Indian Pacific Wheel Race

I have been very slack and not provided any info on the latest adventure: the Indian Pacific Wheel Race! This will be an on-road bikepacking event on home soil, from the west coast to the east coast of Australia. The 5500km course will take in ocean views, desert, rolling wine country and travel through the mountainous Australian Alps. We will travel from Fremantle, Adelaide, Melbourne, Canberra and then finish in Sydney. We’ll dip our rear wheels in the Indian Ocean and ride through to dip our front wheels in the Pacific Ocean!

Seb and I are both racing, and just like Tour Divide, we’ll have a kiss on the start line and wave goodbye! This time we’ll see each other again on the steps of the Opera House in Sydney. There will be a tracking website so everyone at home can watch on. There is a good chance that friends and family will be able to cheer us on the sidelines of the actual course, we will even ride through our hometown Canberra.

This year Seb is riding a titanium Curve Belgie Spirit and I am riding a carbon Trek Domane. I am running a Vision FSA rim on the rear but the rest of our rims are Nextie, both with disc brakes. Both of us have new thru-axle SP Dynamo hubs and Klite dynamo powered lights. We are both rocking a combination of bags including Bike Bag Dude, Wunderlust and Revelate Designs. This year I have tried to go lighter while still being safe. There is the real possibility of extreme heat, cold desert nights and even snow on the alps and I need to be prepared for it all. For this ride I won’t have my usual the single skin tent but rather a SOL escape bivvy, down sleeping bag, plus an emergency space blanket if needed. I’ve ditched the comfy Neoair Thermarest for a cut down car sunshade. I have the capacity for 6L of the water in a MSR dromedary bladder which could be needed across the desert, but makes me flexible to have a lot less when we get closer to regular towns. Hopefully these small changes will help with some zoooooommmm!

As we will both be racing, and possibly with not much phone reception to provide updates, all the links you will need to follow the race are here:

Enjoy dot watching!!

Ultra Endurance Thoughts

Often I have found myself struggling to explain to people why I do what I do. Why ultra endurance athletes do what they do. Why would you ride your bike 20 hours a day? Ride until you cry? Race across continents? Words often escape me and I end up with a cop out saying something along the lines of ‘why not’? For people who have not been exposed to such physical and mental challenges, it is very hard to explain to them. When I told my boss on Friday I was riding over the mountains to a nearby town and back on Saturday all he could really reply with was ‘you are crazy’.

Maybe, but just a little.

Today I stumbled across this short documentary film called Length of Sweden. Somehow it manages to put into words all the things I mean to say when someone asks me why. I have been to some spectacular places while participating in ultra endurance cycling, not just geographically, but mentally and spiritually. I can’t count the times I have sat down on the side of a road, teary eyed, convinced I was quitting. But each time, I have talked myself through it, reset the goal posts and got back on the bike. And with every obstacle overcome, I feel I am more mentally tough than ever before. The body is an amazing tool but the brain is such an incredibly  powerful driver.

“You can go completely fucking insane on your body just by fooling it and saying that you are going to be ok, it’s just going to hurt, but you’ll be fine. If the body would overrule all that, you would be screwed right away”.

So if you have 30 mins to sit down and watch what ultra endurance cycling means to me, I couldn’t say it better myself than this wee film does.

Length of Sweden – a documentary by Ertzui Films

Christmas Touring

This year, with our families in various countries for Christmas, Seb and I decided it would be fun to get out and do some cycle touring, just the two of us. Much better idea than sitting at home getting fat eating too much food! So, on Christmas eve we caught a bus to Albury with a plan of riding home over the next week. Of course these things require a small amount of planning, as the cats had to take a holiday at the ‘cat hotel’.

There is something very satisfying about getting to a destination, ditching the bike box, rebuilding your bike and riding off on an adventure. Within 30 minutes we were on the road to Bright, Victoria. Being Christmas eve, the shops in Bright were apparently open until 10pm but nothing on Christmas. So even though it was a stinker of an afternoon, we pushed the pace a bit on the hot tar to make sure we made the supermarket. After a great big Italian feed and our bags stuffed to the brim with snacks, we were all set to go for the next day. We were staying at a friends house luckily, as the heavens opened and a torrential thunderstorm passed through the valley.

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Our plan for the next days consisted roughly of Bright, up Mount Hotham and over to Omeo, Pilot Wilderness, Thredbo, Jindabyne, then back over the main range through Cabramurra, Blue Waterholes and home via Brindabella. We were entirely flexible except to be home to collect the cats by the 30th December.

