Sunday, November 30, 2008


Or, 160km of awesomeness.

Or, Pip does Taupo!

Official time 6.32 hours. Ride time as per my cycle computer (not including stops) 6.20.

Woot, woot, woot, woot, woot!

I'll write a proper race report later, but for now I'll just say that it was a beautiful day, if a little too hot (32 degrees on Hatepe apparently) and I enjoyed every second of it.


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Almost Time

My bed is covered in cycling gear, power bars, gels and general weekend detritus. Cleo is waiting patiently in the hallway for the morning to come.

I'm still sick but I can hear and I can, for the most part, breathe. I'm not running on full lung capacity by any means, but I will at least make it to the startline and I fully intend to finish. How long that's going to take is still open to bets. I fully anticipate that I will need to stop at some stage, even if just to take medication. Even so, I am excited and as of this moment looking forward to it!

Hopefully in 48 hours' time I will have cycled 160km and will be off to Dee's accommodation for a barbeque and to get thoroughly squiffy on half a glass of wine.

Lake Taupo, here I come.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Good News, Bad News

Hamish and I are fans of the American medical television series House. We got into it a couple of seasons ago and watch each episode as it becomes available. It seems like nearly every episode one of the doctors suggests that a patient has the condition sarcoidosis, but I don't think anyone has ever been found to have it.

Now I'm fairly experienced in dealing with the health system, and I'm also pretty used to using the Internet to find information on health issues. When I was diagnosed with Addison's Disease I got Hamish to print some stuff off for me so that I could ask my Endocrinologist more relevant questions. I also know that there are pitfalls in relying on television and the Internet for that information.

All the same, when Mum was told that she needed a lung biopsy I did a Google search to see what was involved, and one of the things I noticed was that the biopsy is used to diagnose sarcoidosis. At that point, purely out of curiosity, I decided to read a bit more to find out what sarcoidosis actually was. Which was the point at which I started to wonder whether Mum had cancer at all.

It turns out that sarcoidosis is the result of a faulty immune reaction. It can cause lung lesions, shortness of breath, weight loss, pain and fatigue, sinusitis and red eye, all of which Mum has been suffering from. It is also associated with an underactive thyroid and B12 deficiencies, both of which Mum has, and occurs in people who have had a lot of exposure to agricultural chemicals. Mum spent most of my childhood working in a market garden where sprays were used regularly and our house was bordered by grape vines which were also sprayed.

I didn't want to get Mum's hopes up, but it all seemed to fit. Now it seems that the respiratory specialist she saw today is thinking the same thing. Which is great, because it's mostly treatable. Now we're just waiting for that biopsy. Fingers crossed! Even if it is lung cancer the lesions are apparently very small and almost undetectable.

In other good news, I met with PT Dave Creamer yesterday. We've agreed on my priority events, starting hopefully with a 10km race in Belmont the weekend after Taupo. After that I'll train towards the Yarrows Taranaki Cycle Challenge on 24 January (the day before Dad's birthday). I'll follow that up with a return to Marlborough for the Grape Ride in April. Dave thinks the Rotorua Marathon is achievable in May 2009, and possibly also the Harbour Capital half marathon in June. After that there'll be some lead-up triathlons and possibly the odd local cycle race or fun run, the Taupo Round the Lake cycle challenge again in November (if I'm still feeling good), then the big one, the Rotorua Half Ironman.

Phew - I think that was it! Dave's going to put together a programme for me, including weights sessions as appropriate and the odd RPM or Balance class. He's also recommending I do the Masters swim sessions at Huia or Barbara's Oriental Bay swims over summer. Hmmm. Might need to have a few lessons with Lesleigh first!

I left my meeting with Dave feeling super super excited and had a great final RPM class with Adam and Dee team teaching and the Shifters wearing hats or helmets. It was stinking hot in that room and the helmet definitely didn't help! I felt a wee bit off and was wondering about that cough I've had all eek. It was a great class though all the same, and afterwards Adam handed around fruit cake and a few of us headed off for coffee.

Which is where the luck ran out and the only bad news of the week kicked in. That cough? Ahhh, yep. I woke up this morning with a full-blown cold. Bah.

Thankfully it's not as bad as it could be. My ears aren't blocked up so I can still actually hear and although my sinuses are sore I can still breathe, even if my nose is running like a mad thing. Ironically the cough has stopped! At this stage I'm still planning on heading up to Taupo but I'm not kidding myself that getting around is going to be easy. I'm going to have to take it really easy and I've decided to take planned rest stops to refill water bottles and take extra medication. I took off from work at mid-day and had a bit of a nana nap on the sofa this afternoon. If I nurse myself I might just make it to the start line.


