Sunday, 22 January 2012

Strategy for the GrapeRide Ultimate

I’ve recently entered the 505 km GrapeRide Ultimate ride, which will take place at the end of March.  The distance is two-thirds longer than anything I’ve done before.  It also has the added feature of being ridden throughout the day and  night, with riders having no sleep at all, something I’ve never experienced.  It’s going to be really hard for me.  Strategy and tactics will be vital to my finishing and doing so within the set time limits.  The strategizing applies to both the body and, more importantly, the mind.

I have worked out a strategy for the 101 km circuit itself, and also for each of the laps.

In regard to the circuit, the race consists of a 40 km flat; hills for about 30 km broken up by a shortish flat in the middle; then another 30 km flat.  This is my strategy for the circuit.
  • I feel that the key point in each lap will be the end – the 101 km mark.  Here I need to resupply myself and probably have about 5 minutes rest and stretches.  However, the most important thing will be, no matter what, to continue on.  No matter how shit I feel, don’t even think of not going on; just cycle out once my 5 minutes is up and trust to the momentum of the circuit to get me through.
  • The key thing for the first 40 km should be on generating an absolutely positive feeling, coupled with a focus on efficient riding style.  There should be no self-doubt or any negativity about the ride ahead.  Count myself lucky to be rested and on the flats, and make the most of the respite before the hills start.  This is the section that I will be making the most time-gain in (depending on the wind).
  • The tactics for the hills should be easy – just get to the top of them and down again.  I don’t find that I have any mental problems with hills, even when really tired.  All my being is focussed on getting to the top, so there is little room for the sapping negativity that can sneak in with long rides on the flats.  However, I should again concentrate on efficient riding – use the legs, not the arms!  Half way through this stretch will be that short flattish bit which should be a welcome respite – use it to make up time!  Overall, I don’t see any problems with this 30 km section mind-wise, although going downhill on the windy and rough roads could be a bit of a worry and will slow me down at night.
  • It is the last 30 km flat that worries me the most.  There’s a risk that, having finished the hill section, I will think that it’s now just an easy 30 km flat to the end and will under-estimate it.  If anything, it is this section that will break me.  So I just won’t let it.  My tactic: treat it as the hardest section; expect it to be a struggle; each time feel damn proud when I finish it; and my treat when finishing it will be, after a short rest, the excitement and joy of being able to extend my distance record by another 101 km as I set out on the next leg.

I suspect that a race of multiple laps rather than one single route is mentally harder, but I can turn it to my advantage by treating each lap as a separate race and having a completely different approach for each.  So, what will be my strategy for each lap?
  • Lap 1.  Positive thoughts and efficient riding!  Enjoy the ride and take in the views.  Know that I can think of no better place to be.  In regard to racing tactics, keep with the bunch as long as I can do so comfortably.  Later on, if there is anyone going around my speed, stay with them and share the load.  The key point, though, will be not to be pushed into going harder than I should.  If the pace is too fast, drop off.  There’s still a hell of a long way to go!  Concentrate on efficient riding and no unnecessary expenditure of energy.
  • Lap 2.  The mental focus on this one will be on getting as far into the hills as I can before darkness fills.  I will let this thought fill my mind and use it to replace any negative focus on the very long way still to go.  Once again, efficient riding style and positive thoughts.  At some stage the lights will have to be turned on.  I may also have to take some extra clothing in case the night drops the temperature too much.
  • Lap 3.  I suspect that this will be the make-or-break lap.  I have to finish it and do so in a positive frame of mind!  This was the circuit where I understand that, two races ago, six out of thirteen riders pulled out.  My guess is that it was a mix of physical exhaustion and the mind-sapping effects of sleep deprivation.  So, my general strategy will be just to keep to the approach outlined above for the general circuit.  Focus on each section of the circuit and not on the long road ahead.  Know that at the end of this lap I will be entering wonderful unexplored territory.  But concentrate just on getting to the end of the 3rd lap.  Once at the end, rest, refuel, stretch, psych up, and then, without any hesitation, set out on the 4th lap.  Some intake of coffee may be a good idea, but in the end I have to accept that the circuit will just be bloody tough.
  • Lap 4.  Yay, 4th lap!  Further than I’ve ever cycled before!  This should be the mind-frame.  Celebrate, don’t lament!  Moreover, dawn will show itself on this lap – enjoy it and let it recharge me!  And keep that food coming in.  Finally, know that, once you’ve finished this circuit, you’ve made it.  The 5th lap will be a piece of cake.
  • Lap 5.  The last lap.  No piece of cake!  I’ll be sore, sleep-deprived, and exhausted.  But it will be my last lap and I should be able to recharge myself with positive comments from those doing one lap.  Use those comments, they’ll be my fuel, so feel grand and tremendous and just push those peddles to the end!  I will have done 505 km!

