Today began at the delightful hour of 3 am in the morning ahah. We had decided to do the backside of Doi Inthanon today and wanted to leave early around 4 am. So Doi Inthanon is the highest mountain in Thailand, and I've wanted to do it for ages, but was always too nervous I wouldn't be able to finish it. Last year I heard so many horror stories of people bonking left right and center, having to walk the last 10 kms, not making it all the way up, turning back, etc... So the mountain is 60 kms from Chiang Mai, so first you have to ride 60 kms to the climb, then climb up a +50 km climb, descend down that climb, then ride the 60 kms back home, so basically its a crazy fucking ride, and an insane daunting challenge. And to me, that just made me really nervous. But since hearing about it, I'd wanted to do it for so long. And one of our friends Vegard discovered this back road way that you can go up Inthanon, and he said that it was not only harder but much more scenic. He basically said it was like the most beautiful climb. So when we decided to do the ride, I guess we just decided to go all out haah, I hadn't even done the normal way and just decided to do the harder back way haha. Harley did it a few days ago, and he said that the back road made the normal Inthanon look easy ahah. So it's safe to say that this morning I was pretty fucking nervous. But I'd eaten a fuck ton the day before, and I had faith that I could do it. I'd also been basically resting all week since monday. I'd just cruised up ultra slow everyday to save my legs for today and boy did it pay off.
So I honestly had no idea who was really coming on the ride, but the group that ended up going was Griff, Biggi, Jesse, Nicole, Robin, Erwan, Karl, Andrew, and Nathalina. Sam, Anton and Cleo also went but they left later and never caught us up so we didn't really see them on the ride.
So we met everyone outside Maya at 4, and it was pitch black ahah. Well everyone except Erwan. He was running late... as per usual ahahah. But after waiting awhile, we just decided to have him meet us on the road. I'd never ridden so early in the dark and it was actually so magical. So we were riding on the highway section to the base of the climb in the dark, and the temperature was just perfect. It was like 20 degrees, and it felt so eerily magical. The sun was just starting to rise, and the sky was starting to brighten. It was so incredible to be out so early and to basically watch the day begin. We were all just riding in a train along the road at like 30 km/h without really even pushing any watts. It's just such a smooth flat fast road I felt like we were just floating on air haha. We stopped at a few 7/11s to get food. So this morning even though it was so early and I was NOT hungry, I had a big bowl of oats, then at the 7/11s I got coconut water juices, and had a few gels and cliff bars. For the first few hours of the ride, my stomach felt super uncomfortable because it was just such awful combinations of food ahah, but as I kept riding I started feeling better and better. Anyways, so along the way to the climb, after about 40 kms we entered this rural village like area. We started passing all these road side stalls that were all still closed, and all these thai locals that were just SHOCKED at seeing us. They would all just stare at us, some waved, some took photos of us, and some were super keen to chat with us ahah. One of them was like: where are you guys going? And Griff said: Doi Inthanon! are you coming with us? LOL
We also saw sooooo many animals, I saw elephants, cows, sheep, snakes, and the cutest little squirrel who we named Timmy! When we were approaching the climb, I knew it was gonna be like a 4-5 hour climb, and I was totally out of water, so the last like km before the climb we were just all on the lookout for any kind of shop that sold water. Finally we found a shop that was open, and I loaded up on water and some juice. Then we hit the climb, right out of the gate, we hit a 40 minute climb that was steep and long. It was the equivalent of like 600 m of elevation, so it was a nice little warm up teaser to show us whats to come haha. Pretty much each climb was like at least 7%, and most were over 10%. This is when I realized how incredible my 40 cassette is. Because even though my cadence was still pretty low, it would have been SOOOOO much harder in my 32. Then there were some rolling sections of hills, before more and more climbing ahah. One of my favorite parts of the ride was all the beautiful butterflys that accompanied us on the ride. There were seriously SO many and they were just flying all around us. Most of them were this beautiful white/lilac/light green shade. And they just flittered around us for most of the ride. It honestly made me feel like a fairytale, it was so whimsically magical. For majority of the first half of the Inthanon climb, I was riding with Griff, Biggi, Jesse, and sometimes Robin and Erwan. And man, they were just the best riding partners. Fuck, I was just laughing SO hard at all of Jesse's commentary. He had something to say about everything and it just cracked me up. I think I was just in such a happy positive mood, that I was in this mood to just laugh hysterically at anything really lol. Jesse would say things like: SMASHING IT. or JUST DO IT. or LOOK AT WOODY WOODPECKER GO. But my fav was when Griff and Jesse would joke about their 40 cassettes, they would put it in the 40 and spin ridiculously high cadence just to prove a point how easy it makes it toclimb. And basically just being so sarcastic and mocking them LOL. I was just laughing so hard I was almost tearing up LOL. Then we also sang some Shania Twain together and we just all chatted and enjoyed each others company and the epic ride. And because I was around them, and we were just going at talking pace and chatting, the time just ticked by effortlessly. Around 2000 m elevation, I was just so shocked by how fresh I still felt. I kept thinking it was gonna get harder, and that I'd start getting more tired, but I just felt strong and fresh the entire way basically ahah..
