Where to start. How about we try at the beginning. But when is the beginning? Was it finishing last years 3 dams or was it when I should have commenced training for this event 6 months ago?
Lets go back just four weeks. Yes four weeks is how late I left it to do a hills ride.
Training previous to this was many solo UCI laps of Kings Park. My riding partner Geoffery was doing hills rides back in January but then gave up when I started.
Since my training of very few hills rides and riding 300km plus only for the four weeks leading up to the event, many people did not believe I would have a chance in hell of finishing this event. Fair and understandable assessment, but there is more to these events then just physical preparation. What they underestimated was my conviction, I never give up when I set a goal I want to achieve.
Diet! If I don’t have to eat another bowl of pasta for a week, it wouldn’t be long enough!!! The week leading up to 5 dams lunch and dinner consisted of bulk carbs and no beer. No matter how much I argue that beer is good carb loading, apparently the alcohol counteracts its benefits.
The night before I tried on my jersey to organise how much food I would be able to fit in the pockets. Honestly, I felt like a fat bastard! I had a pasta food baby in my belly. I just hoped it would get me through Sunday.
Sunday morning got up as if it was a normal weekday ride, nice and early at 0410. Plenty of time to have breakfast and of course time to deal with body functions before being on a bike for possibly the next 12 hours.
I had a very cruisy 12km ride to Coode Street for the start line of 5 dams. Feeling comfortable and attempting to stay relaxed I lent against a pole to wait for team mate, big man Geoffery who arrived just after 6am. First question I asked was “Are we done yet?” That got a chuckle. As we lined up for the start and run over the timing beacon, I noticed the announcer picking on a guy who had flat bars on his bike.
The Start! 0617 the banner dropped and along with ~30 other riders we clipped into our pedals and rolled out of the park onto Coode Street. At this point I turned to Geoffery and being the cheeky bugger I am asked “Are we done yet?” This time his response was somewhat more unappreciative with a “I’ll punch you in the face if you say that all day”.
Our ride out to Greenmount was a lot easier than last year. All the groups were getting caught at the lights and bunching up, so sitting on the back of a large train took very little work. Neil and his partner past us in Guildford and prompted Geofferys first precipitation story of the day – in summary Neil was going to have a much harder day than us holding onto his partner. Some will know Neil’s partner as the guy who would go on the SPR Main group rides on a Mountain bike with nobly tyres and still kicked ass!
First drama of the day struck at the bottom of Greenmount, with a small altercation between a motorist and a cyclist. The cyclist abusing the driver, sorry fellow cyclist but the driver was in the right, you cut the driver off.
First Climb I had a large number of people pass me, this is pretty common for me so I was not phased. I had a long day ahead of me and nothing to gain setting a PR on the first climb. With spirits in check and continuing to ride my own race, I must say I did set my second best time for Greenmount Full.
After a short breather descending to the bottom of Dam 1 Mundaring Weir we reached our first checkpoint. Just enough time for a quick on the fly blog post, water bottle refill and passport checked off. Off to the next dam.
Soon after leaving Mundaring we were pasted by a bunch of guys on single speed bikes. I asked one “how drunk were you when you agreed to do this ride on that?” This is a group that always ride single speeds. You could not pay me, drug me or bribe me in any way to do this day on a single speed bike. It is pure lunacy! Kudos to them!
The commute between dam 1 and dam 2 was a good 45km or so trip. On the way we past the SPR short hills ride group. I enjoyed taking a breather down Brookton Hwy while Geoffery took off ahead. He almost took the three dams course while waiting for me. Short climb into Dam 2. No timing mat which was disappointing, I think each checkpoint should have a mat as you enter and leave. If you are going to time it then do it right!
Time to refill the water bottles, another quick blog post and a fast toilet break. Then back on the bike for the short ride to dam 3.
The distance between Dam 2 and Dam 3 seemed to be only 10~15kms. Plus Dam 3 meant lunch stop. I remembered reaching here last year during the 3 dams event, reaching the third dam meant we were done. Not so with 5 dams. Only two dams to go but a long ride left.
Reaching Wungong Dam meant I had covered 100kms being just under half way and 150kms remaining. After a quick lunch break and bottle refuel it time to get moving. The theory was the quicker we get moving the quicker we get to the end.
Exiting Wungong Dam we endured another category 3 climb back towards Albany Hwy. The distance between dam 3 and dam 4 was not far and is downhill after Albany Hwy. We are all familiar with the age old adage – what goes up must come down – Unfortunately the reverse is true for this leg of 5 dams.
On 5 dams you go back out the same way you came in. Roughly a 6km descent that does not take too long but the return climb makes for a steep climb into Canning Dam. I needed to take a quick 30 second breather before finishing the climb up to Canning Dam wall.
Dam 4 the top of Canning Dam was gridlocked, the hold up seemed to be the refilling of water bottles. This was not a stop anyone doing 5 dams was going to leave without full bottles of water. It was a long climb out of here and a long ride to Dam 5 at Serpentine.
Exiting Canning Dam we were welcomed with a category 4 climb. Riding back up that much appreciated 6.1km decline took me 41 minutes. Finally reaching Albany Hwy I started to fade a little. Geoffery took off down the road with another guy sucking his wheel, this didn’t worry me I knew I would get him back.
