Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Time Has Come... See You in South Africa!!!

Well, here I am only a couple of days away from flying out to South Africa and the lead up over the last week has been a bit of a rollercoaster, to say the least. I have had some great days, and similarly, some pretty ordinary days. Sleep is a rare commodity... Something seemingly afforded only by a chosen few (of which I am not currently one)...

I can't even begin to describe how crap a day last Tuesday was for me. Everything seemed to conspire against me and I felt like I was getting more and more behind in everything... And I have this huge deadline looming called "OVERSEAS TRIP" by which time everything MUST be done... So fitting two days worth of work into one day, organising the last bits and pieces of my trip and still training are becoming increasingly difficult to balance. To be honest, up until the start of this week, I thought I had it pretty much under control, but I suppose it's all under control until it isn't (and then it's REALLY out of control). I am starting to find I am running out of appointments in my calendar to get stuff done, which in turn is probably giving me a slightly shorter fuse than usual. I had a 3 hour ride on my program for Tuesday evening, and I had planned to leave work just a little early to make sure I hit the road by 5.30pm. As it turns out, I didn't get home until 5.30pm, then I had to change the flat on my hardtail (which I had noticed on Sunday but hadn't yet done anything about) and by the time I was ready to rock, it was 6.15pm. I felt so tired, but I needed a ride so badly... I needed it to clear my head so I could sleep!!! I set off and only five minutes into my ride, noticed something wasn't quite right and realised my back tyre was nearly flat. I had focused so much of my attention on changing the front flatty that I hadn't checked the pressure in the rear. I only had CO2 with me, and I was loathed to waste it, so I turned around and went home to use the floor pump... By the time I set off again, I was absolutely seething... I just wanted to ride, have a feed and go to bloody bed! Too much to ask??? Maybe so. As I rode along, my mind was going a million miles an hour about everything except riding. It was probably a good thing... I failed to notice the first couple of climbs I was that preoccupied. It wasn't until I hit the dirt climb at the end of Turitea Road that links to Greens Road that I started to feel good. My legs felt pretty strong (although a little tired) and my mind seemed to have processed all it needed to for now. As I hit the crest of Greens Road, I was greeted by a beautiful sunset which had turned the clouds pink. It was a lovely evening to be out... Oh how lucky I am that I have a bike or I may miss out on moments like this! I continued out to K-Loop. I had originally planned on maybe cutting my ride back a bit because I left so late, but as I climbed Back Track I felt so good... I was pushing a much harder gear than usual, at a good cadence, and despite being on the hardtail, I felt really smooth, so I kept climbing up to the top, up to that lovely new piece of trail that has been carved into the hillside... I'd been daydreaming about this little 500m stretch of trail all day! I sessioned this little gem until the sun dropped below the horizon and then cranked up the Ay-Ups for the trip home in the dark. This time I was prepared for my night ride (and actually quite looking forward to it!) so I had both my handlebar light and my helmet light, which was awesome! I took out my new set of Ay-Ups to test them out, and, as is always the case with my Ay-Ups, they worked a treat. I bombed down Back Track with reckless abandon, disturbing the night with the crackle of my tyres on the ground and my whoops of delight. As I approached the Green's road turnoff, I had originally planned to head straight down Kahuterawa road and head home, but I was setting such a good pace, and felt so good, that I decided to head back up over Green's road and home the long way. It was quite surreal to climb to the crest of Greens Road and see the bright pink sunset replaced by a cloud-encircled moon with the Palmerston North city lights hanging quietly below... It really was a spectacular sight to be treated to. I arrived home about 9.30pm, cooked a feed, had a shower and jumped into bed to prep myself for the next day. By the time I got home, the day that had seemed so impossible was all of a sudden no longer in my thoughts. I had this big smile on my face, a big smile in my head, and a big smile in my heart. I love my bike(s).

After such a late finish the night before, I awoke early on Wednesday with a bit of a haze in my head (as could be expected), headed off to work and then onto the bike again as soon as I got home. I had hill reps to do tonight, and actually found the opposite to what I had experienced the night before... I felt ok going out, but my legs just weren't firing. I did some rather disappointing hill reps and returned home a little early. To be honest, I could probably put it down to fatigue from my previous evening's ride and from trying to get all my loose ends tied up and prepared before my trip, but I was frustrated nonetheless, especially after such a great ride the night before. Thursday morning brought plyometrics to start the day and then over Thursday and Friday, I had the opportunity for some rest days going into Oceania XC Champs on Saturday.

