Monday, November 18, 2013

Dark and early

When the knock comes Sarah and I are already awake. Sort of. 2:30 am, time for breakfast. Welcome to Day 2!

Inside the room, except for bunks and ensuite facilities every bit of surface including the floor is covered with randonneur gear, as if our drop bags exploded on impact. Nothing is recognizable, a challenge when you're sleepy. Somehow everything —clothing and lights and chargers and a US-to-Australia adapter and toiletries and butt care and food—all of it gets crammed back into the duffles. Shuttled back to the main room where we landed last night. Ready for the truck.

Only 4 hours ago, sitting in these same chairs we ate dinner. (Pasta.) (Yes I ate it.) Listening to Mark and Rick and Vinnie make plans for pressing on down the road to Bredbo. Another 88 km before sleeping. A jump on Day 2, that's what they were after.

It's the Big Day, that much is clear. We have all the data. 318 kilometers, a double century. 4353 meters, or 14,281.5 feet of elevation gain. The stats are similar to a ride near home, one I've done, the Mt Tam Double. A harder one.

Just in case you missed some data points, every conversation since the pre-ride dinner has been in some way, shape, or form about this day. We've endured gallows humor, snap judgments, self-righteous posturing. We've been asked about training, what the terrain is like where we ride. How many other 1200s we've done. No question, the riders are in a tizzy.

Today is the thing that makes Sydney Melbourne different, the Alpine climbing. The hills will be steep and they will be long. They come late in the ride, after Cooma. Last time a number of riders did not even reach the mountains in time, and were thus disqualified:
In 2009 riders left Canberra and battled southerly winds all the way to Cooma. It is essential to leave Canberra well before the control close time to ensure that you are not out of time at Cooma, and are through the main part of the mountains before nightfall.
The climbs in the Australian Alps are nasty, brutish, and not at all short. Consider a triple or compact crankset with a 28 tooth cog or more on your cluster. Your legs will appreciate it.
In an hour, at 4 am the YMCA will be closing. Most riders are slamming down breakfast (beans on toast, coffee, OJ) and rushing out to the patio where the bikes are waiting. The early morning darkness is both deep and cold. It will be almost 3 hours before dawn comes. Is it possible that we'll still be in the mountains after dark?

Deb left a few minutes ago. Somehow, in the confusion Sarah and her buddy David find me outside next to the Waterford, fitting everything in, zipping up the rear bag. We set off together. My rear pockets are heavy with gels, bars, and a banana. I'm worried about my legs running out of fuel on the climbs. The reflective vest barely fits over it all.

This early, the roads are eerie and deserted. Eventually the group catches Deb and a few other riders, and we make a little cluster. For some reason I'm the one in front pulling, the one without the Garmin. Well, this is what I do with my fear. How I keep it from smothering me. Sarah is calling out the turns.

On the question of preparation, only I know the truth and it's ridiculous. Rode a 1200K then took a month off the bike. After a few local rides, spent a week on a beach in Hawaii. Oh yeah, gave up gluten and am still adjusting. Sometimes my legs stop working.

I ride a fair amount but don't track miles or climbing. At a certain point, data just doesn't mean that much. Whenever I don't feel like riding (which is usually), I let my blog trick me into it. My cluster is what's on the bike right now (a 27). I use a dynamo, for that extra challenge. If you need to know one thing about me, know that I'm stubborn.

I'd prefer that everyone survives today, but not everyone will. No point in talking about it. Either what we've got is enough or it's not enough.

It is what it is.

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