I have now had time to ponder what happened. I will never be sure whether or not it was the right decision, but the decision came 330km into Saturday's 400, and the decision was made to retire with severe thigh cramp, and forget about it. As I said, I'm still not sure whether or not it was the right decision, but it felt that way at the time, and that's all the indication I have.
It had all started so well. I set off from the start at Lake Atkinson (which actually had some water in it for the first time in several years) in good form, and maintained it over the Walls of Lowood
(those steep hills at the start), over the Marburg
range, through Rosewood and the pictaresque
hills behind Warrill
View. I followed this up by continuing to scorch the next 100km through the area around Boonah
, and over more rolling hills to Fernvale
back in the Brisbane valley. I seemed unstoppable for the first 170km.
I did, understandably, slow a little after Fernvale
and 170km, but still managed to maintain good form and technique through this part. That was important because it's generally the way to get through the tough parts on long rides. 200km was a key point, not only was it the half-way point of the ride, but it was also the end of the BIG loop. Now there were three smaller loops to make up the second half of the ride and complete the proceedings. Having completed the first big loop over an hour faster than on the same ride last year, I had every reason to be confident.
After the first 200, the temperature started dropping rapidly. It's worth considering at this point that I've barely seen a night with a temperature that dropped into single figures for the last two years, and it's fair to say that this sudden change did catch me by surprise. So much so, in fact, that I had decided to commence the first of the loops without leg warmers. It was a simple loop through Lowood
and back to Lake Atkinson, but by the end my legs were really feeling the cold, and the cramp was starting to set in.
At this point I still believed I could do it. I set off for the second loop, now with leg warmers, but in retrospect, with the damage done. This loop went to Esk
, before heading back on the hilly Esk
road. The first 35km of it seemed to go OK, and I still felt reasonable. The cramp was there, but I could still manage. I was with a group of three other riders, and we paused for 10 minutes at Esk
, and it was after this that I couldn't get going again. I was promptly dropped on the first climb (climbing is normally my strength), and my legs just would not get going.
A couple of kilometres from the return to Lake Atkinson I picked up a slow-leaking puncture. It wasn't the end of the world, but this frustration added to my cramp and the continually dropping temperature was probably the clincher. In retrospect, perhaps I should have been more positive in my attitude -- I still had 10 hours to complete the last 75km. As it was, I decided on a couple of hours sleep at this point, in the hope that I might recover. It wasn't to be, and for some reason I just couldn't get going again.
I did go and fix the flat tyre, with the thought that maybe that might spark me, but even then I was still finding it difficult to even walk, and my mind at the time told me it was over. Hence I returned, pulled the pin, and decided that I'd have to be satisfied with a double-century, but not quite a 400k.
I am now convinced that there is a huge gap between 300 and 400km. On the 300k at Banyo
a couple of months ago, I felt as though I completed it easily -- despite the late headwind. This ride had no such headwind at any stage, and yet, I still didn't get through. The lesson here seems to be comfort, and erring on the side of caution when it comes to keeping warm away from the coast. Maybe next year.