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.


Kelly said...

Hey tinkerbe;;! What an awesome time you did the race in! I was chatting to you for a minute or so as we were going up the second climb to the second water station. Man it was sooo hot! 36 degrees according to my bike computer. I did it last year and this year I took 20 minutes longer, gutted :( The heat really got to me and I walked more than I hoped I would, and then I got cramp on the river bed on the way back. glad I finished it though, but it was a hard day! Kelly (Nzkel on Vorb)

Tinkerbell said...

Thanks Kelly. Man 36 degrees, far out. Congrates on finishing, it was bloody tough just to keep going in that heat. Those river crossings at the end were heaven!!

Michelle said...

You definitely need to put your time in your results, you crazy lady! :-p

I was cursing those river crossings at the start but at the end they were heaven. 36 degrees! No wonder I was melting

Paul Petch said...

Hey :) I just found your blog via Vorb and what a great read it is too :)

36degs sounds intense and I can believe it as the Port Hills were 30+ yesterday. Congrats on finishing :)

I blog a little too and have added you to my links.

Keep up the great weight loss and happy trails.

Paul (I_ride_rigid on vorb)

Rita Langley said...

Hey Mel, sounds like you rode awesomely, and I love the descriptions of what it feels like doing it (spin spin spin, weeeee!) :P I know how you feel to not get a time, or to not get something that reflects how well you felt you rode. But if YOU felt like you rode well then you probably did!

And yay for your DH skills... Some day are you gonna trade you trail bike for seperate xc and DH bikes? :D

Tinkerbell said...

Thanks Rita, and as much as I'd love seperate bikes I don't think its gonna happen, plus what would I do in an xc race that has a killer downhill if I didn't have my beloved trail bike?? ;-)

MtbCat said...

hey mel,
Found your blog - managed to remember the address in the hot car on the way home. fries definitely restored me and Andy. Bummer you didn't get a time / place but you can mentally put yourself into the results and celebrate that.