Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Yeti NZ to Support Megan and John's Cape Epic Campaign!

As many of you may know by now, John and I are very proud to announce that Yeti NZ have come on board as sponsors for our Cape Epic campaign, so you will see us both zooming around on our brand new Yeti ASR5 Carbon bikes sometime in the (hopefully) not-too-distant future. We are also just as excited to have the opportunity to be able to draw on Kashi Leuchs’ experience racing the Cape Epic (and his experience just riding a bike rather well in general). We’ve long been a fan of Yeti bikes and to now be able to wear the kit with pride really is something quite special. Thanks very much to Kashi and the team… We will do our very best to make you proud!

Monday, August 29, 2011

A Wicked Weekend of Adventure and Racing

Last weekend wasn't without it's adventure. Sasha and I had planned for some time now to do Takapari Road but when the day came, the weather wasn't looking overly favourable. We planned out a different route which started on Takapari road, then (hopefully) turned off to the left and came back down for a bit of a saunter up to the glow worm caves. As we climbed Takapari, the weather was a bit dull and grey, but actually not too bad, so we decided to keep soldiering on to the top (it's funny how once you start a massive climb, you feel drawn to finish it). Takapari Road is a 900 metre climb up the back of the Ruahines. The highest peak on the climb is at about 1260m, so you need to be well-prepared for the weather to roll in pretty quickly... And that it did... As we climbed, we came across some patches of snow, although disappointingly, only enough for me to make a snowball to hurl at Sasha. We came across a couple of 4WDers and joked at what they must think of these two crazy cyclists all the way up this mountain in the rain. As we neared the top, the weather rolled in with a vengeance and the rain and wind kicked up quite suddenly whilst the temperature dropped rapidly (I wouldn't be surprised if it was only one or two degrees). We were pretty keen to get some warm clothes on but I was wary about stopping in an exposed area (we'd get colder stopping to put clothes on than if we pushed on), so we decided to keep pushing on to Travers Hut to kit up more appropriately... As we pushed on, I remember thinking "I know it can't be much further!"... It seemed to take forever. As we rounded a corner with very little visibility, Sasha took one of her tricky little lines down the inside of the corner and had quite a spectacular crash onto some nasty looking rocks... Huge credit to her, she laughed it off and carried on to the hut (I would have been crying like a school girl!). When we got to the hut, her knees were covered in blood (lucky I carried a first aid kit of sorts) and we put some more layers on (Icebreaker, I LOVE you!!!). We could hear the wind kicking up more and more outside and realised the sooner we got out of here and down to a lower altitude where the weather was nicer, the better. As we rode along the ridgeline, our hands were so cold we couldn't change gears and we pushed big gears up out of the saddle on the climbs to avoid having to change them. We kept a close eye on each other for signs of hypothermia and once we'd dropped about 300m of altitude, the temperature improved significantly and we got basic functionality back in our limbs. When we got back to the car, the weather was quite nice. It's amazing how you can ride up into the Alpine zone and it's like you are in a completely different world and then it changes back so quickly as you descend... Quite surreal. I must admit that I was slightly worried when we were up along the ridgeline. There is something slightly unnerving about knowing the mountain and the weather is in charge, and being at the mercy of it... Having said that, we were well-prepared for it and looked after each other and it was a prime example of why you need to be prepared for the worst when you head out on back-country rides.

