Archive for the ‘Audax’ category

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Bloodshot eyes, Achilles tendonitis, bruised shoulder, muscular pain, severe sleep deprivation, and I feel… terrific! Why so? Because today will be the day we pedal back into Perth, back to where it all started 4 days ago. No amount of physical pain can dampen my spirit now. Today’s ride is powered solely by an unstoppable desire for completion. What appears as an epic challenge of physical strength at the beginning has now evolved into a test of mental endurance. Not an easy day still, but I’ll be using whatever I’ve got left to see myself cross that finish line!

The cool calm morning at Williams Sports Complex sees the reunion of the Queensland boys. It is so good to see Brian, Mark, and Kym, all lycra-ed up and ready to tackle the final leg. The reassuring smile on all our faces, one can almost hear, “Let’s do this, we are all going to make it!”. What’s even more special is that Errol, Chris, and Duncan also make an appearance and will now join us for this final push. I look around and realise how big the field of riders is at this checkpoint. It looks like every single rider who has withdrawn came back to do this final day ride. I later found out that all the DNF riders are encouraged to join the final 215km ride, as this counts as a 200km brevet. So if a rider has pulled out from the full 1200, he or she can at least take home a 200. What a clever arrangement from the ride organisers!

During breakfast, I get to chat briefly with Audax Singapore riders Christina L and Winson S. Winson was forced to withdraw following a crash early in the ride that left him with a broken ankle. But he’s determined to complete the 215km ride today. Such is the resilience of a randonneur. Everyone is in such good spirit this morning. The atmosphere is once again filled with joy and hope.

This is Dave, the PAP bike mechanic. Dave worked tirelessly every night fixing bikes and watch over all our bikes. Thank you for doing this Dave!

It is now 6:00am, and I’m back on the road after all the well wishes. Plenty of opportunities to team up with other riders in a large field of a hundred riders or so, but I choose to ride by myself, as I strongly believe that keeping to my own pace yields the best performance. The goal is to arrive at Perth by 11:00pm and as usual, safety above all else. Only two checkpoints to pass through before Perth, the first being Hotham River, 68km from Williams. The sky is a bit gloomy today. In the first 20km or so, I feel some droplets hitting on my face but this works in my favour as it keeps me awake. I’ve heard of some horror stories of riders literally falling asleep while riding in 1200km events and I absolutely do not wish to become a story teller myself. The journey along Pinjarra-Williams Rd takes us across several creek crossings, completely surrounded by sheep and cattle farms, lush green throughout and rolling hills. Yes, rolling hills. Discouraged at first, but I later tell myself that this is the final chance of riding in a hilly terrain before hitting the dead flat section in the final 100km leading to Perth. Carpe diem!

Golden morning sunlight greets us as we hit the road

Lush green cattle farms, and a bit of shower to wash out the sleepiness

I soon caught up with Duncan, and we ride together for a while. Our pace plays along nicely as we both ride a recumbent (hence similar aerodynamics). Here I learn that Duncan was forced to pull out on day 1 due to a huge navigational blunder that cost him to run out of time. Duncan unknowingly rode an extra 25km! That must have been incredibly frustrating. Right after the turn onto Lower Hotham Rd, we confront this 130m ascent that last nearly 5km. Again, I flip the switch and see this as a wake-up catalyst. What goes up must come down. A wonderful long descent following the climb neutralises all kinds of displeasure.

At about 10:00am, we finally arrive at Hotham River checkpoint, another splendid bush checkpoint that reminds me of Shannon River checkpoint. Shortly after, I see a low racer recumbent arrives. The rider is no other than our national president Peter Matthews. I have earlier seen Peter in some of the previous checkpoints while he served as a vollie but today, Peter is participating as a rider to complete a 200km brevet. His low racer is equipped with this cool looking carbon tail fairing with the recognisable kangaroo decals from the new Audax Australia logo. From reading the elevation profile earlier, I’m now fully aware that we will soon encounter this awesome descent that will take us down to the sea level, I call this ‘The Drop’. All morning since leaving Williams, I’ve been anxiously monitoring the elevation reading on my Garmin and see it fluctuates between 200m and 300m. Because the elevation graph (for the entire 1200km) is way too small to estimate the exact location of The Drop, so whenever the elevation falls quickly, I find myself asking if this is it. The suspense helps keep me motivated but in the end I give in and ask Geoff for an update of what’s coming. He said the rolling terrain will end about 40km from Hotham River, right after passing the country town Dwellingup. That’s a relief.

