Sunday, November 29, 2009

Basing with Pre-Punctured Tubes

So I may have been a little slack in putting up blogs lately, and my hard drive is growing full of ‘started’ blog entries. But my training has not been like this and neither has my races. It is a quite time of the year for racing and training. Facing up to hours of mindless base training miles interrupted by the odd club race.

After an excellent run of good thousand k’s with no punctures thanks to mostly blind and the odd bit of sighted luck, I have had a flurry. Of course I prepare for these incidences by carrying a pre-punctured tube to give the delusion that I can finish my ride from this point. So I stop and waste a good ten minutes putting the new tube in the trying and failing to get it to inflate. Then I give up and have a nut bar while I conceive a plan to get but the place of warm showers, food and a change of clothes.

The first of these recent incidents occurred while throwing my bike along a mountain road. After the obligatory failings of tube replacement therapy I was in a pickle. 30km from shower etc and no coverage for my mobile making an SOS difficult at best. Lucky nearby was the home of friend of mine secluded in the native bush. After interrupting with drumming session I call around people who I thought might like a drive out of town on a Sunday. A training buddy came though and came out to collect me and my stricken steed.

The second of these convent happening was in the mighty centre of Inglewood. An almost unavoidable point on any good ride in these parts. The tube replacement performance this time had an audience of anyone trying to get around the centre of town. This time no one I call was immediately available. So I did what I have always done when shit goes down on the road, hitchhike. Which is easy than you think with a bike. People see that you’re in serious need of a ride, probably have a bad day and wanting to be in a different location. Thanks to a nice woman I got back quickly no trouble.

So days slip by in the routine of base train and unemployment. Now it seems like my job for now at least. It might as well be with nothing to waste my time with. So until I sink into the depths of employment I consider myself a full time cyclist, if a broke one. The events in the coming year demand that I build up my base even higher than before not only because of the natural progression of training but also there are some whoppers in there. At least two events on the table are multi day and will test my metal beyond the 24 hour mark.

One of these whoppers is the Kiwi Brevet. Starting from Blenheim and taking in a full tour of the northern half of the North Island while staying off road for about half the time. Self-sufficiency is the name of the game for the 1200km of spectacular south island scenery. I plan on ride a modified version of my Niner Sir fitted with my Rohloff hub. I have all the necessary gear left over from my cycle touring a couple of years back. Can’t wait to get on the start line, so much so that my name was on the confirmed starters list before I had even confirmed my interest.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Well Not Really

It would be nice to tell of how I was hardly tested by the Whaka 100km and that I blasted it in two wheel sliding fashion. The harsh realities of this race were a clear from about the 30km mark. Cramp came a knocking when tore my legs apart with its vicious jawors. Debilitated to the point of feeling embarrassed at the pace I had to take some hills that towered throughout the course ahead.

Because of team budget restrictions I had to leave for the race at 4am. Dark damp back roads in a car that would raise the hopes and lower the brow of any common highway cop. Clearly the start of something truly great. I had scrounged what race type food left over from the Canada campaign and polished my Niner Rip to a high sheen that only top end bikes can acquire.

On the starting line feeling calm now, I can deal to this, 5 or 6 hours of Rotorua tracks. The distance or time of race rarely worries me now. Most of the field I could tell were placing this at the top of their worry list. What was at the top of mine, making a fool of myself again in this year of disappointing results and course of concern. I was going for a solid race with no mistakes and respectable result.

So I blasted into the lead for the first 5km of single track with a general abandon. I knew the chasing riders would be think of the assault to race would add up to be. Whereas I knew come what may I could ride out 100km. About this time a learned that my Rotorua track tearing skills were not as they use to be. Despite pulling gaps on the descents the bike was not at its limit.

This was the theme on the trails of the entire race. Feeling as if I was riding at 65%. Very careful line selection, under control. Aggressive but measured, conservative by my standards. The Rip is real trail machine, enough pushiness to iron out mistakes the largest obstacles I would see all day. Added to the 29 wheels and the Rohloff gear box it is one of the easiest bikes to ride regardless of the speed or tail conditions. So why was I this tentative, I knew the tracks better than most? Off season and off practise.

Bitten by the cramp monster and disillusioned with my trail ripping performance I was half way through this ordeal and only able to take comforted in that I was somehow near the top ten. Then I was directed the wrong way down a gravel road and lost a decent amount of time and energy just before the climb that did not end. A constant grovel in the mid range gears.

The remainder of the race come though in a blur of increasing frustration and pain. Ends less hills tore at my legs consoled only by pass two riders in the last 6km. I revelled in riding old favourites again and for the first time on my Rip that made things just pleasant.

A painful trip down memory lane. But a concerted effort at a respectable result. Perhaps given no cramp I could have worried the podium but for now 8th will do and its all clear to get on with preparing for 2010.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Ready to Race?

It could be conscrewed that I have become a fair weather rider. I may indeed have gone a little soft since my return from Canada. There it was at the opposite end of the scale and verging on the very comfortable. But hey it’s off season right, well not for long. Events loam on the horizon and local and national races are slapping themselves on my schedule.

The New Plymouth MTB Club (NPMTBC) is making resurgence with a veritable flurry of races and track building. A three hour race recently highlighted my lack of readiness at the time to taking on hard racing. This was the first event of this kind hoisted by the NPMTBC. At soon they are stepping it up with a six hour to celebrate their 20th anniversary.

This weekend will be trying to again to finish the 100km Whaka in Rotorua. Last year my drivechain ate itself to my tentative relief at the 50km mark. I was having a shit of race. Thankfully the spring is giving a show of spring’s diversity and rain has be blessing the region for that last week and looks to continue on race day. Should be a muddy delight good times. A chance for the Rohloff to prove itself once again.

I looks like my beloved Ellsworth will once again be gracing these shores. But its stay is uncertain thanks to my financial plight. The frame, fork, headset and seat post are immediately going on sale. Don’t think I’ll even ride it again, although I will miss it. There will soon be a replacement to fill the void in the form of and new Niner JET.

Packed the caffeine, gels and perpetuem to make sure it at least ward mid race hunger. Will be nice to thrash the Rotorua trails again, it has been a while. From memory there is only one of my favourites the race will miss so all going well fun will be had in shovel full’s.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Notes from the Garage

Off seasons are always fraught with confusion and frustration for the highly addicted endurance junky. Do I ride? Do I lie of the couch eating chips? Paranoia of missing out on training opportunities lurks in the back of your mind. Short of sedatives and mind altering substances there is no clear cure for this condition. And seing it is not a medical recognised condition yet dealing with terrible affliction is a yearly routine.

Since my return from the stifling hot forest of Canada I have been trying to rain in my compulsion to hammer out six hour rides every other day. Driven by the desperate need for some black numbers in my bank account I’ve taken to trawling the internet and papers for employment opportunities. Hold up in my garage writing to editors and anyone who will listen pleading for paying work. So far only limited luck.

Receiving a rambling email with a CV seems a little impersonal and easy, especially when asking for them to take you on and do you a favour. So I combined my ability to ride great distances with my need to get word out about my availability and rode to Wellington from New Plymouth. Another motivation was that my car has a condition called fuel light surprise of which the cause is that the owner has not enough money to ever turn the fuel light off and you are surprised every time you don’t run out of petrol.

At about 6pm on Monday evening I made the call and started to get ready for 5am departure. Couple of hours sleep and hit the highway south in the dark Tuesday morning air. With a northerly gales forecast this was about as ideal as it could be for this ride. After warming up my average climbed to well over 30km/hour. In the end I pulled into my mates flat under 12 hours later with an average of 32.8. Off season, got to love it.

The North Shore has proven a vast contrast to the local riding in New Plymouth. No trying to keep up with Carrie and Leigh down the most technical trails I have seen. With my nearly new Niner Rip I’ve been making my own new lines around trails and generally trying to make them seen a bit like what I quickly got use to in Canada.

With the jobs not forth coming and not big k’s to put in, all that is left to do is to look forward. Like everyone and every summer I hope this one to be the best yet with a few more events to eye up this time around there is potential. One that has taken my fancy is the Kiwi Brevet held in the northern region of the South Island. At 1200km it is right up my alley. The main point of this event is that you are not allowed any support. Elements of navigation, cycle touring and general hardness come into the fold. 50% off road it is still a mountain bike event and takes its inspiration for the Continental Divide ride from Canada to Mexico. One thing I may struggle with is that speed and acts of self harm are not overly encouraged. Times for the 1200km loop under four days are only recorded as four days zero hours.

Conveniently the dates for this fall a short time before I plan to do a slightly long and more road based ride challenge. Official announcements pending.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Hair of the Dog

The north shore of Vancouver the birth place of free riding. A place where the rebellion and persistence (but really blatant stubbiness) got mountain bikers there way with most of the forest surrounding the northern half of the city. A veritable platherinth of options of ways to harm yourself. And the best possible place for my recover immediately after my hardest races of the year.

What I was not prepared for is the face melting heat of the place. As the doors of the airport opened I thought they must be taking the piss or have an above the door heater grill. That sensation of opening the oven with your face in the way is like walking outside in this place. The costrophobic cling of the humidity even at 9pm made my shirt stick to add to the burden of a cumbersome bike box, heavy bag, backpack and total lack of local knowledge.

After periods of confutation and been lost turned to frustration and finally been near where I needed to be but still needing to drag the now pain in the ass bike an indefinite distance up a road, I found some piety. Asking for directions maybe against the man code but it often is a great call in a strange city. Some kind souls gave me my first decent directions and then just took me there, bike box and all.

The next morning I woke from my floor/bed and it was time to get into them hills with my mate and expiate OE’er Leigh. The sun raged hard as we did what most free riders don’t, ride up the hill first. In NZ I take pride in taking on technical trails with my seat un-adjusted. but here its best to swollow and stop and put it down.

The first trail was only a blue square (intermediate) but sure was the north shore style. I blindly follow Leigh down and across things I had only seen on mountain bike movies. The stopover was worth it by the time only half the trail was done.

