Episode 14: a bittersweet hundred-miler
Route: Heathmont to Inverloch, via Emerald and Pakenham
Duration: 5 hours 11 minutes
It’s a little over a month until the 3 Peaks Challenge and the days are melting away. The training’s going well, I’m ramping up the kays and the excitement is starting to build. There’s only one problem: the knee pain that’s been bugging me over the past few weeks has gotten worse. Considerably worse.
On Saturday morning my partner Sharon and I were due to head down to Inverloch to spend the weekend camping with her family. She drove down with her sister while I took the opportunity to make a long ride of it. I started out from Heathmont, rode through Montrose and then around the back of the Dandenongs toward Monbulk.
I knew that most of the ride down to South Gippsland was going to be pancake-flat so I was keen to get in some hills before I started the long trek south. To my great concern, the aforementioned knee pain reared its ugly head after only 15km and by the time I got to Emerald I was in all kinds of pain and extremely frustrated.
I still had well over 100km to go and every pedal stroke was hurting, delivering a stabbing pain just below my right knee. It felt suspiciously like ilitiobial band friction syndrome (ITBFS), from which I’d suffered before. I popped some Nurofen in the hope the pain would subside and allow me to continue without too many problems.
The pain eventually did subside, but not before I started to despair about the coming weeks and about 3 Peaks itself. Would I be able to keep training? Would I be right to ride on the day itself? Could I be doing permanent damage by continuing this ride?
I made my way along the quiet roads around Cockatoo and headed south toward Pakenham. Despite the knee pain, I had managed to maintain an average speed of around 30km/h by the time I left the Dandenong Ranges National Park — a speed I was hoping to maintain for the entire day.
I headed south through Pakenham, relying on the turn-by-turn instructions I’d written up and taped to my top tube. Leaving Pakenham it was on to the dead-straight, dead-flat Koo Wee Rup Road. I’m the sort of cyclist that tends to get rather bored with straight, flat roads and so after just a few minutes I was looking around for something to focus my attention on. Even a slight bend in the road was cause for excitement on that dull stretch of highway boredom.
On the plus side, the Nurofen was working by this point and I was able to pedal without any discernible pain. It was a welcome relief, but very much a temporary fix. After the briefest of stops at Koo Wee Rup it was out to the Bass Highway to start the second half of the ride.
While riding along the Bass Highway certainly wasn’t a picturesque as, say, the roads around Mt. Baw Baw it was certainly better than Koo Wee Rup Road. At least there were a few small rolling hills every now and then and there were no long straight stretches were I could see for kilometres (“see for miles” sounds far more poetic, doesn’t it?).
For those of you considering a ride to South Gippsland, the Bass Highway certainly isn’t your worse option. Sure, there were a few sections with a fair bit of debris in the emergency stopping lane, but for the most part I had plenty of room and it was smooth sailing. That said, if I ever ride down that way again I’d be tempted to check out a less-direct route, and explore some of the quiet roads around Korumburra and Leongatha.
The biggest challenge of the day came with a short climb before the Phillip Island turn-off. It certainly wasn’t a mountain by any stretch of the imagination, but it was enough of a pinch, after many kilometres on the flats, to have me breathing hard. By this point it was starting to warm up too, and my Garmin was display a road temperature in the high-30s.
I worked my way into Wonthaggi in no time at all and after a few cool drinks at the local servo (served by an attendant who couldn’t believe I’d ridden from Heathmont — ego win) I decided a slight detour was in order. I’d seen from a quick look at Google Maps that the road through Cape Paterson and along the coast to Inverloch looked far more interesting than the Bass Highway. It would add 10km to my trip but with the Nurofen still kicking goals I couldn’t see any reason not to take the slightly-longer route.
As I reached the Cape and turned east I rode straight into a considerable headwind. My average speed for the day was around 31km/h at that point and I forced myself to work hard to keep the average up. As you can see from the photos above, it’s an amazing stretch of road and one that I would encourage you all to check out at some point.
After a little more than five hours in the saddle, I rolled into the caravan park in Inverloch and joined the others for what was a terrific little weekend away.
Apart from the agony I was in the next morning. Any kind of attempt to bend my leg felt like I had a knife sticking into my knee and it put a real dampener on what was an otherwise pleasant couple of days.
So on Tuesday night I headed to the local physio to try and get some idea of what I was up against. After I explained the situation physio Josh confirmed my suspicions: ITBFS. The problem apparently stems from my glutes which are ridiculously tight. This tighness results in a very tight ITB which, in turn, rubs on the bone on the outside of my knee, causing the pain I’ve been feeling. He gave me a bunch of stretches and strengthening exercises to do — all of which seem to hurt a lot — and with any luck I’ll be back on the bike this weekend.
I’ve got another appointment this evening to see how it’s progressing and to see how I should approach the rest of the training period. Unless it gets a lot worse, I can’t see myself pulling out of 3 Peaks — I’ll dose up on painkillers if need be or, as Josh suggested, there’s always the option of taking a cortisone injection.
But hopefully it doesn’t come to that. I’ll spend the next few weeks stretching, stretching and stretching some more and all going well, I’ll be able to ride a pain-free 3 Peaks on March 11. That’s the plan anyway.
Until next time, thanks for reading and please stay safe on the roads.
31 days to go …
- Prologue: back on the bike
- Episode 1: the Great Ocean Road ride
- Episode 2: new wheels, old climbs and offensive black discs
- Episode 3: an Arthurs Seat century
- Episode 4: flying solo (up the 1 in 20)
- Episode 5: back to the Dandenongs
- Episode 6: the Mt. Macedon double
- Episode 7: the Rapha Festive 500
- Episode 8: a warm welcome to the Alps
- Episode 9: backing up with the Back of Falls
- Episode 10: Mt. Hotham doesn’t get easier, you just go faster
- Episode 11: climbs galore (and then up some more)
- Episode 12: Mt. Baw Baw revisited
- Episode 13: climbing the Crucifix (and suffering in the sun)