So over the weekend, I joined a training camp with Bayside Tri Club out at Bright. Not being a “snow person”, I have never been to the Alpine Region since I moved to Melbourne in 1997. I have always been a summer/beach person and the thought of the ice and snow just never appealed to me. I know that the Alpine Region is also great for mountain biking too but my skills need to improve significantly before I get any benefit out of travelling all the way to Bright for some riding.
Because I couldn’t take any leave off work on the Friday, I couldn’t join the club when they rode up to Mt Buffalo on the Friday afternoon. Mt Buffalo was one of the 7 Peak climbs and only a few km from Bright. I left work at 3pm thinking that I could beat the traffic out of Melbourne but I was sorely wrong. It took me nearly 2 hours to get through the Monash Freeway and then the Tullamarine Freeway before I could get onto the Hume which was where I could finally drive over 100km/hr. The rest of the journey took 3.5 hours and I finally arrived at the accommodation at 8:30pm.
I had missed out of the briefing for Saturday but I had a few choices in what I was going to do:
1) Do a short loop with the group when then head back and climb Mt Buffalo
2) Do the entire loop with the group and climb Towonga Gap.
I decided late on Friday night that I was to go with option 2 as Towonga Gap was the first peak for 3 Peaks Challenge. I prepared my nutrition ready for the 6:45am departure from Bright. Due to the unfamiliarity of this being my 2nd ride with the Bayside crew, my anxiety played up and I stressed out about how I would keep up as I was one of the slowest people at camp. A pretty restless night's sleep was had with 3 bathroom breaks during the middle of the night due to nervousness.
Saturday we left at 7am instead of the planned 6:45am which gave me some time to calm the nerves before we headed out. The ride out to Ovens was good and I could keep up with the group as they rode at a steady and manageable pace. Once we turned off at Ovens towards Rosewhite, I dropped off due to the incline. I am still getting used to my new bike and the additional cassette teeth. I am still grinding up hills and I am not sure how to increase my cadence without tiring out my legs. The climb up to Rosewhite was slightly challenging and I was riding amongst two athletes all the way to the top. This was where I started to feel warm and unzipped my gilet on the way up. We rested for a few minutes before the descent and I forgot about unpausing my Garmin for about 3km of the ride.
Down the bottom of the descent, it was a good ride into Tawonga. We stopped here for refreshments and I bought a small can of coke to get me through the climb of Tawonga Gap. The climb started at about 80km into the ride and there was no preparation for the % increase. It was just straight up from the T intersection.
I found the 8km climb quite taxing. I was fatigued and my legs just didn’t want to move. Negative thoughts started to creep in and I was uncertain on how I was to manage the 3 Peaks challenge as this was the shortest climb of the day and I was already disliking it. Luckily Rob (one of the coaches) came down and accompanied me and my mood changed as I didn’t want to appear like I was about to burst into tears. When I got to the top, I was so relieved. Looking back, the climb was hard but manageable. I was more frustrated that I was the last person on the climb and I didn’t want people to be waiting for me at the top.
After a photo or two, I rode by myself down to Bright. The descent was manageable but I was still uncomfortable about not applying the brakes. I had missed the accommodation when I rode into Bright and had to get the phone out to find my way home.
I was exhausted by the time I finished and I could barely muster enough energy to decide on what to eat for lunch. I drank my protein shake and then made myself a banana and peanut butter wrap (and a carrot). A shower later, I felt human again and went for a nap before getting up for dinner at the local pub.
We had planned on a 7am start (on the bike) at Harrietville so we decided to leave Bright at 6:30am in our cars. I forgot about my water bottles which I stored in the fridge the night before but luckily I had enough drink bottles in my car that I had a 750ml and a 500ml hydration with me. The climb towards Mt Hotham started pretty immediately so I lost the crowd pretty much straight away. I knew this would happen so I listened to my iPod on the ride from the start.
From what I had read and from the advice of people who have ridden up Mt Hotham before the ride was split into 3 sections so I will provide my report as such:
Part 1 – I found this part to be hard as I felt I was already 1km or 2 behind everyone else. My climbing needs work as I couldn’t increase my cadence to anything recommended. I was warned about The Meg but I didn’t find it too hard to manage and I rode out of the saddle for about 10 or so strokes. I noticed that I got warm pretty much straight away from this section and stopped to take off my gilet and arm warmers when I was comfortable enough that I would be able to get back onto the bike. The scenery was amazing and I noticed a few butterflies flying back and forth in front of me which distracted me from the pain. My speed along this section varied from 4km/hr – 8km/hr
Part 2 – This was the false flat section and I took advantage of it by riding > 25km/hr where I could in the large chain ring at a management cadence. The only thing about this stage of the climb was the height I was at and the distance of the trees and road up ahead. I got slightly scared due to my issues with height and anxiety that I decided that I would ride in the middle of the left lane until I could hear the cars coming up behind me and I would move to the side to let them through. Luckily, the cars along those roads were really friendly and I didn’t have any issues at all.
Part 3 – After the gate, the gradient of the climb went up significantly. The steep pinches followed by descents and then the long climbs across the side of the mountain proved to be a bit overwhelming at some points. I was nervous about the height and how exposed I was to the cross winds. There was some points where the road was so close to the edge that I couldn’t look left at all. There were points along this route where I would look across to the other mountain a noticed the road ahead and had to prepare myself that I would be riding along that soon.
At Mt Hotham, I stopped to take a photo of my bike next to the Peaks Finish sign and then rode down to the General Store to buy some refreshment and to get my first stamp in my passport. I noticed the temperature at Hotham being significantly cooler especially as my body was covered in sweat. I bought a Gatorade to fill up my bottle along with a small bottle of pineapple juice as I wanted something different (not coke). A toilet visit later also at the General Store (and pub), I was back on the bike and on my way down.
There were a few climbs along the way before steep descents and I tried to maintain some speed. I kept my descending speed somewhere between 25 – 40km/hr depending on the road ahead and the angle of the corners. If I could see what was ahead, I was comfortable about being faster. I was actually singing for most of the ride down.
When I got to the car, I was feel good and drove back to Bright pretty much straight away. It was a vast difference compared to the day before. The climb was longer and steeper but because I had my music on, I didn’t feel defeated and enjoyed the tunes streaming into my left ear. The music also helped with several anxiety triggers – height, cornering on the bike and descents.
After lunch, I showered and had a small rest in bed for a while until I noticed there was no noise around and everyone had pretty much packed and left. I quickly packed the car and said thanks to the head coach Clint and headed back to Melbourne.
I was actually starving on the drive home and stopped twice for food and coffee. Once at Milawa where I stopped at the bakery and the Olive shop and the second time along the Hume Highway where bus loads of school kids ruined the entire establishment by food mess and leaving their rubbish on the tables! It was just disgusting!
I got home around 6:30pm and unpacked my bags. Compared to previous camps, I didn’t have too much to do as I only cycled twice and didn’t do any runs or swims. I had all my dirty clothes already in a bag so it was a quick unpack before dinner and then bed.
I am thinking about coming back to the Alpine Region again in about 2 weeks as I wanted to do the following pretty soon:
- Climb Mt Buffalo
- Climb up to Falls Creek from Mt Beauty
- Climb up the back of Falls Creek (the 3rd Climb of the 3 Peaks event)
I have been told that Mt Hotham is harder to climb compared to both sides of Falls Creek but due to the distance in the event it is, it could make or break a person. I would like to do the last climb before the event as I want to understand what is coming up ahead. The two other climbs are related to 2 of the 7 peak climbs. There is one more within that area which is the Omeo-Dinner Plain climb. The other climbs are not within the Alpine Region – Mt Baw Baw (shortest yet hardest due to gradient), Mt Buller and Lake Mountain. I will be climbing up Lake Mountain on the 15th November.
Things I need to work on over the next few months:
- My cadence!!!!
- I should introduce something solid in my nutritional fuel – I have been having my homemade solution since May.
- My glute (bum) strength and core.