The following days I explored the Shore in search of the classics and my limits. I found the limits, the classics, repeated thirst issues and got a scale of what this place was about. Trails here were the start of an exploration into what is possible or conceivable to ride on a bike. I found myself easily out of my depth.

Rocks and wood have taken over dirt as the principal ingredient in the mixing bowl of these trails. So ruts and erosion are not common features as the integrity of the trail is foremost. A contrast to NZ trails i had to quickly get accustomed to. I also became very glad that I had chosen the longer travel Niner Rip to take where it is unusual to have a bike with less than six inches of give.

On the shore I mostly rode on From and Mt Seymour. But I made the effort to get up the road to Squamish, another place where hills have been riddled with single track and at times ambitious structures. Real mission of a day to get there and back with the aid of grey hound disorganisation and mine. Arriving at close to 4:30pm I quickly got lost and made it more difficult for myself. Again water ran low even in the evening sun.

I found myself, after the farting around, deep in the forest and at the start of epic trail. Then I could hear the noises of something heavy breaking branches. Normally in NZ I would assume it was another rider. Out here though, in this country, in this forest I was not prepaid to make that assumption. After some poking around and listening I decided that actually I’d rather not find it and promptly went the other way.

The riding was catching up to me. So pop up the road a bit for a final sample behind a plush but isolated university then called it a evening. While I waited for the last bus back to Van I tried to replenish my fluids with an oversized drink form the seven eleven.

In all the areas I rode it was but a side dish of what is a vast menu. Months of trails await someone with more time. But I felt satisfied with this dish as packed my orange steed in the now expected heat up for the 13 odd hours to home to a rainy cold morning.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Doing it the Hard Way

There is no easy way to do a 24 solo, but there are ways of making it not so cushy. But nothing takes away the fact that you still have to ride for 24 hours wether your organised or not. And this year Canmore pulled off the surprises again with the weather, the course and riders from far flung places. This to add the difficulty of overseas endurance racing on a tight budget.

In the week leading up to the big days Canmore remained bathed in beautiful summer weather in the under of the sheer faces that enclose the wide Bow Valley. It was quite evident that everyone but me wished for this to continue. Last year the rain had brought the race my way and a repeat was on my wish list. Forecasting here is as hard as it gets with thousands of mountains and valleys disturbing the pattens, reflected in the vast array of predictions for the race weekend.

The hard days arrived after the usual last minute rushes. The temperature was way past 30 before noon, and shade was hard to come by. Andrea, my support crew, and I did our best to stay cool while setting things in place for the long times ahead.

Andrea was new to this but has been around and involved in 24 hour and mountain bike races for a while. Pre-race she had the whole site set up and very organised, well on top of the challenge that is being a support crew.

After much mucking around we were called to the start line and ready for one of the worst parts of a 24 hour race, a run to your bikes. Bike shoes were never meant to be walked far in, let alone run in. But run we did, over fist sized rocks up and down some not so small hills before really starting.

I had tried to counter my 73 rank by edging my way up towards the start line after we were called up, no one did notice or really mind. My fellow under 25 riders had much lower numbers and losing touch early on is not a good way to start even with 24 hours to make it up.

I managed to get towards the front in the run. But that was the end of the good charm. I grabbed my first bike only to discover that the front tire was almost running on empty. By the time I realised this was going to be a real problem it was unfeasible to turn back and grab my second bike. I began tearing my spear tube from my frame and looked for a good spot to do a quick change.

The first real climb, I stopped and ripped into the repair work as the riders streamed past. The stress was enormous as I lost time hand over fist, dousing my plans to make an early break to get a good run on the long single track sections. So I made a real hash of getting a tube in, flinging tubeless sealant across every surrounding surface. The tire bead would not stay and still the riders flew past and my patience went with them.

At last I tried the CO2 I had to get me on my way. But not on your life, it didn’t work, from bad to worse. The only thing left to do was to take advantage of the rules and leave the course and tear back into the pits and return to the course on my second bike.

By this time obviously I was vast minutes behind everyone and didn’t have long till the team riders would be on my case too. I turned the hurt on full and started to reel in the other solos. By the time the dingle track was served I was well into the business of passing.

I always endeavour to pass with courtesy and care, when dealing with solo riders this is needed in spades. So I picked my way through the crowds still loosing buckets of time to the leaders for the next two laps, but not getting off side with the throngs of few racers.

From here on I was out to salvage what I could with plenty of time on the clock. But like everyone else I was trying to deal with was the relentless sun. A lot of the course was indeed in a forest but there were sections, particularly climbs that were exposed and horrendous.

Cramp was setting up camp at the top of the long steep climbs, adding to the pain of the acid that was already in the background. I pedalled though the worst parts while grinding the enamel off my teeth. It seemed to continue despite the copious amounts of electrolytes I was chugging every hour.

Eating is always a bit of a mission on these races, as well as being of the utmost importance. This occasion I was struggling with the solid stuff and ran most of the race on fluid or gels. I could not handle the bars and pizza till very late in the race. More on the consequences of this later.

Meanwhile I was steadily climbing up the leader board and was eyeing up the age group lead. This was helped no end by the sight of clouds enveloping there way up the valley. Up until now I had only my imagination to keep me cool.

I had tried to pretend that I was not being roasted alive as I willed my way up the mountain, but was in fact far under water and the currents were moving the trees, not the wind. But the storms making a b-line for the Nordic Centre brought some reality to this synchro.

It was a little bit of dejavu as last year a thunderstorms had turned the race into a mud fest and I loved it. But the clouds this time had little to give. A light shower and a massive drop in temperature from 36 to 18 was all we got, but still everyone was grateful.

So I could stop biding my time and get on with the racing. Soon I took the lead under 25 and crept up the overall leader board again. Still no hope of catching the overall leaders, my nightmare start had put pains to that.

The night came on slow and late. The sky was still light at near midnight. I slipped into my night groove and got some consistent laps in. But the brutal course was giving me grief. And I was starting to feel that I need solid food. I asked Andrea if I could have some but not ‘those bars’.

As a change from last year the course now had a lot more technical single track. Being high summer it was very dry and so the course tore up with the hundreds of solo and team riders doing their best to get through it as fast as they could. This took a tremendous toll on all the upper bodies torturing them self’s out there.

I had been spending most of my time on my shorter travel bike as it was familiar, but now I was leaning towards the longer travel, new, brand new in fact, Niner Rip. Which ate the rough sections with ease, giving me more time to relax and save myself for the steep pitches strewn about the lap.

As the hours became a little more reasonable I did not. A feeling of severe motion sickness was coming on and I spent the good part of one of the fast downhills dry wrenching, I didn’t slow down but it was far from pleasant.

I got down some pizza and warm water and pressed on. The situation failed to pass and things were not looking up for my bike either. Some air had departed from my front tire for what reason I am not sure but it was left with less than 10psi. I was about the furthest point from the pits and with no way of inflating it, so gingerly nursed it along. A technical descent proved my undoing though, as the tire popped off and sent me into the dirt.

After the post-crash check I started to walk my bike to the next check point. Thanks to a kind fellow racer I acquired a pump which I then handed to a guy manning the check point and asked him if he could change my tube. Seeing my state he obliged.

This however was not the end of my woes. I thanked everyone there by throwing up all over the place. I took my leave and tried to make the secondary pit area.

After a grovel I turned up at the second pit area in a bad way. I sat down and things got worse. I could feel my body giving me notice and walking out the door, shivering despite feeling warm, nausea and with an inability to eat or drink anything. Words dropped out of my mouth and the medics were called.

After a brief examination they took me to their base in the nearby building and told me I was unlikely and not recommend rejoining the action. In my state I could not argue or process the ramifications.

A full hour later I had pleased them by being able to eat half a piece of toast and only felt like rejecting it multiple times. Then I feel asleep, my race was shot.

I woke some time later with the race still carrying on with out me. I convinced the medic I would be fine and managed to get out the door. After it shut behind me I immediately had to hold on to something as another wave of nausea overcame me.

I made it to my pit and met Andrea. I tried to clean myself up a bit, had a shower and changed clothes. All the while trying to eat anything that I thought might stay down, chips mainly.

Because of race rules I had not officially finished until I completed a lap after 11am and before 1pm. So if I wanted to set my second place in concrete I would have to finish the lap I started many hours ago.

Much debate was had, but in the end I decided to put it in stone and finish the lap.

It proved to be quite an undertaking. Dry wrenching and feeling sick the whole time as Andrea helped me walk my way around the seemingly endless course. But finally I glided down the final hill and walked across the line.

Straight out hard race, that started and finished as I shouldn’t have. But time to look forward to it being a little easier in Australia next year.

Big Thanks to:

Andrea (fantastic support)

Everyone who followed the race

Waiariki Academy of Sport

Niner Bikes


Powered by Velvet

Ay Up Lights

Forte Body Reconditioning


Bike Vegas Rotorua

Andrew and the guys at Bicycle Café (Canmore)

Kara Gainsford, Hamish Smith, Gregg Brown and The Pig and Whistle for running my fundraiser.

iRule Sports wear

Mountain bikers and people of Rotorua (particularly those who came to my fundraiser)

The many Wineries that donated for my fundraiser

Mum and Dad

Friday, July 24, 2009

1 day to go Race Info

Here is the event live website: My race number is 73 and I am in under 25 age group.

Still hot as here but chance of rain some time before the race end.

Andrea turns up tommorow and almost eveyrthing is in place, sort of anyway.

Sweet as.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Two days to go

 A quick update from the Canmore Library.

After lots of fluffing around I am more or less ready to take on The Rockies. One of my bikes is all sorted and has done a few laps of the course during this week.

The course is not quite as steep as last year, but for the Solo's there is a lot more single track. At this stage rain is only a chance but it will make the course very interesting if it arrives. Here's hope for a storm like last year.

It is hot and very summer-like. The evenings are long, light until 10:30.

San Fran proved to be not too much of a hassel on the way over, but my attempts at humour in security were not acknowledged or appreciated. Geryhound was lame as, security here also as well, has been just a lame ass bus ride.

