Thursday, October 29, 2009

The promised video

As promised yesterday, here is the video of my new hucking powers. It isn't very big, but with the addition of an appropriate soundtrack it is very amusing. Well to me anyway.

In further news I went shuttling for the first time this year yesterday and it was good. When a friend says you have to come shuttling with her because she's just got a new bike and it's the hottest thing around roadie training gets thrown out the window. Shuttling was brilliant and while I was really nervous on the first run I was fully grinning at the bottom. The second run was even better and we rode a track I've never ridden before called Cool Runnings. I can't wait to do more shuttles, once I've finished all this training for the Molesworth.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A little Getaway

With all the house madness recently hubby and I were very happy to be heading north on Sunday to the lovely Hanmer Springs and some much needed riding together on lovely singletrack. It was a gorgeous sunny day and we got on the road by lunchtime, both happy to be leaving the city behind. It was scorching in the air-conditioningless car so windows were down and I drifted off to sleep, dreaming of downhill bikes. I was woken rudely by Pete’s exclamation of “Bloody hell” and soon saw what he was talking about. Ahead of us the hills were on fire and I made my first ever 111 call. Luckily the fire service already knew about the blaze and were on their way.

After dumping our stuff at our little cabin outside Hanmer we headed to the forest and decided to ride a lap of the proposed Hammerhead course. The whole first section is 4wd track climbing and I quickly discovered I wasn’t feeling very strong and the heat was making me grumpy. The fact that I hadn’t really eaten anything useful added to this and after heading the wrong way up Tank Track I had a wee rest in the shade and ate some muesli bar. Feeling greatly rejuvenated, we then headed over to Swoop which was fantastic and flowing, fast with some nice little technical-ish bits, then down Majuba, fantastic, and then back up to my most hated trail Timberlands. I managed to ride the whole thing without stopping once, but I still hated it. Then up to Red Rocks. I stuffed up the rocky pinch just before the top and flailed around like a fish out of water at the top over the rocks. The Anthem was very twitchy and I didn’t want to leak any blood on this ride. Down Red Rocks was fantastic, but the cool rock berm that I rode last time I was here completely psyched me out on the anthem as it looked a lot more cut up. Further down Red Rocks and a clay bog claimed Pete, which was amusing to watch, but I was glad I hadn’t ridden into it. After tip toeing through we continued on down to Dog Stream, then blasted down the road to Mach 1. I fluffed the first switchback, which annoyed me a lot, but decide to concentrate harder on the rest and they were sweet. Mach 1 flowed nicely and then we decided to quickly dash up the road, well Pete quickly dashed up the road, I slowly spun, to Black Dog for a fun but rut riddled blast down to the Forest Camp and Camp track.

The course seems really fun, with all of horrible climbing in the first half at the start of the lap and plenty of recovery before the singletrack climbs up Timberlands and Red Rocks. We called into Krank to find out about the new track that might be included and it sounds like it might be that old favourite Yankee Zypher. It was a great ride and the Anthem held its own, but was not as grin inducing as the Jamis. It was more nervous giggle inducing.

After a terrible night’s sleep we were up bright and early, Pete to fix his brake and gear cable issues, and me to lie about in the sun watching Pete fix his brake and gear cable issues and then getting him to fix mine. Once that was done Pete was showing off doing wheelies, which I’ve always struggle with. I thought I’d give it a go on my Anthem with its very different geometry. I was wearing very appropriate footwear, fluffy slippers that are a size to big, so it was rather amusing. Despite this slight handicap I found getting the front wheel of the Anthem off the ground was rather easy compared to my other bikes and with a bit more practise I think I could be wheelie-ing like a pro! Well maybe not, but I should be able to do them much better. This encouraged me to try riding up the wee rock wall outside the cabin and that went very well. Then it was time to head off on our ride of the day.

The Twin Passes! Up Jacks Pass, with just over 500m of climbing. It was very hot and still and very dusty with plenty of people heading back into Hanmer down the metalled road. Surprisingly my legs didn’t hate me too much and the climb wasn’t too horrific once we got past some of the nasty steep bits near the bottom. I did have to stop at one point to dunk my head under a little waterfall because I was overheating in the sun, but after that it was all good. I was very happy to make it to the top and enjoy the stunning views on all sides and a delicious bacon sandwich.

We also spotted that rare and elusive mountain creature, the wild lime green jandal. It was basking in the warm sun and taking in the beautiful view all around it. Then it was time to fly down the other side. The sun was starting to succumb to the clouds that were rolling in so we decided that loitering unnecessarily wouldn’t be a good idea. Down the other side and into Molesworth Station’s boundaries we flew, enjoying the stunning scenery. I know a lot of people who don’t like riding on metalled roads, they hunger for technical challenges and something more interesting to their riding. I like that too, but I do love riding along a deserted dirt road surrounded by mountains or plains or rivers or lakes or the sea or whatever. When you’re rolling along you can take in the grandeur of your surroundings and share conversation with your riding companion. I loved this ride, I was with my husband and the countryside rewarded us with a splendid show of light and nature.

