Friday, 25 May 2012

Manfeild 6 Hour Challenge

The Manfield 6 Hour Challenge is a 6 hour race around a 3km car-racing track in Fielding.  I was barely aware of the event and would never have considered it if Tim Neal, a Graperide Ultimate rider, hadn’t mentioned it to me soon after the Graperide.  It would be in May and there were no big events near it, so, I thought, “Why not?  It might be fun”.

So my alarm went off at 5:30 am, Sunday 20 May, and by 6:30 I was on my way.  It was a 1 ½ hour drive up to Fielding on a beautiful morning, with the sun slowly rising to welcome a lovely, clear day.

When I arrived at the Manfield race track, I noticed a van.  That’s Nick Dunne’s van I thought, but who’s that by the van?  My God, it’s the man himself!  I’ve only seen Nick a few times, all while riding the Graperide Ultimate.  I know his kit, his helmet and glasses, and riding style – especially his riding style – but had no idea what he looks like in person.  Until now!  It was great to say hullo again.  A great guy and I wish him all the best in his Race Across America (RAAM) next month!

I then went over to Tim Neal (the Potato Guy).  He was still recovering from a hip operation, but had assembled a team around him (Nick, Damian Day, Pete Jennings, Matt Oliver, and Charles Salmon, being the ones I knew) under the Potato Guy banner and also had a Potato Guy stall to raise money for Nick’s RAAM assault.  This time around, it was Tim’s turn not to recognise me without my helmet and glasses on!  He even invited me to join the team, but didn’t have a shirt big enough for my bulging muscles.

There was just enough time to cycle once around the course, get the blood flowing (it was cold!) and line my bottles on the barriers, before we were ready to go.  I had a bit of a chat with Damian while waiting.  Damian’s is a really nice guy with a very interesting story.  For medical reasons, he spends most of the year touring around NZ on his bike.  Check out his blog: .  Also the following interview with him: .
Nick Dunne

Damian Day
At last we were off!  Or were we?  It was a “neutralised start”, with everyone travelling at moderate pace behind a car for the first lap.  This is taking ages!  Well, best to use the time wisely, so let’s take a step back.  What was I hoping for in this race, how was I feeling, and what were my plans?

My plan was simple: to get into a bunch, hopefully the first bunch, stay there, and (importantly!) take my fair share of turns at the front.  My hopes?  I wanted to do well.  Before, I was totally anonymous at such events, but now a few people actually know me.  It puts a slightly increased pressure on me to perform, to earn respect.  I had no idea what this event would be like, imagining it would be a relatively small affair with a huge range of abilities.  I’m not at all used to bunch riding, especially for 6 hours straight, so there was some anxiety about this.  However, all in all, I was calm and relaxed about the whole thing.  It was less than most training rides I did before the Enduro and Ultimate and I felt that I could handle the discomfort. So – no worries!

Obviously a little too relaxed!  While angling to get near the front, I was a long way off it when the race was suddenly on.  It was crowded – 88 cyclists on the track, with 25 of us doing it solo and the remaining 63 being members of a team.  There was a massive bunch at the front.  Where I was there was confusion, or most probably it was just me who was confused.  Many around me just continued cycling on by themselves, but a few small bunches formed.  I jumped on one of three other people, feeling confident that we would catch the main group up.  Duh!  Obviously I don’t understand the physics of these things.  Not surprisingly, the front group just continued pulling further and further away.

I can’t remember too much of the first lap, as things changed pretty fast.  But by the end of it I had made the decision that I would do the thing by myself, unaided by any drafting.  That is more like endurance riding.  I was also just not comfortable with racing in bunches, especially bunches where people were faster than me and I would be freeloading.

Anyway, I was not at all dismayed, despite my plans and hopes of the race drastically changing.  Sure, I wouldn’t get a good placing and impress my fellow endurance athletes, but at least I’d get some good training in.  Time for impressing people later ;-)  The idea now was to go at a hard pace that would put me into the hurt zone, and to continue in the hurt zone while pushing hard all the way to the end.  It would be another good opportunity to get used to discomfort, to check my riding style, and to keep the food intake going.