Thursday also brought the opportunity to catch up with my beloved team mate John and our awesome sponsor Oli from Roadworks. I had some business to take care of in Wellington for the day so we jumped at the chance to have a catch up before John and I jetted off. Oli was kind enough to give my bike a final workover and I felt a little guilty that he had ended up doing it in the dark after a power cut at his workshop, and that my Schwalbe UST tyres had caused him considerable grief when coupled with my XTR rims (sorry Oli!)... I felt a little better about it all after dinner when he accidentally ate my dessert (apparently Kahlua Cheesecake and Citrus Tart all taste one and the same when you are in good company and preoccupied with the conversation!). It appeared we had all had similarly trying weeks in one way or another. In fact, I was slightly relieved when I saw that John was having some similar frustrations to me, trying to tie up loose ends before the trip. It's really hard to get excited about the impending trip when you are constantly on the rivet, getting no sleep and trying to get final details sorted, and I had felt bad that I wasn't excited about the trip (yet). On a good note, our jerseys had arrived that day (and looked bloody cool! Thanks Blox!), I had a great night ride earlier in the week, and John had smashed a personal best ride up Tip Track that had stood for the last five years! As our evening wore on, and our plates and glasses emptied, my worries vanished into the background, replaced with the pleasure of being graced with the presence of two of the coolest dudes I know. It was a pretty surreal moment when I got into the car after dinner, wound down the window and said to John "see you in Cape Town!"... Wow... There it was... NOW I was excited!!!

I arrived in Rotorua Friday evening, had a feed, prepped The Ninja for a day on the trails and hit the sack, waking up the next day feeling pretty good. I was actually really excited about Oceanias. I was racing Masters 1 Category and I was really hoping for some good competition and then a podium placing out of that competition. It made me really nervous, and probably the most nervous I had been in a long time... I'm guessing it was a mixture of wanting a podium position, and also knowing that I should be pretty on top of my game by now in the preparation for Cape Epic. Wednesday night's ride was also still lingering in my head, which likely didn't help. It was a beautiful day down at the Redwoods and I was pretty happy that our age group category (old girls) were racing in the morning at 10.30am (as compared to the elites racing at 3pm that afternoon). I headed out for a lap of the course and was pretty stoked with it. There was some hard climbing at the start and then we rolled our way through some familiar Whakarewarewa trails that had been altered with some little tricky bits especially for the race. I was glad I pre-rode the course, because there were actually some sketchy sections that surprised me as I rolled into them and I had to rework them so I was comfortable to ride them during the race. I decided without a doubt that I would take the chicken run option over the infamous, gnarly rock garden (THE rock garden)... Maybe I'll try riding that some time when I don't have a impending trip for which I have been pouring my heart and soul into over the last year! The general consensus was that riding the rock garden saved about 15-20secs, but unless you were super confident riding it, the risk of having a crash or getting a puncture outweighed the time saving.

Back at the start line for the race, I had been seeded near the front of our wave, so when the whistle blew, I took off up the start of the Longmile Road hill like a rocket... This seems to have been a common theme in my starts of late... I am convinced that training in a constant headwind over the last 12 months here in Palmerston North has turned me into an accomplished sprinter, so off I went to lead the pack out of the start chute. A few people mentioned to me afterwards that they thought I had gone out way to hard, and maybe they were right, but it felt good at the time, and I suppose that sometimes, that's what racing is about... Getting ahead when you feel good and persevering when you don't. I got to the top of our first climb and felt not quite as good as I did when I jumped out of the gate... My body felt good, but my legs were still a little heavy. My climbing felt really laboured as opposed to feeling nice and fluffy. I dropped off the back of a couple of the masters ladies and for the first lap and a half, spent a good portion of my energy focused on trying not to vomit. It may have just been the intensity and the nerves but it came right about half way through the race. It was interesting to note when I downloaded the data from my GPS that my average heart rate for the race had been 168BPM!!! And considering my maximum sits at about 175BPM, I must have been going harder than I cared to realise. The support around the track was amazing... The cheering as we came through some of the busier sections of trail was loud enough to drown out any thoughts or pain that had worked their way into my head (thanks spectators!!!). I was also really happy that I was quite comfortably clearing the entire course without too much concern over the more technical sections. As my gut came right part way through the second lap, I began picking up other riders. I was coming first in my age group category, which was cool, but there were a couple of other masters ladies ahead of me who were in other age group categories, so I set my sights on trying to catch them. I wasn't really content on settling in... I was pretty keen to keep the hammer down to the end. The Ninja was riding really well after some love from Oli at Roadworks on Thursday. I felt really comfortable and I even found I was quite comfortably taking air from little kickers and then getting a well-balanced landing... Something I had never really done before but seemed to be coming to me quite naturally on this particular day (FUN!!!). I picked up one of the ladies, and then caught Sarah Beadle just before the end, but didn't quite get the opportunity to pass and put in any distance. I think I was probably about ten seconds behind her at the end, which was disappointing in it's own way, but I couldn't let it cloud the fact that I had just become 2012 Masters 1 Champion... A pretty cool way to polish off my NZ race season before heading to South Africa!!! I was really stoked to stand on the podium in my new Mitre 10 MEGA - Yeti Cycles jersey that afternoon... Then I headed off on a little two hour training ride (just because that's how I roll!).