Then we were at the intersection with Jollies Pass Rd and I was remembering how horrific I felt last time I was there. Luckily I didn’t feel quite so shocking on this ride, but I was pretty hammered from the big climb. The climb up Jollies was significantly shorter and easier than I remembered, which wasn’t too surprising, and then it was the fun blast down the gravel road. I focussed on keeping my weight going through my front wheel and really forcing it down into the road. It was tiring on my arms, but I had heaps of control and was able to blast as fast as I would have on my bigger bike. On the way down we found the entrance to Threshold and I decided I wasn’t interested in more climbing so continued down to find it’s exit while Pete went up to ride it. I’m very glad I didn’t bother as Pete found it a hard climb with a pretty tricky descent full of switchbacks with root drops, pinch climbs and not much flow. I found a strange trio of animal skulls to keep me entertained while I waited. Then it was down the road and off to the pub for a well earned drink. With all of the side trips and it was about 2hours 20 riding over about 28kms.

Once back at the camp I decided that I wanted to learn to huck off the step properly. It looked way too high to roll off and freaked me out when I rolled into it. So Pete showed me how he did it and then I practiced that on the wee low bit of wall I had been riding up. Round and round I went till I felt like I could land with both wheel simultaneously, rather than my usual trick of landing front wheel first. It was tricky getting the front to come up enough without then lifting the back, which I didn’t even know I could do until I didn’t want to do it. Then it was time for the “big” step. My first attempt showed me that landing front wheel first was fine, muppet. Then I got it. I’m really rather stoked with this achievement and need to find somewhere safe to try it with my big bike and then I’ll be ready to huck of bigger things!

Tune in tomorrow for an AMAZING vid of my mad core skillz*

*Note: this statement may contain traces of sarcasm.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Sometimes real life gets in the way

Training for the Molesworth had been going very well last week. A couple of big roadie rides and a fantastic ride over the Port Hills on the way home and my legs were feeling good. I was particularly happy with my Port Hills ride as last time I attempted to ride home from work via Rapaki, Traverse, Thompsons and Kennedy’s it just about killed me. In fact I was quite a state when I got home. This time was quite different and I was very happy to be out in the hills in the sun after the run of terrible weather we’ve been having.

It was a fairly uneventful ride, which was nice for a change. I am getting a little bored of falling off my bike every time I ride it. The traverse was great as usual and even though my back went into spasm towards the end I was still grinning with joy. Given that it seems I must make a fool of myself every ride, now was the time to do it. My back was so sore that I decided I’d better stretch it out before continuing on. I found a nice grassy spot and did a yoga stretch called child’s pose. Of course it was now that a couple of nice young men I know appeared up through the trees. Being the cool, calm and collected type I just acted like it was completely normal for me to be stretched out on the ground with my face in the grass and they were none the wiser.

After a brief chat I continued on towards home and was feeling so good that I used the singletrack to climb up the wee bump on Kennedy’s and then headed down the Croc. It was fantastic, although there were some nasty holes to be avoided. Then I was home and feeling pooped, but not destroyed. I had great plans for weekend riding, but those were not to be.

Unfortunately all training plans for the weekend had to be shelved so we could work on the house and get it ready to sell. So instead of a long roadie ride on Saturday I was in the garden weeding and laying brick edging. And instead of riding from one end of the Port Hills to the other on Sunday I was vacuuming, cleaning windows, moving boxes, rearranging furniture and dusting. Talk about house work karma. The good news is the house is looking fantastic and if you’re in the market for a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom house with a gorgeous garden 5 minutes from Kennedy’s Bush and the Crocodile you should contact Cheryl Magon or come for a look at our open home on the Saturday and Sunday of next weekend and the weekend after.

Hopefully we’ll be making up for the lack of riding this weekend by having a couple of days in Hanmer to celebrate my lovely hubby’s birthday and get away from all the house stress for a couple of days.

Monday, October 12, 2009

And the prize for defending the world from roaming hordes of the undead is – a lovely handcrafted ninja throwing star!

Clockwise fromtop right: me, Mops, Rita, Nic, Anna

Saturday was the Giant 12hr Day Nighter at McLeans Island and our team was there to protect all from any wandering zombies. We were the Swine Flu Survivers Zombie Killing Mtb Army on SingleSpeeds (SFSZKMASS), and we were thoroughly prepared. Our team consisted of Rita “Double Agent” Langley, a specialist in zombie mob infiltration and endurance missions. Anna “Skull Crusher” Ross, lethal with a baseball bat and a danger to herself and others. Mops “Medic!!” Newall, the Florence Nightengale of the group, tough as nails and with a mouth to match, but always willing to go to the aid of a fallen comrade. Ring-in Nicole “Sniper” Symons, fast as lightening and crack shot, called in at the last minute to replace Michelle “Kill them all!” Peterson, who was taken down by zombie scum with a nasty bite to the hip. We can only pray she’s not infected. And finally me, Melanie “Field Commander” Dunlop, with the boots to kick the team in the arse and a voice to lay waste to all comers.

When doing battle with zombie, a large arsenal is vital for survival
The day started off in freezing style, hail pelted me as I packed the last vital supplies into the car. Anna arrived on time, a good omen for the rest of the day and we were off. Together we managed to secure a primo corner site with great lines of sight that would prevent us being flanked by the undead. In no time our camp was set up and coffee was brewing on the brazier, we were prepared for all eventualities. Rita bravely volunteered to lead us out and take the first two laps and soon she was lost in a sea of riders racing across the paddock to try and squash through the 2 rider wide scaffolding underpass. Rita set a blistering pace from the word go and we kept the camp clear of the undead scum and encouraged our fellow contestants on with kind words and soft voices.

As Rita and Mops rode the first 4 laps I decided that the 32:15 I had on was a wee bit tall for my feeble legs with the wet energy sapping grass and the nasty head winds up the stop banks and through the exposed section. A quick change back to 32:16 and I was feeling much happier by the time it was time for me to ride. It was still freezing so I decided to try riding one lap in my knee high Doc’s. They were ok on the flat and through the swoopy bits, but rubbish climbing the stopbanks and extremely slippery any time they got wet in the enormous puddles that were dotted around the course. Still it was fun riding in inappropriate footwear and all the boys that passed me liked them! I turned in a pretty good first lap which I think was about 32 minutes, but I’m not really sure. We checked our times and discovered there was a bit of a stuff up with our transponder (ours was missing when I went to get it, so we had number 21 instead of number 535), but that was quickly sorted, and we found ourselves placed 2nd. There was much rejoicing at camp with this news.

Only an undead freak could ride one of these!

We continued battling the zombie masses at camp, liberally peppering our competitors with potato pellets (zombie brains), encouragement and insults. Not to mention chasing any lurkers with guns blazing and baseball bat at the ready. Mops also went to the rescue of a fallen 6 hr solo competitor who was suffering from cramp and used her healing powers to get him back on the bike.

Mops administers first aid to a fallen competitor

For some reason we couldn’t get many people to oblige us and “DO A SKID!!!!”, but the few we did get were impressive and led to great raucous cheers. Rita, Mops, and Nic put in the hard yards and did double laps, being strongly motivated with threats of beatings. Anna and I took turn about to do single laps and the sun put in a very welcome appearance. There was still some wind, but it was no where near as awful as the morning. My laps felt better and better as the day progressed and I was loving the course, especially the flowing new section through the trees. The exposed new section was not as much fun, with its strange bump placements and constant headwind.

Zombie killing machine showing the spoils of the hunt

I even managed to pass quite a few people this year and the standard of passing was much better than last year with everyone being pretty considerate on my laps. The course was a good balance of hurty struggling parts and super fun bits where I was pretty much spinning out with the tailwind. It turns out all the roadie riding I’ve been doing has really paid off because my lungs were up to the task of the spinney gear. My throat was feeling worse for wear from the extreme heckling, so I rested it for short stretches when I wasn’t riding to make sure I could go the distance.

Zombies can sneak up from behind, however are easily fooled by this ruse!

We were lucky to be visited in our camp by plenty of cool people who came for a chat, to steal some of our warmth, to bring us delicious chocolate cup cakes (thanks so much Rachel, they were divine), and add to the lunacy we were trying to spread (yay! Michelle). There was also a very exciting moment when the evil zombies released a double ezi-up into the wind and it came rolling over the camp site towards us. Lucky a shiny new Range Rover stopped it from impaling us all, but it was touch and go. We never found the nest of zombies that threatened to lay us low, but we renewed our hunting with great vigour, smashing zombie brains with our bat whenever the opportunity arose.

Rita's amazing infiltration skillz almost result in a lost head

As the sun set we cranked up the fire again and sorted out the final lap order. As other teams stood round with clip boards carefully tracking each time, we cheered for the brave souls battling in the 12 hour solo. As other teams warmed up on wind trainers, we chased people with guns and bats and motivated them to try harder. And as darkness fell we got a wee bit serious and decided to go hell for leather at the end. I have to say I was feeling pretty nervous about doing the penultimate lap, however I was also relishing the chance to get a night lap in.

