Sunday, November 28, 2004

Hartley Challenge 2004

Sarah's blog

Holy freaking hell. Who would have thought riding from Canberra to Mt Kosciusko and back would be so tough huh?

I've just returned from doing the Hartley challenge, which is a 3 day fundraising for Hartley House.

My arse hurts, I'm chafed in places you don’t want to know about, my fingers hurt from my gloves, I have blisters on my feet and my neck and shoulders are killing! Let me start from the beginning.

When I was asked to be part of a team I thought 450k's over 3 days to the highest point in Australia, how hard can it be? Well I found out.

Day 1 was cycling from Canberra to Jindabyne which was a ride of 174 k's. Might I add here that the longest ride I've done in one hit is about 85k. Well, I didn't get to bed until nearly midnight the night before as I was doing stuff for the tri club committee then had to pack still and pick up my partner who was out. When the alarm went off at 5am I was still feeling pretty wrecked. So we got out there, I met my team and asked if they'd had any bunch riding experience. "I've only started riding with my mate recently". Great... Our team (Rotary) was joined with a team from Fyshwick Fresh Fruit Markets, and we split into a medium and a fast group. I went in the medium group and we had about 16 riders in our pack. We had a good mix of some experienced people, some new people, young people and older people - the oldest being 74 years old!!! We set out pretty higgeldy piggeldy as everyone got used to riding together, and our support vehicle got used to working out where to drive and how close to be and so on. We finally got into a rhythm and rode.

We had quite a few short stops while people got water, sunscreen, and got used to riding both together and riding full stop! We finally stopped in Bredbo which is about 70k out of Canberra where the "chow wagon" had stopped with fresh water, staminade, fruit, sunscreen etc. After a bit we pressed on and boy did this section drag! After Bredbo I started getting stomach cramps which were horribly painful, especially with all the hills! I'd been using gatorade powder, and didn't realise they had staminade (it looked the same), and I've had tummy problems before with staminade so I put it down to this. It was only about 40k until our lunch stop so I figured I could handle it for "only" 40k. Little did I realise how many hills there were! As well this my knee was really hurting and I was generally uncomfortable so I put my bike into the support vehicle and got a lift after about 25k of pain. At Cooma they'd put on a great lunch so we all dug in and socialised with all the other teams that were there (I think there was about 220 riders) and got ready for the last 70k to Jindabyne. Dave, the 74 year old guy had cycled all the way to Cooma (110k) without a break, but decided to stop there as he lived in Cooma and said he'd rejoin us the next day.

We got ourselves organised and I rejoined the group and we set off. There were even more hills on the way and some of these were killers! We managed to cruise along at about 25kph on the flats and had a nice little bunch going. My knee was still really sore though, and (as always happens) I overcompensate and my back gets really sore as well. We got to a drink stop at Berridale and we were warned of the big hill coming up and I just said bugger it I'm getting back in the bus!! So that was quite nice and damn that hill was steep! I jumped back on the bike along the road and cycled into Jindabyne where our accommodation was. We were staying in the Jindabyne Winter Sport Academy and there's a little heartbreaker of a hill that leads upto it from Jindabyne itself. It was so bloody steep that after 100m of cycling at 5kph I decided to give up and walk like everyone else. The bus came by at this point as well so I just threw my bike in the back and jumped in. So first day I cycled about 120km which beats my old PB by about 35 k's (not to mention all the hills as well!)

Accommodation was basic, but not too bad. Food was FANTASTIC!! Lots of yummy pasta, fresh fruit and other great stuff you'd want after a days cycling. There was also massages happening which was appreciated.

