Thursday, December 22, 2011

Longest day - awesome

Well I didn't get better, but I did ride my bike all day and it was brilliant. I'm shattered now and since a picture is worth a thousand words here's a link to all my pictures from the ride.

Thanks so much to everyone who donated, we raised almost $3500 for Arthritis NZ and that's fantastic. Have a merry chrimble.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Am I Cursed?

You may remember that at the start of the month I recounted my festive season mishaps and illness and boldly declared that this year would be different. Now, if you were me, and like me were writing this from your sick-bed after being laid low with a nasty summer cold, you might feel a little put out. Perhaps even feel like you were being punished for tempting fate? Well I kind of feel like that, but buggeration! I’m not going to let it stop me taking part in the Longest Day Ride tomorrow.

Currently I’m trying every home remedy under the sun to get rid of my hideous germs. Garlic pills, Vitamin D, C, and B. An immune system boosting herbal remedy. Gaggling salt water. Drinking a mixture of fresh chillis, garlic, ginger, orange and honey, simmered and blended. Panadol. Sleep. Positive visualisation. Fresh fruit and veges. Plenty of fluids.  So far I still feel like complete bollocks.

So I have come up with two alternate plans for tomorrows ride. The I’m still feeling a bit rough and shouldn’t really smash myself plan (A); and The I felt like utter crap but I’m pigheaded and will not let down the people who have donated to me plan(B).

Plan A involves no fun Port Hills action, but a sift between McLeans and Bottlelake (still with breakfast at the duck pond) and maybe an extended visit to Orana Park. I still intend to be out for the duration of the ride.

Plan B involves not taking my MTB at all, but spending the whole day on my Duchess cruising around the central city and documenting the Gap Filler initiatives, and various other signs of our city’s recovery from the earthquakes. I hope to still be out for the duration of the ride but will pull the pin if a feel like fainting or anything silly like that.

To say I’m gutted that my awesome ride is in jeopardy is an understatement. But it seems that this is my lot for the festival season so when I wake tomorrow at 5am and get ready to get on my bike at 5:45am I’m prepared for things not to be ideal. For now I’ll keep drinking my tonics and think positive and pack my dry bag tonight. Wish me luck. I really need it!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Excitement vs. Fear

On Saturday I went for my last “training” ride before the Longest Day on Thursday. 80+kms out to Leeston and back on my roadie. I had a disgusting headwind on the way out and first half wasn’t fun at all. I headed out to Leeston because it was my niece’s 12th birthday party so when I got there I devoured cakes and sausage rolls galore and felt much better.

After a couple of hours it was back on the bike and zooming along with a lovely tailwind. I was quite worried that the fickle wind would have turned on me, but it hadn’t .  That made the ride back home much easier, but I have to say riding a long distance on the roadie is not for me. My butt and sit-bones  were killing me by the end of the ride and my back wasn’t exactly over the moon either.

I was pretty happy with how my legs felt at the end so now I’ve done all I can do riding wise in preparation for the big day. And I’ve tarted up my bike with my Freeload Rack and some orange gerbera’s I had lying around (they’re the flower Arthritis NZ use for fundraising); and ordered a new higher stem for added comfort – to go with my bar ends.

Today I planned out my route around food stops and now I’m feeling a little afraid. It’s looking like 160kms and I’m just not sure I have that in me. I’ve built in some riding that I can trim out depending on how I’m feeling, but my plan involves being out at McLeans Island towards the end of the ride and I’ll have a long way to come home if it all goes pears. I’ve worked out a rough timetable which has made me feel a bit better about it. Manageable chunks and all. If anyone wants to meet up for any portion of the ride my plan is below.

5.45am Leave Home
6.30am Finish feeding ducks at the quarry.
7.30am Rest above the pylon on Kennedy’s Bush just after Siberia flat
8.30am Bottom of the Nun
9.00am Leave Brake Free
10.00am The Brewery for big feed
11.00am Lunch at the pier stock up on food.
12pm Skinnies and resting
1.30pm Spencer park for ice cream and flying fox
3pm Kaiapoi café for food, stock up for later
4.30pm Back at Old Waimak bridge after doing Kaiapoi Island
6pm Mcleans Island carpark. Cruise to Orana park carpark to look at monkeys and rest
7.30pm Burrito Bros in Papanui
8.30pm Hagley Park and a sift round the Red Zone
9.11pm Home and dead.

I watched the 3D fly through, which was pretty cool, and took 30mins! That’s a lot of riding. My plan is to keep everyone updated via facebook, for my friends and Twitter, for those who aren’t.  My twitter profile is . I’ll be posting photos and updates throughout the day so you can all share my pain.  I’ll be checking my txts and facebook regularly as I’ve bought myself a chunk of data for the ride and will be extremely appreciative of any feedback I get, especially from 4pm onwards. I’m pretty such my spirits may be flagging somewhat by then.  So from now till 5am on Thursday morning, I’m going to eating well, sleeping, resting and packing my gear. And of course, soliciting donations for Arthritis NZ at

Wish me luck! I’m going to need it.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Look Ma! No Brakes!

