Purpose-built single track.
Over 2,000m cumulative descent.
These words stood out on the glossy pamphlet of the Mt Buller mountain biking trails map, as Kirren drove us back down the steep and winding road from Mt Buller over a year ago. We had just finished a day of mountain biking around the Mt Buller trails – my first real day of mountain biking – and I’d grabbed the pamphlet while returning my hired bike to the shop.
I grinned into the blinding sunset over the Victorian snowy mountains and made kirren promise we would come back here one day.
Fast forward a year and a bit later, past all the tantrums and struggles of actually learning how to mountain bike, and Kirren and I are making our way down to Mt Buller again. This time to tackle the Australian Alpine Epic.
I had just returned from 6 glorious weeks of hiking through New Zealand, and was fit as a fiddle – ready to tackle the 40kms and 1000+m of elevation gain.
Kirren, on the other hand, was still recovering from a rather terrible bout of pneumonia.
Like the wonderful girlfriend I am, I made him go anyway.
As a present, kirren and his wallet* hire me out a shiny dual suspension bike that fits me like a glove, instead of the crappy hard tail $200 too big bike I’ve been wrestling around the smooth ACT trails.
After a delay in the getting out of bed, and a kerfuffle with petrol, we are off on the trail for a bright and early start at the crack of mid-morning.
Things are going well. Life is good. Julie (my new name for the dual suspension wonder beast below me) is good. Sun is good. Tralallalaa.
Kirrens lungs are even behaving reasonably, and it doesn’t cause excruciating amounts of pain for him to breath in.
Then, about, oh, 5kms in to the 40km ordeal, my medically trained eyes zero in on the greatest hernia I’ve seen in 6 months.
Except its on the side of a bike tyre.
And that bike tyre is kirrens.
We hummmm and ermmmm and uhhmmm for a few precious time wasting minutes.
The inner tube is intact, but it won’t stay that way long. Should we go back?
Just like with Kirrens pneumonia, I refuse to let smell medical speedhumps ruin my dream.
We end up risking it, and with the help of my 8 weeks of standing bored around the operating theatre at Armidale Hospital watching hernia repair after hernia repair, I get to work.
I scrub in, put my surgical gloves, mask and gown on, and begin the delicate operation I have seen a thousand times.
Except I use medical tape, a $5 note and some super glue instead of sutures and hernia mesh.
And my patient didn’t get time to recover, because we are off pedaling hard to try and make up for lost time.
If you’ve ever done the Epic you’ll know you get to this certain point in the ride, where you’re not even 1/4 of the way through and its already taking way longer than you thought and your lungs are about to explode and you actually just want to die and nothing can be worth this absolutely shitty grovel.
Kirren and I were literally ready to give up. His lungs were aching and he was coughing and spluttering and looked rather ill (good work dr Mowgli) and I just hate uphill mountain biking. Then, suddenly, we were at the top.
It’s amazing how quickly you forget the sufferfest when you start going downhill. Then there was just a little more uphill to go, but by that stage I’d forgotten all about how much I hate uphill because the best part of the Epic was coming up.
10+km of sweet single track whipped me down the mountain and I was flying.
I flew past alpine bush, past subalpine ferns, past rocky bits in between. I Flew past burms and over jumps and down drops and along logs and just kept flying.
My knees were weak, my quads screamed, but I kept flying.
Then all too soon (not soon enough! My thighs yelled) we were at the bottom, and racing the clock up the river to the last shuttle bus of the day.
As we retraced our footsteps from a year before, I grinned into the blinding sunset over the Victorian snowy mountains. I made kirren promise to take me back (and his wallet to buy me a dual suspension bike).