Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Day Night Thriller - Three Yetis and a Lung Full of Dust

OK, so I badly wanted to use the good ol' "Done and Dusted" for the title of this post, but seeing as it was indeed so dusty at the 2011 Day Night Thriller, there seemed to be a lot of other reports popping up using the same, so I figured I would give myself the credit of being a little more creative than that!

We arrived late Friday night with a very comfortable two minutes to spare before registration closed. A hearty meal and then a good night's sleep saw us wake up to an absolutely stellar morning. The sun was out, there wasn't a cloud in the sky and I had two awesome teammates to go and smash out some laps with at Spa Park in Taupo. It was one of those really feel-good mornings... Those ones when you just think about how freakin awesome it is to be a mountain biker about to jump on your bike. We arrived at the venue and set up out tent and our Yeti and Mitre 10 MEGA banners for some team photos. I must admit I'd never really been in a branded tent for a team before and I was quite chuffed at the number of people who came up to chat because they thought our (John's) bikes were cool. I also felt my chest well up with pride every time we came through the pits to have people yelling out "GO YETI!"... Yeeyah! That was a really cool experience... And if you don't mind me saying, I think we looked damn good in the team colours!

What was an even cooler experience was having my first hit-out with my Cape Epic teammate, John Randal... We had actually discussed earlier on in the piece that we would do the race as a two person team... Kind of a symbolic "launch" for us, but in the end, it made more sense to us to have an extra team mate so we would have time in between to chat with each other and get stoked on our impending trip to South Africa, and Alex was the perfect candidate for the job.

With me as the wee lass and John nursing a shoulder injury, first lap honors were delegated to Alex, and what a bloody good call that was... He came screaming through the pits on our first lap probably in the top five... All we heard was "bloody dusty" and he was off on his next lap. We had agreed to do double laps... It was a fast course clocking around an average of 20minutes a lap for the team (Alex flying around the course in a smidgen over 18minutes consistently), so we figured 40mins on, 80mins off was a good way to go about things. Being the slower member of the team meant I got more time on the bike and less time in the pit, which was great at the start, but quite tiring towards the end (although to be fair, I'm pretty sure John and Alex were pretty stuffed, too!).

While I was waiting over my bike for Alex to come through and change out at the pit, I felt quite nervous, and it was one of those situations where, whilst I was well-rested, I felt completely unprepared to ride... But there I was... I felt the transponder strap tighten around my ankle and John yelled out "GO!!!"... I took off and my heart jumped up into my throat... And stayed there for most of my first two laps... In fact, at the end of those laps, my average heart rate was 172BPM, quite high for someone who maxes out around 178BPM... The laps were not at all technical, and to be honest, a little uninspiring, but the cool thing about it was you could just drop the hammer and go for it. The laps were relatively flat, so you were on the pedals the whole time. I suspect the adjustments I made to my bike fit when I set up my old Yeti again, moving the seat back to get length, maybe lost me a bit of stroke power, so I found I spent a lot of time out of the saddle... It just felt stronger for the type of course I was on. This week, I'll buy a longer stem and move my saddle back into a position that optimises my leg strength a little better. Apart from that, the old pink Yeti (whom I have always fondly named "The Porn Star") felt bloody sweet to ride and I wondered at times why I ever got a new bike. I can't wait to get my ASR5 Carbon in (hopefully) late November... I had outrageous bike envy looking at John's lovely carbon steed all weekend! Alex was right, it was dusty... Really dusty... And the huge respiratory effort required to haul the bike around the course at speed meant we probably took home half a kilo of the track in our lungs (nothing like a good souvenir!!!). I also became particularly partial to the dusty mono-brow that developed on my forehead during the day... So much so that I left it there until prizegiving (at least it was a good demonstration of how much dust my glasses were keeping out of my eyes!!!)

I was really stoked when I came around after my second lap to see John kitted up and ready to go... There had been rigorous debate as to whether he would ride or not after dislocating his shoulder last week... Whilst I was concerned for his well-being, I was glad to see him on his bike... Not only because it meant we got a good break, but I knew he would have been gutted to just sit there and watch us punch out laps all day and not be involved. Alex and I waited nervously for John to come around on his first lap... We half expected he may only want to do one lap if his shoulder was giving him grief... We waited... And waited... It must have been when we were playing around with tools and our own bikes that John snuck past us like a ninja and out onto his second lap... We got to half an hour and were still waiting... It occurred to me that maybe we hadn't seen him go past, but I was pretty worried that maybe he'd written himself off on the track somewhere. Finally, he came barreling down the final stretch (certainly not looking like he had just done an easy 40minute lap) and changed out with Alex. The following conversation confirmed that John had indeed just done two laps (phew!!!) and his shoulder felt bloody marvelous, so he would continue to punch out laps until his shoulder protested.