And the key thing to remember all the time?  Cycling rule no. 5 – “Harden the fuck up!”  If it wasn’t tough, we wouldn’t be doing it.  So while doing all I can to prepare for the race, I cannot avoid the fact that the bugger will hurt.  Accept it!

What else do I have to remember in terms of strategy and tactics?
  • Absolutely important will be continual intake of food.  Don’t forget it; don’t put it off; and drink/eat even if feeling unwell.  The whole race depends on it!
  • Watch out for cramp.  Have electrolyte tablets handy in case needed and do frequent stretches on the bike.
  • Remember that I get cold really fast.  Make sure that I have enough clothes should I have an unscheduled stop, such as for a puncture repair.  Don’t dawdle too much at the end of each lap.  If I do stop for long, make sure that I wrap up in warm clothes or a blanket.  Also, at night wear too many clothes rather than too few.  I just do not have the natural insulation to keep me warm!
  • How do I keep awake?  This worries me.  One important thing to do is to keep up the food intake, so that physical exhaustion does not contribute unnecessarily to the sleep deprivation.  The fact that my main food source (Hammer Perpeteum) has caffeine in it should also help with this.  However, it may also be useful to have a coffee at the end of lap 3 (and maybe even lap 2), especially for morale purposes.  Make sure that I get really good sleeps in the nights before the race and a nap the morning of the race.
  • It is important to ride efficiently and pace myself for the ride.  I have a tendency of riding too hard in the early stages of a race.  Also, I’m not an efficient rider, but have a tendency to use my arms too much to support myself – watch it, there’s a long way to go!
  • Speaking of morale boosts, I would love to have Led Zeppelin ripping through the night for even a few minutes during the 4th leg.  However, this may be a bit of a dream.
  • Support is important.  But I don’t want Helen to be too exhausted the next day, because I will be a write-off then.  I will be able to resupply myself at the check-in place, probably loading up with 3-4 bottles each time.  I could also leave spare clothes there, spare equipment and maybe even a thermos of coffee.  So a little bit of negotiation to make sure that Helen gets as much sleep as possible.
  • A key part in all this planning is my likely times.  These are what I estimate:
    • Start 2:00pm
    • Lap 1: 4:00-4:30 hours (6:00-6:30pm)
    • Lap 2: 4:30-5:00 hours (10:30-11:30pm)
    • Lap 3: 4:30-5:00 hours (3:00-4:30am)
    • Lap 4: 5:00-5:30 hours (8:00-10:00am)
    • Lap 5: 5:00-5:30 hours (1:00-3:30pm)
    • Total 23:00-25:30 hours.
    • Unfortunately, there are two key times I have to beat and half of my expected time-range would not meet it.  I need to have started on my 5th lap by 9:00am; and on the 5th lap I need to have left Havelock by 2:00pm.  My concern is the first condition, which gives me a maximum riding time of 19:00 hours for the two laps, i.e. an average of 21.3 km/hr, including rest stops.  This could be a real stretch goal for me over that distance!
  • Lastly, never let the speed slip.  Don’t coast, keep the peddle rhythm going, keep stops short, and always be focussed!

