Verita Stewart

Writer, blogger, social media | Racer of bikes with Specialized Women's Racing Team|

Challenge accepted, 3 Peaks 2014

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It has almost been a week since I completed 3 Peaks. I think that I have just recovered enough to think about it in depth.

I procrastinated long enough. Hesitant to say the least. Looking forward to it, not so much, but there were only two weeks to go, and I still hadn’t secured an entry… Also, I still hadn’t got any long rides under my belt.  Luckily I found one…an entry that is! I certainly hadn’t found any long rides.  So now I was financially committed,  my initial hesitation still was relevant. I hadn’t done enough training and really had not much desire to. The reality and the countdown was on. Sadly, 3 Peaks isn’t something that you can really cram for like an exam. Nevertheless, I started my taper process with a week to go.

We drove up to Falls Creek on the Friday night and settled into our accommodation with friends who were equally as nervous and excited and, had been doing much longer kilometres than me! On the Saturday we attempted to put our feet up and relax, not stressing too much about the epic ride that was looming when we woke. Secretly I was feeling rather undercooked. I hadn’t ridden longer than 90km in a long time as all my training in the months leading up had been focusing on crits –  short and sharp. Let’s be honest, the exact opposite to what 3 Peaks was all about.

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Napoleon clean, inspected and raring to go!

The day arrived after a restless sleep. Purdie and I packed our back pockets and stuffed our faces and lined up with the 1800 other riders. Interesting to hear that of all the entries to 3 Peaks, only 11% of all entries were women. This number is something that we surely can change for next year – lets try to make it at least 25%. Anyway, we hustled our way to the first wave, not wanting to be stuck at the rear of over one thousand nervous wheels descending in the dark. An injury early on would definitely be less than ideal.

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Ash and I on the start line

Descending Falls was not as painful as I thought it would be with hundreds of other riders along side us, and we hit the bottom of Falls Creek in good time. Our friend Ash Hall had decided to keep us company for the first bit and we started to ascend the first peak, Tawonga Gap. Last time I was here, Tour of Bright Stage 2, it was painful. Then I was hurting, working at max capacity. I wanted to approach the first peak in a more conservative manner at least to fend off PTSD. Also, Purdie had warned me repeatedly that we weren’t riding at ‘race pace.’ So Ash, Purdie and I ticked up Tawonga at an easy pace, fearful at using our biccies early.

Our strategy was to ride smart, comfortably within our limits and to eat on the hour. So we started our ride plan almost immediately.

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P
urdie and Ash climbing Tawonga

We comfortably got over Peak 1, Tawonga Gap, in 32 minutes. Then began the stunning descent. It was at this point where we lost Ash. He was feeling good and set off to ride under 9 hours (after wasting the first 1.5 hrs with us). The descent was pleasant, the peloton had spread out vastly over the first climb so there was room to move on the road. The sun had risen, and I was feeling good. As we turned the corner towards Harrietville, Purdie and I were joined by our friends Penny and Eleisha. This was a prearranged meeting point, wanting to share the journey with friends. They provided some distraction and paced us the next 25km to Harrietville. After a brief nature break we waved goodbye to the girls and began the 30km climb up Hotham.

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Minda and Purdie looking comfortable climbing Hotham

Less than 10km up Hotham we were joined by our friend Minda, another prearranged meeting place. Minda was just climbing Hotham for the day, and it was a much needed distraction as we all know how long and tedious Hotham is. We rode together, the three of us, laughing, chatting and ticking the pedals over at a consistent pace. We got to the top of Hotham in just under 2hrs. Minda’s car fridge provided the brief sustenance we required – peanut butter and jam sandwich for me! Stopping for less than 10 mins we went on our way, 14km to Dinner Plain.

Mine and Purdie’s plan, to not waste time, was working. So far we had stopped a total of about 15 minutes and spent about 4.5 hours in the saddle. We were nearing the half way mark, making good time and more importantly, spirits were high.

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Purdie and I about to conquer “The Meg”

We decided to push through and not stop at Dinner Plain, so we began descending with the eye on the prize, being Omeo. It was at this point where I think I failed the most. I started feeling it. I felt that I could not descend as fast as everyone else and my legs were feeling the pinch. This was the furthest I had ridden in a long time. Purdie was doing fine, her weekly training rides had here still in the saddle for at least one more hour.  We ticked along, salt accumulating on our faces in the heat. This stretch was by far the most boring. The roads were open and dead, and we passed hardly anyone along the way. The sun was high in the sky, and it was a scorcher.

