Monday, 8 September 2014

2012 - 2013 Season

So after getting underway with Mission 1 at Bike the Lake I decided a few more rides under the belt would help me decide exactly how I wanted to get back into being a competitive cyclist. Not to mention whether or not it was actually going to be possible to do what I felt was going to be needed around the commitments of work and family.

I'd already made the call that it would be a year or two before I'd consider club racing again. I'd only just come back into the sport and turning up to club races and getting my ass handed to me each weekend wasn't in my game plan plus I didn't want to waste money on a racing license if it didn't come together. That left the fun ride circuit as the best option. I also didn't want to squeeze too much in for a first season as I had A LOT of training to get behind me before I would be even remotely fit enough (or skinny enough) to assess how I was headed.

Taking a look at the selection of fun rides there were quite a few more options that back when I was originally racing. To narrow down the choices I figured around the 100km mark was a good distance target and one close to home and one away would be a nice mix for the family. Ruth decided to chuck in a fun run in Wellington as well so that left me with the Tour de Ranges around Hunua, Taupo to Rotorua 100k Flyer & the Cycle for Life (similar course to the TdR).

Needless to say (otherwise I wouldn't be where I am now) it worked out moderately well although was a steep re-learning curve but successful in the end. To sum it all up here's how it generally panned out:

By the time I got to the TdR in January 2013 I had a solid whack of regular training miles behind me and was starting to feel a lot more comfortable on the bike. The race went quite well in general. I didn't aim too high, I just wanted a solid time and to feel like I belonged in the bunches again. I ended up hauling along the bunch I was in between Mangatawhiri and Kaiaua (much to my surprise) and even rode off the front up Snake Hill (wonders will never cease). After that I settled back in to the bunch and waited to the finish for the bunch sprint which I started a little early but only lost out to 3 people out of the 30 odd in the bunch......... Mission 2 was accomplished!

Mission 3 was the Taupo to Rotorua 100k Flyer in April 2013. By this stage I was feeling pretty good and a lot more confident but due to work had an absolutely shit run up with training. The first 50km went brilliantly, I was in bunch #2 with G and cranking along into Reporoa around 40km/hr....... then we hit the hills and I got spat completely out the back and had a lonely, extremely painful final 40km to ride to the finish which was a bit demoralising. But although that might sound like a failure I still felt it was a success. My time actually wasn't all that bad, nor was the average speed, most importantly I stuck it out and actually enjoyed it regardless...... Mission 3 was accomplished!

Work finally settled back down and I got some decent training in again, plus I got to know the team at Avantiplus in Manukau who have been great support along the way and so the final mission for the year was conceived to do the Cycle for Life which is pretty much a duplicate of the TdR. By this stage I had figured out how this was all going to work. Ruth was in full support so we used a bit of my bonus money and I kitted myself out with a new carbon Avanti Corsa DR2 race bike....... not the top of the line as our budget wouldn't survive that but at least a good solid investment that would get me through the next few years of training and racing.

Mission 4 rolled around in mid May and I was at last on top of the training again. I wasn't feeling like I was having a cardiac arrest at the top of every hill and my old strengths were coming back on the flat and time trialling. The morning dawned and the weather was shit,.... totally and utterly crap. But the money was paid so the event had to be done or Ruth was threatening to rearrange my nether regions with a hot poker.

At the start line I formed up with the Avanti boys and girls with the weather at least holding off and we shot off like a bullet from the back of the pack, I had a good climb up Monument Hill and settled into a solid bunch right as the weather broke....... rain........ hail........ wind......... a couple of times I wondered why the hell I was doing this but the reality was I was still enjoying it. I was riding well and spending a lot of time leading the bunch again as we picked up little groups constantly. Then after getting through the hilly bits and on the last major decent I locked up and hit the tarmac..... the only saving grace was it was not my fault as a young fella got the wobbles and took out a couple in front of me I still suffered a few grazes and nearly broke the rear derailleur off the bike. A bit of judicious straightening and I limped the last 15km home, still in a reasonable time given the crash and conditions...........

After swearing a few times on the finish line about the crash I realised it still didn't bother me and I wasn't losing the motivation, it was all just part in parcel of racing again and I still wanted more........ Mission 4 was accomplished.

