Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Tragedy – unexpected breakages

When I got the Anthem one of the first things I did was replace the seat, and not just with any old seat. With a beautiful colour co-ordinated and light Specialized Ariel. I loved this seat. It looked amazing and felt great to ride. Every time I got my bike out of the garage it would greet me and make me smile, inviting me to get on and ride and ride. Then I went for a little superman over my bars onto the road and split my chin open. I thought the damage was solely to my fast healing body, I was wrong. Riding into the bike shop to pick up new, bloodless gloves I noticed a pronounced lean to the right. I had a sinking feeling in my stomach, and hoped desperately that my wonderful seat was not stuffed. Alas, it was. Rails terribly bent.

The lovely mechanic at the Hub did his best to straighten them and the seat was rideable. My hopes soared and I headed up the hills for my planned 2.5 hrs. By the top of Rapaki I knew all was not well and had severe pain in places no one ever wants pain. By the time I made it home things were grim and I knew I had to get a new seat. Not good news given my destitute financial state.

There was only one thing for it. Time to sell my possessions! Used my gift for silliness I whipped up an ad for my spare couch and threw it on trademe. In no time I had hundreds of page views and loads of watchers. Unfortunately that didn’t turn into loads of bidders, but I got enough money to cover the cost of a new seat and some race entry fees. Yay.

The lovely Andrew at the Hub tracked me down a new seat (not as fabulous looking as my old seat) and had it ready for me to pick up in time for a ride on the dry tracks at the weekend. My butt (and other regions) were happy again and I spent a rather blusterous 3hrs riding up Kennedy’s (only got blown off three times), up Marleys, down Flying Nun (sketchy in the wind), up to the Traverse and across it (only blown off twice) and then for the first time up Mt Vernon. Mt Vernon was great, expect for the walkers who couldn’t hear me calling over the wind and then informed me that’d like to see me fall off cause that would be funny. I personally didn’t find this very amusing.

The wind took its toll on my and I headed down Rapaki, ruing the fact Old Bownevale wasn’t open and Rapaki was sooooo boring. Luckily I had the wind behind me and the way home and helped my tired legs over the Cashmere Downs. I was completely smashed and happy with it. I’m pretty stoked to be able to do long rides this early in the year. I’ll be sending my entry off to the McLeans 6hr this week. Yay!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Gratuitous self promotion all in the name of racing

My dear generous loyal readers, you are looking gorgeous today. Have you lost weight? Have you been working out, you’re looking buff! You really nailed that last climb. I’ve always been good to you haven’t I? Entertained with embarrassing stories from my life. Well now I need your help. I’ve recently planned out my racing schedule for the rest of the year and it looks good, the only problem is money. You see I’m a poor student now and have zero disposable income (and next to zero non-disposable income), so to finance things like racing I have to be a bit creative. So I’ve entered a competition to win a shiny new phone worth a load of money. I made this extremely embarrassing video.

What I would like you all to do is to go to this website http://forum.vodafone.co.nz/topic/5436-sony-ericsson-xperia-x10-mini-pro-competition/, joined the Vodafone forum (I know this is a pain in the arse) and vote for my video (ahidingplace). I need all the help I can get by 5pm today. Please help me get to races this year!

Coming soon – buy my couch!

Friday, July 16, 2010


Initially Aspire has been all about adapting to less for me. Primarily less food, but also to having less energy for a while. I’m pleased to say that this phase of my diet is pretty much complete. I have adapted to having less food and my energy levels have returned to their pre-famine levels. I shouldn’t say famine, because it no longer feels like a famine, all the time, but it certainly did at the start.

To test out just how well my body is coping with the new food regime I decided to put it to the test last week, with a high volume of riding. Obviously I had to do quite a lot of riding and walking on Monday to complete my GE film and even though I was very silly and didn’t take anything at all with me except plain water, I survived that rather well. I had a nice hour of roadie spinning on Tuesday and on Wednesday I decided it was time for the big test. 3hrs on the bike with a muesli bar and a bottle of replace. In the good old days I would have taken a couple of muesli bars, a banana and some lollies with me and some sort of energy gel. I’ve realised that instead of relying on my body’s fitness to get me through long rides I was just eating and eating and eating so my body didn’t even have to try to burn up stored energy. Wednesday’s ride showed me that I don’t have to gorge myself to ride long and hard. It was a fairly full on ride, with a very slippery ascent up Kennedy’s which required a lot more walking than I would have liked because there was just no traction in the wet. Flying Nun was closed so I hoofed it round the road to the start of the Traverse and had fun flying along there. Then it was an icy blast down Rapaki and I headed into town to do an errand (my excuse for getting out for a ride). I felt great till I hit the flat road just after Rapaki. It felt like my legs had fallen off, but after a brief and slightly torturous visit to the Med Supermarket (the wood fired piaaz smells were just evil) I struggled home into the freezing southerly headwind. The last 5kms were pretty sucktastic, but as a test for adapting to less food I felt like my body passed with flying colours.

I had a couple of rest days and then on Saturday hit Kennedy’s with my hubby. Keen to show of my new climbing legs up the road I kept it in the middle ring and smashed my way up the first bit of climbing as fast as I could. Fool. I certainly crested the first rise faster than I ever had before, but I’d pretty much blown my legs doing it. I think it was probably the first time I’ve ever gotten there with my lovely hubby cruising just behind me rather than racing off ahead and circling back to see me so it was worth it. Unfortunately once we got to Kennedy’s track proper it was even wetter than earlier in the week with water flowing in streams across the 4wd tracks so our ride was cut short at the first water reservoir. We daintily negotiated our way back down the mud safely and decided to visit our section and do some skids. Unfortunately my propensity for doing incredibly stupid things on my bike got the better of me and I ended up marking our territory at the entrance of our new street by running my chin across the asphalt after gracefully flying over my bars.

Needless to say there hasn’t been any riding this week as I came away with 3 stitches and a mild concussion. Unfortunately I got rather excited after securing tickets to Metallica on Tuesday and jumped around the living room in celebration and have been blessed with a splitting headache ever since. So a week of perfect weather has been wasted. Sigh. Good news though. I have a new and even more insane goal on the horizon. The incredibly painful sounding Mini Brevet. 300kms, 5800m of vertical ascent in 36hrs around Banks Peninsula. This is going to take some serious training so I’m just putting together a plan at the moment. I’m also planning on doing both the McLeans and Timaru 6hr solos. With my weight loss going so well, I’m now 5kgs down, its time to kick my riding into a new gear. I know I can do it if I put the work in and I can manage to stop falling off my bike.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Mid winter creativity

Hello my lovely readers! I am in a very cheerful moodas I have just finished creating my magnum opus, a short film about Ground Effect's wonderful clothes and just how many items from their catelogue I have. What inspired this burst of film making? Well one of the lovely Ground Effect employees got in touch with me and asked if they could us my stop motion of the jacket and pants packing themselves on their soon to be released youtube site. They also liked this very blog so in the future you may find some of my previous posts gracing the Ground Effect stalkbook page. If you haven't visit that page, go here and 'Like' them. I could waffle on further about the riding I've been doing and how Aspire is still going well, although I am a bit bored of it right now and would like some chocolate, but instead I'll just put my video up. Thanks Ground Effect for making Oarsum clothing that gets me out in all weather.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Winter isn’t stopping me!

It is very easy not to ride during the wet, windy, cold winter days and it does become very difficult to ride any of my MTBs as the tracks are closed and muddy. However I’m not letting that stop me in my quest of skinnierness. I had my weekly weigh in this week and now I’ve lost 4.5kgs since I started Aspire and have dropped a dress size. Oh yes, that feels pretty damn good. Best of all my energy levels are getting higher and higher and I can now go for longer and longer rides without needing to eat. My endurance and stamina are back to pre-diet levels and I’ll be able to start working on speed soon. Even more exciting is the fact that my strength has improved out of sight. My upper body strength is better than it’s been in years, my core strength is really improving and my leg strength is right up there as I showed myself yesterday with some nice seated climbing. Fun.
I did almost give myself hypothermia riding for over 90mins in the drizzle and southerly yesterday, but it was still a good, if very painful at the end, ride. I felt strong and I didn’t feel lightheaded or ravenous at all. But it hasn’t been just about the bike for me for the last 7 weeks, I’ve been working out. A couple of years ago I got a gym membership. It was pretty good and I enjoyed it over winter, but I found it took the focus away from my riding. However what it did give me was knowledge of a number of free weights exercises I can easily do in the comfort of my own home. I’ve combined this with my elbow rehab exercises and I’ve got myself a nice little ten minute mini work out that I try do 3 times a day. It’s been going so well that I’ve had to get more weights to keep it challenging. Now I’ve got my strength back I can hit the yoga mat again so I’ve got a selection of nice 30 minute workouts I can chose from each morning. I try to do yoga most days and some days it not only gives me a great workout, it also sets me up for my day of writing. What more could you want, exercise and inspiration all in one go. Sounds like riding to me! I’ve got 4 more weeks of Aspire to go and I’m really excited about all the things I’ve learnt and how good I’m feeling. I give Aspire 2 thumbs up.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Quality time in the pain box

I would like to begin this post by reminding my lovely readers of this other post that I wrote less than a month ago in which I detailed my failed attempt to ride 12kms. That’s right, less than a month ago I couldn’t do a lap of Bottlelake without collapsing. Keep that in mind as you read about my day yesterday, The Shortest Day.