Monday, November 24, 2008

Collecting My Thoughts

I have an appointment with a personal trainer tomorrow to talk about getting a programme together for the next six months. I feel like I'm cheating on Duck! I'm not planning on seeing him for workouts, rather I want him to set me a schedule and then to catch up every month or so. This trainer is a very experienced Ironman triathlete and is known for putting together these types of programmes. I need someone to sit me down and tell me what's realistic!

For the next year my major goal is obviously the Rotorua Half Ironman at the end of the year. Enroute however are a number of tasty races which are just too tempting. I can't do everything but here are some of my options:

  • The Korokoro run the weekend after Taupo already mentioned in my last post
  • A 150km cycle race round Taranaki on 10 January and another on 24 January. It's been pointed out to me that I shouldn't really consider doing both so the Yarrow event on the 24th is my preferred choice, in particular because it's the day before my father's birthday.
  • The Graperide - 101km round Taranaki and my sentimental favourite, being my first ever cycle race
  • Unfortunately the Graperide clashes with the SPARC duathlon, which was where it all started and which I had originally wanted to do again this year with Mum
  • Le Race, in Banks Peninsula, which I'm told is the week before the Graperide
  • The Wellington half marathon (January? February?)
  • The Harbour Capital half marathon (June)
  • The Rimutaka Incline run (November)
  • The Rotorua marathon (2 May).
  • A whole series of other half marathons, including both the Wairarapa Country and the Pelorus Trust, both of which are unfinished business for me.
  • Plus, of course, all the lead-up cycle races that I did this year and which I'm sure I will want to repeat next year. And we won't even mention Taupo itself, because it will clash with the Half Ironman.
  • And there's more, but those are the major ones.
Yeah. So obviously I can't do everything! For a start, doing even half of those events would leave almost no time to get my swimming sorted and I'll probably end up copying Kate's strategy and using the Scorching triathlons as Rotorua warmup events.

On to slightly different matters, I'm loving the weather tonight. It's warm and muggy but there's a gale Northerly blowing and it's raining. Somehow the combination of balmy temperatures and being safe inside in a storm are really appealing to me.

I collected Cleo from Penny's this afternoon, having not wanted to ride her in 130kmph winds. I managed to grind through my brake pads in four months! She's looking all shiny and new though and I'm feeling the Cleo love all over again. She's my baby! Unfortunately though I can't get drink cages for behind her seat to fit her fat seat post, so I'm tossing up whether to just take two bottles and stop to refill them or whether to use my Camelbak. Decisions, decisions ... I'm probably going to have to stop anyway to take some extra medication because I can't imagine fiddling with pills while riding, so perhaps going Camelbak-free is still the best option.

Going back to work today after nearly a week off was odd. I'm not in a work headspace at all. It's all cycling and family right now. Mum still hasn't heard anything from the hospital, so we are still none the wiser as to what is happening. However she thinks it's suspicious that I've developed a similar cough to hers after my time up there. I'm reserving judgement.

Oh, and I wore my new Annah S dress today and got a whole heap of compliments. She should start paying me a commission ...

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Last Sunday Homework Ride!

I woke up this morning feeling a little icky after yesterday's big ride. My throat isn't sore as such, just a bit scratchy and flemmy and I have an irritated cough. I suspect I'm fighting off a bug.

With that in mind and knowing that the weather forecast for today was pretty shoddy I ended up staying in bed till about 10.30 then getting up and cooking corn fritters with chicken bacon for breakfast. I used a new recipe that included an extra teaspoon of baking powder and the fritters turned out so light and fluffy and delicious that I'm definitely making them again.

By 12.30 I was feeling a bit more active, even if I did still feel like I was fighting something. I decided to head off to Les Mills for Body Balance. Sarah wa s there as well so we got to catch up, which was nice. Margaret chose some great tracks today, even if the hamstring track DID include the splits, which gave Sarah a chance to show off her stretchy skills. Darn her!

By the time I was driving home the weather had improved significantly and it was too good an opportunity to pass up. Despite still feeling a bit blah I threw on my cycling gear and headed out. Cleo and I cycled down Farnham Street to Island Bay, then turned left around the coast. Out of the wind it was lovely and warm out there, however there was still a strong breeze blowing, even if it wasn't as strong as yesterday.