So Season 1 was done and dusted, I was happy with the effort and decided on an expanded race calendar for the 2013 - 2014 Season. It was time for a bit of R&R before hitting the training again (as well as putting a bit of time into work). All in all I was feeling really good and positive, the next season was about seeing exactly how good I could get in what was still a pretty short period of time being back on the bike.........

Saturday, 6 September 2014

The First Race....... well Fun Ride :P

Well the first "competitive" ride was always going to be a bit interesting..... let's face it I hadn't ridden in a bunch in years, was rather rusty and while the fitness was starting to come back I was at the time quite heavy and hardly in the frame for a decent hill climb!

What this meant was that I needed to be a bit canny about the ride I chose as my first outing. I'm not a social sportsperson, never have been so if I chose something where I got my ass completely handed to me it was probably going to dent my future motivation.

Originally I chose a vineyard sponsored ride in Tauranga, however that ended up getting canned so I went back to the trusty web and found the Bike the Lake ride in Rotorua. 2 laps of the lake at 84km in total and barely a hill worth mentioning..... kinda fitted my requirements nicely.

Regardless I was nervous as all hell and wasn't sure what to fully expect as back when I was riding the races and fun rides were a lot smaller. Having looked at the size of the entry list I realised the start was probably going to be utter havoc. To make everything somewhat better though my good mate Graham agreed to come down and support the first outing which was a god send as it settled the nerves a lot just having someone else there on a bike that I knew.... even knowing he was going to smoke me without blinking :P.

The morning of the race was pretty nice but a brisk wind was starting to blow up from the south east which meant the end of the first lap and the finishing 5km or so was going to be a bit of an effort. With a bit of a warm up G and I headed for the start line and were positioned pretty well.

With the obligatory safety briefing done and dusted it was the countdown to the start............ and we were off, well at least everyone else was as I proceeded to spend what felt like 15 minutes trying to clip my right foot in...... you'd think I was doing it for the first time it took that many attempts and about 200m of scooting!

All in all the race ended going quite well after the initial moment of nerves and once I was clipped in I belted out of the gate trying to catch G and a reasonable bunch to ride with. Mission was accomplished about halfway round the first lap just as we hit the one slightly mentionable hill at which point i got shot out the back (along with a few others) and formed a small bunch to soldier on with..... that was the last time I saw G till the finish :/.

Still I rapidly found that apart from the hills I was the strongest in my bunch by a mile which was bloody good for the ego and made the training all feel worth it. After dragging everyone round for the next 42km I bolted with about 6 others in a little breakaway and soldiered home for the last 20 odd kilometres. 

I hit the finish line at 2:35:10 with an average speed of 32.2km/hr but completely knackered. After collapsing for about 15 minutes I had a little think about the result and realised that all in all it was a pretty blasted good nudge given all of 3 months training from nothing.

Suddenly I had the bit well and truly between the teeth and it was time to see how well I could really go if I put my mind to it.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Re-birth of a Cyclist

Well epiphany done and dusted it was time to decide what I was actually going to do......

Bear in mind this was in 2012 and my memory kinda sucks these days so I'll try to put this together in some slightly sane form that at least attempts to make sense.

My wife Ruth had been diagnosed with Graves' Disease, now while this isn't exactly impending doom it quite rightly knocked her confidence and also put paid to what at the time were plans for the #3 little bundle of trouble. On the upside Ruth decided enough was enough and it was time to do something different that would give her plenty of motivation and help settle her body down and into a semblance of normality.......... Running!!!! (You might remember I dislike running..... not completely but fairly comprehensively) More importantly she ended up wanting to do a Half Marathon and then a Full Marathon (absolutely crackers I tell ya).

Now at the same time I (being somewhat of a Facebook wh*re) was stalking some of my amazing old friends from school and the Air Force and their athletic endeavours. Ruth got the ball rolling and watching Kaytee succeed over the years at anything Cycling, Jamie at Ironman, Graham at Road & Mountain Biking, Carl at Ironman, Joe finishing the London Marathon and Donna at Endurance Running just cemented it....... I needed to move my arse.,,,, significantly.

