Friday, December 26, 2008

Off Track – Plans are a Changing

Since the Hammerhead things haven’t really gone to plan, as evidenced by my lack of posting. My legs were completely trashed after that race, and mentally I was also completely spent. Although I managed to go singlespeeding and do some shuttles in the week after the race my head wasn’t in a training space and I ended up not riding at all at the weekend. I did however go watch some downhilling, very cool to see Rita race, and had a group of lovely cycling women over for a BBQ (including Emmeline Ragot, a really lovely French chick who’s currently the World Cup number 4 ranked woman in downhill!!!!). The BBQ was great fun and it was really great to have a group of women together from many different disciplines of this sport we all love, talking about riding. It will have to be repeated in the future.
The following week I had 3 days in Wellington for work and couldn’t get out riding as the meetings were all day affairs. I was able to be home for Wednesday so we headed up Kennedy’s, tackling the Croc first. Bollocks is all I can say. The Croc is quickly becoming my nemesis. I know I can ride it, I’ve done it a couple of times, but it seems like if I’m tired or stressed at all it quickly turns into a nightmare ride of hyperventilating and rubbish riding. I was not a happy camper when I eventually struggled to out at the top, but luckily that didn’t last. I actually made it much further up Kennedy’s than I expected after the nightmare of the Croc and while Pete and Michelle continued up to the top I blasted back down and did some little hill repeats of the little bit of down hill singletrack. Zoom up the 4wd drive as fast as I can, race down the singletrack, and repeat as necessary. I managed to get 3 hill climbs and 2 and a half descents in before Pete and Michelle appeared and I was grinning from ear to ear again. Which makes me think, if you are having a shite day on the bike, let all that crap out – have a wee tanty, then get back on the bike. It certainly made me feel better.
After that no more riding till the weekend and then there was very fun singlespeeding in the muddy wet forest. My legs were finally working again (phew) and my brain was fully back in the right place. Yay. Monday saw me back out on the roadie for the first time in months and months. It was a great wee 30km ride and I completely hammered the wee rollers on Cashmere Downs for the first time. Yes! Unfortunately there was a rather painful side effect that appeared as a result of this ride. My poor butt, and in particular my sit bones are not used to my roadie seat anymore and the next day I woke up with the mother of all saddle sores. So no riding on Tuesday and to make matters worse it actually kept me awake during the night. Bugger, I really wanted to ride on Wednesday, but no, it was not to be. Luckily by Wednesday evening it had settled down in time for Christmas, but no riding was done.
So this has lead to some tough decision making this morning. Obviously I very very much want to do the race in Bannockburn on the 30th, however it is a long long way to drive ($$$$) for an hour and a half (hopefully) on the bike. There are other complicating factors around New Years and friends visiting from Japan so Pete and I have decided to flag the race. This makes things a lot more simple, but I’m still feeling a bit gutted, I really like this race and was very much looking forward to the measure of progression it would have given me. Now I have to wait till April to do a race I’ve done before and see that progression. Bugger. On the plus side, there will be some riding of Hanmer, Craigieburn and possibly Wharfedale or Poulter Valley to make up for it. Yay.

Finally, belated Merry Christmas all. I got a lovely new camera which will let me take much better photos of biking for my blog. Here’s a few wee shots from my play session with it yesterday. Coffee anyone??

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Skillz – Shuttles Rock

Shuttles up Vic Park again last night with scatter. (I really should get a photo of me in my fullface and pads for here). I haven’t been on the bike since the Hammerhead, but it has a new derailleur hanger since my crashes at the weekend and I put its big fat tyres on. We managed to make the 4:40pm shuttle this time and headed down Brake-Free, Seasame St, Dazzas, Brents, Bridges and out. As scatter is faster than me I picked my own lines through Brents and ended up riding the 3 drops (no worries) in the top half at low speed. Yay. On Bridges however I took the wrong line and ended up at the top looking down a wall of death. After a brief wave to scatter in the distance I daintily walked down, which was bloody difficult. We missed out on getting on the next shuttle but scored a ride with some nice boys back to the top. This time no mucking about, straight down Seasame St (not the best lines from me this time), Dazzas (nice flow), Brents (nana lines all the way), Bridges (ahhhh, you turn right there) and then I rode Double Drop for the first time (couldn’t be bothered getting off and pushing my bike down). WOW! That was scary but soooooooooooo fun. Blast down the 4wd track doing hucks and catch the next shuttle.
Back up the top and nice to get into the fresh air (it was a bit stinky in the bus on this run) and we decided to session Brake Free and practise our jumping skills. Wee, fun, but really tiring. Scatter showed me how to do the first double and I got it. Yeah!!! I also managed to hit a couple of the big tabletop jumps perfectly. Yes, yes, yes. It was actually bloody hard work just doing laps of this small track but I really felt like I was making huge progress, thanks scatter.
Then it was time to head down. I nailed Seasame St this time and managed to keep up with scatter most of the way down, a first. Then Dazzas (fast, fast, fast) and into Brents (nana lines again, silly I’m definitely riding the top drops next time) and Bridges. I knew the lines this time and then Double Drop, where I nearly had a whoopsie, but my new found skills saved me.
It was definitely the best ride I’ve had, which is saying something because I’ve been loving being on the bike at the moment. I feel like my skills, well my downhill skillz, are better than they’ve ever been and I just need to work on my fitness to get my up and across skills up there as well. I would highly recommend shuttling to anyone who wants to get a bit more confidence into their descending. Riding the same bits of track over and over in a short space of time without the oxygen debt of climbing really gives you a great sense of how the bike moves, what lines to hit and how fast (or much faster) you can go.
I guess its back to the hills for me. I should also try and find the motivation to do more roadie work, but my bouncy bike is just so much more fun. I think shuttling will definitely have to be a semi-regular thing though, its just so good.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Maxed Out – The Hammerhead

Way back in March was the last time I went riding in Hanmer Springs and reading my blog entries from that trip really shows me how far my riding has come.

We got into Hanmer just after lunch on Saturday and checked into our cabin at the Alpine Adventure Tourist Camp (very nice it was too, in fantastic secluded surroundings). We were both feeling a bit flat so it was an effort to get into riding gear and head out for a pre-ride in the heat. We called into Krank for an updated trail map and to get the skinny on the course from Neil. After a good chat we were on our way warned of loose gravel and nasty little tree stumps on the new track Mac 1. We gave this track a couple of rides and Neil was right, it was very loose in the tight corners, there would be carnage in the race for anyone who over-cooked those (hehehe). We then had a blast down camp track and back along Dog Stream, checking the entrance for the race off Jolliffe Rd, again potential for carnage. Then we headed up the road till we got to the exit of Bigfoot where it hooked up with Nature Trail. I’ve never ridden this so in we went. A nice little trail with a couple of scary bridges with no sides. Then up Detox. I really wanted to practise riding the rock drop in this section as last time I was here there was no way I would consider it. My first attempt was terrible. I took the hardest line over the highest steepest point in the middle and got bounced off my brakes and then over braked when I got them back. Only a small amount of skin off my leg as a reward (I was quite worried it might be worse before I looked at it, yay resilient skin).

Not too put off I was determined to get it right and this time surveyed the lines before heading in. After establishing that heading to the right would be best I was over and it was easy. Tyres hooked up on the rock excellently and I felt completely in control at all times, bring on the race.

