The Greater San Fransisco Area

Continuing my quest to travel the world.

It has been my quest to cycle around the world for a very long time, although I have ticked off 16 countries to date, I still haven't achieved the ultimate goal of cycling the world. I cannot wait any longer for the conditions to be perfect, age is catching up with me, so it is now or never.

picture drawn by Jim my Step - Father on our trip across Australia

picture drawn by Jim my Step - Father on our trip across Australia
After our trip to Vietnam in 2012.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Special Airfares.

Our friend Di – who is also our travel agent, told me she had found some really special airfares to the USA, the only catch was that they had to be paid for the next day. How do you work out dates for a trip that you don’t know how long it will take?
I have all the maps.
 Having just left my job, I no longer had the ability to save and my savings would have to cover the tickets, and these special fares meant that Niel and I both had our fares paid for. But again how do I work out dates? Flexible dated tickets were out of my price range – I had to work out an itinerary I had all the maps for the Trans Am route with the mileage on them. I absolutely love staring at maps, so I stared, added up kilometers, stared some more, counted more kilometers, adjusted and tweaked and when I finished staring and counting I came up with a challenging but realistic itinerary with a day off programmed in every 2000kms to rest and recover (well I’m not going to win it am I?) and 5 emergency days up my sleeve in case of mechanical problems, injury or illness or bad weather. If I don’t use them cycling then I’ll use them at the end of the event. Then there is the few days flying there and getting to the start at Astoria, and getting back to the west coast in time to fly home. In addition to all this I had to bear in mind that I had to get home before Niel left for his adventure in the first week of August.
A lovely field of blue flowers among the Hop vines.
 So now I am committed, no more procrastinating. Actually I am glad as I can finally get my mind into the right head space, being ‘between jobs’ gives me the time I need to train properly and summer has finally decided it is here for good. But now it is Christmas time, the sun is shining and it is the longest day, what have we got planned? A kayak and swim down at our local beach – a typical kiwi Christmas.
Cycling past a do it yourself Nativity scene - Kiwi style.




Thursday, 4 December 2014

Around Lake Taupo

I've just completed the around Lake Taupo bike race,  and all my cycle racing friends are obsessed with my time. They are amazed that it took me 8 hours and 45 mins to ride over 38 big hills on a 160km course where only 40kms wasn't a gale force head or side wind. Frankly I'm very proud of that time., I'm not a great hill climber but I paced myself so that I never had to stop or walk, and I only put my foot on the ground three times- once to fix a mechanical problem,  and twice to have a drink from the drink stations.
It has been 20 years since I last did the race, and it has changed. It used to be about ordinary people who wanted to be challenged by a long ride,  but now I think every racing cyclist in  NZ was there and hardly any ordinary people. All you hear about is the top times and the records that were broken.  I believe it's the people who rode unicycles the whole way around,  or the kids riding it with their father,  or the 79 old woman who completed the solo loop of the lake that made the event.
In the 20 years that I last did the race,  my body has also changed. No matter how much riding you do, you will never be as strong as you were 20 years ago.  And a 54 year old woman will never be as strong as a 54 year old man.  I feel like saying to my cycle racing friends - could their mothers or wives ride 160kms in gale force winds over 30 big hills?  No?  Then stop asking me my time because it's irrelevant.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

I have my first article published in a cycling magazine. For those of you that followed my journey across Canada last year - it will be familiar to you, but you may still enjoy the read. This story will become a chapter in my book, so you may like a taste of what I write.
I finally feel like a real writer.


                                                  HOW I BECAME AN AUDAX RIDER.
After Niel’s bike was lost by British Airways while on the global bike race, and my bike with everything I owned on it got stolen when I turned my back on it in Vietnam in 2012, we wanted to go somewhere ‘safe’, and I really wanted to cycle across a continent.
Canada is the biggest country in the world behind the USSR continent. After spending a long time staring at maps and guide books, and following the blogs of other transcontinental Canadian cyclists, we decided the most scenic route and the ‘path that was of least resistance’ involved crossing into the USA at a few places. All previous transcontinental cyclists had started or finished in Halifax Nova Scotia, so that had to be incorporated into the plan. Canada is a British colony just like our home of New Zealand, so we could travel there without  needing a visa, but we did need a visa for the USA, and one with multiple entries and exits as we would cross the border between the US and Canada three times. We knew the wind was predominately from the west, so our course started in Vancouver British Columbia, and headed east to the province of Ontario, where we headed south across the border into Minnesota, east through Wisconsin, Michigan and back into Ontario (which is a very large province). At the Niagara Falls we crossed back into the US and through the states of New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. We were supposed to ferry from Maine to Nova Scotia, but simple plans can go awry and we ended up crossing from Maine into Canada’s New Brunswick province before heading finally to Nova Scotia. Approximately 7,500kms.
After a day of sightseeing and buying supplies in Vancouver, we pointed our bikes east and said goodbye to the Pacific coast. Little did we realize it, but this was going to be a trip of big kilometers each day. It’s a long way between places in Canada and not much in between. Our first day of 143kms was a good achievement (especially with the load we were carrying), but it actually became our average daily distance, and became easy and nothing to crow about. Allison Pass on day two was supposed to be steep, unrelenting and a natural wandering area for black bears, I won’t pretend that I wasn’t worried about it.
19/06/13 (from my diary)
I can safely say – that Allison Pass is up there as one of the hardest passes that I have ever done. 1350 meters from sea level and it climbed for 60kms with just one flat section in the middle. It was pouring with rain and only 5 degrees C – old enough to see your breath.
 I was doing really well, and no incline was too much to cope with, when I ‘hit the wall’, and as a consequence I got hypothermia. I was nauseous – my stomach was doing somersaults and gurgling, my judgment was impaired and I was starting to feel like I was going to faint. When we got to the ski village of Manning Park, I insisted on a motel room to recover, warm up and dry everything.
On reflection though, I think doing that massive hill in the cold and wet, would’ve been easier than in the heat.
20/06/13 (from my diary)
Today was even colder than yesterday – if you can believe it – only 4 degrees C. The rain was even heavier than yesterday and we were so cold that our hands and feet weren’t working properly. Then Niel remembered that he had packed overshoes and wooly gloves, so I wore the overshoes and Niel wore the gloves – it helped enormously. The road wasn’t downhill; it climbed back up to the height of Allison Pass three times before finally descending to Princeton. It was still lightly raining here, so we stopped at a café that advertised all day breakfasts and we had an enormous cooked breakfast. So warmed up, and with our bellies full, we carried on to Keremeos. As we got closer, we could see a patch of blue sky in that direction. It had stopped raining and the temperature had risen to 7 degrees C, and we actually felt warm.
The campground manager here says that most cross country cyclists give up before Keremeos, because Allison Pass is so tough.

