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Fine-tuning my assault on hills.

AUSTRALIA | Monday, 9 January 2012 | Views [1867]

Even the beautiful sheltered beach at Ulladulla was surrounded by hills!

Even the beautiful sheltered beach at Ulladulla was surrounded by hills!

Eeyore would say it was the surging traffic, or his own smell that had woken him up. This positive power trooper will say that it was the excitement of another day on the road. Oh, how I love a challenge and I knew there were loads of it ahead. I had seen the state of the road on the drive back from Jervis Bay and I had to love the prospect of hills or else I'd try to ride to Hundred Acre Woods instead.

Even the Pope had told me how hilly the road south of Kiama was so I stopped in there to have a few more people tell me the same thing. I had the overly friendly, and unusually young and attractive Information Centre lady call some caravan parks in advance to ensure I wasn't doing a 30km detour for nothing. She made a reservation in Shoalhaven Heads for me then detailed at unnecessary length the ordeal that awaited me before I even made it out of Kiama.

I gulled down a coffee like Popeye does spinach and set off humming 'Eye of the tiger'. I had decided on a new approach to taking on hills and was surprised to find that being wary of even a shit technique was enough of a distraction for my legs. One big hill ran through Kiama, and its obese Mother laid just out of town. So it is a work in progress, but this is how I got over these monstrosities.

I get as much speed as possible on the approach while muttering appropriately motivating remarks about my efforts embarrassing vegetarians, bike riders, my gender, the whole human race, etc. 'Sandstorm' by Derude plays in my mind as suggested by Shane, reminding me more of when I was pinging rather than inspiring me to pedal. Distraction is the key remember. When I change gears, I do two at a time so even the dodgy changing does not compromise too much momentum. I ride in a gear as high or low as possible to spin my legs like a windmill in a hurricane. That I don't know whether the gears are termed 'higher' or 'lower' might go some way to explain how I trained my body to do it, but didn't train my mind to know how.

Either way, I aim for the easiest possible method and found the aforementioned one to be most effective in getting me to the top of a hill with minimal complaining, and increased chance of being avoided by motorists afterwards. Who knows what goes through their minds when they pass me by as I shout clichés at myself, bob my head in time to the music, grind my teeth and spin my legs like an air-plane propeller. They must think I've got Tourettes, a twitch, asthma and am highly stressed.

Another dicey, death-defying tourist road took me into Shoalhaven Heads where my early rise and inspired riding got me to in record time. A strong southerly had blown in to make me more thankful for the mornings endeavours. I decided to treat myself with the sort of food I was unable to prepare with my limited resources and headed to the closest café. The lady recommended the nachos and without an oven or a Mexican chef in my trailer, I happily took her advice. The café mustn't have had an oven or a Mexican chef either cause I was presented with a plate of cold corn chips, a warm bowl of salsa, half an avocado in one piece and unmelted grated cheese thrown on top as an afterthought. DIY nachos and the lady had actually recommended them? It frightened me to think what was on the menu that she wouldn't recommend.

As is becoming the norm, people I meet are finding out about my exploits through word of mouth. Even though Niamh and Neil Armstrong made my adventure seem rather mundane, it still serves to impress people who think even the remote control is too far away. Heading to the communal cooking area to whip up a Naked Chef style one-potter, ie. no ingredients, my neighbours made it known that I was 'that guy'. I was impressed with how impressed Nick & Blair were and that almost lead me to glorify my efforts to justify their respect.

Extending pleasantries enough to warrant writing a book about it, it wasn't long before the ubiquitous weed entered the fray. Knowing it is as helpful to riding as covering your saddle with caustic soda, I agreed to a sample just to be social. Unbeknownst to me, Nick had rolled a joint with as much tobacco as you'd expect to find in a meat pie. By the time I'd figured out how strong it was, I was already too stoned to realise that having any more was the best answer if “What's the best way to fuck up tomorrows ride” was the question.