Saturday, 21 January 2012

The Taupo Enduro, Nov'11

Making it twice around Taupo for a second time almost didn’t happen this year. 

First, a couple of demoralising training rides led to a change of plans.  Rather than doing the race, I would instead cycle to Taupo from home (Paraparaumu).  This I thought, for some strange and inexplicable reason, would be less pressure despite being the same distance.  My plan was to ride up on the Thursday and have enough time to recover so as to support my daughter, who was racing in the 80 km Huka XL mountain bike challenge on the Saturday. 

But then an old problem developed a few days before the planned excursion, with my knee swelling up and ruling out the ride.  I instead found myself driving up to Taupo on the Thursday morning and spending the rest of the day with leg up and ice packs on the knee.

With the rest and ice, my knee was much improved the next day, which meant that managing the race was becoming a real possibility.  But there was still one big problem – the weather!  A huge system of strong-to-gale force winds straddled the country and I just did not feel strong enough to compete with them.  By the end of the morning, I was 100% sure that I shouldn’t and wouldn’t ride, so was enjoying coffee and cake and looking forward to a few beers that evening.  But, just to put to rest that niggling doubt that perhaps I could do it, I hopped on the bike at 3pm and went to do battle with the wind.  After half an hour of riding, I came back having reached a decision – I’d be doing the Enduro!  So 4:30 pm had me entering a late registration for the 320 km race.  In nine hours time, I would be off!

The next few hours were fairly frantic with organising gear and logistics and stuffing myself with as much carbohydrate and water as I could fit in.  Then it was off to bed at 8:30 pm, where Helen and I managed to sleep fairly well until about 10:30 pm, when our dog woke us with his barking.  There was little sleep after that.  An hour later I got up and had a last feed of carbohydrates (creamed rice!), before going back to bed and relaxing until the 12.15 am alarm.  Helen didn’t go back to bed, but stayed up making drinks and organising the logistics.  More on her sterling support efforts later!

1:30 am and the Enduro starts

Strangely enough, having done the Enduro once before, I was not in the slightest bit nervous waiting at the start.  The die was cast and it was now out of my control.  I marched myself to the back of the bunch of riders and waited for the horn to blow to summon the long, lonely, painful hours to come.

At last, to my great surprise after the previous few days of doubt, we were off.  After crossing the bridge, it’s a long climb of about 20 km to the highest point of the ride.  I surprised myself by overtaking many of the riders at the back with ease, mainly because of my secret weapon – my new Specialized Roubaix bike!  I was then astounded to be in a bunch of what eventually became about eight riders and to be keeping up with them.  This had not happened in my previous Enduro, which turned out to be a long and lonely 14:45 hours by myself.

The group slowly whittled down over time, probably because we were not working as a group but dragging ourselves along on the coat-tails of at first one, then another, then another sole rider soldiering away at the front.  By now we were about four cyclists and my bladder was becoming uncomfortably full.  I had worked out that, with the help of my Roubaix, I was a stronger climber than my fellows.  So, one third of the way up the long Waihaha Hill, I stopped, did my business (it was dark!), then charged and caught the others up before the top of the hill.

Eventually we were down to two, with the rest of the riders having dropped off.  Then the rider I was behind dropped back and I – finally! – had to take the lead.  However, when I looked back, the other rider was no longer there.  I’m still puzzled by the fact that these riders were in the lead for such a long time without dropping back to let someone take over and that, when they did give up the lead, they fell right back and off the bunch.

Anyway, from there on to Taupo, I was by myself, except for a brief chat or two with people passing or being passed.  The wind was savage throughout the ride, often threatening to blow us over.  But I felt strong, in control, and very happy with my performance.

Perhaps the highlight of the ride, both this time and last time, was meeting up with Helen every 30-40 km.  Most times it was just a quick change of drink bottle, a thanks, and then off.  But what a joyful beam of light in the midst of an otherwise long night!

