Friday, 22 June 2012

Audax Lower Hunter Valley 300km

16 June 2012. Completed my fourth 300km/200mi since joining Audax in April!
This ride took me back into the Lower Hunter Valley region where I have ridden on two previous 300km Audax rides. There were a few differences in the route so it wasn't exactly the same, plus, no two rides are exactly alike anyway. The ride had 100km, 200km and 300km options with only three of us electing the longest distance.
Leaving the house at 5:30 in the morning to ride to the starting point 4km away, it seemed that I had grabbed an older, worn out, set of legs. They weren't sore, more like lethargic and not in the mood to do another 300km+ ride, let alone the 4km to the start. This was not a good sign going into my fourth ride of this distance.

After getting to the start of the ride in Gordon and receiving our brevet cards, we all headed out toward the Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park where we rode through Bobbin Head, a very familiar set of hills for me. As you enter the park, it's a great 3.5km downhill with only a few sharp turns along the way. As the sun still had yet to rise and the roads were a bit wet, some brakes were used during the decent. Since it doesn't seem that you can have a decent without an ascent, much to my chagrin, this downhill is immediately followed by a 4km long climb out of Bobbin Head. During the climb, the sun finally started to make its appearance for the day. Well, it tried at least to poke its way through a sky thick with clouds that threatened us with a wet ride.

Once daylight fully broke, the rain began. The first 75km, or so, of the ride was through a light rain. I've ridden through torrential downpours so this light stuff didn't bother me too much. By the time I had reached the first check point on Peats Ridge Road, the rain had pretty much let up and the next 150km were dryer, though the clouds never did let up on its hold over the skies above.

Up to the first check point, my legs continued to feel lethargic but they held up their part in the ride decent enough. After a short break and quick snack, I was back on the bike for the next segment. This is also when the legs started thinking that they really didn't want to have any part in this ride and the notion of not completing the ride started forming in my head. Unfortunatly for my legs, I'm and Audax rider and that means we do endurance rides and don't always listen to what are legs want (at least this Audax rider doesn't). The rest of the ride, about 225km, became a lesson in resource management. Additional breaks and paying close attention to nutrition was my primary focus for the rest of the ride.

At check point two, it was lunch time and I was chatted up by a bloke that was thoroughly impressed by the ride I was doing. The check point was in Millfield which seems to be so small that the check point was at the only petrol/eatery/general store/bar in town. Small towns tend to be populated with some of the friendliest of folks and had there been beers involved, there's a good chance that the bloke and I would have talked well into the night. But I had a ride to complete with just over half of it left.

Between check points two and three, I had to stop again. Rest, recharge and refuel. Back on the bike, gotta make it to the next check point...

Check point three! I made it! Another rest and a more substantial feeding. Chicken wrap, chips, Poweraide and a chocolate milk. The chocolate milk is new form me while riding and I wasn't sure how my stomach would take it but I was willing to do anything to keep this ride alive and finish it.

From here, I only have three more tough hills to climb. Dog Track, Brooklyn and Bobbin Head. If I can make it up Dog Track, the worst of the three, I shouldn't have a problem with the other two and I will finish this ride! Back on the bike then and now it's dark and the rain starts up again. 100km left at this point and the rain continued the entire time...

Dog Track was tough but I made it without getting off the bike! This ride is not going to beat me! At the top of Dog Track is Wisemans Ferry Rd. On the other rides into the Lower Hunter, the route took us to the right at this point but for this ride, it goes left. Sure, why not. A new road in the dark while it's raining; the hell with comfort zones when your legs are hating you anyway. This stretch of road turned out to be fairly nice. No hills of any consequence to batter my legs, decent surface and little to no traffic. I actually enjoyed this slice of blacktop until I reached the end.

This is where I realized that I really should pay more attention to the details of these rides. They are all plotted out on and you have the ability to view the elevation chart for the course. Had I actually looked at it at any time before the ride, I would have known at check point three that I really had four big climbs left, not three. Perhaps this is a good thing though. Would I have continued on had I known?

The section of Wisemans Ferry Rd terminates at a round about that leads to Gosford with the first exit and Calga with the second exit. I know this place and I know the hills I'm about to hit. I groaned along with my legs...

