Monday, February 6, 2012

Urban Crits and Other Fun Bits!

My week started off with a couple of very poorly used rest days after the St James Epic... My first training ride for the week was Wednesday and I was still feeling pretty wrecked, which was my own fault. I tend to use "rest" days off the bike as an opportunity to get other stuff done and on this occasion, had well and truly cooked myself before the week had begun. It was a very good lesson on the importance of recovery, especially coming up to Cape Epic.

Wednesday was National "Go By Bike Day" and I celebrated by riding my old skool cromoly Yak into work (complete with spokey dokeys and UV pedals that turn purple in the sun). It was also my first training session for the week, and with said fatigue in my legs, I set off on a blustery, drizzly, low visibility day in search of a 10 minute hill to do reps on. Pahiatua track was out of the question in such poor conditions, so I was forced to settle on Ngahere Park Road. For those of you that don't know it, Ngahere Park Road is a perfect hill for 5 minute reps, but beyond this, it pitches up at a heinous angle, which, up until now, I have only been able to climb in my easiest gear out of the saddle. Truth be told, it was a miserable day on the bike, but it was better than having not being on the bike at all. I returned looking like a drowned rat and crawled into bed for a completely uninterrupted night of sleep.

The following day, I felt marginally better, but was looking forward to an after-work date with The Ninja for the Mitre 10 MEGA Summer race series held by Manawatu Mountain Bike Club every fortnight. I arrived at Massey Uni not quite sure what sort of mountain bike ride I would be expecting to find. What I found was initially a little terrifying, but ended up being an absolute blast! There was a track marked out around the walking tracks of the uni, down stairs, around buildings, up ramps... It was basically an urban crit. The start somewhat resembled a critical mass gathering as a bunch of raucous mountain bikers launched off the first set of stairs, landing on the street below. Previously terrified of riding stairs, by the second lap, I was quite comfortably hooning down them at speed and hollering like a child on red cordial as I pulled skids on The Ninja around the uni campus. It doubled as a bloody good workout (it went something like this... SPRINT SPRINT SPRINT SPRINT... BUMP BUMP BUMP BUMP down the stairs... SKIIIDZ round the corner) for half an hour straight (plus one lap)... After a slow start to the week, it certainly was the excitement I craved and after softening the rear shock by 10PSI, The Ninja handled it so well (Good Ninja!). Friday was another scheduled "rest" day, and this time, I was sure to use it wisely!

Saturday's workout was one I had actually really been looking forward to... A 150km road ride. I'm not sure why I was looking forward to it so much... Maybe because it simply let me get out onto some roads I hadn't ridden before for a bit of variety, or maybe it was a relief to be getting some big miles into my legs after I felt I had pulled up fairly poorly from last week's race. I think I still kinda felt like I had to reassure myself that I was still capable of pulling big, hard days on the bike. I had a bit of a sleep in, and set out reasonably well-rested to complete the Apiti loop. I set a reasonable pace, and ate well, and I felt pretty good. About half way through my ride, I spotted another cyclist up ahead and (as you do) picked up the pace a little to see if I could catch the other cyclist up the next climb. I was stoked to see it was another chick cyclist... Two hard women out in the middle of nowhere riding their bikes for no other apparent good reason than the fact that it was a fun thing to do (YEYAH!). By the time I reached her, I was pretty amped and on the rivet, so didn't hang around for much longer than to say a pleasant "hi" and exchange a sentence or two and then I was on my way. The riding up through Pohongina Valley is absolutely stunning. There are some magic views and very little traffic. There are a couple of big climbs, but nothing overly steep. I think the thing I noticed the most on the first half of the ride was that everything that appeared flat, was actually a false flat. It was pretty wearing, but good training. When I hit Kiwitea, I had planned a little side-route to try and avoid the horrendously boring stretch of road between Cheltenham and Feilding, and it appeared to be going really well until I arrived at my next turn to find a gravel road (annoying!), so I was forced to backtrack a little and climb back up to the main road and endure the long, flat unpleasantness that I had been trying to avoid. It's funny how on the profile of the ride, it looks like the last 30km or so is downhill, but it is so gradual that it seems flat and you still have to work hard for it. By the time I reached home, I was pretty spent, but quite happy with polishing it off in well under six hours with 1600m of climbing. The evening was spent doing nothing much at all in preparation for the trip to Wellington the following morning.

Sunday was another early start and we loaded up the bikes to head to Wellington for the PNP MTB Club Champs. This was another of those short-format stage races that seem to be popping up everywhere at the moment... Heaps of fun and a good testing ground for a rider's all-round skills. The first part of the day was a cross country race, which was 3 laps of a great Wainui course which climbed (and climbed and climbed) and then descended back to the start to do it all again. My legs felt pretty heavy, but I was well aware of the fact that this was how I was going to feel going into each day of the Cape Epic and I made a little pact with myself that I needed to ride it and treat it like a race, and I did just that. My first lap was a bit slow, and my descending left a lot to be desired, but by the second lap, I had warmed to the course a bit and was able to enjoy the hard climbing followed by the sweet, flowing descent. The Ninja lapped it up effortlessly. I think I just about have my setup dialed now, which I am really happy with.

The afternoon saw us tackle a Super-D race down the B-Line trail, which was certainly not one of my finer moments... The trail consisted of a number of chutes, ruts and steep, off-camber sections which I rode with self-preservation in mind in consideration of my upcoming trip. Our last task for the day was an off-road criterium, which consisted of a short (although by the end, not short enough!) climb that joined back on to a fun, gnarly piece of single track to ride back down, which seemed to get faster and faster each lap (hopefully making up for the climb which seemed to get slower!). We had to ride it for 15 minutes plus 3 laps and it was a real blast and a great workout to top the day off! I came 4th overall in the senior women and then headed off on the long drive home for another good night of sleep.

It turned out to be a pretty stellar week on the bike, and with only a little over a month before I'm sitting on that plane to South Africa, I'm feeling pretty happy with my form. I saw some photos of the Finale Ligure race that will be this year's 24 hour solo world champs, and I'm getting more and more excited about that, too. It's going to be a fantastic trip! It would be remiss of me at this moment to not make mention of the fantastic support I have been given by my employer, Mitre 10 MEGA, who have allowed me to have the time off to take up this once in a lifetime opportunity to race in both South Africa and Italy. Cheers team! Hope I make you real proud!

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