It's now a week on from last Sunday's ride Around The Bay. I'm happy to say that I made it. The whole way.
It all began Saturday night when Renee dropped me and my bike off at Marshall station in Geelong. I was catching the 2118hr to Southern Cross Station. There were some young girls catching the train to Geelong for a night out. They were wearing very little and I felt the urge to tell them 'you are not going out in that!?' but resisted. I'm getting old.
The journey begins.
It was nice to be on the train with my bike and riding gear. It was like it was finally happening. I'd done all the preparation I could and now all that was left was to just do it. If it wasn't done, if I didn't have it, at that point it didn't matter. I listened to my iPod, stared at the lights outside the window, and tried not to make eye contact with the bogan skateboarding up and down the carriage.
I arrived in Melbourne, jumped on the bike and in a few minutes I was at Bex's buiding in Kavanagh St. She buzzed me in and I quick ride up the lift and I was in her apartment overlooking the best of Melbourne. Bex had her room ready for me; clean sheets, a towel on the end of the bed, and the doona turned down. All so I could get the best night's sleep possible. What a friend! Giving up her bed so I could be as prepared as possible. Thank you, Bex. I appreciate it, and I love you heaps. I set out the things I would need for the morning, had a brief chat with Bex, and went to bed.
What felt like minutes later I woke to the alarm, jumped out of bed, showered, ate, and left. It was cold and dark. I'd chosen to wear shorts, a shortsleeve top and arm warmers. I knew this would mean I'd be cold for some time but thought it was the best option for the 10 hour trip. Unfortunately, starting took longer than anyone expected with our wave (in the 20-24 km/h average estimate wave) leaving at 7am. It was a stop start first 10kms getting out of Melbourne city and out to St Kilda but once on the bay we were getting some good peddling for some good kilometres.
About 60kms in I started cramping. We had to stop at a set of lights and as soon as I stopped turning the legs around and stood up my quads screamed at me. This was a grave concern. I was barely a quarter of the way into my 210kms and my body was already saying 'no'. I was frustrated as I can ride 60kms with my eyes shut and no issues with my body. I couldn't believe on my biggest day it was going wrong this soon. I decided I'd get to the 75km rest area, get off the bike, take a break, and see what happened from there. I made it to 75km unconvincingly, had a shork rest where I took on fluid, let go of some fluid, and ate a Mars bar. I sent a couple of texts updating some people as to where I was at and my concerns, and got a reply from my brother, Tim that read; 'Just do your best, there is no failure.'
Making my way to Sorrento.
I got back on the bike and latched on to a group. The weather was really turning at this stage and we found ourselves riding into a stiff breeze which meant we'd slowed down. As it turned out, this was a blessing in disguise. The 25kms to Sorrento were a bit slower, a bit easier, and the cramps dissappeared. About 8kms from Sorrento I found myself riding alone at a slow 22km/h. A group went past me like I was standing still and I decided to bust my balls and latch on the back of them. It hurt, but I caught them and stayed with them. Arrived at Sorrento in good shape but with about 600 people ahead of me waiting for the next ferry. I ate everything in the bag I was handed; chicken sandwich, random cake/slice, energy gel, apple. Powerade. It was cold, a bit wet, and windy sitting on the concrete waiting for the next ferry to arrive and I was a bit worried about how I would get the legs moving when I eventually got off the ferry and back on the bike at Queenscliff. The ferry showed up and they began letting riders and bikes on. I was about the 10th last rider to get on the ferry; a fact for which made me most grateful that I'd ridden the last 8kms to Sorrento with that fast group. Here is how my Garmin saw the first leg.
A lot of money laying on the road!
It had been almost exactly two hours since I'd stopped when I rolled off the ferry at Queenscliff and began the 39kms to Renee in Geelong. Happily, and surprisingly, the legs felt great. I stopped briefly in Point Lonsdale just near my work to see Tim, who gave me some new drinks - the water and Gatorade was a much needed change from the Staminade I was getting sick of. The ride into Geelong was okay, I stayed in groups and just kept turning the legs. I saw Mim and Danielle cheering me on in Ocean Grove, Dad in Moolap with a big sign reading 'Simon Davies, you're a legend' and in no time at all I was cruising through the Geelong CBD. Arrived at the Rippleside rest area in awesome shape. At this point I expected to be falling apart, but I was feeling good and as soon as I got off the bike I wanted to be back on it. I had a protien shake, tightened my cleats which had been coming loose, took a selfie with my baby, and set off. My Garmin record of this section is here.
My support team.
The hard work that had been done for the previous 5 or 6 hours on the bike meant we enjoyed a wind on our backs as we turned toward Melbourne. I found myself behind two guys as we belted along the Melbourne Road at a pacey 37-39km/h. We hit Little River rest area in no time and as these guys slowed down to decide if they were stopping I carried on alone. This turned out to be the most enjoyable part of the ride. I had visualised two things in the weeks leading up to the ride; 1) Riding over the West Gate Bridge knowing I couldn't fail, and 2) Sitting on the side of the Melbourne Road waiting for the support vehicle knowing I had failed. As it turned out, I was riding alone up the road to Melbourne absolutely eating up the road at 40-45km/h. I can't stress enough how fast that is for the not-too-serious recreational rider. My Garmin watch was beeping at me every 1min 30secs saying I'd done another kilometre. It was incredible.
Just at the Werribee turnoff I got an intense, powerful, painful cramp on the inside of my right thigh. I immediatly worried that I'd not respected the distance enough and I was going to pay for my last 40kms of pushing hard. I stood up on the pedals, stretched it out as best I good, and tried to ride through it. After a couple of kms I won the fight and the cramp desisted. Made it to the comfort stop in Werribee, had a quick break, and sent off the group text of 'Werribee. 35kms to go.' Tim replied with; 'You're a fucking rock star mate. You can do it!'
And I could. Hitting the highway out of Werribee and seeing Melbourne was awesome. The cramps were gone, the body felt good, and I could see the finish line. I began to get a bit emotional. All this with 35kms still to go. It felt inevitable that I'd finish the ride at this stage and I had to tell myself to cool it, that anything could still happen. I did calm down and settled into the task of getting back to Alexandra Gardens safely. I quickly found myself at the point I'd visualised so many times but been scared to believe would happen; me at the top of the West Gate Bridge. Again, I found myself, not unexpectadley, getting emotional again and actually cried tears of joy as I realised come hell or high water, I was going to finish. I was alone with my thoughts, looking forward to the long descent from the top of the bridge when I heard a car horn. I looked to my right and saw Renee driving past waving to me. It was amazing that by sheer luck she'd been there next to me at my own psycological finish line.
Ten minutes later I turned in to the short finshing straight along the Yarra River having done something that had exhausted mentally in the weeks leading up to it; if not physically on the day. I crossed the line, unclipped my feet from the cleats, leant on my handlebars, and cried tears of relief, joy, pride. See the final leg stats here.
I sit here now so proud of myself. I set a goal, a very, very difficult goal, and I worked towards it. I registered in July, four days after Cadel triumphed in Paris, and I used that as genuine, actual inspiration. I think about the ride all the time. I think about riding to Sorrento, unable to see the other side of the bay and knowing I had to ride around it. It is crazy but possible. I did it. Go me.