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.
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.
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.
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!