For the next few days we climbed enormous passes. First were Anarchist Mountain, then Bonanza Pass, and then a day of non- stop hills. This is British Columbia; wet, green, wild, and scenic full of wild flowers, rivers, lakes, mountains and Bears.
24/06/13 (from my diary)
Back to rain again, but guess what? We saw a grizzly bear cub – only two to three meters from us. Amazing – what a huge buzz. I didn’t see it until it burst out of the bushes on the side of the ride right beside us, and then it ran up a rocky bank. Niel saw it straight away and they stared at each other, and after it ran up the bank it stopped and stared at us. When we got to the next village, the café owner told us there is a mother Grizzly Bear with three cubs in the exact spot we told her of our sighting. God I’m glad it wasn’t the protective mother Bear we saw or we may not be here to tell the story.

After a day of very remote roads with no human habitation – so no food or drink stops anywhere – we finally made it to Revelstoke and the gateway to the road across the Rocky Mountains.  Apparently all the rain has produced terrible flooding in Calgary on the other side, and the powers that be have closed the road. After a day off, we found out the road from Revelstoke to Banff is now open, but the road onwards to Calgary will not be open until the weekend. We judged that by the time we cycled there it would be the weekend.
27/06/13 (from my diary)
We made it into the Rockies and ‘Golden’. Rogers Pass is the easiest pass I have ever cycled. You follow a railway line the whole way, so that is an indication of the gradient. However after the pass, the railway line goes in a different direction, after initially descending, the road climbs a lot steeper, we climbed back to the height of the pass again before finally descending.
15kms out of Revelstoke we saw a Bear and passed our 1000th km. But the best sighting of all was as we exited an avalanche tunnel, and there was a black Bear right at the exit. Niel pointed to it, and his action of pointing meant that four cars screeched to a halt and people started running towards the Bear with cameras. What do the park rangers say? “Never approach a Bear”!! We got a quick photo and were off – so was the Bear, who didn’t look at all perturbed by the attention.
So after a long 150kms over very scenic roads, seeing amazing wildlife, and crossing from Pacific Time to Mountain Time, we made it to the city of Golden.

Another just as long day with just as spectacular scenery took us to Lake Louise, and to an enormous and very full campground as it is Canada day this weekend 
29/06/13 (from my diary)
I got up early, as I knew it would be a long day, but not as long as this – 172kms.While packing, Niel noticed his rear carrier was broken. So he did a patch up job of taping up the break with the brace of an Allen key tool to get him and his gear down to the town and to the bike shop we saw when we came into town last night. Needless-to –say, we didn’t get away until almost lunchtime. While Niel was putting on a new carrier, I went to the visitor’s center to find out about the road ahead – that was flooded last week. Apparently the cycle track has been washed away and the bikes have to be put on to a shuttle bus to the next town, for which you have to pay.
It was hot and we were on the motorway (as the other route was still impassable), this was downhill with a tailwind, so we made up time on our late start. We decided to act like ignorant foreigners if we were stopped for riding on the motorway, especially on the part where we were supposed to be on a shuttle bus. It was no problem and we weren’t the only cyclists to use the road as we saw wheel marks in the mud. Sure the road showed signs of terrible flooding and there was debris everywhere, but why do the powers that be think that cyclists can’t ride on the road as well as a cycle track?
After passing quickly through Banff (which I found too artificial and soulless), we finally made it to Seebe, our destination for the day, but there was nothing there, and I mean nothing – just a road sign. There was no option but to go on for an extra 52kms to find human habitation. It was Indian reservation land, so there were no shops and we were definitely running on empty when we pulled into the next town at 10pm. We had a quick and nice Chinese meal while the restaurant was still open, and then tried to find accommodation. It being Canada day tomorrow meant every motel was fully booked. At 11pm – just as it was getting dark (thank god for the longest day), we finally found a camping ground that was closed for the night. We pitched our tent there anyway and very dirty, very tired, and very sunburnt we finally got to sleep at midnight.” If we can do this, we can do the Paris / Brest / Paris” I said as our heads hit the pillow.

We were told before we left home that there was a big area of nothing we would need to cross. That ‘nothing’ was the Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba plains. Calling it ‘nothing’ is insulting. Yes it is flat, and there are very few trees, but there are things of interest and the cycling was easy. For the first time in my life, I was riding huge distances every day, and I couldn’t blame it entirely on favorable winds. I was finding I could ride all day and felt good the whole time. One day it would be 150kms, the next 170, then 180 and then 150 again. I had never felt so competent. We were flying across the plains. After crossing into Manitoba and writing in the border visitors center what we were doing and issuing a challenge to all other cyclists to ‘catch us if you can’ , we spent the next 4 days clocking up 800kms to get just passed Winnipeg – the supposed half way point across Canada.
12/07/13 (from my diary)
180kms is my personal record I one day while touring. I found it easy and have never felt so fit. I feel like I can do anything. It rained for most of the day, which helped to keep things cool, but the highlight for the day was catching up with Jessie and Jackie.
Jessie and Jackie are the people who initiated the web site of cyclists doing the Trans – Canada. So you can follow others in their blogs to find out how they are going. Jessie and Jackie have already been on the road for 100 days. They have cycled from San Diego in the SW of California, all the way up to Alaska, across the Rockies to Jasper, and then across Canada to Labrador. They are still cheerful and not the least bit sick of the journey – good on them.
13/07/13 (from my diary)
Manitoba turned on a beautiful day with lush forest, rocky outcrops, and scenic lakes everywhere. We passed the border into Ontario province, and the scenery continued to be spectacular, particularly the town of Kenora, with views of the ‘Lake of the woods’, with forested islands and boats everywhere. It is a hot, sunny blue sky day and it is possibly the most scenic day of the trip.
We left Jessie and Jackie after a lovely lunch together, as we wanted to go further than them today. We spent the night in a forest park campground big enough to be a tent city. And I feel asleep to the sound of wolves howling in the distance.

The next day we crossed into the USA – Minnesota to be exact – at a place called International Falls. We were heading for the city of Duluth. Duluth being the western most edge of Lake Superior. It seemed that Duluth didn’t want to be found, as we were beset by delays; a bridge was out due to repairs, and we had to in the opposite direction to find a road we could use; we missed an unseen fork in the road, and once again went 30kms in the wrong direction before we realized it and managed to get back on track. Campgrounds did not exist but only after doing circles of 30kms looking for them.
It was very hot, and we had gale force headwinds to content with. We started to scan the horizon for the water towers and platforms that indicated a town coming up for food and drink stops. It is just as well that we are fit and used to doing long distance. We eventually made it to Duluth and the great lakes.
21/07/13 (from my diary)
It was cool today, which makes cycling easier than in the heat. The road was all in the ‘Ottawa National Park’, so there were trees all day. However we were both a bit jaded and homesick.
I’ve been through the roller coaster of emotions today. This morning I saw a father teaching his young son to shoot a rifle. That made me so angry. That boy is being taught that it’s okay to shoot to kill. His target was a human figure. Along with the homesickness – I wasn’t feeling very happy. We got our airline tickets out and started to talk about going home. Then a couple of things happened to snap me out of it. We realized that we only had 30 cycling days left until we reach Halifax in Nova Scotia. And then we met some people from Halifax at our lunch stop, and we felt like we were on the home straight.

