Jeremy and I went on the Cycle Touring Association of Western Australia‘s 100 km Achievement Ride last Sunday. The itinerary goes from Armadale Train Station, up Bedfordale Hill, on to Serpentine Dam (the half way point), then continuing on in a loop back to Armadale. You have to finish it in the time limit of 6 hours and 40 minutes. Jeremy has done it before and was going to ride with me the whole way, so I didn’t get a profile and map at the start, but I knew that it was lumpy for about 67 km, then practically flat after that.
The idea of the Achievement Ride series at the CTA is that if you can ride the full distance of each ride within the time limit, then you should be able to ride half that distance with fully loaded panniers on a bike tour. The CTA has a 50 km ride, a 100 km ride, a 160 km (that’s 100 miles), a 200 km and a 300 km. They have a support car for the 160, 200 and 300 km rides, but for the other ones you have to be prepared to ride the whole thing, or be willing to contact someone to collect you.
I completed the ride in 6 hours. For most of you, that isn’t a particularly spectacular effort, but for me that was bloody good. I wanted to finish, but I considered the time limit secondary. I knew that I could ride that distance on flattish ground, as I’d ridden 100 km around the metropolitan area in one day once before. It was back on my old heavy hybrid bike when I was training for the NSW Big Ride, and as there was a 96 km day on the tour, I wanted to know that I could ride that distance. I’d set out intending on doing 80 km one day with a 100km ride coming up the following weekend, but I got annoyed with the route that I’d plotted out, so I re-routed and ended up tacking 10 extra kilometres onto the course. When I got to my house at 90 km, I figured “Sod it. You can’t go so close to 100 km and not do it.” So I rode 10 km in the suburbs around my house, by this time feeling every single slight rise and incline, and finished outside my front door at 100 kilometres and 500 metres.
What was different about this ride was that it was in the hills. And it was hilly. Hilly as fuck. The first 10 km from the Armadale Train Station goes straight up, but that was easy. I was going at a reasonable pace, I wasn’t struggling, and it was a steady incline. Once you get to the top of the first hill the road goes up and down like a fiddler’s elbow, then you drop down the hills into the Dam area, but you still have to climb back out.
Heading up the first hill at one point I actually overtook people, because they were going slower than I would. I had to stop at the Roadhouse about 4 kilometres up, and took about 4 or 5 minutes there. While we were there the slower two who were behind us overtook us, so Jeremy and I went racing up the hill to pass them again. While I wanted to complete the ride, and I would like to complete it within the time limit, I also didn’t want to be last. Pride.
Now I know that one of my problems with riding long distances isn’t actually the distances, but rather my food intake – I can’t ride hands-free, so I have to stop and eat a bar or wrestle one open with one hand and my teeth. What usually happens it that I don’t want to interrupt someone else’s rhythm, or I think “Oh, I’ll ride until X landmark, and then I’ll stop and eat”, only to discover that I probably should have eaten about 5 km earlier than I did, and I bonk. My plan was to stop every 20-25 km or so to eat something, before it got too late, so I told Jez my plan and he would tell me a good spot to stop. We stopped at an intersection and ate a Winners Bar each (go for the Apple Berry Crumble, it’s the new flavour and it’s really good) then set off again heading to the Serpentine Dam. At the Serpentine Dam I ate the banana and mandarin that I took with me, and Jeremy bought me a slice of pear cake and cream, and a pot of tea. I highly recommend the pear cake at the Serpentine Dam Cafe. The dam surounds are beautiful.
After the Dam Cafe (which is precisely the 50 km mark) you drop down a bit further into the bottom of the valley and go across the bridge over the dam, and then straight back up the other side. This part was pain. It rises 125 metres in elevation over 4 km, and I was moving slower than a dead snail.
Jeremy was doing the ride with me, and one thing I know about him is that he is miles faster than me, so when I was slowly making my way up this damn hill, he was in front of me, but not by far. While I was going up the hill I told myself “This is going to be the easiest hill when I look at the profile after, it’ll be easy as pie”, but Jeremy reassured me that it was particularly evil, and that it wasn’t just me. Having since seen the profile I believe him.
At around the 65 km I said to Jeremy that if I completed the distance, I’d be happy, even if I didn’t make it within the time limit. My arse was beginning to be sore, and I was a bit disheartened at what I saw as my evident lack of abilities. Almost immediately we went past the Buddhist Monastery, and there was a monk walking up the roadside on hard sharp gravel in bare feet. I concluded it was a good reminder of perspective, and I had to harden up, princess, and keep pedalling.
Coming down the hill after that was a little unnerving. I’m not a great fan of the quick descent, and this was one. You go down 200 metres of elevation in about 5 km. At one point I had the brakes hard on – no more space to go on the levers – and I was still doing 40 km/h. I was also a bit nervous because I knew that at the very bottom of the descent was the South West Highway intersection, so you had to be stationary for that otherwise the cars would flatten you in an instant.
The next 33 km was flat as a pancake. Quiet roads, with nought but sheep, cows, goats and alpacas to entertain you. Beautiful countryside too. As we got closer to town the stretches of unbroken farmland got shorter, and more and more houses appeared. We went into Mundijong and had a stick of a Twix bar each, some lovely cold orange Powerade and I ate another Winners Bar outside the Fish and Chip Shop in town.
At this point I checked Facebook on the BlackBerry and discovered from a friend that the trains had stopped running on the Armadale line, and the prospect of my riding home from Armadale was brought to my mind. I decided that if it came to that, I’d wait in town with a newspaper and wait for Jeremy to ride home, grab his car and come back. My arse was really sore; to be precise the ischial tuberosities on my pelvis were very unhappy. Every time I got off the bike I immediately felt fine, but the second my bum hit the seat again I yelped in pain. Jeremy spotted the two slower guys behind us heading into the IGA just as we were preparing to leave Mundijong, so we belted out of there a bit faster than we’d travelled in.
As we made it back into town I was counting off the kilometres to go. I’d wait until it wasn’t 3 km to go, but rather 2.9 km to go before I’d mention it. I was also fairly certain that it wasn’t precisely 100 km, that there would be some extra road to travel before we got back to the Armadale Train Station so I was looking for when the cyclometer said 100.6km because that would officially be the furthest I’d travelled on a bicycle in one day.
At the train station it was the 101.5 km mark, and I’d completed it in 6 hours precisely. Best of all, the trains from Armadale were running. I kissed Jeremy, and climbed aboard the train. He rode home from the train station, and I trained it to Kenwick. At Kenwick I clambered aboard my bike, yelped as my bum hit the seat and then pedalled as slowly as possible home.