Race report and final thoughts post Amy’s Gran Fondo.
The final two weeks
Two weeks before Amy’s Gran Fondo I was scheduled to race (on foot) a hilly 24km in Wingello State Forest, in the beautiful Southern Highlands Challenge. It was a bit wicked of me to add this to my diary, but the event had been calling me for months so I thought ‘What the heck, I’m going to be in it.’ I’m glad I did. The red course was 60% twisty single track and (thanks to recent heavy rains) 50% mud. Fun course, scenic terrain, terrific organisation.
The only problem was, I was coming down with a virus. I dosed myself to the eyeballs and got through the race, then collapsed into a nasty flu that reduced me to an aching, shivering wretch and lasted about 10 days. As a consequence, I rode less than 40km in the final two weeks and was contemplating a DNS until just a few days pre-departure. There is tapering, and then there is being bedridden.
Happily, this misery eased enough to turn my head hopefully towards Lorne.
My race base was only 1km from the start line. On AGF eve I took an easy 16km test ride: all good. That night, we made a fish (local flake: delicious!), veg and brown rice meal. Then I started to feel nervous, but kept reminding myself: ‘All you have to do is keep pedaling. You can do this!’
On race day I:
- woke around 6.30am, checked the sunrise, saw it was going to be a clear (and warm) day
- had a cup of hot water, small bowl of muesli and milk, piece of toast and peanut butter, some banana
- did a gear check, bike check, nutrition check, applied sunscreen, got dressed
- went to the toilet multiple times
- had a few gulps of iced coffee before leaving
- spotted Alanna (my Roxsolt sister) in her start group, gave her a hug, took a selfie
- found a place in the start line, waited and listened to the announcements
Rolling…How the day unfolded
Straight away the pace was on. Along the first 40km of Great Ocean Road, it felt like I was passed by a thousand people. Sometimes one by one, sometimes in large and determined bunches that yelled at everyone to get out of the way. The wind blasted down from the north, shoving me sideways and whipping spray off the top of the breaking waves. I kept up a steady effort and remembered to enjoy the scenery.
The KOM was long (a full 10km uphill into the Otways). I climbed steadily and comfortably, easing my way past several people. It was hot in the sun and in the lee of the hill.
Almost everyone on course was terrific, but I learned to beware the handful of bad-mannered middle-aged (male) Clydesdales: cutting in, cutting off and littering. And some of the older riders who freight-trained past shouting orders. It’s a ‘sportive’, guys.
The aid stations were well stocked with fruit, cake, lollies, bars and gels but I only needed to top up my drink. I didn’t really find a bunch that suited me pace-wise until around 70-90km when I rode with a handful of blokes. My energy level was good, even up the final, intimidating 5-10km climb to the finish. This section brought a few riders unstuck; some stopped with cramps and others whose walls had been hit.
I was filmed for a couple of minutes here and must have looked a sorry mess because only my ankles made the video. It was so exciting to see the finish line! My back ached, my bottom was sore, and it was past midday. The sweeping 10km cruise down the mountain to Lorne was sweet.
Some facts and figures
- Including the ride to and from the start/finish I rode 123km. I think this is further than I’ve ever ridden before.
- My Garmin thinks I climbed 2,700m, which is impressive but wrong; it was less than 2,000m. But that is still a heck of a lot of hills.
- The field was 85% male. I’m proud that I was part of the other 15% and I’m used to being in the minority at events, but we can and should do better.
- I clocked 4:17, ending up well outside the top 25% of women in my age group, so no UCI qualifying medal for me. This was slightly disappointing. I didn’t anticipate the calibre and competitiveness of the age-category field. (Top 22% if you include both UCI and recreational field.)
- I expected to climb slightly better than my overall performance, but actually my climbing ranked virtually the same as my overall ride. For both the KOM (40:51) and the total ride time, I was just inside the top 50% of the whole field. Again, a little sobering, but illustrates the quality of the company I was keeping; in other fondos I’d normally expect to finish higher than mid-pack.
- Nutrition plan delivered. I had a gel at 35-40km, 70km, and added one to my water bottle at 90km. I started with 700mls of Hydralyte Sport that I topped up with water at 50km and 90km. I ate two-thirds of a Winners bar (Cadel Evans FTW) and two mouthfuls of peanut butter sandwich.
What I’ve learned and what’s next
I don’t think I’m ever going to be a cycling obsessive, because if I was it would have happened by now. I love riding my bike but I crave variety in my workouts; it’s good for my brain and better for my body. The thing is, I am content to be average at several things rather than a master of one. Plus, I’m just not that talented anyway.
The road to Amy’s has been a powerful source of motivation, but I’m looking forward to a period of being goal-free. For the next little while, my workouts are going to be fun (doing what I love and what I want, when I want), or they’re going to be functional (getting me from A to B), or maybe both! And I’m going to add back the yoga that took a back seat over the past year and the weight training that I’d barely started on.
Thank you to Kelvin Rundle from Roxsolt, and his team, for the generous sponsorship that enabled me to travel to this event and to ride it in style. He’s a huge supporter of women’s cycling. I have enough quality Velocio kit to get me through a few more years of cycling.
Eliza and Alanna, my Roxcycl sisters, my year is so much better for having met you!
And big love to my family for putting up with my efforts (and my complaining, and my self-absorption) and for coming along on the adventure. Especially Richard who picked up plenty of slack at home while still fitting in his own grueling training.
Okay, I think I’m done. xo