If you have been riding with SPR since last year, you might have read my blog entry on three peaks challenge. I tasted the bitterness of not completing this epic event last year. 2015 is a different year. On Sunday 8 March 2015, I went back and completed the challenge within 11 hours.
Here is my story:
I was determined to complete the 2015 three peaks challenge so I signed up on the first day when the registration was open in May 14. Around the same time, I also got myself a coach (Mr Awesome Toby Brown!). I knew what I had signed up for. The next 10 months would not be easy. From learning what my lactate threshold is up to improving my leg strength. The training itself was also challenging and required serious dedications and discipline from you: time on the bike, following your training program, watching your nutrition and taking into account time off the bike from accidents or personal circumstances.
The fruits from the training I had gone through since May 14 showed gradually but the peak was around one month prior to the event itself. My ride statistics had shown that I was on track for the challenge but only on the event day will tell whether your hard work has paid off.
The ride on 8 March 2015
So it was early morning at 5 am sorting myself for the ride. I lined up at the start line at 625 am on Wave 2 group – expected time completion between 9-10 hours. The vibe was really fantastic that morning. Weather forecast looked good (sunny low chance of rain) and I felt great ready to tackle those climbs! It was also freezing cold at 5 degrees and I was getting impatience to pedal my bike! I was eventually off at approximately 655 am.
This was the route of the day:
The first challenge was to descent as quickly as possible from Falls Creek to Mt Beauty and not to get involved in crashes. I concentrated too much to get going, I forgot to start my garmin! Haha! I also was not comfortable descending in cold. My body shivered all the way down. It was difficult to handle your bike when you were shaking due to cold. I had worn thick clothes but they were not enough. I was relieved when I saw a flat road ahead to the first climb of the day: Tawonga Gap.
The road along Tawonga Gap is undulation with average 4% elevation. It is similar to Mundaring Weir Road but with so many turns and of course, better view!
So what I did differently this year was that I had a timeline on where I should be throughout the day. My first target was to be at Harrietville stop by 925 am if I wanted to finish within subdue 10 hours. I watched the clock closely on the first climb. I completed Tawonga Gap within 33 minutes and continued riding with a bunch to Germantown and Harrietville. It was 915 am when I got off my bike to refuel. I was like “yes Laurensia you are on track!” I hit the road again by 920 am.
Next climb was Mt Hotham. It has undulation road with three major climbs at average 10% elevation. As long as your eyes could see, there were only trees and long road. The challenge was riding three significant climbs with average elevation of 10% (imagine the steepest part of Mount Street) with a total distance of 4.9 kms. I saw few people got off their bikes and started walking. It was brutal and I felt terrible for them. Just think about it. We are on the second major climb but you’ve started walking. How about the next one at the back of the Falls? You will know why in a second.
I completed Mt Hotham climb within 2 hours 13 minutes and continued my journey to Dinner Plain, the lunch stop. I arrived at 12 pm. I was late for the 10 hours schedule. I moved as quickly as possible. Filled up water, grabbed lunch, munching my lunch while sorting the valet (getting off some extra clothes, refilling your back pockets). By 1215 pm I was on my way to Omeo. I decided not to get comfortable (sitting down and rest). It would be harder to get back on my bike and time was ticking.
Final climb: WTF corner and the back of the Falls
For the rest of the day, I struggled. I was nausea from the food (mainly from gels – highly not recommended) I had. Fatigue was also creeping up my legs. I also experienced sharp pain on my right knee. It was a torture to keep on pedaling!! It didnt help either when the sun was also on your face. I was not comfortable but I had to keep going. I struggled to feed myself but I knew I had to eat.
On the plus side, the route from Omeo to Anglers Rest was really great, majority flat with turns. I managed to work together with two gentlemen. I was happy to see the rest stop at Anglers Rest.
I took my time on this stop considering on what I was about to go through next – WTF corner and the back of the falls. At this stage, I felt really discouraged. I was not convinced I could go through the last climb considering I felt nausea and it was not getting any better.
11 kms to the WTF corner was slow. I thought “just get it over and done with it Laurensia. There is no easy way out of this unless to do it”. Yes, I was preparing myself for the worse. Without me realising it, I was at the “corner”. Here is the picture:
It is a left turn and you could see the next turn ahead. I was then faced with a steep road and yes I had my “WTF” moment. “Oh my dear God, this is going to be a long day”, I thought. I crawled through the corner and the back of the Falls with average speed of 10 kms/hr on my last gear and between 45 to 55 rpm. As I continued slowly, the vibe was demoralising. I could see some people “crushed” on the side of the road. Some dragged their bikes on this climb. It was not pretty. I could only drop few words of encouragements on most people. I felt sorry for them.
The best way to describe the climb is to imagine Malcolm Street. From the bottom, you can see the top and you know it is quite a short climb. You tend to get off your saddle nearly the top and have a rest. With the back of the falls, the road is similar to Malcom Street but it keeps on repeating for about 10 kms. You wish you could see the end but it keeps on going.
At the final stop (called “Trapyard Gap” – I agree with this name after 10 kms of suffering!), I met the 11 hours ride leaders from Bicycle Network. Gosh I could get my time below 11 hours!!! This was what kept me going on the last undulation 15 kms. So I went off and kept steady pace.
I felt very emotional nearly the end of my ride. It had been a long journey. I crossed the finish line and I was handed the race result: 10 hours 59 minutes and 3 seconds. Yes, I completed the three peaks challenge.
My fellow rouleurs, I highly recommend this event. You should include this event as part of your “to do list”. The journey towards the event itself is rewarding. I agree that it will be a hell in a day but with proper planning and training, you will complete this challenge. It does not matter whether you are a climber or not, just do it! Also, show the Victorians that although there is no mountain in Western Australia, we, South Perth Rouleurs, can conquer those mountains.
There are two peaks challenges coming up: Gold Coast and Tasmania. I intend to conquer Cradle Mountain in Tasmania. I hope to see more SPR riders at this challenge.
Lastly, I cannot name each of you here but you know who you are. Thank you for all messages and supports I received leading up to the event. Your words of encouragement have brought me where I am today.
Thank you again coach Mr Toby Brown for the work you have done. It is a team work and this wouldn’t happen without you.
Thank you Mr Jay Richardson for dealing with me, my bike and especially coming with me and experience the hell together.