As I said in my previous post I was doing this event for the challenge, that challenge being to see how far and how long I could ride for with no real training to speak of. On Saturday I took the advice of my Aspire dietician and had some extra servings of grain and I also added an extra serving of protein. I woke early on Sunday and had a bigish breakfast, not sure if the event was even going to be happening with all the rain that had fallen over night. Driving over to Sumner the sunrise was glorious and I arrived just in time to make a few notes on the points values of a few tracks and head off just after all the others. I made some quick calculations about what I thought I could achieve and decided to head to Bottlelake (10pts). It was a nice cruise in the morning sun and I arrived at the sandpit feeling pretty good. I sifted a lap and felt sorry for my poor drive train as there were some extremely muddy bits on the new sections of track. I made sure to keep my intensity under control and didn’t worry when I got passed. All these other riders were out for a Sunday lap of the forest, I had bigger fish to fry. Once I’d finished my lap I had 33kms under my belt and had been going for just over 2 hours. I had some delicious OSM (gah, I hate them) and got back on the road to head to McLean’s Island.

Not sure of exactly which roads were the best to take I followed my instincts and made pretty good choices. The rain came down for a while as I cruised along Prestons Rd and soon I reached Main North Rd. Having never been on Prestons Rd before it took me a couple of seconds to orient myself at the intersection, before turning left and heading down to Sawyers Arms Rd. I knew where I was now and headed for Johns Rd (after a brief stop sheltering under someone’s tree to eat more OSM). Soon I was on Johns Rd and my legs were telling me that they were not happy. I found heading out to McLean’s to be a rather painful and unpleasant experience and when I finally got there I headed straight for the tuck shop and grabbed an Ems Power Cookie Bar (om nom nom!). The guy in shop asked if I was doing “that crazy mountain bike marathon” and I said yes. Then he proceeded to tell me how fit and fast the other riders looked. I agreed with him, because all my fellow mad people were indeed skinny whippety sorts (even Slim!). I told him I was representing the overweight, unfit people of the world and he wished me luck. I stopped to have a decent feed of Powercookie Bar, banana, chilli and lime nut bar (OMG, Nice and Natural’s savoury nut bars are the shizzle) and handful of sour snakes before heading out on the big loop.

I had entertained thoughts during the week of bringing the roadie on this ride and swapping after McLeans, thank god I didn’t. The track was very wet and super muddy and the roadie would have just sunk in it. I cruised along, tucked nicely inside the pain box, riding in that brainless dream you sometimes get into. Many previous laps of this track mean that riding brainless was no problem and I was soon out in the dreaded new back section that I loathe. My legs was really telling me that they were not impressed with the treatment I was giving them and when I got back to the new overbridge I had a wee rest and consumed more snakes. 3kms to go back to the carpark and I grovelled back there, dreading the ride back into town.

I got back to the carpark and I’d done almost 75kms in 4hrs and my original plan for the day was fast going out the window. I had been planning on heading to Halswell from here, calling in at home for more drink and dry clothes and then going up Kennedys. As I lay in the bandstand at McLeans covered in mud I knew there was no way I was going to get up a hill now. I guessed it was 30ish kms back to Sumner and that felt like more than I was capable off. I rang hubby and told him I was going to take the most direct route back to Sumner I could and that I was planning on stopping off at C1 on the way for a decent fed and a long rest. I scoffed down half a Cookie Time cookie and got back on the road. I was very happy to note that heading away from McLeans was much easier and with the calls of monkeys and howls of African dogs ringing in my ears I headed to Harewood Rd.

At this point I was really feeling unable to go on. As I passed St James church on the outskirts of town I knew I had to lie down. I pulled into their driveway and saw to my great delight that they had a pew under the veranda of their community centre. Yes! As I lay on that pew with my feet up my mind was completely empty. Even the pain receded as I relaxed. It was bliss. After 10 minutes I felt rejuvenated and got back on my bike and headed into town.

The ride into the centre of town seemed to fly by. I think it was the thought of hot foot and a hot chocolate. Soon I was attaching my bike to the bike stands outside C1 with my helmet and perusing their food cabinet. I’d been dreaming about macaroni cheese on my ride into town, but I was thwarted and settled for beef rogan josh with ginger rice, which was even better than mac cheese. I felt a bit guilty as I slipped my mud covered self in the movie stall seat by the window so I could watch over my not very securely locked bike. The food was heaven, the warmth was heaven, the hot chocolate was heaven and watching all the trendily dressed hipsters stare at the muddy creature by the window was very amusing.

As I sat in the warmth looking at pictures in magazines (I couldn’t read words because I’d lost my brain, even ordering food had been an effort of mammoth proportions) my feet thawed out and the circulation returned and I knew I had just the right amount of time to get back to Sumner for the 4:59pm cutoff. I called into the Mobil on Madras St to grab some sports water as I’d run out of fluids and some Panadol extra to stave off my impending migraine. As I left the shop a nice fella came up to me and asked how my ride was. I said it was pretty good and he asked how far I’d been and when I replied that I’d end up doing over 100kms he was gobsmacked. The look on his face was priceless and it was actually hard to leave because he wanted to ask me loads of questions and he kept wishing me luck. I do rather enjoy smashing people’s preconceptions of someone my size.

The grovel back to Sumner was just a mist of pain. At one point Dean Hamilton came barrelling past me with a horribly cheerful wahoo! which urged a little more speed out of the weird white pudding-like substance that was masquerading as my legs. The esplanade in Sumner seemed to stretch on forever and then I was finally at the clock tower. 106kms under my belt with 6hrs 24mins of riding. Sure I hadn’t got anywhere near the hills like all the other loonies doing this ride, but I had achieved more than I thought I could. I had underestimated the distances involved in traversing the city, which was probably a good thing or I might not have even gone out at all, but I had learnt that I have more mental and physical toughness than I knew. I feel like with training I can achieve even more. Being in the painbox for 3.5hrs, with no training, was a great experience. Now I just need to find where I left my brain.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Oh my god, what have I done?

The last time I had one of these moments was back in late March 2008 when I couldn’t stop thinking about going to Wellington for the Super Double-D Cup event. It was so far out of my comfort zone and I was terrified. But it turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I had an amazing time, met amazing people who I’ve become good friends with and it completely changed my outlook on riding. I learned to enjoy the thrill of risk and my riding has improved out of sight since then.

Well I’m having another of these moments. I’ve signed on to take part in the Shortest Day, an informal event run by a local madman. Basically in entails riding from 8:03am on Sunday morning till 5pm on Sunday evening, leaving from and returning to Sumner and covering as many tracks from a list to be revealed on the morning as possible in that time. All of those taking part in this event are the super fit cool kids of Christchurch mountain biking....... and me. Eeeeeep!

Why am I doing this, particularly when I’m not at my fastest, strongest or enduringest? Well, it seems like fun, it is a challenge, it’s not a race, and I reckon if I just go at my own pace I’ll cover plenty of ground and have fun. Most importantly, over the last few years I’ve learnt that when I get outside my comfort zone I have the BEST times. These informal events that are about the camaraderie of MTBing are the best in my opinion. No matter how fit you are, you’re all out doing the same thing to the best of your abilities. Sure, I’ll be lucky to cover half the ground of all the other whippets, but I’ll have fun doing it (I hope).

