energy to stay warm.  We had just completed 100km’s, and still had 200km’s left to ride.  I had doubts creep in as to how long I could last, and the next section heading into Hastings was pretty boring with long straight stretches, and heavy traffic.
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We had breakfast in Hastings, and I hoped that a big breakfast would help renew all of the energy that I lost.  I only wish that it was going to be that easy.

Gotta be mad to go out and ride 300km’s


As we headed out from Hastings we passed McDonald’s.  The flag out the front was blowing in the wind, and it was a solid wind well over 30-40km’s.  God dam you weatherman!  We would have a beautiful tail wind heading south, but I knew that as soon as we changed direction we were screwed.  This day was going to get tough.

We pushed down to Balnarring, and did some sightseeing on the way checking out French Island.  From here it got hard.  We started to have to battle a stiff cross wind, and this section is quite undulating. The last 10km’s heading into Cape Schank I’ve nicknamed the Trampoline as you either go up or down, and there were a lot of steep sections through here, one peaking at 13%.

Christian had never been to Cape Schank before, and was blown away at the sight of the lighthouse heading down to the car park.  We took a brief break here and went and climbed up to one of the viewing platforms, and the view is always breath taking.  I was wrecked.  I was still able to ride freely, but was starting to run on empty.
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We headed towards Rosebud, and was riding directly into the wind.  We had to fight the whole way.  We came upon yet more roadwork, and was a nightmare riding across a 2km section of incomplete road works, and held up many cars trying to cross a road of packed rock that hadn’t been sealed properly yet.
It was starting to get really hot.  The morning was all about being frozen, now I was feeling dehydrated.  What a day.  We had knocked off 230km’s as we hit the beach, and was finally heading back home.  With the ocean looming towards our left, we were ticking off the k’s required to finish this ride.  There were some stiff cross winds here that made going tough.  Two guys tried to jump on our wheel to get some relief from the wind.  I stepped up the pace and dropped them shortly after.
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We stopped for some photos alongside the ocean and were having fun mucking around.  I was wrecked but I knew that we were doing something special.  All we had to do was get up Arthurs Seat, and were homeward bound.
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Arthurs Seat
I like Arthurs.  It was one of the first climbs that I ever did and seemed so mythical back then.  It’s not too hard once you work out how to tackle her.  It’s funny how on a ride like this I can hit a hill and then come out of my shell.  I was running on empty, but I knew at the top that I’d have enough to turn the pedals and get the 65km’s left to get home.
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View from Arthurs Seatspartan

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We headed back into Dromana, and at Safety Beach turned left onto Esplanade Road as we were going to head to Mornington via the coastal road.  I’ve only ever come through this road at the ass ends of my rides, and have had some really slow times through here on very tired legs.  I dropped Christian on the first climb, and once in a blue moon I do something which I wish I shouldn’t.  I TT’d it!  There was a nice tail wind through here, and I got out of my saddle and went bang, and with 245km’s in the leg went for it.  This is a beautiful stretch of road to ride with lots of free flowing corners.  The shoulder is narrow and can be tricky for cars to get past bikes, but with stunning coastal views to your left and great undulating racing I didn’t care.  There were lots of climbs throughout this 12km stretch of road, and thankfully none of them were too long as I was able to catch my breath on the way down before the next assault I threw at the next hill.  Given how tired I was and there is close to 200 metres of climbing throughout this section I was gobsmacked that I averaged 32kmph through here.  I took 7 minutes off my PB, and if I thought my batteries were empty before this TT, they certainly were now.
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Christian caught up, and still had that smile on his face.  It was in the bag for him.  We only had three short climbs ahead of us, and plenty of daylight.  The k’s ticked off nicely, and we got to Frankston without any dramas.  The descent down Oliver’s Hill is always a gem to see the ocean to your left while your tearing your way down this high speed hill.  We hit Beach Road, and that was the easiest part of the day.  There was a cross wind, but just enough to be pushing us along.  With 8km’s of dead flat road ahead of us to Carrum Downs we just cruised.
The wind had changed direction and as we turned onto the Dandenong Creek Trail we had a perfect tail wind to push us the last 22km’s of our journey.  It didn’t matter how tired I was, we were going home.  The Dandenong Creek Trail is completely flat, and has a dirt surface, and it’s quite nice to cruise down.  The first 5km’s follows the Patterson River to your left, and even given that you’re running parallel to the Easlink Freeway is quite scenic in bits.  I was just counting down the k’s, and every time I passed a different suburb I’d give myself an invisible pat on the back.
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We arrived back in one shape, but I was completely shell shocked.  This was my 6th 300, but one of the hardest.  Christian looked like he could keep riding, and reckon he’d be up for hitting 350 if I had suggested it.  I congratulated him on his maiden triple century and he was over the moon.  Today was challenging throughout for me.  Fighting off the cold, riding on heavily trafficked roads, battling tough winds, and then pushing through exhaustion.  What got me through was great company, and blessed to have visited so many great scenic spots along the way.
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As a bonus, we were able to complete a challenge set-out by the Cardinia Climbers.  To complete, one had to ride 300km’s, climb 3,000 vertical & ride 3km’s of dirt road.  Once completed you had the honor to be called a Spartan.  This was my second Spartan ride, and Christian now joins John Beech as the only other Spartan.
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I have some big rides coming up, so surviving such a tough adventure was gold for me, and gave me some confidence.  Next week I’ll be in the Gippsland gold which is a 200km odyssey covering some of the best dirt roads that Gippsland has to offer between Yarragon and Foster.
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Given how few long distance rides Christian had done I was staggered how well he did, and know that this could be one of many big adventures for him.  Here is a link to his Strava Activity here:
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300 in the bag
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Here is a link to my Strava Activity here:
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Shortly after Flinders

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Leaving Cape Schank

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0 thoughts on “A Spartan 300

    Robbie Rowland said:
    March 21, 2015 at 6:14 am

    Well done Guys great effort from you both , also kudos to Clint for his Cameo
    The Spartan is about the journey , well told
    Regards
    Cardinia Climbers

    Brendan Edwards said:
    March 23, 2015 at 4:05 am

    No thankyou for putting this crazy idea out there to do. Definitely makes going that extra mile more fun

    3 Times a Spartan « The Dandenong Ranges said:
    October 3, 2015 at 12:45 am

    […] When Robbie conceived of the idea of the Spartan ride he sent me a few messages asking what I thought, & I gave him some ideas. When he launched the idea I cheekily went and rode a cheeky 300km Spartan ride several days later & became the first Spartan.  I then went and took Christian Purnomo out on a Spartan ride in March this year. […]

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