Race day dawn with a chorus of bellbirds and I was a bit nervous. By the time we got to the Trust Camp for registration I was really really nervous and struggling to keep my breakfast down. I was worried I’d be too slow and get mown down by the elites, or that I wouldn’t handle the intensity of the climbs and I wouldn’t finish. Waiting at the start line I just wanted to get going as I was actually starting to psych myself out a bit. Then we were off, up the very gentle incline of the shingle road. I stuck to my strategy of take it fairly easy off the start line and that proved to be a good idea as when we rounded the corner to enter the Mac 1 single-track there was a line!!!! After standing round for half a minute or so we were off and I was right behind a group of girls. Their speed kept me in check on the single-track so I exited with no dramas and then we were flying towards a short 4wd climb to Black Dog. One of the girls from the group was quite close to me and I decided I wanted to be ahead of her into the single-track and so for the first time in a race I passed someone going up a hill. Yeah! Flew down Black Dog, zigged zagged through the trees and the finish chicane and then out onto the road, down Camp Track and then the climb up the road to Timberlands. I Hate Timberlands and knew it would be my biggest test in the race. The first lap went really well and I rode the whole thing, slowly, but on the bike the whole time. Then out into the baking sun and up the road some more where the chick I had past previously raced away from me and then zoom down the other side. I was pretty conservative on this descent as I wasn’t sure how far it was before the turn into Dog Stream. Made a nice turn into the single-track carrying good speed and then I went into conservative mode knowing there was the really big climb up Bigfoot ahead. I had however forgotten how long the climb up the road was, it went on and on and I clung to the shadows to conserve energy and adopted my favoured spin spin spin, low body position. At the entrance to Bigfoot I let some faster people through and headed up. First set of switchbacks, no worries, 2nd set, the same, 3rd set, small dap, 4th set someone off in front of me so had to run round the 2nd corner. Up and up I climbed (rasping my lungs out as the intensity increased) nailing all the switch backs. Finally though my lungs ran out of puff and my heart felt like it was going to explode out of my chest and I had to walk the last 2 sets (there’s about 20 switchbacks in total). I gave myself a second for my vision to clear and then I was off. YeeeeeeHaaaaaaa, that climb was sooo worth it. Down the hill I flew, over drop offs round tight corners, through rooty sections and into ruts. It was fantastic and I was grinning like an idiot at the bottom. I almost overshot the entrance to Nature Trail in my enthusiasm, but I pulled it together and settled into a slow climb. Out into the now really blazing sun on the 4wd drive up to Detox and it was like being in an oven. There was no breeze and the sun sucked the moisture right out of you and your energy with it. I settled into a gentle spin, but it was hurting and I knew I was in trouble for the rest of the race. Finally a tight right hand turn and the breeze was back and the rest of the climb was bearable. Unfortunately by now the elite men had started passing me and I knew my descent was going to be holding these guys up. I hate descending under pressure but I decided I was going to just ride my lines and be very clear that I wouldn’t be moving till I was comfortable. So when I heard the call of “Rider” I’d just call back “I’m not moving yet” and when I could I’d move off to the left. This meant I felt obliged to take the chicken line and miss the rock drop on my first lap whichw as disappointing but it took the pressure off for a second. Detox was really fun and I was grinning again at the bottom.
Onto the road and my blast down was slightly curtailed as I braked to let some elites into the single-track of Mac 1 before me. No one in front of me this time and boys whipping past I was going much faster into the gravelly corners than before. Which was all good, until it wasn’t and my tyres just let go. Owwwww! Bollocks, that really really hurt. Back on the bike and feeling a bit despondent.

Out of the singletrack on and up to Black Dog. Zip down and someone calls out “Go Mel” from the timing caravan and I feel much better (no idea who it was, but thanks). I can do this. It’s about finishing, you know you’re going to be at the end of the pack, but you will finish. Second lap and mentally it’s actually easier, just 2 big climbs. Zip down Camp Track, up the road to Timberlands. Legs completely toasted, spin spin grind grind grind, shit. Walk walk walk. Plenty of people are streaming past me now, but that actually doesn’t bother me, must finish though. Back on the bike and spin up the single-track and out into that bloody sun. Up the road and then down the road, much faster, I know where the turn off is this time. Into the single-track and conserve. Mentally I’m struggling with the climb ahead of me, shit my legs are gone, how am I going to do it. Crawl up the road in the shade and a very nice man tells me to keep my head up as it opens your chest and makes breathing easier. I thank him for the advice and then think I must be looking bloody awful for such advice to be given. Finally the start of the single-track is in front of me and it’s as bad as I thought. My legs have nothing to give. I only manage to make it up the first 4 sets of switchbacks and then I’m walking. Gutted, but I have to finish and this is the only way I’ll do it. I look at my speedo and am gratified to see that I’m probably walking faster than I could ride at this stage. Finally I reach the top and again enjoy the fantastic ride down, although there’s a faint hint of terror lurking in the back of my mind as I’m feeling super dopey from exhaustion. I ride all my lines and make it to the bottom an extremely happy camper. Up into Nature Trail and then onto the “road of death” to Detox. I just can’t ride it, I’m soo spent. I push my bike for a while till it levels off a bit and then spin slowly to the right hand corner and into the breeze. No one is around me this time and I nail the rock drop. The rest of the lap is just pain. I’m out of water and the fuel tank is not only empty, its fallen off and is lying somewhere on Timberlands. At one point I start singing Mr Brownstone out loud to trying and keep going and it works. Finally I’m in the final single-track, zipping through the trees and speeding over the finish line. I’m very broken but am getting better at hiding it. I get some water straight into me and after a while it’s the prize giving and my name is called out as 3rd in the Sport 30-39yrs Women. Wooo hoooo.

Anyone looking closely at the results will see that I also managed to come last, but hey, I finished, I got a place and I had fun. I rode the same amount of track in this race as during the whole time I was in Hanmer in March so I’ve gotten soooo much fitter. And I have a very nice set of scrapes to show for my efforts, and a NZ Mtb Calendar. Today I feel terrible. I think I managed to give myself some heat stroke on the drive home as our air-con in the car doesn’t work. By the time we got to Amberly I was a mess and we had to stop for some cool air and food. Met up with Andy and Cath at the Nor-Wester and they had the same problem!! I’ve never felt this bad after a race so I’m planning on resting up this week.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Big Ups, Big Downs - The Moa Hunt

