Monday, November 28, 2011

Le Petit Brevet 2011

Two weeks ago (it seems like an age) Tim and I flew to Rotorua to participate in the Great Forest Rogaine. Last year we did this on foot (8 hours) and according to Tim it took a year for his toe nail to grow back! This year the event was 6 hours and we decided a mountain bike was a much better idea.

Navigation is not our strong point, and our night navigation is shocking. However, we found every control we wanted with relative ease and were very pleased with what we found at night. We didn't rush and so didn't make stupid mistakes, our next challenge is to move a bit faster. It is always great to ride in the Redwoods and the rogaine was even cooler as we went places we would never normally.

The wonderful thing about flying was that we were home on Sunday by 2pm after having been for a two hour ride and a leisurely breakfast.

The next weekend rolled around way too quickly. I was far busier at work than I wanted to be and had far less sleep than I needed. Before I knew it I was on the plane to Christchurch and being picked up by the lovely Michelle.

My brevet kit consisted of my Santa Cruz Highball with WTB Vulpine tyres, a Topeak seatpost rack (I have reservations about using my Freeload on a carbon frame), a 20L pack pack, a GPS and 2 drink bottles. In the dry bag on the rack I had a Vaude Bivvy Bag and a summer weight (tiny and cold) sleeping bag as well some spare food and my tools and so keeping as much weight as possible off my back. In my pack I had a dry bag with a light merino hoodie and polypro top, my softshell waterproof jacket a beanie and some leggings, and of course food. I felt like I had a lot of gear......but on arriving at the start the amount I carried was about average.

After a sleep that was way too short Michelle accompanied me to the start and all too soon we were off. Even though Rapaki was closed everyone opted to use it and I followed. Everyone started at a frantic pace and before I knew it I was dead last. The traverse across Summit Road was hard going with the wind and the gear on my rack but before long I was on the Little River Rail Trail. I made a slight navigational error and jumped on to the trail about 1km after I should have and ended up ahead of group of guys - this confused them greatly!

Once I reached Birdlings Flat I followed the instructions to head out to sea and then as promised I saw the trail required, it was difficult to spot and I was grateful this section of the journey was completed in daylight.

The climb up Bossu Road was ok, I found it quite depressing with low cloud and a very cold wind. The view out over Lake Ellesmere was pretty cool. I enjoyed having the GPS and I was able to see how high we were but due to my lack of preparation I didn't actually know how high any of climbs were. After about 2 hills I realised that 600m was a minimum!

The run down to Little River was good fun and the weather improved significantly. I made a quick stop, replenishing my water - it never occurred to me to carry an extra bottle. By this time it was 12.30pm.

The climb up to Waipuna Saddle and Double Fence Line Track was a longest and highest in the event, and after I digested my sausage roll and rode up it strongly. I passed a few people and oddly shaped trees on double fenceline and then made a another error that saw me bush bash through the scrub, cut my leg and get a slow puncture. It was great to get onto the seal again and be able to see Akaroa down below - what a long 24km of riding it was to get there with a couple of mean hills in the way. I ran out out water again and had to stop a couple of times to put air in my front tyre. I am sure the scenery was beautiful but I didn't really notice as I was grovelling big time.

I arrived at Akaroa, the halfway point at about 6pm, and headed straight for the Four Square, this time I thought to carry some extra liquid. Then I found the fish and chip shop, rang home, and changed my front tyre. I felt a lot better after a good meal and a considerable quantity of water and by 7pm I was ready to go again. I had to text Tim and say I was feeling better and to ignore my grizzle.

I think Purple Peak Road is the steepest sealed road I have ever seen, it was just ridiculous and I have no idea how they managed to stop the seal sliding down the road. I was sure I was the last to leave Akaroa and was surprised to see Jasper coming up the hill behind me (the pub was very good apparently). By the time I reached the summit (and the shelter looked kind of appealing) there wasn't much light left and by the time I reached the Le Bons Bay turn off it was pitch black. The sunset was outstanding and it was a great night to be out and about.

The next section is all a blur, Le Bons Bay, up and down and Okains Bay, and up and down and up again. There were heaps of possums and really dumb rabbits to chase in the dark. Once I reached Okains Bay maybe 10.30ish, but who knows I decided as I was pretty cold, even with my jacket on and so decided to push on a bit. I kept telling myself another 15km means 15km less for tomorrow. I eventually descended into little Akaloa and as the descent wasn't huge and I didn't get too cold it was a good time to stop.

