Episode 14: a bittersweet hundred-miler

Route: Heathmont to Inverloch, via Emerald and Pakenham
Distance: 159km
Duration: 5 hours 11 minutes

The delightful road between Cape Paterson and Inverloch.

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 boring, flatness of Koo Wee Rup Road

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.

First glimpse of water.

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.

Great weather, great road, great riding.

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.

Beach views at Inverloch.

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.

As always, feel free to come and say ‘hi’ and have a chat on TwitterFacebook and/or Strava. And of course, you can always leave a comment below.

Until next time, thanks for reading and please stay safe on the roads.

31 days to go …

Previous instalments

14 Replies to “Episode 14: a bittersweet hundred-miler”

  1. Hi Matt,

    Thanks once again for an excellent website. I am planning on riding from Melbourne to Inverloch in 2 weeks time and just wanted to get an idea of what the roads are like and how safe it is. I gather there is a bike line all the way to the turnoff to Phillip Island / Inverloch. What are the roads like from there to Inverloch? I see there are 2 possible routes. The Cape Paterson route being more scenic but without a shoulder.

    all the best


  2. I Ride from Scoresby to Inverloch several times during the year if you ever want some company also if you are staying in Inverloch they have great bunch ride that leave from Pauls bakery in town and does a 40+klms loop.

  3. Nice work, for a little alternative to the sth gippy highway try turning off at Lang Lang. Just follow the road through Nyora then up the hill to Poowong. Turn right about 10kms later towards Korumburra and enjoy some great rolling hills and fantastic views. Guaranteed to put a smile on your dial and a little burn in your hill legs!!

  4. The Koo Wee Rup rd does not look bike friendly! Have driven it many times and it can be scary in a car.
    Many great rides/routes through the bass hills to inverloch that would be better than the Bass Hwy. Rolling hills, great scenery and quiet roads. Check out the web sites for Bass Hills Challenge and Bass Hills Breathtaker, both with maps and profiles.

  5. I was getting really annoying knee pain due to itb. After some physio, I put my seat up 1 inch. It made a massive difference. Proper bike set up seems really important. Good luck!

  6. Ahh the dreaded ITB, had the same issue also last year training for 3peaks, i ended up dropping my seat about 1/2″ for almost instant relief and then after a few weeks of stretching put the seat back to its normal height. I notice you didn’t give bailey rd a crack when you got to Cockatoo, its only 3km but the incline is a real killer, rather similar to Back o Falls. From the top of bailey rd you can then loop around onto paternoster rd which is an awesome stretch of road, fast swooping corners and barely any traffic, with a 160km ride I guess you didnt need any little diversions 🙂

  7. Great report Matt, sorry to hear about the injury – I found rolling a golf ball over my knee worked wonders for some ITB I had last year through running over-use.

  8. As I may have previously noted, I had an ITB issue last July/Aug. In addition to stretching I chose to acquire physio foam roller and rolled quads, itbs & calves quite religiously. I found that it worked wonders, and I still roll my muscles now to ensure that they don’t get tight etc.

    I hope it resolves itself quickly.

    1. Oh yes, forgot to mention I also acquired Madame foam roller and it works a treat. Best $40 I spent at Rebel sports ever! I roll from bottom of muscle to the top really slow and hold when I find a sore spot for a slow 10 count.

      The first time I used it on my dodgy ITB had me squealing like a baby. You can also use a wine bottle and drown out your lain afterwards 🙂

    2. Ah, the foam roller. The self-inflicted deep tissue massage. It is the single most painful thing I experience on a regular basis. I have to schedule it with myself, or I won’t do it. *shudder*

  9. Nice report Matt. With just over 4 weeks to 3 Peaks let’s hope your ITB settles down. Take it easy on the hills, you’ve done plenty of climbing. I did a reverse taper for the ACE250 with each week getting easier after my Donna ride and it worked well for me.

  10. Another awesome write-up!

    I’m going to be down at Phillip Island on the weekend and am considering a loop out to inverloch and back, a nice 100km ride 🙂

    Would you suggest taking the bass highway all the way to inverloch and then the coastal road back to wonthaggi?

    1. Thanks Mark. Yep, I’d head straight down the Bass and then back via Inverloch. If you wanted to extend the ride you could always head north of Wonthaggi. I believe there are some nice roads (and some nice climbing) around Kongwak and Korumburra if you’ve got time …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *