Friday, July 13, 2012

Being Chicked and the Art of Talking Smack - Winter NDuro 1...

"Must... Pass... Megan... Must... Not... Get....... Chicked!". It was Martyn Pearce hyperventilating his way up the first climb (of many) behind me at the first Winter NDuro for the year. For the record, he passed me and I didn't see him again until the finish line.

Since nearly losing my fingers to Jack Frost in my pre-dawn escapade up Takapari Road a couple of weekends ago, the hussle and bussle of work and life has seemingly limited my riding to three or four times a week on the bike (as opposed to five or six during my on-season). For some weird reason, I feel the need to justify this... It IS my off-season, but, let's face it, Rule Number 5 should also still govern the majority of decisions made with relation to, well, anything really... So I have made the conscious decision that I must get out and enjoy my bike more often, and my weeks must consist of at least one crazy adventure worthy of a good story-telling.
 Our Thursday night ride last week was a blast (as it always is). I headed out earlier than usual to punch out a lap before the rest of the crew arrived, then joined forces with them at 7.30pm for another lap. It was a beautiful evening in the forest. Mild enough that I was out in just shorts and a jersey with an Icebreaker long-sleeve thermal underneath. When we hit the trails that edged the forest perimeter, we would be greeted by a howling wind smacking us in the face. I always enjoy these night rides... Good for the soul. I remember setting off for the evening with the rest of the group and being so pumped to be on the trails that all I could hear was a faint whining in the distance... "Hey! It's not a race!"... Really? I thought everything was!

After a cruisy day in the forest at Santoft on Saturday with some good company, Sunday I had a big day mission to Rotorua for the first Winter NDuro. I often wonder why I would drive 4 hours to ride for 3 and a half hours then drive 4 hours home in one day. It's a big call to make. As I drove through Waioru, my car temperature gauge told me it was minus 8 degrees outside. I stopped on the side of the road for a 15min nap before tackling the black ice territory along Desert Road.

As I made my way along Desert Road, the mountains loomed in front of me, covered top to bottom in fresh white snow. They nearly blended in completely with the morning backdrop, camoflaged against the pre-dawn sky. As the sun crept up over the horizon, the colors of the sky changed and flitted in amongst low-lying cloud. As I passed Lake Taupo, the cloud hung low over the lake as the sun burst out against a clear blue sky. I was really annoyed I hadn't brought my camera, but I did the best I could with the good ol' phone camera. It made it totally worth the 4.30am start to the day, and it boded very well for a fine day on the trails (albeit a bit cold). When I arrived at the Long Mile Road carpark, the temperature gauge on the car still told me it was minus 2 degrees.

This was the first Winter NDuro since Ra had taken ownership of NDuro, and things were different to what they had been at previous events... Special little touches were scattered throughout the day, including the cute little cupcakes at registration and noodle soup at the finish line. Ra's cheery voice boomed across the PA all day and it was a really cool atmosphere... This is why I drive 8 hours in one day for a three and a half hour race! Ra's passion is a poignant reminder of just why mountain bikers are such a great bunch of people. It was certainly a fresh approach, and I doubt that any of the 250 entrants on the day would disagree that it was a fantastic day out. I think Ra should be really proud that his first event as the owner of NDuro was certainly one to remember.

The weather for the day was stunning and the trails were crisp and frosty. It was a tough call as to what to wear for the day. In the end, I hardened up and started with a jersey, thermal long-sleeved under and my shorts with no knee warmers (probably also because I was running late for registration and this just happened to be what I was already wearing!). In the end, I think it was a pretty good call.

