Three Peaks 2018

Road cycling & upcoming rides
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Postby Dougie » 13 Mar 2018, 14:38

Three Peaks 2018

You know, there exists in this world a small sub set of humans whom enjoy the proclivities that only few others share. Imagine the ad in the “Personals” section reads something like this.

Mistress Fjäll seeks sub. Enjoys wearing restrictive and figure hugging clothing for extended periods. Suffering and ritual humiliation for 12 hours. Double teaming with Mistress Tawonga and Mistress Hotham. Later, when you completely spent Mistress WTF will smack you in the face will a baseball bat. Your private places will be pounded for hours on end without respite. This experience will cost you $700. Apply online.

Shut up and take my money!

I signed up again. I needed a tough goal, one that I couldn’t shy away from. One that needed significant commitment. One that required training and discipline. I achieved the “sign up” part. One out of three isn’t too bad I thought. What could possibly go wrong?

In the lead up to the event I did a bit of training. I left some chips on the plate and bought larger kit. My goal was to lose ten kilos, I lost five. Ride twelve hundred kilometres per month for six months, I averaged about eight hundred. Ride outside a lot, I mastered Zwift. The best laid plans often go astray I am assured. Taking a look at what I thought was my current form and measuring it against my two previous attempts lead me to believe that my time would fall somewhere in between my thirteen hours of the first attempt and the eleven and a half on the second go. Throwing in a little insurance, twelve hours fifty-nine minutes and fifty-nine seconds was realistic.

I shared the driving with Tim Stephens to Falls Creek. An erudite, highly educated and delightful travelling companion. The hours to Chorki Ski lodge flew past. Chorki is well setup and DHBC made its presence felt immediately. With three rooms and eight occupants there wasn’t much of the lodge that didn’t look like we hadn’t annexed as new Club Rooms. Other Clubmates whom had secured accommodation in Falls dropped in for a visit swelling our numbers. As far as I could see we were the most numbered Cycling Club at the event.

Saturday saw some of the old hands escort our newer riders to Mt Cope and back. A nice 30-kilometre ride. “We are saving ourselves” was the cry. Damien Walker and I rode to Trapyard Gap and back. Both of us setting PR’s. Damien wanted a Sub 10 hour ride the following day. Me, I wanted some donuts. Motivation does come in many different forms.

Post the rider briefing the atmosphere in the lodge was definitely electric. We were split, those whom had faced the beast and those yet to look doom in the eye. I slept soundly, other not so much. Most enjoyed a hearty last meal, I considered eating danger for breakfast. Demurring, I had oats instead.

At the start line there was a pungent odour of chamois crème and nervous energy in the air. Garmins beeping, lights flashing, last minute nature breaks and partners kissing, possibly for the last time, their significant others goodbye. I stood with Phil Steer and Paul Weaver. Both the lads were bundles of enthusiasm. I for one was glad that that type of behaviour wasn’t contagious. Heaven forbid one having a good time.

We rolled over the Start line at exactly seven am. I had until eight pm to get back under my own steam. The weather was pleasantly mild, decided to fore go the rain jacket and long gloves opting for just the gilet and a fetching pair of blue surgical gloves. I am not sure of the gloves helped the ward off the cold, but I did feel quite sterile. Descended slowly, actually very slowly. Whilst I like to take my time I think I appeared to take other people’s time as well. Perhaps I was confident in the knowledge that I was destined spend the rest of the day keeping myself amused took the pressure off me to push through the corners. Then again, perhaps I was just being lazy.

I horsed the bike around the corner at Mt Beauty and onto the Tawonga Gap climb. Up popped the live segment on my Garmin. Within a few pedal strokes I was ten seconds behind my previous time. The higher I climbed and the wider the deficit grew. The descent to Germantown was quick and pleasingly uneventful. This year I didn’t happen across any bodies strewn across the road or hapless riders in the ditch. Well done everyone! Phil Steer rolled up behind me. He was looking fit and bright eyed. We cobbled together a small bunch and pushed hard towards Harrietville. I shouted a few instructions (I call them words of encouragement) to our companions but ended up driving the pace. I took a few turns that I felt would come back to bite me later, but so be it. We are here for a long day, not a good day.

Harrietville was a brief stop. Fuel, liquids and out of there. I felt the temperature already climbing. I had consumed a fair bit of water already and this was certainly a sign of what was to come. Phil climbed a bit quicker than me and then eased off. I figured if he was going to be twenty metres in front of me for the next two hours I may as well drop the hammer and close the gap. We enjoyed the scenery and the following two hours with staccato bursts of conversation punctured by some sweary parts as the road pitched upwards. Phil dropped me like a school case on the last few kilometres of Mt Hotham. He looked super fit, I wished him well and hoped to see him at the finish. John Carter caught me at the Lion’s Gate water stop. We exchanged pleasantries and I got in with the task at hand. I rolled over the top of Mt Hotham without fanfare. It would be nice for something to mark the achievement other than a couple of fat blokes pushing their bikes up the last incline and a windblown photographer.