Pete and I left Christchurch around 4pm on Friday to travel to Kaikoura and camp the night. It was a nice drive and we had our tent mansion set up fairly quickly upon arrival. We scouted out some substandard food and were tucked up in bed nice and early. My alarm went off at 5:30am the next morning and we got up and started eating, and packing. The tent was soaked and not much fun to pack up. We were on the road before 7 and got to Kekerengu before 8. Pete discovered he had a broken spoke but the lovely Slim came to his aid and put a new one in for him, thanks heaps! Registration formalities were completed and the transponder (grrrrrrrrr) fastened to the front of our bicycles.
The start was the most crowded, stop-start one I’ve ever been in, lots of tripodding and then out into the river bed. Carried the bike through three braids of the river, wet feet, but soon was spinning through the gravel, across some shallow streams and out onto the road. Gentle spin up the tarmac and then a left hand turn at the moa (poor man in a heavy looking suit, it was very very hot in the sun) and the dreaded climb began. Up and up and up the 4wd track in the baking sun. I dropped straight into grannies and settled into an easy cadence to conserve energy. I kept my breathing under control and made sure I took the path of least resistance all the time. That was my strategy for the whole race, spin, breath, spin, plan, breath, spin, relax. It was fairly steep from that point on for the next 40 mins, lots of zig zagging up and lots of people pushing. Also a number of runners going past. Urgh. I keep spinning to the first false top and then I could see the portaloos at the top of the first 450m climb in the distance. Spin spin spin. Up past the portaloos and still climbing? Hmmmmm. This was my first clue that the profile and course description might have understated the climbing a bit. It did level off a bit and the views were stunning and I continued on, knowing the really steep bit was still up ahead. Uh-oh, downhill! Bugger. I pass a few people on this downhillish bit, but didn’t really enjoy it as I knew it meant the 200m climb ahead was going to be more like 250 or 300. And then it was in front of me. Back into grannies and spin, breath, spin, breath, pick smooth lines, stay low to the bars, relaxed upper body, thumbs on top, spin, breath, spin, breath, good smooth cadence, conserve energy. Lots of people walking this climb, but that seemed like the hard way for me, I really really didn’t want to waste energy pushing my heavy bike. The sun beat down like a hammer (good cliché, but apt) and I was making sure I drank a small sip every couple of minutes as the sweat was streaming out of me. Finally I made to the top of Moa Saddle at 640m, and 2 hours in. I was feeling good, I hadn’t been off my bike except to grab a cup of water to drink and pour over my head. Now for the fun fun fun downhill, and it lived up to expectations. I flew down it, passing people, calling strongly in plenty of time, only passing when then didn’t have to move. At my end of the field there’s not many strong descenders, even in the boys so I was passing everyone, well somewhere between 10 and 15 people. It was rutty with big loose rocks, tight switchback turns, steep sections and then a fun rollercoaster section with a steep straight descent into a steep climb back up the other side. I went into it with no braking and almost got air at the top of the climb I was going so fast. Full of adrenaline and smiles I continued on to the halfway point and was climbing again. Hmmmmm. I knew there was 3 “pinch” climbs ahead and after a chat to a woman going past me I decided that they must to somewhat more than little short climbs. Back into grannies and starting to feel it. The heat was really starting to get to me and after spinning for a while I sought shelter in the manuka and had a rest for about 10 minutes. I chatted to a few people including a woman who’d also done the Molesworth this year and we both agreed that this was much much much harder. I had some melted food and back on the bike. I was trying to conserve my water a bit as I knew there were no drinks stations up here. Spin spin spin, up the hill. Harder to control my breathing now and feeling tired. But still spinning, through the mud bogs and little creeks, spin spin spin. Then a slip on the track with a very steep slope to get up and I had to walk for the first time. Disappointing. Back on the bike on the top and wee down the other side across the stream and up up up a very steep nasty section. No breathing control here, just full noise and full effort to get up. Grind grind grind. Keep going, don’t walk, you’re bike is heavy. Bugger. Just couldn’t keep going. Flopped over the top tube, struggling to get breathing and heart rate under control. My spirits were greatly lifted by a woman who went past me and told me she was really impressed with my climbing to get to there. Yay. Push push push and bugger again, it was only a few more metres before the slope settled down a bit. Ah well, the perils of biking around the side of hills.

Back on the bike and spin spin spin to the top. Crikey, not sure how much more of this I can do. Legs feeling pretty wrecked. Then I made the mistake of looking at how far I’d come, 23kms! Aaarggghh, so far still to go. 2 more of these climbs. Shit. Weeeee down the other side, pass the people who passed me, stretch the legs, have a breather. And then back into the climbing. Hurting lots now, grind grind grind. Pop. Nasty steep bits, push push push. Pant pant pant. That second climb is a blur of pain and heat, but I must have made it. I know there was a bit of pushing and then some weeeeeeee, downhill and then more up. Spin spin spin, stick to the plan, try and relax. More hills stretching into the distance, spin, spin, spin, BONK. I just had to stop in the shade. My muesli, nut and energy bars had melted so much that I couldn’t eat them on the bike and it was just so hot. Rest in the shade, eat entire nut bar, take some photos. Chat to people. I could see the track stretching away across the hills and it seemed to go on forever. My water bladder was feeling very light which was a concern and mentally it was becoming tougher to keep going up. I had no idea how much climbing I’d done, but I was at the 3 hour mark on my speedo and it seemed like there had only been 15 minutes of downhill that whole time.
Back onto my feet, right get this done. Push push push up the next steep part and then spin spin spin. Round the corner and some marshalls tell me its only 15km to go, shit. I do know the last 10km are down down down so I guess it’s not so bad. I ask them if there’s any more hills and they say there’s one more nasty one. Shit. But it’s down from here for a while and then along and I pass some people and start catching up to the woman who did the Molesworth recently (she’s my target). Then up again. No more walking for me, spin spin spin, get passed by all the people I just passed on the downhill. Sigh. Then weeeeeeeeeee for a while, catch the people who just passed me, then another wee climb! Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee and up the other side and then a farmer is telling me there’s no more climbing. I think he’s probably wrong and it turns out I’m right, but there’s not much and then the climbing is over. And I’m still alive and it’s all downhill from here. I can see my target quite far ahead down the hill, but descending tentatively. Well not me, there’s a reason I drag a heavy bike with lots of suspension up these hills. Fast descending. And this is a fast fun descent. Zoooooooom down the hill. Brake before the corners, keep control, catch people. I’m flying past people and then I’m past my target and have her husband in my sights. Zooooooooooom. Elbows wide, stable on the bike, weight forward, controlled braking. I don’t know how long it took me to come down the hill, but it was over very quickly and I was on the sealed road and in my big chain ring smashing it for the finish line. My speedo said 3 hours 30 so I knew I’d be over 4 hours with rests and pushing. I passed my target’s husband as he stopped to put his seat back up and kept smashing along the road. Tight left back into the riverbed and I just had time to read the sign that said “Tough Nuts”. I felt bloody tough at this point. I knew there was only a couple of hundred metres to go and I was going to make it. I spun through the gravel and 5 or 6 river crossing, loving each one as it gave me a bit if respite from the heat and then I was over the line in 4hrs, 3mins maybe. I remember the announcer said 4hrs 6mins after I’d been sitting on the ground broken for a while. I drunk lots of water and just let myself be broken for a few minutes. Then I started grinning. I’d done it. This race was insanely hard. More climbing than I’ve ever done before in the baking sun and I’d done it. Not only that but I think I only walked maybe a couple of hundred metres in total for the whole 25kms of climbing. Yesssss. I was still massively over heated so I stumbled back out to the river mouth and flopped into the water. Instantly I felt better and was able to actually converse like a human. Later I had some delicious fettuccini form The Store and felt much much better. My wonderful husband was stoked for me as I was way faster than he was expecting. I’ve never felt happy and proud after a race before. I couldn’t wait to see the results.
And I saw them this morning and was devastated. My transponder obviously didn’t work as I have no time recorded and therefore no place. I can’t believe it. I’ve emailed the organisers, but they’ll have enough on their plate as there was a tragedy in the race. One of the competitors missed a corner on the downhill and went over a bank and died. My thoughts and condolences go out to his family and friends and to the race organisers. So today I’m feeling very flat and sad. I don’t know what to put in my results box, my time I think I got and my place I think I got, or nothing? I feel I earned my time and my place, but I don’t have anything to show I did it. Gutted. So emotionally this race had been a big up, I’m soooo proud of how well this race went and finishing something so hard; and a big down, I have no placing to show for all my hard work and it’s so terrible that someone died.

