Saturday, June 30, 2012

Spectacular Mornings, Impressive Turnouts and Frostbite... Is This What People Do When They Don't Ride Bikes???

I've often wondered what people do with their time when they don't ride bikes... I got some idea this last couple of weeks... They work hard (not that I don't usually), they sleep in and they go out on dinner dates. Yet for some bizarre reason, regardless of the fact that I am in my "off season", my life still seems to revolve around bikes and bike-related activities. 
Last weekend I had the pleasure of sitting through two intense days of a Level 1 MTB Coaching Course run by Bike NZ. Not only did I learn some cool stuff, but it was a reunion of sorts with a bunch of mountain biking peeps I haven't seen in ages, including coach Sadie. It was the first time I had seen her since I came third at world champs, and there was much to discuss, debrief and plan, and also much to be excited about still! Our Saturday evening was a raucous affair made memorable with about 12 rowdy mountain bikers piling into Cafe Cuba for a feed, then an assault on the new "toothpick" artwork outside (I think we have discovered it's true purpose... We managed to fit 8 people in amongst it's long, red antennae... Surely this was put here to tempt drunk students???) and then topped off with a game of "Tractor"... This sort of behavior is highly unorthodox for me... My usual Saturday night would entail some Facebooking followed by an early night to bed for riding the next day.

So now, all that's left to do is a small assessment and I'm a Bike NZ Level 1 registered coach! Scary concept huh?

Tuesday night was my first photo and story presentation from my trip in front of my home crowd in Palmerston North. I stayed up until 2am the night before trying to get Powerpoint to behave itself to no avail, and only discovered at 5pm the afternoon of the presentation that I could get it to work if I split my presentation into 4 separate Powerpoint files. With no time for a test run, I rocked up with my thumb drive and laptop at the hospital education centre and just crossed my fingers that it would work (thank God it did)! In the true spirit of my trip, the generosity and support on the evening was outstanding. A package arrived on Tuesday from Russ Baker of CORC with two huge blown-up photos of me that he had put together from 24 hour solo world champs (thanks Russ!). Door prizes kindly donated by Yeti, Ayup Lights, Xalt, Pedal Pushers, Camelbak and Adidas were well-received by a crowd of around 60 curious guests who, whilst only requested to make a gold coin donation, contributed $135.50 on the evening (that's more than a gold coin donation on average! Thanks everyone!). The proceeds will be donated to Karen Hanlen's Olympic Games campaign. I have been asked on a number of occasions now why I don't use the donations towards my own riding, and the answer is simple... On my trip, there were so many people who made such generous and heart-felt gestures towards me, and I felt that in the same spirit, my photo evenings gave me the opportunity to do just that for someone else.
 I was blown away by the turnout... And was super nervous. There is always that niggling concern in the back of your head that you are going to organise a huge party and have noone show up... Fortunately, this was not the case on Tuesday. I was also really stoked to see Kashi from Yeti Cycles in the crowd, and Barb from Xalt... Two people who have showed unwavering support for my riding since the conception stages of the Cape Epic early in 2011. I showed a bunch of photos and a few videos, told some stories and got a few laughs. The feedback I received afterwards was amazing and very much appreciated. I was really humbled by the number of people who came along and after my initial nerves, was really excited to be sharing my experiences with everyone. It was really special for me to relive the experience like that, too... It's so easy to go on a trip like that, come home and then immerse yourself back into everyday life and work and forget just how amazing and precious that experience was. Thanks to everyone who came along for letting me share it with you! Next evening is in Wellington on the 16th of July at 7pm at the Southern Cross Garden Bar... I'm looking forward to it!
So in amongst an otherwise busy week at work, I squeezed in some gym time, a core workout here and there and even a run! Not a lot of riding though, so when my flight touched down at 6.15pm on Thursday evening back at home after a couple of days away in Auckland for work, I was itching for some two-wheeled action. I went home, threw the contents of the boot of my car in the hallway, loaded up my bike, lights and gear and set off towards Santoft, hoping to catch the MMBC crew who ride out there on Thursdays at 7.30pm. I arrived a bit late, but not one to waste a lovely evening, headed out by myself anyway. The night was relatively mild (about 8 degrees) and it was rather pleasant to be devoid of leg warmers and a jacket. Once I neared the end of a loop, I bumped into the rest of the group then set off on a second loop with Mike and Brendon, which turned into a bit of a smashfest for me whilst trying to hold their wheel. I was so stoked to be out in the forest enjoying an evening on the bike. I'd had a pretty hectic week so far... The ride seemed to disperse all that into the clear night sky.
With the weather for the weekend looking to be fine, I figured I wouldn't mind heading out for a long-ish ride on Saturday before the club XC race on Sunday. I hadn't been up Takapari Road in a while and hadn't really done any significant climbing since I got back from Europe, so Takapari road it was... I'm not sure what happened in my head after deciding that, because before long, I had the crazy idea to ride up in the pre-dawn darkness to watch the sun rise from one of the higher viewpoints on Takapari. I attained a partner in crime for the trip via Facebook and it was all go! Once I had started talking it up (and certainly once I had roped someone else into it), it had to be done, so Saturday morning, I was up at 4.30am and loaded into the car by 5am on my way to pick up Sheralee for the drive out to Pohongina Valley and the foot of the Ruahines.
It was bitterly cold as we pulled up on the side of Takapari road, but that was nothing compared to what we would experience right on sunrise with 800m more altitude. We set off in the darkness. My legs were screaming at me after my lunges workout at the gym the previous evening. It's funny how I seem to have this mindset of "I'm fit... I can do as much as I want and I'm invincible... How hard can it be???". Well, Takapari's steep pinches reminded me that it was hard enough that I probably shouldn't have been doing lunges a mere 12 hours earlier! As we climbed, we came across more and more ice. Puddles were frozen solid and cracked abruptly under my tyres as I rode over them, and the frozen ground sparkled under my lights like a thousand diamonds ingrained in the earth.

