Three Peaks Challenge – Six weeks to go! (the canine edition)

Six weeks to go? I can’t quite believe it! In some ways I can’t wait for the date to be here and in other ways, I’m happy to wait because I am enjoying the training and the challenge of pushing myself both mentally and physically. This week’s theme is “old dog learns new tricks”. Why the dog theme? The story behind that is a talk that Coach Liz went to. It was run by a well known sports psychologist who was discussing managing nerves around big events, specifically managing the anxiety one can feel about being nervous. For example, “I’m nervous about this ride. I shouldn’t be nervous! Now that I’m nervous I’m going to muck it up! I’m now anxious that I am feeling uptight!” Hopefully you can see the familiar picture that’s been drawn here – for some elite athletes it becomes “choking”. We all hear about this in the media, and journalists are quick to blame an athlete doing poorly on choking as well. A strategy to deal with the nerves involves acknowledging their presence (i.e. giving yourself permission to be nervous), yet focusing on the task at hand anyway. Liz likened it to having wild dogs around you baying in the background – you are aware of the dogs’ presence yet you keep doing what you have to do.

When it came to doing Mt Nebo and Mt Glorious on Australia Day with Liz, Nicky, Cherie, Gary and Mark, I was feeling nervous. One “technique”, if I could call it that, involves verbalising what I’m scared of – the “name it to tame it” approach. I told Liz that I was apprehensive about Nebo, and she told me about her seminar experience and suggested that my dogs were probably out and about. I mulled over this all the way out to the base of the hill and when Liz signalled for Nicky to start her effort, I didn’t hesitate to try and chase both her and Mark up that first hill. After that, the dogs became very quiet. I flipped my Garmin screen towards average power and focused on holding functional threshold power, plus a little bit for all of the efforts up the mountain. Upon my arrival, I was stunned to see my previous best time up the entire Nebo route obliterated by three minutes! What a moment! I didn’t have much time to appreciate it as it was straight onto Glorious, a pitstop at the Malala cafe and back home. We had regrouped by that stage and I was surprised to find that trying to hang onto Liz and Nicky’s wheels was fractionally easier than it had been last time. Plus Mark was also being a great encouragement as we jammed it down Glorious and back up the hill to Nebo. I was thrilled to see personal records set all the way up Nebo – they have been a long time coming – my previous bests happened in 2013!

The dogs were still baying on Sunday, as Liz, Nicky, Anne and myself drove to Oxenford to tackle the monster that is Mt Tamborine. There are several approaches to Tamborine, and this particular climb was filling me with dread. Deciding to tame my “dogs”, I verbalised my fear. I was surprised to hear Liz tell me that she had little doubt that I would have a problem climbing it.

“Me? Climbing that thing?” I marvelled.

However, I trust Liz implicitly, so rather than question the statement, I decided to get to work, even though the dogs were baying. The climb was tough – a one kilometre pinch, followed by three hard ramps. As I transversed the second ramp, I decided that my “nervous dogs” were going to be Dobermans – an often misunderstood breed, but top of the list for being an owner’s loyalest advocate. Once up the top, I couldn’t quite believed I had achieved it. To date, that has been the climb that has most resembled the monster that is the back of Falls Creek. After a picturesque tour of the top of Tamborine and a quick photo shop, it was down the famous Goat Track towards Canungra, where we were about to tackle the second tough climb of the day – the back side of Beechmont. I felt better heading into this climb as I knew what to expect from our experience two weeks ago. To my surprise I felt strong, yet I unfortunately managed to leave a kilometre of climbing out of my memory bank, which made the last five hundred metres very tough.

On our return back to Oxenford via Maudsland, Liz warned me about the “small puppies” that we would climb on the way home. After a tough bout of climbing, I often struggle on undulating terrain so I steeled myself mentally for the arrival of said “hill pups”. The road was rough and unforgiving and rather than lament, I decided that I would be grateful for all of the opportunities I was receiving to become that bit fitter, stronger and faster. I had a great time chasing Nicky up the hills and before we knew it, we were back in Oxenford, tired but happy.

However, there were still more kilometres on my program to do and as midday approached, the temperature rose. Anne kindly accompanied me out on a flat adventure towards Paradise Point and the Sovereign Islands. We marvelled at how the layout is similar to the “Palms” in Dubai and at the mansions, that all looked the same after awhile. We were delighted to encounter a tailwind as we turned around and I enjoyed sitting on Anne’s reliable wheel as we hit it home.

To sum it, it was another great week of training. I learned that your “fear dogs” are also your greatest advocate. We get nervous for a reason. If everything was easy, we’d never push past our perceived barriers like I did up Nebo on Thursday. Sometimes I don’t like my dogs. However, it’s how you “train” them that counts – and even though you all have your moments, you become “family”. I am grateful that I have such wonderful friends to ride with and share my journey – I am blessed beyond measure.

Looking forward to another week of training. Hope you are all enjoying the updates.

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