Tag Archives: Mountains

Your mountain is waiting so get on your way

Road heading up a mountain

About half way up to Falls Creek, November 2017.

Last year I was in a meeting and somehow, towards the end, the conversation angled itself around to the fact that I was going away to Bright with a big group of friends to ride up some mountains which then leads to plenty of eating and drinking. I got asked why would you ride up a mountain?

At the time, all I could come up with was because it’s there?

It’s so hard to explain why I ride up mountains when I most definitely do not have the right body type for it. I’m probably  a good 10 kilos too heavy to ever find climbing easy.

But for some crazy reason, I keep persisting. Since October last year, I’ve ridden up Mt Donna Buang six times. My best time was set way back in 2013, pre-Juno and when I was riding heaps. I’ve been edging closer and closer to it but now I’ll have to wait until after winter to try again.

Donna isn’t by any means an easy climb. It has two incredibly steep sections, one right at the end which averages around a 10% grade and it’s a killer. Every time I get out there, I always end up wondering why I’m doing it. It causes me physical pain but yet I persist.

As I’m doing it I often can’t help but think how stupid I’m being.

Why am I’m willingly hurting myself? Why I am putting myself through it when there’s no obvious reward? I know it puzzles a lot of people, especially because I don’t look like someone who would willingly ride up a mountain.

It’s so hard to explain to someone who doesn’t ride a bike.

I always used to hate riding up mountains, really hated it. I found it so hard and the little voice in my head was always saying negative things to me like you can’t do it, you’re too weak or what made you think you could do this, you idiot. The only reason I persisted was because I really, really, really loved descending. There’s nothing quite like bombing it down a mountain as fast as you can. The rush of the air, the blur of the scenery flying past, the ease. It’s the best thing in the world.

Having a baby has changed my perception of climbing. For one thing, it’s given me far more patience and I understand that I can do whatever I want if I put my mind to it. I mean, I had a baby. I grew a whole new person! It kinda puts everything into perspective. My self talk has essentially boiled down to you had a baby, this is nothing!

If nothing else, it gives me time to think or to simply live in the moment. It’s become a mindfulness activity for me. It’s also time I spend alone which is a luxury these days. For me, it’s turned out to be really important that I have reminders of the person I was before I became a mum and that I’m still that person (just with some added extras these days).

I still don’t love climbing but these days I do have an appreciation for it.

Trees at the edge of the road.

How could you not enjoy climbing when you get to see things like this? About half way up Lake Mountain, March 2018.

So, there’s that mountain again

Okay… So, apparently my Garmin lost its little electronic mind and decided my ride was 22 hours long.

It did freak out about half way down Mt Buller and decided it couldn’t find any satellites. Kinda ruins a ride when you lose the second half of your descent. It wasn’t a great descent any way. Actually it was probably the worst one I’ve ever had. I was just bad at it – no confidence in what I was doing and speeds I’m normally happy at felt way too fast.

This was probably cause by the fact that I had a watch a guy nearly go careering off a ridge at the top of the climb onto the road below – a drop of about 10 metres. (For those who know the climb – right near Hell Corner so the really steep bit.) Two riders went flying past us and then the next thing we knew, one was off the road, on the grass and heading towards the edge. I have no idea how he managed to get back onto the road but he did. Not a good thing to see and I’m sure brown trouser time for the guy on the bike.

However! I did a PB up the mountain – 1:26:33. And as a friend said: all PBs are feel goods 🙂

I’m on the quest for a new saddle. Again. I’ve already tried outtwo Specialized test saddles: a Romin and an Oura. The Romin seemed okay which lead me to try the Oura. I’ve tried an Oura before and it didn’t work out well but I thought that might’ve been caused by me having a displaced hip (one was lower than the other). Turns out it’s the Oura and not me at all. Sigh. I’m getting a bit jack trying to find the right saddle. I simply can’t find it. I think I’m up to saddle no. six. Maybe it’s me. Maybe it’s how I sit on the bike. Maybe I wasted a huge amount of money on a bike I’m never going be 100% comfortable on. Ack… that’s a pretty awful thought.

So, I’ve finally decided I should try a Selle SMP saddle. I’m not that enamoured with how they look but if it’s comfy I’m going to learn to love it. I’m off to Kaos Custom Bikes on Saturday morning to get one fitted. Wish me luck!

