Monday, December 29, 2008

Wellington Reminding Me Why I Live Here

The view from our lounge as I type.

And it better look pretty because, as beautiful and warm and sunny as it may have been the last couple of days the Northerly has completely owned me both times I've ventured out to ride. Cleo may have lovely new fast Kevlar beaded tires, but I still suck at riding into the wind.

Now, however, as a light rain rolls in off the coast and the room fills with the smell of wet, warm concrete, I can forgive this city her transgressions. I like living here, really.

Today was a pretty good kind of Wellington day. It featured pretty much everything on my list of things to enjoy. It started with a breakfast of bircher muesli and yoghurt and a little bit of a lie in and some reading in bed.

From there I embarked on stage one of today's two step exercise plan. I parked right outside Les Mills (gotta love the holiday period) and jumped on an exercise bike planning to ride for ten minutes to warm up. My plans were somewhat changed when I noticed that Sky Sports was playing their documentary on the Taupo race. I started watching and only got off my bike when I realised I was going to run out of time to fit some weights in before the parking meter expired.

Fortyfive minutes of upper body weights followed and I worked up a good sweat. My flow was somewhat broken however by a foul smell wafting around which got stronger each time I sat down between sets of pull-ups and push-ups. A quick glance at the base of my shoe and ... I discovered a new use for the antibacterial wipes in the Les Mills toilets. Let's just say that last week the neighbours had a load of sand delivered, which was offloaded across the path down to our house. Most of the sand has gone but there's still a reasonable layer left on the ground that has to be walked through on the way up to the car. And when cats see sand they quite logically think giant litter tray. When I finally made it back to the weights floor I was still retching and more than a little pale ...

It was a good workout though and I made it back to the car ten minutes before my parking expired and with a parking warden ticketing the car next to me.

Off home, a quick shower, lunch and some Feijoa cider and then Hamish and I embarked on a garden mission. Being Wellington our house is built on a steep slope. Below the house is a retaining wall about a storey high and along the base of the wall is what looked to be an old box garden fenced in with pallets. Over time we've used it as a place to throw garden trimmings and it's gotten increasingly overgrown. We've been planning for ages to clean it out and turn it into a proper garden and compost heap. With that in mind we ventured out a couple of days ago to buy a garden mulcher. Today was the day we planned to try it out.

When I got down the bottom of the garden (which involves a little clambering down some steep, crumbly concrete stairs) I was a bit overwhelmed by the jungle that confronted me but I figured I might as well just get stuck in. Hamish joined me not long afterwards and the fun began. He started tearing out a flax bush (don't worry - we have heaps of flax elsewhere) and I started randomly tearing at various weeds and vines.

Two hours later we had shifted a huge mound of garden waste from one place to another. We'd pulled apart the now-rotten pallets that had once formed the box garden. We had also pulled out an old television, a wall heater, some bathroom plumbing, some old guttering, countless empty plastic topsoil bags, a small pile of marbles, a rather nice blue tile, a spoon, a random rusty cog-thing, some unidentifiable electronic remnants, downpiping, corugated iron, empty plastic tobacco packets, old bottles (glass and plastic), the odd chocolate bar wrapper, downpiping and an impressive collection of rotting timber.

As is typical with anything to do with our house, what started out seeming like a straightforward job quickly grew into something larger. We retreated inside for iceblocks and a glass of Rose as we reconsidered our plan of attack. We've decided to clear a space in the corner where we'll start our compost heap, and we're planning on starting to mulch what we can. As we go we'll sort out the stuff that will need to go to the landfill and, then, we'll either heft it all up to the road (a rather large distance uphill) or I'd be happy to pay some students to do it for us.

After allowing myself a little time to recover and munch on some corn chips it was on to stage 2 of today's exercise plan. I was quite happy for an incident-free ride after nearly getting taken out on a roundabout on Cobham Drive yesterday by a woman who never took her right elbow off her car windowsill, or hand off her head as her car crept further and further across the solid white line towards me. I don't think she heard me screaming at her and I'm not sure she ever even noticed me at all.

So .... today was thankfully exactly that - incident-free. On a stunning Wellington day I sulked my way through my ride. I was over the wind - totally over the wind. I got it done, and that's all that can be said for it! Oh, I enjoyed the beautiful views, the families swimming and hanging out on the coast, the ferries coming and going. I just felt off form today. My legs didn't have the power they should have and I badly needed a riding companion.

Home, another shower and some pasta and I'm feeling satisfyingly exercised and pleased that I at least got out there and did time in the garden and time on my bike. Tomorrow calls for an early start with Dee's 6.30am RPM class and I'm supposed to be swimming so it might be time to crack out the wetsuit. That should be humbling!

Thanks Everyone

Christmas Present, 2008

Thanks to everyone who responded to my last freakout post. I had no idea there were so many of you out there! I'm going to write a response to you all (especially Nic - who is dead right that Rotorua needs to be handled as a project), but I'm a bit busy with life right now.

I got a bit stressed out in the lead-up to Christmas and it's taken a bit to find my equilibrium again. It all hit home one day in the middle of trying to change Cleo's tire, resulting in a temper tantrum, a few tears and the realisation once again that I needed some time out.

A lovely couple of days in Taranaki with the family helped (though there was damage to the waistline). I've been doing a little running, a little cycling and I'm preparing to amp things up again this week. I'm grateful for so many things and amazed every day by this life and the world around me.

Things are good!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Freakout Moment

Permit me a freakout moment for a little post ...

So, if Kate, who is a strong swimmer and whose half marathon PB is around 20 minutes faster than mine, takes about the time I was thinking I might take to do a half IM, then what am I thinking?

Let's not even mention the fact that I can't SWIM A LENGTH yet. Oh, and then there's the whole aero bar thing. I can't even imagine putting aeros on Cleo, and there's no way I can afford to buy a a tri bike. And a hot, hilly half marathon at the end of all that? What am I doing? Once again ... what am I thinking????

I guess I'm going to be a little selfish and say right now that I'm happy the Buckeye group seem to be planning to return in 2009, because I am going to need all the support I can get.

Seeing that freaking out isn't very helpful, what else can I do to work through this? Well, for a start, I can take advantage of being on holiday for most of January and spend as much of it as possible in the pool or swimming at Oriental Bay. Running the Rotorua marathon will be a huge confidence builder, and with Dave's programme I'll run another two half marathons after that. I just want to finish the marathon, but I want to sub-two hour a half marathon this year as well. I'm only three minutes off that. Perhaps I should aim for a 1.50!

On top of that, I have a huge amount of space for improvement on the bike. I have the Yarrows Round the Mountain, the Grape Ride, the Taupo challenge and any number of lead-up races in the Wairarapa to improve my speed. From what I've read, if I CAN go aero I'll get a big improvement in power. I'm anxious about the refit that would go along with adjusting to an aero position, but I know Shane at Pennys will be able to help with that.

It would help if I didn't have such a strong sense of pride. I know I'm never going to win anything, but psychologically I've always felt a real need to be mid-pack. The way I'm going I'm facing being closer to the tail-end Charlies. There really is NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT, and my ego is a terrible demon that I need to squash beneath my Adidas-shod heels.

So, if I can sort out the psychological cr#p, the only thing I need to worry about is not getting injured.

If only I hadn't just spent the equivalent of a new pair of running shoes on a new cell phone!

Help me, Buckeye veterans. Help!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Junk Miles

This should have been a more upbeat kind of post, but I think the time has finally come for a rest. I spent a wonderful day yesterday NOT doing the Makara loop on Cleo. Instead I spent the afternoon in the garden in the sun and loved it.

Today was a different story. I shuffled my way through six to seven junk kilometres. I was slow, my left knee niggled, my right ankle niggled. I think I need new shoes. It was rainy and windy and this time the weather was not exhilerating. I was over it and wanted to go home. I cut my planned run short and accepted defeat.

On top of all that we have a diagnosis for Mum, although it's not 100% confirmed yet. We have to wait on the results of the biopsy, but hopefully they will be through this week. Ironically it's not cancer, but it's treated with cancer drugs. It's going to be an interesting year. Thankfully it looks like it's reasonably treatable, which is at least something. One thing is for sure, with my dodgy genes I should not be reproducing!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Congratulations Kate!

Woohoot! I just got a txt - Kate had a great time at Rotorua and made 6.26!

Handed My Pride

Sarah handed me my pride on a platter today. We only ran for an hour but I swear it was all uphill! I'll put it down to having dead legs, and I think it's a reasonable excuse in the circumstances.

After Sunday's crazy 10km fun run I rested then got through RPM and Balance on Tuesday. On Wednesday I was back on my feet again and, despite feeling a little tight still, decided I was going to attempt the Kelburn loop. This is a roughly half-hour run, featuring a long, gradual to moderate climb on the road alongside the Botanical Gardens. Once at the top there is a kilometre or two of flat road across the viaduct and through the Kelburn shops, and then it is back down through the Botanical Gardens on tarmac path and, providing I take the right turnoff, a short, winding gravel stretch. Then it's back onto tarmac for a short, flat sprint, then down through the steep path leading through the cemetary and across the motorway, before sprinting along a flat path alongside the motorway and back to the gym. It's an excellent short, sharp run and because I know how long it should take me I can race the clock.

