After a bit of a run and a recovery ride on Tuesday, I was back onto the hill reps for Wednesday evening. My focus for my training this week was to work on saving my legs a bit by employing high cadence techniques (especially on the hills) as opposed to power-climbing. With the Ninja in the workshop for some small adjustments, I headed out on the hardtail towards Scotts Road to do my 10min hill reps. Usually, I would knock out the Highway - Scotts Road - K Loop - Greens Road loop in about 2 hours 45 minutes, so I figured that if cut out Greens road and headed straight home down Kahuterawa Road, with my hill reps, the ride should still come in around the three hour mark. It was lucky I took my Ayups with me that evening because my time estimation had been way off. I knocked out my reps (that lady walking her dogs must have thought I was mad when I passed her up and down that hill 5 times!) and then continued to head up to the top of the climb to drop in behind the forest on to Back Track. As I climbed, the sun was disappearing over hills in a spectacular sunset and cast shadows of me riding my bike along the bed rock on the side of the road. It was, once again, one of those really magical experiences that one could only be privy to after slogging their guts up a climb on a mountain bike. By the time I hit the top of the climb and had started the undulating traverse across to the Back Track, it became obvious that I had misjudged the distance of the ride and was going to need my lights this evening. Considering I had only planned to be in darkness on the road on the way home, I had only taken out my handlebar lights, so as I smashed the descent down Back Track, the corners became a bit of hit-and-miss (it made me miss my helmet light and being able to look around the corners to see what was coming). I must say, I enjoyed it immensely... It's been quite some time since I have done a night ride and I love the feeling of the cool night air rushing around me, the amount of intense focus you give to that one spot on the trail that is lit and the crunch of the tyres on the track... It really is a whole different world. It did make me nervous, though, that my night ride this evening was a bit impromptu, and after rounding a corner and ungracefully dismounting over the handlebars into a river crossing (and in the process making myself really wet), I forced myself to check my speed a bit until I got onto some more predictable terrain. In the end, I arrived home in just under four hours at about quarter to ten at night. I knew I would pay for the late night out the following day with a double training session and work, but it was totally worth it!
The next morning, I dragged my butt out of bed at 6am and completed my plyometric workout (burpees are my friend!), headed to work and then made my way out to Ranfurly in Feilding for the Mitre 10 MEGA Summer Series run the the Manawatu Mountain Bike club. I was still on the Purple Trail Eater (that's the name of my hardtail... It's purple, in case you couldn't tell) and the course was pretty rough in places. I really wished I had the Ninja... It would have made it a substantially more comfortable ride. The first kilometre of the trail was actually really sweet and smooth and quite steep in places, then we broke out onto a farm trail that was quite rough. I felt pretty smashed after the previous night's epic ride and I really struggled to get my legs into it at first, with my nearest competitor hovering dangerously close about 20 seconds behind after the first lap. The second lap, my legs started to feel a bit more cohesive (but still quite fatigued) and I managed to push out to a one minute lead. By the time I hit my third and final lap, I seemed to work out a good rhythm and some good lines and finished off quite strongly. It was great fun, but bloody heard work... There was no rest on that course. You were just on the rivet the whole way around. I ended up winning the female category for the evening by a little over a minute, which was quite pleasing given the hard work I had done the day before.. Great news leading into Cape Epic!
Friday morning I was up early and smashed out a quick hour of intervals on the bike to a lovely sunrise, then hit up the swiss ball for some core work, all before I headed to work. There was something quite surreal about seeing the sun set over last night's ride, then seeing it rise over this morning's ride, especially after seeing such a spectacular sunset on Wednesday evening, too. I was really lucky with the weather this week. Friday afternoon, I headed down to Wellington and met up with John and Oli and picked up The Ninja. I was so pleased to be reunited with the Ninja. I have felt a little lost without her for a couple of weeks. It was great to see John and we spoke a bit about the race and got our jersey sizes sorted (hopefully we get them by the end of this week!). I find myself increasingly excited about our impending trip, and I get even more excited whenever I see John. We are going to have such a cool adventure together!
Saturday morning in Wellington was quite a windy one (and looked pretty threatening to rain, as well!) so I ditched my idea of doing the Skyline track. I assumed it would be pretty exposed with some nasty crosswinds that may disagree with my small, lightweight self, so I headed straight up Makara Peak and did a few loops on different trails (heading the full way up to the top four times... YEEHAA!). The sun came out and made for some pretty hot work, but the winds at the top were still pretty strong (good choice not to do Skyline). I had a great time. The trails up there are so lovely, flowing and FUN! I especially love the fact that you don't even notice the 300m climb to the top because it's such a sweet piece of singletrack. Once again, I focused on keeping a good, high-cadence rhythm. It was great to be back on the Ninja. It really is just an absolute pleasure to ride. I don't think I've ever felt quite so comfortable on any bike before. My "pick of the day" trail was definitely Northface, and as the day wore on, I got faster and faster at descending it (such a fun trail!). The amusing highlight of my day would likely have been when I was climbing up Aratihi track. I saw another rider in front of me and thought I'd just say a friendly hello and let him know I was there and would pass when he was ready. He obviously had no idea I was there (the Ninja and I must have snuck up on him with great stealth) and when I said hello, it scared him so much he fell off his bike. I felt pretty bad about that, but couldn't help having a giggle to myself once I got past him. The Ninja was living up to it's name rather well!