I was 97kg and that arse was unbalancing the earths orbit, plus I hadn't see my belt buckle in 5 years and since I'm fairly tall it did somewhat hide it all however to me it was blatantly obvious that I'd gone beyond simply unfit into plain lazy. So with the plan to support my wife while she trained by at least being active (and in the interests of not being a future health statistic) I decided to at least get a few rides in and so dusted off the old mountain bike. After all it was only 16 years since I'd ridden a reasonable amount, it was hardly going to be the end of the world.....

OMG..... I'm not one for three lettered abbreviations but this one does fit quite nicely. That little old 16km ride damn near killed me. Actually I'm fairly sure it technically did and a random roaming goat most likely resuscitated me from the ditch into which I collapsed.

Now there is nothing more galling to someone who used to be fairly competitive than being forced to realise that they can no longer gallop up that hill or bolt along that flat road....... I was right royally pissed off, which at this point was probably rather a good thing.

After I finished swearing at Ruth about it and between gulping copious amounts of water I started to think about that ride and what it meant. In 16 years I had gone from a fairly well tuned cyclist to a jelly legged rookie who had to WALK up hills....... not surprisingly I got the bit between my teeth and decided that was it. I refused to contemplate puffing my way round the boys sports fields for the next couple of decades so I made a pact with Ruth. She'd do her running and I'd trial the idea of getting back into cycling.

Having rather stupidly sold all my gear over 12 years earlier I decided to buy a reasonable steed off TradeMe that would give me enough kit to get by with until I knew whether or not I was going to carry this through and really make something of it. So in August 2012 after a couple of weeks of searching and $600 worth of investment I picked up an older EMC2 with shoes, pedals, pump and kit bag and a cheap set of cycling kit (luckily I'd kept my old helmet as a memento of the old days and it still fitted).

With a fair bit of steely determination, not to mention the acknowledgment that this was going to hurt like hell, I mapped out a training plan and a first event to do (I don't train well without a target). Slowly I got comfortable at 15km, then 20km and so on until after 2 months I was finally riding 80km for a long ride and managing a minimum of 4 training rides per week without completely seizing up not to mention bawling like a baby every time I saw a hill.

This was quite possibly the hardest thing I have ever done. Knowing full well what you were once capable of made nearly every training ride a psychological battle with myself, I am fairly sure there are quite a few roadside animals around our area that now have a far greater appreciation for swearing than they really need. Every ride was hurting like hell and every now and then I'd have to rest a couple of extra days to let the exercise bed back in and manage my recoveries. But it was making a difference slowly and surely, distances were going up and so were the average speeds. To be honest (and in the words of the great Greg Lemond) it still hasn't gotten any easier but I have gotten faster....... a lot faster.

So in October 2012 it was time to ride my first official fun ride in over 16 years.......... I was looking forward to it and at the same time was as nervous as hell, but more about that a bit later on :P.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Bugger it all.....

Work...... always there, never ending, sometimes a saviour, sometimes a right drag!

After starting my working life I never really looked back at sport. Which is a shame for all sorts of reasons but most importantly because I enjoyed it so much. I think in the end I did about 3 rides after joining the Air Force and little else from there despite the annual fitness test which for a crappy little 3.2km run rapidly became the equivalent of climbing Mt Everest. After leaving the Air Force and entering civilian life it became even more of an afterthought.

Life became about work, money, expenses and eventually children........ Don't get me wrong, I love working and adore my boys but sometimes you can lose sight of your own needs amongst the supposed "must's" of adult life. I managed a few little excursions and one corporate triathlon (where I almost drowned, gathered myself together on the bike and subsequently felt like I was going to have a heart attack during the run). Oh and as my lovely supportive wife has just reminded me there was an infamous trip to the mountain bike park at Woodhill that resulted in a fractured elbow and almost permanent retirement for the mountain bike after being used precisely ONCE.

I don't for a minute regret any life decisions I have made, they are part of me and who I have become. However as with everyone I can never help those little twinges of what might have been..... after all hindsight is a bugger of a thing and it kinda sneaks up on you.

