powered by HONDA

Australian Professional Cyclist

Wake Up Call

Failure can be debilitating. 

When Tadej Pogacar lost this year’s Tour De France, I wonder how long the disappointment and frustration lingered before he turned his attention and focus towards becoming unbeatable in his next feat? (BTW – I don’t personally consider his performance this year a ‘failure’.) Just to make that clear!

For me, this time, it was 48hrs before I could put my failure behind me and find the determination to focus on working harder and more importantly, strategically putting myself in a stronger position to succeed. 

I arrived in Chamonix late SUNDAY night after a horrible day of travel; delayed and eventually cancelled flight then, to top it off, my transfer driver was late to collect me from Geneva.

MONDAY, I woke up early to prepare for a UCI Road Commission meeting which went from 9am-1pm. It was informative and a very conversational meeting on a variety of topics. Productive. After lunch I ventured out in Chamonix to purchase some items for my next 3-day expedition which was starting the next morning. I had been sent a checklist and was missing a few things; silk sleeping bag (liner), ear plugs, sun cap, Nalgene bottle 1.5L, 2 x screw carabiners, 2 x slings (6mmx60cm & 6mmx120cm). I felt unwell with lower stomach cramps so I also popped into the pharmacy. Once I’d found everything I needed, I returned to my hotel and packed for the 3-day expedition.

TUESDAY: 7am: I went down to the hotel breakfast and took two mouthfuls of eggs before racing back to my room – I threw up. I called my doctor and got the all clear to ‘have a go’. My guide @cristinapogacean picked me up from my hotel at 8am and we drove a couple of hours into Italy to climb the highest summit in Italy, La Gran Paradiso (4061m). I told my guide Cristina that I’d not been feeling well and I’d like to start off very slow.

The plan was to climb from the village car park (1800m) up to the Rifugio at 2732m. Easy right, less than 1000m’s of climbing (2-2.5hrs). Yes, it’s described as easy however, I was in all sorts of trouble just walking 500m from the carpark to the hiking trail! I tried to stay positive, believing the fresh air and nature would do me some good. I thought my body was just releasing some stress from the past few days – putting my apartment on the market and selling my business etc to help pay for my Everest Summit attempt. It was only 30min later when my mind started to whirl up with negative thoughts like; what have I got myself into, I haven’t done any exercise for months, this is unachievable, how can I be so unfit, it’s not meant to be this hard, what’s wrong with me. I got frustrated with my doctor and the company who are planning my Everest Summit preparation etc. I started to put the onus on others for not pointing out that even a small summit attempt with zero exercise for the past 6 weeks was not realistic. I felt embarrassed that my guide had to wait every 200m for me – I just couldn’t walk any faster. I kept pushing and trying to turn my negative thoughts into positive ones however it wasn’t until my last steps into the Rifugio at 2,732m when I started to tell myself – tomorrow’s a new day, perhaps I’ll feel much better!

I had a good feed (pasta) slept until 6pm, ate again and went to bed at 8pm with my alarm set for 3:30am, ready for the next day’s summit attempt of La Gran Paradiso.

WEDNESDAY: I woke up feeling optimistic. We set off at 4am with our headlamps and we were the first out the door – with a few larger groups still getting themselves ready. Once again, right from the start, I couldn’t climb at the slow pace of my guide, she was trying to go as slow as she could but I kept getting dropped, she had to keep waiting for me! I think we had only climbed about 30min before headlights from behind were fast approaching. As they caught me, I stepped aside and let them all past, I tried to jump on the back of groups but couldn’t hold their pace for longer than 20 seconds. Group by group passed us and within another 30 min, their lights were out of sight. I pushed on for another hour and just as the sun was coming up we could see the summit, it didn’t look so far away however Cristina said, we’ve only climbed about 30% of the ascent. I asked her to stop for a minute. I stood there and made a quick calculation that at this speed, we were not going to make the summit before the storm was to roll in at around 11am. I knew I couldn’t move any faster and that I was getting more and more fatigued – also considering that descending is not easy (perhaps even more difficult than climbing – for me) once the quads lose stability, then there’s a much larger risk of injury. I quickly came to the conclusion that I was not well (my head was spinning and I was nauseous) plus, I was super under prepared.

I looked at Cristina and said, let’s turn back. No discussion, we turned back. On the way back down to the Rifugio she asked if I wanted to keep going all the way back down to the car park (we had planned to stay at the Rifugio). I said, let’s stop at the Rifugio, have some lunch and a nap…. Then see if I’m up for it. I woke up from my nap. I felt like staying in our little dorm and sleeping however, I was also dreaming of a nice hot shower and a comfy bed back at the hotel in Chamonix. So, I got up and we got moving. My quads were losing stability towards the bottom and I was still feeling quite unwell. It became quite clear very quickly that I’m not super woman and these goals and attempts require not only a base level of fitness but – a very high level of climbing specific fitness and preparation. A reality check, I have a lot of work to do and it’s not going to be a walk in the park. Climbing & training (and health) will need to become my primary focus for the next 7 months. Even then, will I be ready to attempt the Everest Summit? Some people prepare over 10yrs and make many attempts before actually reaching the summit.

Doubts are creeping in however, there is only one thing I can do – start preparing!! My favourite quote; fail to prepare, prepare to fail. That’s exactly what I just experienced at La Gran Paradiso.

Thursday: I slept most of the day with extremely sore muscles all over and VERY bad allergy symptoms. Looking at the weather (rain, sun, rain) and the poor air quality here at the moment, I could also consider I suffered from allergies on the climb.

Friday/Saturday: Rest the muscles, stretch, plan, focus.

Sunday: 7-day guided training course starts!

Stay Tuned.

website design by essendon web