I wasn't planning on racing on Wednesday and made myself leave the Garmin at the gym. In the end I wished I had taken it with me as the climb up to Kelburn felt remarkably easy and I fairly sprinted through the shops and into the gardens. By the time I was back at the gym I was pleasantly surprised by the seemingly rapid return of my run fitness.

I wasn't feeling quite so smug on Thursday as all those running-specific muscles in my quads and calves reminded me that they haven't had much use over the last couple of months! I had a session with Dave booked for 5.00pm and I was a little nervous about how I would cope. In the end I need not have worried. We headed up to the playing fields in the Gardens where we did a series of running and ladder drills, then Dave put a harness around my shoulders and made me run while he pulled me backwards. I think that was what left me with sore shoulders, armpits and abs the next day.

We then upped the anti with a series of three sprint intervals, which I managed in 39 seconds, 40 seconds and 39 seconds. At least I proved I was consistent! I certainly gave my all and was left heaving for breath at the end of each. I guess I wanted to prove myself capable to my new trainer, stupid pride and all.

We finished up with some more drills and stretches then I headed off back to the gym and hobbled home. My bruised left toes were no longer my friends and as the night went on I stiffened up. By Friday morning my hips and upper quads were screaming in a way that spoke of my commitment to the prior day's intervals. I hobbled around the office all day and felt increasingly worried about running with Sarah the next morning.

Which is how I came to have my pride handed to me on Tinakori Hill! Sarah, fresh from the Korokoro run, took me up Grant Rd and then into the town belt at Wadestown. Me, with my legs screaming, found it hard to make it even up Grant Rd. Something almost separate from me almost wanted to give up.

The almost vertical street that took us to the entrance to the town belt didn't help either. It was difficult enough to walk up! After entering the park, however, things did at least level off a bit. Although in Sarah's mind it was all downhill from there, whereas the path in fact climbed steadily for a good couple of kilometres. All thoughts of proper form were wiped from my mind as I simply concentrated on forward momentum.

At least I managed to take the lead once we were on the downhill. Sarah is stronger at hill climbing than me at the best of times and, given how little running I've been doing and how dead my legs were, she could have really rubbed my nose in it had she been so inclined. As it was she had to stop and wait for me on several occasions.

We picked the pace up a bit once back on Grant Rd and managed to make it back to the gym in one hour, one minute and one second. I realised that I actually wasn't feeling as bad as I'd imagined and that I could have kept running.

We had just enough time to collect our thoughts and then it was straight into Clare's Balance class. My body wasn't feeling very cooperative, but I made it through and the twist, hamstring and rest tracks were absolutely heavenly.

So there it is, my week of unexpected pain! Goodness knows how I'm going to cope riding the Makara loop tomorrow. It's going to be interesting. Right now I hurt. A lot! And some of it's my pride ...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

In reflective mode

There's a lot to post about at the moment but I can't seem to summon the mental fortitude to document it all in a coherent fashion. It started when I took a quick peek at my archives and realised how far I've come with my riding this year. In January I was still terrified of riding clipless and my first ride with Sarah was a tiny 25km.

By April I'd worked my way up to a long ride of only 55km. That was how I went into the Grape Ride - carrying an injury, a little undertrained and riding Lola, a Diamondback Interval road bike that was too heavy and didn't fit me properly, even though I loved her dearly. That 101km nearly killed me.

After that I picked up the running again and got it together in time for the Harbour Capital half marathon in June. Again I was undertrained, but I still managed a four minute PB, even if I was still three minutes off my goal.

Since then I've fallen in love with my new Genius, Cleo and become a cyclist for real. Somewhere along the way my attitude changed. Riding 160km turned out to be easier than I'd thought, even with a cold. Running a marathon? When the suggestion was made it seemed like a fantastic idea. Half Ironman? Sure, why not? I stopped worrying about whether it was possible and just started planning to do it instead.

So here I am, and if I am to have a theme at all this year it will have to be consistency. I've done really well this year but I've done a lot of it all on less than optimal training. My running, in particular, has been stalled on a couple of occasions and I can't take a break from it again.

I have to stay calm this year. I am getting a training programme together, helped by an experienced Ironman personal trainer. I will need to stick to it. Even more importantly, I will need to take care of myself so that I dont get injured. I can't do what I've done for the last two years and get injured just as I'm peaking. It's the risk of getting injured that scares me the most.

So this blog will increasingly become more about becoming half an Ironman. There will still be poetry, there will still be random ramblings. However I have to be honest with myself and admit that my training is my main focus, and that it is the primary factor in shaping the me I am becoming.

It's fitting that I'm typing this on the day that Kate, Mike and Kathy are doing Rotorua. In Taupo my new trainer is doing a half as well. Incidentally, I've compared the two half Ironman courses and am glad Kate pointed me towards Rotorua. It's much more appealing! They are all in my thoughts and I'm keen to hear how they all get on.

It's going to be a huge year but I'm incredibly excited. I'm ready, so let's bring it on!

Monday, December 08, 2008

One more photo

Now this IS on Hatepe - near the top. Still smiling!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

What rest week?

Yes, I know, this was supposed to be a rest week. For months I'd been saying that I'd take a week off after Taupo. Well, it didn't happen.

I was on such a high on Monday and so pleased to be able to run again that I dashed out after work and ran an easy 5km.

I was up again on Tuesday mo rning for Dee's RPM class and I followed that up with a Balance class at lunch time.

On Wednesday my legs were questioning my sanity so I rested.

On Thursday I ran through some extreme Wellington wind. I ran out to Balaena, enjoying the tail wind past Pt Jerningham, then jogged slowly up Maida Vale. The head wind was so intense coming down the other side that I was stopped in my tracks. For some reason I found this exhilerating. 7km under my belt I felt better about my running fitness.

I rested Friday, unless you call a couple of hours of dancing at the Department's Prom themed Christmas party exercise. I was up early (feeling a little seedy) on Saturday morning to meet some of the Gearshifters for a ride. The boys blitzed Makara. The girls cruised easily around the Bays on a beautiful summer morning then climbed up to Brooklyn and back down through the city to Freyberg again.

Finally I was up early this morning to collect Sarah, who was doing the Korokoro half marathon. I was planning on running the 10km. Sarah was off at 8am and I loitered until 9. The day dawned warm and windless and the views running down the hill from Maungaraki were stunning. I tried to focus on the outlook and not on the fact that 4km of downhill on tarmac at the start of a 10km run could only lead to shredded quads and tears before lunchtime.

We ran for a very warm kilometre along SH2 and then it was back into Belmont again for the run along the river to the Korokoro Dam. I had gone into this run adament I was doing it for the fun and that I was not racing. I'd always wondered how people could approach events in this way, stopping to talk to people enroute. Well, that was my run today. At the halfway drink stop I came across a former Jog Squadder who I hadn't seen in about a year. I stopped and chatted for several minutes before it occured to me that I should continue.

The heat along the river portion of the run was, unfortunately, oppressive. I found myself walking short stretches, overwhelmed by the sun and the still air. It was a relief to be in the bush again and I started to feel a little better. I passed three young guys who had stopped off to jump in the river, and who then thundered past me.

After having spent so many hours on my bike over the last few months it was strange to be watching my Garmin and watching the kilometres count down so quickly, knowing that my race would be over in a small fraction of the time it took me to complete Taupo.

Before I knew it I was at the dam and it was time for the steep climb back up to the Oakleigh entrance to the park. Pretty much everyone walked sections of this part. I walked the steeper bits, ran the easier bits at a very slow pace. Halfway up my Garmin ticked over the 10km mark and the entire race came out slightly long at nearly 10.4.

It was wonderful to crest the final rise and lope through the finish arch, where I was presented with a medal, sculled a few glasses of water, downed a banana and an apple and waited for Sarah, who arrived 10 minutes or so later. The girl looked all together too fresh for someone who'd just run to the top of the Trig in this heatwave!

All in all no damage done. I was cautious of my knees so took the downhill slower than usual and ran at a very relaxed pace overall. I did have a nana nap on the sofa when I got home, but I think it was more an after effect of the heat more than the distance itself. It seems I can still run 10km, even if I did have the occasional walk wimpout.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Obviously having way too much fun

Do you think that guy behind me in yellow hates me? I think this photo was on Kuratau, but I'm not sure. I'm liking my relaxed position on the climb.

I have no idea where this was taken! I'm also wondering what happened to the photos taken by the two photographers on Hatepe.

Other than the two little Pxts from my race report these are the only photos from the day so far. I'm pretty happy with them though. I was clearly enjoying myself!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008


Is it tragic that I'm using the Google Maps street view to relive the Taupo race?

On second thoughts. Don't answer that!

Monday, December 01, 2008

As Promised - Taupo Race Report!

Taupo - race morning 29 December 2008

Here it is - the race report! I am still on a cycling high. I still can not believe how well Saturday went when all the portents were against me ...

First, there was the cold. On Friday morning I was feeling better, but not 100% by any means. I was determined to start, but I was a bit concerned about my hydration levels. On Thursday I was drinking water like there was no tomorrow and for the amount going in there was very little coming out. Thankfully I finally hit optimum levels on Friday morning.

