Battle on the Border prep – T minus five weeks

Training for Battle on the Border commenced this week and already I’ve been “battling” on several fronts this week. Firstly, it’s been a battle to get out this week and train due to rainy weather. There’s been plenty written about how cyclists are obsessed by their weather apps and this week I have been no exception. However, I was able to head out on Tuesday afternoon for some efforts with Nicky, hit the gym for RPM on Wednesday and then train with Liz, Nicky and Anne on Thursday which involved some really nasty Mt Coot-tha repeats. As I mentioned in my last post about testing, after building a great aerobic base, it’s now time to dress it up with a bit more speed, strength and power. Training with an emphasis on these variables entails a different mindset – “going long” involves discomfort, the challenge of “going hard” hurts too, but feels different.

The other “battle” I faced this week was getting up the Toowoomba Range after riding one hundred hard kilometres. On Sunday, Liz, Anne, Nicky and myself, aka the “Fab Four”, decided to take on the “Ride the Range Challenge” that was hosted by the Toowoomba Rotary Club. The event had several different formats to choose from – a “nifty fifty”, an “87km event”, the “112km classic” and the “164km ultimate challenge”. Nicky, Liz and I decided to go “classic” with the 112km, whilst Anne decided that doing the 87km event with the idea of all finishing around the same time.

Dedicated to the cause, Nicky was up at 3-something am and ready to pick me up at 4am. Nicky’s cheerfulness and desire to play 80s music at such an hour meant that any reservations I had about the ride vaporised. Instead of worrying, we cheerfully sang Freddy Mercury tunes up the range, found a park, got ourselves ready and found the starting line. The first order of the day was to descend off the range and I was slightly worried about the types of descenders my fellow riders would be. Nicky and I shot off from the start line but my worst fears were realised when somebody cut in front of me from the left. I made a mental note to avoid the male rider on the Bianchi bike on the proper descent. The road kicked up again and suddenly Liz flew by. Determined not to be dropped within the first two kilometres, I accelerated and found the back of the bunch. Unfortunately Mr Male Bianchi rider was to cut me off on the left again down the steep descent and this time I commented about the ethics and safety considerations of performing such a manoeuvre.

We soon started to form a peloton, mostly rolling turns in an orderly manner. We punched up over a few pinches, which started to gradually thin the group out. Nicky attacked on the MaMa Road climb (love how all rural areas have such great names) at the 45km point. Nicky is an amazing climber and as I watched her disappear from view, silently wishing her well, I decided to try and follow Liz up the climb. Liz had shaken out a good number of riders and I desperately tried to close the gap. Success! Liz’s advice on cresting hills had worked and I was back in touch. We worked together for another ten or so kilometres when another hill loomed.

“C’mon!” encouraged Liz. The head was willing but the legs were weak. Despite my best efforts, staying with her wasn’t happening and suddenly, I was on my own. I decided that I would try and maintain as much pace and intensity as I could muster. “After all”, I thought, “this is all good training if I’m going to try racing again”.

Fifteen kilometres passed when suddenly I heard voices. A pack of approximately ten riders was passing me. Kicking up a gear, I pushed myself onto the back of the bunch. “Delightful”, I thought. It was even better that the last rider was a hulk of a man, both wide and tall, who was shielding me from the stiff headwind that had appeared. We worked together until our time was cut short by their disappearance into a rest zone. I looked at my watch – one hundred kilometres covered in three hours! No wonder I was feeling a little bit worse for wear, and I still had the Flagstone Creek Road to climb!

I reassured myself that if I could survive the back of Falls Creek, I could survive this climb. Again, as I climbed, there was human carnage on the side of the road – an assortment of riders that had simply given up the idea of climbing such a beast. A lady, to who I suggested taking the climb steadily, shot past me. Knowing that such an effort at the base of the climb wasn’t going to end well, I put my head down and concentrated on getting up that hill, keeping my eyes firmly fixed on the road and avoiding her gaze. When the summit finally beckoned, I was relieved to ride those final few kilometres to the finish shute and to find Liz, Nicky and Anne.

We were treated to some fantastic massages by the local girls from the Toowoomba cafe as well as a hamburger. Unfortunately I was feeling a bit green from the effort, likening it to feelings of being carsick. Anne helpfully plied me with Coke Zero which brought about a few burps (sorry if TMI but hey, it’s a personal blog) and gastrointestinal relief!

Unfortunately we had to pass ways with Liz, who was visiting her parents, but started feeling much better after a good feed of fish, chips and salad. Not to mention a good sing a long to our eclectic selection of music on the way home. I think that music selection is a window into a person’s psyche – luckily for me, my company seemed to like my choices (phew!).

It was a tough ride to end a tough week of training. Here’s hoping that I’m “battle hardened” by the time Battle on the Border rolls around!

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