Category Archives: BikingBethany

IPWR: tales from the road

I write this post about the Indian Pacific Wheel Race (IPWR) with mixed emotions. The tragic end to the race overshadows an incredible experience and wonderful event which was taking shape with such momentum. Originally I was not going to write anything. After Mike Hall’s tragic death we have all banded together, taken some time to reflect and support each other. Some continued to ride the route, others not. Mike will always be in our hearts, with us each time we ride. I will never forget the passion for life and for cycling that Mike had and the way that he inspired us all to get out there and ride.

I am sure he would not want us to remember the IPWR in such a tragic way. It is a route right up there with the most challenging bikepacking routes in the world. We were racing it hard, in the true spirit of ultra-endurance cycling. I think we should share stories about the great race we were participating in and also not to be afraid to keep doing the things that we love and that challenge us.

For me, the IPWR was a ride that tore me in two different directions. Part of me loved exploring this spectacular country that I live in. It is so vast and I felt so tiny. The Nullarbor was like nothing I had imagined and I loved it. It was just that riding on the road, putting my life in the hands of hundreds of truck drivers and caravan enthusiasts, was exhausting.  More exhausting than the riding itself. I found myself longing for those lonely remote hills of Whitefish Divide in Montana, or the sweet wet forests of New Zealand.

Nonetheless, I had thirteen windy, rainy, freezing, sunny, boiling, boring and beautiful days on the road, full of kangaroo stench, desert dust and sea breeze. There were plenty of ups and downs but I’ll save you from a day by day, meal by meal account of the journey this time. Instead, I thought I would share just a few standout tales from the road.

The wind

I was lucky that before I started in Perth I received some sage advice: “Don’t expect a tail wind or you’ll be very disappointed and won’t enjoy a single second of it. Expect a head wind and that way you’ll be mentally prepared and pleasantly surprised by anything else”. Man, it was a headwind we got alright. From day two I experienced day upon day of relentless head winds. It made my mouth dry and my nose bleed. The air was so dry.  Saddle sores were worsened from pushing my body hard into an aero tuck position, looking for any advantage. The wind combined with the intermittent gusts from trucks passing was very mentally draining but there was really no alternative except giving up. That was not an option. Instead, I drew some deep breaths and smiled. This was what I was here for. To experience the real Australia.

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Beautiful nothingness

It was fantastic to have a few riders around so we could laugh about it. At one point I found myself having a time-out on the dusty road verge with Ben and Eion, looking at each others windswept faces and laughing at questions like “this is fun right?” Nearing Eucla and the WA/SA border, I had ridden about 80km in eight hours. F*ing demoralising! There were times when it felt like it was better to sit and wait it out but in the end it was better to just keep moving forward. The wind wasn’t going anywhere. The hardest moment for me was walking out of the Nullarbor Roadhouse in the hottest, most foul wind, to be greeted with a sign reading ‘Nullarbor Plain. Western end of the treeless plain’. Wow. This was one of the most iconic parts of Australia and I had chosen to ride my bike here. “Still beats working!!” I yelled into the wind, laughing. For some reason I kept smiling for hours after that. At sunset the Yalata Indigenous Protected Area was showing off red and oranges against green trees. What a magical place.

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Starting the true section of the Nullarbor Plain

Food glorious food

I am a vegetarian (try to be vegan where possible) and gluten free. I knew that this was going to be difficult and make moving quickly through towns much more complicated. Also if there was no options that fitted into these categories I was worried my guts would revolt if I assaulted it with meat, dairy and gluten all at once. I had slowly introduced dairy and gluten back in over a month. On day two I found myself shivering and wet eating a big-breakfast just to stay warm, and then meat sandwiches and sausage rolls that evening. The camera crew even got me explaining that shopping list on video. Each servo stop always began with necking a gatorate, coconut water and a chocolate milk.

Not even vegetarian lasted two days for me. I easily fell back into my favourite routine of potato chips, Snickers bars, sausage rolls and developed a hardcore hate for muesli bars and more muesli bars. What I did find hilarious was rolling into a roadhouse on day three and staring blankly up at the menu. The lady looked me up and down and then said “Let me guess… veggie burger?” I don’t know what place I was in in the race, maybe around 20th, but it became clear that there were definitely some ‘trendy hipster vegos’ up ahead of me, as the lady so politely put it!!