I really enjoyed everything there was about the day.  The best way to describe the course is as a banana bent almost flat, with the course being the skin part of the banana.  This meant that in many of its parts you could see the riders coming the other way.  The shape of the course also meant that you got the wind in your face twice each lap.  And that was the other great feature of the day – quite a stiff breeze the whole time.

After two or three laps, I worked out that I was cycling around the speed of another rider who was also riding by himself – Donald Packer from Hawera.  At times I rode next to him exchanging the odd remark, at other times I drew slowly ahead of him, and finally, after around four hours, he came back from a break and slowly drew ahead of me.  I see from the results that he ended up three minutes ahead!

There’s really not much to say about my race itself.  No big hills, no duelling or hanging on like grim death to a peloton, and no great drama.  Because I was cycling by myself, it was just grunting all the way to the end.  The laps soon developed a routine of their own.  The finish/start straight was straight into the wind, so it was head down and powering along, usually a bit under 30 km/hr.  The curve would then take me away from the wind.  At later stages on this bit, I would stand, stretch one leg, then the other, sit, have a sip of my drink, then power along again, usually a bit over 30 km/hr.  And the whole thing repeated for the second part of the lap!

There were four stops over the six hours.  The first was after only 1 ½ hours, when I had to exchange my two empty drink bottles for another couple.  The swap went well, taking only a matter of seconds.  The other drink stop took a wee bit longer, as I struggled to work out which were the full bottles and also had a quick chat with a guy who was standing next to the bottles.  He even kindly filled a couple of them with juice for the next time.  The other two stops were pee breaks – the downside of using food that involves lots of liquid!

The pedalling was uncomfortable, but I had enough confidence in my fitness and mental side to be able to continue slogging it out to the end.  It was a struggle though.  After a while, I found a great way of focussing, which was to vocalise on my out-breath, i.e. make it audible.  Not the most glamorous of things to do, but it really did help me going into the wind when I was struggling.

Another couple of things helped take my mind off things.  One was looking awestruck at the really fast bunches (and later individuals) whizzing past me.  Because most cyclists on the course were members of teams, they could really blow themselves away for just a few laps and hit amazing speeds in the process.  The fastest average lap speed, for example, was a freakish 64 km/hour over what is a 3.03 km lap, although most of the fastest laps were just under 50 km/hour.  These guys looked really professional.  The whole thing looked exciting and I'm half tempted to do a bit of training to race with the front groups next May!  Bugger trying not free-load in a peloton, I'll be spending most of my time trying desperately not be be spat out from the back!

The other thing helping was the interaction I had with people.  One of these was the odd exchange with people I passed or who passed me.  With all that time on the track, you soon notice people.  There was a young teen girl with whom I was really impressed.  She looked broken, but I kept on passing her again and again – she just kept at it!  I also frequently passed a couple of women who rode at a slow and steady pace for the full 6 hours, eventually managing to just beat their goal of doing 30 laps.  They were in the process of training up for the 160 km Lake Taupo ride.

Something else I enjoyed was taking on passengers.  After a while, I would notice a shadow or glimpse of a wheel out of the corner of my eye, as the odd person drafted behind me.  Once again, with so many laps, I got to notice some familiar faces there too.  It was not only company of a sort, it kept me honest, and I felt really chuffed being able to help fellow riders out.  It also salvaged some of that pride lost from being blown away by those really fast riders.

The other company I had for a while was Nick Dunne.  We had a few longish chats together, which I really enjoyed.  Nick is only a few weeks out from 5,000+ km RAAM (13 June!) so was trying to take it easy.  He hadn’t though and had blasted away with the fast ones for quite a while.  I think he enjoyed going at a more relaxed pace the second half and talking with people.  What a wonderful ambassador for endurance cycling!  He’s a guy I’d like to know better.