Going up?

Scan of my 7 Peaks passport with its four stamps

For someone who proclaims loudly that they hate climbing, I sure do seem to do a lot of it.

In the last six months, I have ridden up five mountains. I know, only four stamps above but I did Donna Buang as well (a week before tackling Mt Buller again – which went way better this year than last year). That’s real progress considering that until the middle of 2010, I had never ridden up anything steeper than Yarra Boulevard in Kew. Now I’ve conquered some of the bigger climbs in Victoria – some of of them, twice!

It’s taken me a long time to get in the right head space for climbing. I’ve accepted the fact that I will never be as quick as other, stronger riders but I can do it if I’m willing to plod along. Because of my prolapsed disc, I climb slowly – which can be incredibly frustrating when you’re always the last person to reach the summit. But I figure it’s better to reach the summit ages after everyone else has than be parked on the couch doing nothing at all. At least I’m trying.

I suppose I have been very slowly seduced by climbing. I get why we do it. It is really satisfying to reach the summit. The new bike helps too. I didn’t think I’d notice any difference but the stiffness of the carbon frame does make it easier to settle into a rhythm. I never really noticed any flex in my Cannondale but I have noticed that I seem to be more efficient with my BMC so the flex must be there somewhere. Both of them have Ultegra so it’s not a gearing issues (the only difference being that my BMC has electronic shifting). I dunno… it just seems a tiny bit easier. Maybe it’s a mental thing and I’m trying harder because I think the bike deserves a better rider. *lol*

There are thoughts brewing this year of tackling Mt Hotham. I have a real mental block when it comes to Hotham. It seem impossible to me. It’s such a long climb, sections of it are incredibly steep and everyone I know who’s climbed it all say how hard it is. Not exactly encouraging me to do it. But I’ve decided it must be done at some point. So maybe this is the year I’ll shove all my concerns to one side and just do it.

However! There is an upside of course. It’s a hell of lot more fun coming down the mountain than it is going up!

Dumb things I have done

It started out okay. We (the other half and I) had followed the forecast as the Bureau of Meteorology kept adjusting it. Jan 2 2012 – the day of Amy’s Ride – was going to be hot. 41°C (105.8°F) to be exact. The ride organisers elected to invoke a heat contingency plan which meant we got bumped from the 120km (75mi) ride to the 70km (43.5mi) ride.

At first it was okay. It was warm for that early in day but I figured we’d finish the ride before it got really hot. Uh huh… bit of wishing thinking there! I was okay until the road surface hit 45°C (113°F) about two and half hours into the ride. (Yes, we should’ve been quicker but common sense dictated we take it easier.) I felt like I was slowly being cooked. I couldn’t drink the water in my bottle because it was too hot and even a small sip made to spit it right back out. I suffered. I suffered like I haven’t in a long, long time.

It became very apparent to me as I slowly rolled into the Botanic Garden in Geelong that I wasn’t in the best shape. I felt very shaky and bit disorientated. My other half was sneaking further and further away from me as I came to the end of my endurance. But I couldn’t sing out to get him wait because I simply didn’t have the energy to do so. When we did come back together he suggested we head straight back to the car (which we’d just rolled past) but with about 500 metres to go the exact words out of my mouth were “I’m f#$king finishing it!!!”

I have no idea how I made it to the end. It was blessed relief when I could finally unclip and put my foot down on the ground and simply know I didn’t have to get back on the bike. Getting off the bike proved to be a little more tricky because I wasn’t certain I had the strength to swing my leg over. I wobbled my way over to the covered BBQ area and sat myself down on the only seat available which just happened to be in front of the organisers. I think a few of them might have had their eye on me in case I keeled over. It’s been a very long time since I’ve felt that weak and distressed.

At first there was no satisfaction in what I’d just done. It felt like one of the stupidest things I’d ever attempted and I have to admit it was pretty dumb to continue when the road temperature got to the point where I felt like I was being cooked. I was obviously starting to suffer from heat exhaustion and probably should’ve quit. But not me! No, I’m too stubborn and bloody minded to do that. No sag wagon ever for this little black duck. All I can think now is: moron! whilst still feeling a sense of achievement for completing the ride.

So yes, I feel like I’ve already done my really dumb thing for this year and it’s still only January.

