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Meg masters the mountains

This is Meg; she’s 29 and loves riding bikes. Over the past two years Meg has taken part in plenty of cyclo-cross, trail and road riding, but it wasn’t until Meg was supporting her partner at his second Peaks in 2020 that the idea popped into her mind to tackle Peaks. 

While Meg was in Bright with her partner and his mates, there wasn’t an expectation that Meg was taking part... which started to fuel the fire.

“I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it, I wanted to prove to others that I belonged in this space, and could do it, and I wanted to feel strong enough in my own cycling to know that I could accomplish a challenge like that”.  

It wasn’t until the end of 2020 that Meg bought a ticket and began her training three months out from Peaks 2021. But she still had doubts in her mind: “maybe it is too big of a challenge for me?" Being the type of rider that simply enjoyed getting out on the bike for the occasional 50km adventure on weekends, it was a big jump to begin the weekly training required to have the best chance at finishing Peaks.

Keep in mind that Meg had only owned her road bike for a year. So she started setting small goals for herself. First it was riding 200km in a single ride, next it was buying an indoor trainer and spending more consistent 30–45-minute chunks increasing and cementing her fitness level. Then she found a challenge organised by a group of women that saw her ride (virtually) to the base of Mt Everest – one that she said she did slowly, but ultimately built her confidence in her own capability. It was at this point that Meg had completed two major rides; one that tested her endurance, and another that tested her strength… now she just had to combine the two.

Being the logical, and very measured person that Meg is, balancing the art of nutrition, time management and physical fitness came naturally to her. Her approach was always to control the controllable, and leave the rest up to fate.

“I suppose for me planning made me a lot more comfortable with the effort – so if you’re somebody that’s feeling a little bit unsure and want to have all your ducks lined up definitely consider making a spreadsheet of where all the stops are, what you’re going to put in your valet bags for each stop, what your food is going to be; that gave me a sense of control in a very uncontrollable event. Outside of my training I couldn’t control how my body was going to react on the day, I couldn’t control how other people were going to ride around me, I couldn’t control the weather, but I could control my nutrition, I could control my equipment.”

Meg’s preparation didn’t stop there. She came along to Bicycle Network Women’s Community information sessions and heard from female wave leaders like Shel and Fats about their experience, which Meg described as helpful and empowering for her preparation. 

As the three months passed Meg spent her time riding 200 – 300km a week, and giving her body the necessary breaks inbetween to account for the increased load in training. Meg recruited the help of an app called ‘Sufferfest’ that complimented Meg’s physical training by adding yoga to the mix to improve her core, but also her mental training; goal setting, visualisation practise, and meditation.

She felt physically and mentally ready for the big day, but knew it wasn't going to be a cakewalk.

The ride itself was far from easy and Meg describes that there were moments of panic when she didn't think she would finish within the 13-hour time limit. It was during the last third of Hotham that Meg saw the dreaded red jersey of the lantern rouge passing by meaning that Meg was going to have to push hard, or risk being pulled from the course.

Whilst climbing isn’t her strength, Meg is lucky that descending is on her side, and the adrenaline of the 15-minute warning at Dinner Plain spurred her on to do the fastest 40km distance in her life to make-up the time. Having ridden Hotham and Tawonga Gap 5 weeks before the event, and the back of Falls a few years earlier, Meg was in familiar territory, but this didn’t make any of it any easier.

Meg powered on and managed to not walk a single step up the final peak. As she rode slowly but surely past some walkers, people were spurring her on and encouraging her up the mountain to reach the finish – “it was really inspiring to see” Meg describes. But nothing is as quite as inspiring as the feeling of coming up the back of Falls and seeing the lake appear in the distance; Meg was almost home.

“Coming around the lake when you know you’re going to make it is a really good feeling – oh my gosh it’s done, I’m going to do this and then you’re right, you come on down and into the finish line, it’s quite surreal, all the hours you put into it, and the whole days efforts really finishes in this one moment – I felt a real sense of accomplishment and pride and then also just camaraderie with everybody else around. We did this, we did this huge thing, and there’s people that you saw out the back of Falls that you didn’t have the energy to talk to, but you’re there with them at that time”.

All in all everyone’s Peaks experience is going to tell a different story, with different obstacles to overcome, and different outcomes, but at the end of the day Meg suggests playing to your strengths, balancing your training with adequate rest, and learning the crucial skills that you need to feel more comfortable and capable. Whether that be learning to eat and ride, practicing descending or climbing, getting accustom to riding in a larger group or improving your mental endurance. It won’t all be easy, but Meg promises it is all worth it.

"Everyone is there to support each other to get to the finish line – a huge part of what made it possible for me; knowing that my partner was supporting me, the women’s community was supporting me, but just everyone at Peaks was supporting me – it’s not a race, it’s an achievement.”

Learn more about the Peaks Challenge Women's Community here.

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