2018 Cloudride Bikepacking mega adventure

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I arrived at Cabramurra at 9:30am Easter Monday.
700 km in with 300 km to go until Canberra.

I departed Jindabyne around 2 pm on Sunday after attempting to get my dynamo hub working again with the help of the mechanic at the bike shop.
It was a long hard 100km slog ahead from Jindabyne to Cabramurra.
At around 10 hours in I found myself not being able to think about anything else but where to sleep.
I was scanning everywhere that would make a good spot to rest and settled on a bunch of knee high springy bushes which I laid my bivvy and sleeping bag on without even inflating my mattress.
Sleep came quick and around 2 hrs later I awoke and got underway.  I don’t even know how much longer I was able to proceed but progress was painfully slow.  
Much of the darkness was spent selling the idea to myself to keep going keep going keep going, don’t think just do, get the job done.  
It was now that I decided on a second sleep, I wasn’t making much sense and was dead tired and totally over it, so I pulled over, put the bike down, and once in my sleeping bag and bivy was out to it instantly.

I was riding this section which was very slow anyway in daylight with a crappy $40 battery-powered commuter light and an Energizer head torch from Woollies.  I had a great light for my helmet but it was needing too much charge/battery power and my wonderful K Lite mega truck light was not working as my dynamo hub was no longer working.  I could see, the full moon was so helpful but the concentration was intense and increasing the tiredness that I was already experiencing.

Common sense suggests I should have stayed in Jindabyne, charged up everything, got a good night's sleep and some really good food into me.  But hindsight is a wonderful thing. Common sense suggests I should have accepted that this the only way I would finish however I was too fixated on a fast ride and toughing it out, getting it done, without whining or complaint. 

This is how it started...The Cloudride 1000 2018.
Arriving at Canberra Thursday I was in a total fluster, not enough time, too much to do. Left my Garmin at home, had only used my Garmin etrex once around the river, including my K Lite front light at the same time.  Testing was minimal. I was comfy with set up but did not give much time to making sure everything was ‘good to go’.

I got a new Garmin, sorted my nutrition out, sorted the bike out, the bags, the battery power banks, and my gear.
I even got to dinner late and had to wait for 50 minutes for a bowl of rice. What a hectic start.

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We started, at 8 am with my Spot Tracker not working, then Peter helped me to get it working, but then it wasn’t tracking on the website but I was riding with Scotty Preston by then with Seb, Callum and Lewis up front. Scotty and I following next.
It was stinking hot already and we had a quick water refill at Hoskinstown and then had to ration water to Jerangle Primary School. It was very high 30’s and hot.

At this stage, I had pulled away from Scotty and was on my own. I saw a rider coming from behind after Numeralla, it was Lewis, he had to stop there and refuel after a hot dehydrated start. Seb pulled out and headed back to Canberra and Callum had made a significant break.

Lewis pushed on, with me about 30 mins behind by the time we reached Nimmitabel. Many dead wombats along the way, which I was very very aware of.

Stopping at Nimmitabel I ordered all the drinks and a bowl of mashed potato. Refilled drinks, went to the toilet, reapplied chamois cream and got going.

At this stage, lights were working and life was good!

Heading to Cathcart there was quite a bit of national park to get through with some steep hike a bike to exit back out to farmland.  I took my time here as there were loads of loose sticks and debris and quite a bit of low lying fog. It was around midnight that my lights started to flicker. I suspected a loose contact point with the pins on the hub and the cord that is attached to the lights. Yep, it had moved forward so I moved them back and tightened the thru axle skewer. 10 mins later it happened again and this is where one of the pins came out and I was up shit creek without a paddle.  Yeah, I secretly shit myself as now I was not even 24hrs in and had a significant malfunction occur that would upset my plans to ride during the night and sleep in the day whilst it is warm.
My helmet light is excellent but does use a lot of power, so had it on low and got to Cathcart around 3 am. I found the toilet blocks, looked at the mechanical and decided I could do nothing. Had a hot shower and slept warm with as much stuff charging as possible with my one wall charger unit piggybacking all my power banks and devices.

I forgot to mention Callum was at Cathcart as well and I heard him leave at 6 am, my plan was to leave at 6:30 am for Bombala. Only about 1hr away. 

As I got going I called Norm, he asked how I was and how everything was going and was everything on the bike going ok? I left a bit of silence and didn’t answer straight away and Norm suspected something was wrong. I never told him what was wrong though!

I got to Bombala, got some food and coffee and bought an extra power bank. Hoping to charge everything at Tubbut that night at the community hall. I really needed to buy more wall chargers but could not find them at the Foodworks.

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Wow, the terrain from Bombala started out with a lot of big climbing but oh so beautiful with the surrounds of the countryside, rolling hills, and some big descents. And then...into some brutal rough as guts dry and rocky bushland with hike a bike and never-ending heat, dry and barrenness. And then the land opened up into dry sheep grazing farmland with a cooling welcome crossing of the Delegate River.  This is when I saw the property owners and some welcoming hellos and some cold water and a banana too! Thank you. It was no easy task getting out of this farmland, with much climbing to be done.
The temperature was hot here and now it was onto Delegate.  Food!
I bought drinks, much drinks, and some potato cakes with salt and a veggie burger to take away for dinner at Tubbut.

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Time spent at Delegate was mostly charging my gear again, making the most of power points.