A brief, passing thought toward the short ride to Gosford and the train station before pointing the front tire toward Calga. Dark, cold, wet and tiredness was not going to best me today!

The rest of the ride was a chore with my head down, my determination up and my wheels continuing to spin. I made the hills to Calga, turned south toward home, made the Brooklyn hill and then the Bobbin Head hill and sprinted toward the finish. Well, it was a sprint in my mind at least... The ride officially started at 6 am and I reached the final check point, the Police station in Gordon, at 11:15 pm. What a day!

All told, I completed 324 km / 201 mi on this ride. The Garmin device reported 4,172 meters of ascent whereas RunKeeper gave my 6,656 meters. Regardless of which one is more accurate, the ride had more hills than any other I've completed.

My next Audax ride is set for 30 June. Another 300km ride into territory I have yet to explore. Even after everything this ride threw at me, I can't wait!

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Audax Follow the River for Peats Sake 200km Permanent

A nice 230km ride last Saturday with four other Audax riders to Wisemans Ferry.

After the shorter ride to rest the hamstring the weekend before, I was ready to get out and do some decent distance. On Monday, I decided to map out a route that would take me on River Road along side the Hawkesbury River. I had ridden this road a few weeks back during the Audax Ride the River 150km ride and absolutely loved the ride and the views. Unfortunately, that was the week before I had a change of mindset and began enjoying the rides more and snapping photos of everything that catches my eye.

On Tuesday I had gone from mapping out my own route to seeing what permanent ride routes were on offer with Audax. If I were to do a permanent, I could get the points associated with the ride as well as the ride I wanted. Win win! The ride I selected was the Ferry Long Way Around 200km which gave me the distance and route I was looking for. I immediately emailed the ride organizers, Howard and Bec, to let them know I was wanting to do the ride and find out what was needed as it was my first permanent. I didn't hear anything back until Friday when Howard let me know that he and a few others were planning on doing the same route, only in the opposite direction, and asked if I wanted to join them. In the end, I not only got to ride the route I wanted, for the distance I wanted, but I was able to ride it with a group of great people and cyclists!

The ride started off around 6:30 with Galstons Gorge being the first destination. This is a nice descent on a rode that has half a dozen switchbacks and this time, a very dense fog. One of the riders, Wayde, had on the new Audax Australia reflective vest which has a mostly white backside. As we found out, he easily blended with the fog and we lost sight of him. Because of this, the rest of the ride included a string of "Where's Wayde" jokes. The other folks on the ride were Howard, Bec and Phillip who are not only great cyclists but also run the New South Whales Audax chapter.

After Galstons Gorge, we headed west to Windsor and our first checkpoint. When I had left the house, the temps were in the low teens (Celsius) and I had on a wind coat. After the 11km ride to the starting point, I was boiling so the jacket was stuffed into the saddlebag. During the ride to Windsor, the temperature dropped to its lowest point for the day of 0 (you know, freezing...). It's not easy to drink a coffee when you can't stop shaking long enough to take a sip before it sloshes out onto your lap. Oh well, there is more than one way coffee can be used to warm you up.

After Windsor the route turns northward and we hit the first of two ferry crossings.

Howard (back left), Phillip (center) and Wayde (right) on the ferry as we cross the Hawkesbury River.

A shot of the river from the ferry.

After the ferry crossing we get on River Road which was the reason I wanted to make this ride again.

The following pictures are just a sample of how beautiful this part of Australia is.

A good portion of this road includes rock cliffs on the right and the river on the left.

In two sections, the road turns to dirt for no apparent reason. I assume a couple people on the road crew have wonderfully paved driveways now...

River Road takes us to Wisemans Ferry which is our second checkpoint and second ferry crossing.

(Left to right) Phillip, Howard and Bec.

The Hawkesbury River again.

After the ferry crossing, we are on Wisemans Ferry Road which follows the river for a while longer before a nice long 15km hill that takes you from sea level to 325m above sea level. It's not a hard hill to ride but it feels like it will never end...

After Wisemans Ferry Road we hit Peats Ridge Road, our third checkpoint and turn south towards home.