My guts got the better of me after the first few days of the junk food onslaught. At 2am in Balladonia I was all packed and ready to head out when I got the desperate urge to use the loos. My accommodation had no bathroom but the attendant had given me the code to the caravan park toilets. I ran over and punched it in. No luck. I tried the mens. No luck. Oh god. I attempted to run to the main service station toilets but that failed miserably. So there at 2am in the middle of nowhere, I crapped my pants. I spent the next hour washing my knicks, super worried of the implications this may have for my saddle sores. To make the morning even better, a few kilometres down the road my lights flickered across a sign reading ’90 Mile Straight. Australia’s longest straight road’. This race was getting real.

Sleeping, sometimes

The first night of the race I managed to score a room at the Carrabin Hotel. I’ll admit right now it was a total rip-off for one person but it was bliss to hear the rain falling outside while I was in my cosy room. The second night I rolled into Widgiemooltha after everything was shut, but managed to find the toilet block open and a nice warm laundry to bed down in. The floor was rock solid and freezing but I managed a few hours shut-eye.  The third night, after an epic day in the wind, I stayed in ‘backpacker style’ accommodation in Balladonia. Literally it was two adjoined shipping containers with doors into rooms (maybe 5m x 5m) which consisted of a bed and a space for my bike. No lights, but there were power points galore. Winner!

I bivvied just after the WA/SA border on night five, convinced that I could sleep for 4 hours and the wind would go away (it didn’t). While setting up camp with Joe Donnelly from the UK, he casually mentioned that he was REALLY worried about scorpions and that a truckie had told him they like to try and get in warm sleeping bags. I shrugged off the comment with an “I am an Australian and have never seen a scorpion”… only to turn around and have one sitting right next to my bivvy bag. EEEEEK! As it ran into a hole, Joe and I exchanged tired but worried looks. He wanted to camp down the road but I wasn’t moving. Here was no different to 1km down the road, we were in the middle of a huge desert. I fell asleep dreaming of evil biting things.

I found my sleep system ill-equip to handle bugs or rain. I had decided to go lighter than my tent I usually take, but the open top SOL escape bivvy just didn’t work for me unfortunately. Two nights I distinctly remember getting next to zero sleep, as mozzies landed on my face and I battled to wrap my head up in my emergency bag to get some peace. When you are setting your alarm for two – four hours sleep, getting no sleep in that time is stupid. I was getting really tired in the days and needing day-time naps to make up for my lack of sleep. So, I was always on the hunt for a good old toilet block.

It had been a while since I’d made a public toilet block my sleeping place of choice for the night. In Tour Divide it was mainly for protection from bears and other wildlife, but also for warmth. As it turns out, Seb and I slept in the exact same female toilet in Nundroo, only a few nights apart. When I asked why he had been in the ladies, he reminded me of Mike Hall’s wise words “the ladies are always cleaner!”

One night I completely don’t remember was in Murray Bridge. I rolled into town about 8pm and had some dinner. I had had a terrible day with excruciating knee pain and had spent many hours hobbling along crying. I decided a hotel room and shower was in order. I dragged my loaded bike up flights of stairs to stay at the Bridgeport Hotel. I washed myself and my clothes. Cranked the heater and pulled the three layers of blinds down. Set my alarm for five hours and quickly fell asleep. When I woke up I was shocked by the amount of traffic noise for what I though was 3am. I looked at my phone and it said 8am. I was so confused. The room was dark. I lifted the blinds to blaring sun and traffic. I had slept 10 hours. I was devastated. This was my first accidental sleep in a bikepacking ‘race’ and unfortunately, even though now it seems so trivial, was the undoing of my mental game and ultimately the beginnings of the end of my race. I was furious and rode a long hard day after that somehow believing I could make it up, but knowing I couldn’t.

