Mega Miles - 24hr Oppy & GDT16 400km Bikebacking

12794797 10153350228651003 7398823169714775574 oMuch too much to is full and as I would have it, its busy and time is scarce.
Let me fill you in.

I had a great February, trained and raced really well in the 10th Giant Odyssey. Nothing to complain about there.
Back on the bandwagon pronto and off to work for a week at Mt Buller with a school group.
Hard work but riding and guiding on the mountain was and always is a blessing.

On my return I had 4 weeks to nail the Otway 300 course, so Norm and I spend many spare afternoons and weekends mapping it out by driving and mostly me and my willing volunteers riding the course we envisaged.
For any event organiser whipping up a big route like the Otway 300, you know you can just wing this or link a few bits of single track together knowing its going to be fun.
Epic riding needs to be safe, though challenging, delivering an unfolding landscape of surprises to urge the rider on even if they are fatigued. As well as working out how we would deliver support and maximise safety.
You can imagine day 1- 175km took us many shots to get this right.
Day 2 of only 120km was no where near as time consuming but had more versions before we nailed the perfect combo.

We had so much fun putting the Otway 300 course together and then on the event weekend to see everyone else have so much fun, just the exact way we had envisaged delivered us a very rewarding warm glow!
2 days, 2 big epic rides, and 60 pairs all riding their own race from the fast elite boys through to the dawn to dusk riders just pacing themselves to arrive alive. I had the back end job of following the course and got to see many riders at this end of the field and had the most fun ever at a race supporting them and making new friends.
The hype that followed this event spurred Norm and I even though we were exhausted.
Next year in 2017, we cannot wait to make this bigger and better.

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But before this, I joined an all female team of 4 riders to do the Oppy 24hr Audax ride.
Despite what you may have heard, 'we did not cheat', we thought we had cleared rules with organisers and apparently there was a dispute and so we were wiped of our 24hr riding record of 600 and something kilometers. But meh...we had a ball!

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If you do not know what this ride is, well...nor did I, and I really dont know still, but its 24hrs, ride to a town where everyone is finishing and you do it on roads, and cannot cover the same road – so cannot do loops.
We had never ridden together, Sarah Hammond, Rachel Edwards, Jackie Bernardi and self.
Norm and Jess Varey were in a support vehicle and this is where things got complex and went outside of the Audax boundaries. The “issue” has left my brain space many weeks ago, so apologies for brushing over it, for it dampens my overall experience, which was so much greater than some record or Audax.

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We had a heap of fun, ate donuts, sang songs, almost fell asleep whilst riding, drank red bull, popped nodoze, had a gazillion wee stops where I got very proficient at not taking my bib knicks off and where my puffy jacket became a riding accessory that has joined me now on other rides!
Jess took magic photos. The experience will not be forgotten.

Hilarious really, we just all hooked up, Rach flew down from Brisbane, we picked her up, we met in Horsham, met each other over bowls of pasta, went to bed, woke up and rode 24hrs. I love it.
So the Shebeasts will do another challenge when Jackie Bernadi is back from the bikepacking adventure Tour Divide and Sarah is back from her bike packing race too, the Trans Am.

13055097 1692950927616330 2435569176846707888 oNot soon after the 24 Oppy I was off to do the Bendigo Triangle Epic 100miler.  Thankfully I had been doing lots of crazy miles with the O300 reccy rides, the 24hr Oppy and just the solid base I had from racing and riding all summer long.

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The race in Bendigo was 3 laps of a 55km course and it was dusty and dry, so dry my chain cried for lube each lap. My thrist was never quenched and I drank every last drop and more.  It was unseasonably hot in Bendigo for April and I was not alone.
I did race 40 mins faster than last year and I did win, so I think I should go back again in 2017 and try and knock off another 20-30mins!

But that was then...and not long after I went and did this...

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Gold Diggings Trail 2016 - 400km Bikepacking ride. 
On that note of cray cray 24hr events and bike packing adventures, I did a mini one (thanks Jackie for suggesting I go and Ross for all his tips and Kedan of Bike Bag Dude for the necessary bags) 2 weeks ago.
Its called the GDT, the Gold Diggings Trail.