Second, there was the trip up the country. Julia was an hour late arriving to pick me up. I filled in the time by cleaning the house and then carted my gear up to the road and sat in the sun at the top of our property admiring the view until she arrived. We had a very slow trip up to Taupo, stopping frequently (once for lunch and a few times for bathroom stops for me and smoke/stretch breaks for Julia) and being held up by all the traffic and roadworks. I kept myself in a good frame of mind by taking note of all the other cars with bikes on the back heading the same way. I was part of a massive convoy all heading for the same destination. I felt like I was part of something good. I reminded myself about how, for many years, one of my motivations for doing Taupo was to be part of that crowd. I reminded myself that I was finally there, doing it.

Finally we were at Taupo. We had a pretty sweet room at the YHA. There were two bunk beds and one double bed, a small bathroom (unexpected) and a balcony with a view of the lake about 500 metres away. As the youngest of the four women staying together I got the top bunk.

After sorting out the room Julia and I walked down to registration and picked up our SWAG bags. I never cope well with large crowds at these things and by the time we'd wound our way through the Expo I was fighting the grumpiness. Things seemed a little disorganised. First, they ran out of gear bags at the registration desk where they give out race numbers. The women who gave us our numbers neglected to tell us that we would be given our gear bags at the end of the Expo and we had to go back to them to clarify. Second, there were two desks set up for collecting merchandise - one for race shirts and one for ordinary shirts and other gear. There weren't any signs highlighting the difference. Finally we got to the end of the Expo and were given our gear bags but when we got to the point where we were supposed to check that our transponders were working we were waved through without any check being done. Thankfully mine worked but I know of at least one other person whose transponder didn't. There were also more than a few grumbles about the SWAG bags. They contained one banana, a couple of magazines, a water bottle with some Leppin sachets and some flyers. That was it. Everyone expected a lot more goodies for the size of the event. We got more from some of the small events in the Wairarapa. I wasn't too worried, but it would have been nice to at least have had some chocolate.

Julia and I stopped off at Pac N Save for supplies for the following night's barbeque, then it was back to the YHA. We racked our bikes on the YHA rack, then pumped up our tires and, having driven through a couple of intense rainfalls on the Desert Rd, regreased our bike chains. Bikes ready and clothing and nutrition organised we prepared a shared pasta dinner then retreated back to our room.

I was feeling way too hyped up. Left to my own devices I would have been in bed by 10, but noone made a move before 10.30. As it turned out, I was staying with two snorers and a woman with a cold who kept coughing and blowing her nose. One of the snorers decided to stay up reading until after 11 and in my aggrivated state I felt she was flipping the pages of her magazine excessively loudly, then berated myself for my pettiness. The light that she had going was only one and a half metres or so from my face (I was in the top bunk) and it was too hot to put the duvet over my head so I couldn't sleep until after she'd gone to bed. Then after she'd finally called it a night the family in the next room came home. The children were running around screaming and banging things and then the whole family had around a gazillion showers each. By the time they finished the snorers were competing with each other and I was so strung out that sleep was an impossibility.

I was finally able to doze and woke before 6am feeling distinctly not fresh! I honestly don't I had more than 3 hours of sleep. Leonie - if you remember a certain Guy Fawkes night when I suffered similar insomnia you will have an idea of the irritation I was feeling with myself as I lay there awake. As a result I got up at 5.45am feeling really stressed and upset that I had possibly blown my chances of a good race by not being able to contain my anxiety and insomnia.

Thankfully I had only to open the curtains to find my inspiration. The hostel was about half a km back from the lake but on a slight rise so I could see that we were being treated to the most beautiful morning ever. The lake was completely still and the mountains behind it were covered in pure white snow. I decided that I owed it to myself to buck up. I could not spoil such a perfect race day with emotions that were not worthy of me. I forced down some cereal (I really didn't feel like eating) and decided I was going to triple my usual morning dose of Hydrocortisone. I got ready then picked up the black marker pen I'd brought with me and wrote this on my arm:

I wanted to remind myself that I was supposed to be enjoying myself!

Thankfully the writing in black seemed to work and I started to feel a little more awake after eating and as the medication started kicking in. We rode down to the start line and assembled in our various starting pens. Julia was with me at first but decided to join everyone else further up. I decided to stay where I was, which was probably a good thing as it meant I got to collect my thoughts and relax a bit. We waited nearly an hour for our wave to start. In the meantime I got chatting to a few of the people around me including a guy from Melbourne who was an absolute scream and rode with me for the first 10km or so.

Finally, with lots of cheering, we were off. Within the first few minutes we were climbing our first hill out of Taupo and I was being overtaken by a unicyclist. Fantastic! From there it was a gradual (and in some places not so gradual) climb to the high point of the course, about 30km in. I managed to clock around 64kmph coming down off that hill! I was riding low, crouched down over my handlebars and screaming "on your right" to all the cyclists I was passing. I found a great bunch of girls to ride with and after an hour or so it occurred to me that I was feeling great! Unfortunately the women I was chatting to decided to stop at the 40km mark to fill up their water bottles. I contemplated stopping to stay with them but only briefly. I was feeling too good to stop.

Most of the hills are in the first 80km and I was constantly climbing then roaring down the other side. I felt strong the whole way. I never had to tell myself to HTFU! I made sure I ate all the time (if I never see another Power Bar again it will be too soon) and I drank constantly. It was HOT! Apparently on parts of the course it was up around 34 degrees, including the last big hill climb into Taupo.

Before I knew it I was climbing Waihaha, one of the steepest hills on the circuit. I'd forgotten about the bagpipe player who stands halfway up each year, but I could hear him in the distance as I approached. By the time I got to him I was crying from happiness at actually being there doing this thing and laughing and grinning, all at the same time. I gave him a big wave and yelled out thanks and continued grinding my way to the top.

I stopped once to switch my water bottles around in their cages and once to put Cleo's chain back on (darn it) and then once at the 80km mark at the Kuratau support station. I was a bit worried about how dehydrated I was feeling. I drank three cups of water and refilled both of my drink bottles and dumped a heap of Leppin electrolyte gel into one of the bottles. Then I had a quick Portaloo stop (just in case) and was about to get going again when one of my Gearshifters friends called out to me. She wanted us to ride together but wasn't ready to leave yet and she's slightly slower than me and she must have seen from the look on my face that I was feeling a bit conflicted. Thankfully she told me not to worry and that I should just head off, so I did just that!

I was pushing off when a workmate pulled up next to me. He'd left in the group before me and was predicting a sub-six hour time so I was really surprised to see him. Apparently one of his tires had majorly blown out, leaving a one centimetre hole and he'd had to wait for the Avanti van to turn up so he could buy a new one. Although philosophical, he was obviously not having a good day. He got ahead of me but I caught him on another big downhill. I came flying up behind him yelling "Come on, what speed do you call this? Get a move on!" He's a big guy so normally he would have left me for dead! I lost him at some point and I think I got ahead of him, but it was nice to see him. He ended up doing 6.52, so I'm guessing he's probably really disappointed.

Finally we were climbing Kuratau, the longest hill. I had been very nervous about doing it but ended up really enjoying myself. It was long, but it was no Houghton Bay Rd and the views were beautiful. Now that I was over halfway and had a bit of extra water in me I was feeling fantastic. I had a big grin on my face again climbing that hill and passed a heap of people. Everyone had their names and where they came from on their bibs so I was making a point of calling to them by name as I passed them and, if they were from Wellington, cheering them on. There was one girl from West Auckland, so we did a bit of a "Westies Unite" thing as I went past. At this stage I wasn't really riding with a group because the course was so undulating we were all getting separated all the time. However I had a number of riders who I could identify as I passed them and they caught up with me time and time again and we all chatted when we could. There was another woman who was riding Cleo's identical twin, right down to the frame size!

From the top of Kuratau the views were mind blowing and it was a shame not to be able to stop and take photos. From then on I knew the worst was over. I tried to stick with a pack as we rode towards Turangi. Once we turned left onto SH1 we were into a headwind. That was a bit of a bummer - it was supposed to have been a tailwind! We still had 60km to go and I knew that I would blow out if I didn't ride smart. By this point we were riding with a large number of relay riders who were, of course, much fresher. There was a real mix of abilities and with such a large number of cyclists on the road it was easy to sit behind a group for a bit to rest, then bunny hop ahead to the next group for a bit.

Eventually I found a guy who was sitting on around 28kmph, which was about the speed I wanted to ride at, so I tucked in behind him. Another couple of guys jumped on my wheel and we all stuck together for around 10km before the guy in front of me pulled over. At that point I commented to the guy behind me that now I was going to have to do some work! He was an 80km relay rider so he told me that, seeing as I'd been riding a lot longer than him, he would take the lead. From that point on he and his friend alternated riding at the front while I sat behind them! The guy who'd offered himself up had a stuffed Big Bird toy attached to his helmet so he was easy to spot and he was really lovely. We had a great time chatting away before I finally lost track of them on the winding stretch of the highway around the edge of the lake.

There is one last big hill at the 140km mark, Hatepe. It's steep and long but I wouldn't normally have found it that much of a challenge. Unfortunately the heat added an unexpected factor! I sweated my way up the incline passing swathes of cyclists walking their bikes. I was determined not to give in and in truth, although it was an effort, I never really felt like I needed to stop. It was hard, but it wasn't exactly Old Porirua Rd!