Zombie brain baseball, a fun family pursuit

As I set off there was next to no wind, but my legs were hurting bad. I kept pushing as hard as I could and by the time I got into the singletrack I was feeling good. I was in the hurt box in a way I’ve never been in before, but it was actually good and I was flying through the night. The whole last lap was a blur of passing, pain, grinning, grinding and joy. I truly loved this lap, it stands out in my mind as the best piece of riding I’ve ever done. I felt really fast and when I rolled into the camp I was completely and utterly spent and could only dimly comprehend how stoked my team mates were with my ride. I was grinning madly, but also struggling to stand and collapsed happy into the enormous pillow I’d brought with me for just such an occasion. I felt like I’d finally done a sub-30 minute lap, but the results say I only shaved 30 seconds off my time.

Nic put in a scorching last lap and we hoped we’d held onto second. With military precision, of course, we disposed of the zombie corpses littering the camp and packed it away and headed to the prize giving. Fully armed, we formed a protective circle with Mops standing sentry and waited for the results. Finally the women’s category was announced and our name was called. We got third and were all completely stoked (even though 2nd was a mere 10 secs faster). We went out there to have fun and ride our singlespeeds hard, not to win anything. I’m pretty sure that we had the most fun of any team that day and we certainly showed that you don’t need to take team’s events seriously to do well. We all received our ninja throwing stars and also managed to snake the best dressed prize, despite the crowd’s lack of appreciation for our zombie fighting skills. It was a great event, well run and more fun than just about anything else I can think of. Thanks to my fabulous team mates for getting us onto the podium, my first ever, and those who came along to say hi and support us for making it such a brilliant day. And huge thanks to my hubby for putting up with me this weekend!

Monday, October 5, 2009

It’s a conspiracy!!!

To say that my training routine has suffered slightly in the last couple of weeks is an understatement. And my lack of blogging is a permanent reminder of this period of inactivity. So to make myself feel less ashamed of my slackness and hopefully to provide you, my dear reader, with some amusement, I present the following post in the style of New Zealand’s unbiased and informative mainstream media.

Shock return of winter hinders courageous cyclist
The last two weeks have seen Christchurch plunged into mid-winter conditions as icy blasts of cold air hammer the country from the depths of the Southern Ocean. Of course, being Spring, the most settled of seasons for weather, this has taken cyclists completely unawares which has resulted in many a cancelled training ride. The preceding warm period, which strongly signalled the end of all bad weather for all time, has exacerbated the problem for cyclists, many of whom have packed all of their warm clothes away into storage containers and burnt their wet weather gear as a sign of devotion to the god’s of warm weather. All are now shocked and disoriented by this unexplained return to cold unsettled conditions.

For one rider in particular, the writer of this very blog, this sinister change of weather has brought with it other barriers to training than just bitterly cold winds and freezing rains. The rider in question has courageously fought her way back from a dramatic injury which required her right arm to be pinned together again, and since then has been going from strength to strength on the bike. She was completely unprepared for the cruel blow the weather gods had in store for her. As the temperatures plummeted to an unbearable 7 degrees C the pain in this freshly healed arm was shocking. Uncertain of her future on the bike this cyclist sought medical advice and was assured that the pain was normal. Unfortunately this injury, in combination with an enormous soccer-ball sized hematoma, has kept her from any serious training for the past 2 weeks. Indeed, even had she been uninjured the terrible apathy brought on by the strange, unheard of weather and the government conspiracy to bring forward daylight savings while the weather is cold, would have stopped her from training anyway. Can she come back from such a set-back? She is confident she can and has already thrown herself back into training with a renewed commitment that must be admired.

Tackling bright and sunny conditions on Saturday she has bravely completed a long ride for Motokara to Little River again, this time with the support of a good friend and fellow cycle addict. Unfortunately for the two attractive and fit cyclists, the weather was once more destined to throw hurdles in their path. A howling head wind greeted these brave women as they set out on their return journey, making it one of agony and slowness. On more than one occasion they were forced to huddle behind trees or rocks to get some respite from the terrible winds, before regrouping their strength and struggling onwards. They were unaided in their journey and were often mocked by those lucky souls who were travelling with the gale at their backs. After 2 hours of battling the ghastly wind the two women successfully completely their journey and were completely spent from their battle. Such bravery and determination in the face of such unheard of and unfair weather can only be commended, especially following, as it does, a period of inactivity and injury.

So as you can see from the above account (which contains no sarcasm, exaggeration, or bias, no really, it doesn’t , honest) I’m back on the training wagon, which is just as well. Saturday sees the next race of the season, although in no universe can this be seen to be serious, but more on that later. I don’t want to spoil the surprise. Needless to say, I’ve been doing a few laps on McLean’s Island on my singlespeed with my girls and we’re all hoping the weather behaves on Saturday, so we can unleash carnage on the unsuspecting. If you’re at the 12hr race and see a big red tent full of chicks dressed strangely and singlespeeds, say hi.