Proverb: a bad workman always blames his tools.
It is not the tools we use which make us good, but rather how we employ them.
Ian had another cunning plan. It was to ride from where Old Boboyan Rd meets Boboyan Rd (well thereabouts) to Orroral Valley camp-ground. It sounded like a good plan and I was keen to join in, although I hadn't done much riding in the last three weeks, due to various reasons. For me it became a battle for me against my body.
We met up at our usual Namadgi ride meeting place (McDonald's and Lanyon Marketplace) at 0800 and headed South. In one car was Ian and his partner, Marea. Matt was in the next, followed by Damian and myself in the final vehicle. The plan was to drop my car off at Orroral Valley and take the other 2 vehicles with all our gear to the start at the Southern end of Old Boboyan Rd. All this took a little over an hour and on the drive we saw a beautiful and majestic Wedgetail Eagle take off from the side of the road. Man are they big! I reckon it stood about a metre tall.
The weather was forecast for temperatures ranging from 9-24 degrees Celsius and cloudy. At the start point we could feel the 9 degrees as we unpacked and set up for the ride. Eventually we were on our way. The start was fairly casual tending to a slight descent. On the way down, we stopped at the ruins of Boboyan homestead to take a look and get a couple of photos. This was for me the theme of the day, to photograph as much as I could of the historic buildings along the trail.
Photos done, we moved off and made our way down the valley, passing numerous Kangaroos on our way to the turn off to Sams Creek Trail. At the junction of the trails, we noted that Bulls Creek crossing was a lot shallower from the last time we crossed in September 2014 on the Westermans Waltz ride See earlier blog post).
Next stop on Sams Creek Trail was Luton's Crutching Shed. Nothing special and built in the 1960s, but for me it was still interesting. Mind you there wasn't much inside to see. Once again we moved on to the first big climb of the day and this is where I realised I had nothing to give. Mind you we all walked bits of the climb as it got steep in sections, but I felt I had no energy. This became the theme of the day for me. Hit a hill, die in the arse and fall behind. I didn't understand it, surely I didn't lose that much fitness in weeks?
It was around this point that we passed into Scabby Range Nature reserve, where the going was going to be up and down until we passed over the range. At points we all walked, but I was seriously considering pulling the pin there and then, but Marea said we can reassess our plan once we get to Kennedys Rd. All good and well, but that meant I had to climb back over the range if I decided to pull out.
I managed to make it over the range with the rest of the group stopping to allow me to catch up at the top of hills and I would then descend quicker than most back down the other side of the ridge. I kind of got myself into a pattern that I could try to keep up. Eventually we made it to Rowleys Hut and took a short break. I decided to push on, as now it was either 25Kms back to the car or 30kms forward to the finish (or so I thought).
One thing I noticed as we were riding, I was consuming a lot of food, as I was using so much energy just trying to get over the climbs. I was a little worried that I may not have enough food for the journey. We were not even a kilometre from Rowleys hut, where I called a halt, as I had nothing and I was feeling a little light headed. Unceremoniously I sat down and broke out the food and started to gorge myself, hoping that I hadn't food bonked. 1 PB Bread Roll, 1 Twiggy Stick, 1 Weight Watchers chocolate bar (stoopid thing to bring on a ride) and a couple of Jelly Babies shared by Marea. Wash it all down with some energy drink and hope that I keep it all down as we started riding again.
On our way again and it was ever upwards on the Yaouk Trail up to the Yaouk Pass. Once again I lagged behind, but the food helped a little. It was on this climb that I had to stop again and Ian volunteered to take my Camelbak to lighten the load. I was thinking that by now everyone was annoyed having to wait for me to climb up every ridge. I was thankful that I received nothing but support.
One benefit of reaching Yaouk Pass was that there was a long descent down towards Cotters Hut and I made up for lost time on this descent. I was first one across Drag Crossing and pulled up to take a few photos. From this point it was rolling ground to Cotters Hut, so I went back to setting my own pace and having people pass me on climbs and them waiting for me to pass them again once at the top.
We were still a long way from home and heard some voices in the bush and not much further up we came to an intersection with Murray Gap Trail. It was there that two mountain bikers appeared. Serendipitously Marea knew both the riders. Who would have thought in the middle of the bush and a fair distance from anywhere you would meet up with other riders and someone knew them?