Am wishing I had a car to get to the race on Saturday but may end up getting a taxi.

Adjusting to the altitude much better than last year and maybe the heat too.

Sorry to the spelling police - I am writing this fast and on a public computer.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

21 Days to Race Day

Ready for race status: on track maybe solid 7 out of 10.

It’s just as well I’ve been riding in these harsh winter climates as I near my date with the stifling Canadian summer in a matter of weeks. Recent rides on the roads round Rotorua have seen many cautious moments as I glide off patches of crisp frost. So far so good at resisting the temptation of tasting the frost despite its every attempt to look good.

Now that I have finished pretending to be a journalist at Waiariki, I have been sent out into the harsh world pen in hand. I have skipped regions and absconded to New Plymouth to warmer climates and free rent. Two things that bode well for an overseas racing complain. New Plymouth does lack the world class-highly maintained tracks, but cakes and eating etc...

The other weekend an opportunity arose to have a slightly longer than normal ride. A trip to the biggest Pacific island city but without using any of that ever-expensive fuel. Challenges then, Rotorua – Auckland return over three days. I left Rotorua at an unreasonable (for a student) hour of 8am on Friday and quickly set about demoing the k’s after dodging the frost on the Mamaku’s. Eight and a half hours and a million sets of traffic lights later I found myself on Queens Street.

The return journey was to be not such a carefree event. Having gained negligible amounts of sleep over my stay in Auckland I awoke early to get through those horrid traffic lights on a bitter Sunday morning. A breakfast stop atop the Mamaku’s was the peak of the ride. I disappeared into the box for the mindless k’s to come. Regularly falling asleep for seconds, dazed, confused and keeping the wheels turning. Eventually with the air near on the whiff of sulphur my flatmate picked me up on the way back from his weekend adventure. At only 20km to go I felt a day’s riding had been done and nothing would be proved by stubbornly riding down the hill to compete with the painfully inconsiderate Rotorua traffic.

Out of my garage-like room in the shadow of Taranaki I am running my final preparation for the peak race of the year. Many road kilometres have already been seen too. But with it being a mountain bike race on the horizon I am working in the dirty miles as well. Seeking out similar terrain that will greet me in the Rockies is hard in little old NZ, but the basic aspects are easy enough. Hills, hills and more hills. Go up go down. As the fluid like bike situation I have been complaining my rigid single speed Niner Sir. This makes both these up’s and down’s harder and more intense, particularly when doing speed sets.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Pig & Whistle Fundraiser

Thanks to Gregg Brown at the Pig and Whistle there will be a fundraising night on Thursday the 25th in the Upstairs bar to raise funds for my World title defending trip to Canmore in Canada.

Last year I raced the race of my life to claim the Junior World title in 24 hour Solo Mountain Biking in the Canadian Rockies. Without doubt the toughest course I have ridden for 24 hours making the most of the wild terrain of the famous mountain range.

This year the event again returns to Canmore and the gruelling mountain course on the 25th and 26th of July.

Armed with knowledge from last year I hope to back up this performance and improve my overall ranking this year. This will be greatly helped by this fundraiser

As it is on the other side of the world it requires considerable amount cash. Some of which will come from this evening at the Pig and Whistle.

There will be a presentation of photos from last year’s event and the winner’s jersey and medal will be on display.

I will be leaving everything out on the course in Canada as i smash myself for 24 hours, all you have to do is indulge in evening of at the pub.

So to all those in Rotorua, come along for a great Thursday night. And to those not in Rotorua, why not make the trip and have a long weekend on the trails while your here.

Things will kick off at 7pm in the upstairs bar at the Pig and Whistle on the corner of Haupapa and Tutanekai Streets in central Rotorua.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Here We Go Again

June is crunch time, worlds rise large and ominous just over a month away. Training is hitting hard and time is not there to waste. The weather is playing its part in making things difficult. In the last month 10 degree highs are the best it has gotten. Last year’s preparation seems so very distant but painfully familiar.

I fear it is some time since my last confession and my sins have not eased accordingly. Although my good for nothing knee injury has been forgotten and none too so soon either. My longer hours have meant lots of hours pounding the k’s out on the road machine. Not only does it make the odometer readings on the speedo look good it is an easier way of getting in 4 plus hour rides.

At my usually 12 hour test ground things went moderately. I blew myself up in the first few hours and slipped into 24 hour cruise mode for the next ten. With the exception of the last lap where let a few taps loose. I felt little incentive to push to my limit on this one and the organisers abusing my support crew did not encourage a stellar performance. Controlled then, a check that everything is working and capable of stepping up to thigh plate, pass.

It goes without saying the arctic temperatures bring the need for more attire when in the great outdoors. But when I am training for summer in the Rockies there is a greater need to wrap up. Temperature adaption is one of the killers when travelling to overseas events, especially when crossing the equator and the height of the seasons. So I’ve become somewhat of over dresser on both the trails and the tarmac. Getting use to being on the edge of uncomfortably warm in winter is not a normal run of affairs. But now I’ve being trying it for sometime, I can’t leave the front door without at least two layers on.

