Only five weeks to go until the Peaks Challenge and this week’s theme revolves around, “I get by, with a little help from my friends”. After my mental dog training ride to Mt Tamborine and Beechmont, it was time to face the new week with some strength endurance tempo training on Tuesday, and a session on Mt Gravatt with the triathletes on Wednesday. Thursday also involved tempo training, and by Friday, it was definitely time for a sleep in! It was time to start mentally and physically preparing for Sunday’s monster ride, the Cam’s Cycle Coaching “Peaks Challenge Test Ride”. Cameron Hughes runs a comprehensive Peaks Challenge program, which includes some very tough training rides. Every year he runs what he calls a “test ride” – a ride that mirrors the Peaks Challenge in terms of duration, road conditions and elevation. I had participated in some of Cam’s rides before my first Peaks Challenge, unaware that my then undiagnosed full hamstring rupture was contributing to my inability to go the full distance on many of the rides.
Thus I had no expectations of actually making the distance yesterday. My game plan was to turn up and complete as much of the ride as I could before the intense heat or the sun setting ended proceedings. The prospect of riding 225km and 4000 plus metres of elevation as a training ride seemed so surreal that the thought of being nervous about it seemed like a waste of time.
We met at the Upper Beechmont Hall just before 5.30am. I had underestimated the time it would take to travel to Beechmont from home, so I started the ride with that uncomfortable feeling of being late, and therefore ill prepared. I stuffed my ride nutrition into my pockets, slapped on some sunscreen and took off towards Lower Beechmont with my group (the 11.5-12.5 hour finishers). Starting with a descent reminded me of Three Peaks and completing the first twenty or so kilometres with ease made it hard not to be overconfident about the next 200km. We were to stay together as a group until we reached the first climb of the day, Springbrook. Surprised to be feeling quite fresh, I felt like I danced up that climb like a springy little pony. I met fellow group rider, Michael, at the top of Springbrook and we had a fantastic time gunning it down the Springbrook descent, which is fast and furious. Together, we tackled the five lumpy hills on the road back to Advancetown. It soon became quite obvious that Michael was the stronger of the two of us and when we finally reached the Beechmont turn off, he climbed away from me and I continued to chug up at my own, slower pace. By this stage it was about 9am and as I transversed my way up the hill, the temperature was beginning to rise.
The Upper Beechmont Hall was a welcome sight as I refilled empty water bottles, drank 750ml of Gatorade in less than a minute, applied more sunscreen and UV protection sleeves. I had been advised by Peter, my sports dietitian, to work on getting enough carbohydrate into me to cope with the demands of the ride, however I’m sure my gut isn’t used to consuming so much carbohydrate in such a short period of time. I set my timer on my Garmin so I could keep an eye on my feeding times and then set off towards Binna Burra. Along the way, two riders, Tuan and Paul, passed me. However, my alter ego, “Pierre-Pierre, wheel sucker (you need to pronounce it “wheel suckaiiiirrre” for full impact), decided to make a showing, so I inched my way up so that I was sitting on Paul’s back wheel and we made our way up Binna Burra and then across Beechmont and to Canungra, rolling turns and managing to pick Michael back up along the way. Cam’s wife, Sheree, was also with us, which meant that we had a group of six of us heading out to O’Reillys together, rather than just myself.
The road to O’Reillys would have to be one of the most unforgiving I have ever ridden. It’s an energy sapping ride to the base of the climb, in full sun. It was now midday, and I looked longingly towards Canungra’s Outpost Cafe, where I knew some of my teammates from Koiled were having lunch after finishing their ride. At this point, there was a fair bit of mental rot starting to sink into my psyche. At Canungra, there had been murmurs of riders that were behind me being turned around and I wondered when it was my turn. At this stage, I couldn’t fathom the idea of climbing O’Reillys and then tackling the back of Beechmont. In the 37 degree heat, it seemed impossible. I forced down some chomps, and some electrolytes, my stomach howling in protest. If you were ever wondering how you could quit sugar, this would be the ideal situation to find yourself in. However, I know how important keeping up carbohydrate intake is, so I pressed on. For the duration of the thirty kilometre climb, I made deals with myself about how I only had to reach the Alpaca farm or do one more winding corner before I could stop and rest. Again my timer came in handy as I stopped every forty five minutes to consume carbohydrates and water. On one particularly horrible corner, I saw some blue chalk on the road. “Gooooo Liz!!!!!!” it read. My Shebeast teammates knew I would be suffering and had left me a message of encouragement. It was just the tonic I needed to lift and press on. Further down the road – our war cry – “#shebeasts are real”. I thought of my team mates who had been there a few hours back – Brooke, Vickie and Tanya. Brooke and Vickie fit in training at the oddest hours around their families, and Tanya, who prefers crit racing, was testing her mettle on climbing.
“Despite our challenges,” I thought, “Shebeasts are real – and Shebeasts are the first to support their fellow rider, no matter what their preferred riding style is”. I visualised telling them all that I was back and that my “crabs were smashed”. I also received texts from Anne, Nicky and Liz – all encouraging me at different points of the ride.
Finally, the Alpaca farm loomed. It was time to refill my bottles and buy a Diet Coke. However, my mind was changed by the store worker who told me I was nuts for drinking Diet Coke and that “full strength” was the only way to go. Shall we say, I knocked it off at record speed and then one of Cam’s volunteer cars turned up. They had ice, and loads of it, which I stuffed down my jersey in an attempt to lower my body temperature. Feeling cooler and more energetic, it felt like I reached the O’Reillys turn around point in record time.
The O’Reillys turning point for me, signalled not just a physical change in the terrain from ascent to descent, but a mental shift. It was at this point that I knew I would climb the back of Beechmont and finish the ride. I had my Garmin switched to average power and the timer and I couldn’t see the distance that I had travelled. I decided not to peek until I made it to Beechmont Hall. To ascend the back of Beechmont I decided to play a game with myself. It would be a good way of distracting myself from the pain. My goal was to keep my average power at the low end of my tempo range, thus ensuring that there would be no chance of me blowing up. Despite the distraction, it was tough and there were several points where I wondered whether I should give up and walk. However, I reminded myself that I was physically in good shape and using good technique and that there was no need. A text from Liz at that oh-so-hard 300m to go point gave me a bit of a giggle and welcome distraction. How did she know to send a message of support just when I needed it the most?
Rolling in eleven and a half hours after we started was a delightful experience. I switched my Garmin screens so the distance ridden was displayed! 220km and 4200m elevation! The enormity of the ride still hasn’t sunk in, but I’m immensely proud of myself for completing it. That said, it was the support of my friends that made all the difference yesterday and I am humbled and grateful.
See you all next week for the four week countdown!