At last, an announcement of three more minutes was made as I went past the finish line.  Only one more lap to do.  So, it was head down and around again.  I even got the checkered car-racing flag waved when I finally passed the finishing line!  I did a wide wheel around the person waving us back into the transition area, just enjoying finally being able to reduce effort and to rest.

I slowly peddled though to the Potato Guy team, leaned my bike against a wall, and shook hands with the riders I could find.  I then clip-clopped over to get my gear.  Hey, my jacket’s gone.  My bottles were there but not my jacket.  Who on earth would take it?  It’s old and hardly something that anyone would want to wear.  What a pest!  I checked to see if anyone in the Potato Guy team had taken it to look after and also went to see if anyone had left it with the officials.  No luck.  Bugger!  I wasn’t staying for the prize-giving, so gave a last farewell and good luck to Nick, then slowly pushed my bike back to the car.  And there was my jacket, lying crumbled in a corner in one of the garages I was walking through.  Someone had probably felt cold, grabbed the jacket, and just dumped it when they’d finished with it!

In the end I had done 61 laps, making it a 185 km ride at an average speed of 31.3 km/hour, pretty much all with no drafting.  I was pretty tired afterwards though and the drive back was quite hard.  Pretty shattered that night!

In my opinion, the standout performer was, as always, Colin (Wal) Anderson.  What an athlete!  He’s in his mid-sixties and has been in the endurance cycling scene for ages, having set New Zealand records that still hold and encouraged others into the sport.  He was 2nd solo rider and 25th overall, doing a total of 75 laps.  He’s undoubtedly the king of endurance cycling in NZ and always will be!

The results can be found here:

So, what were my lessons?  They were the usual ones:
  • I was happy with being able to take a level of discomfort and continue taking it.  No issues there.
  • I’m a lot better at riding without full weight on my arms, but that is still work in progress.
  • Nick asked me if I pulled with my legs when I cycled and suggested I include one-legged pedalling as part of my training.  I thought I was alright, but obviously not.  Something to work on!
  • Perhaps the most important thing of all, however, was food.  I didn’t do well on this; it’s something else I have to work on.  No problem for the race, as it was so short, but what if it had been longer?  It was fine while I had the Perpeteum drink.  However, when this (prematurely) ran out, I didn’t get into my stock of faster working sugars (e.g. Goo).  Part of the reason was that I was racing hard and struggling against the wind, which meant that my stomach was tight and the thought of consuming something that was not a liquid didn’t appeal.  The other was the slight awkwardness of retrieving the food, which would have slowed me down.  Lesson: slow down and take the food; make the time; think positively and enjoy it; and you can only benefit!
But, despite it being good training, I did feel outclassed by the likes of Wal Anderson, Eugene Collins, and, of course, Nick Dunne.  So what do I imagine someone like Wal suggesting I need to do to get anywhere near his level.  Simple really – lots of miles, experience, quality training, really good planning, and heaps of mental toughness.  I’m working on it!

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Riding with the 60/40 group (Part 2)

Here's my account of the first five rides I had with the group.

Ride no. 1: Paekakariki Hill

The reason I remember the date of my first ride with the 60/40 group (1 April) is that it was a week after the Graperide.  I was still pretty beat-up, but had been getting cabin-fever the past few days and wanted something gentle to get the blood moving again and lift the spirit.  The 60/40s seemed the perfect answer.  So at 8am, I bowled up to TBI Health, the starting point for rides.  The first time!  As I expected, people were very welcoming to this stranger joining them.