And Now an Amusing Aside: Flasher!!!
With this lovely sunny weather we’ve been experiencing in Christchurch this week I’ve been getting around on my bike more. Yay! Yesterday I headed into town to have lunch with a lovely friend and to get a nice roadie ride under my belt. So that I wouldn’t feel quite so special in town I took a skirt to throw on over my lycra. Lunch was fantastic and after walking around for a bit I headed back to my bike to finish my roadie with a jaunt along the base of the hills and over the Cashmere Downs. Being lazy and without much shame I couldn’t be bothered heading back into the cafe just to remove my skirt when I would be walking and riding around in what I was wearing underneath it. So standing by my bike outside the fantastic C1 cafe with patrons enjoying their smokes in the alfresco dining area I quickly whipped my skirt down to my ankles and stood up. As I straightened I heard a strange staticy crackling behind me and turn to see two police officers directly behind me, studiously avoiding meeting my gaze. Oooops, I just flashed a couple of the country’s finest. (Well not really, no extra skin was exposed during this manoeuvre.) I wonder what was going through their heads as I pulled my skirt down, but before they saw my bike shorts? I’m still giggling about it today. So here’s my tip to cheer yourself up on a gloomy winter’s day, undress in front of a cop!

Monday, June 14, 2010

What a difference a week makes!

My last post didn’t talk much about week 4 of Aspire and that was because I was feeling completely down about the whole thing when I wrote it. Luckily my lack of weight loss didn’t make me want to throw in the towel, it just made me want to try harder. For me last week was all about getting out on my bike in the sun. Yep, there were multiple sunny days last week and I put them to good use with a lovely roadie ride out to Tai Tap, a wee jaunt up Kennedy’s Bush Rd in middle chain ring and some absolutely fantastic Nun repeats.

It was a pretty busy week, being a short one and I was determined to eat properly and focus on how my body reacted to higher intensity exercise now that I wasn’t feeling so hungry all the time. My roadie ride was great. I focussed on keeping a nice high cadence the whole ride and after an hour I got home feeling good and strong. I wasn’t ravenous either, but I certainly enjoyed my poached eggs that day. The next day I headed up Kennedy’s Bush Rd to see if I still had the stamina to get up the road in my middle chain ring. I won’t lie, I had to rest at the crest of the first hill as I was panting like a dog, but I was soon on my way and made to the gate at the top of the seal without dropping into grannies. Yes! My stamina is slowly coming back as my body adapts to getting less fuel in. Unfortunately I had pretty much stuffed myself for much more riding and after attacking the first section of 4wd track and discovering that the next section was not only incredibly muddy, but exposed to the nasty wind, I decided to head home for some food.

Saturday was the CSC’s end of year function and I was flat out all day. I was helping Roscoe prepare a gift for Craig and Rebekah and had to get up early to get last minute supplies. As I was driving back from town in the sun I decided that the weather was too good to waste and I would have to head out for laps of the Nun since it might not be open again for weeks. This was the right decision. The track was in perfect condition. No standing water, pretty dry, but just tacky enough to provide fantastic traction and running so smooth it was heaven. I only had an hour to get up there ride and get home before heading to the hall to help set up and I managed to get 2 runs in. I so wanted to do more, but it was not to be. The rest of the day and the evening flew by in a blur, although I did managed to completely resist the lure of Spag’s pizza’s and have a healthy dinner that night.

My busy week has paid dividends and I’ve now lost another whole kg since my last weigh in last Tuesday bringing my total for 6 weeks to 3.5kgs. I’m very happy with that, but I’m happier with the progress my fitness is making. The mini-work outs I’ve been doing at home are starting to benefit my riding with my upper body strength finally coming back and my core strength increasing. I’m looking forward to this week and getting out riding more. I feel like I’ve got over the hump now and the next 6 weeks of Aspire are going to be great.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Exploring strange new worlds

Finally I got to do some real mountain biking this weekend past! My lovely husband and I made a last minute decision to head over to the West Coast for Queen’s Birthday weekend and managed to score some lovely accommodation at Havenz, where we stayed last time we were there, in Punakaiki. I was very excited to head up to Denniston Plateau for some exploring as I’d read great things about the trails in both my trusty Kennett bible and NZMTBR. We drove over on Saturday and had a leisurely trip with a few stop offs and then chillaxed in our tree top accommodation and listened to the birds in the forest all around us.

Sunday was warm and humid, but overcast so we packed for wet wintery conditions and headed north. After a brief stop in Westport for nourishment and a map of the tracks at Denniston from the information centre there (only $1) we were soon winding our way up the hill to the old coal mining area. After exploring the old Incline where the coal was sent down off the plateau and hucking off various things we headed further up the hill the Friends of the Hill museum, where all the tracks started. We’d decided on the 11km cross country circuit and headed out into the desolate landscape. There was a definite chill in the air and the snow on the side of the 4wd tracks was evidence that we up in an alpine environment. It was gorgeous and barren and even riding the metalled road was a pleasure as the views on all sides were spectacular. The Southern Alps surrounded us on one side and on the other the coast and Tasman Sea stretched for miles.

Soon the road deteriorated into a very rough 4wd track and started with a very steep pinch climb. I was pretty impressed that I almost made it to the top of the pinch, give how weak I’ve been feeling lately, but it really knocked the wind out of me. We continued heading up and the track soon became a boggy river in places and there was a bit of walking. The track was mostly slab rock as we got higher which meant a lot of it was rideable as long as you picked the right line.

I really enjoyed the challenge of riding this terrain. I’ve never been confident about riding up rocks, but I found that I was taking on things I probably would have walked in the past and riding really well. I think all the playing in the back garden with my bmx has helped me get my head around lifting my front wheel to get over things. The final uphill section consisted of a rocky chute with gnarly roots running cross it and a nice stream trickling down in. It was almost like a series of little steps and I was grinning when I got to the top.

From there the fun really started. The descent was really rocky so not much mud to suck at wheels. I was loving choosing different lines down ledges and blasting across slabs. Soon we came to a steep rocky chute and after stopping to scope it out I could see a nice smooth line that I felt confident about riding. Hubby walked down and grumpily told me he wasn’t going to watch me crash, but I knew my line was good and I just had to carry enough speed into it. Whoooooosh and I was safely down cackling like a mad woman. It was great and was the first scary chute I’ve ever ridden, also the first thing I’ve ever ridden that my hubby hasn’t!

This success filled me with confidence and when we came to the next rocky chute I could again see a nice line, but wasn’t comfortable with the run in on the Anthem, so sensibly walked it. Unfortunately on the third rocky chute I wasn’t so sensible and didn’t even stop to scope it. I did however slow down way too much and as I entered the chute I thought “If I hit that big rock there I’ll endo” so of course I hit that rock and went straight over the bars. I was worried that hubby might be nearby so I cheerfully yelled out “Bugger!” in a tone that said “That looked way worse than it was, don’t worry I’m fine”. Meanwhile what I was thinking was “Oh shit, that hurt my hip really badly, but at least my bung elbow, shoulder, chest, doesn’t seem too bad, shit I’ve got gorse in my gloves and down my back, oh I’m stuck upside down, oooh my finger is a bit cut, thank god I’m wearing gloves, thank god I have extra padding round my hips, damn its difficult getting up when you feet are higher than your head.”

After this barrage of thoughts I realised that hubby wasn’t nearby because there was no yelling to see if I was alright so I gingerly felt my various parts for damage and slowly extracted myself from amongst the rocks and gorse. I’ve never crashed anywhere so jagged before and was feeling pretty lucky to be limping down the hill intact. My rear brake had been filled with dirt unfortunately and was making a hell of a noise and I was too scared to look at my hip while we were still in the middle of nowhere. Hubby was waiting at the bottom of the final and gnarliest rock chute which I walked down with a sheepish look on my face. I informed hubby of my overconfident muppetry and he sighed and we headed back to the car. The heavens opened up and it bucketed down and I sent hubby off ahead to bring the car up the museum. When I got there looking like a drowned rat the coal fire was burning away nicely and I stood in front of it and steamed till the car arrived with dry clothes. That fire was fantastic. I haven’t been near a coal fire since I was a child and I’d forgotten just how lovely the heat is from good quality coal (how un-PC of me!).

Finally I dragged myself away from the fire and got changed into dry clothes before reinstalling myself in front of the fire again. It was great watching the old films of the mines and hearing the stories, some of them terrible, of life on the plateau.
On our way out we stopped at an old abandoned playground which spoke volumes about how life had moved on. I took some photos and then a very scary man came and yelled at us so we left, feeling like we could hear banjos ringing in our ears.

Once back at our unit I perused the damage to my hip and was slightly horrified to see the bruise which is still spreading. Ouch!

