Day 8 - Cootamundra to Boorowa - 92.7km

(and the rest)

Let me just get a few things off my chest here! They stuffed up! It was more than 92.7 km!

(I'm not the only one to labour this point; this photo was courtesy of another friend we made!)

OK. So what's a mere 7 or 8 km between friends? Rather a lot, psychologically speaking.. if you're a bit psycho like me!

So they said it would be a challenge. But their definitions of 'rolling countryside' and 'no major hills to climb' were way off. Someone with an altimeter on their cycle computer proved that we actually climbed, cumulatively, 1200m in total. And that while going up... then down.. up... then down again... up... and down.... It turned out to be way more than we'd climbed in total on the earlier days where they had kept the distances short!

Even before morning tea, Alison and I were feeling it, despite being sent out ahead again. Today was Alison's turn to 'lose it'... the catalyst for her was losing the 'stone' out of a bracelet that Marguerite had given her in Tumut (when she took her thermal top off.) As well as being distraught about having left her goggles at the pool, and the pool being closed as we set off. I think in a way she lost the will to pedal (and the energy).. and thus, in the absence of any of the boys to compete with in the near vicinity, so my little "turbo" spluttered and died! We gave up and walked up hill after hill, and at one point I found myself sobbing, wondering how the hell we were going to get through 92 km of this. No sooner than you'd make some height, then you'd lose it again. It was rather soul destroying, particularly when you couldn't manage to ride them anymore.

Then morning tea turned out to be 10km further along than the booklet had said. That threw me completely. Psychologically I was cactus.

The earlier days you knew that once you'd made it up the hill, that was the worst of it. But these hills.. they just kept coming. They just didn't abate all day... We made it to Harden for lunch (then, despite being able to see that the township was down in the valley, to reach the lunch spot we were sent on a detour up some hills before going down again. And more UP on the way out of lunch, doubling back along the road we came in on. And someone later suggested that the extra 8 km we did was the in and out of Harden at lunchtime.) At lunch, at this park, Alison, with bike gloves off, still had the energy to have a play at the playground. And a swing from the bars... And gave herself blisters!

No, that didn't help.

And at another point, I could hear her sobbing. I could hardly go crook, given that I'd had an attack of the sobs a bit earlier. Turned out, though, that it was because she thought we'd miss out on getting to go to the pool because we'd get in so late. It had become the Eastern Riverina council pool tour, and, in the kids minds, as important as completing each day's ride! Maybe it was the reward for riding, and the thought of not being rewarded on the hardest of days was too much to bear!

By the time we limped into Afternoon Tea at Galong (at the 75 km mark), my thighs were throbbing. I had made a bad error.. in trying to save my bum by putting 2 pairs of bike nix on, (and that part was working!), I was cutting off the circulation in my thighs. So I was not a happy vegemite.

As we'd approached Galong, falling further and further to the back of the field, I discussed with Alison the idea of pulling out to catch the sag wagon. We decided it would be cop out. But I could see her demeanour change when she saw a 12 year old friend (who had been riding her own bike alongside her father) pull into afternoon tea riding pillion on the back of the police motorbike! They had been made to catch the sag wagon, and because Natalie was so upset, the highway patrol motorcycle cop gave her a ride. You could almost see Alison's brain ticking over the possibilities.

Marc was getting frustrated with me.. "Decide. What are you going to do?" I knew I'd regret it if I pulled out. I got a rub down of my thighs with some miracle gel of some description from the St Johns First Aid tent.. and of course removed the offending second layer of nix.

Theoretically, less than 20 km to go (though what to believe..... were there more distance stuff ups ahead?)...

Finally we decided to continue to the next drink stop and decide. Marc knew that then we'd be within 'spitting' distance of Boorowa. The closer you got to the end, the harder it would be to pull out.

We did ok at first... a bit of renewed circulation in my legs probably helped. Then, as we'd fallen off the pace again wiht another bloody hill, and stopped for some reason, the highway patrol guy on the bike offered Alison a lift up the particular hill we'd been grinding away on.

I could see the look in her eyes. Go on then. She hopped on. And I couldn't believe how easy Granny Gear was without her! Wow.. I could quite happily ride the rest of the way like this!

At the top of the hill Alison pointed out Marc and the other two. "That's my Dad". They drew alongside... and Caitlin and Marc convinced her to get back on the bike, so she could say she'd done the whole distance, not 500km less 20.

To her credit she did, even though the bike felt like a concrete truck again when she got back on.

By this time, we started getting a lot of accolades and encouragement from the support crews.. at drink stops, the SES, and the St John's crews passing by.

Those last few kms into Boorowa were the most emotional riding I've ever done. (Not that I've done a lot of riding.. but it was emotional!) We were going to make it. How the hell, I don't know, but we were just about there.

As we rounded one of the last corners before the campsite, the pub on the corner was overflowing with Big Riders who'd made it (much) earlier. But everyone who rode in past them got a standing ovation and cheers and claps... And I still get the tears in my eyes when I recall that moment.

The girls, meanwhile, just waved, like they were royalty. LOL.

And, they did get to go to the pool. We waived our usual parental concerns, let them go by themselves (the pool was, again, right next door to the campground), telling them to ask another Big Rider to watch them!! The things you do! Marc and I put the tent up, and said we'd join them. Found out the latest we could get to dinner, and raced up ourselves for a quick hydroptherapy session.

Turns out the pool supervisor asked if they could swim the length of the pool, and they said yes, of course.

With the next day being a mere 30.9 km, finishing was now 'academic'. We'd done it. And Marc, Cait and Zoe had done it all without getting off and walking ANY of the hills. (Just makes you sick doesn't it?!!)

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