The ride was to be up Paekakariki Hill to Pauhatanui, then Plimmerton, over Airlie’s Road, and back to Robert Harris cafe.  I was in no hurry, wanting to be easy on myself and just be part of the group.  So I stayed near the back.  I was up off the seat going up Paekakariki Hill, keeping my pace down and being kind to my butt.  At the top I let everyone go first, then started gently wheeling down the hill, singing to myself at the back and admiring the view.  My feeling of relaxed joy was rudely shattered when I suddenly realised that I had dropped right back and a bunch had formed and was powering away from me.  I started putting my foot down, rode past another rider who was also back from the bunch, and we motored towards the group, picking up another stray in the process.  I belted down the road, slowly closing the gap.  Finally it was down to about 5-10 metres, when the first rider catapulted past and made it, but I just didn’t have the strength to follow him and bridge the distance.

So the rest of the ride to Pauhatanui was spent charging along, trying to keep the eventual gap as small as possible.  Every now and then, my pace would obviously slow a bit and my fellow rider would take the lead.  I’d rest for a minute behind her and then regain the lead, enjoying both the sense of urgency and pushing myself.  I still don’t know who my companion was, as she later went with the two Pauls around the whole Aka block.  All I know is that she had strong legs with wonderfully developed calf muscles.  I’ll have to keep a look out for them!

The group was kindly waiting at Pauhatanui.  After a short stop, we were off again.  However, by now my heart was really going, with adrenalin pumping through the body, and my whole attitude to the ride had changed.  From feeling lazy and relaxed, I was now chomping at the bit.  The pace was easy around the inlet, but then I noticed a female rider (don’t know her name) take off up the Camborne Hill.  I looked around and saw that no-one was going to pursue her.  I just couldn’t help myself and peeled away from the group myself to catch up and ride behind her.  So much for taking it easy on a recovery ride and fitting in with the group!  That was to be the theme for the rest of the ride.  I didn’t want to be a wanker and race everyone, so contented myself with matching the pace of whoever was at the front.  But again I couldn’t help myself on the Centennial Drive and again on the road from McKay’s Crossing back to Paraparaumu, and stayed on the front as long as I could, retaking the lead after a short recovery whenever overtaken myself.  What a blast!  I’ve never had so much fun!

So, that was my first ride with the 60/40s.  Coffee afterwards was wonderful.  I just sat back and enjoyed the laidback interaction and conversation, chipping in every now and then myself.  Next Sunday would be Easter and I would be away, but I had a definite date forS two weeks’ time!

Ride no. 2 – Akatarawa Hill

The 15 April ride was to be up Akatarawa Hill, back down, and then up all the roads branching off the Aka road, about 75 km in all.

Bunch training rides are pretty new to me.  My new experience this ride was to be racing up a hill and also bunch riding on fairly steep undulating hills.

I think that the Akatarawa Hill is about 450 metres.  Only my second ride and I was still not quite into the racing mentality yet.  As we started going up the hill, I slowly and casually passed many of the riders and rode up to join the few riders at the front.  One rider pulled away (not sure who he was) and I stuck to the tail of the second rider (English Ian – to differentiate him from Kiwi Ian).  Slowly the other riders dropped off and I cycled just behind him all the way up the hill.  It was hard going but great fun.  I’m not used to racing up hills.  They’re usually obstacles that I try to get up riding as efficiently and fast as possible, but not pulling out all stops.  This would be something that I’d definitely be looking forward to in future rides!

We then wheeled back down the Akas and went up the various fingers – i.e. the roads shooting off from the main hill road.  I found some of these quite tough and had to work pretty hard.  This time around, I was no longer around the front of the group, and even got totally dropped on the last leg.  I’ve since read how important it is to stay near the front of a bunch, as it’s the back ones who have to do so much work to bridge gaps.  I think of the analogy of a bungee cord: as the bunch surges, you get left behind and have that much more distance to cover at a harder pace; and, if you’re really unlucky, the bloody thing snaps and you’re by yourself.  Something else to work on and perfect!  Boy, I’m really enjoying this!

Ride no. 3 – Te Horo Beach

This ride was to be a short one – to Te Horo Beach and going off various offshoots on the way.  A ride of about 55 km.