So without listing all the trials and tribulations of my working career it is probably easiest to say that after quite a few years, promotions, new companies, longer work hours, moving houses, getting married, having kids and letting life rule me I finally managed to say bugger it all.....

It wasn't something I did lightly but having started a new job again it finally dawned on me (yes I'm a slow learner) that there was more to life than this, life isn't meant to rule you and it was high time I did something that I enjoyed again to relieve a bit of the pressure.

In the end it became quite a bit of a mindset change. I still work long hours, especially at business planning time and when projects are on but I don't feel 100% beholden to work anymore, if I decide to finish early as I've done my hours for the day then I do and no longer feel guilty about it. In turn this let's me focus on the important things, like having fun, spending time with the family, having spur of the moment adventures and getting some me time to unwind while (I hope as to be honest it's extremely unlikely) being a good role model to my boys.

And after this epiphany you say? What happened next???????

How it all began......

Sooooo how to begin this little blog on my cycling journey?

I guess to start I should explain a little about my cycling background. As a kid I got to try a fair few sports, particularly at primary school, thanks to my very supportive parents. There were the staple Kiwi traditional's such as Cricket, Rugby, Soccer, but given my ball handling skills are similar to that of a single celled amoeba I rapidly headed in the direction of other options. I enjoyed hockey and loved sailing but what really clicked was cycling.

It really shouldn't have been much of a surprise as given my rural upbringing if you wanted to get anywhere or do anything you were left with few options; either you hocked a lift with the parental's or you got there under your own steam and let's face it the quickest way was by bike and didn't involve bribery with chores....

Eventually at the final year of my primary schooling when i was 12 I entered a little trial Duathlon in town as while I am not a fan of running it kinda sounded like fun. It actually went remarkably well, if I remember rightly I finished 6th........ more importantly I beat everyone on the bike leg and I was riding Mum's old step through bike........ needless to say I kind of realized this might be my sort of sport.

When I got to College the next year it took a while to slot cycling in as nothing existed in the school program at all but thanks to the forethought of a couple of motivated teachers and some friends who banded together to enter the then VERY fledgling Secondary School Triathlon series we started to enter a few team events. My role was always the team cyclist and thanks to having some fantastic team mates we got some good results, then as the years went by some great results and a lot of wins, usually against teams with some sizeable budgets while we continued to operate on a shoestring mainly at the cost of our parents. By then the Triathlon Team had morphed into the much bigger Multisport Team covering all sorts of disciplines and under which I continued to chug away as a team cyclist.

At the prompting of Mum & Dad and the advice of the team coach I joined the local cycling club. Back then this was the Auckland League of Wheelmen and was a rather eliteist outfit (as cycling clubs often can be) and I think perhaps this was where it went a bit wrong. I was cycling, multisporting and sailing across both seasons but the big difference to me between the two sports was that the Waiuku Sailing Club & any Multisport Event were awesome, supportive, enjoyable and fulfilling whereas the Auckland League of Wheelmen was (to me at least) standoffish, eliteist, hyper-competitive and for a young chap not as fun.

This is not to say my results were not good..... in fact looking back now they were fairly bloody awesome given my lack of knowledge and club support which is why I perhaps get a little annoyed with myself these days thinking back on it.

I won my first race....... partly by hammering it home in a solo break and partly because the handicapper made the silly mistake of judging me by my equipment (an old Morrison 16 Speed) and not the blunt suggestions of my coach, parents and a close mate in the same club. Needless to say they only made that mistake once. After that the results came a little more sparingly but still plenty of podium places and in the first season a silver medal in the club champs. The following season was just as good but I was over the club and the sneering at each other over equipment and results......... so I never went back and just focused on being a team cyclist and sailor instead.

To explain my comment about being annoyed, I think perhaps I had strayed into an area of sport I didn't understand..... one where results mattered and equipment was taken seriously because the sport was seen as a future career for some, whereas at that time, for me, it was all about enjoyment. Looking back now I wish maybe I had persevered and perhaps gotten into the club further and who knows where it might have led if I had understood that professional sport could be a future option.

But let's face it that didn't happen and I left school after 7th Form with good marks and an A Bursary to join the Air Force and since then work took over in my life...... but that's the next chapter!