Saturday, May 24, 2008

On the roadie again, I just can wait to get on the roadie again

Night racing again on Wednesday night. It was a lovely warm night with a big full moon over the forest. I was slightly over dressed with my long sleeved marino and long sleeve top and my 3/4 pants and bike shorts over the top. I was a little too hot as I pushed myself round the course as fast as I could go. After Saturday I knew I could go hard out for the length of the course, although by the end my fastest isn't very fast really. My goal for this race was to push hard the whole way and really power up the hill in the middle and I achieved that. By the end of the race I could hardly walk when I got off my bike. Complete jelly legs, more jelly than I've had at the end of a race before. The good thing was that by the time I had my bike attached to the back of the car my legs felt pretty good and by the time I was home they felt pretty good. I got 5th in the race and was very happy with that, bring on the next race.
I rested on Thursday so yesterday I thought I'd go for a decentish ride on the road bike on the way home. It was cold and windy yesterday, the weather is a bit gross at the moment, however I felt like trying a bit of a ride out to Tai Tapu and back. I'm getting more used to the different position on the road bike, but it really hurts my hands after about 20 minutes, and kills my butt (man, I have to get a new seat). The ride was pretty nice, but by the last 20 minutes or so my left hip was killing me and it was beginning to get really unpleasant. My hop was hurting enough that I wasn't really pedaling very hard and cold was starting to seep into me. It was extremely good to come home to a nice warm fire and a hot shower. I've just ordered some clippy pedals for the road so we'll see if that helps me go faster and not hurt so much.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Ill met by moonlight sweet Gumtrees

Yesterday was a gorgeous day, however I had taken a pile of work home with me for the weekend so I couldn’t bike to work, it’s a bit difficult with 2 A4 ringbinders and a box of paperwork. I was feeling ambitious so threw my good bike on the back of the car, and my helmet with light attached and SLA battery into a bag of clothes and headed off to work with the intention of riding up Rapaki after work.
What a great plan. The weather was good, just a light noreasterly and a few wee clouds and still pretty warm when I started. My goal was to get to the top of Rapaki in under 40 minutes, which would be a first. As I went up, the sun went down and I could really feel the weight of the battery in my backpack. Still, it was good training. I made good progress up the hill and felt pretty strong by the time I reached the plateau before the final big push to the top. There weren’t many people around initially and by the time I was on the last stretch I had the hill to myself and a big moon shining down on me. It was just brilliant. I made it to the top in poor light and 36 minutes and felt very pleased with myself. I hadn’t stopped once. I took a few minutes to enjoy the view of the city with its lights coming on while I ate a muesli bar and put my jacket on.
It was dark enough for my blinding light so I flicked it on and headed off up the road. I really pushed up the road as I didn’t want to spend anymore time than necessary on the tarmac at this time of night. The road was deserted though and I only saw one roady going the other way the whole way round to the Traverse. Now I was in new territory. I’ve never ridden the Traverse at night and neither has Pete so I was feeling a little apprehensive and excited. Doing new things is fun. I didn’t get off to a very good start on the Traverse, picking a shocking line through the rocks at the entrance and having to get off immediately. Feeling cautious after this I was off on the singletrack. It felt as narrow and scary as the first time I rode it. Also sometimes the track would completely vanish from view as the tussocks reflected my light back at me. However I took it easy and walked a couple of sections and had an amazingly brilliant time. Who says you need speed for an adrenalin hit?!
I only met one other guy out when I was there and he seemed concerned about my well-being, I must have had big eyes or something, because at that point I was feeling fantastic, having found my flow and just enjoying being out in the hills at night. It was so freeing.
At the end of the Traverse I flew through the short section of forest and stopped for a look at the insane see-saw over the fence that is the entrance to Brake-free. Not for me, and certainly not at night. So I whipped over the cattle stop and came back round for a quick play on the berms and tabletops of Brake-free. It’s so cool, I wish I could actually jump. From here I had two choices, down the boring old 4wd track or down Gumtrees, the beginners Downhill track. I’ve ridden Gumtrees twice and its super fun. Gnarly drop off over cattlestop followed by nasty rock garden and then tight rutted corners all the way down. Pretty damn steep too. Obviously there was no choice at all and off I rode down the drop off and abruptly came to a stop halfway through the rock garden. Hmmmmm, perhaps I’d bitten off more than I could chew? Oh well, no going back now! I walked a fair bit of the first lumpy bit and then lost the back end of my bike in the first corner. This was much tougher by torch light. Walked a few more corners and then hit a rut I hadn’t seen and end up lying on the bank slightly winded, but not really worse for wear. I managed to get my foot unclipped and dust myself off and continued down. I actually managed to ride most of the rest of the track from there, but my heart was really thumping by the end. I probably rode about the same amount as the first time I tried to ride it so it wasn’t too bad.
The rest of the trip down the hill in the dark was pretty uneventful, although even riding the 4wd track by helmet light is freaky as you can’t really tell exactly what the ground is doing so you need to make sure you’ve got your weight right and trust your tyres and suspension to get you through unexpected challenges.
I’m feeling pretty tired today as I don’t seem to sleep well after a big ride in the evening, but I can’t wait to do it all again soon before the weather gets really cold.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Up the Crocodile, through the singing

