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Tales from the Dark Side

14 October 2012

14 October 2012

Tales from the Dark Side

Sooner or later it had to happen. It was inevitable when you think about it; I really should have seen it coming; I’ve been slipping for a while, and now I find myself on the dark side. Well, maybe not completely, maybe I’m just kind of tan, rather than dark per se. And probably more your terrible, orange fake-tan, then the dark-walnut brown tan at that. Naturally, I have a myriad of excuses, all sorts of justifications for my behaviour: it’s for a good cause; Junior’s doing hundreds of kilometres in the sweltering heat and mountains in the Tour De Timor - the least I could do is a few laps of Lake Burley Griffin for a good cause; it’s just faster... But hidden deep, deep down, I think at some level, I just enjoy it.

I bought a road bike a year ago for commuting; it would be faster than riding a mountain bike to work. And it would help me get some base riding into my legs to build my endurance for events. But I wouldn’t become a roady. No way, not me. You wouldn’t catch me dead in religion-indicating lycra; and certainly not ordering a latte with banana bread. I ride mountain bikes. The road bike is just for commuting, getting from home to work, and back again (because it’s faster than the mountain bike).

And sure enough, the first sign of a roady event that I could actually do, I signed up. No, no, not the Fitz’s Challenge - have you seen the elevation profile for that ride? - and certainly not the Hartley Lifecare Ability Cycle Challenge - whose name is almost as long as the ride. No, the LifeCycle challenge (which I found reading a popular mountain biker’s blog - not googling Hartley Life Cycle. Honest). It was advertised as laps of the of Lake Burley Griffin (touted by Pedal Power as the “Best half-day ride in Australia”). Who could refuse that? Well, laps for 48 hours. So, at least it kind of had some cred to it; it was like doing a 24 hour ride, but since we’d be on roadies, we’d have to go twice as long...

At least I didn’t wear lycra. Well, actually, I did. Bib-knicks at that. But I did spare the world’s eyes and covered my shame in baggy pants. So it doesn’t really count. Not really.

Lap 1: 8:00pm 13/09/2012

While the event started on Thursday afternoon, I couldn’t get away from work until about 7:30 at night (though, they did give me the Friday off so that I could keep going on the laps). This turned out to be a good thing, as the weather closed in on Thursday afternoon, with some decent rains falling; but it seemed to have cleared up by about 6:30, so by the time I arrived at the start line, it all seemed quite nice (though a little cold - but I’ve been riding to work all through winter, I can deal with cold!)

I took off for my first lap around 8:00 p.m. in cool weather. A lap started at King’s Park, went over the Kings Avenue Bridge, then down and around the West Basin, and back to King’s Park on the north side of the lake all via the bike path. Easy, familiar ground. Lights on, with my long (baggy, of course) pants and rain jacket, and I was off! I started out nice and easy, just cruising along over Kings Avenue Bridge, and enjoying the feeling of the roady beneath me on smooth footpath (a far cry from riding singletrack on a mountain bike!)

As I continued around the lake I noticed light sleet, or maybe even snow; just floating on the wind coming towards my lights. It seemed very nice, and kind of welcoming - though I could see some heavier clouds rolling in - surely they wouldn’t come. And, maybe if they did, they’d bring snow! That’d be cool.

Then, shortly after overtaking some riders, around near the Canberra Yacht Club, I noticed a lot more of it. And it was less like snow, and more like freezing cold water. In a few minutes I discovered that my rain jacket is actually a wind jacket (perhaps a spray jacket at best) and I was soaked through. I began to think about the nearest dry place to stop - which would have been the underpass down near Scrivener Dam. So, rather than just turning around I rode on.

By the time I reached the underpass I was soaked and cold, and decided I may as well keep going. Stopping would not make me any drier, and not moving would probably make me colder. So I continued over Scrivener Dam, where I was further soaked by a car driving through a puddle. Fortunately, shortly after the dam there was a bit of a climb, which enabled me to get out of the saddle and work a bit harder (and warm up). Then it was around to Black Mountain Peninsula, past the museum and the home run!

