Sunday, October 9, 2011

To Bar End Or Not to Bar End???

I love my bar ends... These near-weightless little pieces of carbon that attach to the ends of my handlebars are one of my best friends when I'm grinding up an endless hill. But an incident this weekend had me questioning my allegiance to the Bar-End fraternity...

I set out early on my Saturday morning four hour ride. To be honest, I didn't feel too crash hot when I got up, but I have no doubt this is the result of three hard training weeks on top of three hard work weeks and in my crazy mind, I obviously think the point of all this training is to feel sufficiently smashed that it MUST be doing me some good. The more hard days and weeks I can stack on top of each other, the more resilient I should be come Cape Epic time (and it's only a few months away!!!). I had some new gear to try out thanks to Jack at Extreme Gear who hooked John and I up with new Camelbaks and some Shotz nutrition, and as I rode along, the senses started switching on and I actually felt not too bad. I headed out to Scotts road and did some long, seated climbs and then down Back Track. It was on Back Track that my bar ends met their match. I was hammering down a muddy section of trail (of course, I had my mouth open grinning the whole way and eating as much of the mud as my front wheel would flick into my grotty mouth) when I was rudely snatched from my bike when my bar ends snagged on a hanging vine. I hit the deck quite hard, although lucky to have the mud to soften my fall. The force of the impact was hard enough that it spun my bar ends around (luckily not stripping the ends of my carbon bars). I lay in the mud and shouted out a few expletives (those of you who know me would understand just how well I do this) and then slowly got up to check the damage and take some very deep and audible breaths. I slowly moved all my limbs to find the extent of it appeared to be a couple of nasty bruises and a swollen pinky (who injures their pinky???). Later I also discovered I'd sprained my foot, but it otherwise wasn't too bad... Another rider came along and asked me if I was ok. I told him I was fine and explained how I had snagged my bars on the vine, to which he cheekily replied "serves you right for using bar ends"... How dare he insult my beloved bar ends???!!! But he was right... Had I not had bar ends, I would have hit the vine and my handlebars merely glanced off and I would have been on my merry way without incident. I haven't removed them yet, but when I receive my new bling Yeti ASR5C in December, I may consider a smaller bar end or even removing them altogether (I can't bear the thought!). I continued on my ride and to pad out the time and add more hills (because I'm completely sadistic) I headed up Nghare Park Road, which is known for a particularly steep and brutal climb, this time made even more brutal by a rather territorial and vicious magpie which made me aware of it's presence by swooping my neck as I stooped over my bars for the last hundred metres of this absolute bitch of a climb. I screamed and waved my arms around wildly at it (I really wish someone would film it so I could enjoy the moment later on) and finally made my way out of it's "territory" only to have to go back through the whole debacle again on my way back (at least that time I was going DOWN the hill). I then headed home after my particularly eventful ride to nurse my bruises and beak wounds.

Sunday morning, Sasha and I headed off nice and early to Wellington for the Makara round of the PNP Series. I felt particularly sore as I had developed a haematoma directly on the side of my right knee and a muscle in my right foot felt like it was in a constant state of cramp after yesterday's events. But it was a beautiful day and I knew I would be bummed out if I didn't go and ride on the sweet trails at Makara and catch up with Cape Epic Teammate John Randal. This time I went better prepared with more appropriate tyres (I haven't found a better tyre than the Schwalbe Racing Ralph) and better hydration in the form of my new Camelbak Racebak. I'd tried this out for the first time on my ride yesterday and it was fantastic. Basically, it's a well-ventilated base layer with a pouch in the back of it that houses a hydration bladder and sits under your jersey, so all you are carrying is your water and it's really easily accessible. One of my big failings is drinking enough when I ride and this was a deliberate attempt to improve on that (it worked, too!)... I thought at first it may have looked a bit dicky under my jersey, but it sits quite flush against your back and ends up just a small hump. Very cool indeed. The Mango Passionfruit Shotz that Jack gave me were really quite nice, too... Surprisingly palatable for a gel and has everything I need in it. Anyway, we got to the start line and off we went! Straight up the hill... Kathryn had just had a week off the bike and shot up the hill like it was flat while Sasha and I scrambled around to get ourselves organised and chase her... Towards the entrance to the track, I lost sight of them and instead of chasing too hard, decided to settle in and enjoy the trails a bit (although that's not to say I wasn't still pushing it!). I love the trails at Makara. This is only the second time I have ridden here, but there's no denying they are World Class trails. Technical and rocky and amazing views. The only part of the track I came to dislike was "Snake Charmer", a rather long, 200m climb to the top Makara Peak... We did this climb three times today and with yesterday's hills still fresh in my legs, I must admit I struggled up the last one. The descents were wicked though and I have vowed today to do more riding here, especially over the Summer. I crossed the line in 3rd place in senior women (an all Palmy podium!), but admittedly not my most outstanding performance of late. I must admit I always find the base phase of my training the most frustrating because I can ride and ride and ride, but lack the pace I know I have produced previously.

I caught up with John after the race and we got stoked on our impending trip to the Banks Peninsula for Le Petit Brevet in late November, a 240km ride with probably about 7000m of climbing. Hopefully, we will use part of the ride as a team-building exercise. I suppose my biggest fear going into Cape Epic is that I am going to be holding John back from riding hard and this will be a good opportunity for us to do some research on how we can spread the load for the benefit of a good team result. So with the Whaka 100 coming up and then Le Petit Brevet four weeks later, I'm looking forward to finding some form developing in my legs over the next few months!

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