I decided to cut through Kilbirnie to Cobham Drive, then continued on around the Bays. I didn't really do any hills, though the wind was strong enough that I felt like I was grinding up Houghton Bay Rd on the flat! Once again there were cyclists everywhere, all wearing that 'last ride' look of determination.

Around Lyall Bay I was hating the wind again and considering calling H to pick me up from Owhiro Bay so that I didn't have to fight it all the way up Happy Valley. Then the penny dropped. I ate the half a power bar that was lurking in my pocket and instantly felt better. Refuelled I made it home easily. The ride up the valley was in no way as bad as it could have been and from Garfield Street I turned South again and it became a tailwind.

So that was it. I'll probably cycle into town tomorrow to drop Cleo off for her service then ride her home again afterwards and I'm booked in for RPM on Tuesday, and that will probably be it until Saturday. I'm in a good place, feeling strong and as of this moment am looking forward to the challenge. I'll still spend the night before freaking out and I'll still feel overwhelmed on the morning itself, but these are all familiar emotions now so I know what to expect. Besides, I've done so many events this year already that I don't get anywhere near as worked up as I used to.

Now, on to post-Taupo plotting. I'm meeting Dave Creamer this week to talk about a programme for the next six months, but I'm considering a return to running races sooner rather than later. Sarah's doing the Korokoro half marathon the weekend after Taupo and needs a lift out there and, well, they have a 10km option which is basically flat and ....

So, would it be stupid to run a 10km race (however slowly and taking walk breaks if necessary) one week after Taupo, not having run since, oh, forever?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Yes, I know ...

I know I'm not unfit, I know I'm not lazy and I'm not exactly piling on the weight. Thanks to everyone who told me off. I was just having a bad moment! Hi, by the way, to my Gearshifters readers. I don't think I've said anything bad about you ...

Anyway, there is light! I sucked it up today, HTFU'd and got it done. Funnily enough, a 55km ride out to Eastbourne and back sounded too easy and boring and not really tempting. Even with the wind I knew that I needed a big ride today, and a big ride is what I got! Which isn't to say that today was all fun. There were a few times when I was fighting the wind and Cleo to stay upright. There was one point in particular when I don't know how I managed to maintain a vertical position. There was a typical Wellington light Northerly blowing today, to say the least.

Right then. Today we rode to Paekakariki Hill. I'm not really sure exactly how we got there, but I know we rode up Ngaio Gorge, through Khandallah and Johnsonville, then I think we rode through Tawa to Porirua where we jumped onto the main road and turned a right at the northern end of the Pauatahunui Inlet. From there it was a long 12km climb up to the top of the hill. I've already said I was battling the wind, but that was the main feature of today's ride!

Only a few of us had decided to do the long option, and I was one of the slowest riders. It was a good challenge to hang with the group though and it was, again, what I needed. I really enjoyed Paekakariki Hill. Even though it was a long 12km into a headwind, it really wasn't that hard. It was scenic and gorgeous and on a less windy, overcast day would be absolutely stunning.

I took it slowly going back down because the gusty winds were playing havoc with my ability to steer. At one point I got overtaken by a young blonde woman who was absolutely flying. Lauren was following close behind her, 'chasing skirt'. He insists he didn't realise he was following a woman! We waited at the entry to Battle Hill for the others then stopped off in Pauatahunui for a bathroom break. By this point it was after 12.00 and although I'd taken an extra 5mg of Hydrocortisone before the ride I figured now would be as good a time as any to take some more. Other than the Hydrocortisone I managed to plough my way through both bottles of Peak Fuel and most of a bottle of water and two Power Bars.

The traffic was hairy, to say the least and I lost count of the number of times we were cut off or passed by honking drivers. It was nerve wracking trying to maintain forward momentum in the crosswinds while cars and huge trucks were passing by within inches. I managed to keep my cool, honest! I may have yelled out "hello" to one driver and I may have waved at another who pulled out in front of me, but there was no swearing ...

We climbed back up the hill to Johnsonville that I'd been dreading and it was nothing. At some point I think the Hydrocortisone kicked in, and it was ALL good! By the time we were riding undulating suburban streets on our way back to Ngaio I had taken the lead from Richard and was on a cortisol rush. With Richard shouting encouragement from behind I pumped my way up the hills and, with the exception of Ngaio Gorge (when I had to stop to put my chain back on), I led the whole way back to Freyberg. 101km, done!