I rolled into Dinnerplain delighted to see John Hatt, Phil Steer and Joel Waters all under a Marquee eating lunch. I scoffed some food, filled my bottles and was ready to roll out with them. Their company eased my quivering bottom lip. We moved at a fair clip. Somewhere early in the piece Joel dropped off the back. Perhaps he had flatted, I wasn’t really sure. I came to understand that he’d put in a mammoth effort but cramping had got to his style and he was destined to make Three Peaks 2019 a goal for next year.

The two other boys descended like stones. I was far timider in my approach. Omeo seemed like a long way off when you are alone. Having said that I felt fine. I knew that the ride really starts at Omeo and that everything before is just a warm up. I arrived at Omeo as John and Phil were in the process of leaving. Again, seeing Clubmates is a wonderful motivator to get the job done. I caught up with Phil on the “Sneaky Peak”. It was pretty hot by this time and maybe it took him by surprise. I was feeling marginally better than Phil and he sat on my wheel to Anglers Rest. I thought perhaps that if I offered him my wheel to the bottom of WTF then he could do whatever he needed to do to get to the finish. I know how important it is to get the jersey when you have come this far. With a handful of confectionary from “Dinner Plate Hatt”, Phil soldiered on to Trapyard Gap.

For me it was another story. My feet were on fire. The rest of me felt reasonable enough to carry on. I got halfway up the second ramp and stepped off. I haven’t ever stepped off so soon, nor walked so far. It was horrible. More horrible than I recall. WTF seemed steeper on the steep parts and shallower on the shallower parts and just plain longer! I either need to lose ten more kilos or get a 40-tooth sprocket. It’s just not worth doing ever again without them.

At Trapyard a chap handed me a coke. I really didn’t want it but telling him to jam it up his mountain pass seemed to contradict the spirit of things. I took a healthy gup, contemplated why coke was coming out my nose and spotted Phil whom was ready to leave for his last push to home. I told Phil to go and go hard. If he didn’t dilly dally he might even snaffle a finish time with an eleven in the front. To his credit he looked at me and saw a fellow sufferer. He words were “we’ve come this far. We’ll finished together or not at all.” He may have said something else, but that was what I heard. For the next hour and a quarter, the twenty-three kilometres to Falls ticked by with him pulling all the way. What a bloody trooper!

Phil and I rolled across the line together. Phil got this finishers’ ticket and I got yet another ill-fitting jersey. Well done to all my Clubmates! Sometimes it’s not about the destination, sometimes it’s about the journey. I am NEVER EVER doing this again, until next time.

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Postby Timbo » 13 Mar 2018, 16:03

Douglas is a very hard act to follow, but here's my report on Peaks Challenge Falls Creek 2018:

I signed up for PCFC back in October when my best mate from school said it was a ride to remember for a lifetime. From that day on I knew I had to do more riding than I’d ever done before. The solo training was often monotonous but the highlights were rides with fellow DHBC members in the Southern Highlands and the Gorges. Special days. As for the ride itself...what a beast. I really had no idea what I was in for.

I was a bundle of nerves on the drive down with Douglas Kirkham, and asked the Peaks veteran dozens of questions, such as, ‘will I actually live through it?’. On the Saturday the apprehension only intensified, but the excitement levels were also building. We might be going over the trenches but at least we were going with our comrades, together. It was time to get this thing done.

My day on the 2018 PCFC actually started the night before because I couldn’t sleep. Not just restless. Not just tossing and turning. Nothing. No sleep. Nada. Instead it was 6 hours of podcasts (BBC’s Now Show and News Quiz) and about 2 hours of Debussy’s complete works for piano. I must have kept roommate Paul Weaver up as well with my incessant rolling around. Sorry Paul.

Then I was up and about with everyone else. Red eyed and feeling woozy from sleeping tablets that made me feel punch drunk but didn’t actually knock me out I stumbled downstairs and ate what felt like a whole kilo of oats. I thought I’d have to DNF even before the ride began but felt a bit better after breakfast. Then off to the start in the pitch black.