It was a truly beautiful morning. We watched dawn crack the horizon over the rolling hills of the farmland and the new day was upon us quicker than I had imagined it would be. As sunrise neared, the clouds started to roll across the top of the mountain and obscure our view of this glorious time of morning, so we descended back down until we found a suitable viewpoint unhindered by the clouds.
It was bloody cold... Spectacular, but cold. My GPS read minus one degree and I was sure it was a little colder than that once you took into account that the GPS sits right next to the lights on my handlebars, which generate a bit of heat. We watched the sun climb over the mountains in front of us and push it's way through the clouds... It was totally worth the early morning, the climb and suffering the cold. I love watching the sun rise. There is something so amazing about the way it seems to bathe everything with gentle newness.

We briefly discussed whether we would set off back up the road and climb the rest of the way to the top, or whether we would head back down to the car now we had seen our sunrise. My fingers were numb and painful, and I suspected climbing higher probably wasn't going to make them any warmer, so we decided to descend back down to the car. I reckon with wind chill, we would have been down well towards minus 5 degrees, and as we descended, I started losing dexterity in my fingers, and my knees where wobbling underneath me as I tried to stand up to descend. I wouldn't say I was concerned (I'm a tough little nutter), but I certainly knew I wasn't in a good way, and there was very little natural insulation on my scrawny body to protect me from the cold. By the time we got back to the car, my hands were throbbing and were so painful I felt like I was about to lose consciousness. I dumped my bike on the ground, jumped in the car and switched on the heater. Warming my hands back up was excruciating and brought quite a few tears to my eyes! Even later that afternoon, I still hadn't regained full feeling in the tips of my fingers. It was a real rule #5 morning, although I'm sure Sheralee would attest to the fact that there was certainly no game face for this one... The world in my immediate vicinity knew I was in the hurt box. Time for a new pair of toasty warm gloves!
By the time we packed up the car and headed into town for a fry-up brekky, I had returned to my usual spritely self, although somewhat tired and still a little cold. It was an interesting experience, to say the least, but in hindsight, maybe next time a better sunrise trip to save for Summer!

Having now done my ride so early in the morning, I was left with a full day at my disposal, and what better to do with a full day than ride my bike again??!! I loaded my dog, Paddi, into the car and headed out to Santoft for a cruisy little ride (because to be honest, my legs were feeling slightly smashed). Now, this is the first time my little puppy dog has featured in my blog, and she is truly just as crazy as me. She loves riding and followed me around for a good solid 10km lap before collapsing back into the car for the drive home. We also bumped into Mike and Emma while we were in the forest and they were busy clearing the track for tomorrow's club race (excellent work guys!!!).

So, riding out of my system for the day, I got the household chores under control, mowed the lawns and collapsed on the couch for a meal ready to hit the hay before heading out to Santoft again tomorrow. I guess that regardless of whether I'm racing or training or both or not at all, riding a bike, and the people I ride bikes with, are always going to be a really important part of my life... I'm one very lucky gal!!!

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