I got home from work on Friday, and was met by the awesome sight of my husband, having commandeered the communal garden at our flats, using the surrounding trees as bike racks, and was conducting his own bike-maintenance and cleaning session. I’ve never seen the trees put to such good use before.
And the cleaning and servicing was so that we’d be ready to go for the big ride this weekend…
And now for a wonderful combo of hills + distance. Yesterday’s ride was an awesome route out (and up) to Kinglake, then around and down to Yarra Glen, back up and around to Kangaroo Ground, and down back into the city. A total distance of 140km, and total elevation gain of 2,329m. Ouch:
I always struggle to keep up with the boys when we head out to the hills, as it’s a continuous succession of gradual, undulating climbs most of the way out there. But they took it easy out through Ivanhoe and Rosanna, so for once I thought I was in with a chance of starting the climb with my comrades. Unfortunately, I was foiled by a set of traffic lights at the foot of a descent on the Lower Plenty Rd. The boys raced through just as it turned amber. About 50m behind them after racing to catch up – they got me on the climb just before – the amber switched to red. That was the end of my little chain gang for the day. Although I could see them about 800m ahead as we came into Eltham, their back wheels remained elusive for the rest of my ride. That’s ok. I’ve become accustomed to cycling solo on the climbing days. And to be honest, half way up the climb to Kinglake there is usually snot all over my face, or running in a continuous stream from my nose to the bike. So I’m not at my best in those moments.
Having lost contact with Jarrod, Matt and Joe after only about half an hour or so of riding together, it meant the next five and a half hours would have to be filled just with thoughts. And pain. And thoughts about pain. I did get one companion for about 50m of the ride – at the turn off to Yarra Glen, a fat magpie started swooping me continuously (and Jarrod later said exactly the same thing happened to him at that spot just half an hour before). Funnily, I had just been thinking about magpies swooping cyclists at this time of year, and how badly would you have to be attacked to force you to become one of those people with cable ties poking out of their helmets? I mean, I look like enough of a chump already in lycra – there is no way I’m going to subject myself to any additional ridicule. Just for those of you who have no idea what I’m referring to, I did a quick google search under ‘chump-in-lycra-with-cable-ties’, or something along those lines, just so you could reference what I’m talking about (and apologies in advance to whoever is in this photo, but, sorry, welcome to the internet):
This is not a photo of me (in case mum or dad are reading this thinking “you’ve really changed”). But apparently, this is what some people resort to after they have been swooped by the psycho magpies. The magpie in question yesterday flew down into the back of my head. I yelled F-OFF (as magpies have a good understanding of English, obviously). Then it just kept coming back again and again, swooping down at me like a Red Kite coming down for its prey.
So I punched it. It was kind of a sideways punch, with the bottom of my fist, but it was a phenomenal connection. The bird was flung back into the air, and I kept on pedalling like some bird-bashing hero (which is terrible, as I love birds. But not magpies). Then it came back for a counter-attack and just kept swooping. I literally started thinking of ways I could catch it and cook it for my dinner I was so angry.
But punching it and yelling expletives seemed to work. I will try not to translate that learning into any other areas of my life.
Aside from the fat magpie, many hours passed uneventfully. At one point, on an unexpected 7% climb after Yarra Glen back towards Eltham (“SURPRISE – you thought all the climbing was done – oh no, we’ve only just got started!” cheered the faces of the trees along the road), my mind tip-toed through the pain and other random thoughts. I mused over Lance Armstrong, and the whole ongoing doping saga. And then I thought ‘damn, I wish I had me some of that EPO right now’. Well, I didn’t really think that (I did), but climbing is just a whole world of pain that keeps getting more and more intense, that I would almost do anything to get me up that hill easier. I found myself in the smallest chain ring and gear, with nowhere left to move down to. So I would actually move UP a gear or two, just to be able to get a bit of a morale boost as I switched back down again. It was like a battle between my brain and my legs, one tricking the other into stopping or keeping going, and just this constant tussle of the legs going “I’ve got nothing left” and the brain making the decision to move up a couple of gears and then back down so my legs would think “oh, this feels much easier – I could go on forever”.
After 6 hrs 9mins, I made it home. Just in time for banana and berry smoothies that Jarrod had just whizzed up.