After a number of aborted attempts to get out on the dirt with Spencer we finally managed to do it on Sunday. The ride promised to be a good effort with the climb up Camp Mountain followed by Mount Nebo via Scrub Road and South Boundary Road. To mix up the return we thought we would take on Centre Road and Bellbird Grove. The day was perfect with a bit of cloud to cool things down and only a little mud around in a few places despite the constant rain of the week before.
Spencer and I were joined by Robbo for our little trek and after some very brief intros we were off. There wasn't a whole lot of conversation as we made our way to the base of South McLean Road for the bitumen climb up to the start of the dirt and the long way up Camp Mount. We were all kind of happy to just punt along and warm up before the climbing started in earnest. If I thought it was quiet on the way out there it was positively deathly silent as all three of us hit the 18% grade climb that meets you as soon as you turn onto South McLean. My heart rate did its usual slow start and my body was complaining bitterly. I am growing to dislike the first 10k's of most rides as I get older. It just seems to take an age to warm up and get a groove going where my heart rate, respiration rate and effort gel together and make the riding feel "strong" rather than "surviving". Of course the fact that the Camp Mountain climb is within the first 10k of the route meant I felt it even more.
Once at the top though everything seems a little easier. I had warmed up and used the little push along the tar to Scrub Road as a relaxing spin to loosen the legs back up. By the time I was at Scrub Road I was ready for a rip down to the causeway and the steep climb out. That descent is a favourite of mine. It isn't technical or twisty but man is it fast. I love the vegetation and the smell of the rainforest. All three of us were still very close at the end of the descent and remained that way as we climbed out to the intersection of South Boundary Road. At the shelter it was time for a quick drink and really no more. Robbo was keen and so was Spencer to keep pushing on to the top for a quick coffee. I felt really strong up this bit of the ride. Everything had clicked into place and my legs were spinning over effortlessly. The grade reduces and becomes more consistant from the shelter and it suited how I felt. Spencer and I chatted about the race to come and how we might approach the different days, what changes he might make to the Giant and what food and preparation we needed to finalise before we left. Robbo slipped back a little but was never out of eye contact. There was a very easy and understanding vibe and it felt like it was cool for us to just pick our pace and ride at it. We always regrouped at intersections but I think there was only 1 or 2 times we stopped to wait for anyone. It was a well matched group.
Eventually the cafe was in front of us! A great cup of coffee and a little dry out from the drizzle and sweat had us all ready to rock. If only we hadn't had mechanicals a plenty. A flat tyre for Spencer and constant drivetrain issues for me saw the time fall by. I had visitors coming at 12:30 for lunch and it was looking shaky for a while. Finally that was all sorted and I decided that I would try for the rookie mistake prize for 2010. I had no food along the way and only 2 gels with the cup of coffee. You could hear the crack from space as my heart broke and the bonk nailed me. As I headed up Bellbird Grove I was smashed. I had to stop and eat a muesli bar as Robbo and Spencer flew away from me. I opened another bar and ate it as I finished the climb out to meet the guys waiting for me at the turnoff to South McLean. I know it was bad because as I finished the first bar and it hit my stomach I instantly felt better. By the time I reached South McLean Road I felt like I actually might make it home without calling for a medi lift! Woah. Dumb.
I got back home. I cooked a huge feed on the BBQ and ate lots! After a few beers and a couple of steaks I felt much better. I was already planning with Spencer for the weekend to come and what massive ride we can fit in. Now I am really excited about racing in the Terra. My training is working and while I know I could have done more I think I can survive it. If I am smart with my recovery and race plan then it could even be fun. Who knows.