‘It rained and rained and rained, the average drop was well maintained, and after a drought of half an hour, we had a most refreshing shower’. This is part of a poem I’ve seen about the weather on the west coast of the South Island of New Zealand. Michigan was very wet. But when we crossed the St Clair river (which is the border between the US and Canada) on the ferry, we were back into Ontario province again.
We passed through several pretty ‘port’ towns. They were busy and thronging with people. We are not far from the most populated part of Canada – around Toronto. So many people throng to to beaches at the ‘ports’ on the weekends and this weekend had a public holiday as well. We are amazed to find out that Canada has a day off every month, even if there is no particular reason for a holiday.
04/08/13 (from my diary)
The road was like Cornwall in England, dropping down to ‘ports’ and then climbing really steeply out of them. Pretty as it was, I got sick of it, and when a direct route presented itself, I decided to take it. The weather stayed nice, but with a strong crosswind. About 20kms from Dunneville, a group of Harley riders gave us problems.
They rudely overtook us and immediately turned right – right on top of us (Remember we are riding on the right side of the road). The leading rider almost took Niel out, and then the second rider was trying to turn in the 1 meters gap between Niel and I, almost taking me out. Swear words were exchanged. Then they all turned around and decided to harass us, by accelerating up to speed and cutting us really closely. Actually that is just a normal New Zealand driver, so it didn’t scare us. But no more than 10mins later we saw them stopped getting petrol. We rode in amongst them and started pointing and memorizing their number plates to tell the police and suddenly they looked frightened and sped off.
Then we found the camping ground and it was so full that it actually gave me shell shock. After seven weeks of quiet campgrounds, we get this one with boy racers and their loud stereos on one side, a loud drunk family behind us who couldn’t stop laughing, and on the other side – family with untold kids who thought our camping spot was their personal playground. Suffice to say after 3 hours of sort of sleep, we left tired and irritable. We were no longer talking about doing the Paris / Brest / Paris, basically because we had stopped talking.
This demonstrates how important food, drink and adequate sleep are - to being able to carry on. Yes we were fit, but physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausted. Even seeing the stupendous Niagara Falls couldn’t get back to our old selves. It took many days of forcing ourselves to slow down enough to ‘smell the daisies’, before we were talking and smiling again. By now we were in the Adirondack Mountains in New York State. We know we are going to make it now. When we tell people that we are heading for Halifax, not only do they know where it is, but they all say “oh you are almost there”. If only things had worked out as simply as that.
14/08/13 (from my diary)
I’ve had the worst thing that can happen to a cycle – tourist last year – when my bike (and everything I owned), got stolen in Vietnam. However today would take a close second place when it comes to drama. I believe it’s how you cope with these dramas that define you as a true adventurer.
After climbing a hill that went on for 15kms, I finally summited and put the brakes on for the downhill, and ‘boom’ – my back tire exploded. I’ve had a ‘donk, donk ‘ noise in my rear wheel when I put on the brake for 10 days now. Niel looked at the rim, didn’t see anything wrong and reckoned it was oil on the rim, but it obviously was something far more dramatic to make my rim rip apart.
I started walking as Niel had sped off enjoying the downhill. A kind motorist stopped and asked if he could help. I asked if he could drive on until he saw a cyclist in white Lycra bike shorts just up ahead, and tell him to stop and wait for me. When I finally reached an impatient Niel – who was sitting on a railing, we realized my rim was unrepairable.
We were in the middle of nowhere, there wasn’t even mobile phone coverage, and I had to put out my thumb try to get a ride to civilization. No one picked me up. After walking for a few kilometers, Niel was waiting for me outside a house where the people ‘looked friendly’. Initially we asked to use their phone to ring a bike shop in the next town 60kms away, but by now the shop was closed for the day. These lovely people drove me and my bike 30kms to the nearest habitation that had a motel.
It is now 30kms to the town with the bike shop, so Niel will ride there first thing in the morning, get a new wheel and cluster (as I only have 3 gears left that work), and a chain as well; ride back to me waiting at the motel, put it all back together, test ride it, and then ride back to the town together. Thank god we still have 2 emergency days up our sleeves.
Then: this evening we had WIFI at the motel, so we decided to check on some of the other Trans Canada cyclists. One couple found their ferry to New Foundland had been cancelled and they didn’t know what to do, so we decided to check ours as well. My god, that had been cancelled too. After frantically looking at maps and searching for a ferry that still existed, we found one from St John in New Brunswick (Canada), to Digby in Nova Scotia. But St John is an extra 300kms off our original route. Do we have enough time to get there? Well we have decided to do even bigger distances for a few days to get there. Hopefully nothing else will go wrong.
18/08/13 (from my diary)
Everything seems to happen in three’s and the third almost disaster happened today. Niel’s rear wheel was ‘not feeling right’, and it was moving a lot from side to side. He reckoned the bearings were the problem. Even though we are pressed for time, we decided to stop in Bangor instead of going on. There is a bike shop here, where we can get parts, if we went on; his bike might fall apart in the middle of nowhere – like mine did. Unfortunately it is Sunday today and the shop isn’t open until tomorrow. So we got a motel for the night, so that Niel can take his hub out of the wheel, it was as wrecked as my rim had been. Luckily Niel kept the hub and spokes off my wrecked wheel and he built these into his good  rim, so all he needed to buy was a cluster that fit that hub and a new chain. There goes our last emergency day.
We will now have to take a shorter route to St Stephan’s tomorrow, as we don’t have enough time to go around the coast.
19/08/13 (from my diary)
Niel finished fixing his bike by 10 am and we didn’t muck around as we were trying to do 150kms today. Not a hope in hell. The road was non-stop sharp ups and downs with no shops except what I would call a ‘roadhouse’ – café / motel / RV Park. I ran out of energy at 7pm and called it quits at a rest area that had a private patch of grass hidden from the road, a public restroom and a river nearby. We had no dinner just what we had left over from lunch and we had to drink the black colored river water as the cooker was playing up. I hope I don’t get sick from it.