Disclaimer: The author of this blog in no way condones riding bikes that are not safe. Unless you want to. Then it’s your problem and you are as silly as I am.

A couple of weeks back I finally got my little ghetto singlespeed back from my lovely friend’s large garage where it’s been vacationing since I got chronic fatigue. Unfortunately the reason my back brake was playing up before this enforced retirement was clear when we wheeled it out into the sun. My rear brake cable had split and the  rather horrible liquid that is Dot brake fluid had leaked all over the left crown of my crappy forks, very effectively removing all traces of paint. Bugger.

Now I know that somewhere in the depths of our overstuffed garage there is a spare back brake just waiting to have its destiny fulfilled, however a couple of exploratory missions have failed to find it. Until yesterday when I finally found the bugger, but then was too lazy to fit it before going for a ride. After all, I had a perfectly good front brake and I was only going to McLeans Island – what could possibly go wrong?

I’d decided that I’d do a couple of the 15km loops on the singlespeed to see how my legs were feeling in the lead up to next Thursday (more on that later). The reason I wasn’t too worried about having only one brake at McLeans is I’m not actually fast enough to need to brake anywhere on the track. This track has been the place I’ve learnt to corner and now I can confidently ride the whole thing without so much as a zephyr of brake applied. Of course it’s nice to know I have the option when barrelling down the stop banks, but apparently what you don’t know won’t hurt you.

The first loop went fine, if a little slow, having ridden 50kms on the roadie in the scorching heat the previous day. However when I got to the end and applied my front brake to stop nothing happened. Well, something happened. My brake level travelled to my grip with no resistance whatsoever and a small fountain of brake fluid squirted out of the reservoir onto the ground. What didn’t happen was any slowing of any sort. Bugger.

So I circled around to drop my speed before applying my foot brake (that’s a foot on the ground in layman’s terms). So now I had no brakes at all. I have no idea when the pesky screw that keeps the fluid safely in its reservoir shook loose, I hadn’t touched my brakes at all on the first loop. With that in mind I decided a second loop would be fine and decided to trust my cornering skills. And I’ll tell you this. Riding around with no brakes, knowing that you have no brakes, makes you corner really really well.  I didn’t ride any slower this loop, in fact it was significantly faster now that my legs were warmed up. What I did do was sight my line clearly and commit to it fully and it was so good.
Of course now I need to sort out both brakes because I wouldn’t even consider riding my singlespeed to the shops or round McLeans in the evening or at the weekend (when there are lots of other people there) without brakes. I may be able to control what I do, but chaos ensues when others are around.

And now for the portion of today’s post where I pimp the Longest Day Ride and endeavour to convince you, my loyal readers,  to sponsor me in this madness. 

I’m sure many of you think of Arthritis as an old person’s disease, and to some degree you are right. The great majority of people who suffer from this are older. In fact if you are a cyclist and have had a serious injury involving bone or joint damage you can look forward to having it in your future. I have it already thanks to my old knee injury.

However young people, and I’m talking really young people, also suffer from this debilitating disease. When I was little, 6 or 7, we lived in Palmerston, just north of Dunedin. Our neighbours there had a son slightly younger than me, Andrew, and a baby daughter, Melanie. Of course, because Melanie had the same name as me and was a cute blond baby I was very interested in her. Unfortunately when Melanie was 2, just after we arrived, she developed chronic juvenile arthritis.  It was terrible and the memory of what she and her parents went through is still with me. I can clearly see in my mind’s eye her terribly swollen knees and elbows. I can still hear her screaming as her parents carried out the clearly painful exercises of her joints they had to do to ensure she wouldn’t lose mobility. It was really hard for a 7 year old child to understand what caused this pain, but at the time there were ads on TV explaining that arthritis is like having shards of glass in your joints. The image of a bone with sharp spears of glass sticking out of it is what I saw whenever we were at the neighbours playing and Melanie was in a bad way.

We didn’t keep in touch with this family when we moved away, but I can tell you that Melanie Sloan has made a huge success of her life and dedicates much of her time to helping others. I can tell you this because she’s received multiple awards for her courage and caring and the details are all over the interwebs.

Melanie’s story is one of the many reason’s I’m going to push my body through all sorts of pain next Thursday. No matter how bad it gets, and it will get bad, it will be nothing to what Melanie and thousands of other sufferers go through every day. And without the amazing work that Arthritis New Zealand does their quality of life would be severely diminished. So please, if you can spare as little as $5, please go to click the Donate Now button and pledge some money to me, Melanie Dunlop. Or any of the other mad buggers doing this ride. Thanks.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The first day of summer

Yesterday was the first day of summer and I decided to celebrate and to signal my intentions to karma, that this year I shall ride my bike a lot over the summer months. This is because over the last 3 years I have not ridden my bike much at all over the summer months.