Hotham River bush checkpoint

Peter with his sexy red low racer, check out the decals on the tail fairing

Back on the road, and eventually the ride becomes more pleasant as the road takes us right into the dense jarrah forest of the Darling Ranges. At this point, sleepiness creeps in and I now have to mentally fight this. The temptation gets stronger, especially right after I spotted a PAP rider comfortably napping on the dry forest ground by the road side. Thinking of doing the same, but I’m simply afraid of oversleeping and losing too much time. From a distance, I see another rider stops. As I get closer, I realise it’s Kym and he’s not stopping for a snooze, instead he’s desperate for some painkillers to help shut off a growing pain in his knees. Thankfully I still have some ibuprofen left and very glad that I could help him. We’ve come this far, there’s no way we’re giving up this ride for silly reasons like physical pain and sleepiness!

I ride alongside Kym and chat for a bit until I pull away and rejoin Duncan at the front. At Dwellingup, Duncan signals me to pass him as his GPS is giving him false directions again. Just a couple of kilometres past Dwellingup town, the horizon sinks and there it is, we have finally reach THE DROP! A couple of light pedals and my legs can finally catch a break with almost no pedalling in the next 6km or so. This is a fast comfortable descent with a stunning view of the flatland below the Darling Ranges. A railway line that runs adjacent to the descending road adds some character to the view. When the gradient starts to taper off, I find myself yearning for more speed. With only 13km left to the Pinjarra checkpoint now, I begin emptying out my tank and maintain a high cruising speed of 35-40km/h. So much fun and full of triumph! Admittedly, I must also give credit to the steady -1% gradient and a decent tailwind but I must say I haven’t been feeling so ALIVE in a long time! Needless to say, it didn’t take me long to arrive at the Pinjarra checkpoint. The unexpected photoshoot as I was crossing the foot bridge over Murray River makes it feels like this is the finish. Not so fast! Still a solid 86km left before claiming victory.

The foot bridge across Murray River where the photoshoot takes place

I allow myself plenty of rest at Pinjarra and fill myself up with freshly prepared ham sandwiches and lots of fluid. Temperature soars high as we leave Pinjarra. I team up with Duncan and Peter to form a 3-person recumbent paceline. The journey from Pinjarra to Perth is fantastically flat, so a recumbent is most advantageous here, but a recumbent paceline is truly unstoppable! It didn’t take us long before we caught up to a Japanese couple and the Audax Indonesia bunch. Together we form a relatively large bunch of 10 or so riders, with Mr President Peter taking the lead. Once we got onto the awesome bike path that runs alongside Kwinana Freeway (the same bike path we rode in the first 70km of the PAP), Peter goes into beast mode and start dipping into the >40km/h territory! It’s a crazy pace, considering my (nearly depleted) energy level, but why the hell not! It’s the final run of an epic ride after all. A quick look in the mirror reveal that our numbers have shrunk, the Indonesian riders are gone. No signs of slowing down from Peter so I just keep going. Eventually Peter had to stop to check on a suspected flat tyre. My turn to take the lead, but the group is now reduced to just the Japanese couple and myself. With no capacity of holding the speed we had earlier when Peter was leading, I signal the pair to move forward. Shortly after, the pair stops to take a breather under a tunnel and I’m back to riding all by myself. For a brief moment, I imagined myself being a GC rider in a pro tour, being led by several domestiques in preparation for my final sprint to a grand finish. Unfortunately, with about 30km left to ‘sprint’ still, I should stop dreaming now and focus on finishing the ride sensibly. At about 10km left to South Perth, and just past 5:00pm, the path gets progressively busier outbound. Swarms of commuters seen flooding the bike path. It’s a good thing seeing so many people on their bikes and the bike path being heavily used. My heart is racing as I finally got off the path and onto Mill Point Road with just 1.5km to the finish. For some reason I thought there was going to be a finishing arch at the finish but the final bits of the ride is a very anti-climatic pedestrian traffic light crossing on Mends St, followed by a clumsy manoeuvre in a full carpark into the gate entry of the South Perth Bowling Club.

Slicing through air in a 3-person recumbent paceline

Perth city skyline. Not far now!

THIS IS IT!!! My entry into the club building marks the end of my 1229km epic! I present my brevet card to the vollies with pride to get the final stamp in the last box under the heading ‘South Perth 1229km’. My official completion time is 5:35pm, which means I’ve been on the road for a total of 84 hours 35 minutes. All the physical sufferings and mind battles, so glad to know it’s all over now. But was it all worth it? Having completed the toughest ride I’ve ever done, I now feel an overwhelming sense of achievement, so my answer is a resounding YES! The Queensland gang are all here at the bowling club and we celebrate our achievements with beers, laughters, and ride stories. About two hours later, the lanterne rouge of Queensland riders Kym, checks in and we can’t be any happier and proud to see all the Queensland riders made it back to Perth.

PAP completed!!!

The Perth-Albany-Perth ride is truly a memorable ride. For this ride, I experience both my lowest and highest points in all the years that I’ve been riding. I suffered my first ever fall on a high racer recumbent at the very first day of the ride, I experienced the most physical pain I’ve ever felt from any physical activity, and had to endure it day after day while adding more hurt to the pain, I saw my much better comrades fail and had to convince myself I could do better, I had to overcome the fear of riding in some of the scariest traffic conditions, and despite all these adversities, I managed to somehow kept my spirit alive and believed in myself that I can complete this ride. It’s a battle against the odds, and I knew this quite well even before starting the PAP, having done almost zero training and minimal experience (longest Audax ride completed was only 400km). Now with this unique set of experience, I learned a very important life lesson and I would like to share this with anyone reading this. If you ever find yourself doubtful of your abilities, but have a strong desire to accomplish something hard and seemingly impossible, go ahead and take up the challenge. If you succeed, you’ll become stronger. If you don’t, you’ll still come out stronger than before.

I would like to end the ride report by shouting a huge THANK YOU to the organising team and all the volunteers for their support in the PAP. I truly appreciate all the services and contributions from each of you. Volunteers are known to provide support in the form of food, mechanical, and medical aid but unlike any other Audax rides, here I also received motivational support which kept my spirit high and kept me going. Well done, PAP vollies!

A full moon over Swan River as I walked back to the hostel while reflecting on the past 4 days

The 5th edition of PAP was ridden in honour of Martin and Matthew who signed up for this ride but lost their lives while road riding prior to the start of PAP. Tailwinds, Martin and Matthew.

8
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Only 4 hours of sleep last night, and so the battle against fatigue continues. The goal for today’s ride is to get to my next and final nominated sleep checkpoint, Williams, at about 327km from Albany. And once I reach Williams, only 215km left of ‘easy’ rolling back to Perth in the next day to complete the ride. From the conversation with Steve last night, the ride today will take us through gently undulating wheat farms. Doesn’t sound so bad eh? That’s just the comforting bits. The Grand Randonnée, as the name suggests, carries with it many spectacular sceneries as well as spectacular in pushing one’s boundaries. In the first 5km of today’s ride, after a short speedy descent, we have to make up for all the lost elevation (and more!) by grinding our way up to the summit of Mt Clarence (177m). As you can imagine, this iconic Mt Clarence climb makes a hot topic discussion before, during, and after the ride.

The start of the predawn climb is gentle and believe it or not, is actually quite pleasant. The lit up eucalyptus tree barks lining both sides of the road create a posh entrance to the mountain. The steepness slowly creeps in until right after the second roundabout, when all of a sudden we face this shocking 20% climb, which calls upon the release of my final line of defence, the MIGHTY gear of 22t chainring with a 32t cog. With a nearly exploding heart, I survive the climb and arrive at the summit of Mt Clarence, where an ANZAC memorial stood timelessly. This is also a checkpoint stop, presumably to ensure each and every PAPer must suffer all the same. In retrospect, I think this might be a brilliant move by the route designers. The steep climb gives me a much needed jolt to an otherwise stiff body and tired mind. It is really tempting to stay to watch the sunrise but the uncertainty of what lies ahead means I must move on.

Summit lookout at Mt Clarence, overlooking the beautiful natural harbour. Great reward after a tough climb.

