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!