The most memorable night for me was the next night in Millicent, SA. I rolled into town about 1am after a long day trying to ‘make up time’. I managed to find a luscious green park with a toilet block and covered picnic area with lights and power points. What a score! I set up my bivvy on the grass under a beautiful big tree and slipped into a lovely sleep. I was nearly four hours into my beauty nap when I was woken by a noise I knew all too well. SPRINKLERS! Huge sprinklers shooting water all over the park, me and my bike. Swearing loudly, nearly ripping my bivvy in half, with my knicks around my knees, I dragged my semi packed bike and sleeping gear over to the lit shelter and pulled my pants up. Good morning sunshine!

Ben, Boxes and my race to catch Stu

I had the privilege of meeting and riding with Ben Hirons and Eoin ‘Boxes’ Marshall. I started out leap frogging with Eoin on day two and three. We didn’t really chat much until I plonked myself at his table at the Balladonia Roadhouse “Hope you don’t mind if I sit down!?” We leap frogged for another few days until after Madura where we crashed outside the servo for a few winks. In the basin we caught up with Ben and a few others including Stu Edwards. From this point I had a little race going in my head with Stu. He moved at such a consistent pace and I was a little bit jealous of how fast he could transition through stops, while I would sit there and order half the menu.

It was clear that Ben and Eoin were good buddies, taking Instagrams of each other and telling jokes. I was a bit of a third wheel but they made it fun. After Ceduna we rode together for a few days. It felt like we were night-time bandits. We’d ride until 11pm, pop the NoDoze and go singing into the night on what the boys had coined ‘night shift’.

I’ll never forget the looks on their faces when I told them that the Kimba Roadhouse was run by an Indian family and there was vegetarian curry inside! Almost as good as the look on Ben’s face when we realised we found a 24hr vending machine ‘shop’ in Wilmington. I didn’t see them after this, I left to continue in the 41 degree heat and they were to wait it out and do another night-shift. Unfortunately soon after, Eoin was hit by a car and out of the race. Thanks for the company guys and I am so glad you are recovering Eoin!

I never got any closer to Stu after my accidental 10 hr sleep at Murray Bridge, but did end up catching him in Canberra to give him a hug and a brownie when he came through (after I pulled out).

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Night shift

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Halfway across Australia

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Ben and the Kimba big galah

March Flies

If the mosquitoes keeping me awake all night were not bad enough, the March flies surely made up for it during the days. I conclude that there must something about my blood that they seem to love. Something biting insects love more about me than everyone else. Eoin laughed at the cloud that was flying behind me. They were biting my legs, my ankles, my arse, my shoulders, my neck. After hours of yelping I was nearly reduced to panic attacks, yelling at them, pleading for no more arse biting, and slapping the painful bites. In Kyancutta I ran into a shop asking for insect repellent. They didn’t have any. When the lady saw the crushed look on my face, she went out the back and came back with a can of Mortein. “I can spray you with surface spray”?? I was desperate and said yes. I turned around in a circle while she sprayed, focusing a good burst of spray of my arse. As it turns out, Mortein firstly doesn’t stop March flies biting through clothing. Secondly, it irritated my sweaty skin and resulted in a nasty rash. Thirdly, lyrca appears to not be compatible with Mortein and my knicks where considerably saggy on my butt after this. I am sure they were probably see-through too but at least no one had the heart to tell me that!

The best dot watcher a girl could ask for

My phone had limited battery and I never actually had reception until I got to Port Augusta. Before the race I had spoken to my grandmother and said we were coming through Adelaide. It was going to be hard to have a meal together and I decided that I’d let the family sort out the dot watching, and hoped the stars would align for us to meet. And, as I was riding through Stirling, I heard a lady yell “Beth Beth”. There on the corner of the road was my nan. She had driven herself down to meet me. We shared hugs and stories and then a few selfies. What a highlight!

The Coorong

The Nullarbor was indeed my favourite part of the ride (that I completed) but a close second was the Coorong. I had heard the name before but had no idea what it was. I had not researched this part of the ride too closely and not looked at it on a map. Being a park ranger I have a passionate for nature, national parks and especially fauna. The bird life of the Coorong was spectacular and that was only from my bike seat, I didn’t go to any lookouts. At one point I noticed pelicans flying in Vs above me. They were heading towards a swirling pillar of other pelicans, rising high up into the sky. It was incredible, mesmerising like a dance, but completely silent. I stood and watched for ages. This was nature at its purest. It brought the biggest smile to face that lasted hours until I stopped and bought a peppermint magnum. That was also spectacular.