Famous last words – the next day I got food poisoning, but that misery was counteracted by finally reaching the Atlantic coastline. Yes – we had made it at last – I can now call myself a transcontinental cyclist, and no one can take that away from me.
 We made it to Halifax in time to fly home. And I have realized that I am pretty good at riding long distance. This eye opening fact was to change me and what sort of riding I was to do in the future.
The first thing Niel and I did when we got back to normal on arriving home was to join UK Audax. New Zealand doesn’t have a club, although there is now a Kiwi Randonuering club. We needed to learn all about long distance riding and your Arrivee magazine is our bible on inspiration and learning.  
   


Sunday, 26 October 2014

Confused?

You would be forgiven for being confused, but that is no different to how I have been feeling for the past year. No it’s not age related dementia, at least not yet.
On finishing our epic trip across Canada last year, we were keen to do the Paris / Brest / Paris long distance endurance event. Then over our winter months we saw the Trans Am, or unsupported adventure race across America, and got so caught up in following that, the Trans Am became our event of choice. Once the Trans Am was finished we thought what are we doing that for? When we had already cycled 8,000kms around the USA and across the continent when we went across Canada, the Trans Am wasn’t furthering our goal of cycling around the world, so it was back to doing the Paris / Brest / Paris with a tour furthering our global ambitions. I trained and trained and got my mileage up to 240kms in a day, but couldn’t get past that, without riding all night and being a basket case the next day; so I was back to thinking about the Trans Am, or the Transcontinental ( the European version). I read people’s blogs about the Transcontinental but didn’t like certain aspects of it, the Trans Am was it. But Niel wanted to do the Paris / Brest / Paris and a tour.
If I don’t do something for myself in the next year, then I won’t get another chance. I am still fit and find riding my bike easier than walking around the shops – due to my dodgy knee. It’s not that I am staring infirmity in the face, but I am not the coiled spring I used to be, and I know the long distance ability will diminish as I get older.
One thing I can say for getting older – you are more confident in your own decisions, and don’t take being pushed around mentally or physically. I know my own mind and I also know that self- esteem is very important. What Niel and I have come to realize is that we can do our own thing and we don’t have to be together.
I'm quite happy riding on my own.

So I’m going to do what I am suited to do, and that is long distance touring, So I have signed up to do the Trans Am, and Niel is going to do what he is good at, and that is extreme long distance against the clock i.e.: the Paris / Brest / Paris. We can tour together the following year.

The most common reaction I get is “What, on your own?” I am not chained to Niel, I ride on my own all the time, in-fact I enjoy riding on my own. It will be good for me to test my boundaries of what I can do as an individual.  I would like to see if I can get the best time for middle aged women.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Paris / Brest / Paris or Trans-Continental ride?

I was told by the president of the ‘Kiwi Randonneuring Club’ that riding a 300km or more bike ride in 1 day is all mental. He is mental!! It is definitely physical. Ok, ok, I know things went against me with the 200kms of my 335km ride being a strong headwind with gale force gusts, and getting 3 punctures in the dark, which led me to needing a motel in Havelock, at the 236km mark. The unrelenting wind and punctures meant I got to Havelock in 16 ½ hours instead of the 14 hours I estimated it should have taken. So there was no way I was going to get home by midnight.

St Arnaud with fresh snow on the hills.
Mountains to the sea - Picton and the ferry crossing between the Island.

I woke up to a storm, the wind was shuddering the building and it was raining. Once I saw a blue patch of sky, I was off. The wind often pushed me to a standstill and the extra effort required pushing into it wore me out. My nether regions were chaffed and bruised feeling, and my feet were swollen with the hard pushing on the pedals. Luckily I ate and drank well; (I am wheat, dairy, sugar, bananas and dates intolerant) and I stretched the front and back of my legs every time I stopped for food, so I was able to keep going and got home tired and sweaty.
My staples of cold cooked wheat free sausages, my home made oat slice, and nut bars.


A decision is made – I am not doing the Paris / Brest / Paris. There is no way I can ride 24 hours a day and night with no sleep, no shower and on a raw backside and hurting all over. I should stick to what I am good at – long distance touring. I’d love to do the Trans Am ride across America or the Transcontinental across Europe – these events would suit me perfectly. I could ride 13 hours a day and actually get a sleep at night and a shower, surely that’s not too much to ask? Perhaps Niel could do the Paris / Brest / Paris, and I could do one of the others? Cycling should be a challenge and an adventure, but it should also be enjoyable.
Pointing at my smiling face. 


Tuesday, 2 September 2014

A very tired cyclist.

It's spring - yeah, for the first time in months I am in shorts (not a pretty sight), it feels great. Feeling the suns warmth on your skin, it's like feeling well after a sickness.
I've been forcing myself to do really long rides of 200kms, There is a 400km event in october that I have to do to pre-qualify for the Paris / Brest / Paris. The actual qualifiers start in November, but if you do a distance event before then, it means you have more chance of not being turned down due to too many entering the event. How do you go from a 200km ride  to a 400km ride in one month? I find 200kms demanding enough. I am trying to do a 250km next week and then a 270km two weeks later, in the hopes that the 400km can be broken down into a 270km with a rest, and then finish the remaining 130km.
I'm finding this all very demanding, I still don't know if I can do it, but part of it must be mind over matter and I know how to be determined, and I know how to suffer. Will that get me through?
I've been training myself to drink coffee for the caffeine hit, I much prefer Tea, but I need more caffeine to stay awake and alert.
In the meantime the sun is shining and it is blessedly warm. We just need those daylight hours to extent so that I don't have to go through so many batteries with the night riding.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

500km challenge.

I don’t know if it is adrenaline or endorphins, but riding my bike brings me joy. I’ve been very down lately – a combination of winter blues and things that have upset me at work, riding my bike was the one thing that bought me out of the gloom of depression. So last Sunday night, I decided to challenge myself to do 500kms this week.
500kms is easy to do when you are cycle touring. You tour in the summer when the daylight hours are long and the days are warm, and you have all day every day to ride your bike; but at home there are domestic chores, grocery shopping, bill paying and days of work to take up your time. Add in the shorter days and unpleasant weather of winter and I had a challenge on my hands. Niel (not to be out done) joined me.
If only I had the same will power with my diet, as I have with my cycling, because I did it: 500kms in 3 afternoons, 1 full day, and before work in the weekend.
Enjoying the feeling of sun on my face - the top of Dovedale Saddle.

Monday was blessedly fine and we went over the gravelled Dovedale saddle to the Motueka river valley and then the coastal highway back home: 105kms.
Wet and cold at 'The Glen'.

Tuesday was cold, with driving rain, and very strong headwinds. It took all our determination not to turn for home and we took the cycle ways out to ‘The Glen’ (north of Nelson city) and back: 81kms and a total of 186kms.
So wet and cold - our glasses kept steaming up - Kaiteriteri Beach.