The 85km journey to the next checkpoint Stirling Ranges feels like an eternity. I blame this on some unfavourable internal and external conditions. Internal being my body not functioning in optimal condition, far from it in fact. I’m not feeling any stronger or any less fatigue after the sleep. My average speed continues to drop and looking at the numbers on my odometer progress is like watching paint dry. On a positive note, the pain in both my Achilles tendon seems to have reached a plateau and stopped progressing further. It is unnatural and perhaps nonsensical to push the body to continue performing an activity that causes it pain in the first place. Mentally, I find myself frequently hovering in the border of continuing the ride and giving it all up. Never had this occurred to me in any other rides. Perhaps I’m now starting to learn the ropes and the importance of mental endurance. The unfavourable external factors include having to deal with the rough roads which requires significantly more effort to roll, as evident from my power reading. Mild undulations means having to deal with long gentle climbs, but when coupled with rough road surface, it really absorbs my speed. Unlike the past two days, there is no longer a thick blanket of clouds above us so we begin to feel the heat of the sun ray hitting on our skin. I see some local Albany riders doing their morning workouts, they look so fresh and full of enthusiasm, getting out of their saddles and everything. Albany being a small town, they can probably tell we aren’t locals but I wonder how they would react if they know we have just ridden in from Perth in the past 48 hours. Bunch of crazy riders. Then this question pops up again in my head “Why am I doing this?”, this I believe, is also the no.1 question plaguing the minds of Audax Australia riders, since 1981.

Day 3 begins with a cool foggy morning

On this long section, I once again encounter QLD riders Mark and Kym as they passed me. Both still in good spirit, but not so good for Chris E, as we just got news that he pulled out yesterday at Shannon. Looking at the SPOT live tracking page, I see that Duncan M’s location has not been updated since Day 1, somewhere between Busselton and Nannup, it’s very likely that he has withdrawn as well. With 3 QLD riders out, I now inherit the title of lanterne rouge of the Queensland contingent. The rest of the ride sees me and Kym ‘fight’ to carry this honourable title to the finish line.

Imagine sailing in an unfamiliar sea on a foggy morning, then when the fog clears up, a massive island emerges in full view right in front of your eyes. That is my best description of what I experience as I crest this one longish climb and shortly after, the uncovering of the horizon brings up the majestic Stirling Ranges that stretches wider than my visual field. Truly a sight to behold, made greater and more meaningful after all the pain/frustration/dullness I went through earlier this morning. It did a great job taking my eyes off from the Garmin screen and once again appreciating what mother nature has to offer. The Grand Randonnée truly lives up to its name!

Stirling Range in its full glory. This alone is enough reason to do the PAP

By the time I arrive at the Stirling Range checkpoint, the sun is now far above the horizon. No trees or any other shelter means that this is going to be a quick rest stop. While seated on one of the camp chairs kindly provided to by the vollies, I get to hear stories from a fellow rider Steven Beverling about his experience competing in a team of four in RAAM, a 3000 mile race across America, and is now preparing to do the race solo in the next race. In the long distance community, RAAM is well known as one of the toughest endurance sport in the world. My mind is completely blown knowing that there is a RAAM racer amongst us. All the best to Steven for his future solo attempt! Some food, some more food, sunscreen, and more sunscreen, and I’m back on the road inching my way to the next checkpoint at Gnowangerup. Only 60km to ride but I’m now presented with new challenges, namely the rising temperature and the blowing headwind. A last chance to enjoy the Stirling Ranges as we exit into Formby South Road before the road once again become undulating but thankfully didn’t last long. Several riders pass me and some greetings exchanged. There are some really strong riders here, one of them is Joel Nicholson, an Audax Victoria rider who earlier this year won and set a new record at the Delirium 24-hour race with an impressive distance of 765km. The most talked about rider during the entire ride is of course no other than the lead rider, Jesse Carlson. It’s true that all finishers of any Audax rides receive the same merit (as long as completed within the given time frame), but Jesse deserves a special mention for his exceptional riding speed and seemingly lack of sleep. Last year, he raced to 2nd place in the Tour Divide, arguably the toughest mountain bike race in the world covering a distance of 4400km from Canada to Mexico. He eventually finished the PAP with more than 7 hours lead over the second rider and 14 hours ahead of everyone else. I wrongly assumed that we are all ordinary folks, superhumans do exist and some of them are here with us doing the PAP.

A closer view of the magnificent Stirling Range

The rest of the journey towards the next checkpoint Gnowangerup (837km) is relatively uninspiring as the combination of rough road, high temperature, and strong headwind continue to subdue our spirit. This checkpoint brings a great sense of relief as I finally get to stay under a shade for more than 5 seconds. As I sat down at the dining table replenishing my energy and resting my legs, the sight of the intense sun and blowing wind outside the window really makes me want to stay at this checkpoint until the sun goes down. The temptation is strong, but it’s only 1:15pm, and I’ve still got 177km to iron out before bedtime. After about 30 mins of rest at Gnowangerup, I fought hard the temptation and won, and so I can continue my agonising adventure of headwind and scorching heat. One of the vollies at Gnowangerup did mention that the next section would be better, with a bit more trees to provide some shade. I’ve also now learned that it didn’t matter whether the vollies speak the truth or not, they say such things to provide us riders some much needed mental relief and more importantly, to keep our spirit up. The depth of support we receive in this event is unparalleled and never stops to amaze me.

No hills in the wheat country, but heat and wind can be a problem

The volume of traffic for today’s journey has so far been tolerable. However, we also see an increasing number of road trains through out the day. I had a couple of close passes (1-2 metre) from the massive 100 tonne triple road trains which resulted in some nerve-wracking left-right swerving from the air being pushed and sucked by the road train. This is new experience for me and I was shocked when it first happened. The last time I rode close to a passing road train was on a 50kg recumbent trike and I didn’t experience this effect. Mirrors become extremely handy in such situation. When there isn’t enough of shoulder to ride on, I simply get off the road onto the dirt surface as I see a road train approaching. It’s still a stressful affair nonetheless.

So I’ve now ridden for more than 30km since the last checkpoint and I’ve not been passed by a single rider. My average speed is currently sitting at 15km/h and even had a rest stop under a tree shade. Something must have happened at the back. My suspicion rose when I see a rushing ambulance in the opposite lane. Oh please tell me this is not for the riders! I feel slightly uncomfortable now and the thought of Martin’s fatal crash came to mind. I keep looking at my mirror in the hope that I would soon see a rider, but it appears that I’m all by myself.

I arrive at Katanning checkpoint at about 5:15pm, and to my sadness, Russell confirms that a PAP rider had crashed, after swerving off the road to escape from a passing road train. The rider suffered a broken collar bone, a broken femur, and multiple broken ribs. He was later airlifted to Perth for an immediate treatment and surgery the next day. Obviously, I’m shaken by this tragic news. Also, as I was the rider immediately in front of him, that could have easily been me. The possibility is very real. Already so physically exhausted from having ridden 900km in the last 60 hours, keeping my mental spirit high becomes even harder now. Forget about time, I should really just aim to finish this ride as safely as possible and to arrive Perth in one piece.

Katanning checkpoint, where I got the tragic news of a rider seriously injured in a truck incident

As the sky is dimming, I put on my night gears and left Katanning in a melancholic state. Not long later I caught up with Japanese rider Jun S, and we ride together for most of the journey to Wagin. Not many words are spoken, but simply having a riding companion provide some sense of relief. Another great source of relief is the amazingly flat and smooth roads, especially once we get onto the Great Southern Highway that runs for 33km until Wagin. It’s night time now, and riding a recumbent here has one awesome advantage. Not referring to the flat terrain, but because we recumbent riders have our default head position tilted slightly upwards, we get a full unrestricted view of the astonishing night sky. The great Milky Way is clearly visible, but wait a minute, it shouldn’t be, as it is the full moon tonight. I then remembered that a friend had earlier mention to me to look out for the moon as the lunar eclipse is happening tonight! A quick scan landed me on the very rare and breathtaking view of the blood moon, the experience is almost magical! I don’t feel so bad now after failing to maintain a decent average speed for today’s ride, else I would have missed the lunar eclipse. I wonder how many riders noticed the moon tonight. Jun didn’t even realise the moon looks different tonight until I pointed it out to him.

Sunset view as we head North away from Katanning

Another highlight of this year's PAP - riding under the full view of the blood moon (lunar eclipse), a very rare moment!