At last, dawn had broken and I was at the top of Waihi Hill, getting rid of my lights.  Then it was careening down that wonderfully steep hill towards what was now to be a mostly flat 60 km to Taupo.  Once on the flats, I was down on the aerobars and flying along at around 30 km/hr with a strong tail wind and little traffic.  However, the one hill to break that flat straight is a shocker.  I really cramped badly up on Hatepe Hill, once with cramps in both legs and me desperately looking around for a place I might have to fall.  But I made it to the top and, once again, to the cheery smile of my beautiful wife.  Another thing worth mentioning about Hatepe Hill is passing one of those absolute champs who were doing the 1280 km ride.  He still had two more rounds to go and looked pretty deflated.  “You’re a bloody legend, mate”, I said, meaning every word.

Dawn at the top of Waihi Hill

A restock in Taupo, a last goodbye to Helen (as no support is allowed on the last round), and then what should have been a quick stop at the BP station to get my electronic racing tab digitally zapped.  More than twenty minutes later, after having tried all I could with the computer, read all the written guff in the boards around the computer, talked with the attendant and made unsuccessful calls to two of the numbers he’d given me, and called and texted Helen to ask if she could at some stage follow the problem up, I walked out of the station with my time still not recorded.  I was disappointed, as it’s quite nice to show off, but in the end it’s really something I’m doing for myself and myself alone.

Restock in Taupo  - can you see the dog in the car?

Then it was into the melee.  It’s fun joining the one-time-rounders at the round-about.  All the traffic is stopped, but I sail on through and get lots of acknowledgement and some cheers as I join the throng riding towards and over the bridge.  With the delay at the BP station, I was somewhat later than last year and was with slower riders than before – the group I joined expected to do it in 6:30 hours, whereas last year it was 5:40 hours.  Last year I was left in their dust, but this year managed to keep up and even overtake many as we all trailed up that 20 km of hill.

Besides Helen’s wonderful help, the other great thing about Taupo for an Enduro rider is the amazing support and adulation that comes from fellow riders and spectators.  It’s such a buzz!  It’s something that few would experience and, I must say, I lap it up.  My thanks to all those who so generously gave their encouragement!  Interestingly, something that was quite surprising this year was that, although there was still lots of encouragement, there was even more last year.  I’m not sure why, but have a few possible explanations: (1) the wind was distracting people; (2) the slower, less experienced riders may be more focussed on their own riding; and (3) I was not looking as shattered as last time.  I think that it’s probably the last reason.  People just did not feel as sorry for me as they did that ragged wreck they saw last year!

There’s not really much to report about the second round of Taupo.  Unlike last year, I felt strong and happy, managing to catch up with quite a few people and having chats and offering words of encouragement.  The only times I stopped, besides a water stop, was for stretches to stop the cramps coming back.  By contrast, last year I stopped every 30-40 km to just (metaphorically) crash and recover for about 5 minutes.

Kuretau Hill or Waihi Hill.  Some hill anyway.

There seemed to be a lot fewer people this year round, with many probably having withdrawn due to the wind.  On ending the race, I heard the news that the Huka Challenge mountain bike race had been cancelled after almost 2 hours of racing, due to trees being blown over and one even hitting a rider.  A great disappointment for my daughter!

A lovely surprise met me just after the top of Hatepe Hill, with Helen waiting there with chair and refreshments.  It was only 15 km to go and I was still feeling (relatively) strong, but the temptation was just too great.  I took off some of my cold-weather gear (it was now really hot!), sat down in the chair, drank one of my daughter’s Go Fast energy drinks, and had a lovely chat with my wife.  Then it was, “Oh well, I’d better get this thing over with”, and away I went.  

Almost there

In contrast with the last time I went down the finishing chute, this year I was bright and chirpy and looking around.  There again was Raewyn waiting to cheer me in, along with Ash and Gavin.  At this stage last time, I was in a state of absolute exhaustion, just counting the metres to the finishing line.  Once over, all I could think of was finding some shade under a tree, where I collapsed and immediately fell asleep for about half an hour.  However, this time I didn’t even sit down, but stood talking with Raewyn and Ash, then walked with them to meet Helen where the car was parked.  Dare I say it, I could have cycled even more … !

