Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Tour Divide 2017 - The Long Road to Antelope Wells Mk3

It's on!

After spending June into July 2016 watching the dots move steadily down my screen I am finally ready to commit to another run to Antelope Wells for Tour Divide 2017.

I wouldn't normally describe myself as an obsessive person -  more the opposite. I change focus like the wind. Initially as a student I had a stint focusing on running with the obligatory move from 10 through 21, 42 and later 60k with the Kepler Mountain run. Never a contender but a keen participant.

I've been a keen flyer moving from Hang Gliding in my 20's to Paragliding in my 30's and Paramotoring into my 40's.

The move to Alexandra and the Central Otago and Southern Lakes playground saw me move from occasional road cyclist to more regular but very average mountain biker.

There was some single-speeding but mostly I've ridden XC. Bikes got better, tyres lighter and occasionally times got faster. I tried my hand at longer races inspired by trail-blazing friend Geof finding my way to the first run of the Great Southern Brevet in 2012. Full suspension 26inch Specialized Epic, old tent bag strapped to my handlebars for sleeping gear - pushing to hard too fast and developing saddle sores and blisters on my heels coupled with an unseasonal snow dump should've put me off but quite the opposite - I was hooked:-)

Since that first GSB there have been 3 more, a couple of Kiwi Brevets, 3 or 4 ridiculously hilly Le Petite Brevets, the length of NZ with Tour Aotearoa and two Tour Divides. Adding to this a lot of solo training rides and a few (not enough - never enough) 'training' rides with others and the time input is starting to add up...

So - back to the premise - I wouldn't consider myself obsessive - just thorough - I like to repeat things and try to do them better. When I'm focused on one thing I tend to drop the others - but I still come back to them. Right now though - I'm all about the bike!

It's time to draw the line in the sand. I will be fronting up in Banf for another run to Mexico. 3rd time out I am putting more pressure on myself to develop clear goals and achieve them. I am very happy with how I've gone up until now. I handle adversity well and with a race 4500k long, there will always be adversity. I've dealt with weather, mechanicals, breathing difficulties, and the effects of my own poor decision making. The main goal has always been to complete and I have so far managed that. This time must be different. This time I must be different. No prisoners, no second chances.

I'm a trainer. One advantage I have is that I live and breath fitness. I'm in a gym every day. I inspire and am inspired every day. I'm already halfway there before I lift a finger to personalize my own plan. I've never trained to race the divide but from now - the race is on!

Goal 1 - gotta race and finish top 10 - The truth is this is where the race happens. If you're not there you're no where.

As much as I'd like to win it - I am a realist - I'm just not and never have been that good:-) I'm also limited in what my life will let me do in terms of the time and money I am prepared to spend on the goal. I'm a husband, father and person with responsibilities outside the race. Given the right conditions I think I have a 16 day ride in me. The right conditions might be tail winds all the way but hey - it's the divide - anything can happen:-)

Goal 2 - Plan for 16 days out of the gate. Accept that this is dependent on so many things and quite possibly unrealistic even if all conditions are optimal. Go hard or go home? Not quite - go hard and possibly limp home a broken man...

Goal 3 - Nope - that's it - there's only 2 goals. I'd like to think I'll have fun doing it but not if that is at the expense of goal 1 or 2...

So this is my declaration. I'm going. I'm going hard. I may blow-up as many better riders before me have but that's racing and I will be there to race.

Inside a month to go and feeling like xmas:-)





  

Monday, 8 June 2015

TD2015 - It begins...

Sitting in Auckland International Airport and the call to board fo LA has been made. It is officially on!

I feel strong and I'm reasonably confident I emembered to pack everything. Well - after I opened the already sealed bike box and put the seat in...

I'm not only ready but I'm excited to do this thing - again😃

LA to Calgary.. a little ride over to Banff to stretch the legs... Tell a few lies in the 2 days before then it's off from the grand depart...

Sweet!😁

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Kiwi Brevet 2015

I bagged my first kiwi last year and I decided to come back, grab another by the tail and bag me one more. 

Dropping down the big river track towards Reefton I'm fatigued from the constant impacts and cold from the rain . It's just on dark. The rocky slope gives way to gravel and finally seal. I'm holding back the speed so I can see. My right ear is smarting from the wasp sting I got a little earlier. The rain has an odd fluffy feel as it hits my lips. A little gritty I realise it's big mosies - they are plastered over my jacket. Greg Galway catches me up and we push on to the reefton pub. There was no need for discussion - we both new that was it for the night. 

Later over toasties and a beer the pub owner and part time ambulance officer told us of the recent collection of a French rider who smashed up his face and broke both wrists when it all went  wrong on big river... 

I had the best time out on this iteration of the kiwi brevet. It was my second the first being last year. I met more people - some old friends and made some new ones. Getting to ride partway through with some of the brevette pack was a bonus. Ripped my legs off a couple of times particularly on the way to Murch... 

I hit Seymour Square a little after 7pm Wednesday.  

I had gone on sabbatical for an hour or so close to home looking for a non-existent cycleway. 3 minutes before the start of the event my GPS died so I did the route without the friendly helpful line or maps. I also didn't listen at the briefing and missed the info about the stopbank change. I had travelled almost the total distance without outside assistance so decided to try to work it out. It was not my finest hour but I new I would be disappointed if I did it any other way at this late stage. Although I had occasionally been told by other riders and members of the public where other riders were, I had not looked at others spots throughout the ride and wasn't about to fire up the app so close to the end. Nelson had been difficult in the dark but I think others with gps's fared little better. It provides an additional many would say unnecessary challenge but even now I'm remembering it fondly:-)

My plan - if I can be so bold as to call it one was to minimize downtime and maximize recovery.  

