Monday, September 22, 2008

Ego Tripping

Yesterday I went out with the big boys, on a BikeSA organised mountain bike ride called the Ego Trip. The ride consisted of a 30km route at Cudlee Creek Conservation Park (where I've been a couple of times before with Amanda (sheep and kangaroos attacked, although I saw nothing more exciting than birds this time)). The pros were going to do three laps, making 90km (for some reason they revised it down from the original 99, which sounds much cooler). I was hoping to make it round for 2 laps, but just getting out and having a ride, discovering some new trails, was the main concern.
The route was insane - it's here. All those zigs and zags on the map are up and down mountains. I just discovered that on the top left of that Bikely map there is a 'show' option and you can have a look at the elevation profile. No wonder I seemed to spend a lot of time walking the bike up really steep hills, or white-knuckling it down really steep ones.
My day started off darkly when as the last thing before heading out the door at 7.30am I grabbed the bike to load onto the racks and noticed the front tire was flat. Hooray. Because my favourite thing to do is fix flats early in the morning. I must have punctured it the day before when I went out for a little warm-up ride. So it was easy to find and repair the puncture and I hoped that boded well for a trouble free rest of the day. I made it to Cudlee Creek without getting lost at all which was kind of exciting and got all sorted out just in time for the pre-ride briefing. I started off well and truly as the last rider - I didn't want to get in anyone's way early on. Another guy and I quickly began competing for who could stay right at the back. His excuse though was a 12 year old bike with no shocks. Mine, well, I didn't really have one. Very early on, my hopes of a smooth ride after the early flat vanished when my chain came off and then I started having problems with gear changes. The other slow guy (we rode and chatted together for a long time but I never asked his name, for shame) was very helpful fiddling with things but we couldn't really get it working right. I quickly worked out that I couldn't use the very biggest or very smallest gears. After the ride, the mechanic confirmed the rear derailleur hanger was bent for some reason and that was causing the problems. Of course that was what I suspected all along... sure.
Anyway, the bike was still plenty rideable although there were a few annoying moments with attempted quick gear changes. And I'm sure if I had that one extra gear it would have made all the difference in having to walk up so many hills.
I had my new bike computer to play with as well, which is so advanced that while it was measuring my speed and heart rate I'm pretty sure it was also calculating the trajectory of the next Mars lander. The kilometres seemed to take a long time to tick over though. After I'd been riding for seemingly hours and hours I was surprised to see it said I'd only done about 15km. At about this time I scored a rear flat. Now rear flats suck a lot more than front flats, because to replace the tube you've got to deal with the chain/gears and brake when getting the tyre on and off. I opted to keep everything on, and just patch the tube. It was pretty easy to find the hole because there was a massive piece of wood sticking into it. I took my time fixing the tyre but didn't see any sign of my friend from earlier who I'd left behind a while ago. I headed on alone but soon realised that the tyre was still deflating. I stopped again and proceeded to pull the whole thing off to replace the tube altogether. About this time, my buddy finally caught up, just in time to help me with the tricky bit (putting the wheel back on). I also checked with him that my speedo was working correctly, and unfortunately it was. We'd only done 16km in well over two hours. I'd been hoping to average 10km/hr, so I could achieve two loops in the approximately six hours I had. But anyway, we pressed on, I soon left him behind again (not that I'm competitive of course). I spent the rest of the ride essentially alone, stopping for a chat with the marshall at the refreshment stop (apple juice and fruit cake - sultanas never looked so good), and otherwise only seeing other riders as I pulled over to let them pass me. The leader passed me only a couple of hours in, so he'd done 45km in the time I'd done 15. Great. He was a machine though, second rider was at least an hour behind that. I was heartened to see some of the pros also have to stop and walk their bikes up some of the hills. One guy even picked up his bike and ran up the hill. What's with THAT?! How is it easier to CARRY a bike up a hill rather than push it? They have wheels for a reason.
The route itself was great, though just to scare me it started off in the really difficult stuff, all dark under the pine trees, windy and steep with lots of exposed roots to add some variation. The park has such a diversity of trails, we also went on some nice wide gentle fire trails, and some big clear up and downs (my favourites - you can see what's coming up and so can go REALLY fast down the hills, and get enough momentum to make it almost to the top of the next hill). There was also one incredibly awesome scary downhill that went down for a VERY long time, but not just down straight, there were jumps and bends and little bridges that had been built into the trail just to keep it interesting. I just about strained my braking muscles on that bit, which seemed to go forever (although not quite as long as the incredibly steep uphill that preceded it).
In the park there are lots of downhill trails like that, rather than the cross-country ones we were mostly on, occasionally you'd hear a rustle in the bushes and a downhill rider would silently zoom across the trail at great speed straight down the hill. Those guys have it good, they have a driver at the bottom who loads their bikes back on and takes them back to the top to hoon down again.
It was really nice basically riding alone in the bush, but not having to worry about finding my way as it was very well sign-posted, and with riders passing me at fairly regular intervals so I didn't feel too alone. I had lots of time for contemplation as well as enjoying the scenery, which is spectacular up there. I didn't really come close to falling off that often, but I did come to a deep philosophical realisation about the nature of control... The times I was closest to losing it all together were on the downhills. I'd get up a bit of speed and instead of just enjoying it, maintaining the barest of control, looking out for obstacles and planning my path, I'd try to slow down and regain total control. That's when I'd start to slide... A very similar thing happened while I was skiing. It was the slowing down and trying to regain control that led to disaster. So my lesson? Relax. Go with the flow. I don't have to be in control ALL the time as long as I can see the other end.
Although I can't POSSIBLY see how that could relate to anything in my life other than the bike or skis...
By the time I'd made it around the route once (so 30km) it was getting late-ish (they'd said no new starts after 2pm and it was about 1.30). As I was nearing the end-point I'd intended to stop for something to eat and then head off again, not to do the whole thing over, but just ride for another hour or so, but first I got the mechanic to look at my bike which took a while, and by then I was just ready to get the kids, head home and shower. So I did 30km (or technically 29.8km). This is at least double what I've ever done off-road before. My exciting new (secondhand of course) computer tells me I averaged 7.9km/hr, with a max speed of 42km/hr. I was on the bike for 5hrs exactly with 3hr43 actual ride time. And because it's so technically advanced I know I averaged a heart rate of 144bpm with a max of 175, and also that I burned 2039kcal. Annoyingly, I can't get it to tell me energy used in kJ although everything else will switch metric-imperial. I even uploaded all this data to the internet, where I promptly ignored it.
Hooray for mountains and pushing comfort zones. When's the next ride?

1 comment:

Michael Field said...

Again, well done on giving that ride a go. It certainly sounded daunting and the fact that hardcore MBers were also walking up parts of the track means it really was a cliff face in parts. To actually ride 29.8 Km over that sort of crap is excellent. I really can't believe the bad luck you have with flats either! I can't remember the last time I had a flat tire .. well I was in Germany in about 2003 but I digress. It sounds like you had a good time and handled the up's and especially the downs with aplomb :)

Congratulations again on a superb biking effort and thanks for the stats. I wouldn't have been able to sleep without knowing the avg. Heart rate data.

I also have 2 laminated cards in my arsenal now ;)