Our night started at 11pm, after failing to nap Steph, Beth and I met at my house to fit glowsticks to our spokes and ride down to the Botanical Gardens together. 2800 riders were participating in this first RTN and I’m glad we didn’t try to meet down there, because their was a simply massive number of riders. Riders were being sent out in waves of 100 and we were unlucky enough to be in the final group. Although maybe not that unlucky because the other option was standing in the rain for a couple of hours.
When we finally set off we found ourselves quickly bunched up with the groups in front to get through the first set of lights and waiting again. This would be a problem for the entire night. Many of the intersections became massive bottlenecks that caused problems such that even if you were riding faster than the required 9km/h to complete the course, you were constantly held up waiting for light cycles on what were effectively empty roads. Some intersections had traffic management in place. It would have been nice to have management on many more intersections to prevent bottlenecks. This said there were marshals everywhere to make sure we didn’t get lost. All super friendly, especially given they were standing out in the cold and the wet and would probably would have either been riding or in bed.
Once we finally got moving down to St Kilda it was pretty cruisy going with bikes in one lane and cars passing in the other. It started raining again but it didn’t bother us except that it made you not want to stick around at the rest stop. Back up the bay and through South Melbourne to St Kilda Road the second rest stop was also not that inviting because it was damp, but it was a good place for a loo break. Beth made a half-arsed attempt at the coffee queue, but it was just too slow. This was another problem for the event, the catering was simply overwhelmed, and so I didn’t even bother with it. Instead I relied on my bag of snacks to keep my energy up. A warm drink would have been nice though, I should have brought a thermos with me.
At this point we realised how late we were running. We hadn’t managed to get rolling until 1am and half the course would be closing at 2:30. We had to get north of Latrobe St by 2:30 to complete the course. There was a number of unsteady riders in front of us who we worked to pass but Steph was caught behind a set of lights and they closed the northern and eastern sections of the course on her!
We had no idea where she had gone. We slowed expecting her to come up from behind but she never did. As we arrived at Edinburgh Gardens (which is where we would wait) she texted to say she’d been cut off and was already in Fishermen’s Bend.
Being so close to home, sleepy, damp and having lost Steph made me seriously consider piking at this point. Beth talked me into pushing on. I started to get wonky on my bike as the sleepiness affected my balance. I struggled to wipe the rain from my glasses or turn properly. My reaction time started to lag and I almost ran straight into Beth because I’d not noticed she was stopping. People were really good about their calling actually, which helped compensate for the delayed reactions and long blinks.
We were cut off from the eastern loop at Olympic Park and directed back into the city. We stopped at the city stop to use the bathroom and have a dance at the silent disco. This really helped shake the sleep away and I felt refreshed enough figuring we didn’t have that far to go anyway. I thought it was Docklands and then Albert Park. I forgot we would be riding into Fisherman’s Bend, which came as a bit of a tired shock. By this point I was running on sheer determination alone.
I was so happy to finally hit Albert Park at the 60km mark. Although the anticipation of finishing and that final lap of the lake meant I decided it was time to empty the tank and actually use some higher gears. Again what probably would have been a nice post-ride rest was made uncomfortable by it being cold and damp. The provided catering had no options suitable for vegans (my 3rd criticism of the event) so I made do with a banana, a muesli bar and the rest of my chocolate.
The sun came up and I realised, of course, that I was still 7 or 8km from home. After Beth got her bagel we rode back up to St Kilda Rd with déjà vu for 4 hours prior when we’d taken the same route up Swanton and lost Steph. The ride had left a lot of detritus on the road in the form of lost glowsticks. Like the remnants a giant rave street party. Steph had informed me earlier that glowsticks are extremely toxic to marine life and was worried about how many would wash into the bay (my 4th criticism).
It should have been an easy, if not sleepy ride home. Unfortunately it transpired that Elgin St was closed for the tramworks, so instead we found ourselves taking wet pavé to get across Carlton. This is probably the only time I thought I might actually crash, I felt like I could barely keep my bike upright.
At 7am I got home and was so glad of a hot shower. I slept until midday before going into the workshop and finishing off a job that has been waiting for me for ages. I had a lot of fun, I’m glad we pushed each other to get it finished and I’m glad we did, even if we missed out on a section. I look forward to doing the ride next year, but I hope they can resolve some of the logistical problems around traffic management and access to warm drinks (even if it means it’s not barista made). I hope they also remember that some riders are vegans and have a plan in place to manage dangerous litter that ends up in the bay (or encourage people to try other lighting instead).
P.S. there’s lots of great photos on Twitter.