It’s now just over a week until the Peaks Challenge Falls Creek (affectionately known as ‘the 3 Peaks’) a 235km bike ride through Victoria’s alpine country that has, three hefty climbs. There are many guides on how to prepare for the ride, and they are great. But who hell wants to hear how other people are going to succeed? What you really want is some poor sap to outline exactly how not to prepare yourself for this ride, so that you can either laugh at their expense, or use their approach as the antithesis of your next training block…or just thank God that at least your preparation has been better than theirs.
Ladies and gentlemen, I believe I am that sap. So here are my tips on how not to prepare for the 3 Peaks.
Do all your training on an indoor trainer
A year and half ago I wrote about falling out of love with cycling I think it’s safe to say that neither of us really wants to get a divorce…but I am definitely sleeping on the couch each night.
A pretty clear indicator of this is that every time I’ve had to make the choice between heading out into the wee hours of the morning to go for a ride…or trotting out to the shed to sit on the trainer and do Sufferfest sessions…I’ve chosen the ‘sit in a room, sweating like a pig and being eaten by mosquitos’ option. For the uninitiated, a cycling trainer is basically an exercise bike (or in my case a device that I attach my actual bike to), and Sufferfest is basically an app that plays footage of cycling races and yells at you. So you can see why this would be a natural choice over getting out into the hills around Kinglake with a group of friends.
On the bright side, the number of times I’ve been abused by drivers or nearly run off the road while on the trainer is an impressive ‘zero’ (coincidentally ‘impressive zero’ was also my nickname at high-school). I can also scamper off the trainer and make breaky for the kids when they wake up…and it’s a hell of a lot easier to be served fruit toast on the trainer than out on the road.
Lose your coach
Last year I made a documentary about my friend and coach Craig Percival. Part of the deal was that he would coach me for an event. Craig had been my coach for the Ironman, and while I couldn’t motivate myself to do exercise…for some reason a weekly email from Craig was enough to make me feel guilty enough to actually get out of bed at 5.30am and train. I’d always wanted to do the 3 Peaks, and I thought that having a structured training regime that yielded a good result may be just what I needed to reacquaint myself with my love of cycling. So Craig and I had been working away at this goal for a few months.
Tragically, at the end of last year Craig died as a result of complications after a routine surgery. So suddenly I lost the coach and mentor that I knew I was going to be relying on…and the many conversations we’d had about his frustration with how much time his training took away from his family, took on a whole lot more weight.
In the Hollywood version of this story, I’ll be about 4km from the finish and feeling that I’ve got nothing left, I’ll look up to the sky (it will still be light because of how fast I’ve ridden) and ask Craig for help…and he’ll say ‘you’ve got this!’ and I’ll find a hidden reserve of strength and power to the finish.
But in reality, I’ll probably be begging for Craig’s help from about the 75km mark…and all he’ll say is ‘Mate…you really should have trained for this! Now if you’ll excuse me, David Bowie is running in the Heaven Marathon, and I told him I’d be out on the course to cheer him on.’
Don’t stop those swim and run sets
Between work, family and running your own business, there really isn’t a whole lot of time left for training. So it’s probably a good idea to just focus on the cycling when you have the time to do a session.
Or…you can do what I’ve done and split my time between swimming, running and cycling. If you really want bonus points, throw in a weekly circus class for the latter part of 2016. It will all pay dividends when you arrive at the bottom of Falls Creek and they say ‘Look, normally we make everyone ride up this hill. But if you can run 10km, tumble turn or juggle…we’re just going to drive up and you hold onto the side of the car.’
So what have I actually done?
I have legitimately done a lot of sessions on the trainer…including a few 2.5hr sessions that really took me to a dark place. Plus I commute 80km every week.
Like every geriatric, I’ve swapped out my 53/39 for a more hills friendly setup (for the non-cyclists…ah who am I kidding?…there’s no way any non-cyclists made it this far into this blog! So let’s get down to random numbers, I’m going to be running a 52/36 and 11/28)
I’ve also grown my hair long like Peter Sagan. Part of me still hopes that his incredible cycling strength is actually not due to his work ethic or genetics…but due to his long hair. It’s a long-shot…but long-shots are all I have left!
Most importantly, I’ve resigned myself to what is going to be at least 12…and quite realistically 13 hours of mental and physical carnage. I’m not going to waste any energy trying to sit with packs that are going too fast, I’m not going to stop for very long at any of the rest areas along the way, I’m going to eat before I get hungry, I’m going to try appreciate the natural beauty of the Victorian high-country, I’m going to remind myself that you learn so much more about yourself when you push yourself to your limits, and I’m going to remember a sign I ran past on the Melbourne Ironman that simply said ‘Just remember, you paid to do this!’.