Unfortunately at the top the heat finally got to my body and my big toe on my right foot cramped up. It felt like something had stung me. I tried to ignore it but the pain quickly became excruciating. Finally I gave in (reluctantly, because who wants to stop at the top of Hatepe?) and stopped for a couple of minutes to take my shoe off and massage it out. I lost some valuable time there and was really annoyed. As a result I got a bit Mad Dog and really flew down the other side of the hill, keeping my hands away from the brakes and screaming at other cyclists to warn them I was coming through!

At the bottom I latched onto another guy and the two of us alternated the lead the rest of the way back to Taupo. With about 10km to go I looked at my cycle computer and it dawned on me that I was going to make it within my target time. The two of us decided to pick the pace up. I couldn't believe how strong my legs were feeling! One of the instructors was staying at a hotel on the side of the lake and saw me go past while he was standing in the carpark. I just heard "Go Pip" and thought it was him but had no time to do anything more than yell out thanks and wave an arm in that direction. He told me later that I was really flying and looking very strong.

Together my cyclist friend and I decided to sprint the last 2km. I got a little teary again as I approached the finishline and then I was off my bike and I'd done it! Thankfully one of the other instructors was there and she gave me a big hug. I was grinning so badly I was in danger of splitting my face. After that I wandered around the Domain for a while in a daze, found somewhere to sit down, called Hamish and sent a few txts, found a few of the other Shifters, sat with them for a while, then got back on my bike and cycled slowly back to the YHA for a shower. After that I wandered back down to the finishline to watch a couple more Shifters come in then we all sat around for prizegiving. None of us won anything.

We had a barbeque that night at the house Dee was renting and at about 10.30 after quite a bit of cider my body just went "okay, sleep now". I was in bed by 11 and was lying there waiting for Julia to fire up her laptop to see if the results were up yet. The next thing I remember it was the next morning! It was like someone turned off a switch. Apparently I did open my eyes and start talking to her at some point but I must have done that in my sleep as well.

In the aftermath I have a nice red strip of sunburn on one leg where my shorts rode up. When I went for a massage this morning my neck and shoulders were really tight, as were my glutes and my left shin. My quads were a bit tight as well but that's more to be expected. I treated myself to a 5km run after work today and although I told myself to keep it slow I managed to hold quite a good pace. I'm confident I haven't lost too much running fitness.

I think what really made Taupo for me was deciding at the start that I was there to enjoy myself and I owed it to myself to have a good race. That really set me up and I know that I've come an incredibly long way from the days when I used to psyche myself out before my running races and bomb out as a result. I just feel so mentally and physically strong now and like I could take on anything. It really helps that I have my next year of events planned out and that I have more goals to aim for. If I hadn't already set that up then I'd be feeling really bereft right now.

I have a 10km running race on Sunday and my next cycle race will be the Yarrows 150km event at the end of January. I still have a sense that I haven't hit my limits yet and I'm definitely aiming to go sub-6 round Taupo next year. If it weren't for the cold and if I'd been more certain of the course and started in an earlier group I think I could have done that this year. I definitely know now that a hilly course suits my riding abilities.

And Kate, avert your eyes now - the hills weren't that hard! In fact they were fun. In fact, I recommend them!

Sunday, November 30, 2008


Or, 160km of awesomeness.

Or, Pip does Taupo!

Official time 6.32 hours. Ride time as per my cycle computer (not including stops) 6.20.

Woot, woot, woot, woot, woot!

I'll write a proper race report later, but for now I'll just say that it was a beautiful day, if a little too hot (32 degrees on Hatepe apparently) and I enjoyed every second of it.


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Almost Time

My bed is covered in cycling gear, power bars, gels and general weekend detritus. Cleo is waiting patiently in the hallway for the morning to come.

I'm still sick but I can hear and I can, for the most part, breathe. I'm not running on full lung capacity by any means, but I will at least make it to the startline and I fully intend to finish. How long that's going to take is still open to bets. I fully anticipate that I will need to stop at some stage, even if just to take medication. Even so, I am excited and as of this moment looking forward to it!

Hopefully in 48 hours' time I will have cycled 160km and will be off to Dee's accommodation for a barbeque and to get thoroughly squiffy on half a glass of wine.

Lake Taupo, here I come.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Good News, Bad News

Hamish and I are fans of the American medical television series House. We got into it a couple of seasons ago and watch each episode as it becomes available. It seems like nearly every episode one of the doctors suggests that a patient has the condition sarcoidosis, but I don't think anyone has ever been found to have it.

Now I'm fairly experienced in dealing with the health system, and I'm also pretty used to using the Internet to find information on health issues. When I was diagnosed with Addison's Disease I got Hamish to print some stuff off for me so that I could ask my Endocrinologist more relevant questions. I also know that there are pitfalls in relying on television and the Internet for that information.

All the same, when Mum was told that she needed a lung biopsy I did a Google search to see what was involved, and one of the things I noticed was that the biopsy is used to diagnose sarcoidosis. At that point, purely out of curiosity, I decided to read a bit more to find out what sarcoidosis actually was. Which was the point at which I started to wonder whether Mum had cancer at all.

It turns out that sarcoidosis is the result of a faulty immune reaction. It can cause lung lesions, shortness of breath, weight loss, pain and fatigue, sinusitis and red eye, all of which Mum has been suffering from. It is also associated with an underactive thyroid and B12 deficiencies, both of which Mum has, and occurs in people who have had a lot of exposure to agricultural chemicals. Mum spent most of my childhood working in a market garden where sprays were used regularly and our house was bordered by grape vines which were also sprayed.

I didn't want to get Mum's hopes up, but it all seemed to fit. Now it seems that the respiratory specialist she saw today is thinking the same thing. Which is great, because it's mostly treatable. Now we're just waiting for that biopsy. Fingers crossed! Even if it is lung cancer the lesions are apparently very small and almost undetectable.

In other good news, I met with PT Dave Creamer yesterday. We've agreed on my priority events, starting hopefully with a 10km race in Belmont the weekend after Taupo. After that I'll train towards the Yarrows Taranaki Cycle Challenge on 24 January (the day before Dad's birthday). I'll follow that up with a return to Marlborough for the Grape Ride in April. Dave thinks the Rotorua Marathon is achievable in May 2009, and possibly also the Harbour Capital half marathon in June. After that there'll be some lead-up triathlons and possibly the odd local cycle race or fun run, the Taupo Round the Lake cycle challenge again in November (if I'm still feeling good), then the big one, the Rotorua Half Ironman.

Phew - I think that was it! Dave's going to put together a programme for me, including weights sessions as appropriate and the odd RPM or Balance class. He's also recommending I do the Masters swim sessions at Huia or Barbara's Oriental Bay swims over summer. Hmmm. Might need to have a few lessons with Lesleigh first!

I left my meeting with Dave feeling super super excited and had a great final RPM class with Adam and Dee team teaching and the Shifters wearing hats or helmets. It was stinking hot in that room and the helmet definitely didn't help! I felt a wee bit off and was wondering about that cough I've had all eek. It was a great class though all the same, and afterwards Adam handed around fruit cake and a few of us headed off for coffee.

Which is where the luck ran out and the only bad news of the week kicked in. That cough? Ahhh, yep. I woke up this morning with a full-blown cold. Bah.

Thankfully it's not as bad as it could be. My ears aren't blocked up so I can still actually hear and although my sinuses are sore I can still breathe, even if my nose is running like a mad thing. Ironically the cough has stopped! At this stage I'm still planning on heading up to Taupo but I'm not kidding myself that getting around is going to be easy. I'm going to have to take it really easy and I've decided to take planned rest stops to refill water bottles and take extra medication. I took off from work at mid-day and had a bit of a nana nap on the sofa this afternoon. If I nurse myself I might just make it to the start line.


Monday, November 24, 2008

Collecting My Thoughts

I have an appointment with a personal trainer tomorrow to talk about getting a programme together for the next six months. I feel like I'm cheating on Duck! I'm not planning on seeing him for workouts, rather I want him to set me a schedule and then to catch up every month or so. This trainer is a very experienced Ironman triathlete and is known for putting together these types of programmes. I need someone to sit me down and tell me what's realistic!

For the next year my major goal is obviously the Rotorua Half Ironman at the end of the year. Enroute however are a number of tasty races which are just too tempting. I can't do everything but here are some of my options:

  • The Korokoro run the weekend after Taupo already mentioned in my last post
  • A 150km cycle race round Taranaki on 10 January and another on 24 January. It's been pointed out to me that I shouldn't really consider doing both so the Yarrow event on the 24th is my preferred choice, in particular because it's the day before my father's birthday.
  • The Graperide - 101km round Taranaki and my sentimental favourite, being my first ever cycle race
  • Unfortunately the Graperide clashes with the SPARC duathlon, which was where it all started and which I had originally wanted to do again this year with Mum
  • Le Race, in Banks Peninsula, which I'm told is the week before the Graperide
  • The Wellington half marathon (January? February?)
  • The Harbour Capital half marathon (June)
  • The Rimutaka Incline run (November)
  • The Rotorua marathon (2 May).
  • A whole series of other half marathons, including both the Wairarapa Country and the Pelorus Trust, both of which are unfinished business for me.
  • Plus, of course, all the lead-up cycle races that I did this year and which I'm sure I will want to repeat next year. And we won't even mention Taupo itself, because it will clash with the Half Ironman.
  • And there's more, but those are the major ones.
Yeah. So obviously I can't do everything! For a start, doing even half of those events would leave almost no time to get my swimming sorted and I'll probably end up copying Kate's strategy and using the Scorching triathlons as Rotorua warmup events.