Sunday morning I hit the trails in Rotorua one last time before heading home to Palmerston North. It was an drizzly morning, but lovely to be out on the trails, and the overnight drizzle had bedded down some of the dust on the track to make it nice and sticky. I had intentions of doing the XC Eliminator that afternoon, but had decided to flag it and get home early to start on packing (because I seriously had no idea when I would otherwise get it done before Thursday!!!). After carving up some dirt, I headed out for the breakfast at Zippys, bumping into a few old mates and acquaintances along the way (Rotorua is good for that!!!) and then headed back to Palmerston North, feeling quite chuffed at yesterday's effort, but pretty smashed all the same. I spent a few hours giving The Ninja a really good clean. Getting a bike through biosecurity on the way into another country generally requires a toothbrush, detergent and and a great amount of attention to detail. I then packed her up into her box and started laying out everything else I needed to pack. I was pretty satisfied with a productive night's work... It would make it really easy to get everything else packed up during the week. My only challenge remaining would be to balance all my luggage out around my carry-on and checked in baggage without getting stung for extra baggage charges.

So the week upon us has largely consisted of all the "last minute" stuff... Getting massages, tying up loose ends at work (and unraveling more loose ends in the process), doing a bit of training to keep the legs moving, packing and getting my new Tablet set up so I don't have to haul my laptop around everywhere with me (I really should have thought of doing this earlier because it is proving to be very time consuming!)... The "To Do" list is gradually getting smaller, and whilst maybe not as quickly as I would like it to, I'm sure that when Friday rolls around, I'll be chomping at the bit to jump on that plane (and use it as a great opportunity to catch up on some sleep!).

It's probably a great time right now to once again, thank our team sponsors and my own sponsors for their amazing support. Mitre 10 MEGA have not only looked after us as a team, but have been a great employer for me and I am really excited that what I do outside work (carving up trails for the greater good) is something they take an interest in and support. Kashi at Yeti Cycles has united us with our fine racing Machines for the trip. These ASR5Cs really are a bloody amazing piece of machinery and if you get a chance to ride one, you should... Oli at Roadworks has done favour after favour for us and I can't thank him enough. Paul at Blox has worked relentlessly on making sure our jerseys got to us on time, even jumping a few unforseen hurdles along the way. Mark at Adidas Eyewear is responsible for putting us in sunglasses that not only match each other, but match our jerseys!!! Jack at Camelbak has provided us with some great hydration gear (and even a contact in Italy to help me get a support crew for 24 Hour Solo World Champs!). Bryce at Cycletech has to hold the record for shipping out product quicker than I can blink (I wonder if he reads my mind and knows what I am about to order before I even email him sometimes!!!). On the personal front, Ayup Lights have provided me with an awesome new set of lights (that match my bike!) for 24 hour solo world champs, Pedal Pushers bike shop in Palmy have looked after me really well sourcing product at short notice, Barb at Xalt has not only kept my muscles "fluffy" with her awesome massage skills, but has acted as my quasi-shrink for the last six months! A huge mention also needs to be extended to Manawatu Mountain Bike Club (and in particular, the Knight family, and the Bamfords) and to Glenys at Cycling Manawatu for the support the cycling community have given me here in Palmy. And last, but certainly not least, my coach for the last four years, Sadie Parker-Wynyard for subjecting me to pain so brutal it may be illegal if I wasn't asking for it, but having me come out the other end so much stronger for it (I hope I've made you proud coach!).

Now all that remains is to get on that plane, arrive at the other end, and rip it up. I have pretty loose plans outside Cape Epic and WEMBO 24 hour champs, other than my flight booked from Cape Town to Milano on the 13th of April, so I will keep you updated here on my blog whenever I have access to the internet. Stay tuned! It's going to be a wicked two and a half months!!!

1 comment:

  1. Bon voyage, Megan! It's been an honour and a privilege, and I wish you all the best for a fun and successful sojourn. Can't wait to follow your Adventures! Cheers, Oli

    P.S. The lemon tart was my target all along, muahahahaaa!