So, today I did well to just ride in that wind. I also did well with the nutrition and hydration. However I think the takehome lesson from today's ride was HYROCORTISONE! Heck, I'm going to be popping that stuff the whole way round Taupo. Give me that cortisol kick. I think I'm hooked!

I don't know for certain that's where my little rush came from on the way home. It could be that I was just glad to be nearly there. Whatever it was it felt good and I was a very, very happy Pip by the time we got back to Freyberg just after 1.30. I may, in fact, still be grinning.

And with the week I'm likely to have, that's a feeling I need to hold on to.

Whatever happens though, I know I can rock Taupo. Confidence restored. All systems go.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Almost ...

I had taken today off work, thinking I was still going to be in Taranaki. It was a beautiful morning, even if that horrid wind was still howling away, so I decided to stick to my plan to do a hill circuit around the Bays - Sutherland, Houghton and Alexandra Rd.

After breakfast and messing around at home I got changed and headed out the door not long after 10am. I'd only just turned onto the Ridgeway and was no more than a few hundred metres from home when my phone rang. It was Mum calling to say that she was on her way to hospital for more tests.

That was my riding done with for the day. I threw a bag and Cleo in the back of the car and started driving northwards again. Two hours into my drive (halfway) my phone rang again. Mum was on her way home from the hospital and a specialist Oncologist would be looking at her scans on Monday. If she is going to have a biopsy it won't happen till Tuesday at the earliest.

I sat on the side of the road in Sanson talking to Mum and Dad for a bit longer. Eventually I turned around and drove two hours home again. By the time I got there it was 2.30 and I was starving, not having eaten since 8am.

By the time I'd managed to get some lunch together I was feeling decidedly non-active. It was still a gorgeous day even with that aforementioned nasty wind, but I think I can be excused for feeling too tired and unmotivated to be able to haul myself and Cleo back up our 46 steps to the road and around the Bays again. Besides, the Gearshifters are riding nearly 100km tomorrow and there's still Sunday to get my homework in.

In the meantime I will repeat after myself: You are not lazy, you are not unfit, you are not huge! If I say it enough times I may believe it ...

Back in Wellington

I'm back in Wellington, having arrived home last night. I was considering deleting my last post, but decided to leave it up there. I don't really want to talk about what's going on too much, suffice to say that we won't know more till next week.

Taranaki threw a heap of different weather at me, including the usual strong crosswinds. Mum and Dad showed me a gorgeous little backroad ride behind Midhurst that is worth exploring. There were too many roadworks on SH3 to really make cycling too far along that route terribly appealing.

I arrived back in Wellington last night and immediately jumped on Cleo for a quick 45 minute circuit down to the coast, with a climb up Murchison Street thrown in. There was a surprising Southerly and the climb up Murchison felt nasty until I realised I'd taken it a fair bit faster than usual. It was good to be back home with Hamish and the cats afterwards, together with a cool glass of Hamish's father's Rose.

It's beautiful here again despite the Northerly and I've got the day off so I'm going to head out for a hill circuit soon. I'm feeling less than confident about Taupo again, but I want to shake that off! I think I've lost a bit of the fun out of cycling. I can't just get on a bike and go for a ride. Every ride is about the training. I really am ready for this to all be over!

Poor Cleo's ready for this to be over too and badly needs her service on Monday. Let's hope she can get me through this weekend first.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Life is Short

We're all living longer these days, right? The scientific studies tell us so and give us an excuse to put off thinking about the inevitable. Our society doesn't tend to think a lot about death, at least, not our own death. At what age does a person expect to start thinking that their time might be running out? In their 70s? Does someone in their 80s start to muse that it might be time to start ticking off that list of must-does before it's too late?

For someone like Fat Cyclist this question is not theoretical. Most of us, however, continue to either put things off, or set goals, perhaps long-term ones, that we fully expect to be able to achieve. So what say you are a late bloomer? Perhaps you and your partner have sold the family home and found another place in a rural town that you really love. Perhaps you've finally been able to stop work and take up all of those hobbies you'd been thinking about for years. Perhaps you've lost a heap of weight, gotten into cycling, walking and lifting weights. Perhaps everyone at your local gym knows you by name. The owner has even started getting you to take charge when he needs to run errands. You've just bought yourself a hybrid bike and you love how fast you are now and how far you can go. You're planning on doing the duathlon you did a couple of years ago for a second time, just so that you can see how much progress you've made.