The main feature of this ride that I enjoyed was trying to sneak long turns at the front and battling to stay with the front rider whenever there was a sprint, of which there were a few.  Again, it’s so unlike endurance riding, where you’re by yourself all the time and don’t have these highs.  I loved it.

Although I felt very strong most of the ride and did well, I found the pace for the last 15 minutes to the Otaihanga footbridge to be very fast.  I’m making a point of not sheltering in the bunch too much if I can help it, but we were all racing on the home straight and I felt quite pushed.  It’s exciting and bloody good fun!

Coffee at Robert Harris again!  I’m getting to know more people now and am feeling very comfortable

Ride no. 4 – Otaki Beach

The ride was to be a double coffee ride – one coffee at Otaki Beach and the other on our return.  A ride of about 70 km.  Because it’s the off season, the plan if for the 60/40 rides to be shorter and more gentle –bugger!

I didn’t really enjoy this ride, as the focus was to be on practising bunch riding and getting a rotation going.  Not much fun when I wanted to spend time at the front and to race to catch up any sprints off the front.  But fair enough!  However, there were a couple of breakaways.  Matt Oliver suddenly took off on the only hill in Te Horo.  I looked around and found no-one else following, so took off after him.  We rode side by side all the way to the beach turn-off, riding quite fast into the wind.  Loved it!  I also started a break-away myself.  It was along the straight by Te Horo School, the place where by tradition every bunch races.  My focus here is to put myself into the pain zone as much as possible and put that mental fortitude of mine to the test, so I just took off and went for it by myself.  No race tactics of drafting for me, I just hooned it, so it was no surprise when Doug, Matt and xxx passed me half way along the straight, working together as a group.  I just did not have the strength even to hold their wheels.  Yay – something else to work on!

The other noteworthy part of the trip was, about 300 metres before the turnoff to the Otaihanga footbridge, Janice saying to me, “Shall we go!”  So the two of us took off.  My intention again was to match her pace, not beat her.  I managed it for a while, but she soon proved too powerful for me and pulled away.  Yet one more thing to work on!  We raced the following ride too, with her again proving the better of me.  I’m hoping that this will be a regular thing for us and my aim is to eventually be able to match her!

Something else worth mentioning is that I finally met Douglas Mabey, who’s done the 1200 km Paris-Breast-Paris event a couple of times.  Several times I have seen this serious, strong-looking, bearded gentleman out riding by himself, down on his aerobars.  To me he looked very different from the other riders I saw and I was sure that he was an endurance rider.  He most certainly is!  The next Paris-Brest-Paris is 2015.  I didn’t tell him, but it’s also on my radar.

Ride no 5. – over the Akatarawas

Up over the Aka hill to Staglands and back – about 60 km and 880 vertical metres.

I’d been looking forward to this ride with some trepidation.  This was because my plan was to race up the hill and really get into the pain zone.  One of the riders had pulled way ahead of me last time, so I was going to have the goal of not allowing this and to use the ride as an opportunity for learning to deal with hurt.  Key to this is how you respond to pain and to the realisation that there is more to come.  Currently I do what most people probably do, which is let it weigh on me and crush me.  This time I was going to try two alternatives.  One was to trick myself into feeling that it wasn’t mine but belonged to the rider I was racing against.  The idea was to believe this at a sub-conscious level but, even if I couldn’t do that, I would at least work on the fact of consciously knowing that he too was hurting.  The other thing I wanted to experiment with was just sinking into the pain, accepting it as a fact that I can’t get away from, and not even thinking of being able to do anything about it, but just continuing on racing.  There are not many opportunities for experimenting with such things, but this was to be one.  Hence the trepidation!

It was a bloody cold start to the day, with frosts in the odd sheltered spots.  I dressed slightly warmer than usual, but by the time I’d cycled to the meeting place at the start, my fingers were burning from the cold.  Thank goodness there was a bit of sun to try and thaw out in.  The ride to the start of the hill involved me hanging off the back of the bunch, shrinking into myself and trying to be as small as possible to escape from the cold.  I don’t think that I really thawed out until the end of the ride!