Unfortunately I had to miss the night race on Wednesday due to “unforeseen circumstances” which was a bit disappointing. To add to that, not much riding was done during the remainder of the week (read none, very bad), so I really had to make the most of the weekend and the stunning weather that came with it. I’d got the skinny on the additions to the night racing circuit from a mate at work, so on Saturday morning I loaded up the niterider and headed out to the sandpit. I decided to do just one lap, but push as hard as I could the whole way, which is exactly what I did. I’m not sure if I got the new bits right (I hope I didn’t, but suspect I did), cause it took me just over an hour to do the 20kms and when I got home and checked the times from the last race I would have been last. Not good. It was a very fun ride though, not the bits on the 4wd track which were just bumpy hell on my fully rigid bike, but all the rest was great fun. I love the swoopy corners and am getting better at powering up the wee climbs throughout the course. I was feeling pretty destroyed after this ride (always a good sign of having pushed as hard as possible) so once more didn’t get to play in the skills area. Boo.
Sunday was another gorgeous day, sunny and clear. After an initial bout of apathy while cleaning the house, I sorted myself out and headed to the quarry to tackle the Crocodile. This is a lovely section of single-track that climbs up the valley to the start of Kennedy’s Bush. It’s full of steep switchbacks which are quite intimidating coming down, especially when you haven’t ridden this sort of thing before, and an absolute killer going up. I’ve only managed to ride up the Crocodile 3 times previously, but I was determined to do it today.
The track starts of with 5 steep and rutted switchbacks in quick succession. There’s no taking it easy, you have to go hard out to have enough momentum to keep your front wheel down and drive up through the ruts. I started well and made it up these 5 and onto the gentle incline through the trees with my vision still clear, but gasping somewhat. I took it easy along this section, for a minute anyway, and then I was at the downhill that drops you back into the bottom of the valley. Yep, all that torturous climbing at the start is wasted as you plunge down a steep, rutted and in winter, extremely muddy bit of track. At the bottom you cross over a bridge and then it’s up the 3 tightest and hairiest switchbacks in quick succession. I made it up these with relatively little fuss, but much panting, and continued upwards.
It should be noted that the Crocodile is predominantly a downhill track (not downhill in the full body-armour, full face helmet, 25kg bike sense) so I was expecting (hoping for) a fair amount of traffic coming towards me. Having got through this section of switchbacks and onto a fairly gentle upwards slope I could see a few riders and a runner (grrrrrr) coming towards me. So I was more than happy to get off my bike, lift it and myself off the track and have a breather while they all passed. That way I wasn’t stopping because I was tired, I was just being considerate (polishes halo).
Onwards I continued, up a few more switchbacks and then straight onto the one rocky section, which I completely fluffed and had to walk half of. Then there’s a steep straight section that crosses the farmtrack. Once I’d made it up this I had the blurry vision so I decided to have a wee rest and take in the loveliness of the day. The valley was full of birdsong, predominantly gold finches, which are my favourite common bird. With all the thistles releasing their seeds the air was alive with tinkling notes. Even though I felt like vomiting from my exertions I had a big smile on my face from the bliss of being in the sun and surrounded by the sounds of nature.
Once my vision cleared and my heart stopped trying to escape my chest I was back on and up. More switchbacks and my recovery from each one was getting worse. More up and then a nice big bridge where I could stop again and enjoy the birdsong while getting my breath back. Now for the final push, 5 (I think) more switchbacks, although much less steep ones, and I was at the top. And also at the bottom. Of Kennedy’s Bush. Unfortunately it wasn’t very relaxing up here. The lovely view across the plains to the Alps was there while I recovered, but so was a digger excavating just down the road. Also I almost had my head taken off by a fluro pink Frisbee thrown by an inept German tourist. I managed to recover enough to continue up the single-track (more switchbacks) and then the 4wd track to get up to my favourite wee piece of downhill single-track. I absolutely flew down it. Sooooo much fun and such big grins. I even managed to pull off a fairly good huck (unstyley jump) at the bottom. Then back up the 4wd track and down the single-track beside where I’d just come up. Then back down the Crocodile. Such twisty-turny fun. Still can’t ride the rock section, I’m just too much of a wuss to carry enough speed into it to make it up the first bit. Scares the bejesus out of me. I also managed to fall off in the nastiest corner (I blame the vast quantities of very slippy cow poo), but I was quite happy about this because the track has gotten very narrow on the exit of the corner, probably due to the application of many cow hooves and some emergency braking. After a little giggle in the broom bush (yay, not gorse) I was back on my way. I didn’t manage to get up the track very far on the other side of the valley, too slippy, but after a wee push I was back through the trees and doing a good wee jump on the path out. Such a fun ride in the sun and such tired legs afterward. I see many more rides up the Croc in my future (weather permitting of course).
One final note. I finally got my mitts on a Spoke magazine which had an article on the race I did in Welly in April, and a photo. Technically speaking, I’m in the photo, you can see most of my bike, my hand and my leg. Yay! I’m in a mountain biking magazine!! Wahoo.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Sore legs, a Flying Nun and Vorbettes