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But its more than that, travelling from the start point that coincides with the 9:15am arrival Vline train from Melbourne, the route leaves Bendigo to Castlemaine. A nice warm up through wiggly single track, onto some fire roads, back onto trail and dirt road mix, dropping in behind Castlemaine on a big wide bike/walking path. Maybe around 55km for stage 1?
The next leg had more of the same, trail and road and even finishing off with bitumen.
My greatest challenge was really tuning in to how my Garmin navigation worked with the GPX file and that damn blue arrow and those off course notifications. I had already managed a few, albeit short lived still time wasting.

Also remember I am bike packing, about an extra 10-12km is on my body and bike to ensure I am adequately self supported and ready for the wind, rain and crappy weather we will recieve later on that night.

Arriving in Daylesford after climbing up and out of Hepburn Springs was a suprise I had forgotten about. Thats one hill I did not see coming. As I got into town I racked my brain, where can I get food and drink in one stop without going off route. Ahhh Bakers Delight it is! I go straight for what I know and what we used for feed stations on Otway 300, the wickedly yum Apple and walnut scroll, its vegan too. Two Powerades, One coke, one water. Fill bottles, stick spares in pockets, bin, put bun in mouth and ride off.

As I rode off Gareth caught me and suggested I was sneaking away. In fact I had forgotten this was a race perhaps and got into my own zone of how I treat a transition, in and out, no mucking around. So we rode together for a bit and he suggested he was not feeling great trying to keep up with Martin Grannas and Liam Crowley and slowly I drifted away and up the road and then he was out of my sight as I turned around. Oh well...time to enjoy my solitude again.

I love riding alone. There is zero issues with me and my own company. I go hard if I feel good, or back off if need be, I enjoy the surroundings and marvel at the afternoon sun glistening through the tall gums in the dense bush. Unfortunately I wont be making Ballarat at 6pm, and its going to be dark soon. Its actually even better when it gets dark. Nothing to see except whats in front of you.

Soon enough as darkness hit I was directed by my garmin to head off into single track and I started to feel like this was familiar and it all became apparent that I was nearing the back of the old Ballarat 6hr course through many diggings and crazy holes that trails hugged alongside of. Old School trails, handcut, goat trails and hard to see at night, not once you are on them, but the left and right turns onto them from easy fireroad.

By now I had forgotten that I had extra load and was riding everything like I normally would have up and down. I had also forgotten that I was here to do a 24+hr stint and 400km of riding. But I was focused on getting to Ballarat where I would refill water and food stores.
175km in, not even half way, but a big chunk was about to become easy soon enough all that stood in my way was Bunningyong and then it was pure bitumen for ages!

A quick stop at Maccas, coke, water, 2 x large fries and I was off. I got seriously lost or stuffed up at the back of the uni and looking over my garmin lost 25mins! That was when I hit Bunningyong and was caught by Matthew and Gareth. Oh well, now there was 3. We were together until Mount Egerton, where Matt and I moved slightly forward of Gareth, maybe he was feeling quesy again?

As we neared the Ballan- Geelong Rd, I felt renwed energy, probably a bit excited that I was about to hit a mega 20km descent into Bacchus Marsh.
I have however neglected to mention the weather patterns going on around us at this stage.

The entire way from Bunningyong to the back of Ballan, the lightening going on around us was seriously amazing, lighting up the sky, but no thunder yet. Only a serious cross head wind. Perhaps a North East North was big all the same. So no hands off handlebars to stretch back, no free downhill speed, everything needed to be pedaled with intent and strong grip on the bars. Thankfully the road had very little tree coverage so I was never scared of a branch falling down and killing me.

As I neared the Ballan – Geelong Rd, I realised that Matt's front light was at least 100mts behind me. Ok, we had space, I would catch up with him in Bacchus Marsh for a hot potato cake I said to myself. We had both bought some in Harcourt many km's ago.
And so I rode on, finding my own tempo, watching the light show and waiting waiting for that view of Melbourne that would soon come into view I had but some distance into the two boys behind me that when I finally looked around there were no front lights to see.
The wind was picking up and it was getting kind of scary and I was getting text messages from Norm that a storm was definitely coming my way sometime soon and there was bright colours in the radar images! Lots of it.
In the meantime I enjoyed the beautiful glow of the bright orange rising moon over the city scape of Melbourne. I did think about taking a photo but was in the zone. 

I am always interested in facing challenges especially 'on the fly' so I was calm and methodical.
Get into Bacchus Marsh,eat, drink and get on my way.
Hurried my way to the 24hr Apco petrol station and grabbed bulk drinks, red bull and 2 potato cakes and again, on my way.
Bike out front, chain lube on, drinks in bottle, drink one redbull, stow the rest, potato cakes in my hand ready to stuff in my mouth. No sign on either of the boys. Oh well...I just decided that I would not wait and perhaps they might catch me again – but they never did.

I knew this climb out the back of Darley was going to be a big one, and the suburban roads were fine, twisting their way up the hillside, still a gorgeous view of Melbourne every now and again.
And then I hit it, the 'hike a bike wall of death!”
No way was I even going to attempt to ride this!!! This dirt hill was steep, long and very huge.
One step in front of the other was the only way to do it, thank goodness it was dark. Up the top I had to climb over a fence and head to a road which still went up a bit steeper for my liking.
Once up the very very top I was gifted with one last amazing view of this moon and Melbourne and another sms from Norm telling me soon I was going to get wet, very wet.
And then the drops started, the wind picked up and the battle between lightening and thunder began, followed by wind and horizontal sheets of rain.
Thankfully it was not cold – yet.

And so I kept riding through the bushland that followed the back edge of the drop down to Lederderg River, up and down through access trail that was mostly rideable despite the rain.
This section proved to display the most amount of close range lightening I have ever experienced, with the fizzle out of electric energy happening right next to me. My garmin back light flickered each time and only once did I think, wow, I could die here, and then I thought well if I do then its a great way to go. I was having a ball. Soaked to the Bone! But loving it.

Eventually I popped out onto Mt Blackwood Rd for some bitumen rest and this is where I got cold so grabbed my wind stopper jacket out of my pocket, its a lightweight scrunch up style one that I bought at the top of Alp d'huez one year so I could keep warm on the return down trip. I just needed to be warm, not dry.

It did the trick nicely and a short while later I was entering the infamous Byers Back Tk, off O'Briens Tk. I loved this, a precarious water race track that basically had many sheer drops off to the side down to the river and a cliff face on the left. But it was awesome and with lights on the only focus was what was ahead of the light. I got a bit cold here and put my puffy jacket on and was instantly warm. It never came off after this. Its about 4am in the morning now, I have been out riding since 9:30am yesterday so around 19hrs has passed to this point. All is good, and I am munching on my stash of roasted salted cashews and drinking well.
After this section of trail I got lost again and looking at my Garmin it was 26 mins of frigging around working out where I went wrong. After the fact I see my errors and all up I easily wasted 1hr in the ride, but you learn. My lesson after this was never 2nd guess the Garmin!!!! 
Eventually making it to Blackwood I was greeted with pre dawn very large grazing male Eastern Grey kangaroos, and it occurred to me this is where I could die, careering down fast bitumen streets in town and hit one of these monters! So I slowed down and enjoyed their company.

Now came the bit of never ever ever ending trail and dirt roads, moto tk and this essentially made up the Great Dividing Trail all the way to Dayleford. Each and every kilometer was peppered with bog hole style mini dam puddles and many were shallow and many were not. It became a game to go fast and smash through them and see if I was the victor, not the puddle. I survived, and had a heap of fun but it was not fast going. Norm was sms'ing me saying the boys had gotten to Daylesford and told him everything, and I shouldnt be too long. I really had no idea just how long I would be but it did seem to take forever, the last 25km took 2hrs and that is slow going! It was so exceptionally muddy.
Finally I felt familiar territory and knew that Lake Jubilee was nearby. We were sent on this lower trail only to have to hike a bike up a stupid steep goat track to the rail trail we could have been on earlier. Did I sign up for an adventure race? I guess so!
I got to Daylesford, more fruit bun, a vegie pastie, more drinks, hi to some GDT followers including Norm and I was off. Just 50km to go!
I hoped it might be a 3hr stint I think it ended up being over 4!