But I hadn't even talked about the best part. The best part about this ride was just that it was the most stunning ride I'd ever been on. Like legit, it was the most scenic beautiful ride of my life. Never have I ever seen such jaw dropping awe inspiring views. Even before we started climbing we were just surrounded by the most majestic mountains with this eerily beautiful mist surrounding the peaks. But during the climb, we'd be at like 2000 m and there were still mountains looming above us. And the vegetation surrounding us was just so unique, and magical. It changed from an almost jungle rainforest like surrounding, to more pine trees and evergreen vegetation. We were even surrounded by these incredibly vibrant red trees for awhile. And honestly, everytime we got to a clearing and we could see into the distance it would just be the most stunning views of LOOMING mountains, and rice patty fields. JUST EPIC. And bro, the weather today was just insanely perfect. It was clear blue skies, white fluffy clouds, and the temperature the entire climb basically was just perfect. It was like around 20 degrees, which is PERFECT riding weather. And because it wasn't too hot, we never got the insane exhaustion that comes from just being under the relentless sun for hours and hours on end. Harley also gave me some advice before I left which was: drink before you're thirsty and eat before you're hungry. And because of that, I was so on top of my hydration and nutrition today. I wasn't once dehydrated or feeling faint and undercarbed. I was just full of energy and brimming with excitement and awe basically the entire ride. There were SO many moments where I'd just be flying down a hill, or looking out at the most incredible mountains, and I'd honestly just by myself, start laughing out loud to myself ahah. I just wasn't able to contain my joy or merriment. It was like a welling up of happiness and bliss inside of me that had to be let out, and so I'd just laugh and grin. I swear, for majority of the ride today, I had a smile plastered on my face.
Then when we had about 30 km left to go, we had dropped everyone else, and it was just Griff, Biggi, Jesse and Erwan. And then, before we knew it, we were at the security check point which signalled 10 kms to go until the top! So at this checkpoint you're usually supposed to pay like 300 baht, but Griff, Erwan and I managed to just roll through. But Jesse and Biggi got caught and had to pay. So we just rolled easy and eventually Biggi caught us. Then Erwan dropped back when we hit a really steep section, and soon enough it was just Biggi, Griff and I. The three musketeers riding together once again. It reminded me of our New Zealand days, riding with them. They're probably like my fav people to ride with, and it was so memorable to have ridden the final 10 kms wtih them. So these last 10 kms have been hyped up heaps by everyone who's ever done this climb. I've heard all about how steep they are, and how the last 5 kms especially are meant to be just like a fucking wall. And so I was prepared mentally, but honestly, because I had the 40, I really didn't struggle that much. Yes it was tough as fuck, but I just kept going at a consistent pace, and it went pretty well. Griff and Biggi said that last year when they did it on their 32, they were snaking all over the place, but this year it felt so easy to them. And I agreed, honestly this entire ride was just so much easier than I had expected. And I think that's because:
1. I had a 40 cassette
2. I thrive in long endurance rides. They're my fav.
3. I ate a fuck ton of carbs the day before.
4. The weather was perfect.
5. I was riding with rad people.
6. I had a positive attitude.
But at about 4 kms to go, a guard stopped us, and we were all thinking that, the guards at the gate had called ahead and told them to stop us to make us pay ahha. But it turns out they were just letting us know that one of our friends had crashed. At the time all they could tell us was that it was a guy, and that he was 11kms back and had had a graze. We found out later that it was Karl and that he had broken his collar bone! Poor guy :(
Anyways, when we realized there wasn't much we could do, we pushed on, and just got the last 4 kms done, and then.... we were at the top. EASY DONE! It was seriously just surreal, that I had just climbed the tallest mountain in Thailand, and that it had felt just effortless and so incredible. I was just on this insane high pretty much for the rest of the day. So we walked up just to see the rock that said the elevation we were at, then basically headed back down. On our way down we saw the rest of our crew, and besides jesse and nathalina, everyone else looked just fucked and exhausted. They were snaking and just didn't seem to be feeling good. So after a super chilly but FUN descent, we stopped about 12 kms down at this little market, and waited for the rest of them while refuelling. I just had a cliff bar and juice, and the guys smashed down like 4 packs of oreos each ahaha. We ended up waiting like over 20 minutes before everyone caught us up. Andrew didn't make it all the way to the top, and turned back with a few kms to go. we also ran into Anton, who had decided not to do the last 10 kms, so after they all got food and refuelled we all rode down together. But while they were getting food, I noticed Andrew eating PUMPKIN seeds out of a ziploc baggie, ahaha, and I was like, brooooo no more nuts and seeds, get in some CARBS lol :P Anyways, On the descent down, I stayed with the guys most of the way down, and man was it a fast descent. I'd never descended so fast in my entire life, I think the max speed I hit was over 80 km/hr! And once we got to the 7/11 at the base, we all restocked once again on some more food and water. Then we waited for the rest of the group to catch up, and when they did we joined them. So from that point on we had over 60 kms of riding under the blistering mid day sun until we got back to Chiang Mai. I felt fresh as a daisy still, but a few of the others were struggling. And after about 10 kms of riding, Andrew was just not having an easy time, so we stopped and helped him find a song tao home. By that point he was just so tired and undercarbed, it was hard for him to concentrate, so I just told him to go stand by the trees, to take my dried bananas and eat them all, and I'd take care of finding a car to hitch hike home with or a song tao. it took over 10 minutes, but finally a yellow song tao that was free stopped, and I sprinted over, asked if they could take one passenger to chiang mai, and then got Andrew to hop on, and off he went! By then the rest of the group had already left, and it was just me, Griff, Biggi and anton who had waited with Andrew so us 4 started back on the road to HOME :D At first it was just me drafting the guys, and them 3 rotating taking turns on the front, but then I realized that I felt strong and fresh, why should I be letting them do all the work and have all the fun while I just sit on the back staring at their asses? lol So I told them I wanted to take a turn, so then we all started taking turns, and that's when it got really fun for me heheh. I realized that I loved working at the front, I loved being in the lead, and feeling like I'm looking out for everyone behind me. It makes the ride much more interesting, since you have to be much more aware and switched on, watching out for hazards and looking ahead constantly. Then we started going two abreast, so Griff and I would sit on the front, then rotate with Biggi and anton. And man we were just flying back at like 30-40 km/hr! I just LOVED it! then we caught up with Nicole, and she was pretty dead, so I gave her my last gel, and we all encouraged her and watched out for her! She is one determined girl! She said she wanted to finish the ride, and finish it she did! Griff and I just took turns at the front with Biggi and Anton, while Nicole and this random thai rider (who joined us for awhile) sat on the back.
And after making one last stop for water, we blasted the rest of the way home. When I saw the city square I knew we were on the home stretch, and then before I knew it, we were turning onto Suthep road, and I could see Maya mall. And then next thing I knew, I was in my room showering washing away the grime and sweat from todays epic adventure. Man I just look back on that ride, and seriously it was the most perfect, beautiful, incredible, magical, AWE-some, extraordinary, amazing ride of my life. Like FUCK, i just fucking had the time of my life.
This is the ride that I did: https://www.strava.com/activities/596919999#kudos
Then after quickly showering, washing my kit, and uploading my strava (duh priorities lol), we headed to Maya mall for food. But first, Griff and I headed to Rimping to get some groceries. I got soy milk, greens, and cooked sweet potatoes, and while there I ran into one of my friends Katie who I stayed with on the sunshine coast!!! How cool is that? I also bumped into a few of the people from the festival, and after chatting for a bit, two of the guys said they watched my videos, and it was so incredibly humbling and heartwarming to hear. Then a group of girls, came and started talking to me, asking me about my ride, about the cereal I eat hear and what not haha. A few of them said I'm a lot shorter in person than they expected which I found quite funny ahah. Anyways, after Rimping, I just got some rice, ate that with my sweet potatoes and lots of sweet chilli sauce while chatting with Anton, Biggi and Griff. Then Vegard and Eva joined us, and we had the best time just chatting with him about the ride, and telling him all our stories. Vegard told me that he always feels high on life after doing Inthanon but then he crashes hard the next day... so I'm a little worried for tomorrow now ahah. Anyways, after chatting awhile, I headed back, wrote my blog, then went to Bonny's room and foam rolled while catching up with her and Em, eating some leftovers with rice, then eating more rice and more weetbix in Griffs room. Then going back to my room and eating my oatmeal, and then FINALLY getting to bed just after 10:30. It's been a long fucking day, but a pretty incredible one. I am so incredibly grateful to be here experiencing this incredible thing we call life.