Our trip home over Arthur’s Pass the next day was well timed, the weather was closing in quickly and our car kindly informed us that it was 3 degrees outside with a cheery ding. We stopped to play with the keas at Deadman’s Corner above the Otira Viaduct and they were most interested in eating various parts of our bikes. Luckily we managed to keep them safe from marauding beaks and claws.

The trip was wonderful and although I haven’t managed to lose any weight again this week (WTF!) I am happy to be riding my bikes again. I also look forward to a return trip to Denniston to explore more of the 50kms of tracks, and to planning my next cycle tour. I seem to be falling in love with the West Coast.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Ideas formed in Childhood aren't always correct!

I know, I know. This seems to shocking to be true, but indeed it is true. In this case I am talking about the thoroughly incorrect impression I have long held about both Lentils and Beans. Both these impressions were formed by popular culture, in one case, brilliant English comedy and in another a kiwi icon.

Fallacy 1: Lentils
My first contact with lentils came in my formative years during the 80’s when I was lucky enough to watch The Young Ones. This programme became a firm favourite and repeated watchings through my teens and early twenties reinforced the stereotype I had formed about lentils. They were a disgusting, flavourless goop, favoured by hippies and not fit to be consumed by normal humans. Despite the fact that I, like Neil, studied Philosophy at uni, and that I had certain hippyish leanings, lentils were a bridge too far and I steered well clear of them. After all, I was a good kiwi lass, brought up on a diet of huge chunks of meat roasted in its own fat (and some added fat for good luck) and vegetables that were boiled to within an inch of their lives.

Important aside so I am not disowned by my mother. Times have changed in both my maternal and fraternal home such travesties of cooking are a thing of bygone years. Although on my return to NZ from the UK I was greeted with the most disgusting of dishes from my mother, mashed swede! Bleurgh!

I, for some reason, believed that lentils were the sole domain of vegetarians and being a proud omnivore I stayed well away from them. In fact it wasn’t till I was living in the UK that I was introduced to the wonder that is lentil curry by a generous neighbour. This put paid to all of my false ideas about lentils, but they still didn’t feature highly in my diet in anything other than curry form.

Aspire has changed all that! I have discovered that not only are lentils delicious in a variety of forms, but they are also filling, full of protein and versatile. Yay lentils, and your delicious brethren chick peas. You make things yummy and fill me up.

Fallacy 2 – Beans
Now here, I’m not talking about green beans, string beans, runner beans or anything from the garden, although broad beans are disgusting and the work of satan sent to torture children and adults alike. No, I’m talking about tinned beans, and the beans you find dried. My first association with tinned beans was, of course, Watties Baked Beans. My response to my first association with Watties Baked Bean was to spit to contents of my mouth back onto my plate and push my beans away from me. Yuck. I know I’m courting controversy here, but Baked Beans, and I mean ALL baked beans, are DISGUSTING. They give all beans a bad name. As do those rather disturbing tins of bean salad. Honestly, do the people who make these things think that beans are improved by adding a clear viscous coating that suspends the beans and tastes like salty snot? They are not. In fact they are made so hideous that for my entire life, till 3 weeks ago, I steered clear of beans as much as I possibly could. I would begrudgingly eat kidney beans in chilli and Mexican food, but I never thought “Om, nom, nom, these beans are delicious!” What I mainly thought was “Phew, these beans are tolerable, I don’t have to look like a picky bitch by not eating them.”

All that has changed with Aspire, I’ve discovered new and delicious varieties of beans. I discovered that like their lentil cousins, they are yummy, and versatile. I would eat them on a boat, I would eat them in a coat, I would eat them in a tree, I would eat them when at sea. You get the point. So just like that, 35 years of wrong-headedness is corrected.

Now my cupboards are full of beans and my house is developing a slightly sulphurous odour. Unfortunately, not all of my ideas about beans were wrong, that great old childhood song about beans is definitely true, especially if you haven’t had much in the way of legumes in your diet before.
“Beans, beans, the musical fruit
The more you eat, the more you toot!”

Monday, May 31, 2010

Tweaking and Timing

Week three of Aspire is done and dusted and after consulting the dietician I have made some changes to get my wildly swinging blood sugar levels under control. The good news is I’ve been feeling much, much better. The bad news is I’ve put on a massive 100gms! Actually I’m not even slightly worried that I haven’t lost any weight over the last week. Now that I can actually do some proper exercise I’m sure that will soon sort itself out. I hear you ask: what are these amazing changes you have made?

Tweaking Portions
I’ve had quite a few comments from people that I seemed to be eating quite a lot of grain portions. So I talked to the dietician about that and we agree that I’d move down to 5 portions of grain and have an portion of protein OR legume a day. This has been great. I’ve been getting protein in the middle of day now and I’ve been feeling much better for it.

Timing Portions
This has actually been the most important change. I’m still eating only 20 portions in total a day, but I’m making sure I eat certain things at certain times to make sure my blood sugar doesn’t start doing the crazy dance that leaves me lying on the couch feeling like passing out. The first thing was when I was eating my grains. I’m now having 2 for breakfast and 2 for lunch, meaning I only have one at dinner, much better. Also I’ve split lunch into two meals, one at 12 and on at 2, meaning although I’m eating the same amount, it’s released into my body at a more consistent rate, meaning no big highs and lows.

I’ve also realised I have to eat between breakfast and lunch. I was letting myself get super hungry and weak by not eating anything for 4 hours and that was setting me up badly for the whole day. Now I have a portion of legumes at 10:30ish and that helps even things out and means I’m not as starving at 12 so only eating half a lunch is fine then.

What a change a week has made. I’ve been on a couple of hour long roadie rides during the week, in the rain and hail (I love my Helter Skelters) and yesterday I took the singlespeed to McLeans. It was wet and hard going, but I still felt human at the end of it and had a big grin on my face. Today it’s not raining and I think I might just have to take a jaunt to Sumner on the roadie and see how this new eating plan holds up to a longer ride. I will be taking Replace and a snack with me! Now I just need this crappy weather to go away for a decent amount of time and I can get back to having fun on my bikes.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

How to catch and release a mouse

A Tribute to Allie Brosh, genius behind Hyperbole and a half - go there!

WARNING: This blog post contains no traces of cycling or even dieting, but with winter here I thought those of you who don’t like squishing any little mice who venture into your warm house would find this informative.

The last couple of nights hubby and I have watched a rather cute little mouse race around the skirting boards of the lounge and scale the curtains like a little Sir Ed. Many of you will no doubt be grossed out by that, but both hubby and I thought he was very cute. Unfortunately your average mouse is not toilet trained and neither of us is particularly fond of the prospect of mouse poop everywhere, so with a heavy heart I set up the traps.
However our mousey friend didn’t seem interested in being flattened so when it started zooming around the room last night we decided to try and employ a catch and release technique which had proved most successful last year when we had a mouse in the kitchen.

Step 1
You’ll need three things to successfully capture your speedy little rodent. One of you, in this case me, will need to be wearing a long sleeved top with sleeves that can be stretched and will be the trapper. The other of you will need a torch and long arms, in this case my lovely hubby and will be the frightener. Finally you’ll need an object that you can chase the mouse behind and only has two points of exit, in this case a piano. (In a kitchen I recommend an oven or refrigerator).

Step 2
Spend many amusing minutes chasing the mouse around until you can get it behind the object you have chosen.

Step 3
Deploy the frightener to one exit and the trapper to the other. The trapper should place their hand flat on the floor palm up at the exit point to act as a little mouse ramp and with the other hand lift their sleeve to ensure the mouse only has one place to go.

Step 4
The frightener should then start making lots of noise at the other exit, poking things towards the mouse and bashing the floor till the mouse decides to take the lesser of two evils and head up the dark tunnel you have created at the other exit. IMPORTANT!! The trapper needs to stay very very still during this process, if you get a fright and squeal and withdraw your arm as the mouse approaches you will fail and may have to resort to killing it, which seems very unfair.

Step 5
Hold your sleeve closed with the hand the acted as a ramp for the mouse and with your other hand grab your sleeve further up your arm to prevent the mouse from making a break towards your neck.

Step 6
Go outside and find a suitable place, preferably away from your house, to release the hand that is holding the sleeve closed. How far you get will depend upon how you feel about having a warm furry thing scampering about on your forearm. When you open your sleeve the mouse will immediately leap forth and be returned to nature none the worse for wear and you will be happy in the knowledge you haven’t murdered an innocent creature who just wanted some warmth.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Diet and Exercise – Ur doin it rong!

