The Beginning – 300 km
Rowan and Charlene rode the 300 km as a Vollies ride on Good Friday to check the route and so that we could support the riders on Saturday.
We were fortunate to have a clear day with sunshine, and then later a near-full moon and lots of stars. We had a start temp of about 5C, a high of about 17C, and then a chilly night. And wind … we did, of course, have some wind.
I’m not a morning person, but chose a 6 am start because I like starting just before sunrise. There’s something about starting in the dark and riding while the sky gets light which I enjoy. And a randonnee is pretty much the only time you’ll see me up at that hour!
We cycled through a patch of fog at the bottom of small valley and then round a round-about and onto a lovely, scenic, somewhat hilly road heading south. It’s autumn and the leaves are turning, so we had the beautiful colours of the leaves and the orange of the sky at sunrise. When we topped the little hills, we caught views over the valley toward the mountains. And partway up one of the hills, a wallaby leapt out of the undergrowth and hopped up the road in front of me for a while.
We sailed through the little town of Longford and onto roads which remind of me of some of the cycling I’ve done in the UK with hawthorn hedges on either side. There’s a little wooden bridge we needed to negotiate on foot, and then we were onto the long road down to Campbell Town.
On the map, the road looks as though there are many intersections by the number of 90 degree turns along the way, but instead the road just follows property boundaries. Stay on the paved road, go straight through the few intersections there are, and you’ll be right. The road starts reasonably flat and gets hillier toward Campbell Town, but the really nice thing about that road is the lack of traffic.
We had a quick stop in Campbell Town and travelled up the Midlands Hwy to the turn that would take us out to St Marys.
The last time we cycled to St Marys, there was hardly any traffic on the road at all. This time it was really busy … just about bumper to bumper campers, large 4WDs, and SUVs pulling boats and caravans and all travelling between 80 and 100 km/h. We figured the whole of Launceston had headed out to the east coast. Fortunately there is something of a shoulder for much of the way, but nevertheless the constant traffic became somewhat annoying.
We needed the break in St Marys!
Traffic was a little lighter on the way back to the Midlands Hwy, especially as we went further along, but let’s just say there were all sorts of odd people behind the wheel on Good Friday!
Another strange thing about that road are the signs. As you leave St Marys, the sign tells you that Fingal is 20 km away and Avoca is 48 km away. When you leave the dot-on-map town of Fingal, the sign says that Avoca is 20 km away. So there you are, at about 23 km from Fingal wondering where on earth Avoca has gotten to! The whole town couldn’t have gotten up and moved while you were eating ice cream in St Marys, could it?
The sun was just going down when we reached the Midlands Hwy and fortunately the traffic there was not too bad. Everyone was up the road on the east coast! About 10 km later, we turned a corner and were back onto the very-quiet back roads.
We had stopped just before we made that turn, and someone pulled up to see if we were all right. He said he was a cyclist too, and just wanted to check on us since we were out there after dark. That was nice.
Onward into the quiet part of the night and this was when the wildlife started coming out. A pair of possums over here, wallabies over there, a white rabbit hopping across the road … was that the Easter Bunny or were we suddenly part of Alice in Wonderland … and a white owl standing in the middle of the road.
And the twanging! The fields on either side are fenced and the sheep sometimes lean up against the fences so as we cycle past, they run away and their wool catches on the fence a bit which makes the wires twang. At times, it’s a wallaby coming through the fence then changing direction as we approach. At first it was startling, but after a while I got used to it and just readied myself in case a wallaby did suddenly appear on the road.
Back to the wooden bridge, back through Longford, and back to the start via the slightly less hilly road … and we were done before 11 pm!
I felt great! I felt like I could have kept going! Until about 5 minutes after we had stopped when all of a sudden, a massive wave of nausea took over.
We figured we really hadn’t eaten enough. I hadn’t felt particularly well to start the ride and hadn’t been eating when I should have been, then didn’t eat much during the ride. I’ve discovered that on long rides, I’ve got a small window of opportunity when it comes to eating. If I feel hungry, I must eat at that moment. I’ve got about 10 minutes to work with. If I don’t eat in those 10 minutes, I’m really not hungry anymore and it’s a struggle to eat … and then it’s a downward spiral. We think this is what happened.
We got into our cabin, showered, and I forced down a really tasty chicken soup … and went to bed.
The Middle – 300 km
4.5 hours later, we were up again, gathering documents, and stumbling out into the cold darkness to meet the three brave riders who were about to tackle the 300 km and get them on their way. It was cold! One of the riders told us later that his thermometer read -2C at one point that morning.
After seeing Paul, Holly, and Mike on their way, we headed back to bed to catch up on some sleep. Several hours later, we set off in the van to find the three. Fortunately Paul had a spot tracker so we had a pretty good idea where he was, and since we drove the route backward, we were pretty sure the others were behind him.
We set up in a convenient spot, and within the space of about an hour and a half, all three came by. Then it was time for dinner … time for us to build up some strength for tomorrow’s ride! And back to the finish to await the arrival of the riders, all of whom finished the event in really good time.
The End – 200 km
For the third day in a row we were up before dawn, and on the road again at 6 am. This time we were riding 200 km with a rider visiting from Victoria, Helen.
This was the warmest morning of the three, starting about 7C and warming to nearly 20C, but we had a fairly strong north wind.
The route took us to Longford on a different road from the 300 km for some variety, but then the rest of the way to Campbell Town was the same as the 300 km. Across the wooden bridge, and down the long road that starts relatively flat and then gets hillier as we get closer to Campbell Town. That north wind pushed us all the way and we arrived in Campbell Town with a decent amount of time banked … and we needed it.
The next part of the route headed north, on a different road, to Cressy … straight into the wind. That was a slog! I kept trying to push it a bit and keep my speed over 15 km/h so we wouldn’t lose any time, but there were places where it was difficult to pedal that quickly.
Helen had gone on ahead of us after Longford, but we caught up with her in Cressy and more or less rode with her the rest of the way. After a quick, but much needed break in Cressy, we were back into the wind again.
By the time we got to Bracknell, the flaw in my training plan had made itself evident. I needed to have done more core work. My back was so sore and cramping. At times I wondered if I were trying to pass another kidney stone. Other times it felt like my whole spine was trying to escape and go lie down somewhere. By the end of the ride, I hurt from my right shoulder all the way down to my right hip. Yep … before the next big ride, I need to start focusing on my core.
Fortunately soon after Bracknell, the road turns and starts to make its way toward Westbury. I don’t know if the wind died a bit by then or if it was the trees, but despite the fact that the route became a little hillier, our progress felt easier. Maybe it also had something to do with the fact that, for reasons I don’t entirely understand, I really like that particular road. I enjoy riding it.
When we reached Westbury, we all decided it was time for ice cream! That really hit the spot.
On the main road, the distance between Westbury and Hadspen, the start/finish point, is about 20 km, but we were taking the back road … the scenic route! And we had about 40 km to go. The scenic route is also a little hillier just to provide a last challenge. However, accompanying the climbs were long, beautiful descents making it all worthwhile.
We rolled into Hadspen after 12 hours and 11 minutes of cycling. Our 200 km was a little slower than others we’ve done recently, but not bad at all given the fact that we had ridden a 300 km two days before and given the wind we had to deal with.
Congratulations to Helen who finished another 200 km in her quest to complete another Year Round Randonneur, and for whom this was her first interstate event.
And then we rested!
A few additional comments …
My usual randonneuring bicycle is undergoing some drivetrain issues and so I had to use my back-up randonneuring bicycle, the one I usually use for shorter climbing rides. We had adjusted the handlebars slightly to see if we could remedy a hand problem I was having, and it did help. I still want better gloves and will have to contemplate the handlebar area fit a bit more.
In addition, I opted to use my winter cycling boots which have thicker soles and therefore at the 140 km point of the 300 km, we had to raise my saddle slightly because I started having knee issues. Raising the saddle seemed to solve the knee issue, but I wonder if the saddle and handlebar adjustments contributed to the back pain I was having. We will have to contemplate my whole fit on that bicycle.
Core work is definitely something I’ll need to work on as we prepare for a 400 km in a few months’ time.
And one other flaw in the plan … I was nauseated both morning and struggled to eat during the whole weekend. It didn’t dawn on me what the problem was until about mid-way through the 200 km. Before both rides, I had a milk-based protein shake. I’ve had them before but had them with lactaid tablets to neutralise the effect of the milk. This time I forgot to do that … oops!
But setting those issues aside, I am thrilled to have completed 500 km in two rides in the space of 60 hours!