Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Embarassment of Calling the Waaambulance...

Today I had my last little blow-out before I box The Ninja up for the flight to Wanaka for the Yeti Tribe Gathering on the weekend and the Deans Bank 10 Hour (can't wait!!!). She has spent the last couple of days getting some tender loving care from the crew at Cyclezone and I thought it would be a good idea to head out into the forest and hammer the crap out of her and check everything ran as smoothly as I could expect, and it certainly did... I felt fast and smooth and the bike floated superbly beneath me. With relatively little effort, I equaled and improved on times I had clocked on a few different trails around the forest in recent weeks. It was a stunning afternoon and having such a great ride just topped off a stellar day. It was also great to bump into a few familiar faces under the canopy. We live in such an amazing place!

The general theme of the week, though, had been very different from the above stunning afternoons and perfectly behaved bikes. My week started off pretty well, with Tuesday seeing me shave a mere one second off my Be Rude Not To time on the hardtail. It set the tone for an awesome week of training, despite the compounded fatigue I was experiencing from a couple of hard weeks on the bike. The problem with living on the edge of the forest (if you would really call it a "problem") is that I just want to ride ALL THE TIME, and whilst it sounds like a very nice problem to have, inevitably, the distance will catch up with your legs.

Wednesday was an interesting day. It started out with a trip to the hairdressers around the corner to have my hair and makeup done for some photos on the bike (yup, no kidding). At work, we have been compiling the Pink Walk calendar that is used to raise money for breast cancer awareness, and the theme of this awesome calendar for 2013 is "strong women". I must say I was very flattered that my boss felt that I fitted into this category, but kitting up in hairspray, lipstick and mascara to ride my bike was so far removed from the helmet, chamois cream and lycra I was familiar with! Having said that, it was a bit of fun, and seriously, who amongst us wouldn't don some lippy and eyeshadow for such a great cause??? If you happen to be or about Rotorua during the Pink Walk at the end of October, make sure you get yourself one of these awesome calendars!!!

I spent the day deflecting comments about how "amazing" I looked, feeling the need to justify the fact that I was wearing makeup until I disappeared into the forest late in the afternoon with Paul Charteris to teach the gorse along the Western Okataina Walkway just who is boss (because at that point during the week, the score was still Gorse = 1, Megan's legs = 0). Paul picked up me and my bike after work and we took the easy route to the Millar Road end of the trail. Seeing as there is no vehicular access, we popped our gorse-destruction implements in a backpack and set off by bike down the trail. Carrying loppers and shearers in a backpack is much more awkward than you would imagine, and as I descended sections of the trail, the backpack would swing around to the side of me, revealing the gleaming sharp points of these weapons of gorse destruction... I wondered what my mother would think of this recklessness... It was probably well up there amongst a myriad of dangerous activities I may be lectured on, including running with scissors.
The gorse was way further down the trail than I remember it being, so we probably got in a good half hour of destructive goodness until we had to turn around and head back before running out of light. We arrived back at the car just in time to see a stunning sunset over the forest, projecting fingers of pink and orange light streaming across the landscape through wispy clouds. The original intention had been to finish up with Paul and then ride home via the forest to get some training in the legs for the day, but my legs felt heavy and tired, and my head was cloudy. It was one of those moments when I thought "is riding tonight really going to be the right thing for my body?" The answer, sadly, was "no", so I hitched a ride back into town and crawled into bed after my partner's late arrival from Palmerston North.
The other cool thing that Wednesday brought was two exciting packages... One from Adidas Eyewear with my new glasses for this season (including the new polarised Evil Eye Pro Half Rim lenses) and one from Magellan containing a battery extender... This little puppy can now be used for a full 24 hour race without change of battery... The first cycle GPS on the market I know of that will do this!

Now onto the topic of poorly behaving bikes. After giving myself a relatively restful day on Wednesday, I was absolutely amped for a good blat on Thursday after work. I made my way into the forest and was feeling awesome! I was having a really good time, I felt strong, and it was a beautiful, mild, sunny afternoon. As I made my way down Dragon's Tail with a little less care than I should have, I felt my rear rim hit a root... I ride my hardtail on tubed tyres as my training bike during the week for exactly this reason... To train myself to pick good lines and develop my skills as opposed to ploughing through it on a full suspension bike. I knew this rim shot was going to end up a pinch flat, which was annoying, but I was safe in the knowledge that after two flats in the last two weeks, I knew I was carrying the right gear to sort myself out on the trail... Or maybe not... I flipped the bike upside down, removed the wheel and then reached into my little bag of tricks to get my threaded CO2 pump... And an unthreaded CO2 canister... I couldn't believe it... Moreso because I specifically remember removing my unthreaded CO2 pump from my bag because I didn't have any unthreaded canisters left. A couple of passers by had no pump, so I was forced to call my partner for some help from the waaambulance. I was gutted to be walking out of the forest for a lift home in the car. It was such a stunning afternoon, and I was so angry with myself that I had made such a stupid mistake in my preparation. I was just lucky I was relatively close to a road access point and had someone I could call... For the record, I now ride with a hand pump that has a clamp fitting (as opposed to a screw-on) so there will be no CO2 mix-ups and no unscrewed valve cores!!!

