Perth-Albany-Perth 2014 – Day 4

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 It looks like every single rider who has withdrawn came back to do this final day ride.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.

12 responses

  1. David
    13 Nov 14

    Melvyn. A great read. Love your work and photos.

  2. Dirk
    14 Nov 14

    I have just finished reading your whole adventure, Melvyn. I really enjoyed it. Thanks for sharing and congratulations once again.

  3. Mom
    14 Nov 14

    Well done Son! Proud of your achievements.

  4. melvyn
    14 Nov 14

    Thanks David, Dirk, and mom! :)

  5. Colin Farmer
    18 Nov 14

    That’s a great read Melvyn! Thankyou for sending me the link. I’ve now read every line and admire your grit and determination. There’s nothing like the satisfaction you get when you’ve achieved something that you might well have failed at!
    Heartiest congratulations abd best wishes for the future,
    Barbara and Colin Farmer

  6. melvyn
    19 Nov 14

    Thanks again Colin! Glad you enjoyed the read. I look forward to many more long distance rides :)

  7. jon
    2 Dec 14

    great read melvyn. i really enjoyed your report and picutures so very inspiring. i recently completed the syd to melb 1200 on a road bike. ride a trike mostly these days but am considering a recumbent bike. carbon aero 2 looks good. keep up the good work. ride long and far. i am on strava and in some of the same clubs as you . all the best.

  8. melvyn
    3 Dec 14

    Hi Jon, SM1200 sounds like a fantastic event. Well done on completing it! I started off with a trike too but find that two wheeler recumbents are faster with the same great comfort. I can imagine CA2 rides similar to Carbent. Give it a go if you have the chance!

  9. jon
    4 Dec 14

    hi melvyn tryed to follow you back on strava but request to follow will not register???? has happened once before but i will try again later as persistence pays off :). i like the look of the cruz bike too. the vendetta model looks very interesting. no distributor in australia for baccetta so $800 to import. will take a look at second hand but they are like hens teeth….. what happened to flying furniture and ian???
    keep on cycling. have a 300 audax this saturday on the catrike 700. yippeee cannot wait. the thing that worries me about two wheels is safety. got sick of being passed by cars at 100klm per hour with half metre gap.on the trike i get a lot more respect as you would know. do you get the same respect on the recumbent bike melvyn???? cheers jd

  10. melvyn
    4 Dec 14

    The new Vendetta and Silvio looks fast! We haven’t had any trike riders here in Audax QLD, a bit surprising given the popularity in PBP. I find motorist gives me a bit less room as they pass when I’m on 2-wheel ‘bent compared to trike. But it usually doesn’t bother me as I rely on my mirrors to anticipate the pass. What I really like about my stick bike is it’s height which allows me to get much better view seated up high, and the light weight which makes climbing a lot easier – there aren’t many flat roads here in SE QLD!

  11. Ryan Anderson
    7 Apr 15

    Hi Melvyn!

    Just wanted to drop you a line to say I’ve loved reading up on your bike touring adventures. I first found your site through the cross-oz youtube video a few years back. Randomly remembered your post about staying in the cabin at Shannon national park this weekend when telling a friend.

    I looked the post up again today only to see you had stayed with Linda and jose! I stayed with them before a short bike trip I did over aussie day weekend earlier this year, lovely people…my report from that ride is hear if you’re interested :) hopefully catch you around Perth sometime.


    • melvyn
      8 Apr 15

      Thank you for the kind words Ryan, and glad you enjoyed reading my adventure! Linda and Jose are both very nice people, it was them who introduced me to warmshowers. I really enjoyed riding in the South West. Would certainly return and explore more :)
      Thanks for the link to your report, will check it out soon.

Leave a Reply