Day 2 was the dreaded Jindabyne to Charlotte's Pass ride. 15k of climbing with almost no break. I told our support vehicle they'd need to drag me off the ground before long. So we made our way out there pretty easily and started climbing. Holy crap. It just did not stop. I had to get off the bike after 5 k's as it was so steep, there was no way to let go of the handlebars to get water as you'd fall off. The support vehicle came racing over to check on me but while it was tough I was coping. I got back on the bike by cycling across the lanes to get enough momentum to get my feet in the pedals and kept climbing..... A few k's later I had another break where there was a bit that was gloriously not too steep (still not flat) The team was going really well though and everyone was pretty pumped. Off we went again and had our first slight downhill in 10k and enjoyed it while it lasted! Then it was back to climbing! Finally got over the 15k of the "worst bit" and was pretty pleased with myself for getting that far! In that whole time there was no flat bits and only 2 small downhills. Everyone said it was easier from there. They lied. We got to another 3k climb that was so steep. I was averaging 8kph and really struggling, so finally stopped before I fell off my bike and decided to walk up the hill because dammit I'd gone that far, I wanted to go the whole way without the buses assistance! So I took my shoes off, threw them on my aero bars and started walking - I was only 3kph slower than trying to ride! It was much more pleasant as well. People were coming past, saying hi, checking I was ok. I got back on the bike near the top of the hill and realised my feet were a bit sore. Then the more I rode the worse my feet were! I was pretty sure at that stage that walking a kilometer up a hot steep road in socks was a bad idea! I plugged on for another 10k with Dave (the old guy) and commented that it was nice to have the youngest and oldest riding together! My feet were really hurting with every pedal stroke and I saw another big hill coming up and it broke me. I couldn't do it. I'd gotten a big blister on the ball of my foot just below the 2nd and 3rd toes and that was just where I was pushing the pedal with each stroke. Every push was agony. I got in the support bus feeling pretty disappointed and got a lift the rest of the way while we stuck behind Dave and saw him power up hills past people 1/3 of his age! The 45k took us 4 long hours.

Got to the top of Charlotte's Pass and would you believe- there was still snow!!! It looked beautiful. I was all set to walk to the summit, but my feet were really sore just to walk and I realised it was an 18k round trip to the summit. Bugger that!! You could only walk or mtb (most of the way) and I was too sore and tired! We had some yummy soup and bread, and stood in the snow enjoying the fact that we were in the snow in shorts and t-shirt!

We had some group photos and listened to speeches from 2 of the girls with disabilities who the charity supports and they were lovely. They were so excited and a few of us had tears in our eyes!! I also got my blister padded which made it easier to walk and therefore possible to cycle.

From them on we could leave when we wanted, so we set off pretty soon looking forward to all the hills we'd just climbed up! Unfortunately we didn't realise how steep the downhills were that we had gone down! There were a few heartbreaking hills and I was pretty much on my own at that stage as some from my team had gone ahead, and the others were slower than me (imagine!), so had nobody to draft off for these hills! So I made my way up and FINALLY got to the downhills!!! WOOHOO!!!! Unfortunately the headwind was also quite a scary crosswind and any more than about 45kph and you'd be getting death wobbles! So I took it easy going down averaging about 40kph and enjoyed the beautiful scenery of Kosciusko National Park. I met up with Dave and we cycled together for a bit until I realised with those crosswinds it was way too scary to have someone next to you! We got off the road to Kosciusko Rd and down to the main road toward Jindy and the wind was throwing me from the edge of the lane to the middle of the lane! Finally got to the heartbreak hill to the accommodation, walked up it, and got back happy with knowing I did 75 of the 90k roundtrip and managed the hardest bit. It took us about 4 hours to get up and 1 1/2 hours to get back! It was also only about 3:30pm when we got back so had plenty of time for a really good stretch, rest, catch up on the cricket and just relax!

That night they had presentations for the team who'd raised the most money, and thanked the sponsors and also told us that we'd raised something like $226,000!!! 5 years ago on the first ride there was about 10 riders and they raised about $10,000. This years effort was amazing. The event has grown so much.