On to slightly different matters, I'm loving the weather tonight. It's warm and muggy but there's a gale Northerly blowing and it's raining. Somehow the combination of balmy temperatures and being safe inside in a storm are really appealing to me.

I collected Cleo from Penny's this afternoon, having not wanted to ride her in 130kmph winds. I managed to grind through my brake pads in four months! She's looking all shiny and new though and I'm feeling the Cleo love all over again. She's my baby! Unfortunately though I can't get drink cages for behind her seat to fit her fat seat post, so I'm tossing up whether to just take two bottles and stop to refill them or whether to use my Camelbak. Decisions, decisions ... I'm probably going to have to stop anyway to take some extra medication because I can't imagine fiddling with pills while riding, so perhaps going Camelbak-free is still the best option.

Going back to work today after nearly a week off was odd. I'm not in a work headspace at all. It's all cycling and family right now. Mum still hasn't heard anything from the hospital, so we are still none the wiser as to what is happening. However she thinks it's suspicious that I've developed a similar cough to hers after my time up there. I'm reserving judgement.

Oh, and I wore my new Annah S dress today and got a whole heap of compliments. She should start paying me a commission ...

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Last Sunday Homework Ride!

I woke up this morning feeling a little icky after yesterday's big ride. My throat isn't sore as such, just a bit scratchy and flemmy and I have an irritated cough. I suspect I'm fighting off a bug.

With that in mind and knowing that the weather forecast for today was pretty shoddy I ended up staying in bed till about 10.30 then getting up and cooking corn fritters with chicken bacon for breakfast. I used a new recipe that included an extra teaspoon of baking powder and the fritters turned out so light and fluffy and delicious that I'm definitely making them again.

By 12.30 I was feeling a bit more active, even if I did still feel like I was fighting something. I decided to head off to Les Mills for Body Balance. Sarah wa s there as well so we got to catch up, which was nice. Margaret chose some great tracks today, even if the hamstring track DID include the splits, which gave Sarah a chance to show off her stretchy skills. Darn her!

By the time I was driving home the weather had improved significantly and it was too good an opportunity to pass up. Despite still feeling a bit blah I threw on my cycling gear and headed out. Cleo and I cycled down Farnham Street to Island Bay, then turned left around the coast. Out of the wind it was lovely and warm out there, however there was still a strong breeze blowing, even if it wasn't as strong as yesterday.

I decided to cut through Kilbirnie to Cobham Drive, then continued on around the Bays. I didn't really do any hills, though the wind was strong enough that I felt like I was grinding up Houghton Bay Rd on the flat! Once again there were cyclists everywhere, all wearing that 'last ride' look of determination.

Around Lyall Bay I was hating the wind again and considering calling H to pick me up from Owhiro Bay so that I didn't have to fight it all the way up Happy Valley. Then the penny dropped. I ate the half a power bar that was lurking in my pocket and instantly felt better. Refuelled I made it home easily. The ride up the valley was in no way as bad as it could have been and from Garfield Street I turned South again and it became a tailwind.

So that was it. I'll probably cycle into town tomorrow to drop Cleo off for her service then ride her home again afterwards and I'm booked in for RPM on Tuesday, and that will probably be it until Saturday. I'm in a good place, feeling strong and as of this moment am looking forward to the challenge. I'll still spend the night before freaking out and I'll still feel overwhelmed on the morning itself, but these are all familiar emotions now so I know what to expect. Besides, I've done so many events this year already that I don't get anywhere near as worked up as I used to.

Now, on to post-Taupo plotting. I'm meeting Dave Creamer this week to talk about a programme for the next six months, but I'm considering a return to running races sooner rather than later. Sarah's doing the Korokoro half marathon the weekend after Taupo and needs a lift out there and, well, they have a 10km option which is basically flat and ....

So, would it be stupid to run a 10km race (however slowly and taking walk breaks if necessary) one week after Taupo, not having run since, oh, forever?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Yes, I know ...

I know I'm not unfit, I know I'm not lazy and I'm not exactly piling on the weight. Thanks to everyone who told me off. I was just having a bad moment! Hi, by the way, to my Gearshifters readers. I don't think I've said anything bad about you ...

Anyway, there is light! I sucked it up today, HTFU'd and got it done. Funnily enough, a 55km ride out to Eastbourne and back sounded too easy and boring and not really tempting. Even with the wind I knew that I needed a big ride today, and a big ride is what I got! Which isn't to say that today was all fun. There were a few times when I was fighting the wind and Cleo to stay upright. There was one point in particular when I don't know how I managed to maintain a vertical position. There was a typical Wellington light Northerly blowing today, to say the least.

Right then. Today we rode to Paekakariki Hill. I'm not really sure exactly how we got there, but I know we rode up Ngaio Gorge, through Khandallah and Johnsonville, then I think we rode through Tawa to Porirua where we jumped onto the main road and turned a right at the northern end of the Pauatahunui Inlet. From there it was a long 12km climb up to the top of the hill. I've already said I was battling the wind, but that was the main feature of today's ride!

Only a few of us had decided to do the long option, and I was one of the slowest riders. It was a good challenge to hang with the group though and it was, again, what I needed. I really enjoyed Paekakariki Hill. Even though it was a long 12km into a headwind, it really wasn't that hard. It was scenic and gorgeous and on a less windy, overcast day would be absolutely stunning.

I took it slowly going back down because the gusty winds were playing havoc with my ability to steer. At one point I got overtaken by a young blonde woman who was absolutely flying. Lauren was following close behind her, 'chasing skirt'. He insists he didn't realise he was following a woman! We waited at the entry to Battle Hill for the others then stopped off in Pauatahunui for a bathroom break. By this point it was after 12.00 and although I'd taken an extra 5mg of Hydrocortisone before the ride I figured now would be as good a time as any to take some more. Other than the Hydrocortisone I managed to plough my way through both bottles of Peak Fuel and most of a bottle of water and two Power Bars.

The traffic was hairy, to say the least and I lost count of the number of times we were cut off or passed by honking drivers. It was nerve wracking trying to maintain forward momentum in the crosswinds while cars and huge trucks were passing by within inches. I managed to keep my cool, honest! I may have yelled out "hello" to one driver and I may have waved at another who pulled out in front of me, but there was no swearing ...

We climbed back up the hill to Johnsonville that I'd been dreading and it was nothing. At some point I think the Hydrocortisone kicked in, and it was ALL good! By the time we were riding undulating suburban streets on our way back to Ngaio I had taken the lead from Richard and was on a cortisol rush. With Richard shouting encouragement from behind I pumped my way up the hills and, with the exception of Ngaio Gorge (when I had to stop to put my chain back on), I led the whole way back to Freyberg. 101km, done!

So, today I did well to just ride in that wind. I also did well with the nutrition and hydration. However I think the takehome lesson from today's ride was HYROCORTISONE! Heck, I'm going to be popping that stuff the whole way round Taupo. Give me that cortisol kick. I think I'm hooked!

I don't know for certain that's where my little rush came from on the way home. It could be that I was just glad to be nearly there. Whatever it was it felt good and I was a very, very happy Pip by the time we got back to Freyberg just after 1.30. I may, in fact, still be grinning.

And with the week I'm likely to have, that's a feeling I need to hold on to.

Whatever happens though, I know I can rock Taupo. Confidence restored. All systems go.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Almost ...

I had taken today off work, thinking I was still going to be in Taranaki. It was a beautiful morning, even if that horrid wind was still howling away, so I decided to stick to my plan to do a hill circuit around the Bays - Sutherland, Houghton and Alexandra Rd.

After breakfast and messing around at home I got changed and headed out the door not long after 10am. I'd only just turned onto the Ridgeway and was no more than a few hundred metres from home when my phone rang. It was Mum calling to say that she was on her way to hospital for more tests.

That was my riding done with for the day. I threw a bag and Cleo in the back of the car and started driving northwards again. Two hours into my drive (halfway) my phone rang again. Mum was on her way home from the hospital and a specialist Oncologist would be looking at her scans on Monday. If she is going to have a biopsy it won't happen till Tuesday at the earliest.

I sat on the side of the road in Sanson talking to Mum and Dad for a bit longer. Eventually I turned around and drove two hours home again. By the time I got there it was 2.30 and I was starving, not having eaten since 8am.

By the time I'd managed to get some lunch together I was feeling decidedly non-active. It was still a gorgeous day even with that aforementioned nasty wind, but I think I can be excused for feeling too tired and unmotivated to be able to haul myself and Cleo back up our 46 steps to the road and around the Bays again. Besides, the Gearshifters are riding nearly 100km tomorrow and there's still Sunday to get my homework in.

In the meantime I will repeat after myself: You are not lazy, you are not unfit, you are not huge! If I say it enough times I may believe it ...

Back in Wellington

I'm back in Wellington, having arrived home last night. I was considering deleting my last post, but decided to leave it up there. I don't really want to talk about what's going on too much, suffice to say that we won't know more till next week.

Taranaki threw a heap of different weather at me, including the usual strong crosswinds. Mum and Dad showed me a gorgeous little backroad ride behind Midhurst that is worth exploring. There were too many roadworks on SH3 to really make cycling too far along that route terribly appealing.

I arrived back in Wellington last night and immediately jumped on Cleo for a quick 45 minute circuit down to the coast, with a climb up Murchison Street thrown in. There was a surprising Southerly and the climb up Murchison felt nasty until I realised I'd taken it a fair bit faster than usual. It was good to be back home with Hamish and the cats afterwards, together with a cool glass of Hamish's father's Rose.

It's beautiful here again despite the Northerly and I've got the day off so I'm going to head out for a hill circuit soon. I'm feeling less than confident about Taupo again, but I want to shake that off! I think I've lost a bit of the fun out of cycling. I can't just get on a bike and go for a ride. Every ride is about the training. I really am ready for this to all be over!

Poor Cleo's ready for this to be over too and badly needs her service on Monday. Let's hope she can get me through this weekend first.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Life is Short

We're all living longer these days, right? The scientific studies tell us so and give us an excuse to put off thinking about the inevitable. Our society doesn't tend to think a lot about death, at least, not our own death. At what age does a person expect to start thinking that their time might be running out? In their 70s? Does someone in their 80s start to muse that it might be time to start ticking off that list of must-does before it's too late?

For someone like Fat Cyclist this question is not theoretical. Most of us, however, continue to either put things off, or set goals, perhaps long-term ones, that we fully expect to be able to achieve. So what say you are a late bloomer? Perhaps you and your partner have sold the family home and found another place in a rural town that you really love. Perhaps you've finally been able to stop work and take up all of those hobbies you'd been thinking about for years. Perhaps you've lost a heap of weight, gotten into cycling, walking and lifting weights. Perhaps everyone at your local gym knows you by name. The owner has even started getting you to take charge when he needs to run errands. You've just bought yourself a hybrid bike and you love how fast you are now and how far you can go. You're planning on doing the duathlon you did a couple of years ago for a second time, just so that you can see how much progress you've made.

Perhaps you're not that old. Perhaps you're only, say, 57. You've had some problems with your health, but you've done everything you can to manage your medical conditions. You know your risks and you get regular check-ups. You've only just gotten started on all the things you want to do and you're feeling excited about life.

Then you start feeling unwell. You don't have enough energy to ride your lovely new bike any more. Your doctor is hopeless but there's a waiting list for the only other GP in town. You struggle for months and start feeling really depressed. Then a new doctor arrives and everyone says he's great. You manage to get an appointment. He is lovely and understanding and runs a heap of tests, and something bad shows up. Something very bad.

So, do you feel angry? Do you feel ripped off? Do you feel like you're being ripped off and that you're being denied the chance to do everything you want to do?

I can't speak for anyone else, but as a daughter I can state categorically that I'm angry. Very angry.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I need a hug

It's been an odd week. I'm in a strange place right now. With Taupo so close, and with my thoughts already turning to other goals (Rotorua marathon, Rotorua half-ironman), I'm feeling a little emotional.

I'm not sure what's going on. I'm not scared, although I will admit to being a little overwhelmed. I'm feeling very proud of what I have already achieved and dazzled by what I have come to accept I am capable of. I don't know what my limits are. Am I playing around the edges or am I nowhere near the finishline?

I took a rest on Monday after the 115km race, but was then back into it on Tuesday, fitting in a Balance class and two very intense RPM classes. I was up and out of bed on Wednesday morning and cycled through light drizzle to the gym for an upper body workout. I'm not doing any lower body weights at the moment - leaving them until after Taupo.

Wednesday turned into a stunning spring day and after work I cycled through rush hour traffic and then home around the Bays. The Southern coast was bathed in light and swimmers bobbed around in the flat waters of Houghton Bay. Families clustered in Island Bay with parcels of fish and chips. Unlike the time trial morning I was able to comfortably keep my speedo up around 33 to 35km per hour, even hitting 40kmph around Pt Jerningham. It was only riding up Happy Valley into a soul-destroying Northerly that I finally slowed. I could feel how much stronger I was and felt very happy with what was supposed to be a recovery ride.

On top of all of the riding this week I was competing in an office stairclimb challenge, climbing over 100 flights of stairs each day. By today I was starting to think that the challenge was an incredibly stupid idea so close to the race, and my knee was agreeing with me. I wanted to ride today, I really did. It's as lovely out there today as it was yesterday, but with slightly less wind. However something pulled me back. The best indicator (other than my aching legs) that I needed a break was my increasingly heightened emotional state. I ask so much of myself and I've been meeting my own expectations, but tonight just being in this beautiful evening seemed enough. I had to accept that I wouldn't be wasting the evening if I didn't ride. Sure, last night's golden light on the Southern Coast was special and was out there again waiting for me. However I was walking through a disconcerting fog of exhaustion. I was up, I was down. I was all over the place.

Even I can tell that I'm in need of a rest. I don't think I'm particularly overtrained but I think that the emotional toll of so much time on my bike, repeatedly facing my fears and demanding mental strength and the simple lack of weekend days off and sleep-ins is starting to weigh in. The scales were nice to me this morning, gifting me the exact number of I wanted to see at this point in my training so tonight I'm treating myself to pasta, wine, cider, fruit and chocolate. I'm looking out at the beautiful view and watching crappy television. I'm enjoying some time on my own while Hamish is working late.

This has been the most mentally demanding training programme I've undertaken to date. Sure, training for my first duathlon and for the half-marathons required toughness and a facing of fears, but there's nothing like facing the prospect of sitting on a bike for over six hours at this point in my life to force me to back myself.

The night before Taupo, when I'm doing my usual freakout in our room at the YWCA I will have to back myself. When I clip in at the mass start, I will have to back myself. When we hit that very first hill, I will have to back myself. When I've been on my bike for three hours, I will have to back myself. Each time I reach for my drink bottle or swallow some of my power bar, each time I overtake another rider, each time I am overtaken, each time we hit a headwind, each time I crest a hill and reach down to the drops, and when, around the four hour mark, I reach for and swallow some booster Hydrocortisone, I will have to back myself.

When Hatepe comes I want to stare it in the face and laugh, then possibly sing. And when (not if), I reach the finishline I will damn well have the biggest smile on my face the world has ever seen. And then, damn it all, I'll probably immediately start thinking about running a marathon. Because that's the way I roll.

I'm riding to work tomorrow and will ride home around the Bays again after work, then we're riding 100km on Saturday (including Paekakariki Hill), and racing 100km in Masterton on Sunday. I don't want to panic anyone with this rather overwrought post (and I'm also painfully aware that for some people riding Taupo is a walk in the park). It's just where I am right now. I'm engaging fully in this journey and I'm perfectly ok. Give me one good night's sleep and then let's bring it on.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Um .....

So, back in April I rode the Grape Ride, my first big cycle race. I did the 101km in 4.12 and was reasonably pleased with that.

Today I rode 115km round the Martinborough Charity Fun Ride in 4.09. I totally kicked my Grape Ride time in the butt by 14km and three minutes. And yes, I am pretty stoked with that, especially given that I was riding with fatigued legs and only went out today to do the distance. I found a pack and stuck with it, even when I had to spend a lot of time rolling. I could have probably made it in under four hours if I'd pushed it just a teeny bit more, and I lost a few minutes early on when I dropped my chain (sorry Cleo, that was totally my fault).

A few more stats, just because these things are way more important to me than they should be:

  • 347 of 425 finishers (finished ahead of 18.59%)
  • 65 out of 104 female finishers (ahead of 38.46%)
Today's race was my best placing ever. I might be slow, but I'm a slightly faster kind of slow!

Let's back-track a bit to put this week in context. When I last posted I'd had a light weekend and wimped out of riding home on Monday. From what some of the squad have told me, not riding on Monday was a good decision. It was extremely, unpleasantly windy out there.

Even if I was frustrated by my lack of quality rides, it seems my knee liked me for it. I got through 100 minutes of spinning on Tuesday with only the slightest achiness afterwards. I started off cautiously, realised fairly quickly that the pain was minimal, and was really going hard out by the end of the Gearshifters class.

Bouyed on by this apparent indicator that my knee was actually healing, I decided that I would ride Cleo (waiting patiently for me in the bike locker at work) after work on Wednesday. I was going to do a few hills around the Bays then ride back into town to pick up the car. Hamish was finally taking his scooter home!

I left work not long after 5.00pm and rode through rush hour traffic from the Terrace down to the waterfront. The traffic was insane and the wind wasn't much better. The gales that had been predicted to ease as the day went on hadn't really eased that much. By the time I got past Oriental Bay, knowing it was only going to get worse as I got further out, I decided I was just a little bit terrified. There were cars going everywhere and I was fighting to keep Cleo going forward in a straight line. I called it quits, turned around, cycled back through rush hour traffic and up Victoria Street to the scooter shop, where the roadie sales guy reassured me I was doing the right thing!