Mount Hotham was pretty darn hard in the 35+ degree heat on a fully loaded mountain bike, compared to the times I have raced my roadie up there! At the top we ate a Christmas lunch (melted cheese, jerky and chip wraps) in the searing heat with the march flies and headed off towards Omeo.

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The temperature soared to 38 degrees and we were pouring as much water over our heads as we were drinking! The flies were INSANE!!!!! We stopped at Victoria Falls campground for a quick swim and ate lunch in the shade while playing some afternoon cards. As it cooled a little we ventured back into the sun and made the final dash to Omeo. It was a ghost town, so we camped a little bit out of town to come back for the supermarket that opened at 6.30am boxing day!! Packaged pre-cooked rice, rice pudding and chocolate for Christmas dinner without the usual trimmings!

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Our third day we were on the tar again for a while, then eventually after Benambra the road turned to dirt. The heat was up and the vertical meters were also starting to tick over quickly. After lunch we turned off Limestone Road and onto the Australian Alps Walking Track towards Cowombat Flat in the Pilot Wilderness. Spectacular country. The road was slow going double track which didn’t get much vehicle use as the gate was now locked quite close to the beginning of Cowombat Flat Track.

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I started handing gear over to Seb as the pinches started to get the better of me. Cowomabt Flat is a big grassy plain where you cross the headwaters of the Murray River and soon after you go from Victoria back into New South Wales. By this time we had seen evidence of a LOT of horses: piles of poo as high as your knees on the firetrails and also very disturbed banks around all of the waterways. Just before our campsite that night we saw a few brumbies running off into the bush, and when we arrived at Tin Mine Hut there was a group of them just chilling out near the hut! We had to stand our ground and try to intimidate them a little so that we could get some water from the creek. That night when I went to pee in the early hours of the morning there were horses right near our tent!

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Day four promised more spectacular scenery, brumbies, and a lot more climbing. After having cramps all night and making a dash to sleep in the hut after it started pouring, I was feeling less than fresh. Seb was a champion and carried a whole lot more of my gear so I could at least try and enjoy the ride rather than turning it into a Christmas touring death march. We rolled into Thredbo looking pretty bedraggled and starving, the Christmas tourists were a bit perplexed by our smells and the amount of food we consumed at the bakery… and then at the kebab shop! We rode the Thredbo Valley Trail down to Jindabyne and got a room so we could shower and eat pizza. Luckily again we had a room when another insane arvo storm came through.

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I was pretty wrecked and we decided riding the main range back to Canberra was going to be more slow going double track and hills, and I was getting pretty over it! I made the call to ride to Merimbula and spend a few days chilling out at the beach. This meant a long push in the heat (180km) but it was on the tar mainly so it was ok. It was my biggest day since I finished Tour Divide in 2015. Eeek!

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We had a great relax and some coffee rides in Merimbula. Seb had a spin on his dad’s fatbike. Then we got a cheeky lift home with friends. It was great to get some scenic riding in, some serious sweat and some fun times. It was also super nice not to have a hard and fast schedule and to be flexible. It paid off in the end. All up about 580km with 9000m of climbing. Hottest day 38 degrees with most averaging about 33 degrees, so good heat and hills training. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all the Biking Bethany followers.

 

 

Adventure Beth

After a year long hiatus from cycling after Tour Divide in 2015, an opportunity to try something new presented itself. Adventure racing. The world championships of adventure racing was happening right on my backdoor step in Ulladulla, Australia.

Expedition length adventure racing is an adventure race course run over many days (typically 5-10 days) and consisting of many disciplines. The main disciplines are hiking, mountain biking and kayaking, however anything you could think of can be thrown in on top of that: orienteering, coasteering, roller-blading, caving, packrafting, abseiling, wheelbarrows, snowshoes, ziplining. It just depends on what opportunities are available in the area where the race is held. The legs are often not too challenging on their own, however string them together one after the other for days on end, and some serious sleep deprivation and exhaustion together with the complexities of keeping up with nutrition requirements and maintaining good team dynamics… this sounded crazy and hardcore enough to interest me immediately.

Many years ago when I first met Seb, he was a keen adventure racer and unbeknown to him at the time, he was referred to as the ‘Adventure Seb’ boyfriend in conversations I had with my mum and sister. He competed in the world championships when they were in Tasmania  in 2011 and I had been intrigued ever since. So here was  my chance to have a go at being ‘Adventure Beth’.

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Famous Adventure Seb

I joined up with three local guys from Canberra and we formed ‘Resultz Racing’ team. They were Michael Reed, Tony Leach and Ross Beatty. We had heaps of adventures together training up for the race. We did overnight trips with hiking and biking, day long hikes, paddling and pack rafting. It was fantastic to be training again for something, and this was really different training. It was great to feel a whole of body type strength from all the different aspects of physical activity. We unfortunately did not get to do any adventure racing together prior to the main event.