This is where if you are going to lose your shit, it will be now.
The final leg, like can't it be fast and rewarding instead of crappy trail that follows up and down ridiculous gullies that are challenging to walk up let alone fully laden bikepacking bike!
I was coping but I was annoyed and I did want to be done. I stopped looking at my phone or garmin, I did not want to know details.
I did not even want to eat but I had a stash a raspberry lemonade which made its way to my lips a few times just to keep me happy.
When I finally go to the never ending water race I thought, Yay, its nearly time, and the water race just went on an on and on and onnnnnnnnn. And then there was road! Straight back to Castlemaine, I even saw some supporters just as the track met the road, who had been at the XCO race saying hi, that was nice.
I knew by now I must have looked a sight and had good reason to, but getting to Norm at the train station was my only focus and got there I did.

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That was huge, around 400km, around 7000mts of vert and over 28hrs of ride time.
Probably spent 1hr getting lost, 30 minutes getting food, and over an hour in hike a bike for the journey.

I ate: Lollies, bars, cashews, shot blocks, potato cakes, fries, fruit buns and drank coke, assorted soft drinks, loads of water and gatorades.

What a journey, I really enjoyed the solo – ness of it and I am committed to doing Tour Divide in 2017 so it was good to see what an all nighter feels like, because I know I wont be planning on doing that – ever in the TD journey/race.

I did not do a huge amount of planning, I have done a bunch of 24 solo efforts and 2 road 24 solos amongst many 300km self supported bike rides so figured my motto was to keep moving, keep the km's rolling under my tyres, ride safe, ride smart, have sufficient battery life, travel light but with life saving essentials and alway keep eating and drinking – always!

Eat and drink high calorie food so I dont have to eat big meals. Oh and finally as I always do on any big ride is to thank my blessings for being able to even be here doing it.

My equipment:

  • Liv Obsess 27.5” hardtail

  • Shimano 2 x 11 XTR gears and brakes

  • Stans ZTR Gold Wheels

  • Schwalbe Snake Skin 2.25” Rocket Ron tyres (they have great mud clearance yet great grip all round)

  • Ultimate running back pack for my wet weather / arm warmer leg warmer gear(wrapped in plastic bag)

  • Shimano MTB shoes

  • Rapha womens black waisted bicyle knicks for ease of toileting!

  • Liv Jersey, Craft wind jacket, Prima Loft Puffer jacket, Fist Gloves, Capo socks

  • Adidas polarised sunnies

  • Garmin Edge 810

  • Iphone and Quad Lock mount and waterproof cover

  • 2 x 5000mah battery packs and appropriate charge cords

  • Gearjammer seat bag, filled with my spares and tubes etc...and puffer jacket wrapped in plastic bag.

  • Handlebar lunchbox for all my batteries and electics.

  • Top Tube snack packs for my food and small bits and pieces in the one attached to seat post.

  • I ran my normal 24hr lights – Light and Motion Seca 2000 lumen light for handlebars and carried 2 batteries and only ever ran them on low. No dramas. 

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In the end I came 3rd in the event that was not a race and I still do not know how many officially started and how many actually finished.

Thank you to Norm for meeting me at Castlemaine.
Thank you to Ross Burrage for taking me to Bendigo Friday night to stay at your sister in laws.
Thank you to Jackie Bernadi for planning it and getting me to come.
Thank you to Kedan from Bike Bag Dude for all your help with bags to get this trip done properly.
...and of course all the great equipment I have is is because of the great people behind the products at:
Giant Bicycles Australia
Shimano Cycling Australia for my XTR group set
Bike Box for my tyres
Jet Black Products for my wheels and lights
Adidas Sport Eyewear for my glasses

The adversity is what I loved about this ride, the result means nothing, though again what I have come away with is bolstered self belief that big stuff can be done if you just go ahead and do it with the right mindset and some decent tools to do the job.