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!!!

No comments: