Saturday, September 20, 2008

Got Me Some Hills

One way to not prepare for a Saturday ride: drink a bottle of wine and eat a whole heap of cheese and crackers followed by a big curry. Nic and Leonie arrived yesterday and they brought good stuff!

Surprisingly I felt fine this morning. I put that down to the quality of the wine we were drinking and I must check the labels on the empty bottles to see whether any contained sulphites. I'm pretty certain it's the sulphites which have caused me problems in the past.

Any, by today it was shaping up to be a good morning for a ride. It was a little cool and overcast but there was hardly any wind. Dee had promised hills and I was in the mood for some climbing. It was finally time to test my legs.

We started out by riding round the Basin Reserve and through Newtown up to Alexandra Rd at the base of Mt Vic. I wouldn't normally ride down Kent Terrace. The three lanes of traffic and the necessary shuffle from the far left to the far right, followed by the scramble around the Basin Reserve have always put me off. It was only the security of having the pack around me that got me there.

We assembled at the small car park at the base of the mountain and then did three five minute hill repeats. I haven't done hill repeats up Alexandra Rd since the start of the Grape Ride training at the start of the year. I was amazed to find that the hill that I found challenging only a few months ago was now little more than a speed bump. I easily flew past the point where I used to turn around at the end of the five minutes. I know part of this is the new bike, but part of it is simply being fitter and stronger as well.

At the end of the three hill repeats we rode back up again and assembled at the top. I had a huge grin on my face and was feeling really fresh. When Richard (one of the trainers) said that there was an optional hill climb up Mt Crawford I was the first to put my hand up. I believe I may even have uttered something like "woohoo". When I got some funny looks I qualified my outburst by saying "I love that hill". Of course that just earned me more funny looks ...

First we had to get back down. We rode down the seaward side of the hill to the bottom of Carlton Gore. It's a particularly steep and winding stretch of road, made more interesting by road works. It didn't intimidate me anywhere near as much as it once did though.

From Carlton Gore around the Bays to the bottom of Mt Crawford. I quickly realised that only the more experienced, speedy cyclists had elected to take on the extra hill. Richard rode with me part of the way up giving me some tips on climbing which were, eventually, appreciated. Richard has a particularly vocal way of organising his packs, riding back and forth and yelling instructions in a constant stream. It can sometimes be a little irritating but I try to appreciate it because I know I'm becoming a better cyclist as a result. His directions are forcing me to maintain a better pace line, retain better contact with the pack, and ride beyond my comfort levels.

Once I hit my stride I overtook a few of my compatriats. We paused for a while at the top for a time and waited for Julia who was bravely tagging along behind. Then it was down to Worser Bay and around the Bays to the base of Happy Valley. Frustratingly I got dropped on the climb up the Pass of Branda. I'm not quite sure what happened. Perhaps I just didn't push when everyone else did but I should have been able to hold my own easily. I had to race down the other side to catch the pack again. Once I was there though we had to slow to wait for Julia again.

We caught up with the non-Crawford riders at Lyall Bay so it was an intimidating pack that rode round to Owhiro Bay. The traffic situation was interesting, with several cars clearly freaked out and unsure how to overtake a large number of cyclists. We had to continually call to warn of cars back. I got cut off from my pack as they rode past the riders we had just caught and I got stuck behind a car. I had to work hard to catch them again at Island Bay.

Dee had said that we would be climbing Murchison Rd, a hill on the right just before the tip. Richard had however said that he didn't think we'd go that way after all. However Dee assured us it was all on and I was secretly relieved. I wanted a new hill and I was a little in awe of how steep I thought Murchison Rd appeared.

In the end Murchison Rd wasn't as bad as all that. Sure, it was steeper than Crawford or Alexandra, but it wasn't anything extreme. Plus, it wasn't that long. I overtook quite a few riders again and was one of the first to the top. I immediately decided that from now on this would be my hill repeat option. It's perfect because it's so close to home. I can ride down the valley as a warm up then get straight into it.

We circled for a little while up and down the flat part of the street and then Richard gave us the option of either turning around and going back down again or riding a little bit further and dropping down Frobischer Street, which would take us back to the Southern coast. From there we would ride back to Owhiro Bay again and back up Happy Valley all the way to Brooklyn. Of course I took the Frobisher Street option.

I got a little dropped at the base of Happy Valley but by half way up I was starting to catch and overtake people. I concentrated on taking them down, one at a time. I soon realised I was overtaking people who had taken the short option straight down Murchison again. Yep, that made me pretty happy. I was feeling good!

I made it through the lights at Brooklyn just as they were turning orange. We all waited at the Brooklyn bus stop at the top of the hill then everyone moved off just as I was txting Leonie to let her know we were on our way back into town. I had to quickly pull my glove back on and jump back on my bike. I had to work hard to catch people again on the way back down the hill. I would have overtaken a few more had it not been for a car sitting on my tail and refusing to overtake me. In the end I moved out and took the road in front of her.

Back through town and back to Freyberg. I was fairly buzzing in the line for coffee at Parade and was getting very dirty looks from some of the other women who were complaining they were tired. I was fired up with adrenalin. I had loved all the hill climbing and was still feeling very fresh and strong at the end of it all. We'd ridden around 60km and I could have gone back out and done it all again. A new bike and proper fit has made a huge difference to my endurance.

I learned one thing today though. Inappropriately positioned leg warmers can lead to chafing in unfortunate places. Lower is better!

I haven't had a chance to crash today. Leonie and I went shopping as soon as I was showered and pretty-ified. Back home and we've had another couple of glasses of wine and some rather fine chocolate that was so rich ist was more like fudge. Soon we're departing for Maria Pia's for some fine Italian food and likely as not more wine. I'm a little tired but I know I'll cope. I may even wake in enough time tomorrow to fit in that one and a half hour ride like I'm supposed to. Maybe.

The last couple of rides are forcing me to reconsider my abilities as a cyclist. I'm really not that slow and even though I might not think of myself as being particularly confident I'm much more confident than most. I'm going to have to hang with the front of the pack all the time now. It's good for me and it's good for my self-belief. Liking it. Liking it a lot!


Kate said...

You are nuts! And totally inspiring me to get on the bike!

Pip said...

Oh yes, I admit I'm crazy! And jonesing for some running as well. Can't have everything, at least at the moment.

I've been keeping an eye out for you around the Bays. Maybe this weekend I'll see you out riding?