On Thursday the weather forecast was horrific so I let Cleo stay home, only for it to turn into the best day for riding all week. Sulking I sat on a spin bike up at Extreme to complete a time trial, managing to spin my heartrate up to a decent level but achieving little more than a nasty bit of chaffing from the demon spin bike saddle. I was so frustrated that I signed up for Dee's Friday morning spin class, despite knowing we had our time trial and a hill ride the next day. As if that wasn't enough I then did lunchtime Balance and took all the hard options, which involved rather more lunges than was perhaps wise.

Let's just say I paid for it on Saturday. I met the Gearshifters squad at 8.30 as planned and it was a rather frozen pack of cyclists who rode around to the old army base to do our time trial. There was a frigid Southerly blowing and by the time we got there my toes were numb.

Last time Veronica and I tied and I badly wanted to beat her. I am, of course, completely aware of how terrible that sounds! Dee decided to get me to start ahead of her, giving me a thirty second lead. I wanted her ahead of me so I could chase her, but it wasn't to be. As I set off I could really feel the previous day's exertions. My quads were complaining. I think we may have had more of a head wind than I realised because I was flooring it and swearing at my cycle computer as it refused to budge.

At one point I looked behind me and saw someone drafting off me. I decided Veronica had caught me, but a few minutes later Angela blew past at a fearful pace. So, not the rider I was dreading. I tried to pick the pace up a bit more and pushed it hard all the way around to Lyall Bay, managing to pass a couple of other riders.

It was an anxious wait for the results. Veronica arrived not far behind me and I was convinced she'd managed to pull me in, but in the end I made it home a paltry but satisfying four seconds ahead. Not so satisfying was my tiny 19 second improvement over the last test, nor being thoroughly wiped off the board by Kathryn's one minute-plus improvement.

After we caught our breath our front pack rode through Kilbirnie and up Mt Crawford then back around the Bays. I got dropped somewhere along the way and missed everyone else turning right up Sutherland Rd. As a result I climbed up Houghton Bay Rd wondering where everyone was and got to the top on my own feeling thoroughly confused. A few minutes later I was joined by a few other riders and then eventually the pack that had dropped me reappeared. I may have been a little annoyed at that point and expressed some dissatisfaction with the lack of anyone pulling back to wait for me. I may have gotten over that now!

We debated riding round to Owhiro Bay and up to Brooklyn but nearly all of us were doing the race today so we called it quits, riding back down to Kilbirnie via Hungerford Rd. Holy heck that road is steep! I was down on my drops full scale on my brakes feeling like I was looking straight down. I can't believe anyone actually rides UP that demon strip of tarmac ...

So, back to today. The weather forecast was perfect - mild Easterly breezes and warm temperatures. Dee picked me up at 6.15 and we collected Veronica and her partner enroute. We arrived at Martinborough in good time and race pack pick-up took only a few seconds. Before long we were doing lazy circuits of the square waiting for the start. It was obvious it was going to be warm, so for the first time this spring I left the armwarmers in the car.

There was a slightly insane mass start. Dee says that she got caught in a mad bunch mashing it at about 50kmph, but back where I was everyone seemed to crawl along. When I finally got clear I found a good group of riders, with a couple of other Gearshifters riders around me. I knew my legs were fatigued and I was planning on hitching onto a relaxed pack and just rolling around the course.

My plan was going well until I dropped my chain about 15km in. Everyone flew past me at that point but I got the chain back on again quickly (I'm an expert now), took a quick drink and got back out there. I was surprised by how little time it took me to catch my fellow riders. A new squad member, Ailese, ended up riding most of the way with me, though we lost other-Pip fairly early on.

This race was almost completely a delight. I had to keep reminding myself to admire the scenary, and there was much to admire. This is a wonderfully undulating course - a rural double loop. My favourite section was a rolling few kilometres under tall shady trees. At times we were riding deceptive false flats. At other times we were doing 40kmph seemingly without effort. As the race went on the wind picked up a bit more than some of us would have liked, but the tail wind always kicked in at the right point.

This was the perfect course for me and it gave me real confidence for getting around Taupo. This was definitely not a flat course and there were a few larger climbs than I'd expected. The rolling hills enabled me to keep pace with my pack and when the guys (and there were mostly guys in our pack) slowed on the climbs I was able to ease back a bit and grab a bit of a rest before having to work harder to keep up with them on the flats. I finally worked out how to change onto my small chain ring on a hill without wildly spinning out, and I got the hang of dropping low behind my handlebars to minimise wind drag on the downhill stretches. 60kmph? Yeah baby!

I had two water bottles on me filled with Peak Fuel, two Power Bars and a tube of Peak Fuel gel. I set my timer and made sure I ate and drank every twenty to thirty minutes. I put a Pump bottle on my front cage and when that was empty I threw it in the direction of a water stop and moved my other water bottle to the front. I still find it too awkward to get my bottle out of the seat post cage. A few times I felt myself losing it a little mentally and each time I ate and drank a bit and bounced back again.

I have to admit that when I reached the three hour mark it was hard to imagine being on the bike for at least another three. That was a bit of a hard moment. The guy next to me helpfully pointed out that the hills on the Taupo course would nearly be out of the way and I felt a bit better.

I hated the guy ahead of me when he called out that we were halfway, but I liked him when he said it was only another 30km to the finish. It was about that time that some of the girls around me started losing the plot a bit, and about that time that I finally got fed up with feeling held back and, rationalising that we were mostly riding with a tail wind, made a break. Only a couple of riders came with me, but they were exactly the riders I was hoping for. Thanks to the guy from Wanganui whose name I can't remember. Thanks to the woman who was blowing up but still found it in her to take her turn and let me draft off her for a few minutes (Kaitlyn?). Thanks to Rere, who was silent but strong on the flats and who broke with me and gave me someone to ride with. Thanks to the women in their fifties who were truly inspirational. Sorry everyone for the fact that I got a bit chatty at about the 13km mark and probably drove you all a little insane. Yes, I know that you really didn't need me yacking at you as you were breathlessly climbing those last hills. Really .... sorry!

My cycle computer said 4.10 as we turned the last corner and saw the finish line in the distance. I wanted to do 4.12 - the Grape Ride time. I called out to Kaitlyn that we were going to sprint for the finish and the two of us floored it together. My cycle computer read 4.12 as we crossed the finishline. I was pleased enough with that time, and even more pleased with my 4.09 official time!

After a leisurely ride back to the hall at the start I jumped quickly into the line for the post-ride feed then lay around in the sun with Dee and the others for prizegiving. Several of our group won spot prizes. Yay! Unfortunately, despite liberal application of sun block I am well and truly toasted. I'm not sure what to do about that for next time.

Afterwards we went back to the finishline to wait for the arrival of the last three of our riders, including new-rider Liz. The finishline volunteers weren't that clued up and didn't know how many people were still out there or whether anyone had pulled out. No one was answering their mobile, so we had to assume our girls were still riding. We waited, and we waited, and we waited. Finally we were told there were two women and a guy still on the course. We waited, and we waited. We rode a few kilometres down the road and came across the first of our two strays. We turned around and went back to the startline, but then only one woman arrived. Where did the other woman get to? Poor Raeleen was feeling very guilty about sprinting for the finish and losing her partner, then someone else rode past and said that Helen had a flat tire and was walking back. Sure enough, she got a flat with no more than 400 metres left to ride.

We jumped in the car and took off, meeting her with about 200 metres to go, then everyone jumped out and grabbed tubes and Co2 and Helen's tire was changed in record time. After that we jumped back in our car and Helen jumped on her bike and soon the second of our missing riders was over the finishline and looking very pleased.

That left Liz to find, and just as we were about to call a search party she called to say that she had four and a half kilometres to go and was thinking about stopping and getting her father to pick her up. We weren't keen on that idea, so it was back in the car and off to find her. Helen and Raeleen jumped back on their bikes to ride her home. When we finally found her in the car we turned on our hazards and pretended we were the SAG wagon that wasn't doing its job. We sat behind her the rest of the way back in and Raeleen and Helen joined in and rode the last couple of kilometres. Finally it was a very sweaty and bug-covered Liz who crossed the line.

What a brilliant day. It's going to be hard to focus at work tomorrow. One more lead-up race (only 80km) and that's it until Taupo. Big, big gulp!

Saturday, November 08, 2008

When Someone Asks Why

Life is not a dress rehearsal ...

Monday, November 03, 2008

Under a month to go

Everyone's starting to realise now that it's under a month till Taupo, and I feel like the last week has been far too light.

Obviously it would have been a bad idea to go for a ride on Saturday. Julia told me afterwards that the time trial was cancelled, that hardly anyone turned up, that half of those that did turned back at Evans Bay, and that those who did ride only went out to Miramar, up Awa Rd and down to Worser Bay. From there they only rode as far as Kilbirnie before cutting back through to Oriental Bay. Even the big large guys were getting blown around. I wouldn't have stood a chance.

Sure I spent some time on the trainer, but I was really annoyed to discover that entries to the Tour de Whitemans on Sunday didn't close on Wednesday after all and that they were taking entries on the day (despite saying there would be no late registrations). I really enjoyed my ride around the Bays with Julia in the sun on Sunday afternoon, but I badly wanted to do hills and her back just wasn't up to it.

