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!”