After my night racing experience on Wednesday night I was feeling quite tired on Thursday (actually very tired after a bad night’s sleep from too much food and exercise too late at night), but I had to go to the gym to get my new programme. This turned out to be something I was still regretting on Saturday! My old programme really concentrated on core strength and upper body strength, but my new one has some leg work thrown in for added torture, and some free weights. I didn’t really do much on Thursday, just enough to learn the new moves, but by Thursday evening my thighs were burning. I was a bit worried about this, but they didn’t feel too bad on Friday morning so I pushed myself pretty hard on the long way to work. By 10.30 my legs were really hurting every time I stood up and I was feeling a bit dubious about going to the gym. I went anyway as I didn’t want to forget how to do the new exercises, but I only did one set of the leg exercises. By the afternoon I could hardly stand up and in the end I had to ring Pete to come and pick me up as I couldn’t ride my bike. Saturday came and my legs were still super sore and I’d developed a very amusing looking hobble. I was pretty grumpy all day Saturday, but by Sunday morning my legs were feeling much better (thanks Antiflamme) and I arranged to meet up with some Vorbettes for a bike ride in the afternoon.
For those who don’t know what Vorbettes are, there’s a great website called Vorb where people can arrange rides, talk about cycling related stuff and have a bit of a laugh. Hidden away from prying eyes is a secret area just for girls and those who hang out there are known as Vorbettes. I am proud to say I’m a Vorbette. They are an amazingly supportive and cool group of women who have made my biking obsession grow even further and I’ve learnt heaps there in just the few months I’ve been there. I really can’t say enough good things about them.
So yesterday I arranged to meet up with a couple of these lovely ladies for a ride. We decided to head up Kennedy’s Bush, and then down Flying Nun and Old Dyers Pass Road. To say it was slightly chilly on Kennedy’s Bush would be to understate the nasty wind that was cutting through our clothes, but it was still a fun ride. The girls were great about waiting for me, and I really enjoyed pushing myself as hard as I could to not be too slow. My legs seemed ok until we got to the nasty top section and I was reduced to pushing much sooner than normal. I was however very happy with my bike lifting abilities. I’m much stronger now than I was a couple of months ago and had no problem lifting my bike over any of the gates and fences (yay gym!?).
At the top we could see all sorts of nasty weather all around us, so we pushed on up to the top of Marley’s Hill and to the divine Flying Nun.
This is one of my favourite tracks, and while it was a bit wet and slippy in places I have a great time on the many lovely bermed corners and even managed to ride more of the rocky sections than I’ve ridden before. There’s currently some new bits of track being put in, but I didn’t ride any of it because it looked a bit wet. I was feeling grateful for my improved upper body strength when I took a particularly bad line down one rutted, rocky section, but my bike and my body position pulled me through with a big grin on my face. After Fly Nun we took the extremely muddy, or perma muddy, Old Dyers Pass Rd track down further. I had a great time blasting down this and I hope the other girls did too.
After a great ride we headed to Coffee Culture and met up with more lovely Vorbettes and had hot drinks and cakes and fabulous fun conversations. All in all a bloody brilliant day with lots of great new people.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

How to make a zombie.

Now I understand why zombies are always going round trying to score other people’s brains. They need to replace theirs. Our story begins on a (thankfully) warm autumn evening in Christchurch. The sun has set and a group of keen bikers has gathered in the blanketing darkness at Bottlelake Forest Park (hereafter referred to as the Sandpit). Amongst this group is a young novice to night riding (use the term young loosely here!). She has a specially designed, old steel bike covered in reflective stickers. She is the heroine of our story.