Turns out I’m not very sensible when it comes to this dieting thing, and in the last week I’ve paid the price for my silliness. I made two key mistakes and I’m going to tell you about them so you don’t make them if you ever decide to go on a diet. Not that I’m saying you need to, you look great in those pants!

Mistake 1 – Not eating all my portions
I’m sure you’ve all heard the saying “too much of a good thing”, well that applies to dieting as well. When you’re on a diet that says “Hey fatty, you get to have 6 portions of grain/starchy veges, 3 portions of fruit, 3 portions of vege, 3 portions of dairy, 3 portions of fat, 1 portion of protein and 1 portion of legumes, chow down!” you should indeed chow down. It will NOT help your diet if you go for a whole week eating less than 17 portions in total when you have 20. It will not help your diet if you think “Hmmmm, I’m not soo hungry today, I’ll just miss a few portions, that’ll make me lose weight faster. Muwhahahahahaha!” Actually all either of these things will do is make you feel terrible, you will have no energy, you will get incredibly hungry and you will not be capable of doing the easiest of exercise. You will also become an irrational and grumpy cow who is a threat to the health of friends and loved ones. Ok, you might lose a bit of extra weight, but it’ll come back with mates if you keep under eating. Now I am being very careful to eat everything I’m allowed to and I’m starting to feel better and as a bonus my husband doesn’t look like he’s going to divorce me.

Mistake 2 – Doing high intensity exercise after making mistake number 1
Ok, I really am a doffus. I actually know I shouldn’t be hammering myself too hard when I’m on a diet, but my passion for cycling saw me doing a full on sprint into town on my roadie and then smashing the Cashmere Downs on the way home. I felt like falling off my bike at the top of the last pinch on the Downs, my head was going round and round and round. Then for the next two days I couldn’t move from lack of energy. Consistent exercise fail. And because a constant lack of food makes my brain not work too good, I made a very similar mistake yesterday when I took my singlespeed to Bottlelake. I started writing a sentence that started “In my defence...” and then I realised I had nothing to finish it with. I wanted to ride at Bottlelake and I didn’t want to ride the Anthem there, so that meant the power of one for me. Of course not having any gears meant I couldn’t regulate my intensity towards the lower end of the scale and in no time I was bonking like one of those little robots that scoots across the floor and then fails to turn round once it hits a wall. Bonk, bonk, bonk. I barely made it back to the car park and was unsure of whether I would be safe to drive home. Luckily I found my hubby’s secret stash of peppermints in the door sill and scoffed one down. Unfortunately I was a little delirious because of my non-existent blood sugar and keep laughing to myself as I imagined I was in the scene from Black Books where Manny, in a fit of absinthe induced delirium, eats Bernard’s bees. My hubby was a bit confused when I got home and apologised to him for eating all his bees. Rest assured, once I’d eaten some lunch I was almost coherent again and had learnt an important lesson. Long leisurely rides good. Hard fast rides bad. Poor singlespeed, it will be locked away for the next few months. Sad.

So this week I’ve resolved to be more sensible. Easy rides only and eating all my portions. Last week I managed to lose another 500gms bringing my two week total to 3kgs so I’m really happy with that. I’ll be happy if I can continue to lose 500gms a week for the next ten weeks.

Monday, May 17, 2010

I'm Aspiring

Once upon a time, about 2 years ago, a young woman started a blog. This blog was about her quest to get fit and lose weight and it was this blog. Over the course of two and a bit years her fitness has improved and improved and her weight has gone down a bit and then up a bit. In fact when I weighed myself last Monday I weighed more than when I started this journey. Bugger. So over the next three months while I’m not full on training for anything I’m taking this dieting thing seriously. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt over the past couple of years it’s that even though I eat extremely healthily and exercise a lot that’s not enough for me to lose weight. I’m obviously doing something wrong so I’ve paid my money and joined up with the Plant & Food/ Uni of Otago created diet called Aspire.
Already I’m learning a lot and have discovered that I eat waaaaay too much. I’ve been on it for a week and luckily it’s been pretty easy for me. This first week came with a sample menu, which was just what I needed, something to tell me what to eat. I stuck to it really well, and made some substitutions where things weren’t working and made sure I stayed within my allotted portions for the week. The biggest change, apart from portion size, has been eating legumes every day. Yum! As the last post pointed out, I’ve been laid low by the dreaded lurgee and haven’t really been able to move off the couch much, let alone exercise so there’s not been much going into my activity diary. So imagine my surprise when I got on the scales this morning for my weekly weigh in and discovered I’ve lost 2.5kgs in the last week! Yusss! My power to weight ratio is going to be looking better by the end of winter.

I also managed to get out on the roadie today to return some DVDs. It was raining. It was windy. There was loads of traffic. I still loved it! It’s been two whole weeks since I’ve been on the bike and it felt great to be riding again. It made me rather light headed, which probably means I’m still fighting germs, but I still ended up singing “The legs on the Mel go round and round, round and round, round and round” because I was feeling so happy. Unfortunately I did manage to get quite cold and created some yucky chilblains on my legs when I jumped in my hot shower. So Week 2 on Aspire has started and we’ll see how I handle riding and dieting. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Who dun it?

One of the benefits of being a reclusive writer is the lack of contact with people infected with hideous illnesses who refuse to stay at home and get well, but instead choose to infect those around them. Unfortunately this is mitigated by being an avid mountainbiker and helper outer at races. I know that racing my lungs out at the Singletrack Fiesta seriously compromised my immune system, paving the way for this lovely chest infection I now have. But what I want to know is, who gave me these horrible germs?

I have a number of suspects. Top of my list are the two nefarious banditoes from the Singlespeed race. Either one of them could have been out for revenge after I forced them to eat extra delicious nachos (and thereby comply with the rules). My second guess would be one of the many germ infested children running around. Everyone knows that children are made of germs and are disgusting.

Perhaps it was this dodgy looking specimen. He obviously has some sort of horrible disease, that’s why he’s wearing a Hazmat suit.

My final suspect is Death. Although I didn’t actually come into physical contact with Death, being in his presence may have been enough to see me afflicted with this terrible illness.

Needless to say I’ve spent the last week with fevers, aches, globs of green being expelled from my lungs and a throat that someone has been putting razorblades into every night. This has meant no riding, and actually very little walking or anything involving being off the couch for long. I’ve missed the first night race of the season and will also be missing the second one tomorrow night. I’ll also be missing the MTB Orienteering that’s going on at McLean’s Island on Sunday. Stink. Still I’ve had plenty of time to plan my winter training so it wasn’t a total loss. Also all the resting has really helped my chest/shoulders and elbow heal and I’m feeling way better about those owies. I’m dying to get on my bike and hope for a couple of gentle roadie rides at the weekend. If not I will have to use my voodoo powers to discover the evil perpetrator of my illness and cast a pox upon them. Or not, I just don’t have the energy at the moment.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

What’s more fun than racing?

The Christchurch Singletrack Club had its club champs on Saturday and it was a fantastic Mexican singletrack fiesta with a race for everyone. Not only was I racing, but I was also helping with setting up, timing, and running other races. The weather forecast was ominous so I was glad to be attired in a nice heavy poncho and warm cowboy hat. Unfortunately my moustache was horribly uncomfortable and kept falling off. Stupid thing. Luckily the day dawned beautifully and we managed to get everything set up in the morning sun. Soon the whippets were arriving, cheesey moustaches, both real and stuck or drawn on, fluro ponchos and other Mexican paraphernalia arrayed about their persons. It was most amusing. I was doing the computer timing for the expert (Rapido) race and having never done it before I was feeling slightly nervous. Luckily it was easy and fun and I loved every second. I was particularly enjoying watching one the battle between Slim and JD, but unfortunately I had to leave my post before all the racers finished as I was racing in the next race and needed to get the circulation going in my legs again after sitting in the chilly southerly wind for over an hour.

Riding down Zane’s was great fun, but I was feeling very apprehensive about climbing up the 4wd and the Pines 3 times. I’ve never yet managed to ride all the way to the top without stopping and I’ve only ever managed to ride 2 laps of the course. This was going to hurt a lot. All too soon we were off and I spun up the 4wd track as well as I could. My lungs felt pretty rough by halfway up the 4wd drive track and I was fully in survival mode right from the start. I kept going and really loved the new Pines extension and the fabulous “never-ending berm”. Then it was back to the climbing. My legs felt pretty good and up I went, winding through the switchbacks and getting my heart rate under control on the flatter sections. Soon I was at Rhymes with Orange and being roundly heckled for my feeble pace. Oh well, that’s one of the draw backs of being a mouthy heckler and a popular and well loved blogger. Up into Goodie Gum Drops for the first time ever and it was a fun little bit of track and finally I was heading down hill.

Back through Zanes and I was loving this bit of track. I knew I was catching the guy in front of me and stretching a gap to those behind me, but I knew I’d need it because just like at Hanmer my back was spasming. Back onto the 4wd track and there was no way I could put the power down I needed and I stopped for a second and tried to loosen my back up. I trudged up the 4wd track with my bike feeling pretty shit, but then rode all the singletrack of the Pines, although I needed a few breathers along the way. I was glad the hecklers had moved on, I was not in the zone at all and probably wouldn’t have handled it very well. I got great support going across the finish line, but I felt like fraud. Down Zanes again and I actually wasn’t loving it, the thought of the last climb was making me feel sick. I hit the last climb and hit the wall. I’d only eaten a muesli bar in the previous 3 hours and I bonked big time struggling to push the bike up the hill.
My legs felt like spaghetti and the marshals had even left. I wanted to pull the pin, but the idea of DNF was completely hideous. I had to walk up a couple of the higher switchbacks as downhillers bombed down beside me. I struggled on and was determined to not look like death on wheels when I popped out of the trees. Up Goodie Gum Drops for the last time and reaching the top was a huge relief. I was so glad the climbing was over I did a couple of hucks on the descent, and hammed it up over the line. Then I collapsed at my car and drank 500mls of replace.

I felt like crap, but I got changed into my lovely poncho again and scoffed my free pie and felt like a new person. Then it was time for the singlespeed race, where I had to help with the “activities” the riders needed to complete between laps. The costumes on display in this race were fantastic, and watching the crazies dash up a hill to find a plant pot, then run down, put it on the end of a 3m pole and spin round with it on their heads was so funny that my mood was transformed. Then I proceeded to the table of Tabasco and helped the lovely Sarah set up the plates of nachos and beans, which the riders would have to eat ALL of sans hands before proceeding. The first two riders arrived, Dayle on his sexy new ti Singular Pegasus. I feel very privileged to have been allowed to stroke such a divine creature, and Nick Bushlove close behind. 

Unfortunately these two finely tuned athletes were not very good at following instructions and after a rather token effort the need for the race saw them leaving with their plates still full of food. Not good. Not long after Ollie arrived and with great encouragement from his lovely mother, who obviously raised him right to finish all his food, Ollie got the whole lot down. More racers rolled in, including young Anton on his insane 10” kids bike, and cleaned their plates amidst much complaining and much laughter from those of us in the vicinity. After some serious conferring amongst the race officials it was decided that the two leading banditoes had managed to save a significant amount of time with their wiley ways and they would have to be punished. So it was with a heavy heart I was sent to stop them before the end and ensure they eat their nachos. The controversy was great and the outrage was evident, especially when Ollie sailed past Dayle and Nick as they wolfed down their nachos. Nick took off like a man possessed to reel Ollie back in and almost had him on the line, but Ollie’s skinsuit gave him that tiny edge over the fluro poncho and he maintained a slim lead over the line.

There followed an epic prizegiving where I actually got a prize for getting 2nd in my age group for my race! OMG! I also scored a lovely box of Barkers jams and chutneys. Om nom nom. It was a great day and for me the best part was being involved in running the day. It was great being part of such a fun community and providing an event that had something for everyone. I missed it, but there was even a fantastic children’s race which saw loads of kids having a great time and giving it their all. Although I’m not sure whether the presence of death in their midst was fun for them or not.

Thanks heaps to Rebekah and Craig and the CSC, and to my lovely supporters. Now I’ve been laid low with a flu and ideas of racing the night racing series are drifting away and I’m considering just hitting the roadie and training for some mid-winter madness which I’m really not qualified to take part in.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Hanmer delivers a new love affair

Four days in Hanmer riding bikes and talking bollocks over good wine, what a way to start the week. Hubby and I and a couple of mates headed up to Hanmer Springs on Sunday afternoon and met up with insane winds. We all settled into our lovely wee house and watched the wind tear the gorgeous autumn foliage off the trees and send the leaves spiralling round the garden. We all agree that riding in a forest in that wind would not be the best plan so we headed to the pub. The rest of the day was spent eating, drinking and telling ridiculous stories.

We woke the next day feeling slightly fuzzy in the head with a combination of over indulgence the previous evening and a night of sleep interrupted by various bangs and thumps caused by the wind. Luckily the wind had blown itself out and it was a pleasant if overcast day. The day started well initially with some practice hucking off the deck. I was very happy with my progress on this front and later in the day my new found confidence came in handy. We all agreed to a gentle start zooming around the flat Forest Cruiser tracks and taking it from there. Unfortunately these plans came to an abrupt halt after a nasty head vs. post incident which meant hubby and I had to go into town and get a new helmet. Luckily, the lovely Neil at Krank came to our rescue and hubby’s brain was once more fully protected from harm. Neil also filled us in on the new track and how the forest was riding. We headed back to our little house and I left hubby to nurse his headache while I went for a blast through the forest, retracing some of the fantastic 4hr course. Through the forest, and I was flying at race pace. It was gorgeous in the trees with all the foliage in yellows, oranges and reds. The track was often obscured by the fresh leaf fall from the previous day’s strong winds, which made some of the corners even more exciting fun. Soon I was crossing the road and heading up the twists and turns of Mack 1. I think I actually enjoy this track more going up than down now! It really is a lovely wee climb. From there it was up the road to Larches Picnic area and down Dog Stream. I was humming along, zig- zagging between the rocks when I heard a nasty tearing noise. I slowed slightly in preparation for all the air to evacuate my back wheel, but nothing happened so I continued on and forgot about it. Onto Jolliffe Rd and up I headed, gently spinning and enjoying the lovely day. Soon I was at the skidder site and heading into Red Rocks. As usual the Anthem climbed like a dream up the steeper sections of the climb and I was feeling great at the top. I started heading down the dry track and noticed I was bouncing around a fair bit over the little drops and realised I hadn’t unlocked my front or rear suspension. D’oh! Quickly flicking the two switches on a flattish piece of track and I was soon zooming down the hill, loving every second of the descent, which has become a wee bit rutty. This just makes it all the more fun though. All too soon I was at the bottom and hopping my bike round 180° when I over balanced and took a nice big chunk of skin off my knee. Typical behaviour from me. Get through all the technical, potentially dangerous stuff and then fall off when I’m barely moving.

After lunch back at the house and cleaning up my knee, hubby and I headed out again. This time I took my Jamis as we were going to explore the new track Yankee Zephyr, plus hit Tank Track and a C-Line which have a bit more gnarl than I’m comfortable handling on my Anthem. We headed through town and up Clarence River Rd to Flax Gully and I was quickly reminded that the Jamis doesn’t like to go up hill. She’s such a fatty, and it was such hard work heading up the gravel road that I almost regretted bringing her. As we entered Flax Gully this was soon whipped away as we hit two lovely jumps and the Jamis soared through the air. Fun times. I ground my way up the rest of the track and soon we were at the skidder site, looking out across the barren, logged hillside. We could see Yankee Zephyr winding down and it looked great. Unfortunately it also looked like a nasty steep climb to get up to it, and it was. Also, we took the less scenic, more horrid climbing route to get to it and at one point I even had to push my fat girl for a bit. I haven’t had to do that in aaaaages!

It was oh so worth it! A little bit of singletrack climbing and we were standing on the edge of a steep bank, looking down at a narrow track that dropped away sharply and then started flowing through a seemingly endless series of berms which made perfect use of the gully below us. Down we went and soon there were little jumps off old stumps and drainage ditches to be hucked. The corners were all beautifully formed and once in the gully the fun really began with the need for pedalling and brakes removed by the track layout where you’d drop off one corner into the gully, and swoop up the other side to enter the next corner. This went on for at least 7 or 8 sets of corners until you are spat out on the road grinning from ear to ear and ready to head up the hill and try it again. Unfortunately for me my legs weren’t ready for that so we headed up another hill to Tank Track. On the way up the most ghastly steep bit of 4wd track we found the true entrance to Yankee Zephyr which cuts through some gorgeous old growth forest making the climb much more fun.