Wednesday was still raining, but we had no wind and the rain was intermittent rather than non- stop, but it was very cold. We rode North West to Kaiteriteri beach and to the top of the Kaiteriteri hill, and then home again. 102kms and a total of 288kms.
We needed a break on Thursday to do grocery shopping, hair cutting, and domestic chores.
Near Tapawera with the carved wood stumps.

Friday – we had to make up for our day off and we decided to do our favourite 150km ride in lovely sunny weather. We went over Raeys saddle to Tapawera (home of the carved tree stumps); and up the west bank of the Motueka river valley to where it ends at Riwaka, and home on the coastal highway, where we saw a bad car accident complete with a rescue helicopter (and they say riding a bike is dangerous); A total of 438kms.
Wait a minute Niel the camera's taking a photo. Motueka river bridge to the west bank.

Before work on the weekend I scraped together another 67kms for a grand total of 505kms and my depression has gone, to be replaced with self- esteem.

Actually all this cycling is also training. Do you remember in my last blog entry how we had decided to do the ‘Trans Am’ instead of the Paris / Brest / Paris? Well we have changed our minds back to the Paris / Brest / Paris. There was no way we could raise the NZ$20,000 the ‘Trans Am’ would cost, and we would be repeating a trip we have already done, when our prime objective is to finish cycling around the world. So we are back to training to do the qualifying rides to be able to enter the Paris / Brest /Paris. The qualifiers start in November, so we are building up our distance again as the weather improves. It is less than a month until spring – yeah it can’t come a minute too soon. By spring, we want to be doing 200km rides again and building up to 300km rides. By New Year we want to be doing 400km rides and building up to 600km.
So my 500kms this week will hopefully become insignificant with the challenges I have planned for the next 12 months, but it’s a good start.


Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Winter Blues.

It’s now the middle of winter and I can’t wait for it to pass and for spring to give us some warmer weather .Patience has never been one of my strong points.


The winter snow has arrived on the mountains surrounding Nelson and after the snow - the frosts made the air and wind absolutely freezing, never-the-less, I have been trying to get my usual long rides in. I feel like the ‘Michelin Man’ with all the layers I’ve got on. It is too cold for an ordinary winter training jacket, so I have an ordinary fleece jacket on over my poly-prop under layer, and a vest on top. I have neoprene booties on over my shoes to stop my feet freezing, and woolly gloves instead of my cycling gloves. When it is only 2 degrees (Celsius) in the early morning on my way to work, I have a woolly scarf wrapped around my head under my helmet and around my mouth. I know I must look ridiculous, but I don’t care, at least I am not a sedentary car user not getting a sweat up at all in winter.
Snowing in the mountains.
I don’t have the daylight either for rides of over 125kms, so I just have to accept that I can only do that length of ride for now. To make up for it, I have increased my weekly average from 200kms to 250 -300kms, and am achieving that by one long ride and one slightly shorter one, and at least a hundred kms of commuting. Once spring finally makes itself known and the daylight increases, I can up the weekly average again.

Heading to the snow capped mountains for our weekly ride.
Why am I devoted to distance and counting my kilometres? I want to do the Trans Am race next year. I am excited about the Trans Am, or the unsupported race across America. It is everything I enjoy, long distance, touring, crossing countries and the accomplishment you feel afterwards. My goal is to be the fastest Vet 3 women (over 50 years old); it would also nice to be the first married couple to complete it.

I have made a list of stuff I need to get, but realised that I can’t afford all of that stuff so have whittled it back to smart phone so that I can still continue to communicate and post my blog, and a solar power charger to charge my camera, and phone (yes I know my phone will have a camera), and my MP3 player. I really wanted to get a new one person tent, but the one and a half person tent we have is only 600gms heavier than a new one, so I will use that. This trip will cost us twice as much as the other contestants as there are two of us doing it, so we will have to cut costs by camping as much as possible instead of the luxury of using motels.

It is critical to cut back on everything to be as light as possible. So one pair of cycling clothes and one change of top for when not cycling, only cycling shoes and no other shoes, no cooking stuff, although I will take a can opener and pocket knife, cup and spoon, that way I can eat cereal etc. I am sure I will refine this list as I go.

As for training, I am going to cycle around New Zealand in the spring, do Radonnuering events over the summer to get competent at long distance and maybe the odd racing event, to work on my speed. So you can see why I can’t wait for winter to end, I’m impatient to get started. 

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Disappointments and dreams.

It has been an eventful month, but not in the way I would have liked – on my bike.

The first couple of weeks, I was trying to slowly build up my strength and distance after my knee operation, and it was going well. Then the winter frosts began. It would be a gross understatement to say it was too cold to go for a long ride starting in the morning, so our rides were only afternoon rides getting back before the dew froze in the early evening. The days are lovely, but the short rides frustrated me, it was only to get worse. It’s no wonder I like to go away cycle touring in the Northern Hemisphere in our winter.

 I had to go to Christchurch for my post - operative appointment – that was two days out of my days off written off, but I found out some interesting news – that I have been trying to walk around for two years with a fracture (and other injuries) in my knee – not just a cartilage tear. That explains why I have had trouble walking and standing, but could ride my bike without any problems.

I thought I could make up the lost exercise the next week. Little did I realise that plan would go up in smoke by having an encounter with a Pig.
After encountering a pig on the road in the dark.

I was riding home from work in temperatures hovering around zero. It was pitch dark. Now this is in the country-side, there is no overhead lighting, when it is dark – it is very dark, there wasn’t even a moon. My bike light admittedly was pointing on to the road in front of my bike wheel instead of up ahead, as my battery was running low, and I could see better that way; when this shape appeared about 1 ½ meters in front of my wheel, my brain registered that it was a full grown pig standing in the middle of the road ½ a second before I slammed into it.

I was lying on the ground in incredible pain in the pitch dark as my light was now shining into the heavens, and I wondered if the pig was hurt. I didn’t know where it was, was it still beside me? Had it run away when I hit it? Had it rolled onto the grass road edge angry and ready to bite me? I had no idea.

As soon as the pain became bearable I tried to push the bike off of me – it took several goes as everything hurt. Then I had to stand up – very difficult as both arms where in severe pain and one knee felt like it was grazed and the other knee had only had an operation not long ago. My left ankle hurt like hell and my right shoe was falling apart as it had scraped along the road.

As I was walking my bike home, I realized that another week of exercise had just been written off.

After a trip to Accident and Emergency the next morning, I had a broken finger on my left hand, and a graze with a hole down to the bone on my right elbow, bruises galore on my left leg and a graze on my right knee. I asked Niel in desperation if he would get the tandem  out of the garage, check it over and go for a ride with me (on the back) – I could turn my legs without having to use my arms.

