Sunday, March 4, 2012

A First Time For Everything

So, this time in two weeks, I'll be in South Africa... Pretty cool huh? It's come around so quickly the last year seems to be a blur, so as I get closer to that plane flight, I am finding increasingly, I am coming across a few "last times" before I go... Things like "this is the last time I will need to use my Camelbak before I leave" and "this is the last time I will use this bike before I leave"... On the flip side of that, this week brought a few "firsts" as well.

Coach Sadie has started to wind me down a little for my trip, so Tuesday was my usual sprints after work followed by an active recovery day on Wednesday. Thursday was the Mitre 10 MEGA Summer Series, which was held at Linton Camp. All day Thursday, the weather had been terrible. It had been pouring with rain, and with memories of the "Bog of Despair" at Linton from our night series last Winter, I decided that I would leave The Ninja at home tonight and save her from the mud (she would have enough of that at Karapoti the coming weekend!). I opted for the Purple Trail Eater and swapped out the tyres from the semi slicks that were on it to something a little grippier (I love my Schwalbe Nobby Nick front and Racing Ralph rear combo!). Tonight was the first time I had donned my new team jersey, and it looked bloody cool, not to mention it was also awesome to finally be able to get out loud and proud on the Mitre 10 MEGA front with the bright orange sleeves and logo. My matching Adidas Eyil Eye Pro Half-Rims set it off just nicely, too! I considered riding out to Linton (as I would usually do for races out there), but I was running a little late and the wind was howling through town, so I opted for the slightly softer option of driving (and felt incredibly guilty for it, too!!!). I got kitted up and stood around talking smack for a bit before heading to race briefing, at which point I realised my rear tyre had gone flat... Annoying! I rushed back to the car and did a super quick tube change just in time to join the rest of the group on the start line. PHEW!!! It left me without another spare tube though, so if I flatted again, that was my night over with (luckily I didn't!). It turned out that the course was actually surprisingly dry, and rather rough, so it was hard work on the hardtail (but good training and forced me to find ways to ride smoothly). It took me a lap to get fully settled into the spaghetti maze of trails around Linton. They have managed to squeeze something like 2km worth of trail into a space that is 200m by 200m (or something similarly crazy) so you soon learn to carry your speed out of corners as best you can to conserve energy. After the morning's plyometric workout, my legs were screaming at me for my "between corners" sprinting. I spent most of my first couple of laps with Colin Knight. The atmosphere tonight was really jovial (we were probably all just stoked that the weather had been kind enough to give us a gap with no rain!). I remember at the end of the one lap saying something along the lines of "move it old man!" to which he responded by stagger-standing in front of me against the fence on our U-turn out to do the next lap (cheeky!!!). A couple of laps before the finish, I dropped the hammer a bit and spent the last couple of laps on my own, coming second behind Sasha Smith... I don't think I have been to a single one of these Summer Series races that I haven't had an absolute ball at yet. Such good value for two bucks!!!

Friday morning I did my core workout and then rested up for Karapoti, which was the next day, and the Perverse Reverse, which was on the day following the Classic. There were all sorts of reports going around about the weekend's weather and the impending "weather bomb" which caused widespread cancellations even before seeing what the weather would actually do... It seemed pretty serious, but us mountain bikers brushed it off and at 6.30am I jumped in the car with the Bamford boys and and headed off towards the Akatarawas. The weather in Palmy seemed ok, but as we got closer and closer to the start line, the weather turned quite nasty... Rain... LOTS of rain. This didn't bother me. Truth be told, apart from the cleanup afterwards, I quite like bad-weather racing. I spend so much time out in the elements that I figure the harder it is for everyone else, the better for me! I was really looking forward to this! The only concern I had was the depth of the river crossings. Swift-flowing rivers are on par with gale force winds for little old me... Although at least the winds wouldn't drown me! As we reached the top of Akatarawa Road, I had a text come through from John... Race postponed to tomorrow. A quick check on the website confirmed this... Being the crazy nutter I am, my first thoughts were "but what about the Perverse Reverse?" I started conjuring up plans of how I might be able to still do both... Like ride the Classic, and then just turn around and do the reverse straight after... We turned around and headed back, flagging down other cars along the way to save them the trip over to find out it was postponed. The website told us that if it didn't stop raining by 2pm, the rivers would still be too high for the following day to stage the race, too... In the end, that was the case, and for the first time in it's 26 year life, the Karapoti Classic, the race that NEVER got cancelled, was cancelled. I was really disappointed... Everyone was really disappointed. I had been salivating at the thought of me and The Ninja rolling around in the mud and then crossing the finish line looking like the swamp thing. Instead I was relegated to the trainer in the living room... Boring! Having said that, I do believe the organisers made the right decision... And whilst I know the terms and conditions say that the entry fee is non-refundable, I hope the organisers will at least refund part of the entry fee as an act of good faith to the cycling community that continues to support the race after 26 years. On our trip home, we stopped in at the service station to pick up a Weekend Herald which, just casually, had a Q&A article in it on John and I. I was rather excited... I'm pretty sure that's the first time I've been in a national newspaper!

So, back at home in Palmerston North, the weather actually didn't seem too bad... A bit of rain and some wind (nothing unusual there!), but I felt a bit nervous about heading out and getting caught in sudden adverse weather, so the road bike went on the windtrainer and I did back to back trainer sessions... A one hour speed session, then a half hour plyometric workout (just to make sure I was fatigued), then a one hour power session. I reckon I probably got in nearly a Karapoti's worth of work, but I was still a bit bummed out by our cancellation. This was supposed to be my last big weekend before I set off on my trip.

Sunday morning was cold. It felt pretty odd to be kitting up with knee warmers and long sleeve thermals at the start of March... Maybe Autumn has passed us by, too??? I was meeting up with the Bamford boys for a ride out to K-Loop. I grabbed the hardtail off it's hook in the garage to find I had another flat, this time on the front. If I had changed it out, I would have been left with no spare tubes for the day's ride, so I decided to just swap bikes and take out the Porn Star instead (that's my Pink 2009 Yeti ASR)... THEN I realised I didn't have a mount on it for my GPS, or a bottle cage, so I had to go back and get my Camelbak and do a quick zip-tie job to pop the mount on my handlebars. Argh! I left home a little flustered, but all was forgotten pretty quickly once the legs were turning and the wheels spinning. It was actually really nice to be out on my old pink Yeti. It's been so long since I have ridden it. It also reignited my internal debate on whether to bar end or not to bar end on The Ninja. I must admit that The Ninja LOOKS very cool without bar ends, but I have to say that after I enjoyed riding with my bar ends today that I am swinging towards functionality over beauty to put them on The Ninja. We headed up Greens Road and out to K-Loop, up Back Track (the creek crossings were surprisingly not all that deep!). It reminded me of a crisp Winter's morning and was quite pleasant. At the top of Back Track, we headed off to the left to the top of a new trail that as just been built. It's only about 500m long at the moment, but it is a SWEEET piece of work with these amazing berms to rail and tabletop jumps (all rollable if you aren't into hucking). It was the sort of trail that you could session for hours and hours and not get tired of. It had also held up really well in the rain. If this is a sign of things to come for K-Loop, Palmy is going to have one fun little mountain bike park up there within the next couple of years! Watch this space! We then had a bit of a bush-bash/mud crawl to get to the descent trail back to Kahuterawa Road and I had the pleasure of watching Tom Bamford drift an entire hairpin corner on his way down (nice moves Tom!!!). We came back via Greens road and then parted ways so I could head off along the river track to add some time onto my ride. It was quite a surreal experience to be riding along the river track and have to take detours around the river which has risen so much with the rain that it flowed across the track in places. It was also amusing to see walkers and their dogs stopped at little river crossings, watching me coming towards them, obviously wondering how I was about to cross this mudpuddle in front of them. Of course I went straight through it, then gave them a muddy grin and a holler on my way past. I think they enjoyed watching it as much as I enjoyed doing it! Whilst a little overgrown at the moment, river track is always a pleasant little blat close to town and some one has added a cool little side trail along there called "dipper" (check it out next time you are down that way). I got home very muddy and feeling like I got in quite a satisfying day's worth of riding, and Tom and Sam kept me pretty honest for most of the day!

So in the end, I got a pretty good weekend's riding in... Although probably nothing quite as tough as I should have endured on Karapoti road on both days. But these things happen for a reason, and I'm sure my pocket is rather stoked to not have to replace my entire drive train before I leave! I'm pretty sure this two weeks is going to pass me by pretty quickly. I still have a bit of planning and training to do and some loose ends to tie up at work, then there is the packing of all my worldly possessions for two and a half months into a mere 23kg, but otherwise, I reckon I have it pretty much under control. I can't wait!!! But first of all, I need to knock off my final race next weekend at Oceania XC Champs, where I will be racing the old girls category again!

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