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!!!!!


  1. Great stuff, Megan! Both in terms of the Day/Nighter result, and the rapidly burgeoning Team Spirit between you and John. I'm sure the two of you will be a superb unit for the Cape Epic. Cheers, Oli

  2. Loved it Megan! The experience, and your words.

  3. Congratulations to Team Yeti! As the proud Sifter-Mother, I rejoice in the fun you're having and look forward to more tales leading up to the Cape Epic.