Note on photos: All the photos of the race track were taken around the 23km mark or just after. The red arrows are the track. In the photo with the arrow pointing at the zigzag of track in the distance, that’s the fun downhill before the 3 last big climbs, notice how far away it looks. The photo with the blue arrow, that’s the track I’ve just come up, and the red arrow shows the track disappearing off in the distance.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Hunting a giant extinct bird

This bird apparently lives at the top of an enormous hill, and I don’t love riding up hills. So to prepare for said Hunt I’ve hit the hills a few more times in the last week. On Thursday I headed back up Rapaki with my speedy hubby and Michelle and him with whom she lives (what a mouth full, hehe). Michelle had a nice gentle ride up and was chatting away, while I managed to keep up with her, but was not capable of chatting. On the last stretch up to the top she got bit by the competitive spirit when a guy tried to pass her and she was off. I keep grinding my way up and was still happy with my time which was only marginally slower than Monday. I raced up the road while everyone else did Mt Vernon and had the luxury of waiting at the start of the Traverse, unusual for me. Then the most amazingly thing happened, I rode the whole Traverse clean for the first time, no dabs, feet down or anything. Woooo hoooo, I kicked those rocky sections arses.
From there it was a fun blast down Sesame St, Dazzas, Ponos and Bridges before zipping down the 4wd track. Fool that I am I forgot to put my seat down at the start of Sesame St and my back end was super loose in the berms. I quickly fixed that before Dazzas and then on Ponos I rode everything, although I did end up detouring towards a tree at one point (oops).
It was a great fun ride, but would have been better if Pete hadn’t broken his bike. Thanks Michelle and Richard for the ride home.
A busy rest of the week at work and working on Saturday meant no riding on Friday or Saturday, but we had a big ride on Sunday. A group of us headed up Kennedy’s, I went up the road this time and met them at the start of the 4wd track. My mission for Kennedy’s was to keep it out of the bottom gear till the top section and I managed that but again my rubbish line choice left me pushing the last couple of hundred metres. I must get to the top next week! From there it was up Flying Nun and in another first I rode everything I hadn’t ridden before, in fact I would have cleaned it but one of our riding companions was stopped in a corner in front of me and I had no choice but to get off. Bugger. It was a much faster ride down for me and I was buzzing. From there the decision was made to head up to Vic Park and do the Traverse. Again I made sure I was pushing my self the whole way up the road. In hindsight I really should have eaten my muesli bar in the car park before we did the Traverse, but I didn’t. We were off, with me in my natural place at the end of the line. I was feeling a little light headed from lack of food, but also feeling very confident from my descent of the Nun. That came to an abrupt end when I decided to ride the dreaded dip and made a complete mess of it. I went over the bars (I think) and some how my brake rotor rubbed its way along the inside of my left leg while my right knee skidded along the dirt. Ouch, but at the time it was really only my pride that hurt as a man was right there when I crashed. After assuring him I was fine I struggled to get my bike out of the ^^*($(%&)@!# dip continued on till I caught up with Pete. By the time I stopped my burn from the rotor was incredibly sore, OMG it hurt. I squirted some water on it and just about screamed. Owie. After eating a muesli bar, better late than never, we were off and caught up with the others to show off my new wound.
We then decided to head down the Bowenvale Singletrack. I’ve never ridden this before and once we got off the horrid, rutty, loose rocky 4wd track the flowing singletrack was a great reward. It was fantastic and I really can’t wait to give it another go. Back down the bottom at Bowenvale Ave I decide beer and wedges were called for. After a good feed I was back on my bike feeling very grateful for the tailwind home and Pete was being a mad man and heading back up Rapaki!!?!
It was good preparation for the Moa Hunt and I’m really looking forward to the race on Saturday. I’m not sure how I’m going to go, but I’m feeling confident that I’ll finish it in under 4 hours. I got my roadie out for the first time in ages today and had a flyer into work. I’m going to head out at lunchtime and see if I can get up to the Kiwi on it, could be a tragic attempt.

Post ride edit: Well I didn't make it to Sign of the Kiwi, but not because I couldn't, I ran out of time. I did make it to Sign of the Takahe, which means I got up the steepest bit and from there to the Kiwi it flattens off lots. Wahoooo! Just to give you some idea of the difficulty on my road bike compared to my lovely mtb, my easiest gear on my mtb is (I think) 22:34, my easiest gear on my roadie is a horrific 39:26.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Run to the Hills

With the Molesworth out of the way its time for me to start concentrating on my hill climbing abilities, especially since the Moa Hunt has a great big 600m climb in it and its only 2 weeks away. Eeeep! I had a pretty much bike free week last week so by Friday I was ready for a decent ride. Luckily it was a holiday here in Christchurch for Show Day and we headed for Kennedy’s Bush. Feeling like I was probably fully recovered I decided to tackle the Crocodile at the start of the ride (instead of my usual trick of heading up the road). Not fully recovered. The first 6 switchbacks went really well and I felt like I was climbing nicely and faster than previous attempts. It was probably this false sense of wellness that did me in because 5 corners later I was lying on the side of the track gasping for air and trying not to vomit. A nice young man checked if I was ok and told me I was mad for going up this track. I agreed with him. Things were pretty suck for the rest of the Croc with light headedness after each switchback and many more rests. By the time I got to the top of this bit I was destroyed and seriously considering heading home. It was a lovely day though, and I was in great company, so after a bit more resting we all continued on.

While I wasn’t faster I did manage to keep going to the top of Kennedy’s (with a few rests) and then up to the top of Marley’s Hill for some lovely Flying Nun action. It is slightly disconcerting when you’re about to head down a track and there’s a big group of armoured up downhillers waiting to head down too. I felt a little underdressed. Flying Nun was brilliant as usual and I managed to clear more of it than last time. There’s only one section I can’t ride now and I just need to harden up and do it because I know it’s only psychological.
Despite my protesting legs we decided to head up to Vic Park, more hill – booo, so we could head down Seasame St and Dazzas, yeah!!! It felt really different with my xc tyres on, but still super fun and flowy. Then the boring ride back to Halswell. A lovely and tiring way to spend a holiday morning. Thanks to Pete, Greg and Liv for their patience.

I rested my legs for the weekend after the Friday mission and last night hubby and I went home via Rapaki. I decided it was time to attack Rapaki. Usually I just cruise up in my usual hill cruising mode and it takes around 42ish mins for me to get to the top. I decided that I was going to do it in under 40 last night. I really pushed myself and got to the top in 32.35, wahoo, a huge improvement. After a brief lie down, Pete headed up Mt Vernon and I decided to try and race him on the road. Amazingly I was able to keep pushing and thanks to a chain problem Pete had I managed to beat him. Yeah. After a refuel, some warmer clothes and some strange hair standing on end (literally) weather we took off along the Traverse in the rain. It was really nice and I wish I’d had my camera as the view was stunning. I attacked all the rocky sections, taking the most techy lines and got through them all with only 2 dabs, which is a first for me. Then I was in the trees at the end and heading down the dodgy Thompson shared use track, which has a couple of harrowing bits that aren’t really designed for bikes and tend to send you down the bank if you’re not careful. From there it was more climbing to get to the top of Kennedy’s and a fast blast home.
It was a hard ride and today I’m feeling completely shattered, but that’s obviously a good thing and after a couple of days rest it’ll be time to head up again on Thursday.

