Friday, March 09, 2007

The prison is yellow

Port Nicholson   looking at Mt Crawford  (prison)

About a year ago I was training with the Special K duathlon training squad. The event itself was very much targeted at beginner women athletes - a 3.5km run, 10km cycle and 1.5km run - all flat. However even just signing up for that training squad was hugely scarey for me.

One day Duck told us to cycle up Maupuia Rd to the prison. We were supposed to tell her what colour it was. I got to the Miramar cutting quite a distance behind everyone else, got confused about where I was supposed to be going, and simply waited at the bottom for the others to return. I was very disappointed that I hadn't been able to complete the task.

The week before the event Duck set us a trial duathlon - a 4km run, 12km cycle and 2km run. The cycle route included a climb part of the way up to the prison. This time I knew where I was going.

Anyone familiar with Maupuia will know that the first 500m or so is reasonably steep, after which the road levels off. I made it most of the way up the steep slope before I found myself out of breath and had to walk my bike until it levelled off again.

All year I've been very conscious I never made it to the prison, and I've always wanted to be able to tell Duck what colour the prison was. I kept waiting for her to set the Maupuia climb as part of the Multis training, but each week something else would end up on the agenda.

Not that Duck's getting predictable or anything, but on Thursday night I knew that the list of options was narrowing. Standing there it was clear that the sea was too choppy for any serious swimming. However the Northerly wasn't terribly strong, and the conditions were good for a ride. I was gripped by something that could have almost been called a premonition, had it not been so obvious. Sure enough, on Thursday night I finally had the opportunity to name that colour.

Heading around the Bays again I was glad I'd rested my legs on Tuesday night. I realised I was feeling good, and my legs seemed strong. I cruised along a short distance behind Jo, determined to pace myself against her on the hill climb.

I have to apologise to the guy on his road bike waiting to turn right out of Maupuia Rd who yelled at me to indicate when I swung left instead of continuing on past him. I was too busy focusing on Jo and the slope in front of me to even think about him. I had a mantra circling through my brain along the lines of "slow down, pace yourself, slow down, pace yourself".

I stuck behind Jo, I slowed myself, and before long the steep part of the slope was behind me. I was amazed by how gentle the incline was after that point. Where once I would have tried to pick up the pace I made the most of the opportunity to recover, stayed behind Jo, and focused on being steady.

The short downhill halfway up came as a nice surprise. Near the top I had to wonder who would want to live on a street called Prison Street. Not a great way to market a neighbourhood. I looked up briefly and saw the prison looming ahead of us - large and very definitely yellow. It still seemed very high up compared to where we were, and we'd already cycled a long way.

The last part of the hill climb leaves suburbia behind and ascends through grass and scrub. It also corkscrews around the rise on which the prison is located and gets steep again, although not as steep as the initial climb. It was impossible to see too far ahead, to know whether the incline levelled off or increased, or to know how much further there was to climb. There was nowhere obvious to stop and rest, so I simply kept climbing. Jo was still ahead of me, and was regularly standing on her pedals. I remained in my seat and kept up the grind. Dionne was ahead of us again - a demon on her mountain bike. If she ever gets a road bike she will leave us all for dead.

Finally the three of us turned a corner and there was the carpark. The gate to the driveway leading up to the prison itself was locked, so we circled around and flew straight back down again. Down was fun - very few cars, none parked on the side of the road, gentle corners with good cambers. Before too long we were at the bottom and cycling back around the Bays.

The Northerly had picked up again, despite all forecasts to the contrary. I stayed behind Jo and we kept up a gentle pace until Balaena Bay, at which point we sprinted to the finish. Before I knew it we were back at Freyberg. I felt fantastic, and at last I could see some progress in my cycling. The muscle mass I've gained in the last couple of weeks in my legs appears to have been for more than show after all. I am notably stronger than I was at the start of the year.

We waited around for the rest of the girls. I did my little victory dance and hugged Duck, just for the sake of tradition. We cycled back to Taranaki Street, Rose gave me and Lola a lift home, and I drank a cider then proceeded to eat a whole Curry Club Dal Makhani, not even feeling full at the end of it. That REALLY must have been a good workout.

I'm still basking in the rosy glow of another goal achieved, another target crossed off the list. The fact that it wasn't as hard as I'd expected made it even more sweet. The prison is yellow, Lola is red, and I'm a VERY happy Pip...

No comments: