A Lonely 169kms

When ever I see a new challenge at Strava, I can’t help but sign up. I have been doing it long enough now to know that they usually hurt, and I only complete half of them, but I can’t stop my mouse from hovering over the challenge button and clicking.

You have a three day window from February 22nd-24th to get those 100 miles in, but it has to be done in one single ride with an elapsed time under 24 hours.

Hmm, why not. I hadn’t done a 100km ride since December 30th, let a lone a 100 mile ride. How hard can it be?

I set the alarm for 5am. The weather forecast didn’t look real flash, but I would see how the conditions looked before I set off.

5am Friday morning. I rub my eyes, sit up in bed and wonder what that noise is? I walk to the back of the house and flick the back light on, startling 2 sleeping dogs. It is tipping it down and blowing a gale. Hmm, ah well, I’ll do it another day, and went back to bed.

8am I am up again. Make breakfast for the bride. It is still pretty bleak outside, but the rain has stopped and the wind has abated. I then cast an eye over the weather for Saturday and Sunday. Shit, this doesn’t look too good. Wind and rain and thunderstorms.

Ok, it is now or never. About 3 hours later than planned, I am on the road. Having put a new set of tyres on the bike the day before, I checked to make sure they are holding air. The combo of Vittoria Rubinos and Fulcrum 5s are a bastard to match up. The tyres really take some work to get on the rims, so I was praying all was ok. Yep, still 100PSI in each. Off I go.

The plan was to ride south to Jervis bay, then back north to Nowra Hill, over that I would do a short run up Braidswood Road, just to make sure I had sufficient kms. Into Nowra for a coffee, then off to Berry via Bolong Road and the back roads. Once I hit Berry I would turn around and head home. From my rough estimates, it would be about 160kms. If I was short, I could ride around locally until I had the kilometres required.

Out along Forest Road and onto the Princes Highway. Nothing doing, riding at at a pace I should be able to maintain.

There are a couple of good down hills on the highway and things were going well. There was a bit of a sprinkle about, but not heavy rain.

Approaching a narrow bridge, I was doing about 40kph when a lunatic towing a boat decided to squeeze me into the bridge rail whilst leaning on his horn. There was nothing coming the other way, and yet he decides to put my life in danger and give me no room whilst scaring nine shades of brown out of me by hitting the horn. Why? I some how keep it upright and compose myself. Jesus.

Virtually the moment I turn onto Island Point Road, the rain hits, and hard. I have to take the glasses off to see. All the way into Vincentia it poured down rain. Luckily it wasn’t too cold.

I stopped in Vincentia to clean the glasses up and wipe the crud off the water bottles.

From there it is a short run into Huskinson for the first stop of the day and a large chocolate milk.

With 600ml of choccie milk and a slice of fruit cake in my belly, I head off. Tracking westerly now, through Woolamia and back onto the Princes Highway. An uneventful run along the highway to BTU Road and then it is up and over Nowra Hill. No records will be set today as I take my time riding up the 16% inclines at points.

Once I get the Braidwood Road, I set myself a 5-10km run up Braidwood Road to get the kilometres up. It is up hill on the way out, and I am starting to feel it. At 85kms I decide to turn around, hoping it was enough.

From there it is pretty much 15kms downhill. I good chance to save some energy. I arrive in Nowra with 100kms on the Garmin. I should be good for 160 now.

A large mocha and some more fruit cake and a rest. A quick stop at the servo to top up the water bottles. I had only got through 2 bottles of water at this point. Probably not enough.

Out of Nowra, I hit the flat road along the Shoalhaven River. Straight in to the wind. It was hard graft. You can see from this graph that my speed just keeps dropping.

Then you take a left and are protected by the hills a lot more than being on the open exposed roads. But they are hills. It was time to give myself a kick.

As my Twitter buddy Heath said, I was eating toothpaste! Actually, it wasn’t that bad. I was ready to hit the rolling hills to the East of Berry. This was new to me. I normally have done about 35kms when I get to this point. I had 110kms in me on this ride, and it felt like it. At 95kg, I am no light weight climber, so I struggled up some of the little lumps out the back of Berry. The times I was heading eastward were hard work. I was starting to feel a twinge behind my right knee. Best have a rest in Berry.

I stopped in the town proper and grabbed a bottle of Coke. Not my normal choice, but I needed sugar. It was then a short ride to a park on the southern edge of the town for a rest and a stretch.

I did some stretches, had a nature break and then was back on the bike. it is a bumpy 15kms back to Nowra, and I was starting to get cramps on the longer climbs, which made it difficult, and probably very funny for those watching, as I tried to stay on the bike whilst stretching different parts of my body.

I pretty much fell off the bike by the river at Nowra for another rest stop. 25kms to go. I was struggling now. I would lean forward to grab my toe and try and stretch a cramp away and the cramp would appear somewhere else. It was like it was pinballing around inside my body. I must have looked like a cartoon character being electrocuted.

I had the last of my fruit cake, a bottle of Nuun electolyte water and 2 more Gels. My heart was jumping out of my chest and my breath was great. My legs however were nearly ready for a nap. I decided to break the last 25km up into two 12.5km chunks.

I then beat my way into a stiff wind to the next rest stop at the start of Pyree Lane. I laid in the grass, trying to stretch and not fall asleep. I checked the Garmin. 158kms. Damn. If I had the 160kms at that point, I would have rang the bride and asked for a lift home.

Back on the bike and soft pedaling all the way home. It was a slow and hard last 12.5kms. I said at one point yesterday on Twitter that I thought it was a harder ride than the Around the Bay epic of 18 months ago. I stand by that today, nearly 24 hours later.

I rolled up the driveway, hit stop on the Garmin and slowly lifted myself off the bike.

Challenge complete!

I uploaded the file and posted my ride on a couple of forums then laid on the couch and watched TV. I was beat.

It was a good decision to go out yesterday. This is what it looks like outside today.

Today I have had a couple of people ask me why I said a 169km ride was harder than a 220km ride. The reason, after thinking about it for a while is quite simple. My mate Duke. On the Around the Bay ride, I had him in front of me the whole time, blasting a hole in the air and offering encouragement when I needed it. Just having his massive calves rolling around in front of me was like watching a metronome, sort of calming and a steadying influence. Yesterday I was on my own. Self doubt started to take over once I started to cramp up. I had no one to talk to. No one to prop me up. It was me against myself yesterday, my most bitter opponent. Thank god for the people on Twitter and Instagram sending supportive messages.

Thanks for reading and have a great weekend.

Ride data.

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4 Responses to A Lonely 169kms

  1. Sam B says:

    well done norbs.

  2. Notso Swift says:

    Bugger – Now you need to go and do it in 6.59
    More seriously a Good effort and apart from the mental challenge of going solo, ATB is a pretty easy 220, there are just a few hills around Frankston, you did a lot more climbing

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