With my decent into to my training, and it is a decent. The time to let my mind wonder on those long hours turning the pedals through a blur of landscape increase lineally. Here is an abridged snippet; ‘was that a bat, no wait it’s a nothing. Gezz only four hours and I’m hallucinating. I wonder if anyone else is out this was on a bike. Is there anyone behind me (quick glance back) no. Well I’m banking points anyway. What would it be like if rode straight on at this next corner, hmm could be interesting. Would be different down there, I could be still. No come on. Quick drown that in logic. (Long interlude of me staring at things as I pass, consumed by my perspective changing as ride past.)

Now don’t fret if none of this seems coherent of seneschal. The truth is that on long rides I can become semi-conciseness, a daze if you will. Referred to in business as “The Box”. I’ve taken the time to make my “Box” a happy place. Now it is more of a sphere and is bright friendly colours.

One point I touched on in my snippet earlier was the mention of ‘points’. Again a hypothetical concept. These are sometimes used a bragging rights. A general rule is the more epic or cool something you’re done the more points. Ride to the dairy and back equals no points. Ride from Rotorua to New Plymouth equals big points. Another rule is the amount of points awarded or accumulated is neither defined nor mentioned, merely referred to in relative terms as larger or smaller.

This is an extension of bicycle riding’s inherent nature of competitiveness. Whether a person will admit it or not, most of the time they are driven by the goal of catching someone in front of them or loosing someone behind. I am happy to come clean on this, I am chronic for it. I see the slightest glimpse of someone ahead and that’s it, lock and load. I will chase them down for all money. Likewise a rider or riders appear behind me I will endeavour to keep them at bay.

Such a situation came up not so long ago. I turned right into a road and a little later a group of riders turned left down the same road. As usual I was by myself and a little bored. So I did something not all together nice and taking full advantage of the unwritten rules and I have mentioned. I did what I like to call fishing. I eased up till they got close enough for them to think they would have me, and then I put some coal on the fire and disappeared out of sight. To my amusement they took the bait hook line and sinker. This cycle repeated three or four times before I felt a little sorry for them. One of the group pulled alongside and stated what was all too clear to me ‘we’ve been trying to catch you for ages’. I acknowledged this fact and he commented that his bunch had broken up because they had been chasing me.

So I did the only thing left to in the game of fishing. I rode away again and never saw them again. Unkind maybe, but I need my entertainment sometimes and there has to be the occasional fringe benefit to filtering your life away aboard a bike.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Hard Day at the Forest

In the course of  24 hours there are normally problems to overcome. Most just slide past with a good rhythm and support crew. Sometimes though things fall apart at the seams early on and you can’t get a break. Instead of a glorious blast through the fine single track, it becomes a slog with the hours still pilled high in front.

So this was one where things went tits up. It might be said that I am not clean of blame. I was coming into this race with a recurring injury. But the thing I particularly regret is not finding the time to notice or fix the punctures on my spare bike, thinking that I have very rarely needed a spare. These would both turn out to be right pains in the ass.

It started like these races usually do. Some tear off the line, some ease off. I shot midway and tried to settle in. Happy to cruise in second and whip into lap two. Just settling into track position at this stage does not usually mean jack this far in. Although I do like a good gap given the chance.

It was not long before a drive live gremlin reared its head to set the tone for the race. It was not disabling, but made the hard and smooth riding I like very difficult. I knew it was not a side of the track to repair even if I was carrying tools, so I ground on further exacerbating the problem.

I rolled into the pits and handed the Ellsworth over with a little disdain. But of course my spare bike now not only required suspension and gears, but also air in the tires. I quickly fixed this with some help. So out I went for my first lap ever in a solo race on a single speed rigid.

Although my Niner Sir is an amazing bike, it was never meant to be a 24 hour solo bike with the rigid steel fork installed. However despite losing time hand over fist I cranked through the lap, then another, then another. By this stage I was beginning to take the hint it was not my day, and became a little disconsolate. The downhills were very painful as I flung the Niner around nearly as fast as I did on the full suspension. The uphills were not much better as the lack of gear ratio variation was working on making my knee pain come to the fore.

To my delight my Ellsworth was waiting for me at the beginning of the sixth lap. I merely jumped aboard and floated out of the pits on my cushioned ride, thinking to myself that suspension and gears had been invented for a reason.

After blasting out a lap at race pace, my spirits returned a smidgen. I later learned that I was the fastest solo rider on that lap by a good way. Clearly this would not last, it was simply too good. And later that lap it all fell apart again.

This time it was all me. I made a rudimentary error and went down in a heap. I was fine but the bike did not take it so lightly. The handle bars were rotated 90 degrees which I quickly fixed. But the real problem was evident once I set off. The front wheel was chipafied or hopelessly bent. This left me no confidence in it given its unstable nature.

Back at the pits I changed front wheels with my Niner and set off again. It was later on this lap I realised that of the eight I had completed, only two of my laps had been a race pace and gone off without a hitch. Not long after this I was lapped.