Fortunately there is no pantry in my tent, so I had the best sleep of the trip as the weed made my glorified swag feel like the Taj Mahal. I slept like the dead and woke like it would be better if I had have stayed buried, but that's to be expected as the Taj Mahal is a tomb after all. There had been little muscle recovery through the night and I felt hazy like I woke up exhaling the last of it. Servicing my bike took five times longer than I'd like even though I did it ten times quicker than I should.

As has always been the norm, people forgo all social decorum and just stare as I organise or disassemble my camp site. I honestly do not see how people can overlook common decency and stand ten metres away with binoculars, a telescope, a monocle or anything that will let them closely scrutinize my every move. It's like have the best moves at an orgy. Everybody is doing the same thing, but everyone else wants to know why you are doing it better.

I made the 15kms into Nowra, happy to be stopping just as my legs were warmed up. I was still missing certain things about normal living that being in Sydney had reminded me of. Like having a chair to sit on for example. Having heard that more opportunities to practice spinning, sweating and swearing laid ahead in the form of large hills, I splashed out on some more comfort. Not an engine which would have helped most, but a camp chair.

Nothing epic or noteworthy happened as I made my way along a run of the mill stretch of the Princess Highway. That was until the 50km mark. That is how far I can get on general fitness. Beyond that other factors start to play a part such as food and sleep from the previous 24 hours, and drug consumption. If what I was feeling was 'hitting the wall', it was built to keep invading Mongolian herds out. I was still 30km from my destination with no camp-grounds or electricity pylons offering an easy way out.

I laid down in a rest area for 30 minutes digging deep into reserves that I thought had already run dry. Two friendly park rangers thought they'd ease my suffering by telling me a strong Southerly wind was about to kick in. That would make it a head wind thanks guys. “The rain will cool you down though!” Obviously having never ridden a bike before, only recent events convinced me their stories of the hilly road ahead were true. That was about all the good news I could handle so I whispered sweet nothings to my camp chair in anticipation and set off again.

As I slogged on, I thought about how amazing the roller coaster of emotions is that such an enterprise engenders. That is what I love about it all. Living life regardless of whether it's all smooth sailing or epic ordeals. One minute I am distraught about a dirt track down to hell and the next I have found the most scenic lookout yet. I curse every hill only to shout 'whoop-whoops' to the wind on the way down. Bike riding is like finding Keith Richards medicine cabinet, scoffing the lot and just seeing what unfolds. It doesn't always feel the best, but at least you're feeling something, and often a lot of it.

Such as spitting rain and swirling winds that were blowing me all over a thankfully wide shoulder. Some words of inspiration from absent friends got me to the 75km mark, with another long stop on the way. 5kms from my destination, I found Mt. Olympus. I don't know if there was any Gods on top but I knew I'd feel like one if I made it that far. I gathered myself at the base, went over my plan, ignoring all the glaring holes in it and went for gold.

“C'mon Hazza, you frilly pink blouse, pump those chicken legs!” I thought of Shane twitching spasmodically to 'Sandstorm' on Bondi beach at 5am. I saw myself atop an olympic podium as Beethoven's 9th reached its inspiring climax. I imagined a ticker-tape parade and medals for valour awaiting me. With barely any shoulder, I also saw myself floating up to meet St. Peter and finding Niamh there telling him I'd cheated by actually training.

Five stops later and an elongated stint of pushing, I made the summit. I had no flag to claim the territory, as the trailers second flag had randomly disappeared somewhere before Sydney. I looked around for someone to high five or spray champagne over, but the world went about its business as usual. I guess that is what personal challenges are all about, proving something to yourself regardless of whether the world gives a shit about it or not.

As my understanding of impossible is constantly redefined, I find it hard to compare one ordeal to the next. I have come close to cracking a few times, and until they find a way to measure a bee's manhood, I won't know if I came any closer today than say Lion's Road or my 3 day extravaganza of everything breaking. Amazed at what the human body is capable of, I looked at the road as it wound down to the valley I had just ascended from and permitted myself a hard fought “You da man Hazza!”

Tags: bicycling, friends, partying

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