So I’m really getting into this climbing business. Climbing is my weakness and we all know we should be training our weaknesses not our strengths, so this Summer it’s my aim to do as many Alpine climbs as I can get my hands on and fortunately a mate is on the same page. He’s training for Audax. I’m just a poor climber!
We did Falls Creek two weekends ago and I beat my climb from January 2011 (say 10 months ago) by 2 mins. Roughly 55 minutes, now down to 53 minutes. Doesn’t sound like a lot, but I was massively in the hurtbox in January and this time I just sat at my threshold (about ~92% HRmax) and beat my old time by more than 3.5%. They’re huge numbers in my books! As you can expect, after this result I was itching to get back up a mountain and before a week had passed, we’d already planned to hit Buffalo this weekend.
In the past 12-18 months I’ve learned that it takes me a long time to warm up. I normally feel quite ordinary on the bike for the first hour until I “come good” and things start working more normally for me. Don’t ask, I haven’t really got any science behind it – it’s just a feeling. So based on this, I proposed we leave from Porepunkah so we had at least 6km under our belt before we actually started the Mt Buffalo climb.
As it turns out, leaving from Porepunkah came at a cost anyway and somewhat circumvented my “warm up first” concept because within a few kilometers we were riding up a hill and as you ride up it you wouldn’t be far off the mark if you thought the official climb had already started. It wasn’t overly long but I’m sure it registered about 7%, a short pinch but I was hurting straight off the bat.
After being under-dressed for Falls Creek a couple of weekends ago (read: descending at 7 degrees Celsius, rain, 40km/h == frozen hands and feet) today I’d decided to wear my wind vest again in case it was colder up the top than expected. This didn’t last long, I was roasting like a turkey. I made a quick diversion into the driveway of a property along the roadside, stashed my windvest and I was feeling much cooler within a couple of minutes. Win! It’s only worth $20 so I figured if someone stole it (what are the chances?), so be it.
Mat and I regrouped at the tollbooth and we were away, officially into the Mt Buffalo climb. All of minute passed and he was pulling away from me flat out so I let him go – he’s already proven he’s a faster climber than me so I don’t even bother trying to hang on to his wheel. I’ve always said climbing is a “personal thing”, it just doesn’t work when you try to ride at someone elses pace – faster OR slower!
The serious climbing had started and I was feeling very off. Within the first few kilometers I was suffering some pain in my chest which felt a lot like reflux. This practically brought me to a standstill, and I had to back off – in low 80′s of Max HR % and crawling along at about 10km/h. Yellow line fever? After a rest week, maybe it wasn’t a great idea to just go straight into a high-intensity ride. It was like my chest was expanding back to its normal size after a week of shallow breathing. Anyway, I was seriously in a bad place, considering stopping or turning back. Mat was long gone. I was thinking of him sitting at the top and not knowing where I was. Not great. I wasn’t even sure if he took his phone. Plus I was feeling like it would be weak to stop but at the pace I was going, it was going to take 2 HOURS to get to the top. Urgh! The only choice was to push on.
Five, ten, fifteen (who knows, I was a little hazy!) minutes later the awful feeling had passed and I was able to push again, holding 90% and 15km/h. That’s better! Soon after I got into a rhythm and reached the false-flat I’d read about on The Climbing Cyclist’s guide for this climb. This made me feel much better as I got a bit of a breeze and a little speed helps boost the tempo and morale.
Here on out it was like any other climb for me. Sitting around 15km/h or slower, depending on the gradient. Meh. It wasn’t impressive but not overly disappointing either. I hit the summit and came around the bend into the downhill and the road opened into some kind of strange “craters of the moon” looking plateau. I put in a bit of effort on the downhill and flat lead up to the Mt Buffalo chalet. As I reached the chalet Matty was sitting on the edge of the road, he’d beaten me by about 6 minutes. It looked like he’d been there forever!
We got our stamps for the 7 Peaks (mine virtual, Mat’s physical) and we started the descent. This would be Mat’s first Alpine descent where it wasn’t raining (the Falls Creek epic I mentioned earlier) and we were looking to rip it up. We passed a few riders coming up as we were going down, but didn’t get any waves. They must have been road cyclist clichés or in the hurt box, or both! We gave ‘em a salute anyway, trying to look pro in our cycling caps and scarred mountain biker legs. We even overtook a car which was a real novelty – we wouldn’t see them again until a kilometer past the tollbooth on the way off the mountain. We were smashing down at full motorcycle-road-bike spec, laying it into the corners but road rash isn’t pretty so we were being careful all the same.
Turns out we were ripping it pretty hard. We averaged 52.2km/h for the 18kms. This puts us in an impressive 11th place from 151 riders on the Strava segment! I’d love it if this were the ascent instead but I’ll take what I can get!
As for the ascent, probably not as bad as I thought it could have been: 1hr 19mins at 15.6km/h for the 20.5km. Today that puts me in 35th place out of 81 riders, and I’m not ashamed of that. It goes to show that I still have plenty of work to do.
So there you go, another climb in the bag. I’m really looking forward to the next one, we were talking about Mt Hotham as we unloaded the cars…oh, yeah!