Kelly Cycle Coaching athlete Ally Rose Ogden has recently had her article published on the Bicycle Network website.
For those who wonder what is involved in riding a LONG way in a day, here is how Ally Rose approached the day and how she coped with the challenge of the 3 Peaks Challenge.
Article by – Ally Rose Ogden
Pain, pleasure or persistence? Many have wondered, including myself at times, what it means to be a cyclist – or more specifically, what drives the hundreds of our kind, labelled by the community as no less than ‘crazy’, ‘obsessive’ or plainly ‘insane’, to spend whatever free time we have pedalling on a machine that 200 years ago didn’t even exist. It is a culture that cannot be explained to an outsider and it was not until I had completed the Three Peaks Challenge that I really appreciated that a combination of all these factors was essential for one to truly distinguish oneself as a cyclist.
Confession- I didn’t actually start out as a cyclist, but rather a runner and later on a triathlete. It was though my triathlon, that my passion for cycling was born when I realised through a school project, that it was in fact the cyclists who had the greatest advantage in triathlon and not the runners. As a result, I joined a cycling club and despite the many achievements following trips across the country to compete in athletics or triathlon events, I fell in love with the world of bikes.
Fast forward about a year to November 2015 where my mate Xabier, hill climber extraordinaire, mentions to me a ride he’s entered in March called the Three Peaks Challenge and asks whether I wanted to do it. I didn’t know much about the ride at the time, only the name really- which probably accounts for my inexplicable response of ‘Sure let’s do it!’. Albeit, when I actually went home and looked up what we were doing I almost fell off my chair. 235km is a VERY long way. Yet, the stupid and maybe delusional person that I was, decided to throw myself into it anyway. However, as it was only 3-4 months out from the event, all tickets were booked out. I soon found myself before Christmas, frantically scrambling on the Three Peaks Facebook Page for not only a last minute entry, but accommodation to go with it!
As the months and eventually weeks approached, I found myself overwhelmed. I would actually have to do this. This was no longer an abstract concept: a map on a website, a date on a calendar, a discussion on a forum. I was no doubt intimidated – the longest ride I had ever done previously was 130km, more than 100km less and in no way close to the elevation Three Peaks offered; however, I still couldn’t contain my excitement.
So the day finally arrived where after a night’s worth of fitful sleep, I woke in the dark to join another 2,000+ riders in which can only be described as a surreal moment. With our, Garmins, lights, fuel and bikes prepped and prepared, there was nothing left to do but sit on the start line and have faith for the forthcoming day.
Another confession- In the second half of 2015, I had found myself losing sight of what had originally drawn me to the sport of cycling. After a bad fracture in my wrist, and subsequently being off the road for close to 12 weeks in a period leading up to the World Duathlon Championships, I found myself chained to the wattbike/trainer for the duration of my recovery. I was soon caught in the trap of training for results rather than enjoyment; and even after my wrist had recovered, I still questioned if the stress was all worth it. The Three Peaks came at a time where I really needed to reconnect with riding for the simple love of riding, rather than for accolades, recognition or chasing a win. Even Xabier, my Three Peaks riding partner and fellow racer admitted it was almost refreshing to be involved in an event that didn’t require stressing about tactics, position and a sprint to the finish line.
Confession number three- In the two weeks leading up to the event, I was involved in two nasty crashes; both of which resulted in other people being taken off to hospital with very serious injuries. Although I wasn’t seriously injured, two of my bikes were and I had been left with rattled confidence. There was even some doubt, up to 3 days before the event, if I would in fact have a bike to ride on. I did make it however, and so did a bike. However, I was not prepared to take ANY chances in that first descent. Despite my wariness though, the descent of Falls Creek could only be described as a pleasant and almost surreal experience. Although congested, nobody was complaining about the first 30 km being downhill. With the ‘peak’ of Tawonga Gap soon following the descent’s conclusion, Xabier and I found ourselves constantly making jokes of Tawonga’s validity of ‘peakness’ compared to the other two that loomed. To be perfectly honest, we tried to not take the ride too seriously. Although we obviously ensured proper hydration and nutrition, and understood the enormity of what we were undertaking; our conversation less focused on the ride itself, but often consisted of debates over which of the bikes surrounding us deserved the higher appraisal!
It was during Hotham that I was able to really appreciate why people ride, without the need for a reward in crossing the finish line first. Maybe I had become delusional after 30km of uphill, but for the first time in a long time, I was climbing without stress of numbers and figures. I wasn’t focused on getting to the top, but rather enjoying the journey. That said, the last 10km too many times dashed my hopes; having me thinking I had reached the top before another 10% ramp awaited me around the corner!