So anyway, back to the concept of being "chicked"... We set off up the first climb up long mile hill and straight into Genesis, which had most riders off their bikes straight away... This could be a loong day! It was at the top of the first climb that I heard Martyn and his infernal smack talk behind me. The concept of "being chicked" is a relatively new one, although us gals have been kicking boy butt for much longer than when the term was coined. One can consider themselves "chicked" if they are beaten by a girl at any time. It is important to note that it need not necessarily be at a race. It could also apply to commuting or a weekend road ride or an arm wrestle. Needless to say, most of the male species don't like being chicked... In fact, come to think of it, I must admit that I don't like being overtaken by other girls myself!!! Also important to note is that being chicked is not the end of the world... There are some VERY good riders out there who happen to be female (Karen Hanlen ended up finishing 11th overall on this fine Winter's day)... It is, however, highly unacceptable for a rider to speed up merely because they realise they have just been chicked, and then to slow down once they are in front of said chick again... This is akin to those drivers who don't like being overtaken on the road and speed up during the overtaking lanes, then slow down again when noone can pass, and is very bad form (very much like half-wheeling)... On the flip side of this, it is also a girl's own fault if a rider does this, and then she lets him get away... In this case, we can say that the female rider has been "douched"... This is where a male rider speeds up purely because he has been chicked and then the female rider does not respond appropriately to the fact that this guy is obviously a douche when he should have just been riding hard the whole time, not just because he didn't want to be passed by a girl... So anyway, on this occasion, I don't think I would quite say I was douched. Martyn generally beats me anyway!!!

There had been a substantial amount of hype around the course for the day, and in particular in relation to the amount of climbing the course appeared to have in it. The course for the day was set by cross country legend, Carl Jones, and I must say he did a stellar job. Not only was it a bloody hard day out (hard means good, by the way), but it was nice to be doing a course where you had to "expect the unexpected". Very few of the turnoffs on the course took us the way we would normally have expected to go, and even on one occasion, took us on a hike-a-bike portage mission across a felled area of the forest (because we all know how much I LOVE hike-a-bike... Thanks Carl!). It was, once again, really refreshing. There was indeed, a great deal of climbing, as the hype would have us believe. At the 23km mark, we had climbed 1000m, and by the end of the day, we had churned out a good 1600m of vertical ascent. To put this in perspective, the first day of the Cape Epic in South Africa this year had us climb 960m over a 29km distance. The amazing thing about this was that we definitely earned our turns, and we were rewarded with some awesome descending. I think very few course-setters would have had the balls to design a course that made it possible to descend all of Dragons Tail, Sidewinder, Split Enz, Billy T and Corners in one hit over 45km. With all the climbing, it must have been the slowest 45km I have ever ridden (I was pleased to find out I wasn't the only one with these sentiments), but nonetheless, it was definitely up there with the best courses I have ever ridden in an NDuro before.

In terms of how I felt on the ride, it had been a good month since I had done any long rides, and certainly some time since I had been in the hills (and I felt that!), but I didn't feel too bad. I enjoyed myself immensely, finished 4th in the open womens category, and got the opportunity to catch up with a bunch of people I hadn't seen in ages. In fact, it only occurred to me once I started speaking with people that I hadn't really seen anyone since I got back from my trip, so it was awesome to have a reunion of sorts! I was also very privileged to meet Karen Hanlen. I have been using my photo evenings to help raise funds for her Olympic campaign and it was so lovely to meet her in person. She looked really strong and ready, and I'm sure she will do us all very proud in London. What a huge inspiration and so great to see her supporting local events, too!
I then jumped in the car and drove back that same day to have a very lazy evening and enjoy an outdoor bath (great idea whilst IN the bath, stupid idea once you realise you want to get out of the bath... Probably a better idea for a warm Summer's evening!). Next week brings more excitement (as it always does... I LOVE that my life is rarely boring!). Of particular note, if you are in Wellington, make sure you join us at the Southern Cross Garden Bar at 7pm on Monday Night for my photo evening! Gold coin donation goes to Karen Hanlen's Olympic Campaign and you get the opportunity to win some cool door prizes, including a set of Ayup Lights! See ya there, and keep those wheels turning in the meantime!

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