Sunday was slightly more civil and we headed down to Wellington to do the first race of the PNP series at Wainui. I was rather shocked to see on the entry form that, having turned 30 a couple of weeks ago, I was now in "masters"category as an old fogey. I've never ridden at Wainui before, so on the start line, my arm warmers and wind vest were quite a welcome addition, but once we headed off and up the first 250m climb, I was scratching for my zip to undo my vest and pulling my arm warmers down. I love climbing, and I was surprised that once the legs loosened up a bit from yesterday's climb up Takapari Road, I felt pretty damn good. I managed to stick with the lead the full way up the climb and we jostled back and forth for position up the climb, but once we hit the first piece of trail, I knew that Sasha would have a distinct technical advantage. The first trail was rooty and rocky and slippery and technical... It was great fun but not very well suited to my strengths and I suspect this was where I would have lost most of my time to Sasha. Throughout the race, I had a couple of small mechanicals along the way and took one wrong turn... All in all, it maybe cost me a couple of minutes, which was a bit of a bummer when I found out the first placed masters lady only crossed the line about 40sec before me... But it's part of the game and if you have a day like that, you just need to work with it and make the most of it. The trails were so sweet and I had such a great time. One of the other ladies I was jostling with for most of the race, Ash, had some sweet downhill moves that were keeping her in front and when I passed her on the climb on the last lap, I just dropped the hammer to try and put some time into her... By then, I knew the track a bit better and had a great time hooning down snail trail with reckless abandon then sprinted it in to the finish line. Second masters lady and third lady overall.

What a bloody tops weekend...

Monday, August 15, 2011

Winter NDuro 3 - A Race is More Than Just the Training

I really think I've started to get a bit complacent about my "shorter" distance races. Great in that I don't get so nervous and edgy before a race... Bad in that my preparation has lately proven to be a little lacking. Sunday was a perfect example of this. I must admit that I was rather nervous because I knew I had been training hard and that I had built some good strength over the last month, so there was a little bit of pressure I was placing on myself to do well in terms of things like average speed, and my time out on the course (moreso than a position in my category at the finish line).

I remember standing on the start line and feeling my tyres thinking "hmm... Bit soft... Too late to do much about it though". We took off up the Long Mile entrance to the forest and I felt like crap... Like a lead weight was weighing me down as I climbed the hill. I considered a couple of times pulling off to the side and putting some air in my tyres. I kept looking back at my rear tyre wondering if it was flat and it didn't look to be the case, although when I got home and checked my pressure, it was apparent that 15PSI was probably not an ideal race pressure... I guessed I probably lost about 5 minutes off my time from this. I also failed to eat enough on course, which is often a problem of mine, and probably more so on the shorter races... By the time I feel like I need the energy, I'm only 8km from the finish line, and on this occasion, I decided to just push on regardless. I did, however, drink quite well. So I bonked a bit about 10km out, which maybe cost me another couple of minutes.

The above considered, I still managed to cross the finish line with an average speed of 14.3km/hr, which is probably the best average speed I have pulled out of a race around the Redwoods with that amount of climbing. I also came in first in my category, and second overall female. Whilst it's a great result, I must admit I was disappointed with my ride (and the lack of preparation that resulted in said ride) and I would have loved to have shaved that extra seven minutes off my time... Next time!! Preparation is key!!! At least it was a stellar day in the forest!!!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Santoft Sizzler - A Gold Pinecone on the Mantle

Another solid week of training under my belt... Monday and Friday gym days, Tuesday and Thursday evil spin days (thanks Sadie) and Wednesday night race at Linton Camp filled out the week quite nicely. By Saturday, I was pretty pooped and came so so close to flagging my four hour session that was planned for the day. Figuring the mental anguish and beating I would give myself was far less appealing than getting on my bike in the rain and wind, I headed out late in the day on my Scotts Road, Back Track, Greens Road loop, then added in some extra hills by heading up and back on Ngatere Park Road and Harts Road. I felt OK, but my legs definitely knew they had endured a beating of sorts over the last couple of weeks. I was glad I went out, though.

Sunday was the Santoft Sizzler 5 Hour race. I was super glad we had a race to do because it was a damn sight more exciting than slogging it out by myself in the wind for 3 hours! I teamed up with Sasha Smith and we formed team "Got a Bucket or a Hose?"... I lost an important round of paper/scissors/rock in the car which meant I was to do the first lap, and seeing as the laps were only short, we decided to do double laps. My legs seemed to freshen up as I moved around the track and I was delighted to see at the end of my first lap that my average for that lap had been 19.3km/hr! At the end of the second lap, my average for both laps was still a very respectable 19km/hr. The course was running super super fast so I couldn't take all the credit for my speed, but I definitely felt quite strong, albeit a little tired. It will be interesting to see if I am any quicker after this bout of training when I freshen up with a rest week, or whether it was maybe just the course that suited me. I still have quite a bit of work to do on my technical skills, too.