So that’s my second Enduro and what a contrast from the first!  I can think of several reasons for the improved performance.
  • First and most importantly, last time I was actually sick.  I was laid up with a bad cold the previous day, with nose streaming, temperature, and feeling really weak.  By some miracle, all these symptoms had passed by the start of the race, but – on reflection – the cold must have held me back.
  • My new Roubaix is perfectly designed for this type of race!  It’s a massive step up from my previous bike, which was an Avanti Monza.
  • My training has been different.  Rather than focussing on really long, steady pace rides, I’ve been doing slightly shorter (180 km being the longest) rides incorporating lots of hills that I ride at pace.  Still only one ride a week, but this has been combined with two 40 minute sessions going hard out on a spin bike, and 1-2 sessions in the gym with stretches and some weights.
  • Being able to keep up with a bunch is a real virtuous circle, increasing speed and reducing expenditure of energy.  Not being able to do so, like last time, is the exact opposite.
  • Lastly, recovery before the final race proved a vital part of my race preparation.  The two bad training rides I mentioned at the start of this report were the result of not allowing enough time for recovery and just not having the energy to ride.  I allowed four weeks of only relatively light riding (nothing over 2 hours or very fast) and was bright and fresh by race-start.
My final official time was 15 hours, which placed me well back (60th of 84 people recorded as starting the race).  The time compares with 14:43 hours last year.  However, the time does not give any indication of how strongly I rode compared with before.  It includes 20+ minutes delay at the half way point trying to get my electronic tag read.  Perhaps I could also include the leisurely rest I had with Helen 15 km from the end.  It also took place in really ferocious conditions.  So, all up, next year can only be a whole lot better!

And the winner is!

South Island cycle trip, Oct'11

This is my account of some rides I did last October at the top of the South Island.

*  *  *

How’s this for something to dream about?  You’re generally a bit stressed and things are getting you down, so your dearest says, “Why not take a week off work and do some cycling?”  After politely thanking her for the thought, you mull it over for a day or two and then, “Hey, why not?”  So out come the maps.  Your plan: to take the next Monday to Friday off work and fill it with as much cycling as you can.  You don’t want to go cycle touring, so you need to base yourself somewhere nice and central, so that you can cycle from and back to that place in various directions.  Your plan?  How about this?

  • Monday: morning ferry to Picton, then do the 100 km GrapeRide Cycle route, beginning and ending in Picton.  Then drive to Murchison to stay for the next four nights.
  • Tuesday: 170 km – Murchison-Reefton-Murchison along the Buller Gorge road.
  • Wednesday: 120 km – Murchison-St Arnauds-Murchison (St Arnauds is by Lake Rotoiti, Nelson Lakes)
  • Thursday: 170 km – Murchison-Springs Junction-Murchison (Springs Junction is 20 km before the top of the Lewis Pass).  Oh, what the hell, we’re talking dreams here, so why not also include that extra 20 km climb and back!
  • Friday: back to Picton.  Probably nothing left in the tank, but if so there are a couple of other interesting rides from there.

Remember, we’re talking dreams.  Let’s see how the reality went.

The first step was realised and I got time off work – obviously I’m expendable!  All bookings have been made and suddenly it’s 5am Monday, the morning after the All Blacks win against the Wallabies, and the alarm’s going.  Quick last minute packing, a quiet kiss for the wife, and I’m off.

