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!


Sass said...

Omg sounds like an awesome race! And I love how you guys support as well:)

As for the sun - sunscreen spray? Would it be feasible to use it en route? Otherwise you might end up seriously toasted at Taupo. Cycling people must have a solution!

Pip said...

Apparently there's an all-day brand which is supposed to be good. I'm going to have to go hunt it down.

Would it be stupid to try to run tomorrow? I want to run!

Kate said...

Do Not Run!!!

Great race!

And I hate the way you talk about the hills that killed me like they're nothing ;)