This is a story about a friend of mine (who Coach enlisted into his Commuter Cult) who recently lost her Coot-tha Virginity. She is a mother of 3 and lives at Wynnum Bayside Queensland, Australia. She commutes to her place of work, Brisbane City CBD, three days a week ~ approx. 40kms round trip daily, even in the rain! Which according to Velominati Rule #9 she is baddass. She has ridden just under 1000kms year to date and is an example of awesomeness! She is also a very talented writer and I get a thrill out of all that she writes! I hope you also enjoy her story as much as I did.
“A couple of crazy “cyclists” have been trying to con me into riding up Coot-tha for months. They have tried all sorts of tactics, including the dishing out of a fairly hefty dose of peer pressure when nothing else appeared to be working (you people have children, right???).”
“I eventually cave into pressure and agree to do it. I spend the three weeks leading up to C-Day cr*pping my pants, terrified of failure, pain and the possibility of a public stoning by proper members of the cycling community. I envision starting my ascent, and making it about 50 metres before I have to get off my bike, and walk to “the summit”, the laughter of thousands ringing in my ears.
I am gripped. There are so many potential risks to my life on this adventure. What if I draw first blood and face-plant the tarmac?
Or my pedal snaps off, or my back light comes off and jams in my wheel, or I hit some death cookies, crack my skid-lid on a tree trunk and bring home a Christmas tree? And this is a serious grunt – what if my granny gear isn’t enough? It’s a real possibility, but one too horrifying to think about, so I push it from my mind.
The big day arrives. A few of us assemble at Caro’s house. I am scared that the hills on the way to the BIG hill will have me exhausted before I even get there.
We all assemble in a car park at the base of the “mountain”. One Coach with Phar Lap’s heart, one lunatic on a mountain bike with a camera, one crazy woman on a magenta bike, a couple of semi-seasoned riders and a two newbies, out to lose their Coot-tha virginity. There is just enough time for the mental on the mountain bike to give me some quick advice. “ You need to do a sub-17 time”, he says. “My 70 year old father can do it in that, so you should be able to. Let’s set the bar high.”. Oh yeah, sure, bru. Except you don’t understand – I don’t do hills, bru.
I need to console myself. My heart rate is above 350 and I haven’t even started riding yet. Time for calm. Time to assume a new personality, a glass half-full, life’s about risk, f*ck it, rock-on type of personality. You know, someone ELSE’s personality. I see a chick on a townie setting off up the hill. If she can do it, I can – right? Right?
We start off, and I notice that everyone seems to be going in slow-mo. I do accept that the really serious dudes would have been up and down a few times by now, and are probably already sitting in a coffee shop somewhere talking about their time in “the zone” and how their new carbon-fibre bottle cage is 5g lighter and has shaved 0.001 seconds off their best time. But still, I think, some of these dudes look moderately serious – they at least had the good grace to turn up in lycra (for the most part). I figure they must still be reasonably fit and the fact that they are going so slowly gives me hope of something other than catastrophic failure.
We get a little way up, and things are going OK. I still have a few gears left before I got to “granny gear”, and I feel OK. Well, let’s just say I’m not dead, unconscious or vomiting, so I have exceeded all expectations.
For the first little bit, I am even conscious of what is going on around me – I notice the trees and the other riders, hear bits of conversations, and even sight a few plumbers’ cracks through well-worn cycling knicks (c’mon boys, these things have a natural life-span and at some point, they must DIE).
Just as I am beginning to tire, and wonder how I ended up here, Coach appears from nowhere. I wonder if I am actually dead, or at the very least, suffering from hallucinations due to my brain cooking itself. This can’t be real – my rear tyre is on backwards and the writing on the tyre doesn’t line up with the valve on my tube – there is no way Coach would be seen riding with me. He speaks, chattering about mindless things, as if to highlight to me that not only is he real, but he is not even puffing, not even trying. It’s easy-peasy, no trouble at all. Smug little b*stard. I think momentarily of tackling him off his bike, but just as I’m contemplating the logistics, I hear Caro calling words of encouragement and I am distracted. [Coach, you owe her your life].
For a while, I appreciate the dialog. I can see what he’s doing – he’s chatting to me, much like a gynaecologist talks to his patients to distract them from the pain and discomfort to come. He gives the occasional warning about an upcoming steep bit, and some words of encouragement to keep me going.
But soon, my body starts diverting all available resources to my legs and lungs. Coach’s voice starts sounding a bit distant. I am barely conscious of what he’s saying. I think he tells me I am the most intelligent person he’s ever met, and I am always right about everything, but I can’t be sure.
About 200 metres from the top, I start feeling a bit woozy in the head and a feeling of nausea consumes me. I could keep going, I surmise, but common sense tells me that whilst Coach could probably manage riding a bike up a hill unconscious, it might be a little difficult for me without Phar Lap’s heart or guns that are the envy of the entire Australian cycling community, possibly the world. So sadly, after dedicating the last five months of my life working up to this moment – my moment of glory, my time to shine – I make the agonising decision to stop and walk. Dream shattered. What is the point in living?
Coach graciously allows me to walk about 50 metres, before breaking into my thoughts and practically demanding I HTFU and get back on my bike (lest a sub-17 minute time slip from my grasp). I oblige, and begin to plot my revenge. Suddenly, he yells “We’re here!”, and it’s all over. Well, the hard part, anyway. I find myself thinking that it’s all a been for nothing – as I have failed. And then Caro presents me with my Coot-tha crown – it’s so silver, and shiny and bejewelled and pretty and I regain my desire to live.
The rest of the ride seems like child’s play. Obviously this is because I am now a finely tuned, and extremely elite athlete 🙂
The trip down the other side is one of the most absolutely funnest things, like, EVER! I have to stifle a giant “Wheeeeeee!!!” all the way down. I don’t even touch my brakes. This is the reward for the climb and I’m going to enjoy it.
Anyway, thanks to all my partners in crime – it was a really fun day. Did I just say that?
Riding up Coot-tha has proven one thing to me – all cyclists are a little bit unhinged. If you see one on the street, run, Forest, RUN!!! Because they are very, very dangerous.”