Throughout these goings ons my knee was slowly getting worse. The pain, although very uncomfortable, was not disabling. But slowly drifting behind my two competitors was becoming a little unworthy of the pain. And just before half way I pulled the pin.

Not a great performance then. However lessons were learned and it is better to have an atrocious race in New Zealand than to have one on the other side of the planet at the Worlds Champs. With regards to my knee, it turns out that I packed up and went home in time for it not to be further injured too badly.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Build it Up, Tear it Down

In recent weeks chaos has been an appropriate description of everyday life and training. In true form the biggest 24 hour race in New Zealand has crept right up behind me. I now have a flat closer than before to the forest with ample room for my fleet of bikes. Study has kicked well into gear. And above all, training is piling up in waves.

Even with this event looming, most of my training has been with the Length of New Zealand (LoNZ) record attempt in mind. Having tickets to the recent WOMAD festive and not much funds to cover travel costs I came to an obvious conclusion. I rode the 300-odd kilometres back to my home town of New Plymouth. And 11 hours and 9 minutes later, I was at my parents' back door. This gave me the chance to get some very early morning riding prep for the LoNZ. It also staved off my cravings for riding, hence enjoying the 3 days of WOMAD.

Back to this weekend. Despite my routine of "last minute organise everything" performance I feel as if things have a distinct chance of falling into place. Blind hope it might be, but there is hope. With many friends at the race throughout the event am sure that things can’t go too wrong.

After a few practise laps this week it is clear this will be a fast race. There are real steep climbs like I saw in Canada. But like Canada there are quite a few open gravel sections. Of course being in Rotorua there is some wicked single track. It has been a week or so since the last decent rain in Rotorua so the tracks are in prime condition. I think this year could see the first 400km solo at this event.

I do consider myself unusual in the fact that I enjoy pushing the limits of endurance, pain, etc. But I do have a few friends that are sometimes in the same frame of mind. Last weekend an epic was planned. It was floated that I ride to Wellington while my mate rode from New Plymouth. We would meet in Bulls and work together along the boring straights to the capital. Then rest a day, and ride back again.

As luck would have it there were chronic head winds predicted and low early morning temperatures. Even so I was not backing out. So I got up at half past two and hit the road south at three am. The winds for me never eventuated. I battled the elements up to the spectacular Desert road.

But as I neared Bulls it was clear my mate was not doing it easy on the coast. His knee was playing up and the head wind was reducing him to a crawl. Soon after he caught a bus from Wanganui back home with his tail between his legs. Facing a knee problem of my own and with my Ay-Up 24 the next weekend I pulled the pin too. But with my loathing for buses I hitched back to Rotorua. Despite only getting to Bulls it was still an over 270km ride.

This little ride kindly left with me with a recurring knee injury. This originally came up due to what Heidie my sports massage therapist calls ‘classic circumstances’ i.e.: a very long hard run with no prior run training while in high km base training. However, after some serious physio and exceedingly painful massage it has passed in time for the race.

I would like to commend the actions in committing to building the first length of New Zealand cycle way. It might well prove to be a piece of good fiscal policy. It represents a long overdue change from the seeming anti-cycle attitude of most government actions, like more motorways and buses. This is of particular distinction for me as I am not, nor have never been, a supporter of the parties in power. 

With regards to my record attempt - although a record might be set on this cycle way, the roads I am sure will prove the faster and more practical route.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Covering Your Bases

When heavy base training and mild sleep deprivation tune in to the party sound control bound to turn up, things will get messy and eventually the party will be broken up by disgruntled night shift police. In the morning you will be left to truffle through your flat to find most things broken or discredited in some way.

Life between training rides becomes a hazy blur mostly filtered away in an insipid hopeless organisation of pre and post rides. Your brain packs up its things and vacates to somewhere in Latin America and leaves you with a dull ache and difficulty with syntax.

Social situations become a little bit hard to take and all you really want is to sleep. The kind of night's kip that leaves you realising how truly horrific you have been feeling. Only this much awaited sleep doesn’t come as you are too tired to sleep well and end up stuck in the semi-conscious state where you can’t read but don’t sleep.

Thankfully these effects soon disappear after a few days of easy training. Thus the training cycle is completed and it’s time to dive yet again into the hazy monotony.

The interesting thing about this state is that when you are out riding, you feel great. Just as if it was a normal poodle about on a summer’s day. The thing is that after 5 or 6 hours this wears off and you are left a glazed over idiot, greasy and out of water, food, money, patience, energy and strength (this is on top of you being 100km from the solution to all these problems).

In one of the small windows of time that I was not riding I purchased a wall planner. After which the realisation that I may have less than two months before I set off on the ride that could kill me dawned on me. There is a somewhat limited window in which I can complete the ride. It is also likely that there will be one shot, all or nothing, gosh.

But before all this, it's easy to forget, I have to complete the now traditional 24 hours of N-Duro in Rotorua. Having competed in it every year since it started, the only soloist person to do so. Last year I failed to defend my title for a second time when Andy Fellows (from across the ditch) put in a solid performance and had a bit of bad day at the office.