I made it to the start of Tank Track wheezing like an old woman in a poorly heated house in Southland. I had a quick look down the track and was glad to have my beloved fatty with me. Soon I was bouncing down big roots and over drops without a care in the world, whooping and laughing. Tank Track was good, but over way too quickly. It’s narrow and twisting through old growth forest and the track is criss-crossed by plenty of slippy roots which make for fun drops in many places. It was the first time I’ve ridden that track and I’m keen for more. Unfortunately on that day I wasn’t keen for more climbing so I watched as hubby powered up the hill for another lap of Yankee Zephyr, before we headed down Swoop, and Majuba and I headed home. A great day’s riding.

The next day threatened showers and I woke feeling very tired and unrested. It was a struggle to pull myself out of the warm bed and my upper body had that familiar aching in the shoulders and chest. Too many hucks the previous day maybe? All four of us decided to head out on the Jack’s Pass – Jollies’ Pass loop. As we climbed Clarence River Rd again I felt flat and uninspired to ride and then it started drizzling. Blah. The boys waited for us slower girls where the road meets the forestry road a short way up. The drizzle was fairly persistent now and hubby decided he wanted to ride the singletrack while it was still dry. Our friends continued on up the Pass and hubby and I headed to the correct entrance to Yankee Zephyr and I discovered I had a flat tyre. While searching for the source of my puncture I also discovered I had very neatly sliced my sidewall the previous day when rock hopping down Dog Stream. Luckily my tyre was about due for replacement so it wasn’t the end of the world. Both hubby and I were a bit grumpy after the tyre fixing and I realised I needed more sleep. Luckily the fantasticness of Yankee Zephyr took the edge off. We headed back to the wee house after that and I had a nap.

That night we rewarded ourselves with a trip to the hot pools, which despite the 60 primary school children who invaded the place just after we went in, was lovely. It was a chilly night, with almost a full moon and plenty of puffy clouds skudding across the sky. The warm, healing waters soaked into my aching shoulders, chest and elbow and all was right in the world. After a long long soak we returned to the wee house for night caps of delicious Black Ridge pinot noir.
The next morning we cleaned up the house and packed away our mountain of provisions. We’d all bought enough stuff with us to be staying a month so it took a couple of hours to get ready. Hubby decided he wanted to tackle Jacks-Jollies before we left and I decided I wanted to tackle mini golf. That worked out well so I headed off with our friends while hubby blasted up the pass. The mini golf was hilarious, and I was glad to improve on my shocking 96 from the last time I’d played this course. My putting prowess was much improved this round and I finished with a respectable 54. I bade goodbye to our friends and headed off to the forest to get a quick blast in before hubby returned from his ride. Unfortunately I’d only been going for 5 minutes when he called to say he was in town, speedy bugger!

It was a great trip and although I didn’t get as much riding in as I would have liked I was really happy with how my injuries held up to the fun singletrack. In complete contradiction to what my physio said, my osteo has said I should keep riding. I’m going to see how I feel after this weekend’s Singletrack Fiesta!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Mt Somers is like an old friend

Yesterday was my forth Mt Somers race and after a week of lying round and recuperating from the Hanmer 4hr I wasn’t holding out much hope of putting in a stellar performance. I wasn’t too concerned though, I love this race, it’s really fun with a great atmosphere and through gorgeous country.

I woke up on Sunday morning in race mode, which meant I was insanely hyper active and bubbling. I bounced around packing and making coffee for hubby and Dirtdiva and soon we were on the road. Having an extra person in the car meant I babbled on even more than the norm and journey to Mt Somers flew by, well for me anyway. After passing through the traditional fog on Thompson’s Track we arrived to a gorgeous sunny day and unloaded the bikes. Poor Dirtdiva was riding my fat Jamis with its tractor tyres, it was going to be slow on the climbs, but I still think it was the more sensible choice than her singlespeed, good strength training!

At the start we barged our way into the second row of riders in the Intermediate race and after the briefing and Mexican wave we watched the Challenge riders blast away. Then it was our turn and for the first time I wasn’t dropped by everyone in the first 100ms and found I was able to stay in touch with the main group of riders. Knowing the exact layout of the course was great, it meant I wasn’t worried about pushing too hard off the start as I knew there was a downhill where I could have a wee rest not far after. Into the paddocks and the long wet grass sucked at tyres and pulled energy from legs and I thought of Dirtdiva on my squishy bike, it was going to suck. Once the pack spread out a bit more I managed to find a tyre-wide bit of dirt to ride in and began moving up the hill at a better pace, then the first little bit of down and I zoomed past more people. On the gravel roads I held my own for a change and I was working really hard, my heart hammering in my chest. Around the base of the hill and the track was slippy and fun in the shady spots and I knew we would be in for some very slippery sections on the climb. At one point I was bombing along and hit a patch of mud a bit fast and off line and skidded through it sideways, laughing like a madwoman. Fun times.

Soon enough we hit the first steep climb and all around me people got off their bikes. One woman next to me said “Why would you even try to ride that?!” and I replied in Ed Hilary styles “Because it’s there” and proceeded to ride the whole thing, picking my way through the walkers. I was wheezing and stoked and spun further up the hill, determined to ride as much of the hill as traffic and mud would allow. Up the hill I went, forward on my seat, using my arms, but relaxed as I could be, just spinning up the hill, letting my legs do what I know they can and pointing my bike at the route with the most traction. Up into the manuka and the track became slicker and slicker and I picked my way through the traffic with many people encouraging me. Unfortunately my crossmark tyres couldn’t find traction and my back wheel spun out and that was it for my climbing for a while. Round the corner and the track dried out a bit as we climbed higher and I was able to remount and ride, much easier than pushing.

I was going really well and felt strong still, the traffic wasn’t so thick that I couldn’t ride for walkers, although there were a few people riding who were a bit scary. One guy was trying to remount and wasn’t able to get enough momentum to get going and would zoom off and topple, I was worried he’d fall into me, but he didn’t, that came later when a guy tried to pass me on the inside of a rutty corner and chose a bad line. He went down into my back wheel, luckily I managed to stay on the bike, but I stopped anyway to make sure he was ok, which he was. The climb pitched up one more time and my legs and lungs finally exploded. I could see the clearing in the bush up at the next corner and knew that was where the track levelled out a bit. I pushed my bike up with everyone else, but unlike them I was wheezing like an elderly smoker. At the corner I stopped briefly to take in the amazing view that went all the way across the plains to the sea, and try and get my heart rate under control before I keeled over. Then back on the bike and up I went. I got to the top in an hour and was really happy with that, but even happier that I could unlock my shocks and point my bike in the right direction. I blasted down the hill, passing people like they were standing still, calling early so I didn’t frighten them. My bike felt like it was part of me and I grinned and whooped. Unfortunately in my enthusiasm I chose a shockingly bumpy line into the creek crossing at the bottom of the farm track and bounced my chain off. Luckily I had enough speed to coast through the stream and spin my legs uselessly on the other side. Of course everyone I passed on the downhill streamed back past me as I fumbled with my chain. Ah well, more targets for the next bit of downhill.

I had so much fun on the second part of the course. I loved every second off it and I worked as hard as I could the whole time. I caught up with a few people who’d gotten away from me on the climb and managed to stay in touch with them as we got back on the dirt roads and climbed up the nasty pinch. Then the head wind hit, of course, but I was blasting along the smooth clay road. A group tucked in behind me, which amused me greatly. I’ve never been going fast enough at the end of a race to be drafted before. Luckily for me they were kind enough to return the favour and as we hit the climb back up to the paddocks near the start my legs felt great and I powered up the hill dropping both the chick and the guy who were with me. I was shocked but pleased. Up ahead I could see a woman in blue and I wanted to catch her very badly.

Down the paddock I went, in my big ring, pedalling my lungs out. She was still riding really strongly and was also speeding down the paddock. Slowly but surely I reeled her in and popped out onto the gravel road slightly ahead of her. Then I pedalled with everything I had. I flew up the wee incline on the seal and pounded down the road, through the intersection at 50kph and then down to the entrance to the domain. I smashed it into the grass shoot and collapsed over my bars at the end as the man with the wire cutters removed my timing chip. I was dizzy and my legs felt like jelly, probably a sour lime flavour. I stumbled through the various tents and collapsed on the ground, completely wasted and stoked. I’d finished in 1:50:19, 9 minutes faster than the last time I did this race. I was 9th in Intermediate women and I cursed my olderness, as if I was still a sprightly 34 year old I would have been 3rd in Open Women with that time. Still I was faster than 50% of the field and more than 50% of the intermediate woman and I am so happy with that. It was a great day for me and reminded me why I love racing so much. It’s not about winning for me, I’m unlikely to ever win a race, it’s about beating myself year after year. The only person I want to be better than is me in the past and racing lets me measure if I’m able to do that. One more race to go before I take a month off the bikes and try and heal my injuries completely. 2.5 laps of Living Springs for our club champs, it’s going to hurt me a lot, but I’ll enjoy every minute of it.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Solo for the first time

Oh so many bad Star Wars puns and Madonna song lines are running through my head right now, but I’m going to try and rise above the cheap laugh or innuendo and get down to the story.