I have only myself to blame for wimping out today. I rode in this morning, experiencing a near-death moment when a courier driver in a van did a u-turn in front of me on Willis Street then decided he wanted my lane more than I did (cue some heavy braking and swerving and a few loud words thrown at his open driver's window). The wind was already getting up by then and it continued to increase all day. I was dreading doing my usual 30km loop out to Kilbirnie then home via the Southern coast, but wasn't relishing Victoria Street in rush hour either.

Our manager had organised drinks to celebrate the end of our project and our Deputy Secretary turned up, so I was obliged to be there. I had a couple of glasses of wine but by 6.00 had sobered up again and was changing into my cycle gear when Hamish called to offer me a lift home. So did I say no? Did I ride home avoiding the worst of the wind by taking Taranaki Street then riding up the city side of Brooklyn Hill? No. I changed back into my office clothing and left Cleo in the cycle locker. Instead of getting in a training ride I went home and drank another couple of glasses of wine.

Sure, tomorrow I have a good 100 minutes or so of spinning on the cards, and I'll ride Cleo home on Wednesday instead. However I feel like I've slipped a bit this week. Of course my knee likes me for it, but I need some hardcore hillage to make me feel better, and I need to lay off the wine for a day or two. If only Hamish's father hadn't just sent us half a case of his finest in celebration of H's birthday.

In less self-critical news, I think I have my nutrition sorted for Taupo. I'm sold on the lime Peak Fuel drink, which is far less sweet than the Replace, and which I can handle full strength. I've also discovered a to-die-for cookies and cream flavoured Power Bar, which is moist enough that it doesn't dry my mouth out and has a better ratio of carbs than the Horleys Sculpt bars I've been using. I still haven't found a gel I like, but I have a new one to try on Saturday which was recommended to me by the guys at Penny's.

All negativity aside, I know I can get around Taupo. Last week was supposed to be a Gearshifters rest week and I easily did more than the assigned homework. If I step it up this weekend I'll be back in my little happy place again.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Happy Birthday Hamish

It's November 2nd, so it must be Flying Burrito Brothers!

Four Margaritas, calamari, crumbed and deep fried jalapenos, quesidillas, a chicken burrito, a slice of cheesecake, a slice of chocolate cake, a hot chocolate and some Mexican bread later, we were done.

Happy birthday Mr Yeti!

And yes, it may be time to clean the camera lens on my phone!

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Hamish has a new toy!

Meet our new orange and black Peugeot scooter! We're getting the top box installed and H is bringing it home on Tuesday. Someone is a very, very happy boy!

In other news, I'm still cycling. After Tuesday's RPM class I took Wednesday off then on Thursday I spent 75 minutes on a spin bike upstairs at Extreme. My plans for Friday got blown out of the water thanks to a busy day at work, then this morning's time trial plans got literally blown away. I didn't fancy riding in Northerlies strong enough to close the airport!

We've got Cleo half-installed on the wind trainer, so I'm off to spend some time spinning soon. This storm is forecast to blow through overnight and by tomorrow afternoon it should be ok for a ride.

I'm missing running but the physio says to hold off for a bit longer. The consensus is that my knee's doing well, given what I've been throwing at it. Sigh!

Monday, October 27, 2008


I may have accidentally ridden 100km this morning.

Julia and I never ended up riding yesterday, with the general consensus being that the Southerly was too strong. So I was feeling obliged to turn up for Dee's 8.30a.m. ride today. I still wasn't certain of my knee and I was feeling nervous about her txt, which said that the ride would be fast. I wasn't sure I was going to be riding fast anywhere!

My trepidation only grew when Dee said we'd be riding the Blue Mountains. I really wasn't sure my knee was up to it! Two things swayed me - I'd missed this ride when the Gearshifters did it during the Grape Ride training, and Dee's reassurance that if I got to the hill and didn't feel good I could turn around and ride back.

So there I was - riding with the fastest of the fast Gearshifters members, with a dicky knee and feeling completely unprepared to crank out 100km. And you know what? I totally rocked it today!

I think we rode into a headwind the whole way, but nevertheless we held about 30kmph all the way out to the Blue Mountains, riding in a tight pack and sharing the lead. Of course, by the time we got to the base of the hill there was no way I was turning around. Besides, I wasn't even sure I could find my way!

In the end the hill was a bit of an anticlimax. Sure, it was longish, but compared to riding up to the turbine, well, it was a speed bump. I got some encouraging "looking good" calls from another couple of riders half way up, overtook a woman on a hybrid, and caught up with the others by the top. They'd left slightly ahead of me as I messed around with my tail light, which was hitting my spokes.

From there we cruised gently down into Whiteman's Valley. The sun was out and if it weren't for the headwind it would have been perfect. Other than the odd horse rider cyclists ruled the road. When I wasn't keeping my eye on the road I was appreciating the rural scenary and contemplating moving to the outer reaches of Upper Hutt for the good life.

We stopped at the dairy at Te Marua for supplies and to chat with a few other cyclists and then it was back down SH2. It was at this point that my cycle computer started to whisper sweet nothings to me. All the way back to Lower Hutt I was sitting over 35kmph. 38kmph? What was up with that?! All this into the headwind ...

Even once we got back to Lower Hutt and left the highway I was still maintaining around 32kmph, and I kept that up (and up to 35kmph) all the way back down the expressway to Aotea Quay (with no one to pull me). I did get dropped as we neared Lower Hutt, but the lead pack stayed within eyesight. I was happy with the pace I was holding so didn't push to try to catch them. A couple of guys hung back with me so I wasn't alone.

I think I died a little bit after we left the expressway and cycled down Old Hutt Rd. I should have eaten a bit more at that point I think. I picked up again on Thorndon Quay, but I didn't have a lot of kick left in me.

All up, however, I really did totally rock today. Since starting the Taupo training I've picked up several kilometres an hour in speed and I might have to start listening to Dee and co when they tell me I underestimate myself.

I'm a bit nervous about how good my knee feels so I've popped some anti-inflamatories and I'm icing it. I have very little planned for today now other than blobbing in the sun. Somehow I think I've done enough. Accidentally riding 100km on Labour Day is way too much labour ...

Saturday, October 25, 2008

I behaved myself

I think I should be proud of myself today. I went out for a ride with the Gearshifters as planned this morning. We were going to ride up through the Hutt then into the Haywards and up Moonshine Rd. Well, I was going to ride up Moonshine Rd if my knee felt ok.

By the time we were riding along Old Hutt Rd on our way out to Petone my knee was gently letting me know that I wasn't going to be climbing any hills today. It felt fine when I was cruising along, but started to hurt if I pushed it.

I let Dee know was was going on, then at Seaview everyone else hung a left and I rolled straight through the roundabout. Liz ended up coming with me, her knee also hurting. I suggested we ride to the end of the road at Eastbourne then turn back to Freyberg again.

Of course as soon as we were on our own, by the "Welcome to Eastbourne" sign, I got a flat. Off with the back tire, and with a bit of effort I managed to get the thing off the rim and pull out the tube. Thankfully it was easy to tell what had caused the flat - a thin little bit of something that looked like fuse wire but was considerably stronger and sharper. It left a nice hole in my new tire.

So far so good. I blew up the new tube a little and got it onto the rim. However it was almost impossible to get the tire back on again. These new tires are tight! A passing Dutch man helpfully got the tire back on, but as we were about to get the CO2 out we realised the tube was pinching. So we took the tire back off again and were struggling to get the tube to sit right.

Which is about when Nic from the Vorbette forums (and the Capitelles) rode past and rescued me. Boy did I ever feel like a total girly nube in my pink gloves and helmet struggling to change my tire! She blew the tube up a little more, got it straight, and got the tire back on again in no time. Then she changed Cleo back into the smallest gear and got the wheel back on. She also gave Liz and me a few tips on riding on the small chain ring rather than the large, and focussing more on maintaining a high cadence, particularly if we were having knee problems.

So yes, I felt like an absolute, total nube, but I was extremely grateful! Trying to salvage something out of our day, Liz and I continued on to the end of the road, then turned and headed back to Freyberg. The weather was thankfully holding up. Rain had been forecast but luckily we had only a couple of intermittent showers and there was only a slight Southerly. As we headed back down the motorway Liz's knee was giving her more and more grief. We kept the pace slow and eventually made it back to Freyberg (tooting buses and crazy drivers notwithstanding).

Afterwards I could tell that I hadn't aggravated my knee issues. It feels fine - or at least no more sore than it was before the ride. Sure, today was slow and short, but at least I was still out there. If the weather permits (the rain has finally arrived and the wind is picking up fast) I'll go out and cruise the bays again tomorrow and perhaps by Monday I might be able to get back into the hills.

In a case of brilliant timing, I bumped into my former swim tutor, Lesleigh, outside Freyberg today. She's very supportive of my half-ironman plans and told me to give her a call when I was ready. Yay!

A half-iron just feels like the right distance to be trying for somehow. At least, it's something I can feel excited about. The Rotorua running course looks gorgeous as well. Now, all I have to do is manage my knee.