GDT 2014 sure as hell didn’t go to plan, I didn’t finish it and I’m still pretty annoyed at myself and I certainly don’t want to make any excuses but ….. I will make some!! GDT was an event I had been looking forward to all year and I was keen to try to beat my time from last year and to see how I would go in vastly different conditions! Unfortunately leading up to it all I was wanted was break from the bike, which is unusual for me as I hate taking breaks! A sore hamstring, foot and calf had been bugging me since Alice 8 weeks ago and I was trying to balance resting it so it healed and continuing riding so not to lose fitness for GDT. I was getting worn out, had loads of school correction and reports to write I wasn’t feeling up to riding but I didn’t want to back out and miss out on catching up with friends I’d made the previous year. I figured I’d push through the ride then take a break.
Leaving work on Friday afternoon we had a 6hr drive ahead of us, arrived in Castlemaine and spent an hour or so finalising my bike. Rolled down to the 9am train where Al discovered his brakes weren’t working too well. John and he got their Magyver on and cut open a can of bundy from the trash and worked some magic and got them going, not to the delight of the happy train conductor who kept telling them to move out of the way. Perhaps not impressed so many bikes were on this one trip to Bendigo – we met Ollie, Heidi, Al and Jackie along with a few other riders making their way to the start line.
It had been cold so I dressed appropriately, however once we started moving and the sun come out, this become inappropriate. Stopping to delayer, by the end of the day I was sick of doing the whole coat on, coat off, coat on, coat off. I found myself getting abit dehydrated as I sweated too much overestimating the cold. We rolled into Castlemaine and had a quick little picnic, having spent most of the ride chatting with others it was then onto Daylesford which Al and I rode mostly on our own. It was starting to get cold and dark, coffee, bakers delight, lights on, layers on. We headed off with 2 guys and rode in the dark and cold for the next 5 hours. During this time it pelted down with rain and the tracks were seriously muddy! We nearly lost one of the guys in a puddle, I seriously thought he was going to drown. A massive freezing cold puddle he went fully in and we had to get him moving quick so he didn’t get hypothermia. Not having much luck he then had another stack and ripped a huge hole in the backside of his knicks. This provided me with much laughter every time I rode behind him, and I sincerley apologise to you for laughing, I know it wouldn’t have been funny for you. The section into Ballarat from Creswick was pretty gnarly as it was super slippery singletrack and was so hard to navigate!
Arrived at Coles at 11.58, they closed at 12! We ran around frantically trying to find some food and then were too cold to stand there and eat it we pedalled on, trying to get as far away from this freezing ice town. Al and I rode through until 2am just out of Buninyong with a lovely SSer and we laid down our bivvies and tried to sleep, not much sleep was had as I was just too cold. I had made the mistake of having my mat in my bivvy, resulting in my sleeping bag not puffing up. Next time I will take a ground sheet for my mat, and a cooker to have a hot meal/cup of tea!
4 hours later we were up and rolling out trying to get warm. Had a pretty easy but chilly roll to Bachhus Marsh on fire road and Al and Jackie caught up to us. Maccas breakky and refuel at coles, Al was feeling pretty crook so we spent a fair bit of time here and left after the others. Hiked our bikes up and over steep hills for the next few hours and this is when I started to get cold, going down the steep the hills, onto Lerderderg Gorge scary as single track and into Blackwood just in time before they shut. Had the worlds most expensive but delicious little blueberry muffin thing and this is when I started to make poor decisions that led to the outcome. I had told Jackie it would be roughly 5 hours to Daylesford from here. For some reason I decided when I was there that I must have been wrong, that we would only be 2.5hours away based on how many k’s we had left. I went to fill up my water bottle but the bubbler tap sprayed water angrily at me I thought nah thats too much hassle getting it into my bottle, I’ll be fine with just this one bottle. 2nd mistake- I was going to put on my base layer to keep myself warm and then decided I’d do it in Ballarat in a few hours. Some fun singletrack and then it got dark, and cold, really cold. 2,5 hrs came and went, as did 3 and 4 and 5. We were in a mudbath, a very cold mudbath. I was feeling sick and struggling to eat or drink. Al was getting cranky at me as my distance calculations had been wrong. We had to up the pace to try to get to Coles Daylesford before 10 to resupply. At about the exact same spot I had my meltdown last year, it hit me again.
Al was out of sight, I was shivering cold, all I could think about was catching up to Al to tell him to slow down that I was in pain. I didn’t eat and I didn’t drink, I started cramping. I’d start climbing and then both quads would cramp and I’d fall off. My one goal for this ride was to not cry. I was briefly disappointed when I didn’t achieve this goal and started crying, and then I started crying hysterically and tried to pull it together but then started hyperventilating. When I finally caught up to Al I was incoherent, blubbering to him and slurring my speech. I could feel my body starting to shut down, I know the signs, it’s happened before. Headache, then you fell drunk, then you sound drunk this is where I was up to. By the time I was riding up the hill in town I had zero energy in my legs, I could feel myself ziggzagging up the road and knew it was all over. I knew I had gone over the tipping point and it didn’t matter if I sat down for 2 hours and ate and drank, it was going to take longer to recover to be able to continue riding. Why didn’t you just get in your bivvy and get warm you say- mistake 3- poor sleeping kit, I was not warm in my bivvy the night before and didn’t feel like laying there for the next 8 hrs freezing some more!
We got to Coles at 9.50, Al was running around urging me to come, I just slumped down in the foyer and put my hands in my head and cried. Physically and mentally broken. He came back out with Red Bull, dip and sakatas ready to tackle the next part of the course, he was pumped and ready to go! I was shivering cold and laying on the ground when the automatic door opened as I was at the other end, it slammed into my head, lucky I still had my helmet on! Jackie and Al came over and I told them I couldn’t go on and urged Al to go with them. He said he would catch up to them he’d ring his Dad who would come get me and stay with me until then. I was so cold Al told me to get into my sleep bag, feeling dizzy everything went black and I hit the deck, then threw up a lot all over the footpath, to the horror of some passerby’s. Lucky I had my bike next to me otherwise they would have thought I was a junkie. A few even offered to take me to the hospital! Big thanks to lifesaver Phil for coming to the rescue. And an awesome effort to John who rode the whole way without stopping to sleep, epic!!
I am definitely disappointing in myself for not taking care of myself out on the trail and letting myself get to the state I did, I am also annoyed at myself for making Al miss out on finishing. We rode over 300k and had to stop with only 52 to go. Riding into Daylesford and later that night I was adamant that I would not do another bikepacking event, I wasn’t cut out for it. It’s a catch 22 in terms of I don’t really like riding for that long in the cold, dark bush by myself, I get too scared so I ride with Al, but then I bury myself to try to catch up with him and result in “blowing the lid off my tupperware” as I make poor decisions like not stopping to put on more clothes/eat/drink. I’ve done 4 bikepacking races now and after each one I’ve sweared I wouldn’t do another… I have some more thoughts on this but I’ll save them for another blog as I’ve written too much and most likely no-one is reading anymore!!! A big thanks to the other riders for keeping me company, to Liv Giant, Ay-Up, Hammer Nutrition and those who mapped out the course!