Sunday, November 28, 2010

I did it!

The perfect morning on the lakefront for a 160k cycle race! This was the view from near my starting group at around 8am.

The view from the Kuratau drink station near the halfway point. It was really starting to heat up by this point. I'd done reasonably well at getting food and liquid onboard, but still drank nearly a whole bottle when I stopped. I'd been feeling pretty good up to then. I was taking it conservatively but thought I'd made it that far in about the same time as 2008. Perhaps I was slower, but I don't think I ever wrote my 80k time down back then. The hills definitely didn't feel hard, but I was frustrated to find that I was having difficulty latching onto a good group of riders. I think that was partly a result of starting in the women's only group. I did that because they started earlier than the 5.50 to 6.10 group I'd planned on starting with, but the spread of rider abilities was too great and it all got messy.

The chaos that was the drink station. I stopped here to refill my water bottles and have a quick portaloo break. I'd told myself that I just had to get here without stopping, so I managed that mini-goal. I was still feeling quite good so pressed on.

Coming down off Waihi hill hurt. I didn't mind all the other climbs or descents, not even Kuratau, but Waihi was covered in nasty chip seal and I still have some issues with the adjustment of my brakes (I need another couple of shims), so my wrists were really aching from having to stretch so far to reach them properly and having to clench them to hold onto the shuddering handlebars.

Even so, and with my arms and shoulders starting to ache as well, I was still feeling good until Turangi, and then things went slightly pear shaped. If the finishline was at Turangi it would have been a good race. Not surprising really - my longest training ride was only 80k long, and it was around 100 to Turangi. I stopped a little way past the township to text H to let him know I might be a little longer than planned. I don't want to sound too negative. I knew I was going to be slow home, and I wanted it all to be over, but I was still thrilled that I'd even gotten to that point and I knew that I was not pulling out. I was proud of myself.

In 2008 I'd sat with a good group of riders doing around 28-30kph from Turangi through to Taupo. This time around no one seemed to want to do over 26. I would sit behind a group for a while, overtake them, cycle into the wind to the next pack, sit behind them, repeat. It got pretty soul destroying. What was even more annoying was that inevitably people would follow me, but I was the only one doing any work.

I kept telling myself that Hamish was at the finish line with cider. I also reminded myself that I was going to finish, which was pretty amazing given my lack of training and the events of the last year. I desperately wanted to stop though, even if just for a few seconds. I ended up stopping just before Hatepe and downing the emergency gel I'd brought with me for that very purpose.

In the end Hatepe wasn't that bad, as I'd known it wouldn't be. There were people stopping and walking all around me, but I just lined up the two photographers and smiled. Before too long I was over and coming down the other side. My foot cramped slightly, (just as it had last time) but I ignored it. I was a bit too tired to descend too quickly, but still got down at a reasonable clip.

Through the roundabout, over the hill to the airport, back down the other side. All the way around I'd had people yelling out to me. Half the time I'd had no idea who they were, but it turned out my Gearshifters were cheering me on from the sidelines, for which I was very grateful.

With a few k's to go an older guy came past and told me how well I was doing. I realised that he'd been saying the same thing to me the whole way around as we'd yo yo'd back and forth. I thanked him and we got talking. I told him about my brain surgery, he told me about his neck and spine surgery. We high-fived each other a few times then he kindly dropped back so that I could have a solo sprint to the finish. I waited for him over the finish line and thanked him again. And then there was this ....

One very hot, sweaty, relieved Pip. Is that not photo of a happy woman?

One very cold, very good bottle of cider!

And a lovely dinner, 12 hours after starting, in a cafe overlooking the lake. At 8.07 the tail-end charlie car went past, just as it was getting dark.

This year just cemented for me what a special race Taupo is, and I knew for sure that I want to ride again. Everything about it is so perfectly organised, and with the mix of enduro riders, riders wearing bibs to signal 10-25+ times around, teams, and unusual bikes, it's always entertaining. There is great crowd support and the whole town comes alive. It's the kind of event where a person can get a team of four together and train for a totally manageable 40k distance. There are people like my workmate, who finished two hours faster than me, then there are people like me, who are simply aiming to have a good day and complete.

So what's next? I want to get serious about going sub-six next year, and to do that I need to ride consistently, and I need to drop around 5kg at least. I'm planning on doing the Taranaki Cycle Challenge at the end of January, and I'm going to start riding with one or more of the local packs before then.

Completing Taupo has shifted my headspace, and I feel like I have regained a little more of the confidence in myself that I lost in the post-surgery madness. I am so grateful to all of the friends who have wished me well, and who were so happy for me when I made it around.

I haven't even mentioned our awesome accommodation, or the great women I was staying with, the support of all the Gearshifters riders, and, of course, the support of my wonderful, wonderful husband, who was quite happy just to be there.