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We had some hiccups leading up to the event which disrupted training right when we should have been putting in the hard yards. Two team members came down with bad chest infections and went on antibiotics, and I got bitten by one of my cats which landed me in hospital with a staphylococcus aureus (Golden Staph) infection in my blood. This was serious enough to need two weeks 24 hour IV antibiotics, meaning I couldn’t train at all.

Needless to say, this is what team racing is all about: getting all four of us to the start healthy and ready to compete felt like half the challenge. But we made it and with big nervous smiles we toed the start line.

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Ready to rock and roll

I won’t go through the whole race report because it is epic in itself. There are a lot of stories to be told from racing constantly for 24 hours a day over a very challenging course. My teammate Michael wrote a great account here which details the whole of our race.

Some things stood out though to me, as things I will never forget:

  • Paddling into a storm at 12am, two kayaks tied together, waves pounding into our boat stopping us dead still every few meters. Looking out at the lights on the shore, knowing we were barely moving despite all the effort we were putting in.
  • Hike-a-bike like you have never experienced. Dragging bikes over and under trees and roots, lowering them down cliff faces all while clinging on for dear life because all this was happening on the edge of a cliff face.
  • Crossing a river in the dark hours of the night and nuding up so our clothes could stay dry, our head torches exposing flashes of bare bums and other private parts as teams crossed in front of us!
  • Having such excruciatingly painful feet that I got the medic to try and pop a blister which I thought I had on my foot. This turned out to not be a blister at all, and I was yelping at the pain of just getting stabbed by a pin numerous times drawing blood.

In the end my wrist decided that it belonged to Biking Bethany, not Adventure Beth, and there was to be NO MORE PADDLING! My right wrist had developed severe swelling the size of a lemon and was warm and inflamed. I couldn’t move it and the medic suggested I might have a fracture. And that was that, my race was over. I packed my gear up and jumped into a tent for the night, to be taken to hospital the next day. Teams can continue with three people but my team mates decided they had had enough and also pulled the pin. I ended up with no fracture, but severe tendonitis in my wrist. Intersection Syndrome apparently. The two tendons rub over each other with such friction that the sheaths inflame and swell. Mine was so inflamed when I moved my hand there was a chalky audible squeak of dry tendons.

I really loved the craziness of the race. Everything was just hard enough to feel like you were being tested. Would you break this time? What about now? The legs were long enough that you were completely ready to do the next thing, whatever it was. Get off those weary feet and onto the bike. Be done with the hike-a-bike and get into that kayak. We only lasted three days out on course, but the sleep deprivation was a real tricky bugger even in that amount of time. The hours between midnight and dawn were hard. While hiking on the second night the steps in front of me were rolling and merging into one flat piece of path and I was continually stumbling along like I was drunk. Cycling at night and just staring at the one light ahead on the ground was something I was used to but there was the odd slap of the face to reinvigorate myself. I rediscovered no-doze for the first time since Tour Divide, and it was just as fabulous as I remember.

I found the dynamics of racing with three other people very challenging. All the adventures I have ever done where you are so exhausted and not thinking clearly, I have been by myself. You can scold yourself, swear at yourself, sleep when you need, stop when you need. Having to accommodate the needs of three other people was hard and I think teams who race together often develop together as a real unit. Still, we had a great adventure and a sense of achievement for giving it a good hard crack was felt by all.

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Adventure racing makes you go craaaazzzyyyyy

So I’ve had some time off. Time to heal my TD wounds and time to try my hand at new things.  I liked the idea of Adventure Beth, but I am not sure if it liked me. One thing I am sure of though, is that it awakened the fire. I am so excited to be fit and ready for new challenges. There are adventures ahead, so watch this space cause Biking Bethany is back.

(photo) Update 4 – Tour Aotearoa 2016

Seb and Ollie had a big day yesterday up and over Haast Pass, still managed 300+ km while ‘taking it easy’. They camped out and rolled into Wanaka at 6am to eat bakery treats and keep rolling. They have just hit Queenstown and will be on the 2pm boat to Water Peak. Only 240km to go: estimated finish time 12pm tomorrow (10am Australian time)!

That’s it from me, Seb can write a blog post or two when he gets home!!

Go guys, stella effort.