I found a place in Picton where I could park the car all day, and quickly got changed into cycling garb, hoping not to overly excite the locals in the process.  Then I was off!  Being nice and fresh and cycling at a pace to last the full 100 km, the 120m climb out of Picton was no problem.  The windy roads and uphill bits were fun and the views kept surprising with their loveliness.  Some care needed on the downhill bits, though, because of tight corners and rough road surfaces.  So things are going well, I’m 25 km out of Picton, almost ready for the next 120m climb before Havelock, and suddenly something’s jamming my rear wheel.  I quickly stop and investigate.  It’s not my water bottle or anything caught up where it shouldn’t be.  The brakes look alright.  Then I see it – broken spoke and wobbly wheel.  And guess who hasn’t got a spare spoke and wouldn’t even know how to straighten a wheel anyway!  Bugger!  Never mind, I did get a couple of waves as I cycled out of Picton and there were quite a few vans and utes that passed, so surely someone would stop to offer a lift.  Five kilometres and an hour and a half later and I was still walking, not at all impressed!  At last a good Samaritan stopped, dropped me off close to the car, and I was off to Blenheim for new spoke and wheel straightening.  I finally got to Murchison about 7pm.  It could have been a lot worse, but I was still very disappointed.

Queen Charlotte Drive (spot where spoke broke)

Cabin in Murchison

Next day (Tuesday), I woke up just before the 6.30 alarm and was off by 7.30.  No wind (despite predictions of strong Northerlies), but there was light rain and low cloud.  Murchison is beautiful, with several rivers intersecting in its vicinity, all lined by massive hills and mountains.  However, I was only slightly conscious of the scenery, as I whizzed along the 11 km to the turnoff to Reefton/Westport, trying to focus on the road through rain-splattered glasses, sticking as close to the side as possible to avoid logging trucks and other heavy armoury, and concentrating solely on the ride.  After the previous day’s problem, I was somewhat uneasy and worried about more spoke problems or having a puncture and having to rely on a hand pump for the duration, all without any support crew.  From the turnoff, it was another 40 km to Inangahua, with the road hugging the hills of the narrow Buller River valley.  Once again, astounding scenery, of which I was only partly aware.  The undulating hills were very manageable, with the highest being only around a 100-150m climb – perfect training for Taupo.  The road included several crossing of tributary streams and rivers involving one-way bridges, two of which were very long and one with traffic lights.  The village of Inangahua was a welcome sight, being a milestone (around the 50km mark), a change of scenery, and with the Westport road separating and taking with it most of the trucks.  Thirty five km to Reefton from here, with the road straightening out and going right down the middle of a wide mountain edged valley.  Just getting down on the bars and pumping along was a pleasant change, but as I got closer to Reefton, I found myself checking the odometer more and counting down the kilometres.  At last 85km and I was there.

Buller Gorge

Reefton, looking north

Then it was back, including cycling past the place where I had been hit by a magpie on the way in and counted my tenth hit before I got past the second time.  Three hits on the way to Reefton and seven on the way out.  One reason I can think for the imbalance was an emboldened magpie.  The more probable reason was a tired cyclist now fighting his way into what had become a strong northerly.  And it was tough – down on the drops, emptying the mind as I slowly ate up the 35 km of long, straight, never-ending road to Inangahua.  There was an unscheduled stop at Inangahua as I had a chat with a friendly Australian couple in their fifties, who were cycle touring and had stopped for a leisurely coffee.  Then it was back to the hills, which were actually a pleasant break from the painful monotony of the open plain.  The mind games were easier with the hills and there was a lot less wind.  Eventually I got “home” with enough energy (after a short lie down!) to clean the bike, have a shower, and get dinner done.  The ride was just short of 7.5 hours.  An early night to bed!

