Well having read the wonderful report from Highlander there isn’t much to add to the overall Falls weekend – a hugely successful weekend from team ER and a thoroughly enjoyable weekend with outstanding company. A truly memorable experience. Thanks again for organising the lodgings Sat Nav.
The ride – well that is a very different story. Not being able to sleep the night before due to sincere concerns of being able to complete the challenge ahead (and having asked the group every question I could think of – twice) I finally pushed Ridley (my new bike bought 5 weeks earlier with a mid-compact 11-28 Di2 set up) out of the lodge with Highlander and headed to Wave 3. The anticipation intense, the threat of rain real but the adrenaline and excitement as the riders rolled out was immense – what an experience, especially as I crossed through the starters arch. I felt good, this was going to be possible if I didn’t take off like the eager puppy I have been in past rides (and tried to learn from the mistake)
Conservative and steady down the decent to Mt Beauty was my strategy but not one shared by a significant amount of riders – racing lines emerged by inexperienced riders and some felt compelled to use slim passing lines to nudge their way through corners and past riders, a rather white knuckled experience for a newbie like me. Beautiful decent and great welcoming into Mt Beauty – now the ride began. Time to strip down out of the warmers and prepare for the climbing.
I seemed to have made some early progress on the team so hit Tawonga Gap on my lonesome. I thoroughly enjoyed the climb and felt I was making good progress in good time and felt very strong as I hit the summit. No stopping at the rest stop (great advice Highlander) I did my part to earn the Bicycle Network promise of a free beer by not crashing on the famous crash corners and hit the flats ready to find a peloton to hitch a ride on. Alas it appeared that in searching for groups unsuccessfully I had created one without realising, and the tail was very happy to sit on my wheel without sharing the load. Single file was the play due to the headwind that had greeted us. But finally a peloton came past which I joined on to and rode the final km’s into Harrietville, slightly faster than desired but good to be on board. First fail – not hitching a ride to Harrietville.
After a bottle re-fill, refuel and a stretch/walk around Highlander and the 11hr group arrived to do the same, and strong encouragement of taking on fruit cake (good suggestion) was provided. Needing relief but not wanting to wait Highlander and I pushed out, although I had no idea that moment away began the Mt Hotham climb. I left Highlander at the base of the climb for some brief nature appreciation and then commenced the climb.
Overall I loved Mt Hotham – it does go for ever, I agree, and by the end the pain has set in. The first 10km were great, felt great, no cramps and didn’t get passed by any official riders. Stopped to help a rider who randomly hit the deck for no obvious reason and smashing his seat in half. Second 10km – what a great section but does seem to go on. Third 10km’s – ok that hurt. It lived up to its reputation, I thought I had conquered it only to drop into the valley and have to climb up again and that snake route to the summit seems never ending. Unfortunately 3km from the summit sudden CRAMP!! Both legs shot out straight and getting out of the cleats was a close call – cramp zone was muscle hugging the kneecap in the inside – never had this cramp before. 8 mins straight it cramped with no relief, causing me to look like I was doing some strange serenade dance to the mountain tops. Massaging the legs to attempt to gain relief a rider pulled up next to me, put four white tablets in my hand and said “take these immediately with lots of water”. A quick confirmation question proved these to be salt tablets and down the hatch they went. So much encouragement provided by passing riders “mate you are almost there”…”all the hard work is done”……cramping stopped, no power muscles effected over the top I went through the arches, what a feeling!!!! Favourite part of the ride. Wasn’t aware however that the Dinner Plains stop is actually quite an effort away.
Pulled into Dinners and tried to work out the lay of the land. Parked as far away from the action than I possibly could (by accident – fresher error) and commenced refuel, sat down to admire what was happening around me and bag drop/swap. Thought I would wait for Highlander and I was extremely excited to find him and so good to combine with him once more. I tried to get the wrap down the hatch and recharge the garmin when the 12hr rider call came over the speaker and the decision was made to get out there with them. My food intake to this point had not been great – just didn’t seem to have an appetite but still had good energy. Butt was KILLING due to new seat so Nurofen Plus now joined the party.
The next section I don’t remember too clearly. We started with the 12hr group which was awesome and mainly downhill and rollers is what I had expected – they did plenty of work and we were making good time. There were some royal dickheads in the group (non-official BN riders) who thought they were heroes but couldn’t hold a wheel or line. Highlander cracked it at one point and went off ahead of the group but we soon caught as the headwinds increased. Finally some knob jockey decided to cut us off the 12hr riders and dropped off the back, we couldn’t catch them again. The ride took a bad turn for me here – energy starting to go and pain had set in permanently, the heat took force which is never a good omen for me (heat and wind) and when sneaky peak hit unexpectedly my mind moved to a very negative space. I had underestimated the “easier” sections and no rollers of note and not much downhill. Plenty of wind.