For those of you who thought I might have lost my mind and started running after reading the title to this post, nope, I’m off to Iron Maiden in February with my hubby and brothers-in-law. Should be interesting. To balance that out I’m going to Don Quixote by the Royal NZ Ballet Company on Wednesday (no shuttlez!). A friend from school is dancing the male lead, it will be very cool to see him dance and I can’t wait.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Dangerously Addictive

When I first started mountain biking I honestly thought I would never ever want to ride Downhill, down hills was fine, but Downhill is insane. Recently I’ve been rethinking that a wee bit and after going and watching a DH race on Sunday I thought I’d like to at least try and ride the tracks they were using in the race. My how things change.
Three of us headed to Vic Park after work yesterday to suss out some easy and slightly more difficult tracks for a prospective women’s only event next year. Southstar are running a shuttle service in Vic Park now so that made organising our little expedition much easier. Michelle and Liv were both keen and both much, much more experienced than me (Michelle used to race downhill and Liv still does at elite level), so I knew I was in good hands.
Oh. My. God. It was sooooo much fun. We started off on the new track Seasame Street. It is so sweet, beautiful bermed corners, crazy gap jumps and step downs for the talented on big bikes, nana lines for the less brave, wee jumps and big jumps and just a whole lot of fast fun. Then onto Dazzas, again lovely berms, but with some roots and rocks and interesting lines. From there we did Brents which was a bit trickier, more drop offs, big roots and gnarly corners, but I managed to ride most of it and then on down the 4wd track grinning and doing wee hucks over the speed bumps. We just missed the next shuttle pick up so there was some sitting round, talking bikes and shite and generally chilling. Next run started in Brake Free, lots of table tops for practising jumping and berms, then Seasame Street again (how could we not), Dazzas again, then a line I think is called Ponos (please correct me if I’m wrong) that was pretty rocky with some exciting blind corners that I walked and some steep sections, then a bit I don’t know the name of, but I’ve ridden it a few times through some rooty stuff and then back down the 4wd track.
I think we’re getting a fairly good idea of some tracks to put together, but we’ve decided that Wednesday night shuttles should be a regular occurrence so we’ll have another run next week and get a better idea. I might also go for a walk through the park with my camera at the weekend and take some pics of the various tracks.
The 2 runs were so much fun and I rode things I never thought I would, let alone find them to be relatively easy. I can’t wait to go back and do some more, but I think I need to sort myself out with some googles because the dust was horrid. Some proper downhill shorts would also be good so I might have to pay a wee visit to Grind as they have a great range of women’s clothes.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Molesworth Muster – Mission complete

Skiving off work extra early on Friday and getting on the road helped my pre-race jitters a bit, but by the time we got to Hanmer it was snowing and I was feeling quite worried that we might not make in at all. This was exacerbated by the “Chains Essential” sign on Jacks Pass and the snow on the road. We made a quick return to Hanmer to call into the Krank shop and once more Neil provided as with the goods in the way of excellent advice and we were back into the snow. After about half an hour of driving we popped out into the sun and although it was pretty cold there was no more snow (in fact if we’d been half an hour later we wouldn’t have even seen any snow). I was paying careful attention to the road as this would be the route for the race. I was worried, and when we got to Wards Pass I was really worried. This was a damn long way and it had a number of decent climbs in it.

Arriving at the Molesworth Station around 4ish it was lovely and sunny and in no time we had a lovely flat camp site set up by the river and were relaxing in the sun. Well, Pete was relaxing. I was checking my bike and making sure I had all the right things in my pack and generally fussing. With a hot pasta dinner in us we climbed into the tent before the sun went down to try and retain as much warmth as we could. Turns out this was a brilliant idea as it was a 5 degree frost and we were warm and cosy and slept extremely well. Unlike a lot of people. We awoke nice and early around 5ish and crawled out into the freezing morning air. Brrrrrrrr. Thank goodness for Kathmandu snow socks. My poor bicycle was frozen to the ground and everything was covered in ice. I wanted to take a photo, but the cold had killed the camera battery so no shots from the race unfortunately.
Soon after our stuff was all packed up and Pete was heading off in the convoy back to Hanmer, leaving me sitting on the side of a little hill in the sun, trying to stay warm and waiting for the race to start. I chatted with a few people and soon we were off for the 1.5km rolling start, up a nice steep little hill, just to warm you up. Nasty. I had a plan for all the hills and that was to spin as gently as I could and not expend any extra energy. Thumbs tucked under and upper body low to the bars I put this into practise and was up this nasty wee climb like it was nothing. Yay. Unfortunately I couldn’t really open it up on the other side as there was too much traffic, but I did work my way forward. At the base of Wards Pass we crossed a small ford and I didn’t think much of it at the time. My feet got wet, but it was sunny so I wasn’t too concerned.
Wards Pass stretched up steeply in front of me and I resolved that no matter what I was going to ride all the climbs. Dropped down into grannies and started spinning and breathing and just concentrated on keeping the rhythm and not going too fast. Lots of people whizzed past me at the beginning of the hill but soon I was passing walkers and the odd strong person was passing me. I got to the top sooner than I thought and wasn’t even out of breath. I popped my sunnies back on, zipped my top right up and cruised over the crest and down the other side. Wahoooo. I zoomed past lots of people on the descent and was grinning as I crossed the bridge onto Isolated Flat. I quickly put my strategy into action for this bit and built myself a nice wee bunch. Three of us at the start but when it was my turn at the front I managed to hook us onto another bunch and we were flying across the flat at about 30km.
The next 20km were a scenic blur. Climbs and descents and nice riding. Just before the halfway point I started to notice that my feet were freezing. Despite the sun there was a gentle southerly breeze and it was chilling my legs. My feet were really hurting at the halfway point and the pain was beginning to shoot up into my legs. It was about now I started ruing the fact I’d put my snow socks in the van to head back to Hanmer. I did have a dry pair of socks, but they were just cotton. I stopped at the halfway point and whipped my shoes and socks off and tried to massage some life back into my feet. I couldn’t feel my toes at all so I decide to have some lunch and give my feet a chance to thaw out properly. After a sandwich and some “delicious” leppin I put my dry socks on and my damp woollen socks over the top and headed off. Much better. Then pain in my feet was gone and so was the pain in my legs. I was a little concerned that I felt like this at the halfway point, but I pushed that thought away. I’d be going for around 2hours 30mins so was feeling good about finishing inside 6 hours. Of course at this point in time the guy who got first was already in Hanmer!
On I went, enjoying the scenery, passing people on the descents, being passed by the same people on the climbs, but riding at a pace I knew would get me to the end. At about the 50km mark my feet started hurting again and I could feel my legs getting colder and colder. I had tights in my bag, but instead of being sensible and pulling over I decided to tough it out to 60kms before stopping. In retrospect this decision, and the decision that my feet would be warm enough without my big socks, were my biggest mistakes. My feet and legs got progressively sorer and finally I pulled over and pulled on my tights over my shorts. I took the opportunity for some more cheese and marmitey goodness and set off again. I could instantly feel my legs warming up and working better. In fact I started looking forward to the hills because even though they hurt my legs got nice and warm.
It’s fair to say those last 20kms were horrible. They hurt a lot. More than I’ve ever hurt in a ride before. I was making deals with myself to ride for another 30 mins and then have a minute’s rest. It was pretty bad, but I wasn’t getting in a support van and I wasn’t going to walk any of the hills. By now the wind had got up a bit more and it was a constant oppressive force against me. How I longed for a bunch to tuck in behind. At one point just past the 5 hour mark I hooked onto a couple of guys for a short while, but they were working way faster than I could keep up with. It was just a mental game for me now. My legs were gone and no amount of food was going to bring them back. Seeing the pine trees on the back of Jollies Pass was a great boost. I knew it couldn’t be much longer. Then another hill, a man went past me asking if this was the last and I told him I hoped it was. It wasn’t. We turned off to Jollies Pass. I was really worried about this and told myself to just keep spinning. It wasn’t the nightmare I thought it would be, but it did go on and on and on. Finally I reached the top, feeling broken. I started down fairly tentatively as my senses weren’t really working to well and I felt a bit unstable. After a couple of minutes the adrenalin kicked in and I felt like a new person and really started riding down at speed. I flew past heaps of people. A woman in my grade had passed me at the base of Jollies Pass and I really wanted to catch her. I tucked low and pinned it down the hill. I was in control at all times, but it was pretty obvious some people weren’t as there were some scary looking skids and a group of people picking someone up. There was one hairy moment when I approach a big diagonal rut at high speed, but I unweighted the bike and sailed across it. At the bottom of the descent I started pedalling with reserves I didn’t know I had and soon I was passing my target. Yes!!! Then onto the singletrack and I had to get off as there was a line of people walking it. Frustrating. Then up a terrible tiny climb and pedal pedal pedal to the end. I’d made it and I was completely destroyed. I just lay down and waited for Pete to come to me. Then we hobbled out the way and I got my shoes off. It took a while but once my feet defrosted I felt immeasurably better. And after wolfing down some meat and chocolate milk I was better still and actually able to talk coherently.
I finished in the 5:53:43, under the 6 hour mark and 19th in my division. I’m a bit disappointed in my time, but I’m stoked I achieved my goals and rode all the hills. 80kms is a very long way and 5hour 30 is a long time on a bike. Huge thanks to my lovely husband for driving me in and looking after me at the end and for the rest of the day, putting up with all my riding and generally being wonderful. Also big thanks to Andy from Hub Cycles. He went the extra mile to get me a pair of Serfas RX Lite Woman’s gloves. These gloves are the best I’ve ever had and at the end of the race my hands were fine, no pain at all. Without Andy going the extra mile to get them in for me I’m sure I would have been suffering even more. Congratulations to Chris and Logan for completing their mission too!
I’m going to have a lazy week and just play on my bike, but I’ll need to get into some decent hill ride before the Moa Hunt in 3 weeks.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Pre-race Jitters

