Sunday, February 15, 2015

And The Penny Drops......

While researching for the Tour Divide race this past week I came across an interesting blog by a German bloke, Michael Gruenert, who did the race in 2013. The thing that really struck me about his blog was (apart from the stunning photos) the elevation profiles from each day of his race.

We all know that there is over 200 000ft of climbing in this race...blah,blah, have heard it all before. But seeing it broken down, day by day in this way with the actual elevation of the ride evident has sort of blown me out of my double pluggers!

Here is the profile for day one out of Banff. You will note that it tops out a 6600ft at one point. On day 1 !

About a week into the race, if all is going to plan one will find themselves riding through Atlantic City. Now there are two points of interest on that sign. One being the population, the other being the elevation. Yep, 7675ft above sea level !

Michael Gruenert photo

Why is this significant I hear you ask? Well, Atlantic City is the gateway to The Great Basin. The Basin is a vast, mostly flat, 200+km stretch of nothingness. At approximately 7500ft, give or take.

Exhibit "A" is a photo of my daughter and I from a few years ago, standing right at the TOP of the highest point in Australia. This is a far up as one can go and it is only 7307ft above sea level.

That, dear reader, is the moment the penny dropped. I will have to ride, no, race at an average elevation equal to the highest mountain in our country. How do I train for that?

This is the Gold Dust Trail in Colorado. It is a required alternate for South Bound riders. Single track, cool. 

Michael Gruenert photo

But looking at the elevation profile below, that "cool" single track is at 10 700ft ! Just after you have crested Boreas Pass at 11 500ft!

Michael Gruenert photo

Even day 20 in New Mexico has one cresting passes at 11 900ft. It may be the last state on the race route but clearly New Mexico is no lay down mazeire'. 

Michael Gruenert photo

So, how does one prepare for such an endeavour? No, really?

Well, first up you need to really enjoy riding a bike. A LOT. Check

Then you need to train. Train hard but also smart. Check.

You need to research the route. Know it's ins and outs. (Working on that one.)

Michael Gruenert photo

You need to have your kit sorted. Figure out what works and what doesn't. (Working on that one as well)

My training has me doing an assortment of bike and gym work. I normally hate being indoors at the gym. However, having a "plan" and a reason to be there sort of breaks the training up and keeps me fresh on the bike. If all I did was ride my bike I think it might get old, all too soon and frankly, I need the strength training.

Yesterday was the first "ride all day at TD pace" training ride in my plan. After pulling an all night shift at work, then working in the garden all day with only 1.5 hours sleep the preceding day I went to bed, setting the alarm for the crack of dawn. When it went of lets just say I "considered my position" for 5 or 10 minutes before bouncing out of bed.

I was soon glad I had got on with it as it was shaping to be a great day for riding.

I don't have my TD bike yet. it is still being built by Troy from River City Cycles here in Brisbane. He is a bit busy right now, jetting out for Alaska in 4 days for the Iditarod and I did say to him not to let my build get in the way of his preparation.

So, I was riding the Lynskey Ridgeline today. My custom Revelate frame bag doesn't quite fill the frame as it did on the old Giant but it still does the job.

What better way to start an all day ride but to climb up the new Birdwing track? I swear, it is the best trail on the southside.

So, I rolled through Daisy Hill, hitting up Jumping Ant on the way through then rolled into the city on bike paths. A quick coffee stop was needed to shake the drowsiness.

Through the city to Gap Creek and there was a Giant demo day on with bikes and riders everywhere. I stopped for a quick photo, filled the water bag then climbed the hill toward South Boundary Rd.

Sth Boundary is where the pain begins. While there are plenty of undulations, the theme of the day was onward and upward. Somewhere here I discovered that my front mech wouldn't shift into the smallest chainring. Not ideal, just time to harden up!

I decided to take the road less travelled today. I had not been down Creek track for 5-6 years and I had never done Lightline Rd so that was the route for today.

The trail went down, then down and then down some more. It was going to be a mighty big climb back to the top of Lightline Rd! 

Lightline Link would soon provide me with my first hike-a-bike section and within 5 minutes my ahchilles were starting to twinge from the steepness of the push.

Below, I stopped on a shallower section of the hill for a quick photo.

Just prior, I feel it had looked like this......

Micheal Gruenert photo

.....just without the greenery. Now I see how guys and girls screw their achilles...

Once I got onto Lightline Rd proper, it was a pleasant if somewhat long climb. I did bump into two guys who were taking a breather on the climb. We exchanged pleasantries as I ground onward.

I stopped for a minute at the bush camp to take a photo and was caught by the two riders.

They were two South African expats, out on a training ride for the Cape Epic in March. We chatted as we climbed and I was pleased to see that I could easily keep with them despite already having 80km (50mi) in the legs and 5kg(10lb) strapped to my bike.

We parted company at Mt Nebo when I stopped in at J.M. Jones Tearooms for some lunch. Here I was served a hamburger the size of my head ! I almost struggled to eat it and wash it down with a couple of cokes. Hmmm, maybe I was a bit hungry?

One of my favourite parts of any Sth Boundary rd ride is the descent. It isn't all descent but if you can hold your speed then put in some big ones in a tall gear you get the most awesome feeling as you crest the climbs at high speed. Get it wrong, with not enough speed and you will grovel up each climb.

I was starting to get in "go home mode" now with a hotspot on the sole of my right foot and some slight hand soreness. My legs felt great though!

That hamburger kept me powering for about 50km before I felt like a cool drink, downing an ice cold chocolate milk about 25km from home.

I was rocking my new Spot tracker today and it seemed to work well in the more open areas but struggled a bit under thick tree cover. Clearly it was working well enough because when I made it to the the top of the descent into home, my kids were waiting for me on their bikes having ridden up the Birdwing track to meet me! So, I got to roll down the last 2km with them and marvel at how fast they are becoming. 

That really capped my day.

Stats for the day? 155km(97mi) and 3330m(10 922ft) climbing. (according to Garmin)

Not a bad roll for my first big training day. The bike handled it well as did the body. Now, just to string 24 or 25 of those together, day after day, at an elevation of 7-12 000ft................



  1. Lots of training hard by the looks.
    How are you going with your packing, I've read the temperatures on this ride vary between0°C and 46°C! Good luck packing for those temps.

    1. Gear is a work in progress, but layers are the go......and being cold a lot too!

  2. A BIG day on the bike !!! Well done !!

    Did you take your Bear Spray with you? Those koalas are pretty vicious in those parts. ;)

    1. There seems to be a low supply of bear spray in Brisbane stores at the moment. Not quite sure why? Maybe if you come with me the "safety in numbers" principal will apply?

  3. Awesome the kids came out to meet you.

    In for a penny in for a pound. How does one train for those higher elevations breathing-wise. Maybe you need one of the kids to sit on your chest while you breathe. Oxygen levels will definitely be lower at those elevations.

    You'll be fine, just keep training....

    1. I like your optimism Brandy! Pffft, you'll be fine.......

  4. Why didn't you come say hi? Man up mate and enjoy the challenge. It is going to be unforgettable. I am happy to ride with you on training rides if you like. I might not do the whole distance but I am more than happy to keep you company. See you really soon.

    1. Dunno. Maybe because you might tell me to man up. Or maybe because I don't know where you live! Yep, I will be back in BFP a bit these next few months. I'll let you know.

  5. Solid day of training!
    Keep that kind of momentum up till June and you won't even notice the elevation.

    1. Glad to hear that I might be on track......if I keep it up. It is a fine balance between training and family though, especially when I am away for 4 days each week with work. Makes it hard to head out all day on a training ride but it need to be done......


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