 

 

Update 3 – Tour Aotearoa 2016

Had a quick chat to Seb today when he was in Ross, about 2112km into the event. Has been riding for around 7 days 8 hours and he sounded very chipper! All is going well. He and Ollie parted ways with Anja when she had a slightly longer stop in Nelson, her home town. Seb had some tube dramas and spent a chunk of time swapping new ones in and out and mending others, but all seems good now and he has a fair long road section ahead. If they keep on this pace they will finish before the allowed 10 days minimum, so it sounds like the next few days will be a bit more cruisy rather than sitting near the finish waiting… I wish my cruisy days were 300km!

The next 300km for the guys from Hari Hari has around 3500m climbing and will take them past the glacier townships of Fox and Franz Joseph and then up and over Haast Pass. The next 300km after that has around 2600m of climbing. Hope Seb gets to have an awesome Queenstown FERGBURGER before the boat across gorgeous Lake Wakatipu to Walter Peak.

Anja is having some butt issues although it doesn’t seem to have slowed her down. Cracking pace. Nathan apparently got stung on the tongue by a bee (eeeek) and has a bit of a sore knee, feeling good other than that. He has regained some ground and is currently in Springs Junction about 280km behind the leaders. He has a fantastic road climb ahead of him up and over Rahu saddle (one of my favourite Kiwi Brevet sections) to Reefton. He then has the horrid Big River Track (my least favourite section). Think of a road with head sized river boulders followed by classic (and a tad sketchy) NZ hiking trail. Enjoy Nath, Seb confirmed that he enjoyed it as much as last time, which was not at all!

The field is really spread out now, with a lot of riders looking like they might still be on the North Island when the top riders finish. Sounds like weather up north is hampering efforts, making the Mountains to Sea/ Bridge to No Where section challenging. Keep thinking happy thoughts people, it will all be over too soon and you’ll wish you were back out there in the rain!

Here are some photos Seb sent through.

 

Update 2 – Tour Aotearoa 2016

Today (25th Feb) sees the front riders well into their 5th day of racing. All waves have started and riders are now spread out across the entire North island of New Zealand as people have settled into their individual rhythms and routines.

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Tour Aotearoa – Day 5

For the last few days a group of 6 riders had been out the front quite enjoying each others company. Seb as usual says he is just riding along chatting and loving it, but some others appear to be already burning the candle at both ends. Nathan Versey was riding with the group but required a chain lube top up in town, which unfortunately (unless he stopped for other reasons), meant he missed the boat the front guys were on.  Haven’t heard from him but looks like he is still riding strong!

Seb’s FB update read: “Tour Aotearoa going along fantastically. Today was wicked-up at 4am to finish off timber trail – proper NZ mtbing. Managed to make last jet boat and rolled 80km to Whanganui for a motel and shower which also means social media. Been very social for a change with a group of 6 – mainly due to boat pinch points. Around 1050km in now and aiming to make ferry to Picton Friday evening.

Photo point 10 was at the Bridge to Nowhere: originally built to connect the small settlement to the Whanganui River, Now abandoned, native bush has taken over leaving a bridge with nowhere to go. Very pretty!

Bridge to Nowhere

Bridge to Nowhere

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Being a tree? I presume this is photo point 8 – the geographical centre of the North Island.

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Anja and Ollie

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Not quite so rideable. Anja and Ollie.

Seb said parts of the timber-trail were pretty epic but there was a great downhill which made up for it. The jet boat from Mangapurua Landing along the Wanganui River to Pipiriki looked so cool! He posted a video here.

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Bike storage on the jet boat

Annoyingly when they woke this morning to leave, Ollie Whalley’s shoes had been stolen from out the front of the room. The others pushed on while he waited around for a store to open to buy some more. Who would want shoes that have just ridden over 1000km in 4 days!?!? They are famous person shoes I guess!

So at the moment Matty Graham, Seb Dunne, Anja McDonald, Steve Halligan are trying hard to make the Friday ferry from Wellington to the South Island.  Ollie will surely catch them up in time for the Friday evening ferry, otherwise it’s Saturday morning. I gotta say, big kudos to Anja, she is ripping this ride apart so far and keeping with the top boys. Go girl! Not sure where they will sleep tonight, but the riding looks pretty straight forward once they cross the Tararua Range.

Grey Galway and a group of a few others have just gotten off the speed boat and will push for Wanganui tonight I guess, this is where hard as nails Rob Davidson and Nathan Versey currently are.

Our buddies Dane Roberts and Lee Rice are going well since their start on the 23rd. Both have made it Auckland and it looks like Dane has pushed on ahead.

I am away camping and rogaining for the weekend so no internet or updates for me. Come Sunday night I am sure things will have started getting interesting. With only one boat section on the South Island they will be free to ride without such hard time constraints except for the 6 hour stoppages!