Buoyed by the success of last week, I decided on a whim to enter the Robbie McEwen Gran Fondo, which is held annually on the Gold Coast. There are three rides to choose from – a 50km Piccolo, 110 km Sportive and a 145km Gran Fondo. I chose the Sportive, on the promise that it was undulating, rather than hilly (there’s a nasty climb up the back of Beechmont) and only 110km – as this was going to be my first 100km post surgery.
I was very fortunate that fellow Coach Liz ladies, Anne and Elaine were also heading down to have a crack at the big one, so at the ungodly hour of 04300am, I picked up Anne and we headed towards the meeting point at Nerang. I was feeling extremely smug, having organised my water bottles, Nuun, and packed some Weet bix and milk for breakfast – to eat just before the ride. We even gave ourselves kudos for taking a bathroom stop at a service station pre event.
Then to my horror, I discovered that not only had I left my lovingly prepared water bottles on the kitchen table, I’d also left my Weetbix behind too. 110km on an empty stomach with no water? Wasn’t looking promising.
Luckily I had bought one of those Chobani oat and yoghurt squeezie things and I downed that quickly and decided to pick up water at the feed station that was provided as it was still quite cool.
Anne and Elaine rolled off first and soon we were called to leave. I rolled out feeling confident and within about a kilometre, suddenly a hill appeared – with a nasty 10% incline according to Mr Strava. Ouch! I willed myself to keep pushing myself up there and prayed that my leg would stay intact. Completely fatigued at the top, I wondered how I was going to do 100 plus kilometres when I was dying after less than two.
I allowed myself some time to settle down – find a comfortable gear, allow my cadence to float up a little. As I warmed up, I noticed that I was starting to close some of the gaps between other participants and myself. Internally I started to set little mini targets, reach this lady, pass this gentleman – and suddenly I began to feel better.
Inspired by my Koiled teammates who were all competing at the National Masters Road Championships that I missed out on due to injury, I decided to try and treat the ride like a mini road race – attack the climbs, jump onto passing wheels, use various bunches and to just keep pushing on as hard as I could.
I was able to start a rolling paceline at the 40km mark which kept going right until we hit the feed station. I was grateful to Clem, from Logan Cycling Club, who loaned me a water bottle and with a few big slugs of fluid and a handful of killer pythons, I was back on the road again, albeit without a paceline or a peleton – I was on my own. I did team up with two gentleman from the Sunshine Coast for a short while, then one of them had to stop with a puncture, so I climbed towards Beechmont on my own and did the final Nerang – Gilston – Nerang circuit by myself. I was rapt to roll into Nerang in just over three and a half hours.
After my initial hill shock, the course did turn out to be undulating, rather than hilly, much to my relief. Riding around the Gold Coast hinterland is always picturesque and provided I’m strong enough, I might even consider doing that killer Beechmont climb in the 145km event.
The best part of course, was catching up with the other girls post ride and sharing ride experiences and “war stories”. Another reason why it’s life experiences rather than things that make lasting memories.