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Pelicans

My last day

My last day racing the IPWR was crazy. It started being woken up by sprinklers in Millicent at 3am in the morning. I had an easy and very pleasant ride through Mount Gambier, with rain showers on and off for most of the morning. I crossed the border into Victoria and had a roaring tailwind towards Portland.

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State number three

I knew there were storms around but somehow I managed to ride the tailwind through them. About 10km from Portland the route took an interesting turn. 90 degrees to the right, I was now travelling perpendicular to that fantastic tailwind. In the blink of an eye, the storm from hell opened up on me. It was so sudden I pulled off in some trees, failing to even get my rain gear out quick enough. The wind was buffeting me sideways and I could not ride. I could hardly walk. The rain was torrential and the temperature had dropped about 10 degrees. I was waiting for my bike to get blown sideways out of my hands. There was nowhere to hide. After 15 minutes I was wet to the core and freezing. I attempted to pull off into a driveway to sit on a house porch. I fell off in the loose gravel and hurt my shoulder which I have had numerous surgeries on. The resident, a lovely lady, didn’t quite grasp the concept of how cold I was until I pulled out my emergency bivvy. “Yeah its really gusting now, the wind farm up the corner will be cranking”. I nodded, not at all shocked to hear it was obviously a windy area. She headed off to get her son from school while I contemplated what to do.

Eventually I ate a can of HTFU and rode the 10km into town. I was so cold and wet I looked for a coin laundry to hang out in. With no luck and only getting colder I got a hotel room. I showered and ordered a pizza. The amazing staff found me a t-shirt while they laundered my clothes. Two hours later, the sun was shining. It was surreal. I didn’t want to waste my $70 hotel room but it was early in the arvo and I could’t stop thinking of my 10 hour sleep two nights before. I convinced myself to keep moving forward. Any forward movement is good movement. The hotel staff were very confused when I dropped the key back, having been there a total of only a few hours.

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The calm after the storm

Back on the road I felt happy with my choice. I’d try make Port Fairy or Warrnambool that night. Unfortunately the weather had other plans for me. About 9pm another storm hit and I found myself looking around for shelter. There was very little tree cover and I started to panic. For the umpteenth time I wished I had brought my tent instead of a bivvy. I was a bit frazzled and not making good choices. A house with lights on was close to the road and I took the chance. I ended up staying the night, having cups of tea by the fire, sharing the room with friendly farm cats and dogs. The welcoming family were so friendly and it was the night I needed. I knew I had sought outside assistance (against the rules) and technically my race was over. I sent Seb a message that I would pull out in Warrnambool and slept the most peaceful night.

In the morning with eggs on toast and warm tea in my belly, I rolled through to Warrnambool train station. I was happy with my decision to retire from the race. I was not getting what I wanted out of the ride anymore. I was unhappy and knowing I had 2000km left to ride made it even easier. If I was a few hundred kilometres from the end, maybe I might have made a difference choices, though I am not sure what I could have done differently to change how my race ended. That night I slept at the farm it poured and howled wind all night. I wouldn’t have safely made that night in a bivvy. Maybe I should have stayed in my hotel room? Maybe I should have pushed on in the storm. All after thoughts I guess.

A conclusion of sorts

The day after I retired from the race it was cancelled after Mike’s death. I spent an emotional day in the back of a car on my way back to Canberra trying to come to terms with everything. It was such a horrific way to end an amazing adventure. I have such fond memories of the days we spent in Fremantle, of the Nullarbor, the Coorong and the lifelong friends I have made. The locals along the route were ever so generous and friendly. The dot watchers and others who cheered us on along the way were so uplifting. They made the fear and exhaustion from the traffic worthwhile. Riding through Adelaide with friends and others I have never met, people just riding along chatting. It was humbling.

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I can’t wait for my next adventure. I am of the opinion that it will be on the dirt but I’ll look for inspiration and see where the road takes me. Thanks Mike for inspiring us to challenge ourselves and thanks Jesse for giving us the opportunity to take the challenge.

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Thanks to Troy Bailey for capturing the thing I tried to do most. SMILE!

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.