The sun is setting and the temperature is still nice making the last 60km or so very pleasant. With about 30km left, I felt like I still had too much left in the tank so I turned up the speed in an attempt to burn out my legs before the ride ended.

After over nine hours of riding and about thirteen hours since I left the house, it was the end of the Audax portion of the ride. I still had another 12km to get home but not before having a beer and a plate of chips (french fries) with everyone else on the ride. Is there any better way to finish a long day of riding?

This weekend is another Audax ride for 300km!

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Weekend Ride - 2 June

Short, easy 72.5 km ride with Nikki this morning.

The day started off with the plan that Alicia and Nikki would be doing a 50km loop and Roger and I doing a 100km loop, starting and ending in Wahroonga. I left the house just before 6:30 to ride the 9km up to Wahroonga and meet up with everyone else. As soon as I got out on the road, I realised that I had forgotten something.  Even though I had been up since just before 4 am, I didn't think to eat anything... A quick stop at Danes Cafe near the Wahrronga train station will solve that issue so no need to turn back.

Riding up through Gordon, there was an ambulance parked outside a McDonald's with its emergency lights going. I wonder if those fries finally took a life...

Stopped at Danes, grabbed a coffee and slice of banana bread then rode over to the train station car park to wait for the others. Yes, I can ride a bike with a hot coffee in one hand, though I am still in the design phase of adding a cup holder to the bike. As I roll into the car park, I'm reminded that the first day of winter was yesterday.

While waiting for everyone else to show, Roger calls to let me know that Alicia and him were dropping out of today's ride but would stop by for a coffee. Nikki arrives, gets her bike and gear sorted and we head over to Danes to meet up with them. Of course, Alicia has to show up with her new bike to tease me a bit more. At least she was pleasant enough while I drooled all over it :)

After coffee, Nikki and I headed off to do the 50km route I had mapped out. Up Pacific Highway to Berowra then down to Berowra Waters. This is the first time I've ridden down to Berowra Waters from the eastern side and even though I was looking forward to rocketing down the 200m descent (over 4km), the road was just a bit too wet to indulge my insanity. With the low lying clouds and a bit of morning fog, Berowra Waters is absolutely stunning!

Nikki arrives at the bottom of the hill a little bit later as she has a  much better sense of self preservation than I and we wait for the ferry to take us across the river.

Then it's a 200m climb out of Berowra Waters and through Arcadia before turning south to Galston's Gorge. The course had us on a road I haven't ridden before and I had to stop when we came across an orange grove. To me, there's nothing like a little orange grove to prompt a Kodak moment...

After the orange grove, we jump on Old Northern Rd. and head south to Galston. This is also when we learned that they had the road totally torn up and it's a complete mess. Fortunately we're not on this road for too long before turning onto Mid Dural Rd which takes us to Galston's Gorge. The ride down to the gorge is a 180m descent on a narrow two lane rode that bottoms out with a single lane wooden bridge.

The bridge spans Berowra Creek which is part of the river that goes through Berowra Waters. It just doesn't support boating as well...

Feel free to scroll up and take another peek at the Berowra Waters photo and compare the two pictures of the same body of water. I'll wait.

Now we have to climb out of Galston's Gorge. This is probably one of the easiest climbs we do around here as it's only a 160m ascent with half a dozen switchbacks. Riding down this hill is a blast as you get to go from top downhill race speed to nearly nothing because these switchbacks are 180 degree turns. Another benefit of riding up this hill, over down it, is that you get a chance to enjoy the view of the hills and gum trees that make up the gorge.

After climbing out of the gorge, the road flattens out and we ride through Hornsby, get back on Pacific Highway and cruise on back to our start point in Wahroonga. I don't remember when my last Saturday ride ended up being less than 100km but it was nice to slow down, take it easy and enjoy the ride. Thanks again Nikki for riding today!

Next weekend I have my thoughts set on a 200km course I've mapped out and the following weekend is another 300km Audax ride. If I manage to keep to my ride schedule for the month, it's possible that I may end up with a total of 1500km, or more, which will put me comfortably over the half way mark for my 12,000km cycling goal for this year. As of today, I've completed 46% of this goal with a total of 5,508km on the bike(s).