So far this year my focus has been on building a good base level of fitness (after the decimation that was 2012) and not getting sick. So far, so good! It was looking dicey for a little while there but sensibly I took time off the bike and missed some training rather than running myself down to the point of needing two weeks of bed rest! See, an old dog can learn new tricks...
Racing wise, its been pretty quiet - I showed up for the Rocky Trail 100km but entered in the 100 mile version on the Sheep - I figured it would be a good test to see how I'd go riding 100 miles on a single speed.
Well, in the leadup it was revealed that the course was going to be more like 130km rather than the 160. It seems like madness now but I was a bit disappointed...
The short version is that this race taught me a lot:
- The sheep is a lot of fun in single track;
- I have the legs;
- There's no amount of frame flex that compensates for suspension around Stromlo; and
- No amount of light is going to help me punt a rigid bike downhill at pace!
I ended up completing 3 of the 5 laps... the legs and body were fine but my hands were not good. Must not wear new gloves! The combination of that and the lack of suspension meant that even my blisters have blisters... Might need to think about this if I plan to race the WEMBO world 24hr Solo Champs on the thing later this year.
Last weekend we had a birthday party for a friend in the Hunter Valley... I managed to get out on my new fatbike for a couple of hours on Saturday but the main event was going to be riding back home. So I set my trusty GPS and off I went...
Note... must ensure that auto routing is set to be road biased rather than dirt biased when I do this on the crosser. Not that the Great North Walk wasn't fun but really, when you have more than 170 km to ride carrying your bike on your shoulder over rock isn't the easiest way to start. Just as well I wasn't able to get those slicks fitted!
Still a decent ride though - more than 180km on cross tyres takes some time!
This weekend the plan was to go out and get some practice at doing some long back to back rides. I booked myself into a flophouse hotel so I could get out nice and early and put in a long couple of days in the saddle. My intention was to ride out from Lithgow to Hill-End via Sunny Corner and then back via Capertee. I've done (almost) all of this ride before but never strung it together. All up it was planned to be a 320km, 6000VM weekend. Just as well I was packing snacks!
Now, those on Australia's Eastern Seaboard will know that the weather lately has not been conducive to outdoor adventures. This weekend proved to be no exception - the evening news was full of tales of the flooding that was affecting the Central Coast of NSW. But hey, the flooding was all the North East and I was planning to ride South West... surely it would be ok?
Well. My alarm went off at 5am and I lay in bed listening to the sound of rain on the roof. Not what you want to hear when you are planning to ride for 15+ hours! The urge to cancel was almost overwhelming but I convinced myself that I was going and rolled out into the night and the rain. Yup. Fun.
But hey, once you're wet... you're wet!
The rain pretty much stayed with me all day - mostly it was light mist but every now and again I get drenched. Of course for the brief non-rainy periods is was so humid that it may as well been raining!
I made pretty good time and got into Sofala at about 10:30 but didn't take the time to hang around and after a quick Bacon and Egg roll (and choccy milk!) I was off again.
This was the stretch I hadn't done before. The direct road to Hill End from Sofala is pretty quick but I really wanted to ride the Bridal Track again so the plan was to take a turn off towards Bathurst and cut across the ridge line and join the track about 2/3 of the way along. I'd mapped out a route to follow and it all looked pretty reasonable... well apart from the 1000m high ridge to get over!
The first thing I noticed was that I was following a Garmin route and for some reason the GPS kept trying to direct me onto different roads. Annoying! I ignored its suggestions and followed the path I had set. After a couple of hours following an amazingly desolate (in a so scenic it hurts kind of way) road I eventually found the path taking me through a 'No trespassing' sign. Bugger... down to my last water bottle and a half of water I made the decision that I would push on.
The track passed close by to a couple of farm buildings but they were all deserted (and seemed to have been for some time). The track I was following was mostly just faint 4wd tracks in the grass but there was enough there to follow and especially with the GPS there to help! Mostly though I was just trying to keep my head down and get off the private land as soon as possible!
With less than 4km to go to the Bridal Track intersection I arrived at a locked gate... very rusty and corroded sign... very new and shiny looking lock. Not good. By now I had come too far to turn back and lifted the bike over the fence and continued (tales of mountain meth labs and their unfriendly operators ringing in my ears).
Now why is it that you find the best tracks just where you're not supposed to be?This last 3km of trail was magic - steep, rocky and technical - not perhaps the best thing to be riding on your own on a loaded bike but still awesome. There were a bunch of houses at the intersection of the bridal track but again - deserted. I've put up the Strava file from this trip but would not recommend the route I took - besides this bypasses the best section (the road cut into the side of the mountain) of the Bridal Track anyway!
From there the only thing left to do was get up Hawkins Hill - this a good 3km+ 10% or so climb... Maybe do-able if you're fresh but not after 150km or so...
It was a tired and hungry rider that eventually pulled into Bathurst around 11 hours after leaving Lithgow. I was actually feeling pretty good so after a couple of packets of chips and 2 cans of coke I refilled my bottles and Camelbak and decided to head back to Sofala. After all, as John Stamstad has been reputed to say... of the weather is crap, you're already wet so may as well keep riding (of course he's also been known to say that never waste good weather... are you seeing a pattern?).
The pub looked to be going off though - lots of 4wd drive groups chased out of the campgrounds by the rain no doubt.
Now, for TDR I'm planning to use a dynamo setup to run both lights and a charger for USB devices - I've used this setup on a few longer rides now (including Southern Brevet) and it works a treat. But this time I had a fail - the lights worked perfectly but I no reliable charging. Bugger.
Now, luckily I managed to borrow a USB charger from the publican and had my Garmin charging behind the bar, It was still charging when I finished dinner so the publican agreed that he'd leave it in the lounge when he locked up for the night. Yeah.... well that didn't happen.
By the time I got away it was closer to 9:30... oh well... at least I got a sleep in.
The plan for the second day was to retrace some of my route and then head up to Capertee via Turon Gates. This is a really great ride - scenic, some killer downhill... oh and of course a MONSTER climb. While my legs were feeling pretty good I discovered that I just didn't have the top end to keep the pedals turning up anything too steep. This is one of the great things about single speeding - theres no shame in walking!
The 40km to Capertee took me the better part of three hours. I was still feeling ok (and making sure that I was eating more consistently than the day before) but at this rate the 60km back to Lithgow was going to take me another 4 hours and by the time I drove home it would be getting late so I decided to just shortcut it and head back along the highway. Just what every single speeder loves... although I did make the top 10 on the strava segments on the way back!
So all up it was a fairly solid weekend - 270+ km and more than 6600m of climbing and added to this was the diabolical weather. Each trip is a learning experience and I got a fair bit out of this one. Even on this ride I found that I was forgetting to eat and when I did eat, trail food isn't the same as a packaged energy bar - it takes a while to digest so it takes a while from 'I feel low and need to eat' and 'I feel better'.
Coming up is a 150km weekend with City Bike Depot, a 380km event on the Great Dividing Trail in Victoria and not to mention the Mawson ride I'm organising... I reckon by June I might be just about set!