The big race is tomorrow. It kinda feels like it starts today as we have to travel to Molesworth Station today. The car is all packed with a million duvets, sleeping bags and blankets. We’ve probably got enough bedding to completely fill our little tent we’ve borrowed (thanks Greg and Sarah). It’s just as well because it was snowing when we left home this morning! What!! It’s bloody November. So that’s making me a bit nervous.
My bike is safely tucked inside the car to protect it from its long gravel road journey into the station. I’m a bit nervous about the drive in too.
I’ve got food for Africa, but I’ve forgotten to bring a pot to heat dinner up in so I’m going to have to whip home and get one. I’m definitely sure I’ve got enough supplies to keep me going for the whole race.
I’m nervous about the distance…..

Have I done enough training?
Will I be able to pace myself?
Will I blow up?
Will I find a bunch to latch onto across Isolation Flats?
Will I get enough sleep?
Will my bike look after me?

Gah! Unhealthy thinking. So here I am at work, going a little bit insane. I just want to get on the road because once we’re at the camp site and all set up I can relax more. The weather forecast looks fantastic for the race, but it’s going to be a cold night tonight.
Wish me luck!!!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Rotorua Revisited

For anyone interested in snaps of thermic activity I've put together a wee album of pics from our trip. Clicky on the piccy.....

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Skillz Practise

A bit of a change of pace today. Last night I went for a short ride up the Crocodile. Managed to get halfway up before I was lying on the side of the track panting and dying. Turns out I was a bit tired. My climbing up the tight turns was pretty good, my descent down the nasty rutty steep section was great and my return down the switchbacks was really good too, thanks Vegas. I have to say though, after the wide flowing trails of Rotorua, man, the track seemed narrow. I played the whole way home, jumping off gutters and practising pumping. Once home I decided to try doing wheelies on the back lawn. That didn’t go very well. And because of that my lovely husband and I headed over to Bottlelake to play in the skills area for a while today.
Things started off well with me riding the whole length of the easiest low skinny and heading up the see-saw for the first time. Things quickly went wrong from there. This see-saw took longer to tip than I expected and I didn’t have enough speed and did a fairly ungraceful dismount from my bike and the see-saw, unfortunately whacking my knee on the way down and getting myself a nice lump and bruise. This didn’t deter me and on my second attempt I was successful and got all the way across the see-saw. When my next attempt again ended with me jumping off the bike I decided it was time to start learning how to do wheelies. Pete was fantastic at showing me what to do, extremely patient and didn’t laugh too much at my pathetic attempts. After many many many goes I was getting my front wheel 5 or 6 inches off the ground regularly, I know, I’ll never be a styling trick rider at this rate. After that we moved onto skids. Weeeeee. That was fun. Soon I had my back wheel sliding back and forward across the “grass” and I was getting the hang of doing a big skid to come to a halt with my foot down. Nice.

A bit more playing on the skinnies and then Pete went off to practise jumping. He got pretty good at the table top by the end. I gave it a couple of goes, but on the hardtail it wasn’t really much fun. Instead I went for a very quick blast in the forest. I focussed on keeping my upper body low over the handlebars and I flew round. I also did a couple of very good hucks in the middle of the forest. It was fun. Back at the skills area I videoed Pete doing some more jumps and did a bit more skinnies riding, including the high one that Pete doesn’t like me riding, and we headed home before the weather turned nasty. It was a really fun wee ride and just what I needed after a lot of roadie riding during the week. I’ll be heading off on a long roadie ride tomorrow morning, my last big ride before the Molesworth Muster. I’m really looking forward to it and I’m looking forward to having a wee break from riding after it (only a couple of days).

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Journey to the Northern Isle – Part the Final

Getting towards the end of the trip and the forest was getting wetter and our legs were getting tireder. Despite this we decided to tackle Hot X Buns first thing in the morning. After a decent climb to get to the top, we, well mainly me, enjoyed the fantastic view from the top and then we were on the way down. Does the phase “bitten off more than you could chew” sound familiar? Yep, that was me. Managed to ride the first 3 decent drop offs, but after that it was basically a walk down for me. It was a bit frustrating after the climb up, but I had no traction and I knew I didn’t have the skills to go fast enough to get the flow the trail needed. I got to the bottom in one piece with very tired feet and a very muddy butt after sliding down a bit of the hill.

After that it took a wee while to get my flow back on Be Rude Not 2, but I did get it back and by the end of the flowing lovely trail I was grinning again. From there we decided to try the Pig Track, which was aptly named. Some challenging rutted out climbs and messy rutty track in between, with no forest to distract you from the pain of the pinch climbs. From there we headed into Soak Hole and after going round in circles for a while headed out of the forest and back to Zippy’s for lunch.
After a delicious lunch I felt a lot like a nana nap, but that wasn’t an option. Back into the forest via the bike track through the thermal areas and we headed up the forestry road to A Trail and then Tickler. Both fantastic tracks and even though I was feeling pretty tired it was so much fun. The climb out back to the house was not good. That night we headed down to Toni and Jeff’s and had drinks and talked bikes for hours, a fantastic end to the day. Plus Toni gave me a load of Total Betty clothes to try on. They are very flattering, but being a bit poor at the moment I couldn’t buy anything.
The next day we decided to try Gunna Gotta even though it had been bucketing down the night before. After an interesting hike-a-bike shortcut to the top we headed off. The track was very wet and slippy. I could see how much fun the track would be if it wasn’t so wet, but it was so wet and again I had to walk a number of bits. Hopefully on the next trip it won’t be wet and I can really enjoy the track. Then it was into town for a last coffee at Zippy’s for hubby, some lovely chocolate cake, again for hubby and a bit of lunch. We then called in to see Jeff at the Kiwibikes shop and Pete gave him the run down on his list of problems. Result, one bike still in Rotorua, in Jeff’s capable hands. Once back at the house the rest of the day was spent lazing and laughing at the crazy sheep and cute lambs.
Watching the sheep turned out to be very useful as one went into labour so we let Toni know. The next morning there was a lovely new orange baby lamb. Cool.
The last day consisted of a long sleep in and packing. In no time I had my bike dismantled and packed and then we were off home.
It was a fantastic holiday and my skills and fitness have both improved amazingly. Only a week and a bit to the Molesworth now and I’m feeling confident of finishing without dying.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Journey to the Northern Isle – Part the Three