With Highlander ever encouraging we pushed into Omeo and O-M-G it was good to arrive. Water refuel and an attempt to eat something that tried to resemble a scone (I was still trying to chew that thing as we rode off and had to spit it out so no food on board) while bumping into a friend I had not seen in 11 years we were off again. Highlander assures me this is the section of rollers, not the past section. With new found confidence I am ready. Butt on fire – I could hardly sit, inner abductors now cramping at regular frequency (but not effecting power and very manageable when not cramping) and doubt set in my concern turned to Highlander finishing. As I questioned Highlanders definition of rollers I voiced just how much pain I was in. Extremely stubbornly and very admirably Highlander kept me on his wheel and reassured me “mate we are going to finish this, we are going to cross this together” Highlander finally understood that I was officially broken, the game had changed now and extremely reluctantly and hesitantly Highlander started to head off solo. With the game now changed Highlander the machine was locked in once more and the trailblazer was off with many trying to hitch a ride on his wheel. My game = how long can I last. I still had so much time, perhaps I can do this – I will make it to Anglers and re-evaluate.
I hit Anglers, smashed a cold coke (sorry no beer Z man) with some more Nurofen and questioned – could I do this. I had little in the tank, my legs were cramping every 15mins and I couldn’t sit on my seat. A fellow rider said – you know you can walk up Falls and still cross the line given the time, we are so very far ahead and with that decision made…….bring it on WTF.
As I walked across the bridge to see a fellow Turra rider bleeding (but he was fine) I tried to clip back in and roll on….but couldn’t get into the pedals as many others also struggled with. The mud created by the water stations had completely filled in the cleats so when you could get in you couldn’t get out. Finally water from bottles used to clear the mud and I was away. A slow 10kms to bottom of WTF I turned left and there she was in all her glory…WTF. Beloka you got nothing on this. I hit the first stretch, legs screaming and cramps lining up for complete leg domination, turned the right hand corner and whack – 6 cramp bonanza!!! Time to commence operation walk across the line.
Well the walk went on for a lot longer than anticipated – that hill just never eases up. I tried a few times to re-saddle but each time no joy and now my energy levels were shot. I thought I’d wait until the gradient reduced (wow that took longer than I thought) and I was depleting further with each step. I finally remounted, make it 1km and now my back and ribs decided to join in on the cramps – 8 cramp fiesta but this time it seemed to hit hard and next thing I knew I was passed out up against the bank. Not sure how long I was there for but when I came too I wasn’t cramping so that was a win. A bit scary at this point.
Finally I reached the top of WTF – finally. Legs were ok again, my butt wasn’t screaming as I had just spent an hour walking and I was ready!!! Tried to clip into the cleats, no joy. Tried to clip in again…no joy. Thought this f’ing mud so got off bike, cramped (yay) and then checked my cleats. Well I didn’t have any cleats left – they had worn down to the base plate from the walking. I guess they are not made for walking. I thought this was game over but I wasn’t going to let that stop me so away I went unclipped (ironic given convo’s of the night prior). 1-2km in unclipped I came upon a couple who were on the side of the road offering hugs…I said “Not keen on a hug unless they come with a pair of cleats”…….and would you believe it, he had cleats. Only one set on him by they were the right ones. Excuses removed and the thought of this story as I crossed the finish line priceless – I was locked in, until Damian says “you sure you want these though mate, the next section is exactly the same as what you have just come up until you get to Trapyard Gate”…….officially bummed again.
Determined, stubborn and slightly delirious I pushed on – I thought, I just keep pushing and pushing to get to Trapyard Gate and the rest is easy from there. I called back on the confirmations that once you’ve made it there you’ve made it!!! It was a slow grind as I passed many upside down bikes and when I hit the next climb I thought – is this it. Lets do it. I commenced the climb and only 200m in a marshal came up behind me on his motorbike – “buddy how you doing? Feeling ok?” Feeling light headed and close to breaking point I responded “I’m feeling dangerous, bring it on – ooorah…..but have entered the pain locker” to which he responded “well I just wanted to let you know that the last SAG wagon is 1km down the road” Confused by this statement I asked “well what does that mean if I don’t get on the SAG Wagon” to which he responded “well then you are on your own”…….GAME OVER!!!! Doing the rest without a safety net and really knowing that only a miracle and the promise of the home stretch being truly easy coming to fruition would have allowed me to cross in time (if ever) as I had absolutely nothing in the tank left and now rain had set in with darkness approaching it was a no brainer. I made the call and was handed a cold coke and I admitted defeat at the foot of Trapyard Gate.
35 mins wait (with some very lovely and positive messages from my wife, PD and Highlander) and I was on the SAG Wagon and at Trapyard gate at 7:08. I could hardly walk and conversation was not a possibility much to the dismay of the gentleman next to me who wanted to share his stories of woe. Driving the rest of the course I never felt more relief that I did not try to conquer it – there is plenty of work left in the first 10km of the 20km return. Passing riders who we could see would not make the 13hr time was heart breaking but I was so glad I wasn’t with them. I finally reached Falls as the last wave of successful riders came in and one step off the bus and I projectile v’d with violence!!!! Highlander found me after waiting in the freezing cold for hours (what a legend) and we walked back to the lodge where I tried to eat but couldn’t so hit the bed hard.
Falls Creek 1 – UNick 0. Lessons for me – don’t ride a new bike to 3 Peaks, actually do long training rides for the event (and lots of commuting) as fitness is irrelevant to cramps, do not ride a mid-compact 11-28 on WTF, cleats are not made for walking, and I think I need to drink my fuel not eat as eating does not work for me (I don’t eat enough).
I was so very gutted to be so close and not finish but I know I gave it everything that I had – I will be back and I will cross that line. When, well that depends but one day I will complete the right of passage to the ER’s.
Massive thanks to Highlander for being the legend that he is and the awesome Peaks team for being such champs.