Saturday, March 22, 2008

A Cape epic

It nice when things go to plan. This was one of those weeks, only better.

Tuesday morning Pat walked into the office with the Ritchey forks for my GDR rig. Sweet! This weekend I'll start building her up. After months of planning it feels like Christmas eve. So I'm gonna rush through this post, have another play with Miro, and then get onto it.

Wednesday I awoke feeling almost fully recovered from the Saga. At lunchtime it was a standard bunch ride round the Bays. 35km. Good quick pace...nothing silly. Decent conversation. In the late afternoon I was off for another round with Gary Moller. He spent an hour and a half breaking down various knots and spasms, while giving impromptu lessons in exercise physiology and nutrition. The man is tireless!

Thursday was another rest day, with some time found to read a blog from a New Zealander who toured the GDMBR a couple of years ago. Very interesting, especially as he gives a 'warts and all' account. Fascinating to see pics of the worst parts of the route (as well as the fluffy duck stuff).

On Easter Friday Miro went off at 5 am. Too early! She'd done a 90 degree turn in the cot, so just needed reorientating, a pat on the head and a wee cry.

Just after 6, I was up. Two slices of toast for breakfast; lights on and spinning down to the railway station to catch the 7 o'clock train to Upper Hutt. Shared a carriage with a Tour de France enthusiast, resplendent in his polka dot jersey, who'd been to the last three tours. The hour flew by with comparisons of the greatest climbs of the greatest bike race on earth.

By 8 am we were exiting the city and wishing each other good luck. I peeled off SH2 to cross the Rimutaka Rail Trail, starting from Maymorn. The body felt a bit sluggish. Still, there was no rush. I had all day to get to Martinborough, about 200 km away via Cape Palliser.

By 9:30 I was in the Wairarapa and it was heating up. Time to shed a layer, slap some sunblock on and scoff my first banana. I was done with the tunnels and sweet single track at the end of the rail trail - it was time to knock out a few hours of road riding. Around the southern end of the big lake, across the flood gates, and then south to Pirinoa (one of those one-shop towns that the Wairarapa does so well). Time for a quick second breakfast of creamed rice and then on to the south coast with increasing numbers of holiday-makers on the road - the usual wide range of driving skills on display.

At the fishing village of Ngawi the speedo was reading 100km, the sea was the most brilliant deep blue, and I was getting decidedly nervous. Cape Palliser, the southernmost point in the North Island (and arguably the most exposed) was just 10 gravel km away and I'd enjoyed a brisk NW tailwind for the last hour. Soon it would be payback time.

It was rush hour at the Cape which dozens of people watching the seals and climbing to the lighthouse. The corrugated gravel road was replaced by an indistinct grass and dirt 4WD track. In a couple of kilometres that began to give way to rocky, technical track. Shortly after a large locked gate the vehicle track disappeared and sheep tracks wove their way into the distance.

After a short while, all signs of life vanished. I was crossing a stony terrace about half a kilometre across, set well back from the coast, but so exposed to the elements that nothing survives long enough to take root. A decade ago, as Sarah and I toured the Cape, we were blown to standstill here and blasted with thousands of tiny stones picked up by the strongest gust we'd ever experienced. It was all we could do to hide behind our panniers until it eased enough for us to stand and run for the nearest bush to shelter.

Today there wasn't a breath of wind. I could hardly believe my luck! This place was beautiful and, despite having to walk for the best part of a kilometre, progress was quick. In short order a rough 4WD track emerged, followed by a gravel road just before White Rock. And still no wind.

Then the road turned away from the coast and began climbing gradually up a series of valleys. At the first shade I stopped and started to assess the possibility of dehydration. Setting off with just a 2 lt bladder and two water bottles seemed sensible in the cool pre-dawn. Seven hours later my watch was reading 30-something degrees and I was sweating profusely on the climbs.

As luck would have it, the tiny village of Tuturumuri was just half an hour away and there was some water left in the school tank despite the drought. As luck wouldn't have it, this was where the headwind really picked up - nothing you could call character-building, but plenty strong enough for kite-flying. Never mind, just one big hill past New Zealand's first wind farm and in 30 km the bustling town of Martinborough would be tempting me with the luxuries of civilisation.

And so it was, almost. After 9 and a half hours (192 km) I was in town getting refuelled, feeling well done enough for the day. I'd made it this far on:
2.5 ltrs water
2 bottles of sports drink
3 bananas
2 apples
1 small can creamed rice
1 large cookie, and
2 hot cross buns

Martinborough delivered the goodies with one small pizza, a sports drink and a banana, but no accommodation. Everywhere was fully booked - this wasn't part of my plan!

Fortunately there was a vacancy at a backpackers in Greytown, 18 km up the road. So it was back in the saddle with the setting sun turning clouds pink and purple to the left and a huge full moon rising to the right. This was a pleasant spin and the backpackers was perfect - quiet & comfy. Strangely, I lost my appetite along the way and had just a muesli bar and protein drink for dinner.

Even at 210 km, this ride was easier than a typical GDR day. It was mostly sealed and had only 2,500m of climbing. But I'm really rather happy with how it went, so this is the end of base training. Time to consider building a bit more power and speed into the mix. Just under 3 months to go!


David Blaine said...

Sounds like you are right on track with your training. Have you decided on your bike set up yet?

Simon Kennett said...

Hi David

I'm going with a Giant carbon XTC 26" hardtail with a rigid front fork and 29er up front. I guess there will be places I love that format, and places I hate it. Built half of it up in the weekend and dropped it off with Oli (a local master mechanic) to finish it off an hour ago. Will post pics in a few days.


Simon Kennett said...
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