Tag Archives: Hills

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.

And for my next trick…

…I shall attempt to ride up Mount Donna Buang this coming Sunday.

All 16.61 kilometres of it at 6.2% grade. It has an elevation of 1,250 m (4,101 ft) and it snows there in winter. It’s the closest mountain to Melbourne where you can go skiing in winter. I’m thinking it’s going to take me between 1.5 – 2 hours to ride up (and that’s being generous).

If I can do this, the 145km Great Ocean & Otway Classic Ride should be a breeze. Uh huh, right. I’ll just keep telling myself that.

I think Master Yoda has it right on this one: Do… or do not. There is no try.


Sunday’s ride was an adventure out to the Dandenong Ranges.

And it was a total blast. It was the most fun I’ve had on a ride which involved climbing.

We started at Mitcham where two of us on the ride parked our cars. We picked up two more companions on the way and headed out to The Basin and the famous 1:20 ride up to Sarrafras. Unlike the ride the weekend before (which went something like oh my god, it’s so gorgeous up here on the way up to Aaarrrggghhhh!! I’m gonna die!! on the way down due the fact that it started pouring with rain about five minutes into the descent), the weather was kind if but a little chilly. At least this time I was better equipped. Had my arm and knee warmers as well as full finger gloves for the descent.

There was quite a bit of chit-chat until we hit the 1:20 ride and I did my usual thing of falling off the back of the group. The 1:20 climb is one you’re supposed to measure your time on. The road has start, distance and finish markers painted on it so you know exactly how far you have to go. I was hoping to do it in under 25 minutes but I couldn’t quite get there. I hit the finish line painted on the road at 25:20. So close!! However, I have a problem in that I get distracted by how mind-bogglingly beautiful the area is. I spend too much time admiring the view than concentrating on my time (check out Cycling Tips Blog for some photos of the area). Still, I have a target now so hopefully there will be some improvement. I’ll just have to learn how to set up manual laps on my Garmin. I should really read the instructions one of these days!

After a break in Sarrafras, we headed up to Olinda and SkyHigh on Mt Dandenong. It was chilly up there but the view was quite spectacular if a little hazy.

Having never been up there before, I was admiring the view when it was pointed out to me that the map that explains the view to tourists actually had shopping centres on it. So naturally enough I had to take a photo.

Look ma! I climbed 2069 feet!!

After coffees and hot chocolates to warm up, we headed down the mountain. The initial sharpness of the descent caught me totally off-guard and I found myself struggling to control my bike, trying to slow down whilst doing over 60km/h with really grabby brakes so I was essentially fish-tailing and scaring the crap out of myself. Once we hit Mount Dandenong Tourist Road it was so much fun. Unlike the Kinglake descent which is all S-bends and switchbacks, this was big sweeping turns. Means a lot less riding the brakes and a lot more free spinning. It was amazing. As I was hurtling down the hill, I could feel a huge bubble of laughter building. How else can you express the sheer joy of it? It’s as close as humans can get to flying and it’s simply amazing.

Rode the rest of the way back to The Firehouse in Ringwood in a kind of euphoria. The rolling hills on the way back were hard but I didn’t feel like I usually do. I’m never going to be a brilliant climber but on Sunday I actually felt pretty good. I felt tired and the effort at some points felt enormous but it was a good kind of hurt. Except when I dropped my chain near the crest of a hill. It seems that whenever I do that, I always manage to drop it in a way that means I can’t pedal it back on and I have to stop. Must be my special skill. (Can I get another special skill? This one is really annoying.)

I felt that all the effort warranted one of these…

Rides like this one make up for all the crappy ones. The ones where you feel like death and the effort of turning the cranks is enormous. There’s nothing quite like cycling to put the hurt on you but when it’s good, it’s the best thing ever.

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!

What you missed today


A short but mildly taxing pedal around the Capital City Trail brought my housemates and I to the very lovely Dights Falls on the Yarra River. I was surprised by some of the hills on the ride. Some of the ascents are quite sharp and there are quite a few long slow ones as well. From what I can tell, the Capital City Trail is actually quite long so I think it’ll be worth investigating more thoroughly. But I should’ve known it would be hilly because Kew Boulevard (actually Yarra Boulevard) is the border of the park.

Black Rock this morning was stunning. Perfect riding weather. The sun was out, the temperature was low and there was the tiniest breeze keeping things cool. And, well, it gave me time to come up with a plan that gets me my new bike when I get back from America instead having to wait until the middle of May.

Days like today make the hard days worthwhile.

Does my butt look big in this?

Uh… my butt has gotten bigger. I have a pair of pants that don’t fit any more because my butt and thighs are too big and my jeans which were a little loose are now… decidedly firm. Not exactly sure how I feel about this. I’ve never been particularly hippy and right now I feel like I am even though in comparison to a lot of women I have tiny hips.

I suppose I should be relieved that it’s muscle and not fat.

Anyhoo… my education in hill climbing has started. My problem always was that I never use my gears properly. Before I started riding with someone who was willing to teach me all this stuff, I never used the small front cog which is a bit stupid considering that’s the one you’re supposed to use when riding up hills. I don’t think I’ll ever love ascending but I could definitely get used to the descending which is totally awesome.

My biggest problem is that I’ve convinced myself that I’m a very bad hill climber so I doubt my ability and strength. As soon as I hit a hill, I automatically think it’s going to be too hard and that I’m not going to make it to the top. It’s not going to get any easier for me unless I change the way I think.