So finally last day and we're heading home!! Packed up and on the road by 7:10am, but I decided to go on the bus out of Jindy as the downhill going in to Jindy (when you first see the lake) is awesome, which means horrible to get back out of! A few of us didn't want to do it and be stuffed for the rest of the ride, so waited until Berridale where we were itching to ride! It was 150k to Canberra then and I was determined to ride the whole thing. We had an AWESOME ride from Berridale to Cooma which I think was about 30k. We had a tailwind, plenty of downhills, the bunch was working well together and we just flew. We probably averaged around 30kph the whole way (which is fast for me!), and loved it. Stopped in Cooma for drink stop, and headed toward Bredbo. All of a sudden the tailwind was a headwind and it was TOUGH. We'd also decided to keep rotating the bunch leaders constantly by continuously rolling around and it just wasn't working. Everyone was tired and cranky, the headwind was horrible and there was hill after hill after goddamn hill. We eventually stopped to talk about how our bunch was going with the whole rolling thing, got a few things sorted out, and the rest of the way to Bredbo was tough, but we weren't all getting annoyed at each other which was good!

Finally got to Bredbo for the lunch stop and a drink and kept going. Canberra was only 70k away!! And 70k isn't far right...

That last 70k was hell. A couple of the riders from the other team had left us, so it was just our Rotary team left and we all got on well and were very supportive which made it easier, but the headwind was horrible. Every time you got to the front you got knocked sideways from the wind, but as we were rolling constantly you didn't spend too much time at the front which was good. Also by this time it was really hot, our feet were swollen and sore, everyone was tired and aching and every hill seemed so long and every km seemed to take forever. We stopped at Michelago petrol station for a break and we were only about 40 k from Canberra and apparently the last 20k or so had no hills and was easy. That first 20k though was horrible. The only thing keeping me on the road was "I've gone this far and am SO close, I can't stop now". We'd seen a lot of team buses with most of the team on the bus so we were pretty pleased to still all be out there. One guy from our team had stopped as his gear cable was busted and he couldn't change the front chain ring so was knackered, but everyone else was out there. We worked really well, kept the chatter up, gave each other heaps and stopped whenever someone needed to and finally got to the last 20k! Once again we thought 20k isn't really far, but after 430k's of cycling in 3 days for some people, about 325 for me, it was just too long. To be so close to home and yet so far was soul crushing. It took forever and there was still small hills to get up. It was a major mental battle to keep going. I never realised how far it was from the "Welcome to the ACT" sign to get to Canberra itself!

We eventually got to Fyshwick (we started and finished at the food markets) and it was just a wonderful sight. Everyone was so pleased to have finally made it.

In summary, it was really tough both mentally and physically, but it was an amazing ride, and did more than I thought I was able to. To complete 345k's in 3 days (and 150k in one day) including so many monster hills is just awesome, especially when my previous best for a day is 85 k of relatively flat riding! It was also at least 30 degrees C every day with blazing sun which does NOT help! My bum hurts where my glutes meet my hammies, and my blister is bloody sore and still painful to walk on, and my shoulders and killing but to be part of such an amazing event was incredible. The organisers do an incredible job, and it's incredibly safe, and you feel great knowing you were part of something that will help so many people with disabilities.

And for the record, Dave completed day 2, but decided to give day 3 a miss, so completed about 270k's in 2 days including making it to the top of Kosciousko and back at age 74. Amazing. As well as that, the majority of our team cycled the whole way, and the only other girl and I both held our own in the packs and kept with the fellas! If anyone else can get involved in this ride next year I highly recommend it.

Now for some more food, water, and rest.... And if you're STILL reading this, I'm impressed.

Pics at 6am Friday morning and on our return today can be found at I hope to have ride pics up sometime soon.

Oh and for interests sake-

Day 1- 174.4km with 1968m total climbing
Day 2- About 90k with 1704m climbing
Day 3- 174.4km with 1509m climbing

and a total of about 26 hours on the road.

1 comment:

Julianschoice said...

Cool journey, you documented it well. Hope you do a half soon and write about it.