As I mentioned in my last post, Battle on the Border was looking to be a shaky prospect due to the torrential rain that flooded the Murwillimbah area at the end of March. Sensibly, the event organisers have postponed the racing, which felt a bit strange – my current training goal had vaporised and rather than throw in the training towel, it was time to regroup and decide on some other events. I decided to turn my focus towards doing a few criterium races, the best one being a handicap effort with my club, University of Queensland. Unfortunately that one was cut short by an inopportune crash. Last weekend I got to test my mettle out doing the Queensland State Crit Championships, which in hindsight, was one of the strangest races I have ever done. All eyes were on my training partner, Nicky, and it was almost impossible trying to create a break with some strong triathlete types in the mix. Thus the pace slowed to a paltry 29km/hr and it came down to a bunch sprint at the finish. I came fifth but felt like I hadn’t really got my money’s worth actually racing, which made me feel cranky.
However, these feelings quickly dissipated on arriving home to hear the news that my fellow co-worker and friend, Stephi, had passed away after a short battle with cancer. When I lived in the Hunter Valley many years ago, Stephi and I were great mates – we would travel to Les Mills launches and Stephi, being a perfectionist, would delight in telling me that I had my choreography wrong (again!). This wasn’t an unusual occurrence for me and I’d tell her, “Stephi, this is Liz Mills, not Les Mills!” and we’d dissolve into laughter. We had many a getaway trip to Sydney as well, where we would take the littlest Lucy, and live it up at the shops. Or we’d spend the afternoon sitting in her above ground pool, lamenting the Singleton heat. Being cranky about something as insignificant as a criterium race seemed to be the wrong response. Instead, I resolved to dedicate my next day’s ride, the Ipswich 160, to her memory, and to ride the distance as fearlessly as possible as a mark of respect, and a reminder to live life to the fullest.
It turned out to be a great ride – I started with a big bunch, which became splintered over the first climb of the day, Mt Walker, a two kilometre effort. After the Warrill View rest stop, I lost my group and had to work by myself for about ten kilometres. Luckily a bunch of three men rode past me and invited me to jump on the back. As it is much easier to ride in a group, than solo, we managed to pick up several riders on the way to Kalbar. Once at Kalbar, we headed towards Mt Alford, which is an undulating effort. We started with twenty riders and as I thought that these hills were the Kalbar “dirty dozen”, I attacked them with vigour, and upon reaching the top of Mt Alford, there were only two of us left. The climb was worth it for the fantastic descent down the other side and at the base of the hill, I picked up another group and glory alleluia – a tailwind all the way to Boonah! The combination of riding in a bunch with some strong men and a tailwind made me feel like I was the most awesome cyclist in the world – as the twenty kilometre journey seemed to take no time at all.
Once in Boonah, I needed to stop, refill bidons, and eat. I have been on the testing process of how many carbs can I cram in an hour at a good pace. Thus I rolled, figuratively, and literally, out of Boonah, replete with bananas and Powerade and started creeping up the Hoya Hill. Having a 25 gear instead of my usual 28 wasn’t helping either. It was then a gentleman started riding with me, telling me, “I don’t mean to be patronising, but I’ll ride with you and help you”. I can never understand why some men in particular really believe that women are the weaker sex, especially in scenarios where endurance is required. I decided to cheerfully ignore him, maintaining my creep up the hill. It conspired that I was going to need the time to digest those bananas as it was now that I was encountering the Kalbar “Dirty Dozen” – lots of horrid rolling hills – but not rolling enough that you can roll over them (sorry for the multiple “rolls”). Only there were more than a dozen – and they hurt!
I was lucky enough to chance upon a fellow UQCC member, Mark, and we combined forces to knock out the last forty kilometres of the race, swapping turns and generally encouraging the other when they were tired. Is it wrong to say that I was happy to blow past Mr “I don’t mean to patronise you” about 25km from the finish line? Finally, we arrived at our destination. I was thrilled by my time – five and a half hours to knock out just under 170km. I think Stephi would have been smiling down at me from heaven for that effort.
Back to training hard for another week – I do set little mini goals (such as beating my time on a “Strava” segment), but have yet to chance upon the next “big thing”. Hope everyone has a happy week.