Saturday, October 04, 2008

Too Young to Die

Or, Pip goes cycling in "strong galeforce winds".

If Kate thought it was bad last Saturday then I'm guessing she wasn't out there today. Gearshifters today was an exercise in staring the Grim Reaper in the face. More than once I was given cause to wail "I'm goooiiiinnnnngggggg to diiiieeeeeee.....".

Incredible as it now seems, Dee decided to take us out to Eastbourne today. The ride is flat but a little hazardous at the best of times. It involves cycling through town then along a busy four-lane road and eventually turning onto State Highway 2, a main expressway. After following the expressway for several kilometres you exit at Petone (riding around a roundabout where a policeofficer was knocked off his bike and killed earlier this year), through Petone and then around the coast to the end of the road at Eastbourne.

I wasn't kidding about the galeforce winds. The Northwesterlies made it interesting to say the least. The ride wasn't without its dramas in other ways, either. Lauren, for example, rode into the gutter as we rode up the onramp at the end of Hutt Rd, fell towards the line of traffic, rolled and stood without letting go of his bike, stepping back off the road in what seemed like a fraction of a second. He managed to bend his derrailleur in the process but still completed the ride, albeit accompanied by a loud clacking sound.

The worst part of the ride for me was almost certainly the Petone foreshore on the way out. The crosswinds were so strong that it was all I could do to stay upright. We were supposed to be practicing bunch riding and signalling hazards but there was no way I could take my hands off the handlebars without going for a skate. I compensated by yelling out hazard notifications as loudly as I could.

From the petrol station in Eastbourne we sprinted to the end of the road. I vaguely managed to hold my own but wasn't really satisfied with my speed. The wind was still knocking me around but I don't want to use that as an excuse. All the same, it was gratifying to be reaching up to 40kmph out of the headwinds. I could put that down to tailwinds, or I could just pretend that I'm super fast.

On the way back Richard wanted me to ride with the front bunch and I think that if there had been no wind I would have been able to. However instead I suffered the frustration and indignity of being well and truly dropped. I watched the other Pip, who has obviously been doing her homework and is now a lot faster, take off past me. My mood darkened as much as the sky that was now starting to spit down on us. Sea spray splashed over the road and smeared my glasses, clouds of sand blasted my legs and I tried not to feel like I was the weakest cyclist on the planet. The wind was roaring, the harbour whitecapped and the sky grey. The conditions were truly mad and I wondered how on earth I'd let myself get into this.

In the end some of the other girls who were also dropped formed a second bunch with me and we slogged it back to Petone. Each corner resulted in either a headwind or crosswind and I was really truly dreading the rest of the ride home. I knew of course that I had no other option. I was too far from home to walk and Hamish didn't have a car to come and get me. A phrase comes to mind that will be familiar to a few of my readers. It was time to "harden the f**k up".

Miraculously the wind seemed to have shifted when we got back to Petone and the crosswinds never materialised. Back on the expressway I was holding around 35kmph without too much effort. The lead pack wasn't that far ahead of me but it wasn't worth burning up the energy to try to catch up.

Once off the expressway it was a fairly cruisey spin back to Freyberg. We took the cyclepath along the old Hutt Rd and followed the waterfront rather than cycling through traffic on Jervois Quay. This had the added advantage of meaning that we had to ride slowly to avoid large groups of pedestrians. We made it safely back to the start of the ride and flocked quickly to Parade for coffee.

Richard gave me a bit of a pep talk afterwards. He told me I'm a stronger cyclist that I think I am and that I just have to lay it on the line a bit more. I will admit that I'm riding more conservatively than I could. I'm being held back a bit at the moment by a lack of confidence and technical ability. However nothing burns more than being progressively overtaken by the pack. It's happened too often the last couple of rides and it leaves me fuming and discouraged and ill-motivated to try to catch up again.

I want to regain that sense I had a month or so ago of being powerful. I want to know again that when I push down on a pedal that I will move forward at a pace that seems to correspond to the level of effort I'm putting in. I don't want to be afraid of putting that effort in either. Getting frustrated at being dropped while I'm fiddling around with my gears isn't going to help me pick the pack back up again. The issues I'm having are as much psychological as physical. I need to stop spending so much mental energy on getting frustrated and I need instead to be focussing on power and efficiency and technique. I can do this!

I'm getting up stupidly early tomorrow to get a ride with Dee over to Featherston for an 80km race. Thankfully this wind is now forecast to burn out overnight. The weather service is now predicting occasional rain and light Southerlies. I just want to do this thing!


Kate said...

I ran today, and that was bad enough!
Have fun tomorrow :)

Pip said...

I'll file a race report to let you know how it goes!

Sass said...


I hope the race has gone well and H got home at some stage. Will catch up with you via email tomorrow no doubt!