Sunday I met up with John and Simon, and after a rather comprehensive search for John's car keys (which had gone missing somewhere between his car and Simon's house in the space of about 5 mins), we found said keys and were on our way to Karapoti Road. I have only ever ridden Karapoti once before, and my memory of it was slightly hazy. John and I are both doing the Karapoti Classic on the 3rd of March and then the Perverse Reverse (Karapoti Classic in reverse) the following day, so the plan for Sunday was to "ride" to the top of Devil's Staircase and then return the same way so we could get a bit of a feel for what both Saturday and Sunday would have on offer. I got on my bike and pedaled around a bit before we set off and my legs felt like they were on fire. I'd had a big week on the bike and was certainly feeling it. We set off and I felt so slow. I couldn't keep up with John and Simon and John kept stopping to wait for me. It was disappointing because I didn't often get to ride with John, and knew that I really was faster than that, but I was determined to make it a good day out in any case, and I wanted to make sure I had a good, fun ride and that I got some quality time in with John. When we hit the first climb, I remember thinking to myself "I do not remember this being so steep last year"... I stomped my way up the climb and on the one occasion I had to dismount, made sure I had a good transition from bike to run so I didn't lose any pace or momentum. I wanted to make sure I maintained a sense of urgency in my entire ride, not just when I was on the bike. The rock garden was next on the menu. It's really easy to psyche yourself out about the rock garden, because when you talk to people about it, all you hear are stories of crazy accidents, near misses and the need to possess amazing technical prowess, none of which I am really all that fond of, and especially not the month before I leave the country to race in possibly the hugest event I have ever been a part of. In reality, the rock garden isn't THAT bad, but there are some pretty gnarly sections that can require walking, and even then, it's rather debatable as to whether it is actually more hazardous to run down it in carbon-soled shoes than it is to grow some balls and ride it. I decided after watching Simon do some amazing gymnastics descending one section that yes, it was still safer to run down it... Climbing up Devil's Staircase was (and always will be) very hard work. I often wonder if having short(er) legs is a disadvantage when you have to walk up sections like this, especially carrying a bike, but my thoughts on this occasion were rudely interrupted by my screaming calves, so I just hardened up and continued my hike-a-bike to the top of this heinous climb. Once at the top, we were ready to turn around and come down, which we knew would be an interesting experience, especially considering it was a little damp underfoot and Devil's Staircase is clay-based... My thoughts that it was a bloody steep hill to climb up were only further confirmed by the fact that it is a terrifyingly steep hill to ride down, as well... The scariest part about it was that once to committed to descending a section, there was no way out... There was no braking and certainly no piking (without consequence). On numerous occasions, my rear wheel came close to overtaking my front wheel, but at the bottom, I couldn't wipe the smile off my face... What a hoot! Going back up the rock garden was actually surprisingly rideable and then we had more gnarly descending to do (broken up with a short-ish climb) before arriving back at the carpark. For the last hour or so of the ride, I spent a lot of time riding side-by-side with John and we spoke about training and work and how excited we were about the trip. We also discussed how we were going to work as a team and specifically, working on practicing our drafting... Let's face it, John cuts a bloody good hole in the wind, and he's strong, so if we can get our drafting right, we could pick up some pretty substantial blocks of time at the Cape Epic. So over the next couple of weeks, we'll make an effort to catch up for a ride and practice our drafting and our communication on the bike, which I'm really looking forward to.
This week, my training starts to dither out a little. I must be honest and say I'm not sure how I feel about that... My body will certainly welcome it, but my head just wants to keep going, which will no doubt come in useful during the race, but for the time being, I need to make sure it doesn't bury me. It's only 3 weeks now until I'm on that plane... There is so much still to organise and the more I get into that, the more excited I get by the whole trip. I also saw a video of the 24 Hours of Finale Ligure, which I will be racing in after Cape Epic, and that got me really wired, too... Deep inside, I am absolutely terrified. It will be the longest I have ever been away from home, and some of the biggest races I have ever done in places I have never been before, and I am really excited about it (but terrified at the same time)... I can't believe it is so close. It's going to be such a cool adventure!