The Big Day Out

The third day of our Rotorua adventure brought the largest exploration of the trails in the stunning forest. We began our day by discovering the hidden entrance to the forest near our abode, known to the locals by the mysterious name “Roosters”. Soon we were freewheeling down Red Tank Rd looking forward to the greatly anticipated Be Rude Not 2. The anticipation was well justified. Be Rude Not 2 is a fantastic flowing speedy swoopy trail. I loved it. A huge grin was plastered on my face by the end and the confidence that was rocked by the previous day’s tumble was returning. From Be Rude Not 2 we were straight into Mad If You Don’t and before we knew it we were out of the forest and heading down the road into the city to pick up a rental car.
Once we had our remuera tractor, yay free upgrades, we loaded up the bikes, parked up and headed to the Rotorua icon that is Zippy’s Cafe for a spot of second breakfast. Feeling sustained by the fine food and after chatting to the manager and sussing out an afternoon route through the forest we headed home to move the sheep (yep, you read that right, a bit of everything on our holiday).
I decided a nana nap was the order of the day upon returning home and awoke feeling greatly revitalised. This time we headed up the road and ended up riding back up Hill Rd and up Frontal Lobotomy (no incidents this time). After a brief sit down(by me) we continued up the road to the start of Billy T. I was feeling a bit apprehensive about this as I hadn’t ridden a grade 4 downhill track yet. Seats down slightly we headed off. In no time at all I was grinning like a Cheshire cat, swooping down corners and riding down drop offs. This was definitely harder than anything I’d ridden before but I rode the whole track clean and I felt fantastic at the end. From there we headed up Moerangi Rd to the start of Split Enz. Best Track Eva! I flew down here. It flows so sweetly and has the best bermed corners. From there it was onto Pondy DH and Pondy New. Both were fantastic. Then onto Rollercoaster. By now both hubby and I were feeling pretty knackered and while Rollercoaster was a nice track we were both not really into it. Especially when we came across a couple of big trees down that necessitated some bike passing over. A big thanks to the fast guy on the sweet Transition that helped me get my bike over. At the end of Rollercoaster we were both ready to head home and the climb out hurt.
It was by far my best day riding ever, over 40kms, over 400ms climbing and loads of technical single track. Fantastic. I was happily broken at the end.

A Lunar Experience
Day four and it was time to head down to Taupo to Craters of the Moon. Two words. Cruise control. It rocks. A quick drive down the road to Wairakei. On the first climb out from up from the Tunnel Track both of us realised we hadn’t recovered from the previous day’s exertions. The Crater’s of the Moon tracks were lovely and I enjoyed sailing around the lower ones, but I really wasn’t up to the big climbs to the outer tracks. After a couple of laps and some fun playing on the structures (I rode my first see-saw, yay!) we decided to play tourist and then get some lunch in Taupo. On the way home we called in at Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland and it was brilliant. The day ended with us watching the new born lambs discovering the structures, maybe they’ll be hucking off them soon.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Journey to the Northern Isle – Part the Two

Children – Always Wear Your Helmets

Firmly getting into the swing of vacationing I found that my slumber had extended past 8 of the morning, quite a rarity for me. Another cloudy morning with fine periods greeted my eyes upon waking. My body was feeling a little tired from the previous day’s exertions and this was confirmed with a few laps of the lawn and structures. My dear companion and myself surveyed the map of the forest and decided on a route for today’s explorations.
We started up the road and entered the forest onto Hill Rd, which turned out to be very aptly named, as it mainly consisted of a decent sized hill. My pedalling legs were not very impressed with this early assault, but fortunately they were not in charge and I slowly rode up the hill. Early on a young woman participating in a multi-sport event of some description zoomed past me, however it was with a degree of schadenfreude that I discovered her pushing her bike a couple of corners later. I wasn’t in a mood to be racing so took my small pleasure from riding the whole way up even though she beat me to the top. Once at the top my companion and I rested and contemplated our ascent up Frontal Lobotomy. I very much enjoyed this climb. The trail was quite wide and the grade good with the odd root and slippery section to keep me on my toes. Unfortunately pride comes before a fall as they say, and it wasn’t long till I had a good one. Heading up one steep, slippery section I chose the worst possible line which caused my wheels to spin and for me to tumble head first down a bank with my bike still attached to me. Luckily a tree stopped my tumble and I was left wedged at the base of a tree, feet in the air, looking at my bike which was resting in a large tree fern. I was very very grateful for my helmet which was the first part of me to contact the tree and without it things would have been very bad. That’s why we wear them though and I was actually completely fine. Not a single part of me hurt and my only problem was that I couldn’t unclip my foot and was slightly trapped. After a few minutes yelling it was evident that I needed to extract myself from this dilemma and fortunately my recent yoga practise assisted me in this matter as I contorted myself to remove my foot from the pedal and extricated myself from beneath the bike. Once up the bank my next problem was getting my bike back. This took quite a bit of consideration. Finally I headed down the bank and managed to wrest my trusty stead free from the native growth.
Unhurt as I was, my confidence had taken quite a battering and I was very much feeling afraid of mud for quite some time after my tumble. I came across my lovely husband not long after continuing up hill and we made it to the top. The bike got a decent once over and everything was still working well so we headed down Huckleberry Hound. The map describes this as 45 small to medium jumps, hmmmm. This didn’t start well for me as I ever so slightly freaked out near the start and almost turned back. However I couldn’t bear the thought of riding all the way up the hill and not riding this track so I walked down a couple of slippy corners and continued on. The further along the track I got, the more confident I felt and by the end of it I actually managed a couple of hucks. I very much want to head back and give this another go when my head is in a better place.
We decided my head wasn’t in the right place for Little Red Riding Huck so headed down the road a bit and tackled Sidewinder which was a fun downhill, narrower than other tracks, but gave me a lot of my confidence back. There followed a quick zip through Lentil Link and we were back on Hill Rd, heading home.
Not the most successful second day, but I got to have a good rest this afternoon and am very much looking forward to a full day of riding tomorrow.

Journey to the Northern Isle – Part the One

Our journey did not start in the most auspicious fashion as having almost finished packing, my companion and I found ourselves out of doors with no key and an inopportunely snibbed lock. In fear of missing our booked passage to the north, a locksmith was hastily summoned forthwith and with wallets slightly lighter we were happily indoors and completing the preparations for the journey. Carriage to the airport was booked, though this too was more troublesome than I would have liked, as the operator seemed not to understand that my baggage necessitated the procurement of a van, not a hatchback. When the taxi did arrive it was touch and go as to whether our vast boxes would fit within its narrow confines. Fortunately they did and our journey was begun.

Our travels were incident free, although we did manage to escape the need to pay an additional fee for our luggage as the electronic payment system went down. Hurrah! Upon arriving in the sulphur scented city we secured portage to our dwelling in a shuttle and were soon lugging our luggage up the gravel driveway to a lovely cottage. Later in the evening we journeyed back into the city with the aid of the proprietor’s vehicle to provision ourselves for our week long adventure. Exhausted but happy my lovely companion and I tumbled into a deep slumber, excited by the prospects of exploring the forest on the morrow.

The new day dawned slightly overcast and my companion set about building our lovely bicycles and I set about lazing in bed reading trashy magazines. As the morning wore on I eventually dragged myself from the warmth of the bed to the deck chairs and commenced a session of intensive sitting and watching my companion riding on the structures provided by our hosts. Eventually the lure of the structures became too much and appropriately attired I mounted my cycle and had great fun playing on them myself. After an early, but substantial, lunch we set off down the hill to acquire a map of the notorious Whakarewarewa Forest (or the Redwoods as the locals call it). Map successfully acquired and anticipation running high, we planned a route which I hoped I would be able to tackle, not being sure of the difficulty of the various grades. Also it has been quite a long period since I rode anything particularly technical so I was slightly nervous of how I would find the grade 3 tracks and thought that grade 4 would probably be beyond my skills on this first ride.

