I broke this trip down into sections as I found it easier to mentally deal with smaller journeys. It almost seems like the time between each re-supply town was its own stage and careful planning needed to be made before heading out onto the next stage.
Stage 1 - Canberra to Tumut (170km)
This stage seemed to start way too fast. I was happy riding mid field until I realised that the group was getting split and there were riders off the front. While this is a solo event, there was still drafting occurring over the first 40km.
This stage was hot, with temps over 30 degrees for most of the day. Moving time was relatively quick with only limited hike a bike sections (HAB) and I had reached Tumut at 4.30pm with time to fill up bottles, buy batteries for a low powered Spot Tracker before ordering Indian for dinner which opened at 5pm. Woolworths was closed due to it being Good Friday so the petrol station was the only option for buying batteries and caffeinated drinks.
Stage 2 - Tumut to Batlow (170km - 220km)
Adrian and Paul left Tumut before me. I caught Paul climbing up the dam wall in the dark at Wereboldera. If I spent less time waiting for my Indian I could have made it to the dam wall in daylight. Soon after meeting Paul, he decided on a different course option and I followed the correct single track where I caught Adrian who had also found an extra hill to climb. Adrian and I rode together to Batlow where I stopped to eat the rest of my Indian, Adrian went to sleep and I continued on.
Stage 3 - Batlow to Cabramurra (220km - 315km)
I continued on solo after refilling water. This section I recall being fairly easy, I just put on the head phones and kept pedaling. It got colder as the night went on. I was keen to get to the indoor shelter of the Ski Lodge and arrived just after 5.00am in the morning. After a quick nap and recharge of devices I was back on the bike close to 7am. I was hoping for more sleep here but this was not possible with other people also using the same accommodation.
Stage 4 - Cabramurra to Jindabyne (315km to 415km)
This day has me wishing I had my dually, it was rough. It wasn't possible to sit down and pedal due to how rough the track was at times so lots of this 100km section was spent out of the seat. It was another hot day and I had to re-supply water at multiple clear looking freshwater streams. I used purification tables each time, just in case. I was surprised how long this stage took and I would have consumed close to 10 Stroopwaffles as I had only eaten a small breakfast. As I started to approach Jindabyne I noticed my chest feeling tight, which I thought was just inspiration muscles at the time. The highlight of the section was the final 10km into Jindabyne where there is fun single track. It was also perfect weather conditions and there were heaps of people out enjoying the trails. At Jindabyne I purchased 1kg of nuts, 1kg of trail mix along with a loaf of GF bread, cheese and GF vegemite. I also grabbed a couple of boxes of GF breakfast biscuits.
Stage 5 - Jindabyne to Tubbut (415km - 520km)
I left Jindabyne around 6-7pm with the aim of getting a few hours up the road. I had no plan on where to get to. At 495km was the river crossing. It was close to midnight as I crossed it and started the hike a bike. I really had no idea what I was in for. With my lungs now well and truly impaired (by some kind of chest infection) I really struggled through the next 5hrs of pushing the bike. The HAB section involved over 1000vm that were not rideable. Luckily there was a full moon so lights weren't required. I should have really called it a night on the top of one of the major climbs as it was still quite warm. Once I hit the valley on the other side it started to get cold. I found a campsite on the side of the road close to where I hoped water would be for the morning. Ideally I should have kept moving for another 5km further to the Tubbut tennis courts where I would have held a shelter, water and power! I think I got in after 4am and was back on the bike around 6.30am.
Stage 6 - Tubbut to Cathcart (520km - 695km)
Once I made the additional 5km to the road, I charged devices briefly while I filled up water and checked the requirements of the day ahead. The morning was cold so I started with my winter gloves but when I stopped and swapped them for my summer gloves I dropped a glove which I only discovered another 5-6km down the road. It is always worth going back for good winter Santini Gloves!
The next stop was Delegate. I rode the last 2hrs into town without water. I had run out and it was stinking hot. Once in the cafe I charged devices and drank 2L of milk drinks, shakes and coffees! I refilled bottles and aimed for an early arrival into Bombala. This wasn't the case. There was an extended section of hike a bike and paddock pushing. At the 640km mark I had a quick look at my phone which indicated that I perhaps should be taking a different route than what was on my device. I spend ages trying to work out where I should be going. Since my phone and Wahoo devices had gone flat I was left to use the only map I had available to me. This sent me on a slight detour and instead of arriving into Bombala with a choice of meal options I was turned down at a couple of facilities as they shut up at 8pm. I was lucky to find a pub at 8.10pm that kindly put on a huge feed of fish and mashed potato. After charging devices again I jumped back on the bike and pulled up at Cathcart close to 11pm needing a decent night sleep. The best option I could find was the grass beside the memorial hall. I looked in vain for the water tap but in the dark and with crazy fog I couldn't find it!