We finally reached Omeo and stopped for a wee and water bottle fill. Here we bumped into our friend Sam, who we lost on the start line hours earlier. Sam was on a roll, so kept a decent pace and steam rolled into the distance as we rolled out towards Anglers Rest. We didn’t want to prevent him from reaching his sub 10 hour aim, so happily waved him off.

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Somewhere on the “dead” roads between Omeo and Dinner Plain

The roads from Omeo to Anglers Rest were by far my favourite. They were made up of a consistent and comfortable gradient, with picturesque views and a smooth surface. The time in this section went the quickest. Before we new it we were at Anglers Rest, filling our bottles and moving on. The back of Falls was looming and I was not looking forward to it.

I’ve only ever heard tales of WTF corner, nothing encouraging either. So when I saw it, I had flash backs of Baw Baw, waved goodbye to Purdie and began ticking up it at a pace I could maintain. I could not go any faster, or any slower. I just had to pedal. The first 10km of this I kept a solid tempo. Passing riders, pushing their bikes. I had time for a selfie!

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My back of Falls selfie. Something to keep me positive whilst maxing my heart rate out!

I was not sure where the climb ended – I was about 10km into the climb, so I pulled up and waited for Purdie catch up. As I waited I saw grown men physically and mentally exhausted, walking their bikes up a relentless “pinch” that perhaps wouldn’t feel as bad had we not all had 200 kms already in the pins.  We made it to the rest stop and decided to push on. Rookie error! We should have stopped for water. We rationalised not stopping and losing rhythm by the knowledge we only had 30 km left. We had come this far, let’s just keep rolling. However,  the toughest 30km I’ve ever done was about to begin.

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We were greeted by this view at the top of Falls

Purdie was almost out of water and 10 hrs on the saddle was not doing her any favours. On the other hand I was feeling okay, apart from my little pins feeling like they were about to fall off. This was the longest time I had spent in the saddle EVERand there I was whining that Around the Bay was a long timeI’ve taken that back! We kept ticking along and surprisingly we caught up with Sam, who shared some of his excess H2O with us. Saviour!!! At least at this point we had conquered the hardest part, the back of Falls. So we grovelled our way for the next 20km, laughing at each other in hysteria.”stop looking at me, I’m tired”. 

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Beautiful scenery on the top of Falls

We could see the light, we were almost there. We had survived. Just.  We crossed the dam wall with smiles from ear to ear. Looking at my Garmin, watching every kilometre tick over. We had almost made it. The finish was finally in sight. As we approached the Falls Creek Village and the glorious finish line, we were greeted again by Penny, Eleisha and my Total Rush Team mate, Kelly. They cheered us on, and were happy to see us achieve our goal of survival. They were happy to see us? We were deliriously happy to see them, knowing around the corner was the moment we would cross the line, unclip and be greeted by our friends who were also accepting the 3 Peaks Challenge, and others who had come to support us.

The finish line was looming…..we did it, in 10:56! 
Total ride time of approximately 10 hours 30 mins, with only 25 mins in the feed and water zones. 11.5 hours after the start of Three Peaks, we were showered, fed and laying as horizontal as we could.

Sam completed in 10.5 hrs and Ash completed in an amazing 8.5 hrs – and he wasted the first 2 hrs at least riding with us! Remarkable!!!

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Purdie and I at the finish! So happy to be off the bikes !!!

Thinking about it now, I’m not sure we can shave much time off our rides. Maybe if we quicken up our pace on the “flats” and shave a bit of time of each climb, maybe. Is that a challenge for next year? So would I do it again? After the event, I would have said NO emphatically. One week later, I sure would! Maybe next time I will train for it properly. Maybe. And MAYBE we can get under 10 hours!!! Challenge accepted.

So we got on our bikes and rode them, up three peaks, in under 11 hours AND we are planning on doing it again.

You can view my Strava file here. You can follow me on Instagram and Twitter @lowercasev

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Minda and I – sporting our matching Specialized Tees!

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Purdie was less than impressed with the amount of salt congealed on my face!

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I somehow mustered up the courage and the legs to go for a little pedal on the Monday after 3 Peaks. Falls Creek is a beautiful place, so peaceful, and an awesome place to ride.

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Author: Verita Stewart

Cyclist for Specialized, Instagramer, blogger, desk sitter, coffee lover, recycler

One thought on “Challenge accepted, 3 Peaks 2014

  1. Pingback: Mansfield Crit and Mt Buller Road Race | Verita Stewart

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