Monday, April 11, 2016

Baw Baw Cycling Classic – Taking on the hardest climb in Australia

When I first heard about Baw Baw Cycling Classic, I was intrigued.
It sounded tough – yep that would be something I would enjoy.

For those who haven’t heard about the Baw Baw Cycling Classic, here are some numbers:
The race is 103 km long, 3200m of elevation with the last 6km averaging 11% and a few pinches of 20%. (64mi, 10,500 feet elevation, last 3.7mi averaging 11% with 20% pinches). More info on the Baw Baw climb here.

Considering that the last 6 km only cover an elevation gain of an odd 700m, you can imagine where the other 2500m of climbing coming from. You dont exactly start the last climb fresh as a daisy.
Here is the elevation chart.
Baw Baw Cycling Classic 103km/3200m elevation

Very deceiving!
Just as a side note, you see that little rise just before km 30? That is an elevation gain of 100m. Not as insignificant as it looks on this chart. 

The final decision if I should race was when my fellow Hurt Box rider, Meredith, told me it would be even tougher than I imagined it to be. It was not just a climb. It was a brutal 4+hr ride.

Music to my ears.

Speaking of signing up - the number of participants shows the respect for this race. Only 15 women in total signed up. It is not without a reason that Baw Baw is said to be the toughest climb in Australia.

So here I was at the start line with 14 other girls. Perfect weather conditions.

The race was split into two parts for me. Part 1 - The first 40km were tame with A grades setting the pace. At 40km, the eventual winner put in an effort and there was a natural split between the grades. I spent the next 10km or so riding with another girl and then I was by myself.

No soul around besides the occasional appearance of carnage from the categories ahead of us. 

50km on my own. 

I was hoping that I would create a gap so I wouldn’t get caught at the Baw Baw climb.

And then, I got a feeling, I usually get after riding 300+ km - I couldn’t push beyond a certain power anymore.

I just had nothing in my legs.
Anything above a certain perceived effort would lock my legs up.

I got worried.

Would this "lock-up-cramp-threshold" be high enough that I could ride up Baw Baw? 

It is not uncommon that riders push their bikes up Baw Baw. 

And then the massive wall appeared ahead of me. Six very focused, zigzagging  kilometers. (It could have been 7km from the amount of zigzagging) Any inattention would have made me swerve which would have caused me to fall over. 

It is hard to describe what you experience when riding this climb in a massively exhausted stage of fatigue. You calculate every move and hope that those 11% might ease up to 9% for a few meters. 

But instead you are greeted with two back-to-back corners of 20%!

I am not a climber and snailed my way up. Would it be fast enough to hold my competition off?
One moment to the next, another female racer (but not in my category), Steph from my Hurtbox training group, passed me. I couldn’t believe how quickly she climbed. 

Now I got seriously worried. 

So back to crawling my way up to the finish. 

2km to go. What? I didn’t even see the 3km-sign!
Monika! Of course, you did. It was just sooooo long ago that you have already forgotten about it!

Another eternity passed.

1km to go.

The games you are playing with your mind are just amazing at that point. And if you are playing that game long enough you will see the 500m sign before you know it!

Believe it or not, the mountain has a top and I finally reached it!

And I more or less pedaled the last few exhausted pedal strokes over the finish line.

So happy. 

Super exhausted. But worth the effort.
I learned later I had a spare time of 12 minutes.

Hill Climb Champ. VRS leader. (For my category)

And man, I will be there next year!What an awesome race!

Podium - Women C grade

Huge thanks to my coach and the The Hurt Box crew for their continuous support. Thanks to Alistair for the feed zone support and for Justine's great company over the weekend!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

What gets you up to ride your bike early mornings?

Just over a year ago, I moved to Australia.

I was able to enjoy the last two weeks of summer and then winter hit Melbourne. Having lived in Minnesota (where you still could be looking for your car under the snow in May) I should have felt relief.

-20 degrees Celsius with metres high snow was traded for drizzly, rainy, dark 5 degrees. I came to think that the sun doesnt exist in the Southern hemisphere.

I had absolutely no motivation to get up in the morning to go riding. But in Minnesota, I had no problem riding in -20 degrees with two other brave souls. What has happened?

Now, looking back, it is clear like a crystal ball: Routine.

After four months of getting up at 4:45am in the morning, I even wake up at that time on my rest days. I established myself a ceremony that would definitely get me up.
Those are my highlights in the morning:

1. Everything is ready to go the night before so I don’t have any stress in the morning. The only task for me is to wake up and to look forward to the ride.

2. Cold-brew coffee. The best! The evening prior I mix water and coffee powder in a French press and let it sit overnight. In the morning, I only have to filter the powder and I got some delicious cold-brew coffee. And man, that caffeine hits quickly!

3. Music. I put ear plugs in and listen to upbeat songs. Currently (don’t laugh), it is: Flo Rida- Wild Things, Die Antwoord - I fink u freeky and Lady Gaga – Born this way. (If you feel sorry for my music choice, feel free to make suggestions :) )

 4. But most importantly: my riding group. Every day, I am so excited to see my cycling group. By riding with the same people, you get to know each other very well. Who is grumpy in the morning and you shouldn’t talk to? Who could you engage immediately into a conversation? Who won or lost at the race yesterday? Riding in a group is like reading the newspaper; you got to do it every day to be fully up-to-date on all the happenings. Thanks THB guys for making me look forward to our training rides every morning!

 What gets you up in the morning?