Perhaps you're not that old. Perhaps you're only, say, 57. You've had some problems with your health, but you've done everything you can to manage your medical conditions. You know your risks and you get regular check-ups. You've only just gotten started on all the things you want to do and you're feeling excited about life.

Then you start feeling unwell. You don't have enough energy to ride your lovely new bike any more. Your doctor is hopeless but there's a waiting list for the only other GP in town. You struggle for months and start feeling really depressed. Then a new doctor arrives and everyone says he's great. You manage to get an appointment. He is lovely and understanding and runs a heap of tests, and something bad shows up. Something very bad.

So, do you feel angry? Do you feel ripped off? Do you feel like you're being ripped off and that you're being denied the chance to do everything you want to do?

I can't speak for anyone else, but as a daughter I can state categorically that I'm angry. Very angry.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I need a hug

It's been an odd week. I'm in a strange place right now. With Taupo so close, and with my thoughts already turning to other goals (Rotorua marathon, Rotorua half-ironman), I'm feeling a little emotional.

I'm not sure what's going on. I'm not scared, although I will admit to being a little overwhelmed. I'm feeling very proud of what I have already achieved and dazzled by what I have come to accept I am capable of. I don't know what my limits are. Am I playing around the edges or am I nowhere near the finishline?

I took a rest on Monday after the 115km race, but was then back into it on Tuesday, fitting in a Balance class and two very intense RPM classes. I was up and out of bed on Wednesday morning and cycled through light drizzle to the gym for an upper body workout. I'm not doing any lower body weights at the moment - leaving them until after Taupo.

Wednesday turned into a stunning spring day and after work I cycled through rush hour traffic and then home around the Bays. The Southern coast was bathed in light and swimmers bobbed around in the flat waters of Houghton Bay. Families clustered in Island Bay with parcels of fish and chips. Unlike the time trial morning I was able to comfortably keep my speedo up around 33 to 35km per hour, even hitting 40kmph around Pt Jerningham. It was only riding up Happy Valley into a soul-destroying Northerly that I finally slowed. I could feel how much stronger I was and felt very happy with what was supposed to be a recovery ride.

On top of all of the riding this week I was competing in an office stairclimb challenge, climbing over 100 flights of stairs each day. By today I was starting to think that the challenge was an incredibly stupid idea so close to the race, and my knee was agreeing with me. I wanted to ride today, I really did. It's as lovely out there today as it was yesterday, but with slightly less wind. However something pulled me back. The best indicator (other than my aching legs) that I needed a break was my increasingly heightened emotional state. I ask so much of myself and I've been meeting my own expectations, but tonight just being in this beautiful evening seemed enough. I had to accept that I wouldn't be wasting the evening if I didn't ride. Sure, last night's golden light on the Southern Coast was special and was out there again waiting for me. However I was walking through a disconcerting fog of exhaustion. I was up, I was down. I was all over the place.

Even I can tell that I'm in need of a rest. I don't think I'm particularly overtrained but I think that the emotional toll of so much time on my bike, repeatedly facing my fears and demanding mental strength and the simple lack of weekend days off and sleep-ins is starting to weigh in. The scales were nice to me this morning, gifting me the exact number of I wanted to see at this point in my training so tonight I'm treating myself to pasta, wine, cider, fruit and chocolate. I'm looking out at the beautiful view and watching crappy television. I'm enjoying some time on my own while Hamish is working late.

This has been the most mentally demanding training programme I've undertaken to date. Sure, training for my first duathlon and for the half-marathons required toughness and a facing of fears, but there's nothing like facing the prospect of sitting on a bike for over six hours at this point in my life to force me to back myself.

The night before Taupo, when I'm doing my usual freakout in our room at the YWCA I will have to back myself. When I clip in at the mass start, I will have to back myself. When we hit that very first hill, I will have to back myself. When I've been on my bike for three hours, I will have to back myself. Each time I reach for my drink bottle or swallow some of my power bar, each time I overtake another rider, each time I am overtaken, each time we hit a headwind, each time I crest a hill and reach down to the drops, and when, around the four hour mark, I reach for and swallow some booster Hydrocortisone, I will have to back myself.

When Hatepe comes I want to stare it in the face and laugh, then possibly sing. And when (not if), I reach the finishline I will damn well have the biggest smile on my face the world has ever seen. And then, damn it all, I'll probably immediately start thinking about running a marathon. Because that's the way I roll.

