Tuesday, 9 April 2013

The Baw Baw Challenge – CHECK

Ride number 2 in the Netti Challenge Series and a ride that has been calling me for the last 12 months. In the cycling world, there are 2 words that will often scare a cyclist. These words are BAW BAW.  For reasons why, check out the Climbing Cyclists summary of it here: (
For me, this ride was the next step to conquering the doubts that I have about belonging in the world of cycling. Also, this ride is not the real Baw Baw that frightens the real cyclists. This Baw Baw is classed as a recreational ride that takes place near Mount Baw Baw. But it has those 2 words in it … BAW BAW, and with a cycling profile that is not for the faint hearted, I knew that I needed to prepare for this one. Physically and mentally.
The physical preparation was the easy part. Get the k’s into the legs, eat right, train right, rest right. And hill training. For 3 weeks I had a plan that included everything. What I was going to eat, how I was going to train and I made sure I got as much rest and sleep as I could. We were even fortunate to have some great training opportunities on our Easter holiday to Mount Gambier. I tried to shrug a few kilos in preparation for long climbs, but my body is resistant to ever getting below 70kgs. 70.3 is generally the number that stares back at me from the scales (maybe that is a sign??). But thanks to my preparation, the 70.3kg composition is now very different. More muscle, less fat. More of the stuff that was going to get me to the finish line and less of the stuff that was going to give me a hard time.
I knew for this one though, my mental preparation is what I really needed to focus on. For me, it is not something that I have really needed to focus on too much given my Reason 2 Ride is different to most. I ride to raise money and awareness for Cancer research, support & advocacy. I ride to honor the fight of my Angels and Fighters and everything they have done to beat Cancer. That is enough motivation – generally! But over the last few months, during my “in between stage” I had put my reasons aside and exchanged them for the fun and social aspect of riding. And that is what got me unstuck in Marysville. When the going got tough there, hot and in a hunger flat, I found it easy to just pull over and take a minute. But at Baw Baw, I was not going to quit!
So, I turned to one person that helps me out when I seek some cycling guidance. She is a true cycling champion who I have so much admiration for. Yes - the one and only Jess Douglas! In a blog of hers, there is one small bit that always sticks with me when I am preparing for any event. Taken from her blog (
“I think personally the best way for me to handle the race is to do ALL my preparation before the day and have played out my race in my head over and over, like a rehearsal. If I am well practised in my craft before performance day then I can easily ad lib with ease and any hiccups along the way are easily covered up and made up for.”
This resonates within me. This sums up my life. Anyone who knows me well will tell you how anal I am with preparing for everything. So I took the words of Jess, and took what comes naturally and I prepared for this event in my head. I studied the course profile and knew what I had to face after each rest stop. I prepared my mind for the flats and for the climbs. I prepared my snack bag knowing what I should take and when. I prepared my mind for the pain that I would experience on these long climbs and I was prepared to do it alone. Wow – I might even be sounding like a real cyclist if I keep this up.
Initially this ride was going to be Mello and I, and with him being far better with fitness and endurance than I, we planned that we would ride our own way and meet at the rest stops. The Marysville Challenge was all about Team Work, but this time I knew it was going to be an individual effort. Then the last minute message came through that my wingmen were going to be there to join us – Corinna & Tracey! Knowing this didn’t really alter my preparation. I just knew I would spend less time alone J
So, it was ride time. You find that the first 30kms of any long ride, you settle into your groove. And this is exactly what we were able to do. We all knew it was going to be a long day in the saddle with 138kms to cover. And in this first 30kms, we all get to find out if we are about to have a good day or a bad day. For me, I was ready for this. I also knew the first section had a few short pinchy hills, but was relatively flat. A perfect chance to warm up and get ready for the onslaught of hills that would follow. It was also the time to work together before the climbing sorted everyone out. And we did this. Without really trying, we were able to form a small bunch of 15 and let the poor guys up front do the hard work. I am not sure if the two Total Rush guys actually knew they had a bunch taking advantage of their effort – but it allowed us to make good time and expend little energy.
At the first rest stop, none of us really needed to refuel. Thanks again to those Total Rush guys! But we did top up drink bottles and take in some yummy fruit cake! And of course take photos J Within 5 minutes we were back on the road. It was a long flat section on a road that we all knew was leading us to Baw Baw (Ok – the little hills that surrounded Baw Baw)… but it teased us on the horizon. And it was in these few kilometers when my ad lib that Jess talks about began. It was a situation that I had not prepared for and it was the choice of team verses individual that I had not prepared for. For me, I always try to put the team first. But I also realized that this day was going to be an individual battle for us all. The old saying of “what happens on the trip stays on the trip” applies here; because that is just the way it goes.
In any ride that I have done in the past, the team has ridden as a bunch, but when you get to a climb, everyone needs to attack it in their own way and we meet at the top. But this ride quickly turned into a very long uphill battle.  One minute we were all together and the next minute I felt like I was the only person on earth. I watched Mello quickly disappear into the distance. He loves to attack the climbs. And the jingle of Corinna’s necklace slowly disappeared behind me. But I was having a great day on the bike and I knew we would meet at the top. Little did I know, the top was hours away.
Hill after hill, corner after corner, I pushed on. I smiled, because I was really enjoying it. I got lost in my thoughts and had the time to process some much needed stuff in my head. I enjoyed the scenery and cursed the decision of not ever investing in a GoPro camera to capture the scenery we got to see. Every now and then I stopped to take a photo, for this was a ride that I wanted to capture forever.  There was a rest stop where we got to re-group but quickly after leaving that stop, I was alone once again. But I was happy. And I was enjoying the solitude.
It’s odd what you think about when you have the time and very little to distract you. But in my preparation for this ride, I had made myself a mental list of things to mull over.
·         Ride To Conquer Cancer 2013 and everything it is shaping up to be.
·         Finding my happiness & passion again
·         Our 2 year plan as a family
·         Our 5 year plan as a family
And it is safe to say, the solitude of the Baw Baw Challenge allowed me to process all of this. It also made me think about Team Work. It made me think about the sacrifices team members make for others. One day you are being depended on, the next you are dependent of those around you. Your consideration for others is vital and knowing your team members strengths and weaknesses is vital. I have been part of many different teams over my life, but never in a sporting arena.  And the odd thing is, that in my years as a Team Leader at work, I always use sport as how teams have to run efficiently. It is having a common goal of success and how each person will contribute to it.
Our goal on this day was the same as usual. To start and finish together! At the start of the day, 4 of us set out on our bikes as a team. And throughout this ride, the team broke apart simply because of the terrain we were riding. We all had different strengths and this needed to be considered. We were all having different days on the bike. But I learnt more about my team members on this ride with not having them near me. I also learnt a lot about myself.
So, that is the Baw Baw Challenge in a nutshell. A hard ride that would suit a climbing cyclist. If you love the flats, this ride is not for you. I needed to draw on a lot of mental strength, more so that than physical strength to get me through the middle section. It is safe to say that there was lots of sweat and tears and yes – I did have to talk myself though some tough stages. I channeled my inner Lleyton with screams of “C’mon” and at some points I had to tell that road that it was not going to win. It was not going to beat me and I was not going to quit. It did however have a small win after I opted to cut the course short and not put myself through yet another 20kms of climbing. But that gives me more fire in the belly for next year :)