They exchanged pleasantries and I decided to plug on to Cotters Hut. I made it to the hut before the rest and stopped for a short break and a couple of photos.
Now we were a group of seven all together and once again we were faced with another big climb. Because I hadn't continued on before them, I tried to stay on the back and gain what little draft that I could. I did alright for a little while, but as it got steeper, I faded into obscurity, as everyone else rode off. I did note that both Damian and Matt were off the back for a while, but they disappeared eventually and I was by myself. I was sort of expecting that to happen and wasn't worried about being by myself, but I was worried that I was running out of food and water.
Coming around a corner I saw now that Ian and Damian were at the back and they waited for me. I called a halt again and refilled my bottle and grabbed some gels and snakes from my pack that Ian was carrying. Forward I trudged as once again Ian and Damian started to ride away. This time they were not out of eye-shot and I saw the group had stopped again to wait for me. I noticed our extra riders had departed.
I think it was here or on the next stop on the climb, that I mentally wigged it and asked for someone to ride on ahead and get to my car to come back and pick me up at the Tracking Station, as we still had about 10~15kms to go. It was also at this stage, I looked at my saddle and realised that when I got my saddle back from Justin (whom I had lent it to), that when I fitted it, I had the saddle set to far back. This was a huzzah moment as this explained why I had nothing on climbs and it was wearing me down. I adjusted the saddle and got back on. It was all too late, as it was the final big climb, I had wasted all my energy battling with the bike and body and I was suffering chafing in the groin region. But at least it was a moral victory and I wasn't completely unfit, as I felt it was more comfortable and a little easier to climb.
In the mean time Damian and Matt had gone ahead to go get my car. Riding across the last ridge, I had the inclining that all I had to do was get down and I was out at the tracking station, where I would be picked up. Well that was the plan!
Here it is the final descent! I soon left Ian and Marea behind and I was a tad worried that I may catch up with Damian and Matt, as I enjoy descending. Fortunately I think that both of them were at least my equal on the descent and I didn't catch them. There was one 'Oh shit!' moment as I went into the corner a little hot and started to drift wide only to see a bloody big yellow gate blocking my way. I somehow managed to pull up just in time!
Passing through the gate and rolling a bit further downhill, I spot Matt and Damian stopped on the side of the track. Damian had sustained a puncture in his silly road tyred bike (Yes it was a 29er, but his tyres were so tiny and cute compared to all the other bikes on the ride). I pulled up and chatted for a little bit and said I would press on. Before the final gate nearing the tracking station, Marea passed me on a rise. She had stopped on the other side and signalled for me to approach slowly. Coming up beside her, she pointed out what looked like a Dingo. I do hope it was a Dingo, as it would be the first Dingo that I have seen in the wild near Canberra.
We rode together for a little bit until we could see the old tracking station. Marea stopped to wait for the Ian as I trundled on. I was soon hit the black top and I knew it wouldn't be long before the rest passed me. I was impressed that I made it this far. Eventually I spotted the old Orroral homestead and was surprised that no one had passed me yet. If they had of, I was going to turn off and photograph it. It was here that I thought that I may just make it back, as there was only 3~5kms left back to where we left my car at the camp-ground.
Trudging up another hill, I realised this was the last hill and it was a descent to the camp-ground. I was going to make it and I still had not seen the others. Rolling down the hill, I crossed the Orroral river and turned into the camp-ground. The first thing that hit me was the irony of beating everyone back to the car, especially as two went ahead to retrieve the car. Of course I had to brag about it, but I was really grateful for the support from the other riders. To top it off, Marea had chocolate cup cakes with instant chocolate topping as a post ride treat. We sat there for a bit and enjoyed some tea with the most well deserved cup cakes.
All that was left to do was get the cars. Ian and Marea decided to ride to the Junction of Boboyan and Orroral Valley, as the rest loaded bikes and headed back to the start to pick up the other cars. An added bonus on the trip back after picking up the cars I saw a Lyre Bird cross the road in front of me. It was a great day for spotting native wildlife.
All up it was approximately 64kms with 1500 vertical metres of climbing. I really want to pass my gratitude on the rest of the crew for the moral and physical support they gave me. Lessons learnt, was to not to fit a saddle back on to my bike a night before a big ride and to ensure it is correctly installed.
GPS trace of the route.
My name is Mark McIntosh, but everyone calls me Macr.