Saturday, May 31, 2008

Back in the saddle

Yesterday I was starting to feel heaps better, so it was time to celebrate with a ride, but with caution. Rather than breathing in thousands of litres of cold air, I grabbed a borrowed wind trainer (thanks Mark) and a DVD and headed over to John's place. It just so happened he bought himself a wind trainer last week. He took this slightly disturbing picture on his cell phone.

The risk of mind-numbing boredom is obviously pretty high with indoor training (as it is with 'cross-country' bike racing) but the novelty was working for us - that and the video.

While the bikes hummed away, we watched The Amateur - a Spanish film about a punter who has a crack at setting a world record for endurance cycling. Pajarito has to ride his bike for 130 hours with no more than 20 minutes in breaks every four hours. Crazy fool!

Luckily for us, the movie is only 87 minutes long. When it was done, so were we.
The highlight of the evening: Sarah's homemade meringues with whipped cream. Seventy kgs, here I come!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The 4050 km route

Open in Google Maps

Brother Paul has slapped up this map to make it a bit easier to follow the race - thanks, Bro. You can see it unfold from the links at
I'm halfway through my antibiotics - feeling much better, but still a ways to go before training on the bike again. Catching up with the io sessions though.Last night's farewell that John organised was a great success. Lots of good people and good wishes and fairly-founded laughter about the Great Divide Race...AND over three grand raised for Docters Without Borders. Sweet!The bike continues to evolve. It now has the SRAM shifters, extra handlebar padding, 10mm longer stem and all the gear bags on board. Should have it totally sorted by the time I reach Colorado. All part of the fun.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Home Sick...........ugh

Woe is me. Last week's cold has come back for round two. This time it had me waking at 3:30am Thursday morning and wondering if I was in a sauna. Sweat was running down my arms and by morning I'd lost almost 2kgs. Being self-employed with a month of work to do by the end of next week, I sucked it up (a packet of Strepsils, that is) and went to work yesterday. Dumb move.

The cold might have passed, but it didn't. It got worse. No riding today, not even any altitude simulation.

British club cyclists used to have a rule about training with colds - if the symptoms are above the neck, continue riding; but if the symptoms are below the neck, rest up. What the hell does that mean if the symptoms are in the neck?! Some people have had recent colds linger for weeks. Deciding when to start training again is just so much guess-work.

I don't bother with training diaries or plans any more. Training plans seem impossible to keep to since becoming a dad. And this blog is more fun than a training diary. But I do have several years of old training diaries. At a time like this it's handy to refer back to a time when illness tried to spoil things and see what really happened.

In September 1990 I got back from the Worlds and promptly fell in love with Sarah. There wasn't much time for training rides for the next few weeks and then, two weeks before the start of pre-season races, I was hit by a nasty cold that lasted for 5 days. After four weeks that included just four rides, there was time for only two more rides before putting the hammer down at the 'Mountains to Sea'. Three weeks after that I managed 4th at the Australian Nationals. That was a weird race 'cos I started at the back of the grid and 200m from the start my handlebar stem bolt jumped out. Sabotage perhaps? Fortunately my stem wedge was a bit rusty and well seezed. With the big bolt tucked away in my back pocket I set about picking the field off. Despite (or because of) all the recent time off the bike, my legs felt fantastic.

Reminded of that experience, I'm off back to bed. Training can wait until next week.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

All welcome...

Not much new to report. Still getting the gear sorted - hopefully pick up my Bond'esk minitool today. It's not really lethal, but is ultra-light and you can do just about anything with it except knit yourself a new cycling jersey. Shona finished the frame bag yesterday - it fits like a glove and should hold a third my gear. It's the key to getting away with just one mini-carrier. And I did some time trials at the local velodrome to test for ultimate tyre pressures. A recent slip has left gravel strewn across part of the track adding a nice challenge for the fat tyres, but closing the 'drome for the trackies.

If you're interested in finding out more about the gear required to do 4000 km, unsupported, in less than 24 days, or want to hear some tall tails of heroism and stupidity from previous GDR races, you're welcome to come along to this:

"Prior to Simon's departure, I'm hosting a little shindig to send him off. It will be at Rongotai College's Ballinger Room, on Tuesday 27 May from 7pm. Simon will have his Great Divide Race rig on display, fully loaded up with the gear he'll be taking. He'll give us a little talk about the what, the how, and most importantly the why, and will tell us a little about the charity which he's supporting Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières. There will be non-alcoholic drinks, and nibbles provided, and if we get bored of listening to Simon, there might be a chance to watch a bit of endurance racing on "the telly" ;)
There's no entry fee, but if you do come, I encourage you to drop a bill or two in Simon's hat (for Doctors Without Borders).
I hope to see you there.