Of course, three days later I rode up Mt Donna Buang. I am a glutton for punishment. I have no idea how I got talked into it but I must admit I enjoyed this ride far more than Amy’s Ride. At least it had one of the best descents I’ve ever experienced. Took me over an hour and a half to get up and under 25 minutes to get down. I have to say I’d do it again just so I could experience that descent again. I slogged my guts out to get up the damn mountain but you couldn’t get the smile off my face on the way down – except maybe for the really steep bit (locals will know it as the bit around Cement Creek) as that was a bit scary and had me grabbing the brakes. I couldn’t feel my toes by the time I got to the bottom in but it was totally worth it.

The next challenge is the SCODY High Country Cycle Challenge in March. Mt Bulla anyone? For someone who’s never liked climbing, I certainly seem to be doing a lot of it these days.

Los Angeles to Oakland, Tuesday 31st March

The drive north from Los Angeles to Oakland was simply amazing. I think it took us twice as long as it would’ve if we’d gone the quicker way but it was so worth it. I’m in Lisa’s debt for agreeing to the trip.

The coastline was startlingly beautiful. However, it looked vaguely familiar because there are stands of eucalyptus trees everywhere you look. But the undergrowth is totally different and the leaves on the gum trees are a healthy green instead of the faded khaki they are at home at the moment.

Our first stop was in Ventura for lunch. We headed towards the beach to see what we could find in the way of food and settled on fish and chips eaten whilst sitting on the beach. I’m not sure what made me do it but I decided I should try the cherry coca cola. And I… eerrr… actually quite liked it.

A mermaid painted on the building next to the fish and chips place.

The chick in the shop went a little overboard with the condiments. That’s a lot of sauce for two people and there was more in the bag.

Lisa and I sat on the beach, watching people play in the surf (which must’ve been freezing) and talking. It’s been a long time since I’ve been to the beach but you can’t be in California on the coast and not stop there at least once. One thing I did notice is the seagulls are enormous, about twice the size of the ones I’m used to seeing at home. They’re actually quite intimidating.

I probably could’ve gotten a better shot of this if I’d moved closer but I couldn’t be bothered to get up.

Eventually we decided we had to move on but I had time for one more photo…

Just so I remember I have been on a beach in California.

Heading north, the scenery becomes more and more dramatic. I was mid sentence when a mountain loomed up in front of us, filling the entire windscreen and I stopped talking. All I could think was wow and I’m certain I said it several times.

The other thing that really stuck me was how green everything is. There are parts of Victoria that are white now because they’re so dry. It’s been a long time since I’ve been surrounded by so much green.

This is what hills are supposed to look like!

The coastline starting to get more dramatic as we headed further north.

We stopped again at a pier in San Simeon State Park. We were originally going to visit Hearst Castle but they were closing up for the day. So we crossed the highway and walked up the pier instead.

Blue, blue and more blue.

One final photo…

On the road, Highway 101 curving away from us.

Unfortunately this is where the photos stop. The sun was setting into the ocean and that’s what I wanted to shoot. I did try take a few photos but they’re overexposed and if I’m honest, not that good. Plus I think I was a little overwhelmed with how beautiful it really was.

The coastline reminded me a lot of the coastline along the Great Ocean Road. The further north we got, the more dramatic the scenery became. Huge cliffs looming on the right and a sheer drop on the left. It really was incredible. The drive got a bit hairy on occasion as there were loads of sharp corners and the sun was setting making it very hard to see but much kudos to Lisa for managing it.

We stopped for dinner at a tiny place in Big Sur. The sun was setting when we went in and when we came out about half an hour later is was pitch black. My comment to Lisa was that I wouldn’t want to break down as it’s the middle of nowhere and there’s no assistance readily available. It’s such an isolated place. It was hard to reconcile the fact that I was in California. My impressions of the place have always been heavily influenced by what I see on TV and the emphasis is always on Los Angeles. It’s kinda strange to think of this wildness existing in the same state as a city that has huge urban sprawl and awful pollution.

We finally made it to Steve who was waiting for us at CCA. We then made our way to Oakland and he took us on a quick tour of his campus before we parted ways with Lisa. It feels kinda strange to know I probably won’t see Lisa again for over a year. But it was awesome to spend a day with her. She’s a really cool chick and I’m eternally grateful that she allowed me to have this experience.