Our ride began with a short climb up a forestry road and then we entered the forest proper on Genesis, a Grade 3 track. My concerns were not allayed by the necessity to push a short distance up this entry track. However soon after I was sweeping through the prehistoric forest and grinning with joy as I rode past the boughs of the mighty redwood trees. This first track was fantastic and flowed beautifully. I found that everything was within my abilities to ride, and even managed a couple of rather good hucks along the way. Once we exited Genesis we found the entry to another Grade 3 track, Challenge, which was also great fun. My confidence was slowly rising as I rode over wet roots and down drop offs. Soon we came across the entrance to an easier Grade 2 track, The Dipper, which was basically flat and flowing with some very nice berms. We agreed that while this track was most enjoyable it did not bring quite the same level of pleasure as previous tracks.

Next we came to the Rockdrop track. The entrance sign said Grade 5 (!!), but the map said Grade 4 so we sallied forth and were soon enjoying some lovely switch back climbs, rooty descents, drop offs that were larger than any previously encountered and lovely flowing corners. I loved this track. I almost rode it clean and for me it really showed how far my riding has progressed over the past six months. My climbing skills have improved immensely, as have my descending skills and confidence. I rode things on this track that in the past I would have got off and walked round and I was controlled and comfortable on all of them.

Unfortunately we managed to get slightly lost on this track and missed the last section by ending up on a road so we shall have to return. Finally we exited via Exit Trail, another good test of my new found confidence as I rode down the fast flowing trail and through deep ruts and bumpy wee drop offs with the greatest of ease (well a lot of grinning anyway). Happy and impressed with our first foray into the forest my companion and I headed into the city for some much need sustenance before tackling the hill climb back to our dwelling.

So our first ride in Rotorua was a 3 hour ride and I felt really good, and pretty tired at the end. I am most intrigued to see how my body copes with another such ride today. And today we will endeavour to ensure our photographic device is in working order to capture the glory of the forest.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Vegas Baby!!! Yeah!!!

Flying to Vegas tomorrow!
Las Vegas ??? you say.

No! Even better. Rotovegas (or Rotorua for those not in the know).

Can't wait to ride that sweet sweet single track for 7 days.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Ninja’s rock – McLean’s Island 12hr Race

My first ever 12 hour race, and I guess my first ever “sponsored” race (and by sponsored I mean that my entry was paid for by work). I was up bright and early on Saturday morning, before 6am – horrific, packing food and making sure I had everything loaded into the van for the long day ahead. Swung by work at 7am to pick up 2 more team members and their gear and headed off to McLean’s Island, where we were meeting our final team member. With Iron Maiden and Metallica blearing from the sound system at the venue we scored a primo corner site close to the loos (very important) and in no time had a very comfortable site put together, complete with changing room, chairs, indoor hammock, comfy napping cushions, more food than you could shake a stick at, tools galore and most importantly, heaps of shade.
The team. A fantastic team it was too. Leading out (because we told him he had to) was Andy. Experienced 6 hour solo and 12 hour team racer, fresh back from completing the Whaka50 in Rotorua and IT systems genius. Bravely volunteering to go second after the cracking pace set by Andy was Liv. Elite women’s downhiller, cross country speedster and crazy, fabulous, fun chick. After a furious rock/paper/scissors battle it was deemed I would be the third rider, followed by Marty. Veteran of the CatEye Moonride in Rotorua, international jet-setter and hammock owner. Our team wasn’t out for prizes or glory, our team was there to have fun and with the help of the fantastic weather that’s exactly what we did.
The start was managed chaos and I was feeling extremely glad to be on the sidelines cheering Andy on. He blitzed the first lap and in just over 28mins Liv was out on the course. She was back only 5 secs slower than Andy and then I was off. My lungs protested as I got up to speed through the tents and took off across the field towards the stop-bank. In what was to be a theme for my day (and not really an unexpected one) people streamed past me. Sorry guys! By the time I got into the forest I’d found my legs and my lungs had settled down and I was, da-da-da-da-da loving it. All the practise had paid off as I pinned it down the stop-banks into the tight corners without braking. A big silly grin was plastered on my face as I kept pace with the fast guys who’d just passed me. Of course as soon as the swoopy sections finished they disappeared into the distance, but I was having a great time and didn’t care. Unfortunately it came unstuck when I left the forest and was on the last section of windy singletrack before the 4wd drive track slog back to the camp site. A rider called to pass and against my better judgement I moved to the left thinking he’d whip past on the little straight, but he didn’t make it past and I was forced to take the next corner wider than I’d like and my wheels disappeared from under me in the loose gravel. My left leg didn’t unclip and I had the very unpleasant sensation of the ligaments on the inside of my left leg being stretched way further than they like. It didn’t hurt at the time, but I knew things weren’t going to be good in the future. I was back on my bike straight away and pedalling furiously to keep my knee warm till I could get some Anti-flamme on it.
I trundled through the timing tent to beeps and then accelerated into the chicanes of the campsite. Our site was on corner 8 and those 7 other corners leading to it sucked. I blew into our transition area and flopped down into a chair as Marty sprinted off through the tents and out over the field. I was pretty happy with how my first lap felt, but I was under the mistaken impression that I’d done it in 45 mins (eeep!). I’d actually done it in 33.29 which was fantastic for me over the 12.5km distance. Unfortunately I hadn’t cleared my speedo after my warm up. This lead to a little confusion on the next lap I did when I arrived 10 minutes before anyone was expecting me after a fantastic feeling lap of 33.40. Marty was relaxing in a chair as I pulled in and looked pretty surprised. Ooops, my bad.
The day got warmer, the music was good and the cold chocolate milk rocked. Being on the bike felt great, but my knee was getting sorer and sorer when I was off it. Luckily my lovely hubby showed up with my knee brace and that helped a bit between laps. My third lap felt great, but I was held up a wee bit by a few people (yep, I did actually manage to pass some people!) and my time was 34.16. Still pretty damn consistent. My fourth lap was probably the windiest of the day, and didn’t feel too good and the sun was at an awful angle, but I pushed as much as I could and managed to get back in 33.53. My fifth, and what was to be my final, lap was the last lap without lights. It was pretty gloomy in the forest and I managed to past a few more people who weren’t so confident in the corners. My legs were really starting to burn in this lap and it was the first time I felt my knee hurt on the bike all day so I knew it was going to be my last. Climbing the stop bank for the last time was not fun. Especially when the guy I’d been chasing through the forest and finally caught mere minutes earlier, went past me again along to the top. I pushed for all I was worth across the paddock and back through the tents, damn it hurt, and am proud to say finished my last lap in 34.27.
So all up I did 62km, just under 3 hrs of riding and there was less than a minute’s difference between my first lap and my last lap. Yipeee. Also I managed to do a tiny huck down one of the ditches in the paddock (very important achievement). It’s the longest distance I’ve ever done competitively so I’m pretty stoked with that.
For a team that was out to have fun we did great, getting 19th out of 36 in our category, completing 23 laps and finishing in 11:45:39. It was definitely one of the most fun days I’ve had on the bike and that’s mainly due to the fantastic team I was in. Cheers guys – bring on Hanmer!
Unfortunately things weren’t boding so well for my knee. I could hardly walk by the time we’d packed everything up and getting home to discover there was no hot water didn’t aid matters at all. Luckily we had some Voltaren pills from when Pete hurt his back so I was able to get some sleep. Surprisingly the next morning my legs felt good, and my knee was much better. I’ve made a physio appointment for Wednesday to get it sorted as we’re off to Rotorua this weekend. Yeeeee-haaaaa. My legs felt tired on the ride to work this morning, but they also felt stronger. With the Molesworth now only 4 weeks away I feel like I’m in pretty good shape to finish it in under 6 hours.