Sea To Summit 2008 Ride Report (Merimbula Beach to Mt Kosciuszko)

Last year, Redkite’s own Tim Rogers rode in the Sea 2 Summit Challenge. Read his blog here.

Postby Pax » Wed Nov 19, 2008 11:50 pm

Bit of a long post but hopefully captures some of the enjoyment and challenge of the “Sea to Summit” that I rode in on Saturday. It is a huge one-day ride from Sea Level (Merimbula Beach) to the top of Australia (the top of Mt Kosciuszko) covering 239k with an aggregate climb of almost 5500m. It’s a “boutique” fundraising ride organised by Damian Heman (an unbelievable effort) and raises essential funds for Redkite (a leading national children’s and young person’s cancer charity). About 40 riders raised over $95,000. Tax deductable donations are still welcome via Everyday Hero http://www.everydayhero.com.au/s2schallenge I’d be delighted if you do that and put your donation against my name :lol: (Tim Rogers)

The ride started in good weather at Merimbula. Everyone was twitchy with uncertainty and expectation. We were all concerned about the briefing the night before which described the ride in detail and identified which vehicle the defibulator was in if it was needed :shock: !!!!!

12.5 K into the ride we successfully negotiated the first of the timber plank bridges with no mishaps…unfortunately a number of riders came off their bikes on similar bridges later when their wheels dropped between the planks. Egos bruised :oops: but no one was seriously hurt.

37k into the ride we hit the first serious climb; Mt Darragh is a 20k long ascent through temperate rain forest and more road kill than anyone who is sucking the air in deeply needs to experience!! After the 920m peak we were 58k into the ride and enjoyed the first rest stop.

At 86 k we reached Bombala. Just before the town a big grey kangaroo decided to show off how effortlessly he could keep up with us (we were doing about 35 kph at the time) The roo came alongside the team, about 20m to our left and bounded along for 300m before accelerating to get ahead of us and powering off into the countryside. Just out of town, the peloton slowed on a hill and another rider clipped my back wheel. I stayed up but he went down hard on the side of the road. Miraculously no one else went down with him but he carried a sore shoulder for the rest of the ride. The first hint of the head wind stirred

113k took us onto a gravel road. We changed to mountain bikes for 20k of VERY rough, windy, exhausting gravel, most of which was uphill and the final 3 k of which was a serious climb. My mate Nick powered along on his favoured type of bike, while I bitched and winged and frankly couldn’t wait to get back onto the road bike :( . This was the first time I felt tired. We were being tested however the team’s spirits were high.

133k We switched back to road bikes. The head wind came up strongly, and continued to strengthen, and there were some serious climbs into the wind before we got to our Dalgety rest stop. Our minds however were on the Beloka Range; steepest climb of the route. In the briefing Damian described it as a steep 3k long climb that starts with a vertical wall of bitumen…and he wasn’t really joking. Trace and the support crew excelled themselves at this stop with fantastic food, isotonic drinks and everything needed to help us conquer the wall of Beloka (except motors for our bikes). It was seriously hot and windy.

177k. Beloka rises above the surrounding treeless countryside, looking more intimidating as you approach. It plays with your head, especially when you take the final turn in the road and see the “vertical wall of bitumen” rising ahead. We hit it with as much pace as we could muster but all of it had disappeared within the first 150m, so we were grinding slowly upwards. Soon riders started to run out of steam & it was “standing room only” on the bus by half way up the hill. Thankfully my Samford/Mt Glorious training ride is a similar type of road and prepared me well for Beloka. None of us were quick, but a number of us experienced the satisfaction of beating Beloka…that is still making me smile as I type this :D .

194k Jindabyne. One of the absolute highlights of the ride happened here: One of the riders (Andrew) was greeted with the hugest hug of delight and pride from his 4 year old daughter. It was an absolutely magic moment. The descent into Jindabyne was also a highlight, flying down the hill at 76kph felt fantastic after all that climbing.

At 201k we entered Mt Kozzi National Park, and the group started to split up as riders pushed to achieve the fading hope of doing the additional track to the summit (we had to be there by 6.30 to be allowed onto the track). The group became a stretched, broken line and the bus started to pick up those who had exhausted every last resource they had to give for that day.