I enter Wagin checkpoint at 8:30pm, feeling content and hopeful that I will be finishing the PAP. With only 61km to Williams sleep checkpoint, I take my time to enjoy a hearty meal of pasta and rest for a good 45 minutes. Before leaving Wagin, the vollies wish me luck and reassure me that I will do just fine, adding that I still look well and fresh compared to some other PAPers. Once again, it didn’t matter whether they speak the truth or not, the positive energy needs to keep flowing. Jun only made a brief stop at Wagins, so I’m back on the road riding by myself once again. The road is quiet and the night atmosphere is lovely. The flat smooth rolling road is gone now, but it doesn’t worry me too much. This is my last night ride for the PAP, so I’m making the most of it. Slightly tempted to forgo my sleep and just continue riding past Williams to make that 215 odd kilometres back to Perth. But I already promised myself to not worry so much about finishing time and that safe and sensible riding should remain my top priority. The road linking the Great Southern Highway and Albany Highway, with its multiple corners and dozens of intersections, sees me constantly checking on Google Map to make sure I’m on the right track (and not miss any turning). Unfortunately, Google Map is of little assistance in this area as it does not distinguish the major roads from the minor ones. Back to the old fashion cue sheets, which reliably got me through this section. James, one of the vollies, had earlier warned about going through the notorious Albany Highway, and we have to deal with it for about 20km. As the name suggests, it is the main highway that links the two major cities Perth and Albany and therefore carries a heavy traffic. Given that it’s almost midnight when I got onto the highway, I thought there will be almost no traffic and it would be a bliss to ride. I was right that the traffic was almost non-existent, but it was far from a blissful ride. For starters, the highway is undulating. That alone I can deal with it without much issue. At one point, I see a bright white LED in my mirror, thinking that some riders have finally caught up. From the brightness of the light, I could tell they are not far back, and that I probably miss them earlier as my view was obstructed by the undulating course. Anticipating the pass and prepared for a greet, I drift to the left, then turn my head to the right. Next thing I know, a road train zoom pass, just a few feet short of grinding my face off. The powerful side wind generated nearly throw me off the road! I stop anyway as I feel a little disturbed, and to assess what just happened. Or in simple terms, the close pass by the road train SCARED THE SHIT out of me and I need to now wipe off that pee and crap in my pants!!

After that frightening incident, I have four more encounters with road trains and for each of them, I got off the road and come to a complete stop to make sure I’m not sitting in the DEATH ZONE which is anywhere 3 metres or less from a speeding road train. In Queensland, we have a minimum passing distance law of at least 1.5m but this distance is way too close for a 100 tonne vehicle travelling in excess of 100km/h. I finally got in to Williams at 12:40am. Can’t remember when was the last time I feel this great a sense of relief. I’m totally spent but extremely glad to have gotten through day 3. It takes me a while to come into terms that I have just pedalled a distance of 1014km in the past 68 hours. All that is left is 215km for a whole day ride tomorrow. My whole body is weak now, but does it matter anymore? My confidence comes back, my hope soars up high, and that’s everything I need to get me through the finish line tomorrow.

The ultimate reward after a looooong day of riding - SLEEP. Total of 1014km after 68 hours. PERTH TOMORROW!

8
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The time is 4:00am, and I’m awaken by one of the volunteers with a gentle nudge. Before going to bed, each of us is required to tell the vollies what time we wish to wake up. The use of personal alarm clock is not allowed, obviously. An hour is all I take to get back on the bike. Again, it’ll probably be much quicker if I get to extend my right arm fully and painlessly. Right before I got on the bike, I bump into fellow Queensland rider Chris E. I have not seen him since leaving Perth. Chris arrived here at Nannup last night at 11:30pm and isn’t feeling great. I should be thankful I got 5 hours of sleep, it’s still not enough but that is all I can afford. I wonder how many PAPers actually got the full 8 hours sleep last night. Meanwhile, the ones who got the least amount of sleep are probably not the slowest riders but the vollies! I went to bed and woke up seeing the same people sitting behind the desk tirelessly answering queries and offering assistance to riders.

Today’s ride is a huge one. The distance to Albany is 322km but the first 200km is all hilly. With seemingly endless undulations, the journey to Pemberton is unsurprisingly snail-paced. Lots of gear shifting work required as my speed oscillates between 10 and 40km/h. On the positive side, no need to worry about navigation as there is only one road to follow. A band of pretty yellow wild flowers can be seen lining both sides of the road which makes good distraction. This is also one of the few occasions that I wish I was on a road bike. Being much lighter and the ability to ride standing to overcome these short steep climbs would be beneficial. Usually recumbents are pretty good at handling rollers, but the distance between the peaks is just a tad too long to carry on the momentum.