IMHO rolling time on the bike is where it's at. Given that you can push pedals in a reasonable fashion the biggest difference between one rider and another will be the total time spent pushing them. Waiting for coffee, food being heated, finding things on shelves and just generally dilly-dallying (if that's really a word:-) all conspire to slow progress.  

Changing songs or podcasts, taking pictures and obsessing over distances completed and those to come can also slow us down. Some might say that these are the fun bits but I would argue that feeling the urgency of day one on every day thereafter is the aim - mine anyway.

Getting back on the bike in a timely fashion is more important than how often and when you stop. If I'm on the bike I will push. 

I stuck cleanly to the 6hr downtime rule. I would prefer not to have it as I think dropping  it adds another strategy element that makes it more fun to do. We do have it though so that's what we must work with. Getting cleaned up, food in and off to sleep alarm set to be rolling 6hrs later is crucial for me.  

I felt the most rested between day sessions of any of the rides I've done - including Tour Divide. Soft I know but although carrying my zpacks solo tent, vaude mat, feathered friends ultralight bag and sleeping thermals, I had no intention of using them. Day one was obviously going to present some problems.... 

We started at 10am on Saturday.  
day one ended 10pm at Scotties Hut on the St James 
Day two 9pm at Springfield 
Day 3 9ish at Reefton 
Day 4 9.30 at Richmond 
Home just after 7pm Wednesday 
Mostly earlier finishes and corresponding starts worked well for me. 
Just under 4.5 days - faster than last year and I'm happy with that. 

A quick breakdown of the days: 

GPS not loading 3mins before start time. I determined a problem with the sd card. I decided not up waste time dealing with it and instead focus on what I did have. No mapping or route for the ride. Initially and at a couple of key points a bit of a bummer but I think I have a better feel for the ride because of it. 

Northbank-Rainbow-St James 

The St James proved a smashing start in many ways - great fun but hard work riding rigid. tougher than I and many others thought it would be. Made Scotties hut. Bed and possible noisy later arrivals won out over setting up my tent. There were further arrivals and my sleep was less than ideal but I believe better than it would have been in my tent:-)

St James-Hanmer-Culverdon-MacDonald Downs-Lees Valley-Wharfdale-Springfield 

Hot through the Lee's and a bit disorienting that the entrance to the Wharfdale is not of that name. GPS line would have made that less stressful. The Wharfdale was tough going. No flow, bike carrying. Hard to feel positive about the experience accept to be happy I got through it unscathed. Met another rider at Sheffield. looked knackered! He had pushed long the night before. Pushed on to Springfield and talked the pub into opening the kitchen to make toasties for me and my soon to be arriving hungry mate. He looked grateful as he scoffed a toastie and raspberry and coke. He pressed on - I stayed at the yha. 

Springfield-Porters Pass-Arthur's Pass-Otira Gorge-Ikamatua-Waiuta-Big River Track-Reefton 

3am start. Porters went by with only a couple of trucks on the road. Breakfast with Andy Beale at Arthur's Pass. Fast through the gorge and caught up with Greg Galway on the rolling sealed and gravel roads towards Blackball. Pressed on to Ikamatua and on into the rain through the Waiuta and Big River Trail. A little slow across the top in driving rain. The descent down Big River was suprisingly fast if a little dangerous... Greg and I stayed at the Rreefton pub. Shower oh so good.. 

Reefton-Maruia Saddle-Murchison-Porika-Richmond 

Fast early start in the rain. Cleared by Maruia and the saddle was a pleasure to ride. Met a few Brevette riders. Revelled in a bit of competitive pushing with some guys with a little less time on their legs. I think they would be just as quick over a bigger distance too however... Great fun - great guys. Took a little more time to eat and stock up in Murch. Mangles Rd into the Porika flew by, the Porika not so much...

Smooth riding through the valley of the hops to Tapawera and on over to Wakefield and eventually into the cyclway to Richmond. The end of this day came around 9.30 with the perfect triangle of McDonald's, Motel opposite and 24hr Service station nearby. 

Richmond-Nelson-Maungatanui-Picton-Port Underwood Rd-Seymour Square Blenheim 

Tricky cycleways took their toll but heading up Waimea Valley on the Dun MTB Trail before dropping down to take on the climb up Maungatapu was an inspired choice. Flowy to the degree that the Wharfdale was not I hit this at first light and loved every minute! 

Maungatapu to Pelorous was improved by some great conversation with black sheep/fatbike boy Jaspers excellent company. 
Talk of 29er fatbikes and 29er+ setups ensued when Andy Gilbert turned up at the Pelorous Cafe on his Krampus. 

Pelorous to Picton and over Port Underwood to Blenheim was a little more difficult when I couldn't unclip my left foot after losing a cleat bolt on Maungatapu. I climbed more on the bike than I likely would have had I been able to get off the bike... 

Back to the square in time to freshen up and go for beer and pizza with a few other finishers. The pain melted away leaving only the contentment that comes with completing something that demands total focus and effort.  

That man deserves way more than a dirty old DB... and he got it! 

So not a lot of pics to share but I shared my ride with some great people, before, during and after the race. I won't likely forget it or the laughs and the trials I shared with them along the way.

A big thanks to Scott and Jo for the mammoth effort they put in.  

I've bagged me two Kiwis. Not easy to catch but well worth the effort.