Sunday, December 2, 2012

Success From Suffering - A Crazy Person's "How To" Guide

There are often times when I question my own sanity (although probably not as often as other people question it!) and as we loaded up the car and headed out the driveway at 4.30am on Saturday morning was one of those moments. I'm extremely lucky to have a partner who tolerates this sort of abnormal behavior... And, in fact, nearly encourages it by offering to stand on the sidelines and hand me drink bottles, but driving me to Auckland to catch a 7.30am ferry so I could race my bike whilst I spent the time either sleeping in the seat next to her, or offering unhelpful advice on how she should be driving was really showing her commitment (or perhaps her resignation to the fact that she was stuck with me). Either way, I am exceedingly grateful for her ability to put up with me and my biking ways.
So anyway, we arrived at the ferry terminal bang on 7.30am, met up with Tim, Mark and Belinda, loaded our gear into their car and then jumped on a ferry to Waiheke Island on our way to the Round Rangihoua 4 hour race. Now in it's sixth year, I'm pretty sure I have participated in all but one of these events and it has been such a pleasure to come back year after year and watch it grow. It's always a great day out, and a huge privilege to have the guys at Waiheke Mountain Bike Club share their lovely island, awesome tracks and amazing passion with everyone! Once we arrived at Onetangi Sports park and registered, I jumped on the Ninja to hit up the track for a practice lap. I had missed last year's race, and since I last rode here, there had been an additional loop of singletrack added in that I hadn't ridden before. The track wound it's way up an exposed climb, then once you were at the top, made it's way through a rabbit warren of tight corners, loose dirt and steep, pinchy climbs. It was important to pay adequate respect to the brakes and check your speed in time for the corners because being as dry and powdery as it was made it very easy to overshoot corners and end up in the bush. The track then opened up into a vast clearing before dropping back into a final section of track aptly named "Chicken Run" (you were almost guaranteed a rooster would crow to announce your entry onto this trail)... Then a quick lap of the oval (with a headwind) and you were ready to do the loop all over again! The great thing about the track was that you got the climbing out of the way first thing and then could enjoy the rest of the lap, and once I had knocked out a couple of laps at the start of the race, I had the course pretty dialled.

In true island style, the race began a little late, just before midday. The sun was beating down hard on the race village, and also on the climb up the side of the hill. We lined up across the middle of the field and ran to our bikes in a (relatively easy) le mans start. I had placed my bike in the perfect spot, and whilst my run was lacking in inspiration, I still managed to get a good position in the field to start with, and as such, experienced a relatively small amount of trail congestion in front of me. My dear friend and close rival, Sasha Smith, was also punching out a solo effort of the race, but any hopes I had of a fair rematch of last week's Huka XL, where I was narrowly edged out of a pay day by 15secs to Sasha, were dashed when I saw her line up at the start line clad head to toe in a full-body morph suit (I mean, seriously, it would be unfair of me to gloat about beating someone who was in fancy dress). Having said that, though, I was also not too keen on being beaten by her exactly for the fact that she was in fancy dress and on a single-speed (that just would have been plain embarrassing), so I dutifully put my all into my effort just to make sure. Around the fourth or fifth lap, I passed Sasha with a flat tyre, which kinda sucked. It's always nice to know when someone is hot on your heels, and she has always kept me honest!

I pushed through my laps with purpose, and was really pleased with my consistency (all my laps were within a minute of each other!). It's funny how the first couple of hours of a race can go so slowly, then the final hour or so seems to slip away from you so quickly. By my final two laps, I was definitely feeling the hurt quite a bit, and was ready to wind up my day. I punched out 13 laps of the course in just under 4 hours, winning the female category, and coming third overall in the mens solo category, and eighth overall including the teams! Not too shabby at all! And a very pleasant day out! We narrowly made it onto the earlier ferry back to the mainland and arrived home about 10pm that evening, ready for me to rock out the Mid North Island Cup race the following day.

I woke up the next morning feeling a little worse for wear. I had done my best to recover well, but the long trip home the previous day, and the late night, had made my recovery a little ad-hock. Luckily for me, the final of the Mid North Island Cup was being run from Long Mile Road, less than a kilometer from my back gate, so I was pretty much able to roll out of bed and onto the start line. Truth be told, I didn't feel too bad up until the start of the race, but once the front bunch set off up Nursery Hill, I pinged straight off the back of the bunch after about 200m, like a broken rubber band... It was going to be a loooong 25km! I just worked my way through the laps. It felt like I was riding in slow motion, and to be honest, it was a bit embarrassing and a little disappointing to ride such a poor race on my home trails. It was, in reality though, what I had expected. I knew I would suffer because I had left very little in the tank from the day before... And suffer I did! I had considered pulling the plug that morning, and for my body, it probably would have been the best thing to do, but considering it was a series final, and especially after my rantings about the lack of women at the races, I figured I should put in the effort to be on the start line!

I any case, I finished the race, and came first again, being the only open woman again. The bonus was that I took out the series win, which I wouldn't have been eligible for if I hadn't ridden today, so there was, indeed, a silver lining to my morning of suffering!

So that pretty much wraps up this year's racing up to Christmas. I have some amazing adventures planned over the next month or so during the break which I am super excited about and will be sure to share with you all! Until then, though, I think I might catch some sleep. Watch this space!!!

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