I lined up with David Brown, Joel Waters and John Hatt in the middle of the second wave. We waited for what seemed like ages and then we were off. Immediately my heart rate spiked to 220. Surely the Garmin’s wrong? Is it picking up some other rider nearby? Nope, it was mine. I took the descent very slowly thinking that I was having some kind of cardiac episode. When I got to the bottom I met up with Joel and we rode together to the bottom of Tawonga Gap. Thankfully my heart rate fell back to normal as soon as I started to push up the hill. I felt pretty good and started passing many of the riders who sailed past me on my tentative descent from Falls. Over the top, no stop, then a faster descent now I was reasonably confident I wouldn’t die in a ditch. I found a few riders, then the group grew, and we had a respectable bunch for some of the way to Harrietville. Looking at the 10 hour sticker on the bike I saw I was pretty much on schedule. A quick bidon top up at Harrietville then back on the road.

The next section was tough - no group to suck wheels on. Just the ocassional other rider to work with. The climb up Hotham was quite something. The start was not as difficult as I expected and I found a rhythm and was powering up. The middle flatter section was in some respects more of a challenge as many riders lifted the pace and I tried to follow as best I could. The third section when the gradient rises was definitely a hard slog and once out of the tree line and exposed to the cross winds I began to feel pretty drained. I caught up with Damien Walker and said hello. And then David Brown who was cramping badly and when I asked if I could help he said nope, on you go, I don’t want to hold you back. I was hoping for some water at the summit but nothing could be found. All that greeted us were some roadworks and a few onlookers.

The descent was fast. Scary fast. But exhaustion and determination to finish now I was over the biggest climb swept away any fears I had. Dinner Plain and lunch beckoned. Again it was mostly a solo affair but it didn’t take that long to reach the lunchstop. Bidons, valet bag, then back on the bike. 3 min stop. My wife’s homemade muesli slice for lunch on the road. Gee it tasted good after energy bars. Real food. And I also woofed down a strawberry milk. Awesome.

There was not much organisation to Omeo. Perhaps I should have sat up and waited for a bunch, but by my reckoning I was still on time for 10 hours and the mental maths said it could be done. A hot, dusty, undulating slog to Omeo. At Omeo I caught up with Dan (Stan Swiss) and we rolled out onto the shimmering hot bitumen together. We stayed side by side for some Kms, and also shared a few turns with others. But I had to let up on the pretty hard climb up from Omeo (where was the fourth peak in the ride description?). The winding road along the valley and into Anglers Rest was stunning but hot as the heat radiated off the rocks and baked the whole body.

Anglers Rest was an oasis. A verdant country garden on a clear mountain stream. What a lovely spot it would be for a nice afternoon kip. But no time for that. I was right on 10 hours but still the Bicycle Network pace riders were nowhere to be seen. I filled the bottles, then tried to ride off but couldn’t as my cleats were full of mud picked up at the water stop. I whacked the shoes on the road. Still couldn’t get it off. Then I rammed the feet as hard as I could into the pedals. Snap, snap. I’m in. I can’t get out! I tried. But who cares - I can just fall off the bike at the end I thought.

The climb up Falls from WTF corner was pretty much as I expected. I had saved the legs on Hotham so was confident I could do this. I didn’t stop at all. I just ground away at the gears, passing the carnage across the road. The cramping riders groaning, the A-graders hoping for sub 8s or 9s but who had given it all earlier in the day and were now spent. Onwards and onwards - when the hell would this ramp end? Someone near me had the Strava segment on the Garmin and yelled out 'just 1 k to go'.

At Trapyard I filled the bottles and contemplated a quick spew. But held it together for a minute or two as a bloke from Canyon bikes got me a cold Coke. It was a couple of minutes I would later regret! Back on the climb. Now I kind of knew where I was. Almost familiar country as we’d ridden almost to here on the day before.

Could I do sub 10? I kept doing the calculations but everytime it looked good another rise came and knocked the speed down. The Garmin said average speed 23.3. Close to the required 23.5 but not close enough. So I pretty much gave up the sub 10 goal. From Raspberry Hill it began to get cold and windy and I picked up the pace again. 23.4 average the computer was now saying! Maybe just maybe. I pushed it hard across the dam wall and into the village. I almost lost it as I sprinted down the hill and around the finishing corner: 10:01:36.

So very close! What a feeling to get there. Craig Williamson was on hand immediately and I lingered on the green for a while having a drink before cleaning up then returning to the finish to welcome everyone else home. It was great to share war stories as the sun set and we rose to hug and help the rest of the crew come over the line.

The emotions on the faces were very raw. This ride is no ordinary cycling event. It is quite something special. Congratulations to all my Dulwich Hill comrades - I salute you all and thank you for an amazing weekend.

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Postby jcaley » 19 Mar 2018, 12:06

great story Dougie and what a fantastic ride!

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