Summary of the first 200km of today's ride

Pemberton is the second sleep checkpoint option for the first night. I doubt many riders nominated this as one would have to ride 442km to get here from Perth. Seeing how hilly the terrain is from Nannup to Pemberton, I’m glad I didn’t pick this sleep option. I know a few Queenslanders who did and wonder how they got on last night. Approaching Pemberton, an awesome long descent welcomes us to this beautiful sawmill town. This being a sleep checkpoint, full-fledge breakfast is served, and I happily gobble down whatever food given to me. Mostly pasta, cheese, and bread. Pick up some protein balls for the road too. I was told they’re good, it’s homemade and a specialty of Audax WA division. Just before leaving Pemberton, Mark and Errol arrived. Errol made a shocking announcement that he has pulled out! Looking visibly disappointed, he said that his body couldn’t handle the pain anymore. Completely understandable. I made no mention of any body aches so far, but doesn’t mean there weren’t any. I have an ongoing Achilles tendonitis on my left foot since I did my first 300km ride a year ago which I never seem to be able to shake it off completely. The pain usually kicks in at about 300km mark, but for this ride, it only becomes apparent this morning. I don’t know how much longer I can hold the pain as it will only become worse with more pedalling. There is a limit to how much the human body can endure pain. After all, we are merely a bunch of ordinary folks attempting something extraordinary. With an experienced randonneur like Errol out of the game, I begin to have doubts about my own ability and feeling a bit daunting.

Second breakfast at Pemberton checkpoint

After the long climb out of Pemberton town, the remaining roads to Shannon River checkpoint is pretty much the same deal, hills and more hills. There are however, a few pockets of happiness (read flat road) so I make the most out of them. I have fond memories of camping at Shannon National Park. While riding on this very same road 3 years ago, in the early winter month, I stumbled upon and spent a night in a tiny wooden hut complete with a pot belly fireplace which kept me toasty warm and dry. Right before the left turn to the checkpoint, there was a right turn with a campsite sign and I can instantly recognise that this road leads to the amazing wooden hut. A bit bitter that I don’t get to revisit this treasure campsite, but promise myself to return one day. Although the checkpoint is nothing like the campsite, it makes a great stop where we got to enjoy our meals sitting on a log in the middle of the woods. Not to mention the sleep tent setup for the vollies looks extremely tempting. At this checkpoint, Geoff updates us that the next checkpoint Walpole will see an end to all these undulations, and that we are already 2/3 done with it. This makes me smile and lift my spirit.

To a cyclist, wine country can only mean one thing, HILLY

Shannon River, a bush checkpoint!

We have broke into the 500km mark at this point. Having not completed any multi-day Audax rides, not even a 600, the second day is all uncharted waters for me. So this is quite a significant personal milestone. A long stretch of mild descent bump my speed up but right after this descent, comes a surprisingly long 5% climb. At a distance, I spotted a rider getting off his bike looking rather frustrated, and then stood leaning on his bike looking visibly upset. Ross C is having a mechanical nightmare on his road bike. His rear derailleur is broken and causes the hanger to bend 45 degrees! There isn’t much we can do, I suggest converting it to a single-speed by removing the derailleur and shortening the chain, although neither of us are hopeful. We are only 10km to the Walpole checkpoint so I hurry to the checkpoint to notify support about Ross’s situation. The support crew is now aware of Ross’s trouble but decide to allow some time before attending to him. The pseudo single-speed configuration somewhat worked as it brought him to Walpole checkpoint (long after I left) but sadly he only got as far as 7km after leaving Walpole before the drivetrain fails again. Poor Ross, this is one very unlucky DNF.