Saturday was my first ever solo race and it was a 4 hour one. I’ve always been intrigued by 6hr solos but that seemed just a little beyond me so when I discovered that there was going to be a 4 and 8 hour race in Hanmer I was stoked. A number of discussions on the portal of time wasting and secret girly knowledge revelled that there was going to be a great turn out of Vorbettes and I got onto booking a house. And what a house I booked, it had the most stunning and disturbing carpet in the downstairs room. I’m glad I didn’t have to sleep in there or I would have been mentally scarred for the race the next day!

The day dawned brisk and bright and there was a layer of ice on the car. Brrrr. My various aches and particularly my gammy elbow were not happy about this. Hubby and I loaded up the car and headed to the camp site to set up while the rest of the girls lazed about in bed. In no time we had the tent mansion up with the other CSC riders and I was getting my usual pre-race jitters. I got to meet the amazing Jude Young, who is the primary reason I’ve even considered riding endurance races. She’s an amazing rider and an extremely cool person (who is probably not over the moon that I’m say such things about her). My bike arrived with the sleeping beauties and I went for a token warm up, planning to do most of my warming up on the first lap.

I’d talked to a couple of fast guys about the lap and they said they were cranking it out in 30mins at race pace, so I thought I’d be lucky to get through a lap in an hour. I set my goal to ride for 4 laps and settled myself at the back of the pack for the start. The hooter went and we were off! Those at the front zooming off, and those of us at the back setting off at a more leisurely pace. I pootled off up the road synchronising my watch and speedo, and looking like I was out for a Sunday ride. I am very serious after all!

The first lap sent us straight up the road and missed out all the singletrack climbs. I wanted to warm into the ride rather than blow up in the first 500ms as I’ve done in other races so I just spun up the gentle incline as people passed me. Soon we were at the turn off to the Larches picnic area and I discovered it was a very fun steep drop with a root running across it for excitement. Wooo hooo! Straight over the edge and I was slamming on my brakes as the people in front of me struggled to negotiate the bridge. Sigh. This was to be a feature of my first lap. I slipped past a couple of people before the bridge and one after and soon I was flying down Dog Steam track, floating between the rocks and ruts with a huge grin. Into the twisty single track and I passed a few more people before we hit the climb and they all went past me again. The grind up the 4wd climb was long and pretty gradual with only a couple of areas where it pitched up a tiny bit. I chatted to people as I spun up, saving my legs for the hours ahead of me.

At the top of the road I crossed the skidder site and headed down to the entrance to Timberlands, controlling my speed for the tight turn into the trees. Going down Timberlands was brilliant fun, although I had to pass a few people so I couldn’t really let loose on that lap. Even so the descent was over in what felt like seconds and I was popping out of the trees onto the gravel road and heading down. Cutting through the DoC area and on a walking track we were soon crossing under the road bridge and into the super fun twisty singletrack on the other side of the road. I was held up here a lot, but managed to pass plenty of people and found a fantastic flow. I was loving this race already. The first section of singletrack was super fast and fun and ended with a nasty pinch up a bank. From there it was more singletrack, but it was gently climbing and my legs could feel it. Soon I was out, crossing the road again, winding through the narrow walking track and zipping through the trees to the camp site. And I was grinning and very excited that I had more laps of this fantastic course to do.

After a quick change to fingerless gloves I was off again and dreading the upcoming climbs. Up Black Dog and it started off flatish through the trees and then became progressively steeper until it finished in a rather horrid little pinch right at the top before exiting on the 4WD track. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be and I was pretty happy that I could do it twice more, although in the back of my head I had started hoping that I would do it 3 times more. Down the loose road and into Mach 1 and this climb was fuuuunnnn! Jeremy Inglis and a couple of other 4hr riders blasted past me, politely, and I nearly lost it in one of the downhill bits when my back wheel hit a rock and bounced out sideways. Luckily my madcore skillz saved me. At the top of Mach 1 it was out onto the road and back on familiar ground. I had no traffic around me entering Larches and blasted down and onto the bridge, whooping. I brrrrrraaaapppped my way along Dog Stream and eased into the climb up the 4wd track.

Then one of the great highlights of the race. I was privileged to be lapped by one of the legendary racers of the mighty Bushlove Racing Team. Luckily I managed to maintain my composure at the sight of such manliness streaming past me and weakly cheered him on. I did some skidz down Timberlands and blasted down the road in a cloud of dust, then it was into the walking tracks briefly. Suddenly I hear a call of “Go Mel!” Yay, I love being cheered on. Then I was overcome with excitement as my new hero went past me, Ollie Whalley! Legend of the Kiwi Brevet, bridesmaid of the Alpine Epic, monkeyboy of Ventana. As he went was me he did a sic huck and loose as whip and I swooned slightly.

Giggling like a school girl I zoomed through the fantastic singletrack and passed a couple more people. I was getting lapped pretty regularly now, which was to be expected, and those passing were super polite and considerate which was great. Suddenly there was a deafening yell behind me of “Mel!” and I almost crashed into a tree. I returned the greeting with a hearty cry of “Dayle!” and let him slip past. We chatted for a while and then that crazy man on his rigid singlespeed disappeared into the forest, grinning like a madman.

My second lap finished and I was feeling pretty good and the clock was looking friendly. My arm was hurting a bit and some of the singletrack was really biting at it, but I was beginning to think 5 laps might be doable. I was having so much fun, that my niggling pains weren’t really an issue. The third lap went by in a blur of hucks and skidz and grinning, and soon I was back in the pits grabbing a handful of sour snakes and sorting an aggravating issue out. Back out on the bike I planned to push this lap and head straight out to get a fifth in. My body had different ideas.

As I climbed up Black Dog I could feel the muscles in my neck and lower back hardening up and on the short descent my lower back was really sore. Up Mach 1 and the twists and turns were really biting into arm. On the 4wd track I was riding up with one arm, trying to rest my right arm as my hand was get very sore and I was having difficulties changing gear with it. Down Dog Stream I tried to rest my lower back by not standing too much, but I couldn’t help myself, it was so fun to blast down there as fast as I could. Up on the climb my neck joined the pain party, but I was still sure I was going to get another lap in. Down Timberlands and the 4wd drive I was having so much fun I didn’t notice the pain. In the singletrack on the other side of the road it all began to unravel. There’s plenty of roots on that singletrack and every one I hit sent a bolt of pain through my right wrist and into my elbow where it’s screwed together. My fingers were starting to tingle painfully and my thumb was almost unusable. I checked my watch and realised I might have enough time for another lap, but I needed to stop and rub some Voltaren in my arm or I wouldn’t be going anywhere. I pushed on and felt awful. As I entered the campsite I couldn’t hold the bars with my right arm at all and my back was poked. I looked at the time and realised that I’d have to keep going without stopping and pull out a sub-40 min lap to get another lap in and pulled the pin. I rolled over the finish line and was met by my wonderful friend who helped me back to the tent. I rubbed Voltaren into my arm and collapsed in a deck chair.

I was gutted I couldn’t keep going, because the course was so fun, but I wasn’t surprised. I’ve been having so many problems since I hurt myself before Christmas that smashing myself on singletrack for over 3hrs was bound to shake everything up. The rest of the day was spent relaxing in the sun, chatting with old friends and new, heckling, I mean supporting riders and generally having a fantastic time. Once the painkillers kicked in I felt great and was stoked with my ride, and was very happy to discover I’d got 4th in my division, 20 minutes ahead of the person behind me.

The whole day was fantastic and I can’t wait to do it again, so hubby and I and some friends are heading up to Hanmer for 4 days of riding in a couple of weeks. Yeeeehaaa! Just in time for me to get a bit of training in for the Singletrack Fiesta the CSC is holding on the 1st of May. In the meantime, we’re off to Mt Somers this weekend and I’m going to race the Challenge race for the first time, I’m a sucker for punishment. I’ve promised my physio I’ll take time off from riding and heal after the 1st and I will. It’ll be hard, but I’ll do it!

A huge thanks to Rachel for looking after me and my hubby for all the support.