Our tandem is quite old (1980’s) and we don’t use it very much. Back in the 80’s tandems were all the same geometry, with the assumption that the man in front was bigger than the girl behind. I am bigger than Niel, so he has his saddle virtually sitting on the frame and mine is on its highest setting possible. He wrestles with the front and I feel cramped on the back.

The other reason we don’t use it very often, is that our cycling  styles are so different. He likes to ride off the saddle a lot, I don’t at all. He likes to push big gears and I like to spin smaller gears. He rides in the crap on the extreme left and I like to ride on or beside the white line on the side of the road. The person on the back is stuck in the leg speed and way of riding of the person in front, and I cannot stop pedaling to relieve the pressure on my backside.

We have worked out that he can lift his butt off the saddle while I stay seated, and I have to yell out when I want to stop peddling to relieve my rear end. It is amazing how fast we go up hill with him in control, and the double leg power is quite a buzz.




So while my elbow was recovering, and in between days of persistant rain (which makes a change from the frosts), we went tandeming.

I am better now and riding my own bike again, catching up on kilometers. Actually we are seriously reconsidering our intentions for next year, instead of the Paris / Brest /  Paris, we are now keen to do the Trans Am or the unsupported race across America, no help or support is allowed, everything you need you carry with you, as oppossed to the Race Across America where everything possible is done for you - all you do is ride nonstop.
Niel on the west bank and I am on the east side of the Motueka river on a frosty winters day. 

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Autumn washed out.

It rained and rained and rained
 – The average fall was well maintained,
 And when the tracks were simply bogs-
 It started to rain cats and dogs.
 After a drought of half an hour,
We had a most refreshing shower.
And then the most curious thing of all,
A gentle rain began to fall.
Next day also was fairly dry,
Save for a deluge from the sky,
Which wetted the party to the skin.
And after that-
The rain set in.
One of the streams feeding into the Motueka River.
Autumn was washed away in continuous rain that caused flooding in certain areas. I was going insane with the weather and being house bound, so I had to get out even in the heavy rain. Niel was not going to be shown up by his wife and he joined me. The streams were raging torrents cutting of houses and even taking out bridges. The apple orchards had their ripe fruit stripped off the trees and the apples had floated away to be caught into puddles of apples. The main Motueka River where all the streams feed into, was a brown raging force with whole trees floating down stream and all the paddocks beside the river under water. I had never seen the Motueka River like this before and it was very intimidating. At one point I saw a goat tethered to a kennel. This kennel was half in the water and if it started to float away it would take the goat with it. The goat was standing with its chain at its most stretched, and it was looking at the raging river and looked very frightened. I had to do something, so I went to the nearest house to tell them about the goat; it was only a matter of minutes before that kennel would be taken by the river and therefore the goat, as the streams entering the river were making it rise by the minute.  Fancy tethering a goat next to the river for 2 weeks of torrential rain and then forgetting about it! I left the householder to contact the owner and for something to be done about the goat.
Soaked to the skin and warming up with a coffee at Ngatimoti Hall.
While I was getting something done about the goat, Niel had gone across a bridge to the other side of the river - as he likes it better on that side. He was up to his thighs wading through flooded roads when his attempt to cycle through it came to a stop. He was enjoying himself and acting like a school boy, and was buzzing when he met me in the shelter of a hall porch for a hot drink and a chocolate bar. It hadn’t stopped raining, in fact the rain got heavier still and quite cold to boot. It continued to rain for a few more days until the sun made a begrudging appearance.
One bandaged knee on the Nelson cycle trails.
Now at this point in time I was about to go into hospital to  finally get the cartilage tear in my knee repaired, so I wanted to do one more big ride before that happened as I knew it would take a month or two to get back to doing long rides  again.

It is no longer autumn – we are officially in winter now. The days are getting shorter and shorter, although not particularly cold; so long rides have been reduced from 200kms to 150kms. So off we went 5 days after our last ride on a rare fine day. We retraced some of our ride from last week and I checked to see that the goat had been moved – yes it was now in a paddock away from the river, and we checked out the flooded areas. The roads were covered in mud in some places, and there was debris at head height on the fences about 10meters above the present river height. There were whole trees lying on patches of river bed, and massive piles of debris around the pylons of the bridges.  The tide surge that had left drift wood and beach stones all over the coastal part of the road, had been bulldozed to the side, and there was generally enough of a mess to need two weeks of fine weather to clean up.
After effects of fall this rain - mushrooms everywhere.
Apples lodged in fences at head height after  the flood.
I have now had my operation, and am quickly getting back to my old self. After 48 hours I was on my bike again, 72hours after my operation I was riding 50kms around the cycle trails, and 4 days later, I was pulling my trailer to the supermarket to do the weekly grocery shopping. On day 5 I was back at work and within 30 seconds of starting, the workplace bully had already denied me the use of the stool to sit on as she – get this – had a sore knee and wanted to sit on it!

Day off today and guess what? It is raining again and there is already surface flooding. Weather like this makes you ponder future cycle tours and gets my head spinning on where and when to go. We are already considering our options for a short late winter cycle- tour to kick start us for spring, and the Qualifiers we want to do then for the Paris / Brest / Paris next year.

Option 1: The length of Australia. It gives us the long distance per day that we are after. Australia is cheap to get to, but has very expensive accommodation.

Option 2: Bangkok (Thailand) to Singapore. It is bound to be wet as it is the tropics, and not so easy to do long distances, but it finishes South East Asia – which was literally stolen from us, with the theft of my bike and all my stuff when we were last endeavoring to ride from Hanoi (Vietnam) to Singapore in 2012. (I will never ever forgive that thief). It is darer to fly there than Australia, but accommodation is vastly cheaper.


Meanwhile I am still fighting the Accident Compensation Commission for the cost of my surgery. I might be fighting a losing battle, but I’m not giving up. They must be the most hated Government Department in New Zealand.  

Monday, 7 April 2014

A Perfect Day.

I’ve just completed my second official Randonneurs event, actually I didn’t just do it, I also hosted it, and it was one of those perfect days when everything went right.

Gethyn on the right, like a tethered race horse eager to get going.

It was a 200km ride and I am now finding that distance easy, I need to do a 300km event now. The ride had a section of steep hills, a section of riding down valleys, a section of riding along the coast, often right next to the beach, and a section of fun cycle tracks. We left at sunrise and finished at sunset, as we have now passed daylight savings, and the days are getting shorter. The weather was perfect – fine, warm and not a breath of wind the whole day. We all rode at the same speed – no one got left behind, although our friend and neighbor – Gethyn, was so strong he went off ahead and finished two hours faster in an awesome time of 8 hours 45mins. So a great day was had by all.

Craig, Niel and I at our Kohatu stop.