Stage 7 - Cathcart to 840km...(695 - 840km)
Leaving Cathcart I had sufficient supplies to get to Nimmitabel at the 765km mark for the final re-supply. I got there with handy lead on the other boys so I went to the cafe, put my phone on the charge and sat in the park, aiming to have a sleep while I got some charge. I then swapped the phone out for the power bank as I got supplies for the last section including new batteries for the Spot Track, which was an issue. The general store had far less food than my pantry. The only portable GF products I could take included rice crackers, cheese slices and around $30 worth of various fudges, bars and lollies! It is a lolly shop! I was also down to my last 4 no-doze tablets so, with no more available, I took a couple of Dare Double Espresso drinks and a can of V for the road. Once I started pedaling again I was feeling sleepy already so I cracked open the V and then though I should check the ingredients first before consuming it. Disappointingly, it contained wheat derivatives so wasn't safe for me. It was pretty hard to pour out the contents knowing that I needed the extra fluid for this section and the caffeine to get through the night. In the end it didn't really matter as a stick took out my rear mech at the 830km mark. I pulled out my chain tool with the intention of making a single speed. I popped two pins out and when I tried to put the chain back together the tool broke trying to push the pin back in. I continued on for another 10km but with the rain, little light from a slow moving dyno light and hypothermia kicking in now I wasn't really working at intensity to keep warm. I had to seek shelter under a tree and wait for the boys behind to catch up to see if I could use their chain tool. I hadn't been so cold in my life. I was shaking uncontrollably and there was no easy option to get in a warm tent or car etc. I was just lucky for the sleeping gear that I had kept dry. From what I could see on my phone, the boys hadn't started through the 4wd tracks and were seeking shelter for the night also. I camped off the track a few meters as I needed a tree that offered some rain protection without the risk of having dead branches drop on me.
Stage 8 known to me as the bonus stage- 840km to Canberra
When I woke in the morning, I was in no rush to get up, everything I had was wet. I hadn't heard the boys ride past so I just took my time. The problem is, the boys had ridden past and I missed them, I was too far from the track to have heard them. I had a chat on the phone to Keith from Kumo Cycles who, being a keen bike packer himself, was able to come out and tweak my bike if I could make it to the 850km junction. He was able to rejoin the chain and we found the 3rd gear was the one that was going to work. This gear was good for around 10km per hour! I continued on the course where it was all fast fireroad. It would have been great to have big gears! At the 940km mark was a Cloudriders Feedzone which was great. A hot coffee, chips and water supply was really needed to get back to Canberra. After a quick stop I managed to sneak in to avoid the night time diversion through the back of Kowen Forest. My feet were becoming increasing painful during this section. Once I finished the event, I took my shoes and socks off and my feet were just throbbing from the trench foot I should have been managing. I don't think I will ever complain about "hot feet" again. It was so good to have Jason and Gwynn ready to pick me up at 10pm when I rolled in, I didn't want to ride any further if I didn't need to!
Sleep strategies and sleep gear - for this I grabbed a hooded tarp from Sea to Summit and borrowed a Sol Survivor. I also had a thermal bag liner to add a few degrees of warmth. I just put on a Santini under shirt and got a Macpac 800 hyperdry puffer jacket. Not cheap but lightweight and warm.
Lights - I was using a dyno hub so it made sense to use dyno lights. I had a very cool setup on the front and back and ran an additional Light and Motion Trail1000 Fast Charge on the helmet as it only required 2 hours to charge.
Clothing - I decided to take only one riding kit but packed arm warmers, leg warmers, a windvest and rain jacket. I took both a Santini summer set of long finger gloves and a Sealskin winter waterproof set.
Nutrition - I had the plan to try and refuel along the way but packed 15 Gu gels, 20 Gu Stroopwaffels and Roctane Electrolyte Capsules
Fluid - I had a 3L Camelbak bladder in the frame bag and an additional bottle in the chafe bag.
Bags - I had a medium size seat bag that had additional food and clothes, full triangle frame bag that had my easily accessible food and equipment, 2 top tube bags for charging devices and holding spares and tools, 2 chafe bags - one for a bottle and the other for snacks and 1 bar bag to hold my sleeping gear.
What to do differently
- I would have stayed a night at Bombala to manage my trench foot. I wasn't prepared for this and I paid the price. I should have packed a spare pair of socks, talcum powder and taken the time to dry my feet regularly during the ride.
- I would ring ahead to order food or just only get food available from supermarkets to save time.
- I would have put a new drive train on, so if I did need to do a crazy chain repair it wouldn't slip the whole way home!
- I would have ridden with others, but with a sore throat and laryngitis I wouldn't have been much company as I wasn't really able to talk.
- I would have also considered hitch hiking to a bike shop to get my bike fixed when my chain tool broke, rather than getting a bike shop to meet me near the track. This would have ensured I finished without a DQ. I possible should have been more familiar with the rules of the event!
It was great to have the experience of Masiey and Kerry when considering this event. I'm not exactly sure if you are allowed to get advice mid race via a phone or if that too is considered external assistance? Even a couple days on from the event my trench feet have limited my return to normal riding and I have recently stopped coughing up blood!Anyhow, I'm almost keen to give this event another go :)