There are well over 100 people participating in the madness on this evening. Most have some sort of home-made light attached to their helmets, some have fancy store bought ones and a brave (or very silly) few have standard bike lights. Our heroine is being very careful not to blind those around her with her light as it seems quite powerful compared to many others. Of course she’s paying the price of lugging 5+kgs of sealed lead acid battery around with her. After a practise ride around the finish chute the group is off into the dark forest at a blistering pace. Our heroine has cleverly positioned herself near the back of the pack and is not run over in the mad dash up the 4wd track. It’s the fastest start she’s ever been in and quite literally takes her breath away. Once her legs realise what’s going on she’s off and once in the singletrack of the forest finds she’s actually faster than a lot of the riders round her, probably due to her fantastically bright light rather than anything else. Things are going well and she manages to pass a group of guys and is feeling quite comfortable with the speed of the race. The old bike is very rough to ride as any suspension it once had is now gone and it’s a heavy thing, but in the corners it’s great. Our heroine puts her faith in her tyres in a few of the early corners and finds they grip just enough to cope with the occasional too fast entry.

Unfortunately things go askew when the group our heroine is with leaves the singletrack and is confronted with a hill. It seems like hundreds of people stream past our heroine as her poor old gears (and burning legs) grind and she looses all speed climbing up the hill. The downhill that follows is fabulous and is blasted through at high speeds which put her back in touch with some of those who passed her on the hill. Then came the sand. Everyone is off their bikes and pushing up a sand dune and it’s now that a group of girls passes our heroine (who is feeling quite exhausted now). She’s quite happy following them along the long straight of the sand dunes. This gives her a chance to have a wee rest and get composed for the singletrack. And for her feet to get thoroughly soaked in the huge, shallow puddles on the track. Once back on the singletrack she finds the girls are holding her up and is very happy when they pull over to sort out a mechanical. She’s not surprised. The air is filled with the sound of tortured drive trains, being ground to death by the sand that fills them every time a puddle, of which there are many unavoidable ones, is splashed though. Our heroine is very glad she’s riding a crappy old bike!

With no one in front of her (and only one person who has almost no lights behind her) she is freed to push a bit harder. The next few sections are brilliant in the light of her headlight, the corners seem tighter and the bumps larger and much more surprising. Swinging through the tight corners our heroine’s companion takes a nasty spill into a tree, but she’s ok and after a brief pause they continue onwards. These trails are all very familiar to our heroine, she knows it’s not far to the end. She feels she could go slightly faster without someone with her, but isn’t sure she actually has the energy to. By the time they are out of the forest she knows she’s given everything her legs have to give and the “sprint” to the finish line seems more like a leisurely amble to anyone watching. After a lot of standing round and chatting there is a prize giving and finally our heroine gets to see her time. She’s very happy with the 53 minutes she did it in and the 7th place out of 12, but wants to improve on this and be faster next week.

Now I hear you say, what of the zombies, there were no zombies in that forest, and you are right. Night racing seems to work like being bitten by a werewolf, there’s no immediate change, but overnight a perfectly normal person morphs into a brainless, energyless, grumpy zombie. It must be something to do with getting home for dinner at 9:30 at night.

It’s worth it though!!!

Monday, May 5, 2008

No news is..... boring.

I've been feeling a bit flat since the Mt Somers race. I've realised I don't have anything on the immediate horizon race wise (apart from the 6 night races starting on Wednesday, but they don't really count). Last week was very lack lustre on the riding front. I rode my new road bike into work once, and was in the car for the rest of the week (boo). I had my bike fitted on Wednesday. I was very suprised that it took almost an hour and after riding it for 15 mins on the trainer in the lounge I'm not very happy. I'll be taking out on the road sometime this week so hopefully it'll start feeling a bit better. I really need to sort out a new saddle and pedals for it, but I'm a bit bored of spending money at the moment.

I did manage to get to the gym twice last week and I went again today. I'm going to get my programme looked at this week as its getting a bit easy. I still don't enjoy going to the gym, I'd rather be swimming, but I feel like its helping so I'm going to stick with it.

The weekend was a complete right-off. I was laid up on the couch again this month (grrrr), but the weather was shocking so that wasn't really the end of the world. I am very much craving a ride on my bike. I was dreaming about learning to jump the other night, it was such a fun dream. Pete and I are doing a skills course on Sunday so I might be soaring in no time!

Well an update from yesterday when I wrote the preceeding words. My skills course has been postsponed until July, so that's boo. I feeling quite down at the moment. (I should probably go back and read my blog to remind me of what I've done so far). I'm really struggling with the fact that my extra weight doesn't seem to be moving for all the extra exercise I'm doing and all the careful eating. I had a horrid ride in this morning. My legs just wouldn't work at all and I'm feeling quite blah now after getting back from the gym. I'm hoping tomorrow night's race will pop me out of the this wee funk I'm in. Anyway enough complaining. Time to suck it up and sort it out I guess.