Tubbut was amazing. A community hall with water, toilets, tea and coffee, and power points!
I slept for 3 hrs and as I was leaving James and Trevor turned up so we had a quick chat and I got going up the worst part of the course. Some pretty hectic hike a bike up and down. At night I didn't want to see what I knew was there as last year I saw it all and it was horrible, in the other direction. Yep, I was 100% aware of what piece of crap awaited me. Nothing fun or epic or wow about this section. Hours later...and also me changing my brake pads with not one animal sighting I could finally hear the river and with low water, it was so very easy to cross. Oh, and the moon was amazing as it was approaching pre-sunrise.

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And now it was nearly 48 hrs into the race.  I had Barry way to ride and climb and then a rolling bitumen section into Jindabyne. Nothing to hate about this section, some long climbing but rewarding with great views and food at the other end in Jindy.

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I got to Jindabyne around midday and left around 2pm...and this is where I left off with my intro….

Yep, I got to Cabramurra and everything had turned to shit.
By now, my resolve had dissolved.

Hours were spent telling myself to finish, to keep going, to not give up and to stay in the game no matter what it took.
And then, BOOM, just like that I said FUCK IT, this is no longer serving me, I need to get home, I am no longer having fun.
Yeah, of course, I am not proud of this mental attitude, but it was there and I took it on as my reality then and there.

Getting food and sitting in the Bistro at Cabramurra, I was zoned out to 99% of my capacity to think. I forgot to tell Norm my plans but eventually worked out with Peter Makin who had pulled out earlier to pick me up at Tumut. Quitting now still presented a nasty repercussion of a 110 km road ride to get my pick up. So at 12 pm I left the bistro and crossed paths with James. I told him I was out and he wanted to know where to eat and what terrain awaited him from here. I promised him it was much better than what he had just done.

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The 110km back on bitumen to Tumut was another world I had never seen before up on the high plains of Kosciuszko National Park.  It reminded me of the steppes of Mongolia, I was up at 1400-1500 mt above sea level but there were peaks and troughs, streams with wild horses drinking from them and not a whole lot of traffic for Easter Monday.  I knew that I had to drop down to 300 mts above sea level over the 100km and started to realise this was not going to come until I dropped down to Blowering dam. And so I upped my revs so I had less load and increased my heart rate, trying to stay awake and motivated on a better average speed. Listening to podcasts knowing I didn't have to preserve battery life on any devices.

I did stop once in the shade, took my helmet off, rubbed my eyes and had a little sook. I was halfway to Tumut, so very tired and feeling sorry for myself. 

And then finally the reward I had been waiting for, the massive descent down to the dam. I mean massive, there was a beautiful viewing platform I bypassed and more awesome vistas in the afternoon sun as I just made forward progress and cached the insta posts in my head not on my phone. I was nearly there! Losing about 1000 mt of vert in 20km it was a pure delight and I wasn’t stopping for anyone and only waved one car past. What a way to end my Cloudride experience! Ok now I was down in the hot lands, it was a claustrophobic oven like 30 degrees.

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Thanks to Peter Makin who had to call his Cloudride short as well, who came and picked me up.  Eventually getting to Canberra, I considered ordering room service but opted for a long hot shower and a long deep sleep instead. The drive home the next day was tough with 3 x 30 min naps and 3 big cans of red bull.

It is now Friday and I have seen so many more people finish Cloudride and there are still more out there too yet to complete the course. But they are pushing on at their own pace.

So my question to myself continues to be, “Why did you pull out and what does this mean to you Jess?”
It starts with the reason I entered and how I had planned my life around the Cloudride.
I wanted to ride at a steady pace with planned breaks and finish in around 4 days. Last year I did it and hit a wombat and ended up in hospital at the 800km mark.

When things started to blow out due to the power issue I had with dynamo hub I stayed positive and upbeat until I had to get to Cabramurra with crappy lights and fatigue and stress.  This is where I actually allowed myself to ask if this journey was serving me any longer? It was a struggle to allow myself to think of quitting yet the idea of pulling out felt so right.  

The thoughts went something like this…
What does it matter anyway? If you plug on and take an extra day and get there in 5 days instead of 4, that's an extra day recovery, an extra day you are away from your work and life responsibilities and an extra day of feeling crap now and afterward.  Does this ride mean that much to you?
I then sold myself the idea that I would gain more out of adversity than success and that this would give me an opportunity to have a good hard look at myself and what the bloody hell I wanted out of riding my bike now.
Since retiring from the Solo 24hr scene in 2016 I have struggled with where I belong and my identity in the cycling world and my main supporter, my husband Norm, is off in his own world which does not include much cycling at all let alone my big silly journeys.

I realised that nothing actually matters, win lose or otherwise, it's how you digest the journey and how you relate to others as they undergo their own individual journeys.

My summary is this:

  1. Riding my bike needs to be a FUN challenge.

  2. I love training and seeing improvements in my mindset and physical adaptation.

  3. I enjoy adversity and finding my limits but I am no longer certain I wish to pay the debt of exhaustion and fatigue in such large quantities anymore.

  4. Exploring new places is fun, I will never tire of this.

  5. However...I also love being home with my dog cat and Normie boy.

  6. I love swimming, running and the other stuff that I get to do with a balanced life.

  7. ...and finally, I am fully accepting of any unfinished business or failures as Big Fat Lessons in Life understanding that this teaches me more about what I really need to invest my time and energy and passion into.

Well done to all those that finished the 2018 Cloudride.  
I am super stoked for you and hope you got what you wanted out of the challenge.

In the meantime, I pat my cat and all is good again...

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I could not get this kind of adventure underway if it weren't for the inspiration and passion from my own coaching clients who allow me to see what is possible.
Thank you to Kedan of Bike Bag Dude and Kerry of k-lite for all your passion in the sport and growing the participation.
And to Normie Boy Douglas who just says Go For it Jess. xxx