Monday, September 25, 2006

A Sunday Epic

I can’t believe it’s Monday already! How was your weekend?

I had a “can’t be bothered getting out of bed” day on Saturday – and did no training, but eventually Y got me out of the house and we went shopping and other domestic things. It has to be done sometimes. :-)

Sunday I wanted a big bike ride with lots o’ hills (not just this Hills) so I planned to go to Healesville, then up to King Lake and back. It was a fine plan, but I stuffed around and didn’t get out the door until 9am and that was the beginning of a bit of an epic. Let me tell you about it.

I made it out to Healesville quite well and it’s a beautiful ride. Of course it’s Magpie season, so I was swooped a few times, but luckily there was no contact between beak and skin. At Healesville I had a coffee and rested a bit, then rang Y to say that I was going to be back way later than I had thought. As I spoke to her, she said it was hailing in Melbourne, and I though “ha – what’s a little hail? It probably wont come here anyway”. And I headed up to King Lake.

By the time I got to Toolangi, a substantial (though beautiful), climb later, it was about 8 degrees and hard rain interspersed with hail. I was wearing all my clothing – which was just a vest, short pants, arm warmers and undershirt, and I was cold. I had to wear my sun glasses to keep the hail off my face, but it was dark and they were wet so I couldn’t see much. The high winds of the storm were blowing big branches off the trees so I had to dodge around those – hoping all the while that one wouldn’t actually hit me! My cold legs were still driving me pretty well so I made reasonable time up the hill. I had to in order to stay warm.

At Toolangi there was a sign saying 2km to King Lake. Oh wait, with the fogged-up sunglasses off that says *21km* to get to King Lake. I stop in the middle of the road to absorb this and am nearly taken out by a rally car from the Rally of Melbourne which was on this weekend. My plan then was to descend through St Andrews to Eltham and then get a train. As I climbed through to King Lake it was around 5 degrees (still raining hard) and I was pedalling fast to stay warm. I couldn’t feel my hands or feet so changing gear or braking was hard. I was so glad I had the iPod as it really kept me focussed on riding to stay warm rather than feeling sorry for myself.

A detached part of my brain was observing myself going through the stages of hypothermia but I knew that a) there wasn’t much I could do about it here, b) when I got to King Lake I could go into a café and warm up again, and c) if I got too bad I’d flag down a passing car (hopefully not one of the rally cars since they don’t have a rear seat) and get a lift. My criteria for “too bad” was if I fell off the bike because I couldn’t steer anymore. I was in a bad way.

Finally I reached King Lake and staggered about to find the warmest café that I could go to without feeling awkward in my dripping wet cycle clothing. There I ordered the biggest hot chocolate I could find. I sat nearly on top of the combustion stove and shivered so hard I couldn’t drink the hot chocolate. After a while I slowly started to thaw out, and realised that there was no way that I could safely do the descent to St Andrews in my condition – I was sure to miss a corner and hurt myself badly.

As I was thinking this, a party of 5 elderly hikers came in, and one came over to the fire to dry herself off. We started chatting a bit and I enthusiastically agreed that I was pretty cold (this was probably very obvious anyway!). She eventually went back to have coffee with her friends and then came back a bit later and said “can you take your bike apart?” Gears whirred and clicked in my brain and I said “If you’re offering me a lift, then the answer is yes please!”. Sure enough, they were heading for Eltham and were offering to drive me there. I jumped at the chance and ordered another hot chocolate while they finished their coffee.

We got the 4 of us and my bike into one of their cars (a Subaru Legacy wagon - yay for the suby!) and headed off. It turned out that the driver – who’s name I have completely forgotten to my shame – didn’t like the King Lake–St. Andrews road so she was going via Whittlesea. That route takes us much closer to my place than Eltham, so somewhere around Mernda I asked them to drop me off, and after checking that I really was in a fit state to ride again, they went on their way.

By that time, the rain had stopped and there were actually patches of blue sky (typically changeable Melbourne weather!). It was also a good 6-7 degrees warmer down out of the hills, and the only thing stopping the ride being pleasant was the blistering headwind and that my legs were absolutely shattered. I fuelled myself with as much carbs as I could fit and heaps of water and crawled painfully the 30km home. I arrived at about 4pm, dirty, late, wet and still cold – and never was a hot shower more welcome.

All in all, one of the least fun rides I’ve done, but the route was superb and I can’t wait to try it again in good weather! Without the hypothermia and rescue that is.

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