The café at Kohatu was an oasis in the ‘middle of nowhere’. We had a pleasant stop in the sunshine there, where Craig got a belated breakfast. The hills and farms are very dry and brown from the lack of rain, but it was still a very scenic route. Our second stop was at Riwaka, and we had a third stop at Ruby Bay beach reserve. The Great  Taste Trail from Rabbit Island and along the edge of the Waimea Inlet to Richmond and back to the start / finish at Brightwater was a lot of fun, and you almost feel like a kid on a BMX bike.
So anyone out there, who would like to do a scenic and fun all day ride – look me up.

Niel, myself and Craig at the lovely Ruby Bay beach reserve.


Niel is doing a 600km ride the week after next, so while he is away doing that, I will do a ride of at least 250km. That will be my last big ride for a while as I have surgery at the end of the month on my knee, and then it will be winter. But I already have training plans for the end of winter and spring.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Vindicated

“They are all idiots” said my surgeon. I was explaining about how much flack I get about riding my bike long distance, but have trouble standing and walking. “Riding your bike is the best thing you can do” he said.
ACC have declined my claim again for the fourth time, because – get this – I am too active (amongst other reasons). Doesn’t that strike you as contradictory that they reckon I have degeneration, but am also too active!!
I’ve had enough; I’m getting this cartilage tear fixed if I have to find the money myself. So in a month’s time, 20 months after the accident that caused it, I’ll finally have normal knees again.
Sunrise on the hills on leaving Hanmer Springs.

It hasn’t stopped me however. I rode home from seeing the doctor in Christchurch, a mere 535kms in 3 days. Day one: from my Mothers place south of Christchurch through the city – which was weird as they had rebuilt the place after the earthquake so much, that none of the roads looked familiar, as they had different buildings on them and I thought I must have gone the wrong way. Anyway I got through to the northern towns and on to Hanmer Springs. It was raining and very cold there, and you could even see your breath. I had a cabin booked there at the camp ground and got warm, fed and rested after 160kms. Day two: was an early start as I had a big day ahead of me of constant up and down hills – I counted 30 hills by the end of the day.
Tired and having a rest and food at Maruia Springs restaurant.
 After finally summiting Lewis Pass I was shaky with fatigue and lack of food, so stopped at the very beautiful Maruia Springs restaurant for lunch. I have to admit I was rather saddle sore today, but 8 applications of my best friend – anti chaff – and I was able to keep going to Murchison and a ride of 180kms. Day three: Murchison to home sounds easy enough, but I was sick of the traffic and decided to take the ‘dry weather road’ to Tapawera. It was rough and corrugated on my skinny road tires, but I got through without getting a pinch puncture on the stones. From Tapawera it is a bit further home than if I had stayed on the main road, so after135kms I arrived home tired but very pleased with myself.
Kawatiri Junction - just before the dry weather road.

With that effort, I’m halfway to being fit enough for the Paris / Brest / Paris. I need to be able to 1000kms in 3 days. I still don’t know if I can do that, but then a year ago I wouldn’t have been able to ride 535kms in 3 days.
I can now plan my next year or so of cycling. Riding the length of Australia may be a possibly in late winter to set us up for spring fitness, and the qualifiers for the Paris / Brest / Paris next year.
ACC staff are all idiots, but my doctor and I aren’t and riding my bike is the best thing I can do. So why can’t I get any of my cycling friends to do a 200km ride with me?
Food and a rest - what every long distance rider looks forward to.




Saturday, 15 February 2014

I hate ACC.


You know I just wish people would think before they opened their mouths to speak.

Do I sound annoyed? Well yes, you could say that.

It’s been 18 months now since I had a bad accident on my bike in Vietnam. And I have been battling ACC this whole time to accept my claim for a cartilage tear in my knee.  Now for those of you who don’t know what ACC is, it is an entitlement to all New Zealanders to treatment after an accident. Entitlement – not a gift that you have to prove yourself worthy of – an entitlement. ACC insists that my cartilage tear is degeneration. I have a letter from my surgeon saying I have no degeneration, I have photos of the inside of my knee taken after surgery to show it is a ‘perfect’ knee, and I fit into their own description of a sports induced trauma, but do you think that changes their mind? No. I have a lawyer battling them and I’ve had a trial hearing, but I still suffer constant pain while they deliberate and procrastinate.

Now 18 months is a long time for my other knee to take all my weight. Standing at the counter at work for 6 to 8 hours a day on one leg isn’t easy – try it and you will find out. If the frustration of ACC and the pain and discomfort of standing one legged for so long isn’t bad enough, I’ve just had 3 weeks of working, and standing one legged for 5 days a week instead of the usual 2, as a colleague is away. So the consequence of this is that my ‘good knee’ is now so strained and inflamed that is ‘burning’ and I cannot put any weight on it. So I have one knee with a cartilage tear that won’t support me, and the other knee is now so wrecked with pain that it won’t support me either. Now this is where the frustration really lies. I need to sit on a stool at the counter at work, use a walking stick to walk and pop Anti-inflammatories to cope with the pain, BUT I CAN ride my bike – very well in fact. Every doctor and specialist I’ve seen, even the emergency one I saw yesterday, all say “get on your bike”.
Swellings and lumps and bumps all around my knees, and all my weight on one leg, t Rabbit Island beach. 
 

Now this is where I’m going mentally spare. Everyone sees a walking stick and I constantly get smart aleck comments. The one that grates the most is: “You won’t be able to ride your bike”. Then there’s the other stupid ones like: “Where’s your skis”, and “Don’t hit me”. Do they make stupid comments to older people with a walking stick? No they assume something is wrong, why don’t they assume the same with me?  

And yes someone with a  walking stick can ride a bike, can ride a bike really well, even if they can barely walk, what is more it is doctor’s orders to ride a bike. So think before you open your mouth.

And I challenge all of you to stand on one leg for 8 hours 5 days a week.    

Sunday, 26 January 2014

How it feels to ride 225km non stop.


I know a lot of people can’t understand or relate to long distance cycling. I don’t blame them; I would feel the same way if I wasn’t doing it myself.

It was Niel’s birthday this week and therefore his choice of where to go for a bike ride. He has chosen some hard and awful rides over the years and he knows I can’t say no to them because it’s his birthday and his choice. So I was a little bit worried about what this one would be. His choice was to do his favorite 225km ride but in reverse so that I didn’t have to ride up to St Arnaud, but instead it would be down from St Arnaud. The ride went from home in Brightwater to Motueka, down the Motueka river valley to Tapawera, on the quiet back roads through Tadmor and over the 15kms of ‘dry weather’ gravel  road  that comes out on the south side of Hope Saddle, onto Kawateri Junction, St Arnaud and finally down ( but still over 2 large hills) back to Brightwater. Having just successfully finishing this birthday ride, I thought I would tell you how it feels to actually ride for 12 and ½ hours virtually non - stop.
 

