If you think the Gong Ride or Around the Bay is a serious challenge, then think again. A few weeks ago I was contacted by a team of women who are training for a huge race/relay called Race Across America that takes place each year in June. Last year I wrote about two American women tackling it and this time it’s a team of four Australian women calling themselves the Veloroos – Natasha Horne, Sarah Matthews, Julie-Anne Hazlett and Nicole Stanners.
Race Across America known as RAAM is a race but instead of being in stages it is one continual ride similar to a time trial. Once the clock starts it does not stop until the finish line. RAAM is about 30% longer than the Tour de France and is not limited to professional cyclists. While solo racers must qualify to compete, anyone may organise a team and race.
Racers must traverse 3000 miles (4,828 km) across 12 states and climb over 170,000 vertical feet (51,816 metres). Team racers have a maximum of nine days and most finish in about seven and a half days. Teams will ride 350-500 miles a day, racing non-stop. Solo racers have a maximum of 12 days to complete the race, with the fastest finishing in just over eight days. Solo racers will ride 250-350 miles a day, balancing speed and the need for sleep.
My first Gong ride – 2008
The wonderful Tina McCarthy from Wheel Women recently visited Sydney and ran a bike skills course and asked me along on the Sunday morning. It was great interacting with a great group of female cyclists. One of the questions I was asked was “Have you got any tips for riding the Gong ride?” and I most certainly do.
For those of you who are not Sydneysiders the Gong Ride is Sydney’s biggest mass participation bike ride which is held on the first Sunday of November each year. The ride which has been going for 32 years, is a scenic route from Sydney to Wollongong following the coastline. It’s an awesome event and I’ve participated every year since I’ve been riding, a total of six times. So here’s my tips for enjoying the picturesque Gong ride. These tips apply equally to any mass participation ride that might be held in your home town:
Get your entry in
Don’t procrastinate any longer. If you enter the event you’ve made a commitment to yourself and to others. If you put it off until you get closer to the date you’ll continue to make excuses. You’ll also find that rides like the Gong ride have a restriction of entry numbers and may sell out.
I like to think of myself as a bit of a cycling evangelist. That doesn’t mean I give regular sermons about cycling but through this blog, my job and other social occasions I love the opportunity to share my love for cycling with others, particularly women. So here’s 10 reasons why you should think about cycling. They are in no particular order (just the order they jumped into my head). The initial list took me about five minutes to write so you can see that I’m completely enthusiastic about this subject.
Please note that I haven’t called this point ‘weight loss’ because that’s not what it’s all about. Fitness is a key benefit of cycling. I’m in my forties and I’m fitter than I’ve ever been in my life. I also weigh more than I did before I started cycling five years ago, but I’m actually leaner as a result of all those hours on the bike.
2. Café visits
This is one of my favourite benefits. All the road cyclists that I know go to the café after a ride. This means you get to have a good chat and you get to eat yummy food because you’ve just ‘pre-burnt’ your calories. I don’t actually drink coffee (because I hate the taste of it) but I don’t let that stop me being part of the café culture. Hot chocolate doesn’t look that different!
A couple of months ago I wrote about the amazing Kacie & Dani who were in heavy training to complete the 3,000 mile Race Across America. I’m pleased to say that the pair made it, and I was lucky enough to catch up with them again post race.
Q: Were you both nervous in the days leading up to big race? And did you feel like you’d trained enough?
Dani: I wasn’t nervous. I tend to not get overly anxious before big races or nervous. I did feel overwhelmed in the days before we left Atlanta, I felt like I had a tremendous amount of things to do to get ready and packed and not enough time to do them in. I felt incredibly confident in my training and my physical state!
Kacie: I was nervous for sure! My husband, our crew chief, and I had to drive all of the gear across the country. It was almost 35 hours of driving, which is exhausting. It started to get intimidating thinking about the fact that we were riding our bikes back! I was not nervous about the training. I knew that I had worked as hard as I could possibly work and prepare as much I could have prepared. I was nervous about the unexpected–accidents, car trouble, and the unknowns.