I was a little nervous riding along this stretch in the verge of the road with passing cars and trucks doing 110kph. Running over the rumble strips all I was thinking was do not be heading towards me. Some form of lane closure or traffic lane reduction would have been good. The condition of the verge was very rough and dirty. 15km leg, felt longer.
Was glad to get off Albany Hwy and onto Jarahdale Road where we got teamed up with around 6 other cyclists again. I was in a bit of a rutt at this point and dropped off on the incline. After travelling a few kms down the road a white ute went past us and I noticed on the back a South Perth Roulers sticker on the back window and mentioned it to Geoffery.
Just up the road, the car pulled over and a guy jumps out holding two cans of coke in the air. It was Nigel and the sight could not be better received. One rider in the group stole one can and Geoffery got hold of the other. I wasn’t going to miss out and stopped. Like a bullet Nigel grabbed another cold can of coke and started pushing me along to get me rolling. Yelling out see you at the 180km marker. This simple can of coke (sugar hit) was exactly what I needed and the physical and mental pick me up I needed.
NIGEL is a F%#king legend! No other way to describe it, totally un-expected but so enormously welcomed. This really did help Geoffery and I get to Serpentine.
With renewed energy reserves and motivation boost I got back onto the pack of 6 we were with and stay with them for the short climb and nice descent into Serpentine Dam. Pulling into the checkpoint at Dam 5 was a great relief because it meant we had made it. Not finished but we had made it to dam 5.
Reaching Dam 5 I had clocked 160kms and I was hurting. Almost 90 kms to go before the finish. Shortly after sitting down and getting the shoes off for a little relief Alison, Mark and the two WASO boys rolled in. We had lunch with them and the decision was made for the six of us to make the ride back to Perth together. I am so greatful that this fell into place. Six rouleurs all working together to finish this day off.
Alison warned that the climb out of here was not going to be fun. This dampened my spirits, I was dreading it and was waiting for a great climb to be just around the corner. Turned out it was a gradual climb. I remember the moment when the altitude on the Garmin progressively started to decline. Soon after passing the prison farm I realised that the final descent was near as I was looking out over the fields and the road signs were telling trucks to slow down. A couple more turns and the final descent was in front of us. Was an awesome feeling because this meant the climbing was now behind us and we just had another 77kms to go back to Perth. That alone is a full ride on any normal day.
You would think this was the home stretch but I wasn’t looking forward to this segment. I was glad we had a group of people I knew to ride back with. We all took short turns on the front in pairs. The road surface on Hall Rd was enough to rock any new bike to pieces but the Rice Rims machine had done a great job all day.
When we hit Karnup Rd we had a crosswind. This brought my turns on the front down and I was thinking we are at the 180km mark where is Nigel. Without fail his car went flying by and looking behind he was doing a U-turn back to us. Again pulling up around 200m up the road out he jumps with cans of coke in the air, LEGEND!!!!!!!!
This time we all pulled over on the side of the road while Nigel ran back and forth from the car with coke, food and chilled water. Again Nigel was at the right place at the right time and gave us all the lift we needed to finish this thing. This also gave me time to roll down the road and take a second comfort stop for the day. After being refuelled by Nigel we all got back to the task of finishing this thing.
Just short of 200km we reached the freeway. Finally onto smooth surface and with a tailwind we picked up the pace. Together taking turns on the front we soon reached the final checkpoint giving us a short stop for bottle refill and our last passport stamp, these guys had a snake lolly for us to much on. Another sugar hit NOM!
From here the pace bounced between mid 30’s to high 30’s. At 22km to go we past the final timing mat. We knew it wasn’t much more to go. The city was in sight. The target was in sight. A little before the Raffles Evan was suffering and I gave him my wheel but he soon told me to go on and stay with the others. I legged it back and got onto Alison’s wheel. Going past the raffles every turn of the pedals hurt, I knew the end was close but still so far. Keith and Geoffery did a lot of the work through this leg.
Once we got to the end of the bike path and reached Mill Point Road and saw the sign “Stay on Mill Point Road” my heart sank. I knew we could go around the hill and not have to do it but we had come so far. A short push from Keith got me up the hill and it was a pleasant roll down to the lights. Left back onto Coode St and Geoffery and I crossed the line together soon followed by Mark and Alison then Keith and Evan.
Rolling into the park I saw Megan and Carlos to the right, Carlos took the bike away and layed it down while I got my shoes off. The relief was awesome, I’d made it! My ass was sore but my Garmin said I had covered 250km exactly in 9hr and 4mins. I was stoked!
I posted one last on the fly blog post to say we had finished. Nigel came running up to me as I hit send giving me a HUGE HUG and I fell on my back on the lawn. Nigel stepped up and was there for all SPR riders on the day for support and I am sure all appreciated it just as much as me. Massive Kudos to him and I am sure all want to buy him a few pints for his efforts. I SMSed Shaw asking for a ride home while others who were finishing joined out group on the grass exchanging stories of the day. Shaw arrived in minutes and told us of those who finished earlier. Not wanting to keep Shaw waiting to long I said my good byes and hitched my lift home with Shaw who was a legend and brought me a beer for the journey.
Being physically capable of completing these events is one thing, but it’s events of this magnitude that test your mental capabilities. Competing in these events is the only way to know you are both physically and mentally fit! Proud of my achievement, I will be competing again next year. Until then, the only question that remains, what next?