Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Win at The Dual - A Fine Day For Ducks

When I woke up Saturday morning at 4.30am and it was raining, I knew I was in for a tough day... Good thing is that when it's a tough day for me, generally means it's a tough day for everyone else, too. I hauled my weary butt out of bed and made my way into the city to catch the ferry. The Dual is a pretty unique race in that it traverses Rangitoto and Motutapu Islands, which are otherwise off-limits for bikes. The race was a sell-out this year in only it's third year and after two previous years of amazing weather, I'd chosen to participate in the one held on one of the windiest, wettest days I had ever raced on (Karapoti a couple of weeks ago was also in hot contention for crappiest race-day weather).

When we arrived on Motutapu Island, we found our bikes, which had been transported over prior to race day for us, and had just enough time to get changed, lube our chains and chuck on a helmet before we were on the start line. Once again, I wasn't too sure on the choice of tyres given the conditions, but I was kinda stuck with them given that I sent my bike off on it's journey two days prior when the weather for the weekend was looking ok. The fact that I had run the same tyre choice at Karapoti a few weeks back gave me confidence, though, that the Racing Ralph would pull through for me regardless of the weather.

We set off and straight up a hill. The surface was clay based and wet and my tyres clogged up pretty quickly, although it seemed to be only this 1-2km stretch that was clay-based and then we moved onto a more igneous surface which cleared the mud from the tyres in no time... YES!!!! We rode this section of the track twice over the course of the race, but other than that, the surface/tyre combination handled quite nicely in the wet. When I was climbing, I felt quite surprised at the gear ratio I was maintaining at cadence, and was even finding I had some extra left in me to hill top sprint most of the hills in a harder gear to shake the last few metres of the climb. I felt really good, especially considering what would describe as a lack of time on the bike of late (7-10 hours a week instead of 15???). I knocked over the first two climbs feeling like they were flats, which was great, although I was very aware I was working myself quite hard, it just seemed natural to be moving at that pace. When I hit the top of Rangitoto, I was faced with this wicked scree-covered descent. I just let the brakes go and opened it up, sliding through corners, hearing the crunch of the scree under my wheels... Man, it was sooo much fun! I recall my speed sitting around the 40-50km/hr mark hooning down this section of the trail. YEEEEOOOO!!!

When I hit the bottom of Rangitoto, one of the volunteers yelled out to me "keep going, you're coming second!" I must admit, I was pretty chuffed by this, so kept pushing along at a good pace. I think it would have devastated me to have another woman pass me at that point. This was the first time I had worn my Icebreaker Halo shorts in these conditions and I was really stoked that I found at the bottom of descents, my quads were still warm and ready to go for the next hill as opposed to being cold and having to fire back up again, as was my experience with other shorts (thanks Icebreaker! Love your work!). At about the 30km mark, I had an average speed of nearly 20km an hour and was starting to have grand visions of completely smoking this course in two and a half hours. Whilst there was a lot of climbing, it was all fire trail and pretty speedy work... Then I turned off onto the farm track. This consisted of energy-sapping, speed-sapping grass trails. The flat were hard work, I was even working on the downhills to keep my speed up and the climbs were complete grovels. This last 20km was noticeably harder work with much slower progress. I kept pushing as hard as I could, wanting to make sure I maintained my second place. There was a section of the track we rode 3 times and some of the turnoffs on the trails were confusing and we were relying on marshalls for directions. At speed, a couple of times I misheard and ended up having to stop and come back for a turn. The last climb over the top of the big grassy hill before the descent into the race village was hard work... And I had already worked pretty hard the whole race. I was coated in a thick layer of mud (thank God my new Adidas Evil Eye Pro Half Rims kept the mud out of my eyes), my bike was crunching it's way in and out of gear and my legs were smashed.

I was so relieved to finally see the last downhill after undulating along the top of the ridge line for about 2km (what a tease!). When I crossed the finish line, I was completely surprised to be announced the first female home... I was so stoked to put a win on the board in such a short race considering I'm more of a long-distance rider, and in particular, in an event with so much competition that was a sell-out. I later found out that it was Alina Usher who had been in front of me and had to withdraw with mechanical issues, which makes me feel like maybe i wasn't really the best rider on the day, but I suppose that a race consists of a number of components which need to work for you on the day and if these things all come together for you and not so well for someone else, then you win. I could see from the stats on my heart rate monitor after the race that I'd really pushed myself and I felt like I had a really good, strong ride (not to mention how wrecked I felt the couple of days after). This for me was just as satisfying as taking home the win.

I finished in 3 hours and 1 minute (come on!!! Surely there was somewhere I could have shaved a minute off!!??) and finished first overall female and 32nd in the entire field of 229 riders... An effort I'm pretty happy with... So I was glad I got out of bed and braved the elements... Totally worth it!!! More photos still to come.

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