As we neared the start of the hill, I alerted myself to what was happening ahead.  There seemed to be several riders keen to be near the front, so I could sense that a race was about to be on.  At the steep bit where the hill begins, I wheeled up past the main group of riders, trying to look as casual as I could, and joined the ones at the front.  We rode up together for a short time, but before long it was just Ian  (Kiwi  Ian) and me riding together.  Again, I had the approach of matching, not racing the front rider, so we rode up together.  It was actually very pleasant and we chatted most of the way up.  Nice, but I wasn’t getting what I wanted!  In my mind, I was egging  Ian to show some mongrel, throw down the gauntlet, and start racing, but it’s hard to imagine him having a nasty bone in him.  A really nice guy!

Finally, as we were nearing the top, David rode up and passed us, saying something like, “Hullo chaps”.  Finally, I thought, a race was on!  But no, we were all much too civilised.   Ian and I matched David’s slightly faster pace and together we rode to the top.  After a short break in the sun (I was still cold!), I followed  Ian back down again and we accompanied the last riders up to the top.

It was then to be down to Staglands on the – even colder! – other side of the hill.  I waited for everyone else to go and then followed, again shrinking into myself to stay warm.  I wasn’t sure whether the trick was to go as slow as possible and cut down the wind-chill or to go fast and work the muscles.  Unfortunately, the very windy, narrow roads and slight possibility of ice prevented the latter option.

The group were waiting at the bottom of the main hill.  I dismounted and let them go off to Staglands, which was only about 5 minutes away.  I wheeled my bike over to a sheltered patch of sunshine and enjoyed the heat slowly beginning to return to my body.  All too soon the group was back and riding past me back up the Akas, with one of the riders calling out, “It was hardly worth it”.  I know!  I had felt rather privileged to experience the few minutes of quietness by myself, trying to warm up in this very lovely spot.

As I was stiffly trying to clip back into the peddles, watching the group ride off ahead, my heart suddenly missed a beat.  My race!  The front riders were getting ahead of me!  I upped the pace and, once again, attempted to look as casual as possible as I rode past the other riders.  Finally I made it to Howard, exchanged a few words with him, then slowly peddled away.  Once out of sight of him, I looked ahead.  No sign of any other riders.  No David and no  Ian!  Perfect – the race was on!

I’ve never gone up that side of the Akatarawas so fast!  Usually it’s after about 3 hours that I get to this point and I’ve already done a couple of taxing hills.  But here I was, as fresh as anything.  It was wonderful fun, egged on by the incentive of catching the others up.  I was in the pain zone, but it wasn’t any issue at all, as my mind was totally in race mode and buzzing with excitement.  It didn’t take at all long to get to the top!

I just couldn’t believe that I hadn’t caught up with the front riders.  At the top I met Hazel, a retired special education teacher (I think).  I had waited for her early on in the ride, but she told me to go on, saying that she would make it, just at a slower pace.  “Has anyone else passed by?” I asked.  “Yes, two riders and they were going fast”.  Bugger!  Still, I’d had a ball.  I wheeled around and went back down the hill to accompany the other riders up.  I was surprised to see  Ian well down with another rider.  Had I been “racing” phantoms?  (Apparently, not – I think it was the two Davids who had been ahead of me.)  I rode on past him, not realizing that he was keeping the last rider company.  There was no-one else, but I didn’t want to leave anyone by themselves, so continued on down for a while.  Finally I wheeled around.  Another fast ride to the top, where I found that people were already on their way back, so it was back down the hill, playing catch-up.  Brrr!

As usual, coffee was great!

Ride no. 6

… didn’t happen for me.  How sad!  So, here I am, writing this blog instead.  I’d just gone too long and hard on my ride yesterday and think that it’s best to let my body recover a bit.  And I won’t make it to next Sunday’s ride either, as that’s the day of the 6 hour Manfield Challenge.  So it will have to be the week after that when I’ll be able to continue with the joy that is the 60/40 group.  Thanks guys!