It was around this time that I started to consider my options. I had lost feeling in my hands and feet about eight kilometers ago and was soaked through, but the weather was clearing up. Further, the Immoral Support Crew had ordered me not to return before four in the morning. But I still had many more hours of riding available to me, and we had a new foster lab coming in that evening so it’d be good if I could be there to help settle him in. I could always come back early in the morning and do more laps... So I packed it in and drove home after a single lap...

Laps 2 & 3: 10:30sm 14/09/2012

You know, Labradors tend to be affectionate, people-loving dogs-kind of like big teddy bears. It is, however, unfortunate when a 25kg lab wants to jump into bed and be a teddy bear all night long. Even worse is when they know they’re not supposed to get into bed, so wait for you to fall asleep before jumping in (and waking you up again). Speaking of which, if you’d like to adopt a Labrador, we have a number to suit you!

So it was after a night of fitful rest I was called into work, which mean I didn’t make it to start my day laps until about 10:30 in the morning. Still, it was a very nice day, and I had plenty of time to do laps. Furthermore, as the road bike is my commuter, I have two sets of riding gear for it, in case I’m caught in the rain riding home. So I had a fresh (and dry) set to start with on Friday.

Yes, it’s true. I have two sets of bib-knicks. Oh, the shame. At least it was cool enough to wear baggy shorts over them.

The lake was far more popular on the sunny Spring Friday morning than it was on the dark, rainy Thursday night, and I had to dodge many people walking, riding and jogging by the lakeside (many of who were wearing lycra); however after crossing beneath the Commonwealth Avenue Bridge the people began to thin (and the wind began to pick up) and I could speed through Yarralumla.

The West Basin ride really is a very scenic ride, taking in bushland, the Royal Canberra Golf Course, lake views, then the sweeping vista of Canberra’s architecture on the way back to King’s Park; and it was this windward run back to the headquarters which was the most enjoyable. Riding on the much smoother path gave me reflection as to the quiet efficiency of the road bike in stark contrast to the mountain bikes I spend most of my time on. Then I rode over the gravel of Rond Terrace, where I was reminded that this quiet efficiency was delivered by a stiffer frame, as every single pebble sent shocks through the frame to the seat, and my body.

But speeding back in, after a refreshing few kilometres, I elected to continue on, and told the marshals that I was heading out for another long lap, and into the growing wind - and gathering lunchtime crowds. But 20-odd kilometres on a road bike is a very different proposition to 20-odd kilometres on a mountain bike, particularly on a mainly flat course, and I was back at the hub within an hour for a little rest and some food.

The hub was much quieter than I expected for an event of this size (albeit in it’s first year). In fact, I saw very few riders on the course as well - though this may well have been more attributable to the fact it was a Friday, and I had actually taken time off work to ride - many other people may have been waiting until they finished work for the week on Friday night. This was, of course, good for me, as it meant there no queues at the hot food stand, the barbecue, or the coffee van! I had a quick feed and drink, and decided I might as well do a couple more laps.

Laps 4 & 5: 1:00 p.m. 14/09/12

By the time I reached the western side of the lake, the wind was really picking up, and it was starting to feel like hard work. Fortunately, the last part of the ride puts the wind behind you, and the section from the Commonwealth Avenue bridge back to the hub was fast, flat and fun - so much fun that I forgot just how painful the ride into the wind at the westward end was. Until my next lap, that is...

With four laps down for the day, and one the night before, I had done over 100km for the LifeCycle - and given I had foolishly entered another event for the weekend, I thought that was a respectable ride, and decided to head home. It may be worth pointing out that the TriHards "team" total of 103.5km was a respectable distance; and while that put us at the top of the bottom-half of the field (where we live), we did manage to beat the ACT Greens. But then, everybody normally does, so I guess that’s nothing to really boast about!

The Thanks!

Many thanks go out to the organisers of LifeCycle, who put on a great, and well organised event; also their sponsors for supporting it, and the vast, and incredible army of volunteers who stayed out on the course even throughout the dreadful Thursday night weather!