I'm riding to work tomorrow and will ride home around the Bays again after work, then we're riding 100km on Saturday (including Paekakariki Hill), and racing 100km in Masterton on Sunday. I don't want to panic anyone with this rather overwrought post (and I'm also painfully aware that for some people riding Taupo is a walk in the park). It's just where I am right now. I'm engaging fully in this journey and I'm perfectly ok. Give me one good night's sleep and then let's bring it on.

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!

Saturday, November 08, 2008

When Someone Asks Why

Life is not a dress rehearsal ...

Monday, November 03, 2008

Under a month to go

Everyone's starting to realise now that it's under a month till Taupo, and I feel like the last week has been far too light.

Obviously it would have been a bad idea to go for a ride on Saturday. Julia told me afterwards that the time trial was cancelled, that hardly anyone turned up, that half of those that did turned back at Evans Bay, and that those who did ride only went out to Miramar, up Awa Rd and down to Worser Bay. From there they only rode as far as Kilbirnie before cutting back through to Oriental Bay. Even the big large guys were getting blown around. I wouldn't have stood a chance.

Sure I spent some time on the trainer, but I was really annoyed to discover that entries to the Tour de Whitemans on Sunday didn't close on Wednesday after all and that they were taking entries on the day (despite saying there would be no late registrations). I really enjoyed my ride around the Bays with Julia in the sun on Sunday afternoon, but I badly wanted to do hills and her back just wasn't up to it.

I have only myself to blame for wimping out today. I rode in this morning, experiencing a near-death moment when a courier driver in a van did a u-turn in front of me on Willis Street then decided he wanted my lane more than I did (cue some heavy braking and swerving and a few loud words thrown at his open driver's window). The wind was already getting up by then and it continued to increase all day. I was dreading doing my usual 30km loop out to Kilbirnie then home via the Southern coast, but wasn't relishing Victoria Street in rush hour either.

Our manager had organised drinks to celebrate the end of our project and our Deputy Secretary turned up, so I was obliged to be there. I had a couple of glasses of wine but by 6.00 had sobered up again and was changing into my cycle gear when Hamish called to offer me a lift home. So did I say no? Did I ride home avoiding the worst of the wind by taking Taranaki Street then riding up the city side of Brooklyn Hill? No. I changed back into my office clothing and left Cleo in the cycle locker. Instead of getting in a training ride I went home and drank another couple of glasses of wine.

Sure, tomorrow I have a good 100 minutes or so of spinning on the cards, and I'll ride Cleo home on Wednesday instead. However I feel like I've slipped a bit this week. Of course my knee likes me for it, but I need some hardcore hillage to make me feel better, and I need to lay off the wine for a day or two. If only Hamish's father hadn't just sent us half a case of his finest in celebration of H's birthday.

In less self-critical news, I think I have my nutrition sorted for Taupo. I'm sold on the lime Peak Fuel drink, which is far less sweet than the Replace, and which I can handle full strength. I've also discovered a to-die-for cookies and cream flavoured Power Bar, which is moist enough that it doesn't dry my mouth out and has a better ratio of carbs than the Horleys Sculpt bars I've been using. I still haven't found a gel I like, but I have a new one to try on Saturday which was recommended to me by the guys at Penny's.

All negativity aside, I know I can get around Taupo. Last week was supposed to be a Gearshifters rest week and I easily did more than the assigned homework. If I step it up this weekend I'll be back in my little happy place again.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Happy Birthday Hamish

It's November 2nd, so it must be Flying Burrito Brothers!

Four Margaritas, calamari, crumbed and deep fried jalapenos, quesidillas, a chicken burrito, a slice of cheesecake, a slice of chocolate cake, a hot chocolate and some Mexican bread later, we were done.

Happy birthday Mr Yeti!

And yes, it may be time to clean the camera lens on my phone!

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Hamish has a new toy!

Meet our new orange and black Peugeot scooter! We're getting the top box installed and H is bringing it home on Tuesday. Someone is a very, very happy boy!

In other news, I'm still cycling. After Tuesday's RPM class I took Wednesday off then on Thursday I spent 75 minutes on a spin bike upstairs at Extreme. My plans for Friday got blown out of the water thanks to a busy day at work, then this morning's time trial plans got literally blown away. I didn't fancy riding in Northerlies strong enough to close the airport!

We've got Cleo half-installed on the wind trainer, so I'm off to spend some time spinning soon. This storm is forecast to blow through overnight and by tomorrow afternoon it should be ok for a ride.

I'm missing running but the physio says to hold off for a bit longer. The consensus is that my knee's doing well, given what I've been throwing at it. Sigh!