Recent rides have seen me face epic road time. Last weekend I attempted the triple summit ride on Mt Taranaki. This involves riding around the mountain and completing the three climbing roads to around and above 1000 meters. Totalling around 200km, it is not a spin around the park. After things going well apart from a couple of small wasp stings on the back it looked as though I would crack out the ride nicely. But as I neared the final assault on the mountain a front crept around it. Being a hot summer day I had not counted on this, so a riding shirt and shorts is all I had and wore.

In a mildly delusional state I stopped for food in Inglewood. With an ice block, cold can of fizz and a packet of chips I merrily peeled on the pouring rain. Fortunately I managed to work out that doing the last climb was not wise with the temperature falling with the rain.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Hardship on the Hard Stuff

Recent times have seen my training rides begin at different locations. Now operating from a surprisingly homely garage spitting distance from the jugular of New Plymouth’s walkway/bikeway system it is hard to say that things have turned for the worst.

The summer months bring to the fore one of my banes. The increased plant growth and general flowering etc bring with it an equal response from the insect kingdom. Most of which evolution has ruled intelligence to be somewhat of a low priority. So when confronted with an oncoming object with their ultra-violet or otherwise complicated/incompetent vision system they fail to comprehend the significance of the impending situation.

It must happen once every couple of minutes that I am happily (it does happen occasionally) riding in my box with drum and bass lulling the hours by, and out of nowhere - insect to the face. Often though it is insect to helmet. Then I am left wondering if it will unleash the affliction of a sting to my brain.

This does not come unjustified seeing as in the not so distant past I have taken a bee sting to the forehead. After which I had to perform a bee, helmet and glove removal procedure with vigour all while riding at over 30km/h.

Despite all fears I have been spending much time pounding, and being pounded by, the tarmac around the Taranaki region. This in part has been to do with my various mountain steeds temporarily out of play (punctures do get old). Also seeing as I have a dauntingly large ride of exactly 99% road riding freighting soon ahead it seems wise.

And with large quantities of k’s on any bike some problems arise. Although road bikes vastly out last mountain bikes in both k’s and hours things still go wrong. A particularly delightful quirk of my shifters is to once every year or so break the gear cable inside the shifter. Being branded wire cable it splinters out to about 40 times its original size upon being cut. So it is stuck inside the shifter housing and it is easier to feed a cat a worming tablet on Thursdays.

So far I have found it easier to ride with two gears than extract the remains of the cable. Admittedly I have been avoiding steep prolonged climbs as my low ratios are not in reach, but on the whole it is not as bad as I thought it might have been. The long time idea of adding a fixy road bike to my collection is gaining merit.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Big Realities

After recovering from my New Year celebratory actions it is now time to slide into the routine of spending a fair portion of the daylight hours aboard bikes - as well as some of the dark ones. Luckily I am feeling refreshed and gnawing at the bit to be knocking out the hundreds of hours it is going to take to compete at my two big events in the first half of this year.

The dates and venue for the 2009 World 24 hour Solo Championships have been set. The guys and 24 hours of Adrenalin have gone for "if it an’t broke don’t shift it". So again Canmore Nordic centre is set to become a masochism haven. As well the race will be held in last weekend of July. So naturally I am hoping for a repeat performance of reckless Rocky Mountain weather.

As for the other big ride this year, progress is being made. Reality is nipping at my heels. The 2000km is still a long way away. Things are starting to form and shape the true scale of the bit I have taken on. But with long thorough chewing, things should become more manageable.

At the moment I am working out (with able assistance); this task is going to cost much to do right. Scary the figures may be, but I am sure not to care once I’m riding. I am painfully aware of how inexperienced I am at ultra cycling, planning and gaining money for this type of thing. So I would like to appeal to anyone who might be able to help. Even if it’s the odd tip or even a few bottles of water at the gate en route.

Living back in my home town of New Plymouth with the imposing form of Mt Taranaki to the south, when it’s not obscured by cloud, it is always tempting to have a play on it. Unfortunately because of the silly classification of bikes as vehicles, and a few hot tempered traditionalist trampers enjoying the surrounding bush, access on bikes is not feasible.

But there are many challenges laid out for those not on bikes. A group of mates have been discussing the possibility of running the round the mountain track in a day. There are two different routes both of which are normally walked in between 2 and 5 days. We chose the much longer route of over 50kms of tracks of unknown quality. As far as we are aware no one has completed this route in one day. So with no run training ever on my part we set off at 4am. And 13 and a half hours later I was quite prepared never to set foot on the mountain again.

The tracks on the far side of the mountain proved to be very unmaintained as we expected. The rivers were down and became a cool relief as the day wore on. Running turned into shuffling. And the few others we passed on the tracks were left a little bemused or maybe ever scared. Truth be told, this ‘run’ hurt a lot and it took nearly a week for me to walk properly. As of yet I have not gone back on the mountain.

So running is definitely off the training menu for quite some time. Back to bikes, bikes and more bikes in the summer sun.
Photo credit Marcello, a harsh morning in Canada at 24 hour Solo Worlds.