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2016 Chain Reaction Challenge Womens 300 Day 2 – Blog

12 November 2016 Chain Reaction

Day 2 started in Mansfield under threatening black skies and in light, breezy conditions. The rolling hills around Mansfield were drowned in a dull light and we all looked with anticipation in the direction of Mt Buller – the summit being our destination. We rugged up with arm warmers, multiple wind vests and jerseys despite Tim, as the ever dependable organiser, assuring us that the conditions were fantastic for the journey out to the base of Buller.

Sure enough, after 10km we needed a quick stop to de-layer as the surpising humidity and rolling hills out of Mansfield left us all starting to sweat. At the stop Tim informed us that the support crew had made an all important stop to rescue a turtle crossing the busy highway, which gave us all comfort after having all ready avoided cycling over four dead turtles in the first half hour of the ride.

Onward we went. The conditions were still and we worked really well as a bunch showing teamwork through rolling turns and taking turns on the front to preserve our legs for the climb as we cycled past the open grassy flats, through Merrijig, then into hillier terrain at Howqua. The scenery soon changed from the initial open landscapes with views of distant mountain ranges. We came across the Delatite River running full through thickly wooded areas of gums with stark white trunks. The black skies were left behind as we forged on. They were replaced by low hanging cloud and not a breath of air. The leaves hung still and deep green from the recent rains. The atmosphere was incredible, the bunch deep in thought, mentally preparing as we approached Mirimbah and the base of Mt Buller.

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After a quick refuel and top up of our water bottles following the first 30kms it was time to take on  the summit. From the base of Mt Buller to the summit we had 16km before us, with an average gradient of 6% for the first 14km. We had been worded up to be ready for the last 2km with a sudden increase in gradient. We hit 13% as we rounded Hell Corner and an average of more than 10% for the last 1km. This climb was about individual achievements within the bunch. For some it was a personal challenge to improve on previous times. For others it was the hill climb of their lives having never attempted or achieved such a big personal feat. The beautiful part of the climb, and of us all reaching the top, was that everyone had achieved their personal goals and it was such a lovely time to share those and be recognised by each other.

We were incredibly lucky to be joined by some fantastic supporters along the roadside. Peter and Sandy Lusk, founders of Southern Cross Kids’ Camps, have been so amazingly involved in our ride so far. They travelled to Mt Buller and placed themselves at different points throughout the climb to provide encouragement. They also brought one very lovely girl who had been a participant in the kids camps as a child. To see her face, and to see the three of them rugged up and cheering us on was a perfectly timed reminder of what we were all ultimately working to achieve.

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The climb itself was beautiful. Some did it as small groups aiming for similar times and they shared encouragement to reach the summit. Others, including myself, set out solo to take in the full experience in the quiet of our own minds. The views were spectacular. There were what seemed like identical tall gums with beautiful white trunks, perfectly complemented by a well made road that zig zagged its way gently upwards. Drizzle began to descend at about the 6km mark, which drew out the deep red tones of the bark and the brilliant greens of new spring leaves. The quiet was only broken with the sound of bell birds, whip birds and words of encouragement. I found myself in a wonderfully comfortable rhythm that allowed me to both challenge myself, but also to look around and take in the experience. The last 2km saw the weather start to roll in, and the cloud became heavier and whiter, with a complete fog limiting the views in the last 1km. The rain started to increase, the winds picked up, the white out continued and we were glad to be warm and inside out of the conditions as we shared our personal stories over lunch.

A challenge was set out to Jenny Pettenon that if she was able to complete the climb in under 1 hour both John Ward and Tim Chadd would donate to Jenny. As I watched Jenny’s strong legs absolutely drive her up the mountain, I had no doubt she would be very close to achieving her goal. Excited to find out when I reached the top, I ran over to ask Jen how she had gone, only to hear that in all the anticipation she forgot to start her Strava for the segment.

A sensible decision was made by Tim that the descent as a group was going to be dangerous in the conditions, with slippery roads, winds, rain and poor visibility. While we were a little disappointed, the achievements of the climb remained and that was conselation enough.

Our last 30km greeted us with that same wind. Unluckily for us this turned out to be a significant and most unwelcome headwind. It was a tough ride back to Mansfield, with rollers into the headwind that also added gusts that pushed us sideways at times. Again this was a testament to both our training as well as our incredible sense of camaraderie and team work. We continued with our rolling turns. Selflessly taking turns on the front ensured we didn’t burn out before calling for the next roll through. We continued to encourage ourselves right until the moment when we unclipped and got off our bikes at the end of the day.

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Upon our return to our hotel we were greeted by Johnny Wurtz, a Chain Reaction Soigniuer and amazing massage therapist who auctioned off two massages for the end of Day 2 to help recharge those weary legs.  The auctions raised an amazing $430 for two massages, again showing our willingness to give to our charity partners in any small way. Two very lucky girls are going to be somewhat fresher than the rest us as we set out for our final day tomorrow.

To compare Day 1 with Day 2 would be impossible.  Both threw up such vastly different conditions, challenges, scenery and adventures.  Both will provide very contrasting memories for both individual riders and the group.

Three key things have remained constant – the friendships are strong, the laughs are many and we have a collective sense that we are edging closer to the end goal of fundraising. This has everyone very much looking forward to Day 3 and what it will throw our way as we head back to Melbourne to catch up with family and friends.

A final footnote – after calculating Jenny Pettenon’s time off Jenny Kjar’s start time (which was the same), Tim calculated that Jenny Pettenon had in fact completed the climb in 59.32 – a 17 minute PB! More proof of the power Chain Reaction gives riders in the moment