I had decided from the very beginning that it was not an option for me to fail to reach the finish line. This did not, however mean that I found the experience remotely easy, nor that I was always in positive spirits. Ironically, it was during the descent, not the climb of Hotham, in which I had started to doubt of my abilities. My body had started to feel the toll and although we had passed the 100 km to go mark, we still had a long way to ride. I can’t describe it any more accurately in that during that descent, in an almost altered state of consciousness, I had quite literally felt like falling asleep (pretty scary when you’re travelling at 50+ kph). That section towards the Omeo rest stop was probably my lowest point in the ride. Although ‘only’ having ridden 160 km, my mental strength was really starting to fail me, I’m not even ashamed to admit that I called Mum with the opening line of ‘give me some motivation’. We were at around the same pace as the 11hour group, so I knew we had some time, and at no point was I seriously considering quitting. I was going to fight till I could literally ride no further, but I was starting to question if I had eagerly bitten off more than I could chew. I knew though, that I had no choice to get back on the bike and continue the journey.
It was only later on, and by that I mean about 20 minutes down the road, that I discovered the Hydrolyte they were feeding us, really did have a purpose. Unable to eat at the Omeo rest stop, I had instead guzzled two concentrated drinks and had subsequently started to feel noticeably more alive. In hindsight, I had not adequately replaced the salts in which I had lost in the 7 hours I had been riding. Although I was hydrated and fed, I had only consumed one electrolyte drink in that time. My body had started to react to this lack of much needed salts in my system and coupled with the warm weather, I had not coped well as a result.
It’s truly amazing the connection the mind and body have with each other as there was a direct correlation with my body’s recovery and the return of my motivation after I had consumed the much needed electrolytes. To be honest, I think I had Xabier questioning my state of sanity for a while as I had quite literally gone from 0-100 in my energy levels. From that point, I found myself becoming vocally motivational at almost ‘personal trainer level’. For more than an hour I was like a high school cheerleader, chattering nothing but how far we had come and how comparatively little we had to go. Although this outward motivation was directed at others, I was partially using the opportunity to inspire myself. The excitement for the Three Peaks had returned and with this regaining of energy, I was starting to think that we could really complete this.
The Back of Falls: It was the monkey on our back and the climb in which so many cyclists and cycling forums had eloquently described as ‘soul destroying’, even without 200km already in the legs. Keeping this in mind, I had beforehand told my super speedy climber of a riding buddy to go on ahead and complete the climb at his own pace considering he’d be needing all available momentum get up with his 25 back cog (I never had any doubts he could make it to the top with that gearing, but how he did never ceases to amaze me). Never have I been in so much pain for such a long period of time. Not only was the nature of the climb enough to push any cyclist to the limit, but due to the large amount of fuel I had consumed in the lead up, I was feeling inexplicably sick. Never in my entire life has every cell in my body screamed at me so loudly for me to quit. But there was only one way up and only one way to get there. I knew that the pain I had been in then would be nothing compared to the pain I would be in if I decided to give up. So despite my having to get off and walk at times, feeling as if I had to throw up, I still never stopped moving forward. Every 100 metres felt like an eternity and I subsequently have questioned the strategic placement of this climb. How many people (including myself) would surely decide that this hell wasn’t worth it if it wasn’t so close to the finish?
But with heavy legs, arms that could barely support my body and a state of pure exhaustion, I finally reached Trapyard Gap. 12km later I reached the summit of Falls Creek and ultimately the finish line of The Three Peaks Challenge; crossing it with the ever smiling Xabier who had come back to ride with me after already crossing the finish line himself. It was truly a moment I will never forget. The absolute joy of simply completing this challenge is one thing, but us to do it as two sixteen year olds made it all the more special and something that can never be taken away from us.
Cycling is more than just a sport. It’s a lifestyle and a community in which only those who are a part of it can understand. The Three Peaks helped me to reconnect with my riding in a way that doesn’t relate to accolades or a leader’s jersey; but instead for the pleasure it brings along the journey. Pain, pleasure and persistence- one aspect alone cannot be attributed with the cycling culture because none can be achieved without the presence of the other. But most of all, cycling is not a lone sport, but one that needs be shared. I know that this ride, would have been a much less enjoyable on in my memory, if it hadn’t been shared with a mate.
The Three Peaks Challenge undoubtedly leaves a mark on all that strive to conquer it. It has certainly left its mark on me.
– Ally Rose Ogden