Rongotai College is on Rongotai Rd (the airport end of the street Burkes Cycles is on) in Kilbirnie.
The video is likely to be something like '24/Solo' (about the epic battle at the 24 hr Worlds a couple of years ago). There will be short slide-show from previous Great Divide Races.

Should be a fun evening and, of course, the more the merrier! 7pm next Tuesday - be there or elsewhere.


PS: Michael Jacques has provided 5 free entries to next years Karapoti Classic to be given away on Tuesday night.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Final Endurance Test

Another week has flown by and I'm starting to get anxious about whether I'll be ready in time (AND have my writing for the 7th edition done).

During the last working week there was precious little time for riding - three fast lunchtime rides was all - so I attempted to make up for that with a long ride on Saturday (knowing Sunday would be chocka with family outings). Summer before last I tried to do 4000m of climbing in a day (seeing as that's what the Great Divide Race requires on a big day). After six times up to the top of the Tip Track (approx 2400m) boredom got the better of me. Saturday was 'I'll be back' time, only this time John joined me and we decided to link lots of different climbs together.

We were downtown in time to see the sun rise. It was a cracker day! Not a breath of wind and barely a cloud in the sky. Still cold though - my Half Pipe leg warmers would stay on all day.

First up, Mt Vic which is really just an average-sized hill - no worries there.
Number two was Hawkins Hill (see pic) - 495m, but with plenty of conversation it flew by. Stunning view from the top. On the way down John hit a pothole hard and the front tyre was flat instantly. That was fixed fast, but on the next steep descent the back end fish-tailed (probably the canti brakes catching on a big ding in the rear rim that we didn't notice after the previous pothole). John yelled out and in a split-second he was flying over the bars. He body-slammed the tarmac with the right side of his rib cage and arm. The pain was obvious as he tried to take in air. A walker yelled out an offer of a first-aid kit, but this injury was beyond the reach of any bandage. John felt like vomiting. We fixed the bike and dawdled down the hill, where he would meet his parents and I would carry on, subdued.

Next up was the rolling Makara loop on my way to Porirua and the Colonial Knob 4WD climb. At the bottom I bumped into someone who used to be a regular volunteer at Makara Peak. I knew him as Davy then, but the last time I saw him/her, he/she entered the Women's section at Karapoti. Turned out he/she was half way through a sex change (we were mighty glad she wasn't a contender in the race). I've forgotten her new name and wasn't sure the procedure had been completed, so exchanged minimal plesantries and continued up the hill. It was a nice 450m climb.

Back in Porirua a guy wearing baggy trousers and sneakers zipped past me looking very happy with himself. I gave him a nod.

Lunch in Pauatahanui and a reassessment. The time to get from one climb to the next was starting to bite, so I replaced the mellow Paekakariki climb with the steeper (and quieter) Belmont Rd up to the regional park boundary. Sweet.

Then over Moonshine and across to Whitemans Valley - nice and rural. The sun was starting to descend fast. Just enough time before nightfall to blitz the Rimutaka Hill and the Akas. The Akas is an old favourite - narrow, winding, some great forest and a big view at the top.

With my lights failing I raced back for the 6pm commuter train from Upper Hutt, making it with a couple of minutes to spare. Roughly 10 hours of interesting riding, but not enough climbing for my liking (approx 3500m, still a PB). The 4000m goal will have to wait until the Great Divide itself.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Alternative Training

The weather here is coming straight from the Antarctic - and I do indeed have the cold that's been doing the rounds. Sore throat, congestion, achy legs and testy mood. Last weeks training totalled a miserly 5 hours and this week won't be any better unless I come right in a hurry. Still, time off the bike is time to catch up on other preparations.

I'm finally putting together all my gear (with borderline obsessiveness). Carrying only what is needed has to be the key - maybe with some spares thrown in. Photos from last years GDR show a massive range in gear. Some guys looked ready for a day-ride, others for a pleasant cycle tour. One guy had spare shoes strapped to the outside of his pack. Another took a cooker. I wonder what else filled their panniers?

At lunchtime I'll head off to the local metalwork shop to get some work done on my custom rear carrier (an old front rack converted). My load won't be the lightest, but I hope to keep all my gear (clothes, tools, firstaid kit, camping gear, camera, etc) down to about 5kg and be able to carry up to 10kg of food and water. It'd be nice to do some loaded training rides on the new rig sooner rather than later.