A month or so ago I was contacted by two inspiring American women who are training for an ‘ultra’ cycling event called Race Across America. It’s a 3,000 mile or 4,828 km ride that has to be completed in nine days.
I always thought that undertaking a long ride like Melbourne’s Around the Bay which is 210 km was a pretty impressive feat. That was until I heard from Kacie & Dani.
I asked them a few questions about their quest.
I’m writing this on my return flight from Adelaide after spending a week enjoying Australia’s own UCI cycling event, the Tour Down Under. For those of you who don’t already know about it, it’s a six day professional men’s road racing event held every January centred around the South Australian city of Adelaide.
It was my sixth visit to the southern capital for the race and it’s great to see it continue to grow in popularity with lots of locals coming out in support as well as interstate and international visitors.
For me it has always consisted of two key components – the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) ride in the Barossa Valley and the Tour Down Under itself.
When I first started doing long rides, my training and preparation was almost entirely based on my physical readiness. I’ve always understood the big role that mental preparation plays for elite athletes but I never thought I had anything in common with them.
After four years of cycling, I’ve done quite a few charity rides and a small amount of racing and I always get very nervous beforehand. But I’ve never known how to overcome it except to just accept that it happens and live with it. I’ve also thought that my anxiety was more a female trait so I was interested to hear pro cyclist Luke Durbridge in an interview after he won the National road race championship last week say that he was shaking on the start on the start line because he was so nervous. It made me feel less alone.
Smiling after 160 km in January 2012
I’m not sure how other cyclists define a long ride but for me it’s anything over about 100 km. For others, it could be many hundreds of kilometres or even as short as a 50 km ride like Sydney’s Spring Cycle.
In planning my training program, I firstly factor in that I ride on a regular basis, usually about four times per week with a total of around 150 km so I’m fairly ‘bike’ fit. However the ride I’m undertaking in about four week’s time is 160 km (or a century if you’re from the US) so for me that means I have to undertake some extra training. I’ve done the same 160 km ride a year ago so I know what to expect but this time I’d like to do it better and improve on my time.
Most things I’ve read on this subject and other more wise individuals say that you don’t need to ride the full distance in training but you do need to up your kilometres and get some extra ‘kms in your legs’.
When I first started riding I thought the only thing you really needed to know about descending was to grip the brakes tight and pray it was over soon. As I’ve developed more riding skills I’ve learnt to enjoy descending and although I’m far from mastering it, I feel a lot more confident and am going a lot faster than before. My fastest speed I’ve ever clocked up on my trusty Garmin 500 is 61 km per hour which was in a recent charity ride which has some excellent downhill sections (and of course the matching uphills).
The following article is reproduced from a fantastic e-zine & website called Women’s Cycling.ca. It’s a free cycling resource for women that contains a heap of great articles just like this one. Thanks to Laurel-Lea Shannon who is the founder of the site and the author of this article. Laurel-Lea resides in Ontario Canada and she tells me that one of her regular contributors Diane Stibbard is an Australian who now resides in Canada. Over to Laurel-Lea………
The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) annual Ride to Cure Diabetes is pretty special to me because it’s the reason I started my love affair with cycling three and a half years ago.
This was my fourth time I had participated and while a lot of people think that raising $3,500 to do the ride is a huge challenge, for me riding the 160 km course was far harder.
In my previous three rides I’d only done the 80 km course which was hard for me the first time (only four months after I started riding) but it had become increasingly achievable.
So I spent the past few months training which really paid off and I’m very pleased to say I completed the ride successfully. For those who like a few stats it took 6 hours 33 minutes at an average speed of 25 km per hour. In fact it was 164 km.
The JDRF ride is an 80 km circuit around the beautiful Barossa Valley. The 160 km ride is a clockwise lap followed by an 80 km anti-clockwise lap. It’s undulating for the most part but in some parts hilly. Harder than the 210 km Around the Bay in Melbourne which many other riders agreed with me.