Perth Albany Perth 1200kms, October 1 – 4, 2018
Completing my first 1200kms. I had been building up my training for the 1200kms all year, mainly cycling long distances during the weekends. My most irrational fear was coming across a live snake while on my cycling journey, so I had to overcome my Kiwi phobia.
Day One: South Perth Observation Deck to Nannup. Distance 384kms
Sixty three riders signed up for the 1200kms. Most were from Perth, Brisbane, Cairns, Melbourne and Sydney but there were small groups from the United States, the United Kingdom, Malaysia, Singapore, two Kiwis (Simon Henderson and myself) and one rider from Japan. In all, only six women cyclists had entered the event.
Start Point – South Perth waterside.
Early morning start at 5am – still dark in Perth and really it was a very fast flat cycle with head on winds for the first 300kms. The cycle ways in Perth were impressive - about 50kms of them before
we left the city’s outskirts, then we wound our way south down the coast to Margaret River.
Control point at Yarloop
Continuing on to Busselton
After Margaret River , we hit the rolling hills and we climbed and descended in the dark for the next 70kms. I was surprised by a kangaroo that jumped across the road in front of me, while I was descending down hill. Luckily I braked in time to avoid it.
Arrived at our accommodation at Nannup at 11pm. Provided with a hot meal and shower. The sleeping arrangements in the large Nannup Sports Hall were two large dormitory rooms – one for the men and the other for women. The bed – a blow up air mattress. I thought I would be able to get in at least a good four hours sleep as I assumed there would be no snorers in the women’s dorm. I was wrong – one of the fellow woman riders snored loudly all night – so I only managed to snatch a couple of hours of sleep.
Day Two: Nannup to Albany. Distance 320Kms
A 5am start after a hot cooked breakfast. The next 77 kms to Pemberton consisted of one steep hill after another steep hill. I reached my ‘lowest point’ during this early morning stretch but I managed to revive after a welcome coffee at the Pemberton control. The coffee certainly helped me tackle the next 120kms of continuous rolling hills with head on winds . A welcome ‘Secret Control’ halfway through, also provided us with tea and cake.
Cycling through a national park.
No toilets, until Warpole, and because of my fear of meeting a poisonous snake during a toilet break on the roadside - I just sped up until I reached the small town’s public toilets. The next 120kms were cycled in the dark, with further rolling hills to tackle and head on winds, arriving at the coastal town of Albany at 2.30am.
A number of cyclists said Day Two was the toughest day – and by the end of it, 14 riders had pulled out of the event, including my Kiwi colleague, Simon, who had knee problems. Accommodation that night was at the Albany Residential College. I arrived at 2am, was given a hot meal, and my own room to sleep him. I managed to get two solid hours sleep (no snoring) before setting off the next morning at 6am.
Day Three: Albany to Collie. Distance 294kms
Day three had some hill climbing but it also had lovely, long, flat, downhill stretches through isolated farmlands and national parks. After the Frankland General Store control earlier in the morning, there was another long 110kms stretch but again another Secret Control half way through that provided us with a much needed cup of tea and food before the last control at Boyup Brook.
A welcome “Secret Control”
The rain started to set in as I approached the cafe at Boyup Brook. I had my first experience of just about being blown off the road by two passing Road Train Trucks each with two long trailers. I rode the final 70kms, in the dark and pouring rain with some fellow riders from the UK and Australia. We joined forces to tackle the night stretch together, arriving drenched, cold and safe at the Collie Football Club Rooms around midnight. A number of the Malaysian contingent did not complete Day 3, due to the cold and the rain– the sag wagon went out and collected them as one of the riders was hypothermic. By the end of Day 3, the number of Did Not Finish had risen to around 20.
Arriving drenched at Collie.
A hot shower and a meal was most welcome that night, and I managed a solid four hours sleep on an air mattress in the women’s dorm. The snorer had pulled out of the event during Day Two, and there were only three of us left that night.
Day Four: Collie to Perth. Distance 205kms
Knowing I only had 200kms left, I did not set off until after 7am. The first 45kms included some lovely rollers to cycle through until the Harvey Control. After that, the land flattened through farmland until I worked my way back to the estuary and coast, winding up through Mandurah to Perth. I saw my first snake (fortunately when I saw it was dead) on the cycle path 40kms south of Perth.
Cycling back along the coast to Perth. Snake Alert!
I arrived back at the South Perth Bowling Club finish line just as it was getting dark at 7.15pm to a welcome clap from all the volunteers and supporters , for being the ‘First Woman’ to make it back. Of the six women riders, two completed the ride.
After 1200kms the welcome sight of Perth’s high rises. The finish line.
Overall, a rewarding, epic experience. 1200kms with over 9000 metres of climbing completed in 86 hours, 15 minutes. During the three and a half days I managed a total of 8 hours sleep. It was the toughest and most challenging thing I have ever done but it was empowering to know that I had navigated most of the 1200kms of Western Australian countryside on my own.
A special thanks to the Western Australian Audax Cycling Club, in particular Wayne Hickman, Peter Heal and all the other wonderful volunteers for their superb support of the riders. They were up all hours of the night, offering hot meals, tea and encouragement.
(Photos were taken and supplied by UK rider, Andrew Preston).