Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Wairarapa Cycle Challenge Report

Well, it's been a few days since the Wairarapa race and I've had time to process it. I had three goals for this race. I had a time goal, I wanted to ride with a pack and I wanted to nail my hydration and nutrition in a racing environment. In fact I had four goals. Having not ridden more than around 55km since the Grape Ride in April, I also just wanted to finish. I was also looking forward to seeing just how fast I could go.

Dee picked me up at 6.15 on Sunday morning. Hamish still wasn't home from his VJing gig and getting up at 5.00am seemed like a mad endeavour to s ay the least. When we stopped at the BP in Upper Hutt it was blowing a gale and raining and we nearly turned back home. Thankfully we decided it would be foolish not to at least see what conditions were like on the other side of the hill. When we got to Featherston it was still drizzly but the wind was far less severe.

We arrived ridiculously early and I had a lot of time to get Cleo ready, to decide on an appropriate number of layers and to scoff down a banana. I got an attack of the pre-race nerves but tried to distract myself by riding a few laps up and down the road. It was still quite drizzly and the Southerly was keeping things quite cool so I went with a polyprop top, cycling top, arm warmers, leg warmers and a windbreaker. I was worried I might be overdoing it but I never came close to overheating.

Dee persuaded me to move up a wave and when we started off I found myself riding with a bunch of guys doing 40kmph. It was huge fun but I knew I couldn't keep it up and after ten minutes or so I got dropped. Unfortunately that was the first goal down the drain. From then on I rode most of the way on my own. Every now and then I would latch onto another pack, but it wouldn't last long.

For the first 20km or so I managed around 35kmph. I made a point of starting to drink and eat early on. I was feeling good and having fun, despite not being able to see too much as my glasses got covered with rain and started to fog. Then the tail wind kicked in and it all started to go pear shaped. I was riding along narrow country roads completely on my own with only dropped Peak Fuel tubes to reassure me I was still going the right way. My average speed dropped right back and I started to wonder whether I could meet my time goal after all.

Two brief pack rides kept my spirits up during this time, as did a flock of bellbirds as I was riding through a gathering of trees. One rider was stopped on the side of the road changing a flat tire, and he later blew past me at speed. The narrow little roads and the lake on my left would have been wonderfully scenic had it not been grey and overcast.

The headwind of course didn't last and soon a tailwind had me pushing over 35kmph again. From then on my feelings about the race alternated depending on whether I was able to hang off the back of a pack and whether I was riding into the wind. I kept hydrating, kept eating. I kept track of my speed and monitored the passing of the kilometres. I jumped onto a good pack that I was hopeful of holding onto but lost them at the top of one of the few hills as I fiddled with my gears. I cursed myself a bit at that! I pushed hard but coudn't catch them again and eventually gave up.

I started to give up again during an extended period of riding at a 45 degree angle against a crosswind as we approached Martinborough. I just stopped caring about time and just wanted to finish. Ironically, once out of the crosswind I found that, despite some sore sit bones and a bit of legwarmer chafing, I wasn't terribly fatigued and that I still had the power to push a good pace. I was even picking off the occasional cyclist. I enjoyed the sensation of my legs firing away like pistons, pumping rhythmically up and down.

Once I reached Martinborough things picked up considerably. I was flying down State Highway 2 and motivated by the 14km sign to really start pushign the pace again. I was surprised that I was still feeling very strong. Of course I wasn't counting on the hill just before the lefthand turn to Featherston. Halfway up I was passed by a couple on a tandem. I had seen them stopped for a puncture earlier, then a second puncture not long after that. This time I called out to them to ask whether they'd made sure their tires were free of glass this time. The male of the pair grimaced and commented they were not having a good day. Their day must have really been going downhill, because I passed them only a couple of kilometres further down the road with their third puncture.

The last kilometre into Featherston seemed to take forever but I crossed the finishline with a big smile on my face. It took ten minutes or so to find my way back to the hall at the startline. I ended up circling around town with a German girl, totally lost. Back at the hall I very slowly changed into dry clothes then wolfed down a scone from Hamish's baking the day before. Soon after that I finished off one of my Sculpt bars, then a mandarin. Not long after that I was starving again! Other than the chafing at the top of my right leg (ouch), I was suffering a bit of a muscle strain where my left hamstring connected in the area of my glute. However my quads and calves felt ok and I wasn't as tired as I expected to be.

I had failed to take note of my time on the finishline so had no idea of how I'd done but thought it might have been around my goal. It took a couple of days for the results to go up online and I got a nasty surprise. The time recorded against my name was about 20 minutes slower than I'd thought. I was, to put it lightly, rather upset. It was only when I realised that some of the other results were a bit screwy to say the least that I started to have my doubts about the time listed against my name. One of my Gearshifters buddies was listed twice, with two different times. Another had come in last and was showing as having finished near the front of the field. The woman who had finished with her wasn't listed at all, and one of our other women was listed as not having started.

Thankfully Julia hit on the bright idea of searching on her bib number and found her true result recorded against someone else's name. I did the same and came up with a time that was far closer to my goal. I was still too slow, but not suicidally slow!

Over the period of the day the results came out a series of anguished emails and txts were swapped between me and some of my long-suffering friends. Forget that conditions hadn't been ideal. forget that I felt good for a lot of it and had more power than I thought. Forget that I was around 5kmph faster than I was around the Graperide. Forget even that I'd done well with the hydration and sustained a race pace the whole way. I hadn't achieved a self-imposed time goal. Even worse, people might think I was weak, unfit or slow!!

Ridiculous, obviously. Believe me when I say I eventually gave myself a good talking to and got over myself, again. Regardless of the time, there were so many positives to take from this race. It was great fun, except for when it was horrendous! Funnily enough, as the days go by I'm increasingly minimising the awfulness of the awful bits and my memories are focussed on the good bits. Race two for the year, race one of Taupo training over with. How can I not be pleased with myself?

Special mention must also be made of the wonderful volunteers with their little red flags signalling each turn. Thanks especially to the guy who tried to send me off down the 64km route and was terribly polite when I suggested I might want to turn right instead. Great fun! I'm glad I always make a point of smiling and thanking them all, even the guy at the end who was a bit vague on how to get back to the start line again!


Kate said...

Doesn't sound like you were slow at all! Nice work Pip :-)
Once you're done with Taupo, we should definitely head out for a spin!

Pip said...

Er,I was slow! I would love to go for a spin with you any time. I know you usually run on Sundays but if you ever want to ride instead just let me know. Alternatively, if you can get away from work in time, the Capitelles leave from Freyberg at 5.30 on Mondays for a ride around the Bays. I've been talked into riding with them!