At 215k those who were left were climbing to Rennix Gap. It was getting seriously cold. I knew there was one person in front of me from our team, and 2 beside me. I had no idea where Nick was. This part of the climb was steep, and over the next 5k our group of 3 broke up. One dropped back and one pulled ahead of me. It really was one man riding from here on. Some supporters were stopping every few kilometres to encourage us. Their few seconds of shouting, asking if we were alright & offering water gave us milestones to reach. “I’m fine” & “No thanks” is all I could manage in return…I had to use my energy to breath and peddle, not to talk! It became clear at this point that reaching the end of the road was possible (not certain) but the additional track to the summit wasn’t going to happen for me this year.

Around Smiggin Holes another rider passed me. The headwind was devastating and this climb was relentless. One of the families asked if I needed warm gear, I just said “No thanks, I’d rather be cool than stop”. I wished I’d asked them to check with me again in a few k in case I needed it then. As it turned out they didn’t turn up again and I was getting colder with each k.

225k Perisher Valley. Not a good name when you are starting to wonder about your capacity to get through the ride and are getting colder! It sounds melodramatic, but I wondered how long it would be before I was “rescued” if I had to stop. I honestly though I’d freeze in my sweat-soaked light weight cycling gear, and I was pretty sure that the bus would be kilometres behind me moving at the pace of the end rider, so it probably wouldn’t come along for half an hour or more. It was a disconcerting thought. (OK I needed to HTFU but…but I was pleased to find out later that there were other riders who had though similar things during this part of the ride).

From here on it was just a matter of refusing to stop. AND YES at this point I thought of the families Redkite supports and who are going through REAL challenges that are not of their choosing…not just some bike ride!! So I told myself to just count off the final 8 or 9 k of climbing and wind and cold 8…7….6…..5……4…….3……..2……….1…oh thank god, that’s the Charlottes Pass accommodation just ahead, so its not far now……….its the turn-off….don’t turn off, keep going the end must be just around the bend and up the last bit of hill….the end of the road!!!!! Some cheering families, 3 other exhausted but encouraging riders. Made it! Wow…and whew!!

We were asked to wait until we had 5 or 6 of us to ride down to Charlottes Pass so the crew could film us. I hid behind a car out of the freezing wind that was blowing off the snow covered ridges behind us. For 5 or 6 minutes I felt cold but OK. The next couple of riders arrived. One was exhausted, but his mate was wrecked. He looked like he couldn’t even get off his bike at first. His was a courageous ride! Then suddenly I stared to shiver then within seconds was shaking big uncontrollable shakes and went from cold, to frozen to the bone. I’ve never felt so cold in my life!! One of the organisers told us to get inside asap so we rode down to Charlottes. I could barely control my bike on the winding descent because of my shaking. As soon as I got to the first building I ran inside. It was empty but it was out of the wind. I warmed up marginally then went back out into the cold, found my rain jacket & arm & leg warmers in the support vehicle and pulled them on. It was the most horrible cold but also the most satisfying feeling to have finished. We got ourselves to our accommodation where Trace, Sally and Mimi had hot food going…I stood in front of the stove and started to thaw out. It started to feel pretty good, though I didn’t feel truly warm until hours later!!

I found out that a number of the other team that had started the ride a bit earlier than ours had also finished and unbelievably, for the first time ever, 4 of the riders from that team had got there in time for the rangers to allow them onto the track up to the top of the mountain. Damian was so proud to have finally got some people to the actual summit on the day of the ride. They must have ridden spectacularly to get there by 6.30pm.

The next day we rode to the summit. Given that we went through snow drifts to get there it is no surprise that it felt cold last night at the end of the ride!!

So there you have it. Sea to Summit 2008. I suspect that we will be putting my name down for 2009, I’ll be aiming to shave about 45 mins off my time so I can get onto the final track!!

If you would like to ride this March, or donate to Redkite, visit s2schallenge.com.au or redkite.org.au.
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