Although I won't be on the bike for a day or two, training continues as I've just started a 15 day course of altitude simulation sessions. This involves breathing rarified air on and off for an hour (while catching up with email). Thanks to a voucher won at a race last year it doesn't cost much (although the rest of the clientelle look decidedly well-heeled). How well it works is anybodys guess - scientific studies seem hard to come by, but it seems like a good idea. A fair bit of the GDR is over 10,000 - high enough to hurt for a sea-level dweller. Being well acclimatised knocks one more thing off the 'worry list'. But I sure look forward to getting back on the bike.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Six Week Countdown

Wow - just three weeks left in NZ and then three weeks in the States before lining up in the Canadian border! Choice!!!

After getting back from the South Island on Sunday I needed a recovery week. This was it. Only two lunch-time rides, both of which felt good - roadie rides with me on the GDR rig. Road climbs feel so easy on the Giant XTC CO with the Stans Crow tyres. It's almost perfectly dialled in now. I'm loving the Ergon grips. Have replaced the Cane Creek seat post with a Ritchey WCS one for now. As much as I liked the Cane Creek on rough trails, I couldn't pedal smoothly enough to avoid bobbing around when hammering along on the road. The Easton riser bars and aero bars are a sweet combo. The whole thing roles beautifully along the tarmac. Now I need to get out and show it some more technical track.

68 and 48 are the numbers of the week. 68 kilograms puts me 1 kilo down on a month ago. Time to go back onto the protein shakes. 48 is my resting heart rate - a couple of beats up, maybe cos of the cold going round, or the excitement of seeing Miro stand up, or the stress of being back at work. This month will be hectic as I train the new Cycling Advocates Project Co-ordinator (my friend Patrick Morgan, which makes it a lot easier) and try to write my share of 'Classic NZ MTB Rides'.

Work, training and family aside, the list of gear to sort before leaving for the Great Divide doesn't seem to be getting any shorter (just more real). The Rockies have been experiencing higher than normal snowfall - 8 inches in Banff yesterday. Based on one of the photos I saw of a high pass in Colorado, I'm considering taking a snow shovel - why take a tent when you can dig a snow cave? That news combined with the onset of an early winter here has me considering all sorts of extra clothing.

One bit of gear I don't have to worry about any more is the all important camera. My buddy John has sponsored me a rugged wee Olympus (thanks also to Craig for the sweet price). It's waterproof and shock-proof and much lighter than my old one. Thanks, mate! One step closer to a worry-free pile of kit.

Righto. Better get some shut eye. Time for a big ride tomorrow.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Pics from the South Island

Here are a few pics from last months tour, in no particular order (since I don't really know what I'm doing with this blog publishing lark yet).
Lance showing me how it's done at the Seven Mile tracks (Queenstown) ; above.
Jean Hut in the Whakaari Conservation Area (Glenorchy) ; below.
Sarah and Miro on Pohara Beach (Golden Bay).
Self-timer shot in the Taipo Valley (West Coast).
Self-timer shot at the top of Percy Pass (Fiordland).
David on the tops of the Bendigo Conservation Area (near Cromwell).

Friday, May 2, 2008

Project Rameka

After a quick drive up the West Coast (stopping to stay with Mark and Cathy in Hokitika) we found ourselves in an idyllic old farmhouse just out of Takaka. On the way, we paid more than $2 a litre for petrol for the first time - a moment to remember. We've been spending the week here in Golden Bay helping my brother Jonathan and his partner Bronnie celebrate the launch of Project Rameka.

In response to their concerns about climate change, they've bought a 50 hectare block of land situated halfway between the Abel Tasman National Park and Rameka Scenic Reserve. The plan is to help it regenerate into native forest and build a couple of tracks so that mountain bikers and walkers using the Rameka Track can bypass the road on their way there or back to town.

On Wednesday they held a public meeting to form an incorporated society to make it all happen. 35 people signed up and 13 of them agreed to be on the organising committee. Today is the Open Day up on the land and the weather is stunning (unlike yesterday when Greg Thurlow and I rode up into the snow above Cobb Reservoir, got wet and frozen, and then nudged 'the wall' just before being rescued by Sarah who was driving back from Rameka).

Here's hpeing there is an awesome turnout again and everyone gets psyched to start track building and possum trapping.

Haven't been thinking much about the Great Divide Race lately, which is refreshing. Will be home in a couple of days and start focusing again then.