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Three Peaks Challenge – Nine Weeks to Go!

This week, my Three Peaks countdown moved into single digits. I concentrated on putting my foot forward, one pedal stroke at a time. After doing a record 23 hours on the bike the previous week, how well I would recover was a relative unknown. However, I’m pleased to report that I seemed to adapt well to the added load. The front end of the week, consisted of recovery riding and mid week saw the return of some undulating terrain, with a ride out to picturesque Brookfield with Liz’s group. Things got a little more serious with some Coot-tha back repeats on Thursday. Thursday’s session was hard work and I put my head down, determined to get the job done. Liz came along and kicked my butt, yelling encouragement as I attempted sprints up the mountain. It hurt like crazy, my legs and heart feeling like they’d explode, yet,it was weirdly exhilarating at the same time to be throwing caution to the wind and giving it my all! It was a real thrill when I noticed that I had recorded my fifth best time up the hill – my last “personal bests” were in 2013! Perhaps the old duck has a bit of quack left in her yet!

Friday saw me catching up with my friend Deb, who I shared a room with for my first Three Peaks Challenge in 2015. We shared some wonderful memories on that first trip and we have built up a great friendship that started with us underestimating the gradient of Tawonga Gap! Saturday? Washed out due to rain.

However, this gave me more time to think about the ride that was planned for Sunday. This ride involved heading to Canungra and riding up the back of Beechmont, onto Binna Burra, back down to Lower Beechmont and towards Nerang and then back to Canungra. Just to make sure I was going to get the requisite amount of kilometres and elevation in, I decided that a side trip to O’Reilly’s was also in order. To be frank, I was feeling a little bit daunted by the prospect of the Beechmont climb. I had remembered descending down it during my first Three Peaks preparation thinking, “it’s so steep, I’d hate to climb up this way!” In my mind, the gradient had become steep to the extreme and I wondered how I was going to cope. Luckily I had the company of Liz, Nicky and Anne to distract me from the impending task ahead! I’m pleased to say that I triumphed and at the summit of the climb we were rewarded with the most spectacular views over the Gold Coast Hinterland. Training fuel consumed, it was off to tackle Binna Burra, which has a bit of a steep pinch at the end. The rainforest canopy that closed in above us, cooling us down, was breathtaking, and it seemed that we were admiring the view from the teahouse in a matter of minutes.

The descent towards Lower Beechmont provided some laughs, undulating terrain, and some candid pictures of us frolicking in the daisies. The descent towards Nerang was perfect, long sweeping corners, accompanied by the stunning backdrop of Surfers Paradise and the sea in the foreground as we rode. Liz, Anne and Nicky decided to go for gold on the climb back up the hill. I had suddenly remembered my impending jaunt to O’Reilly’s and decided that I should go a little easier. Nicky, who is one of the best climbers in the business, swung back to accompany me up the final part of the climb, breathlessly suggesting that Liz, who is also one of the best in the business, had smashed her up the mountain. Finally, at my pace, we regrouped, and Liz commented that it was pleasant to be back to “civilised climbing”. I think I nearly fell off my bike snorting with laughter as by that stage I felt like I was suffering just a tad! Nevertheless, despite my “complaining”, I think they’re amazing, schooling girls half their age in what it takes to rock a good gradient.

After a smashing descent down the back of Beechmont which was definitely worth the climb for, we found ourselves back in Canungra, hoovering eggs on toast and milkshakes at one of the local cafes. My additional jaunt to O’Reilly’s was beginning to lose its appeal. I excused myself from what had been a delightful breakfast and looked for the sign that read “O’Reilly’s Plateau – 35km”. Immediately I found myself on a bumpy, unforgiving road. I had not even traversed two kilometres when the thought of turning back and rejoining the girls at the cafe started to feel like just the right thing to do! I thought of the road between Dinner Plain and Omeo on the Three Peaks course and how similar it was to this one. I was going to need all of the mental grit I could summon to get through it. With every steep descent, I winced, knowing that I was going to have to climb the gradient on the way home. Reaching the base of the mountain, I negotiated a couple of cattle grids and then started to wind my way up. Unfortunately the road is quite exposed and I was getting very hot. I sipped water from my bottle, wondering where I could stop for a refill, as inevitably in the heat, I was going to run dry.

The actual climb reminded me of the poem, “Up-Hill”, by Christina Rossetti:

“Does the road wind up-hill all the way?
Yes, to the very end.
Will the day’s journey take the whole long day?
From morn to night, my friend”.

Twenty kilometres had passed and the water situation wasn’t looking good. Lots of drivers were passing me probably thinking, “annoying cyclist”, whilst I was puffing out my chest and thinking, “intrepid adventurer”! I managed to stop a very friendly milkman, who advised me that the Alpaca farm was “around the corner” and that I could source water there. I was sorely disappointed to find that the Alpaca farm had closed for the holidays and I thought to myself, “I’ll Alpaca more water next time!” (I’m always up for a good “Dad” joke). In the meantime, I had entered the rainforest canopy and it was beautifully cool, so I thought I’d explore a few final kilometres before turning towards home and calling it a day. Once back in Canungra, I rewarded myself with another vanilla milkshake and a fruit bun as per Peter’s (dietitian) recommendation. It was great to feel just tired, rather than hungry and tired. I had done it – 150km and nearly 3000m elevation! With each climb that I achieve, my confidence continues to grow so that I’m believing I’ll be able to complete the ride within the cut off period of 13 hours. This week brings the focus back to long endurance and I’m looking forward to reporting back next week on that!

Here’s to a happy week for all!

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