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.


Kate said...

Yay Pip! You always make me want to do Taupo, even though I think truly I really don't! Maybe I can go sub 6 with you next year?!

Sass said...

Pip, you are awesome:)

Tri Saint said...

Well done Pip.

That's such an awesome result for you. It's amazing how that race just pulls you along & before you know it your over the hills & on your way home.

Yes Kate I think it's time you gave it a crack. You'll love it.