Road north of Murchison, looking north

With only a 120 km to do, I could sleep in the next day, but once again woke up just before 6.30 am and found that, before I knew what had happened, I was ready to go.  However, energy levels were low and I felt that I really should just crawl back into that bed for another hour’s sleep.  Never mind, things should improve once I was on the road.  Such was not to be!  It was only 35 km to the junction where the Nelson road and St Arnaud road separated, then another 25 km to St Arnaud.  This involved an overall rise of about 250m to the junction and a further 350m to St Arnaud, with especially the first bit consisting of a continual series of undulating hills.  By the 20 km mark I just had to stop – just a wee one, but ridiculous so early into the ride.  After a bit more cranking up of that lagging mental fortitude, I was off again.  The problem, I think, is that my body had just run out of juice.  I had effectively hit the wall.  I’ve never done back-to-back riding over two or more days and I’m a skinny, under-muscled runt at the best of times, so there was little energy to call upon.  No problem with the hills, as I could still manage them with some strength and not too much puff, it was just those energy levels.  Eventually, 20 km out from St Arnauds, I had another stop, a sit down, and a mental battle.  Only 20 km to go!  I had to show some backbone!  After all, it was all about getting used to discomfort and exhaustion as preparation for the Taupo Enduro next month.  Finally, I hit upon a formula that worked – the promise of a flat white at St Arnaud.  And I got there, despite one more stop in the middle of the road, with a tirade of “F” words charging me up for the final push.

Road to St Arnaud

And guess what?  No cafĂ© at St Arnaud!  Never mind, a loo stop and rest at the lee-side of the Information Centre, some sports drink and a muesli bar, then it was back to Murchison.  Now, of course, the wind was a strong southerly.  Wind socks that were previously limp were now at full throttle.  So, down on the drops, move those peddles, and … I was going 30km/hr plus, despite the head wind!  It was possibly the rest that helped, but the main contributing factor was that the road was actually very slightly down-hill, without appearing to be so.  Still, the mind games were required, with a promise of letting myself stand up on the peddles to stretch each leg, but only every 5km.  Twenty five kilometres later, I was at the Murchison turnoff.  The last 35 km was really hard and all a bit of a haze.  I had at least one stop where I lay down on a bench for about five minutes.  There might have been another, but I can’t remember.  Anyway, I eventually got back.  Another ride done, another day over, and another lesson learnt.  I genuinely can’t remember how long it took me, honest, but it was definitely nothing to be proud of!

A rest day!

So the decision about the fourth day’s cycle … was … don’t be an ass!  Rest day!  Instead of cycling the route, I drove it … really slowly.  Now at last I could take time and enjoy the views and stop at every look-out point there was.  My energy levels were still really low and it wasn’t until after the flat white (at last!) after my dip in the Maruia Springs hot pools that I began to come to.  Have I said it before?  Stunning scenery!  The road up to Lewis Pass is amazing.  Everything was amazing!  And it was really good to drive back along the route I had ridden on Tuesday and see just how much I had missed by not looking around.  A chance at last to take some photos!

A friend - Lewis Pass

Lewis Pass forest


Maruia Springs hot pools

Old graveyard, Lyell, Buller Gorge

NZ's longest swing bridge

And, as expected/planned, no cycling on the Friday either.  Just a leisurely scenic drive up through Nelson, Havelock and the Charlotte Sounds drive, and home on the evening ferry.

So what lessons have I learnt from this sweat dream come true?
  1. Don’t cram too much in.  Ideally take more than a few days and build in rest days and easy rides, especially early on.Relax and don’t take it too seriously.  
  2. I’m allowed to stop and look at the view.  It won’t affect the training benefit.  Take a camera (weather permitting) and make it my mission to use it!
  3. Don’t do it by myself.  It’s really lonely, especially with no one to talk to after the ride.  Definitely a perfect recipe for some sort of breakdown, especially if you’re a flawed depressive introvert like me.
  4. Change the training to include, every now and then, at a couple of consecutive days with long rides.
  5. And last but not least, when the wife suggests that I take a week off – without her – think very carefully about what she thinks my correct answer really should be.
As a postscript, I would recommend the area for those inclined to such things.  There are stunning rides all over the place.  Probably best for a group of people, taking turns to drive a support vehicle, moving from point to point rather than staying at one place as I did.  Take your climbing legs though.  And if you have a spare place you need to fill, please ask me – although it all depends on how well I’ve learnt the lesson of point number five above, and the lessons that my one true love, the centre of my life, and she who I could never live without may have also learnt from my Murchison (mis)adventure.

Goodbye Picton!