Riding amongst the giant eucalyptus is quite an experience

A chance encounter with Brian as he was about to leave Walpole checkpoint. Brian asked about Chris E, but neither of us have seen nor heard from him since Nannup. Hope he’s doing alright. Left Walpole at 3:30pm, and with only 125km left to Albany, I am looking forward to arrive Albany well before midnight. I was promised flat terrain from Walpole onwards, but I foolishly forgot the definition of flat in the Audax dictionary. Although the undulations is mild compared to what we went through this morning, the effect on my legs is accumulative and they’re really starting to wear me out. A 5% climb now feels like 10%. My legs just aren’t generating as much power as before. This isn’t subjective as I’ve been monitoring my power output from my PowerTap hub. I can no longer maintain a 200W effort for any longer than 10 seconds. My legs just couldn’t do it. Have I reach my endurance limit? If not, I must be goddamn near! Riding pass the 600km mark, the setting sun becomes my only glimmer of hope. I’d like to think that I’m a better rider at night, although tonight might prove me wrong. I arrive at Denmark in the astronomical twilight and in the worst of my body condition. The first thing I see when I arrive at Denmark checkpoint is a big sign that says “Ross the Flying Scotsman” held by presumably Ross’s parents. I don’t know if they are aware of what happened to Ross C, but I’d be extremely touched seeing my parents come down all the way to cheer on me.

Don't miss this out if you're in this area and not in the midst of completing a 1200km ride

The last of daylight to view the magnificent giant tingle trees

Above 608km is unknown territory!

The Denmark checkpoint goes down in my memory as the checkpoint of torture. Not in reference to the support which was excellent as always, but in reference to the immense soreness on my body when I got off the bike. For the first time riding a high racer I have a butt sore, I don’t even know it’s possible to get a butt sore riding a recumbent! As I set both my feet on the ground, burdening them with my body weight, both my Achilles tendons feel like they’re burning! I knew my ibuprofen tablets would come in handy. I take an extended rest at this checkpoint. My vision starts to get a bit blurry, it’s a sign that I must hurry and get to bed soon. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t had any thoughts of pulling out. But this time I’m seriously considering of doing it, not here in Denmark but when I get to Albany. The plan now is to get to Albany, have a few hours sleep and then see how my body feels when I wake up before deciding if I should pull the trigger.

Down goes the sunlight and up comes the moonlight at Denmark checkpoint

With the thought that this next section of 60km to Albany may possibly be my final run of PAP, I give it my all, and ride in the best form I can manage given my current state. If I can no longer ride hard, I can at least still ride smart. I keep a close watch on my power output to ensure smooth pedalling and minimal deviation as the terrain changes, while also maintaining a consistent cadence with regular shifting. The increased cognitive processing also helps to keep me alert and away from absent-mindedly fixating on the road like one would do in a long drive (it’s dangerous and can lead to a very ugly outcome). The motivation is simple, to quote Martin’s words “I only have to ride as far as the next checkpoint”, and that is all that matters.

The terrain finally becomes flat which is a big relief but riding in the dark, you never know when the terrain is going to change until you get to it. My average speed gets a bump up, and I see myself passing a small number of (tired) PAPers. Soon I see a cluster of white LEDs from my mirror, seems to be approaching at a slightly faster pace than I’m at. There’s probably about 5 or 6 riders and they form a paceline. Perfect! I’ll be catching this “train” all the way to Albany! With 40km left still, I slow down, let them pass, and shamelessly hang onto the back of a group of Audax Victoria riders led by Sarah C, whom I later found out referred to as the Mother Teresa of Audax Australia, given her experience and contributions in the club. It’s such a relief to be sitting in the streamline, both psychologically and physiologically. I didn’t have any time at the front, and I feel guilty about that but as much as I wanted to, I wouldn’t be able to hold the group pace on my own, not to mention the reduced drafting benefit from a recumbent.

We got in to Albany sleep checkpoint (687km) at around 10:00pm, after a surprising and ridiculously steep climb up to our accommodation building. The entire city sits on a slope. It didn’t just end there, once we had our dinner, we had to walk up multiple flights of stairs (I stopped counting at 10) while carrying our belongings to get to our bedrooms. The nice thing about this accommodation is that each rider gets his/her own room. But the sleeping arrangement is such that the earliest who arrives gets the bedroom on the first floor, and the last rider gets the bedroom on the highest floor. Yeah that’s right, punish all them slow riders! At dinner, I got to chat briefly with one of the PAP photographers Steve K. No we didn’t talk about photography, instead he is saying that I should be relief that I made it to Albany as most PAP riders who quit in the past events did so on day 2 as this is the toughest day, being the most hilly day. “The worst is over now” said Steve.

It’s amazing how those words are so simple yet means a world to a cyclist on the verge of quitting. I see some hope now. Tomorrow will be a brand new day, and I’ll be riding somewhere new, and there will be much to see and explore. I’m looking forward to riding once again.

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