A small contingent of ERs headed down to Falls Creek, once again, to take on 3 Peaks. There were 8 of us in the ER lodging. Chris Houlihan (Hotlips) was there with 3 mates (Andrew, Mark and Trev) who had joined ER to prepare for this ride. UNick, Danny, Pigeon and myself made up the group. There were a few other ERs scattered around the village we would bump into over the weekend. I saw Laura, QT, and Gazza and I think some others may have been around too.
Nick and I decided to go down on the Friday and we took a fairly easy trip down. Nick did all the driving. Perhaps he was worried we’d end up in Adelaide if I took the wheel! Hotlips and crew also went down on the Friday. Danny and Pigeon came down on the Saturday. Apparently they only stopped 10 minutes on the drive down to refill water or something like that in a dry run for Sunday.
Of the 8 of us in the apartment, 3 had done this ride before while 5 were new to the experience. Friday we chatted about what to expect on the day. Saturday brought rego and a short ride to make sure bikes were ready to go. Then we had to consider the weather and plan our valet bag strategy. The weather was threatening at least some rain. Danny and Pigeon were going for limited stops and no bags. I think the rest of us were a bit more conservative with stuff to handle a wet first half.
Sunday morning brought further questions. Base layer or not, arm warmers or not. There had only been a few drops of rain overnight and cloud cover made it almost warm. Pigeon was going light but I decided to go with gilet and light arm warmers. It was certainly a lot warmer start than 2015.
Just a week before this ride a few of us had done the 170km Orange classic. Was that a good idea? While my legs seemed ok, I did get a cold from the Orange effort which was a pain. Nevertheless I seemed ok on the day.
Nick and I started in wave 3. For me this was further up than 2015 and that helped. Andy snuck into wave 1 and I think Danny was at the front of our wave. I would not see them on the ride. The descent to Mt Beauty was a little chaotic. Holding your line is a foreign concept to a lot of riders but everything settled down soon enough. Nick was off ahead of me and I settled in for the day’s work. Tawonga was no problem and I skipped the rest stop. I’d decided to use a 1L bidon on the front holder and I think that worked well through the day. I don’t like the feeling of running out of water or having to ration on a long stretch.
Whereas I had done the run to Harrietville almost solo in 2015 after starting further back, this year I found myself in the group with the four 11hr riders. That was wonderful. The 11hr leaders were very encouraging, and even began to organize things into a rolling group. The leader was a bit touchy feely to let you know he was coming alongside.
I arrived at Harrietville very quickly and felt very good. I left the rest stop with the group and onto Hotham. I soon lost the 11hr group. Not unexpected as I’m not the fastest up a climb as most of you know. I found Hotham a lot more reasonable on the second serving. 2015 had been a big challenge but I think knowing how long it is helped this time around. It still goes on forever but you know it will end.
I don’t remember where, but at some point on Hotham a rider wearing a 12hr tag passed me. I called out to him
“12 hour guy, are you on schedule?”
That was a bit of a shock as I thought I was going along better than 12 hr pace.
I had one small inner thigh cramp on Hotham but it wasn’t too bad and I rode through it. Into the Hotham village and I set off for Dinner Plain as fast as I could. I’m efficient in the rest stops now. I got my bag, dumped gilet and warmers, and grabbed my roll. Chicken is now an option and I found it easier to eat than 2015’s veggie roll. Good to have real food. Sun cream and pretty much, ready to roll. Nick tapped me on the shoulder and it was good to see a familiar face. Unlike me, he hadn’t been passed by the 12 hour group and seemed pretty relaxed. But they had arrived at lunch and soon the call went out that 12 hour riders were leaving in five. I wanted to get out ahead of them so Nick and I left the stop. Even so, they soon caught us. We hung on for a while until some guy wearing boardies and with his undies showing dropped in in front of us, then eased up, which split us from the group. That was a bit annoying as soon the 12 hour group would pull away from us on a little climb down from Dinner Plain. Known as “sneaky peak” apparently. Well named.
Nick and I kept together to Omeo but Nick was beginning to suffer along the way. After a quick water stop at Omeo where we tried to get a dry scone down, we set off to Anglers. I’d told Nick that it was sort of rollers after Omeo but in reality the run to Anglers starts with a bit of climbing. At some point, Nick informed me
“Highlander, FYI: Not fucking rollers”
Fair call. Nick continued to suffer and at some point he told me to go ahead. That was hard and I resisted for a while. I wanted to help him get to the line but my positive thoughts are surely not enough when your ass is really hurting. I decided to push on and hope Nick would make it through.
I got to Anglers Rest and was relieved to see the 12hr rides there. I just refilled water and went out ahead of them. I just made it to WTF before they gathered me up again. I was determined not to walk up the back of Falls. Strangely this time nobody was walking around me. The climb was too long, however, and I hopped off. I got a lot further than 2015 but I guess it’s still unfinished business for me. Got past the photographer at least. I eventually got back on. As I went further up Falls I started to see riders in the ditch huddled in space blankets. A bit freaky.
The last time I’d arrived at Trapyard they had run out of coke so for 10km I had been longing for that coke. It’s one of those tiny cans and I quickly drank a few swigs only for my stomach to violently spasm. I’m not sure I ate very well on this ride and my stomach was letting me know. I had felt that Trapyard was close to the summit of Falls but there are in fact 10km more to go. It’s a long hard 10km but I eventually got to the lake section.
The rain finally came in this section but it was short and not a problem. At some point I passed the 12hr riders who had pulled off to make sure they hit their mark. Shame on them for scaring me throughout the day.
I got to the finish in 11hr46m which I was happy with. I met Gazza over the line. He had done a sub 9. Wow! He kindly bought me a beer. I set about finding out how Nick was going. Nick had decided to jump on the last sag wagon going. That would be a hard offer to knock back and it was a wise decision in the circumstances I think. He had pushed himself to just shy of Trapyard gate. When he got back to Falls, he sent me a text “I’m spewing”. It wasn’t metaphorical. He had nothing left to give and you can’t really ask any more of yourself than that. Better to live to fight another day.
Andy and Danny had done sub 10 and sub 11 times respectively. Hotlips, Mark, Andrew and Trev all made it home with Trev maximising the value of his entry at 12hr50 odd.
We retired to the apartment for a filling meal cooked by Andy and Danny. Those stairs up to the apartment do test you. A night of recollection, post mortems and lessons learned.