Riding with the 60/40 group (Part 1)

Recently, all my stars aligned at once and I’ve had the good fortune of joining the 60/40 group.

The 60/40s are a bunch of cycling enthusiasts on the Kapiti Coast, who meet every Sunday for a ride and coffee.  There’s quite a spread of cycling ability, but the ethos of the group is to increase fitness and cycling skills while supporting each other and having fun.  The rides have been varied so far, but generally are about 3 hours long with around 15-20 riders participating.  Apparently “60/40” refers to the female/male ratio.

I knew the group was around from reading the notices on the Kapiti Cycling Club website, but first really became aware of them when I began crossing their paths while walking past the Robert Harris cafe at Coastlands.  That’s the sort of group I want to be part of, I’d think each time, as I enviously viewed the friendliness, cameradie, and interplay between the members.  Coffee was also a major attraction.  This is what cycling should be about!

For a long time my desire to join had been thwarted by it not fitting in with my schedule.  The group wouldn’t be able to replace the long, hard hours I was getting from my Saturday rides and I couldn’t really take yet another weekend day away from all the responsibilities of house and family.  However, after the Graperide Ultimate, I realised that I would need to increase my weekly hours on the bike if I was going to complete the Enduro Maxi.  A ride with the 60/40s would be a great way to end the training week!

My first ride with them was on Sunday 1 April, and since then I’ve had four more rides.  What a great bunch of people!  I’m slowly beginning to know some of the riders a bit more.  It’s great for me, as I’ve always gone for rides by myself in the past.  John Barber is king pin and a top fellow.  He seems to be the natural leader of the group, not only planning the rides but always having a cheerful word with people and doing his best to keep us together.  Lisa Forde is another really bright, cheery ray of sunshine – what a smile!  I loved riding up the Akas last weekend with the friendly and very pleasant Ian, and it’s great crossing swords with Martin and Howard as they always surge ahead to lead the bunch on the flats.  My main mission at the moment, however, is to see if I can match the pace of Janice as she breaks out to sprint the last bit of road before the Otaihanga footbridge – it hasn’t happened yet!

Wake up call!

Just had a huge wake-up call!

I've been taking it fairly easy since the Ultimate, focusing mainly on building up weekly k's rather than going for any long rides. My weekends have involved (1) the 100k Aka block on Saturday and (2) 70-80k with the 60/40 group on Sunday. Great fun! But I decided to lift things up a bit today, and did Aka block (around 1000 metres climbing) plus Otaki Beach circuit (flat) - 160 km all up.

Bloody oath! Suddenly all those memories came back and I remembered just what endurance riding was all about! It's amazing how, after only a few weeks off, you quickly forget the downside and see everything with rose-tinted glasses! It's not really something that I would describe as fun! I seem to have lost a lot of fitness since the Ultimate, so it was a great opportunity to get a glimpse of that "dark side" again for a few hours and do a bit of practice on the mental front.

My lesson from that ride is that, every month, I'm going to have to fit in a long ride where I take myself well beyond my comfort levels.  I might even work up to about 20 hours or so, but have to balance this against the training time lost in recovering from such rides.

By the way, my limited experience with group training rides shows that they also have their share of pain, as we race each other up hills or try to stay at the front of the peloton as long as we can. But it's a piece of cake by comparison! You have the help of that powerful drug (adrenalin), that powerful motivation (beating your mates), that great distraction (there's always something happening), it's fun, and it's not sustained for long, as the hill soon ends or you can soon shelter in the pack to recuperate. Endurance cycling has none of this.  It relies totally on yourself and it's all about mental toughness.  No wonder not many people do it!

And as I pathetically grappled with this for 2-3 hours at the end of my ride today, I thought of people like Nick Dunne and Ron Skelton who, next month, will be doing this non-stop, day after day. Tough bastards! All the best for RAAM guys!!!!