Saturday's weather was appalling. I kitted up in the morning and kept a close eye on the weather ready to jump out on the bike at the first available opportunity. Finally, at about 3pm, the sun peeked through the clouds and it was all the encouragement I needed to grab the bike and head outside (rest assured, it didn't stay that way too long!). I took my partner and the dogs with me for a roll in the mud and as we made our way into the forest, we were completely taken aback by the huge amount of carnage that had ensued with the high winds... There were trees down everywhere, blocking trails and littering the forest floor with debris. It reminded me of the Huka Challenge last year... Like playing Russian Roulette with the forest... I was glad I wasn't out there during the morning! We went out for an hour and then I headed out into the elements on my own little mission, ensuring I observed both rules number 5 and number 9 with the due respect they deserve. The winds were still quite strong so I made the call to stick to the fire roads on the reasoning that I was less likely to be hit by a falling tree in the middle of a fire road than on a trail (how much sense there was to this theory, I am unsure). I made my way all the way out to the lakes and down to the edge of green lake. It had actually turned into a rather pleasant afternoon so I continued to extend my ride, bit by bit. I climbed Moerangi road from the lake side and popped into loop road to descend Split Enz to find a huge tree had fallen down and left a hole nearly a metre deep in the trail... I was exceptionally pleased I hadn't been around at the time that tree came crashing down! Eventually, I made my way home at about sunset, very pleased to have gotten a ride in... I wouldn't call it an impressive ride, but it was certainly a tough day out in those conditions. I call these rides "hardening" rides... Not necessarily great training rides, but good for the mind and good for the soul... If you can ride on days like that, it's not such a huge shock when the weather turns bad on race day.
Sunday morning I woke up to significantly better weather (although still a bit drizzly). The ride in the wind and rain the day before had really taken it out of me and I had failed to take into account the last couple of weeks just how much of a toll riding in the forest every day would have on me. Mountain biking can be really rough and really hard on your entire body and whilst I wasn't sore, my whole body just felt like it needed a rest... But I still wanted to ride... So I grabbed the road bike and dusted off the cobwebs... It's been quite some time since I was out on skinny wheels and by the time I headed out the door, the sun was out and it had turned into a really pleasant morning. I headed out on Tarawera road to skirt around the lakes and then, depending on how I felt, might tack on a bit more once I got back. I felt surprisingly good. My upper body was grateful for the rest and my legs seemed to just do their thing, like they always do. As I rode alongside the lakes, my head filled with wonderful thoughts of just how amazing it is to live here in Rotorua... You can mountain bike in the forest, or a myriad of other amazing places within a stones throw of town, you can road bike, hike and kayak, and all with the most stunning scenery.
It felt so good to be cruising along with my legs feeling strong and the sun on my back. I had traveled maybe 20km before my rear derallier started playing up. This was the first time I had taken the road bike out this season, and besides a clean and lube, I hadn't really done much else to it. After a bit of stuffing around, I got it working again, only to have it break down on me another 2km down the road... I flipped the bike upside down and tried to figured out what was wrong... It was making a terrible racket when I turned the pedals. A lovely fella who was working in his garden nearby obviously heard my cursing and popped over to see if he could help... It was another waaambulance call by the looks of it... One of the jockey wheels had seized up and I wasn't going anywhere on that bike without breaking the chain and turning it into a singlespeed. At the insistence of my newfound friend, I reluctantly rang the waaambulance for my second pick up that week... It was embarrassing, moreso because I take a great deal of pride in my preparedness and resourcefulness. Truth be told, if I had been stuck, I would have turned it into a singlespeed and ridden home, and there was a part of me that wanted to do this purely on principal, but it would have just being me as the stubborn gal that I am... I was very grateful for my partner driving out to pick me up again. When I got home, I pulled out the jockey wheel to find shards of bearings and metal entangled with what was left of the ball bearings.
I must say that I find it a little amusing and a bit of an adventure when I have weeks like this... When the unexpected occurs and tests my logical reasoning and my dedication to my riding... It's refreshing and a challenge in it's own right (and gives me a story to tell on my blog!) and it is a gentle reminder that you can never become complacent on how prepared you are for each ride because you never know when you may need that spare tube, or the tire levers, or the multitool, or a rational calm mind. After this week, I have vowed to rescind my waaambulance membership and be prepared to sort out my own problems on the trail! Beyond that, though, I am really looking forward to this weekend... The Yeti Tribe Gathering in Wanaka is going to be a blast, and I can't wait to present my photo and story evening to everyone on Saturday night... After having been back for a good four months now, it's going to be amazing to re-live my trip again... And then, of course, the 10 hour Deans Bank race on Sunday, which terrifies me slightly... It will be my first sizable race since 24 hour solo world champs... Here's hoping the legs will go the distance!!!

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