My second double lap I felt much better than the first and I had a really great time with some very solid laps. As the day wore on, results were posted and it became apparent that we were putting ourselves in a really good position nice and early... Four hours in, we were nine minutes up on the second team in our category... We kept smashing out solid and consistent laps... Alex was freakishly fast (as John said, he was no ordinary ring-in), and I kept some pretty consistent and reasonable times up until just before dusk... I must say, I was a bit disappointed with how suddenly my laps deteriorated once dusk hit... I went from a 22minute lap to 24-25minute laps, which I was rather unhappy with. I really did feel quite trashed. I guess the difference between putting in 80km in a relay race and putting in 80km non-stop is that in a relay, you smash yourself for a short time, then rest, then smash yourself again, and rest... Great training, and hard work. For a while, I kept my feelings to myself, but when the 6 hour event ended, I said to Alex "do you wish right now that we were doing the 6 hour?"... He agreed, but it didn't mean we weren't going to polish this off in style. By the time the nine hour mark hit, we had a very convincing lead on the second placed 2-3 person mixed team... We were also a couple of minutes ahead of the 2-3 person men's leader and ahead of the 4-5 person mixed teams! So the only teams ahead of us were the 4-5 person men's teams... We were smashing it!!! It was all rather exciting and I was very charmed by John's very outward enthusiasm towards our excellent performance as a team... He's going to be so much fun to have around during the Cape Epic! It was high fives and hollering and hooning all-round, and aside from the occasional "surprise" when one of us arrived for changeover sooner than expected, Team Yeti was a well-oiled machine.

As the sun faded on a spectacular Spring day (we had been sitting around in shorts and a jersey all day!), the night laps came and as the dew fell, the trails bedded in and the dust settled down a bit, which was really nice. We dropped back to single laps between rider changes, which also reduced our rest time. Although I felt rather jaded about getting on my bike at my next turn, on each occasion, once I got out there, I felt great... The night was clear and cool and it was a lovely change from the heat of the day (very stoked to have worked on the beginning of my tan lines for the season!).

The end of the evening saw us dueling with the top two mens teams in the 2-3 person category, and in the end, one of them beat us by about 3 minutes... So we won our category by a convincing margin (YAY!!!) and came 13th overall out of 208 teams... What a stellar result! The most satisfying part of the day was standing atop of the podium in between John and Alex (it was also the part of the day when I felt the most vertically-challenged!).

I remember late in the day, John turned to me in the pit and said, "by the way, I don't think I've said this already, but thanks for choosing me"... I felt a little tear come into my eye (which mixed with the dust and turned into a little muddy spot in the corner) and my chin quivered a bit... Just for the record, John, I think I've done pretty well with my choice of teammate, too... Bring on Cape Epic... YAHOOOO!!!!!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Mitre 10 MEGA to be Cape Epic Headline Sponsor!

In the wake of a very successful Day Night Thriller yesterday (race report on it's way!), John and I are very proud to announce Mitre 10 MEGA as one of our headline sponsors for our 2012 Cape Epic Campaign.

I have to say, I am really excited and quite humbled by this. I have worked for Mitre 10 MEGA for a little over four months now and am really stoked to have such an impressive display of support from my employer. It really does demonstrate that there are companies out there that can see the value in employees maintaining a work-life balance and I am really happy that I work for one of those companies (the fact that I love my job makes it even better!).

I'm based at the Palmerston North store as the Store General Manager and we open our new shop in Featherston Street in early November, so pop on down and say hi! We have put particular effort into making our store cycle-friendly by providing a good number of bike racks and free bike lock hire so you an swing by and have a coffee in our cafe or shop for your bike maintenance bits and pieces.

The MEGA slogan even describes exactly how we like our riding!!! BIG IS GOOD! Thanks guys... We'll do our very best to fly the flag and make the team proud!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

This weekend - New Gear and Geographical Embarrassment

This week wasn't without it's challenges... A busy week at work saw me ditch two days worth of training and my Cape Epic teammate, John Randal emailed me on Friday to tell me he had a bit of an off and he was resting up this weekend (something about dislocated shoulder??? Damn!). Anyway, I passed on some medication to him (see right) and I think that after taking it, he should hopefully be fit and well to compete as part of Team Yeti for next weekend's Day Night Thriller in Taupo.

It was a beautiful weekend to be out riding. It's the first weekend since last Summer that I didn't wear leg warmers and I was extra stoked because I had some new bits and pieces to try out. Saturday I headed out nice and early for a few hours up along North Range Road. Although it was a lovely day, there was still a bit of wind up the top. I played dress-ups and tried on my new Yeti team kit which, to my delight, actually fitted me (a rare occurrence when you are my size!) and I had some new POW gloves and LG Neo Power Fit shorts which Cycletech had sent through to me the week before. I felt like quite the fashion statement, on my purple hardtail with green grips and cables, matching green Adidas Supernova glasses and my new checkered pink gloves... Very stylish indeed! The POW Womens Slick gloves were super comfy and will be a good Summer riding glove, being quite breathable. Not only that, but they look bloody cool, too! The LG Neo Power Fit Shorts were by far the most comfortable shorts I have worn in a long time... They are a compression short, which fitted well and had a really comfy chamois in them. I can imagine these will get quite a lot of use out on my longer rides. Anyways, my new gear performed well, I looked the part and the weather was absolutely stellar for a day up in the hills... I even got some sun on my legs!.. The start of this year's tan lines...

Sunday I think I left my attention to detail at home... Seeing as we are racing as team Yeti next weekend and I still have a few months to go until my swanky new ASR5 carbon frame arrives, I decided it would be fitting to rejuvenate the old pink ASR machine which was in the garage and had gone unloved for a couple of years... I swapped out the handlebars and saddle from my Anthem and popped my race wheels on it and it came up mint! And I was pleasantly surprised that it came in at the same weight as my current race bike. Cycletech had also sent me a pair of Ezi Grips Racers Edge which, whilst a bit of a pain to actually get them on the bike (*insert inappropriate language here*), they felt super comfortable on my hands, so were well worth the effort. I also had a pair of Stans Raven tires to try out. I finished getting my rig together about ten minutes before I had to leave for the MMBC Winter Race so chucked it on the bike rack with a few tools in the boot to hopefully make some adjustments before the race. Once I got there, I had some time to tinker (although maybe not quite enough), so I took it for a bit of a spin. My ASR frame is quite a bit shorter than my Anthem and it felt quite twitchy and cramped. I shifted the saddle back and that seemed to lengthen the bike to my liking, but I still felt a bit cramped. I considered raising the saddle a bit, but by the time I adjusted air pressures in shocks and lever positioning and all the rest, it slipped my mind. Once I got into the race, it became apparent that the saddle definitely needed to go up, but being in the lead, I decided to just deal with having my knees around my ears. Once I finished my ride, I put the seat up 5mm and it was perfect (amazing how much of a difference such a small change can make!). The Stans Raven tires were surprisingly grippy... To look at them, they look like a semi-slick, but are designed to run at super low pressures to gain traction (there is a special formula for how much pressure you put in them based on your body weight). I found they roll quite fast, but seeing as I am such a lightweight, the pressure equation had me with 15PSI in the front which made my steering a little bit spongy, so I'll chuck an extra couple of PSI in them next ride. I also found them really comfy over the terrain. Being able to run the lower pressures definitely smooths out the bumps for a rather luxurious ride at good pace. So I was powering along looking good in my new gloves and Yeti kit on my suped-up pink Yeti and then next thing I know, there's no one around me... I knew something was definitely wrong when I rolled through the timing area for my first lap in 26minutes and the lap was supposed to be 14km long (I was feeling quick, but certainly wasn't doing 30km an hour..) So it appeared to be the case that I had missed a turnoff on the trail somewhere... I stopped in at the timing tent and admitted my embarrassing geographical mistake, handed my number and timing chip in so as not to taint the results and further draw attention to my stupidity, then I headed off on another race-pace lap (although not really racing), determined to see where I had gone wrong. I found that in actual face, I had missed two turnoffs, not just one!!! And they were quite clearly marked... I had obviously just not being paying attention... Cest la vie, but a good lesson in keeping your head up and looking out for markers during a race!!! When I got home, I went for an easy roll along the riverfront after making more adjustments to the bike... I think I nearly have it right for next weekend...

First weekend in Spring was a goodie. Can't wait for more of this weather!!!