I'm a little stiff, and I have the craziest tan lines, but overall I'm doing great.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Pre-Race Reflection

We're off to Taupo tomorrow so that I can ride in the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge. I am in no way trained for this event. In fact I haven't done a single ride over 80k. There are a number of reasons for this, and some of them come down to me making silly or cautious decisions. However what's done is done, and there's no point kicking myself now.

Physically my quads are tight, my left periformis is nagging me, but I will stretch them out tonight and by Saturday they should be fine. Mentally I feel remarkably calm. I plan on finishing, but if I don't I know I will have given it my best shot.

A year ago when I first sat in front of the hospital's clinical psychiatrist I was unable to stop crying. She asked me what I did to relax and at that time I had no answer for her. I couldn't run and I didn't think I'd ever get back on my bike again. The next time I saw her I took her the photo above. I wanted her to see who I had been. At the time that photo was almost too difficult for me to look at. I eventually chose to look at it as a symbol of my own strength, and over time I could take heart from it. A few months later I was back on my bike again.

So when I line up on the lakefront on Saturday it won't be to try to beat my PB. When I line up it will be to show myself that I am a strong, brave woman. Just the fact that I am even registered is a victory.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A busy Sunday

Old bank machine and wine cellar, Bettys Bar in Blair Street

Last Sunday began at 5.30am, when I got up to drive to Masterton for what was supposed to be a 115k race. When I got there I found that none of the women I normally ride with had turned up, and that there was a wind warning in place for most of the course. Riding in winds of up to 120kph on my own? The idea did not appeal, and I dropped back to the 50k. This meant that I could ride with Maria, one of the new Gearshifters who I haven't had a chance to talk to before.

The 50k route is nicely undulating and, because it passes through a valley, reasonably sheltered. However we still had a headwind and, at one point, a crosswind which saw me moving forwards while progressively edging towards the ditch. I leaned sideways and hauled myself more comfortably towards the centre of the lane.

Although it felt like a short race (which of course it was) it was fun, and we had a great tailwind on the way back. I ended up with my highest race placing ever and felt extremely strong. After a quick lunch I jumped back in the car and headed back to Wellington, where Hamish was preparing for his first vjing gig with the While You Were Sleeping crew in quite some time.

After a quick shower, and with no time to blowdry my hair, I grabbed a lift into town with H and walked through the post-Christmas parade madness to my office on the other side of town. A couple of hours of work and I headed back again, stopping off for some food on the way back as I was starting to feel like gnawing my arm off.

The gig was well underway, and Groovin' Pete was holding court. The venue was amazing. As you can see there were screens wrapped around the walls, and H was making good use of them.

The man himself at work.

The footage from old Cadburys ads were a particular hit. The DJs were playing remixes of the ad jingles at the time.

Something that may or may not look a little rude in retrospect. I make no further comment.

My role in these things is basically to sit slightly behind H and not bother him. It's a difficult job but someone has to do it.

Being a Sunday night we were home by around 9.30. I was remarkably awake but glad to get to bed all the same. It was a long (and slightly frustrating as far as getting in a decent distance on the bike goes) but ultimately good day.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

An Awesome Ride

I haven't been feeling the racing mojo or love lately so I skipped the Tour de Whitemans today and headed off up Paekak hill with Julia instead. After yesterday's ride was canceled due to some decidedly autumnal weather (rain, and cold southerlies gusting up to 85kph) and a morning spent in an RPM room I was more than ready for some sun and a good ride.

After meeting Julia at her house in Tawa we headed North, with the lingering southerly to give us a push. I was feeling great. We stopped at the homestead at Battle Hill and then it was onwards and up.

Julia rolling in behind me at Battle Hill:

An odd location for a Tui billboard:

I definitely need to clean my iPhone's camera lens, but in some ways the blurring effect works.

Now, I've been up Paekakariki Hill once before, and I remember it being a slog. Admittedly today I had a push up from the wind, but I just cruised up in my big chain ring loving my new bike and waiting for the hill to actually hit. In fact there's only about one km right at the end which is even slightly steep. I was soon at the cutting where I'd turned around the first time (because of the strong winds), and then out the other side where I was greeted by this view and a good dose of vertigo:

Yep, it was a stunning day.

The bike was looking pretty good as well. Two motorcyclists (who also happened to be road cyclists, go figure) spent some time eyeing her up. I swear she's a great pick-up tool. Definitely need to clean that camera lens.

Eventually Julia came rolling in behind me. After a bit of a break we slogged it home into the southerly.

I finished the ride feeling incredibly strong and over the moon. More like that please!

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Happy birthday Mr Yeti

We missed this year's Day of the Dead/Hamish's birthday celebration on 2 November because Hamish was working.

We missed last year's because I was in hospital.

We weren't missing going to miss out on celebrating all together though. Flying Burrito Brothers was waiting, as were the Margaritas.

Happy birthday husband!