The day had to come sooner rather than later. On Friday, I completed a 400km “test ride”, to check that I was able to meet couple of major training checkpoints. The ride almost did not happen. I woke at 3:30am to the sound of my alarm (which is never nice), but also to the sound of heavy rain. I thought to myself, “no, not happening!” I woke again a few hours later, anxious, but resigned to the fact I would not be riding. Instead, I headed to the pool to do some laps and contemplate when I would reschedule to 400km test ride, given that the weather reports were not good for the following few days.
Somewhere in between feeling bored with staring at a black line on the bottom of the pool and starting to feel like I was drowning, I decided the ride had to happen today. It was confirmed by a few text messages from team mates wishing me well, who had obviously ignored the fact it was raining.
There were two major outcomes that I had to achieve from this test ride in order for the Aussie Challenge to go ahead as planned. If I met them, we could continue with a March 10 departure date. If I failed to meet them, we would have to seriously re-think if the challenge was remotely possible at this time. The two outcomes were;
1.To average at least 25km/hour total time (total time includes stops)
2.To wake up the following day knowing I could do it again
I left at 8:45am which is never ideal, but at least I was on the road, even if it was still raining! The plan was to head to Ballina from Thornlands, via Byron Bay which is a round trip close to 400km. To give you an idea as to what the average cyclist (that’s me) would go through on a 400km ride; the first 150km would probably be your best 150, both in terms of time and head space. Most cyclists could ride at 75% of their maximum heart rate for 150km (5 hours) and then end with almost nothing left to give.
So, if you continue past that, it just gets hard physically and mentally. From 150 to 300km it’s a battle to stay positive and to think that the day will actually end at some point. You are just hanging out for the 300km mark to click over on the Garmin. The last 100km can be easier (even though your body is in pain), the end is in sight and you may also be a little bit delirious (which always helps!)
My day was filled with amateur and technical mistakes. The worst of these was that my dodgy front light would not work when most needed; at night. I was left riding the highway between Byron and Tweed Heads with no front light (only my back flashing light) which meant I could only see what was in front of me when vehicles passed. Other than that it was just darkness. Somehow, I made it without issue to the Tweed exit and found the nearest BP that sold a $9.95 Ever Ready torch, which I then taped to my bars. They also sold Paw Paw cream which soothed another issue from the day…
That $9.95 special lasted the remaining 100km to home. With 50km to go I started giggling to myself (which is never a good sign, but it does make the time go) whenever drivers would pass me. It was 10pm at night, it was raining and they're passing a guy on a Specialized Shiv time trial bike with an Every Ready torch strapped to his bars. I found it funny at that stage.
I made it home by midnight, slightly exhausted, drenched and very sore. But home. I found it really difficult to get to sleep. I’m not sure exactly why, but maybe it had to do with the body being in shock from the 15 hours+ on the bike. I managed to hit the outcomes needed (just), averaging just over 25km/hour total time, and I actually could walk fairly well the next day. The last thing I would have wanted to do is ride another 400km, but if I had to I believe, I could have.....