The old railway line with a town called 'Kiwi' used to run along this quiet back road.

My workmates don’t really understand why I need time to recover. Well it’s not surprising really, none of them do any strenuous exercise, but I’m not writing this to show off, merely to help them and you to understand.

With all things, the more you do them, the easier it gets. A year ago, I would never have believed you, if you said I’d be cycling this far in one day, and I’ve only just begun on this long distance journey.

The first 75kms you feel magic, nothing is hard, you frequently over take other cyclist with ease, there is no need to stop unless it is a ‘call of nature’. But by 75kms you need to eat, and eat well to sustain that feel good feeling. I have allergies to lots of foods so I tend to eat gluten free muesli bars with a pottle of yogurt and a chocolate bar and a drink with sugar in it, it is also a good time to reapply anti chaff cream and pop an anti-inflammatory for my problem feet.

Just a quick word here – anti chaff cream or chamois cream is essential. A wee niggle at 75kms can turn into unbearable pain without cream in a very short time. It is very possibly my best friend and I don’t leave home without it. Constant bottom wiggles and getting down on to the drop bars can also relieve the pressure on your nether regions. And a comfortable bike and saddle is essential. (That doesn’t mean a big chunky saddle – I couldn’t think of anything worse – that wouldn’t give any part of your nether regions a break from being in contact with the saddle at any time) – I mean a female saddle that you feel comfortable on all day.

Passing the 100km mark and still feeling good is a boost mentally. Actually a lot of long distance riding is mental.  How about riding for 11 hours and you get to a big hill? Well that is when your head takes over. The voice in your head is always there telling yourself you can do it. You can do that hill; you can do that gravel road.

 
Niel on the gravel section at the 100km mark.

By now my feet are hurting, from a combination of hot feet, and my bone and nerve problems. I have had this problem for many years and learnt coping mechanisms for when the pain comes on. If you can only stop for a few seconds – pop an anti – inflammatory pill, if you can stop for a couple of minutes then take your shoes off and rub some anti – inflammatory cream into your feet and change from the clipped in side on the pedal to the flat side, and ride moving your foot around into different positions and then when the pain has diminished  do the same thing with the other foot, always keeping one foot clipped in, so that you don’t lose the pedal rhythm  of clipped in feet.

By the time you get to 150kms, you need to eat again, it is essential, even if you are not hungry. If you ignore this need to eat you will ‘hit the wall’ big time, and be stuck in the middle of nowhere too tired to move. Always take emergency food like muesli bars and chocolate, but nothing beats real food like a hot pie (I take the pastry off and spoon out the meat filling) or cold cooked sausages, and more sugary drinks. It is amazing how much your energy returns after eating. And of course reapply your best friend of anti – chaff.

By now you should be feeling good still, but no longer ‘magic’. Use every trick to keep feeling good, use the drops to change position on down-hills and to go fast. Use small gears on the hills and simply spin your legs to prevent cramp setting in. And drink – a lot – all the time. Water keeps cramp at bay and you will simply need it due to hours of exertion and dehydration from the wind. That voice is back – you CAN keep going, you CAN go faster, and the more you do it, the more you CAN do it.

The last 20kms are when you tire, you know you are going to make it, and your body just sort of does a big physical sigh. That is when you start feeling all the discomforts and pains that you have been ignoring with the help of the voice in your head. It is a case of counting down those last few kilometers, and I often do them quite fast to get them over with, after all you can collapse on a comfy chair when you get home, the faster you ride the sooner you will be in that comfy chair. And when you get home; immediately you feel that buzzy feeling - like a freshly opened bottle of fizzy drink. A natural high that stays with you for the next few hours, until tiredness overcomes you and you can’t keep your eyes open.

And you do need to recover, all the books and magazine articles on training recommend that you stretch when you finish a ride to prevent cramp, but being the women in the house I am too busy making a meal, and stretching never happens; and therefore in bed that night I always get cramp and toss and turn and don’t sleep well – I stretch before I leave on a ride – I MUST remember to stretch on return.  There are not many sports that are as full on for so long as long distance cycling. Iron man events, epic multi - sport events, mountain climbing are a few but there’s not many. And yes they also need periods of rest and recovery. So next time I get asked to cover someone at work straight after a mammoth bike ride, I hope they can see why I night say no, and be a bit more understanding.   

Monday, 6 January 2014

Greymouth 200km event.


Christmas is over for another year thank goodness; we managed to escape into the hills and then got lost – literally. The track we were following turned into a ridiculously steep firebreak, but we could hear vehicles on a road, so we reasoned that if we kept going in the direction of the road noise, then we must surely emerge somewhere. After 6 hours (when we were only supposed to be away for 3 hours) we finally emerged out of the bush. It was a late turkey meal at 10pm, but at least we know we burnt off enough calories to justify going to bed with full stomachs.
Climbing up onto Barnicott ridge.
Looking down onto Nelson city and the Boulder bank from the top.
 

After working all the statutory holidays I was looking forward to a 200km event on the first Saturday in the New Year. It had been raining virtually non-stop for the whole silly season, so I was psyched up to ride for 12 hours in the rain, but the day luckily dawned clear and with no wind, and stayed that way all day. It was perfect cycling weather as it wasn’t hot or cold.
Lake Brunner and 'Dax' my bike.
 

When do you know when it’s time to try a 250km ride? When the 200km ride you are doing feels too short. 

For the 2 weeks before the event, the organizer kept emailing me to check what sort of riding I do, where I go, and what distances do I ride. I felt like I was being interrogated a bit with the insinuation that this is a 200km ride, not 100. I can’t help but feel like I’m being judged, as I’m sure Niel wouldn’t get this scrutiny if it was him doing the ride.
Duncan (the organizer) and I at the 100km mark.
 

Anyway, at the 100km mark, I was as fresh as a daisy and full of chatter, Karen (my support person) who met me there with a thermos of soup, said the organizers face was astounded. I didn’t notice his expression, but I think she was right. I met him for the last time 5kms leaving the town of Hokitika, as he was heading into Hokitika; and he did look amazed that I was so much ahead of him. 200kms ticked off – the next challenge is 250kms, on my way to building up to 300kms.

‘Dax’, my new long distance bike, was perfect in every way. Fast up hill, fast downhill, comfortable for all day in the saddle, and at the finish, no part of my body hurt – tired yes, but not sore.

The accomplishment feeling afterwards, is one of the reasons we do long distance riding. Is it the Endorphins? Is it Adrenalin? I don’t know, but it is addictive. It’s like being high on life. And you wonder why others don’t do it. I know I’d be a different person without this natural high and pride in myself, I think I’d be a more depressed person. I feel like I’m living rather than simply existing.