The day was such great fun. I think Sasha and I would have won the prize for rowdiest team. Every time one of us rode through the pit area, we'd yell out "do a skid!" then grab a handful of rear brake and snake the rear wheel back and forth. Very childish, but highly amusing. For the record, Sasha does much better skids than me. We were also lucky enough to be graced with the company of a couple of Massey exchange students who are mad keen riders, Bene from Germany, and Dylan from the USA, so it was nice to have some company when we weren't out on lap. I can imagine they were thinking something along the lines of "who are these two crazy women and why am I getting in a car with them???".

By the end of the day, we were both feeling quite cooked and I was secretly quite chuffed that I had ridden the starting lap because it meant I had the hard work over with first and then could dig in to my delicious filled potato while Sasha was out on our last lap (although if she had come back 30 seconds earlier, I would have had to pull a lap on a belly full of spud!). We finished in first place in our category on 14 laps and received a gold pinecone for our efforts (actually quite a cool little prize!). Once again, Manawatu Mountain Bike Club turned on a good show. Hope to be back again next year!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Last Weekend's Super Duper Riding

I think we've come to the general conclusion now that my blogs will be a week late! Last weekend was an absolutely stellar weekend for riding. Saturday saw me head up Pahiatua Track from Palmerston North and onto North Range Road through the wind farm. The day was spectacular and the views complemented it well. I rode the full distance of the farm and down the other side onto Ballance Gorge Road, then back up and over the way I came... All in all 82km and just shy of 1500m worth of climbing, with a 550m climb straight up either side of the wind farm. It was quite chilly up in the ranges and the fact that there was patches of snow strewn along the side of the road indicated it had maybe been quite cold up there for a while now (I purposely rode through any snow I could... Love the crunch crunch sound it makes!). The ride home saw me trying to (and succeeding in) outrun a menacing storm that was making it's way over the ranges behind me... I hung my bike up in the garage just as it started raining for the evening. Phew!

Sunday was quite an exciting day for me as I threw the bike in the van and headed out past Levin to meet with Simon Kennett and Sasha to ride Mt Thompson. I was secretly quite chuffed to head out on an exploratory ride with Simon and maybe hoping that one of the many photos we took on the day may make me a superstar in print in the next NZ Mountain Bike Rides! Haha! It didn't take long for the bussle of the highway to die behind us as we headed out towards Mt Thompson, and after having to sprint to outrun a ferocious jack russell, we arrived at the start of the climb. Simon commented on how it wasn't too bad a climb as long as you had a granny ring, at which point Sasha and I both looked down at my dual-ring XX set-up. My response to this was to proceed to tell Sasha how soft she was for even needing a granny ring... I then distinctly remember grovelling up one of the steeper pitches, well off the pace and apologising for "dissing her granny ring". The climb wasn't too bad... The views were stunning and on such a clear day, we could even see across to Mt Ruapehu, covered in snow. I must admit that my legs felt pretty heavy after yesterday's ride and I struggled to keep up with Simon and Sasha (especially with no granny ring! I may as well have been riding a single speed!). We finally arrived at the top of the 700m climb and made our way across to the summit to check out the well-earned views across to Kapiti Island and the tip of the South Island... Then it was all down hill! The descent was this wicked, gnarly mix of slippery slick rock and soccer-ball sized rocks... A bit like riding down a river bed... Super fun riding, and whilst I pinned it as hard as I could, I was no match to the technical prowess of Simon and Sasha. This was real old skool mountain biking... Something that made you feel like a T-Rex might bound up next to you at any given moment. After stopping for some photos opportunities (for the record, I'm not the best model and have a tendency to stack it on a section of track that I have just ridden five times with no problem... Thank God Simon didn't catch that on camera!). The downhill seemed to last forever (like all good downhills should) and we were sorely disappointed when we realised we had run out of elevation. A bloody fun day out on the bike and made me very keen to get out and do new rides more often!