26th of December 2008 – nasty broken elbow requiring surgery and subsequent 3 month recovery. No riding.
22nd December 2009 – high speed crash on the Bowenvale 4wd track resulting in sprained ribs front and back. Very little riding for 2 months and all of it painful.
19th December 2010 – mystery tummy bug which mutates into pleurisy (WTF!) and then becomes chronic fatigue syndrome. No riding, walking and very little being out of bed for 5 months.

This summer will be different. There will be so much riding done I will have ridiculous tan lines and calves of doom! I will not be injured or fall ill. I will ride my bikes.

Zealous rant over, I’ll compose myself now.

So yesterday, being sunny and gorgeous, seemed the perfect day to get out on the bike and see what my legs had in them. After all it is only three weeks till the longest day ride when I’ll be riding from 5.45am till 9.11pm to raise money for Arthritis New Zealand. Go here to donate money to my cause I’ll publicly proclaim my undying admiration for you right here on this blog!
I’ve worked out I’ll be riding at least 120kms over the insane 15 ½ hour period so a little warm up ride would be in order. I decided a jaunt up Kennedy’s Bush, along the Summit Rd, down Gebbies Pass, back to Tai Tapu and back into town, home. The plan was to stop at the Blue Duck Café in Motakarara for some lunch and a nice flat sift home. Of course you know what they say about the best laid plans.

In the glorious sun I really enjoyed my first full ride up Kennedy’s Bush in a year. My legs felt good and I took it easy knowing I had a long ride ahead of me. That said I made the decision near the top that I would ride all of the tricky steep last section. And amazingly I did. Sure I had to stop 5 times, 4 because of exploding lungs and legs, once because of poor line choice; but I did ride the whole thing. Something I’ve only ever done one other time in the 5 years I’ve been riding that track. Now my aim is to the ride the whole thing without stopping before winter comes.
The top of Kennedy's Bush
At the top I stopped to enjoy the singing of the Skylarks, the smell of the broom in bloom and the view over the city to the Alps. Plus a well-earned roast beef sandwich. Then it was back in the saddle and out to the road for the long tarmac section of my ride. There was still plenty of climbing to do before I got to drop down to Gebbies Pass, but I really enjoyed it. Especially since last time I rode this section of the Summit Rd it was completely fogged in and quite scary with no visibility.
Time for a sammich
I stopped briefly at one of my favourite places on the Port Hills, Sign of the Bellbird, to eat the rest of my sandwich and a nut bar to fortify me till my planned lunch stop at Motakarara. I was so relieved to see the ruins of the old tearooms still standing and enjoyed my chat with an English couple visiting NZ. Then it was back on the bike and up and up and away. The drop down to Gebbies was brilliant, steep, tight and fast. Unfortunately on Gebbies itself I caught up to a fully loaded sheep truck so I was on the brakes with a nose full of stench the whole way down. Boo.
The view from the Summit Rd over Lyttleton Harbour, stunning.
At the bottom my tummy started rumbling and I began to fantasise about what sort of delicious treats I would avail myself of at the Blue Duck. As the tailwind pushed me along I tried not to think about the fact that it would be a gusty side/headwind once I turned for Tai Tap. As I pulled up to the intersection where the Blue Duck sits I was overjoyed to see a large number of vehicles parked outside it. I had had a sudden thought it might not be open as I got close. Relieved I pulled into the car park only to be greeted with a large “Closed till early December” notice on the door. All the vehicles were tradesmen refitting the café. Bollocks.
Inside the old tearooms at Sign of the Bellbird
 There was nothing else for it but to get back on my bike and head for Tai Tap. I knew I was in trouble though. I really needed food and another 10kms into a headwind was going to leave me feeling pretty rubbish. I kicked myself for not packing extra food, flicked my speedo to distance rather than painful time and got on my way. The ride to Tai Tap was not fun, however the ever distracting mental arithmetic of “If I’m currently going x k’s per hour and I have y k’s till food, then it will take me z minutes to get there, and that’s really not that long” kept me going. I’m sure many of you will have employed this technique in the wind.

I reached Tai Tap with screaming legs and feeling rather light headed and ordered myself sugary treats and a sugary beverage to power on for the last 20kms home. Sitting in the shade I was slightly disappointed, but not surprised, to note that I had gone past the point of being able to eat and struggled to get the food down. I ended up wrapping up my gorgeous looking double decker afghan (yup, I’m going through a phase) for later consumption.
Treats! Get in mai belleh!
The rest of the ride was a mental game over the pain, predominantly in my gluts. I had bonked, but was determined to make it home and employed that age old classic – making a deal – to do it. I told myself once I got to 50kms I could have a lie down and I did. Lying in the shade of gum trees on a stream bank was heaven. The air smelt of warmth and gum trees and water. I was almost glad I was so tired or I wouldn’t have got to enjoy this lovely moment. Back on the bike I slogged into the wind until I reached Halswell where I stopped for a Cola Popsicle in the shade. Just the last push I needed to get home.

It was a great fun ride, but I now know that the 22nd of December is going to wreck me good and proper. But it is for a good cause so I’m still up for it. And don’t forget – donate here If you’re a mountain biker carrying injuries, there’s a good chance you’ll need the services of Arthritis NZ in the future. I know I will.