Failed Everest

Taking a Swan Dive

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Swans Road (Bacchus Marsh) 18/04/2014

“How many times has the weatherman told you stories that make you laugh?”
Always the Sun – The Stranglers

I tried for my second Everest on Swans Road on 18th April 2014. Looking to knock 36 laps out of Swans Road which is  4.2 km’s @ 6%.  Autumn had set-in and we were fast approaching winter, & I learnt an expensive lesson.  Just because you want to do it, and it’s there, doesn’t mean that you will do it.  I had several reservations about this climb, which is a lot harder than the average gradient suggests.  The climb had a number of undulation changes, and several pinches reaching 15%.  I had descended it in heavy winds before.  It was downright dangerous being flung around by strong cross winds.  I always said that if there was a Westerly wind I wouldn’t do it.  Even now I wonder why I considered it with a forecast 20 – 30 km Westerly. 
I contacted one of the local riders I met at the Nationals earlier in the year Matt Ayers.  Telling him what I was thinking of doing.  Matt runs a Strava Club: “the Second Sunday Group” and published a comment saying that I was going to Everest and suggested riders come down.   Guess I went from considering to do it, to feeling pressured, and went from the logical “is this possible?” to “I’m doing this!”. 

Mistake number 1.

Taking a Swan Dive
Photographs by Matt Ayres
 decided to have a sleep in and start around 12:00 pm.  Mistake number 2 was not starting earlier when the weather was fine.  On my first lap it was 17 degrees and the weather was nice.  Halfway up the climb, the weather suddenly turned to shit.  A massive cold front rushed in, and the weather went from 17 degrees to 11 degrees.  An icy cold wind picked up, and gusts over over 80 km/h bucketed me at the top. 

Just to add to my misery it started to rain quite heavily. 

I was riding into a head wind on pinches going up to 15%, and I was trying to go slow and pace myself, but I was shovelling shit uphill.  My heart rate was racing at 186 bpm.  The conditions were atrocious.  Mistake 3 was not waiting out the storm and start in reasonable conditions.
Taking a Swan Dive
The first two laps killed me, and even though the weather stabilized.  It continued to fluctuate throughout the day making it challenging for the body to stay warm.  The winds remained constant throughout my ride, but had died down.  I copped headwinds over 90% of the climb.  Matt Ayres came down to roll some laps with me.  Taking some amazing photos and was great to go and get a Frozen Coke for me.  Then Gary Beazley who had Everested Mount Alexander & the Serpentine showed up.  Gary was a rock, and rolled 8 laps with me.  He glided up the climb, and I knew that I was in trouble as I had to push to keep up with him, and was wrecked.  Those first couple of laps had left me shell shocked.  I was finding it difficult to find my composure, and recover. 

I’ve ridden in some bad, bad weather, and really needed to HTFU!  

When Gary left, I wasn’t confident.  I knew realistically I had to be really fresh at that point of the ride and I was struggling.  I had time on my side, and when the sun set.  Headed up to my brother-in-laws place for dinner, and a shower.
Taking a Swan Dive
When I got back out on the bike I felt quietly confident.  I had recharged my cells, and time was on my side.  I had planned on riding till midday the next day.  When I got outside I found that the temperature had plummeted 8 degrees and was now only 5 degrees outside.  I usually I don’t mind riding in these sorts of conditions.  But the wind was still active, and the wind had an icy bite to it and really chilled me to the bone.  I used so much strength to stay warm, and pumped out lap after lap.  I found my tempo, but even though it was only 4 km’s per climb.  It felt like each ascent was up a Mountain. 
I had time on my side, but knew the conditions weren’t ideal to ride throughout the night.  I considered riding as long as I could, then take a few hours to recover.  Looking to finish my Everest in the warmer daylight hours.  I finally admitted defeat, and just couldn’t keep riding.  At midnight I had completed 20 laps and around 5,000 vertical.  I still had 16 laps to go, and couldn’t see myself finishing.  I felt I had that strength to do another 4 or 5 laps, but what would be the point? 

I’d just get closer to failure yet again. 

Taking a Swan Dive
In two rides on Perrins  Creek Road I rode 480 km’s.  Completed 85 laps & climbed 16,500 vertical metres.  Neither of these rides compared to the hardships that I went through today.  I was now 1/3 in Everest attempts, and didn’t beat myself up as this was easily one of the hardest rides I’ve ever done.  I was defeated by a headwind, and the cold , and I admitted that I shouldn’t have tried to Everest in these conditions.  The weatherman got the forecast horribly wrong, but who trusts the weatherman?
Taking a Swan Dive
Photograph by Jason Poon

I promised myself not to try another Everest into a headwind again.

Swans Road broke me, but I will be back again someday to finish what I started!

Here is the link to my Strava Activity: