Tag Archives: Kinglake

Dirty Deeds

Went to my first ever cyclocross race on the weekend. Loved it. We got a spot right near a very muddy part of the course and had a great time urging the riders to go through the rather large puddle in front of us. CX is kinda like what we’d do as kids – get on our bikes and go down to the park to mess about. Except now it’s a race and there’s way more mud.

Can’t say it’s something I’ll actually do but it was certainly fun to watch.

There’s a few pics on FaceBook.

As for me personally, been doing hardly any riding at all. I’m still commuting to work but the weather has been decidedly unkind. Last night’s commute home was interesting. I had considerable trouble keeping the bike going in a straight line as I was getting hammered by a crosswind that threatened to push me into traffic. Maybe I’ll get out on Thursday morning. Maybe.

I didn’t plan to take a break. In fact, I had planned to do the 150km version of Scotty’s Ride in two week but other things have intervened – like dislocated shoulders (not mine I should add!). Still considering traveling up to Shepp to watch the race though (which would make my parents happy as they’d get a visit from me).

I suppose I should chose a ride to focus on next. I’m thinking the Genovese Kinglake Ride because last year I could only do the 70km version when I really wanted to conquer the full ride, which is 120km. We shall see.

It was epic. Epic I say!

On Sunday, I broke 100km on a ride for the first time since the Great Ocean & Otway Classic. And that’s what made it epic. Big distance, lots of climbing (for me anyway) and no SAG wagon.

Five of us got together on to try the Kinglake climb via Humevale Rd. Every time I’ve climbed Kinglake, it’s been via the traditional route on Hurtsbridge/Heidelberg Kinglake Rd which includes the soul crushing Wild Dog Creek Hill. I was quite excited to try the Humevale Rd climb simply because it meant I didn’t have to torture myself by having to climb up The Dog (as we’ve started referring to it as in a very unaffectionate way).

The Climbing Cyclist site (which I’ve linked to above) called the Humevale Rd climb a hidden gem. And it is. For the entire climb (about 7kms, gaining around 600m) we encountered one car – yup, just one. The driver was decent enough to slow right down and pass us with caution. This is one of the roads that was damaged when the fires ripped through the area and not much has been done to repair it. To be honest, it would easily be the worse road surface I’ve ridden on but we were taking it slow so it didn’t matter so much. I really wouldn’t want to attempt it as a descent though. The area is taking some time to recover but there’s a crazy amount of regrowth near the edge of the road which makes for a lush, green ride. And it’s quiet, incredibly quiet and peaceful. All you can hear is the noises of the bikes, people’s breath, the odd snatch of conversation and the bird calls. That’s it. There’s no pollution, no cars, no people. The best word I can come up with to describe the area is serene.

After our first stop at the Flying Tarts Bakery in Kinglake West (think we’ve found a name for our group!), it started to drizzle so all the wet weather gear came out and we rugged up. Only to overheat on the way to Kinglake as there were plenty of rolling hills. Brief stop at Kinglake to put on any final kit and we were ready for the descent down to St Andrews.

Everyone knows I love to descend. I love the rush of speed and the sound of the wind blasting past. I love leaning into corners and feeling the bike move with me. Just love it. I really suffer when I climb so a great descent like Kinglake makes up for it. I’m fortunate to have a dad who worked hard to teach me to corner properly (when I was first learning to drive I couldn’t corner properly to save myself) and on the whole, I can descend quickly enough to keep up with the boys but keep myself safe as well. Uhh… most of the time. This time I totally messed up my lines not once but twice and found myself praying there wasn’t any oncoming traffic as I ended up on the wrong side of the road. But I was incredibly lucky and managed to get away with it. (Let that be a lesson to me to be more careful next time!) Still, I accept the fact that there’s a pretty good chance that one day I’m going to get it wrong in a corner and the end result will not be a happy one for me. I should just remember what my dad told me recently – it’s amazing what can happen if you go into a corner more slowly. You can accelerate out of it!

Then the inevitable happened. We started climbing again as we headed through Kangaroo Ground and Warrandyte South and I found myself dropping further and further behind to the point I couldn’t really see the others ahead of me. I was suffering, a lot. What is it about climbing that I find so hard? A couple of times I wanted to cry because I was feeling so bad and I was so far behind. The mental demons really came out to play and I felt weak, slow and stupid. Stupid for thinking that I could do it when evidence was heavily leaning towards couldn’t. Sigh. I feel that I’m not mentally tough enough but I don’t know how to fix that.

I have no problems with the physical act of riding a bike. My legs are in pretty good shape. I’m stronger than I was. Logically, I know I’ve vastly improved if compared to where I was last year. This time last year, I hadn’t done a single serious climb and hadn’t done a ride that was further than 70kms (I think). But mentally? Every time it gets tough, I start to fall apart. I doubt myself, I make it million times harder because I don’t believe I can do it – even with evidence to the contrary. But as to how to fix this, I have no idea. I know I’m only going to improve if I keep pushing through barriers but it’s really hard. I have to push myself past what I’m comfortable with. I’m letting myself down by always believing the naysayers in my head, that evil little voice that whispers that I’m weak, fat, stupid for even trying.

Maybe the mental toughness will just come over time. Doubt it though. It’s too heavily ingrained in my personality to always believe the bad stuff and deny what’s good. Doing rides like this will probably always put me through the wringer because it’s who I am. There will always be a little voice of doubt in my head. However! At least I always try and I don’t give up, even when I’m gasping for air and my legs are screaming at me. I don’t quit. Strength comes from the strangest places and perhaps I just haven’t realised it yet.

But you know, it’s not necessarily a bad thing to be put through the wringer like this. Odd thing to say considering how much complaining I just did. It means I’m not emotionally dead, that I can still feel really intense emotion and pain. It indicates progress because a few years ago I was too afraid to feel anything at all, even physical pain. If I can master it on the bike, perhaps I can master it in the rest of my life.

Reheated pizza never tasted so good

Yup, that’s what I scoffed down when I finally made it home after today’s Degani Kinglake Ride. It really wasn’t warm enough but I was hungry.

And entitled to be so. I managed to ride the 70kms in under three hours, which was my aim. I discovered there are some really fun descents between Whittlsea and St Andrews. I even crouched right down over the bike to see how much speed I could get up (apparently around 60kms) which isn’t something I’d normally do. But the descent was really, really straight so I could see exactly where I needed to be. It was too good an opportunity to pass up. I’m discovering a lot of the riskier activities in cycling comes down to confidence and I felt pretty good so it didn’t feel that risky even though I knew that if I came off at that speed it would’ve definitely meant a trip to the hospital.

I’m really glad I did the climb up to Kinglake before the ride. As I was climbing it became obvious that there were quite a few people who hadn’t. There was plenty of suffering going on but I actually felt pretty good. Knowing what to expect made a huge difference. I’ve had some problems with my back in the last week and it really started complaining about half way up but I was determined to not walk so I struggled on. I made a point of getting out of the saddle more often which relieved the pressure on my lower back.

They had a signs at the start and end of the climb so the riders could track how long it took them to get to the top. I was pretty pleased with my efforts – 35 minutes from start to finish. I actually overtook a lot of people and I think – once again – preparation was key in that. There wasn’t meant to be any overtaking on the climb up but I was moving faster than some people and it felt flat out dangerous to get stuck behind someone who was moving so slowly. That climb really isn’t one to be wobbling about on and I did get stuck behind a kid who was doing just that which really worried me. I preferred to take the risk and overtake. I was very careful and only did it when I could be 100% sure it was safe.

There was a nasty surprise on the way out of Kinglake. All of a sudden there was a climb of about 750m – 1km with a 9-10% grade. It was horrible, it felt like it was never going to end and my legs were like rubber. And then there was the nasty crosswinds which we were protected from when climbing up. We were getting hammered and I was finding it hard to keep the bike in a straight line. It was tough and at that point I just wanted it to be over but there was still 30kms to go.

Things did improve though. The descent into Whittlesea was amazing. The only way to handle the winds and give the bike more stability was to crouch down but of course, you do that – you accelerate, a lot. I hit 70kms (fastest I’ve ever been on a bike) and I was still being overtaken. I thought it’d be brown trouser time going at speeds like that but it was awesome. I wonder what it’d be like if it wasn’t quite so windy…

My stats…

My stats in graph form…

(The flat bits in my graphs are from when I stopped at two of the rest spots.)

Check out the top speed!

So yes, the ride was good. I don’t know if I’ll do it again. $140 seems a lot of money to do a ride that doesn’t really benefit the community and is one I can do any time I want. I suppose that’s true of any of the recreational rides. I’ll definitely head out that way again.

What you missed today

Me finally doing a serious hill climb!

My brother and I drove to Hurstbridge and hit out from there. A few very small climbs to get into the mood and then a long hard slog up to Kinglake. Actually there was a bastard of climb just before we hit the big one. Short and sharp, which I always suffer on.

Kinglake is about 500m above sea level and it’s a 7km climb up to it. I’ve discovered I do better when the rides are hard if I have something to pretty to look at. Kinglake is still recovering from the massive fires but it’s an amazing ride up there. The view on the way up was amazing. I would’ve stopped to take a photo but if I had, I’m fairly certain I wouldn’t have been able to get started again.

I really suffered in the last three kilometres. My average speed dropped down to 12kph. It was okay at first, the grade wasn’t too bad and there were lots of twisty bits to keep me distracted. The higher up we got, the more I suffered. A few times I was certain I wasn’t going to make it but my brother was great, he slowed down and offered encouragement. He actually got in front at one point and forced me to slow down. Being a much more experienced rider, he saw the signs of me about to blow up and made me slow down enough to get my heart rate down.

It was really helpful. My brother was more than happy to explain the ride to me, where the corners were and we worked on finding a suitable tempo that I will be able to sustain on the Degani Kinglake Ride in two weeks. My heart rate monitor is turning out to be a really valuable piece of equipment. I didn’t think I’d find that much for it but I find myself using it all the time.

The descent was awesome. Took us over an hour to climb up but about 45 minutes to get down. The only problem was that it was bloody cold coming down! My brother ended up giving me his rain jacket because I was so cold. We talked about how to descend, how to take the corners, when to brake and where to look to be safe. He stayed behind me a lot of the way, shouting instructions. Heh. My maximum speed clocked in at 60kph and I didn’t even realise I was going that quickly. Of course, my brother shot past me quite a few times. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to ride like he does but I think I did okay.

It was hard going but I’m feeling pretty pleased with myself right now. I suppose it’s because I’m setting goals and achieving them. I may never be the world’s best climber but I’ve proved to myself that I shouldn’t be so defeatist. Hill climbing is definitely about mental attitude and telling myself I can’t do it is stupid because today is evidence that I can.

Me at Kinglake
Me in Kinglake, in front of the restoration project centre.

About to suck down a gel
About to suck down a gel but you can still tell I’m smiling.

Anyhoo… this is something my brother wrote in my birthday card which I really liked:
Bike riding is not about where you are going but what you see, feel, smell and think about along the way. Don’t try to destroy (yourself!) when you ride but create thoughts, ideas and a broad smile on your face. As you discover, make sure you enjoy!