I had planned my stop on the way down as I wanted to avoid getting too cold. I found a posy close to the facilities but slightly away from the road. As I got ready another rider arrived, who knows how I ended up ahead of him? I thought he had kept going but when I got up in the morning he was camped about 20m from me! I took off everything wet as quickly as I could and put on my dry merino and polypro top and my leggings, I jumped into my bivvy and sleeping bag bit couldn't get warm. I listened to the waves hitting the near by beach but was shivering badly. I eventually got my survival blanket out and put it between my sleeping bag and the bivvy bag and this was enough to keep the cold from seeping up from the ground. I estimate I had 3 hours sleep - pretty good for my first night ever out by myself!

I woke up as it was getting light about 5am and decided to relax for a few minutes and the next thing I knew it was 5.40am and so by the time I packed up it was 6. I struggled to eat any food and it took about 30 minutes to eat a muesli bar. I decided to get into the sugar as at least I could eat the sour snakes.

The climb out of Little Akaloa was brutal and seemingly endless, I was pleased that I stopped when I did as the night before I was in no state for this climb. The day was stunning and the view back down to Akaroa was spectacular especially with the two cruise liners in the harbour.

There is very little flat land in Banks Peninsular and before I knew it I was heading down to Pigeon Bay and a the nice coastal section that lead to another huge hill leading to Port Levy. At this stage a group of three caught me. Peter and his two friends had left Okains Bay that morning and looking strong. It was nice to have some company. These guys were never too far from me for the rest of the ride.

Port Levy was pretty cool and by this time there was more traffic and more signs of civilisation. One of the highlights of the trip was reaching the saddle between Diamond Harbour and Port Levy, suddenly, I could see Lyttleton, and I was nearly there.

The area around Diamond Harbour is outstanding and I would like to have a look around some other time. The day was perfect with no wind and brilliant sunshine.

I was thankful to arrive at 11.02 and so miss the 11am ferry. There was time for a much needed pie and a couple of drinks. There were four of us on the ferry and before we knew it we were heading to Governors Bay and Dyers Pass Road. I would like to ride this again one day and see what it is really like......Once I reached the Sign of the Kiwi I sparked up and made good progress to the top of Rapaki. I texted Michelle and she met me at the bottom and we headed back to her place for a much needed beer! I was pleased to finish and was very pleased to finish in 29 hours and 37 minutes. I had thoughts of riding through the night but in retrospect, stopping was the right thing to do

I was pretty tired all week. On reflection, I certainly didn't drink or eat enough and so totally wasted myself. Last week was a long week.....

This brevet was a great challenge, and a lot of fun, heaps of climbing, good weather, camping out, and a weekend of riding! As time moves on the memories become more and more positive and the memories of the hard times I'll probably be back

In the end we pulled the pin on the Huka Challenge. I had driven 1000km for work by Wednesday and the last thing I needed was more driving time. There will always be next year!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

I'm a very bad blogger

In fact my application to blogging is so bad it is surprising I actually manage to ride my bike on a regular basis!

Since Tim and I rode the Heaphy track in May my world has been full of work, work and more work, with some riding and running slotted in. I have completed a few events including the Santoft Sizzler in Foxton where I struggled to 3rd place (so I wasn't as fit as I thought!). I have enjoyed a couple of cyclocross races (I see another bike on the horizon) as well as my first road criterium. I certainly see more of these short, all out efforts in my future. I also completed a Wellington Mountain Bike Orienteering Series with great success, somehow managing to win the series.

This weekend was the beginning of a "Big November" (after all I have a wedding dress to fit in January and there is nothing like the extra motivation to get you moving).

Big November Weekend 1: Revolve 6 hour Race - Nov 5th

That was yesterday and what a great day out it was. The Revolve team were slick and the event was very good. My aim to ride consistently for 6 hours and try and make my first lap the same speed as my last lap. I have to say I failed with this. My first lap was really slow, somehow I managed to be talking when the race started and got held up big time, and so my last lap was about a minute faster than my first. After I settled into the day, I really enjoyed it. The climb wasn't long enough to really hurt, Magic Carpet was fun, and the descent was long enough to recover. Even though the course was short and lacking any technical challenge, it was not boring at all and the laps just disappeared and suddenly I had completed 14. I felt strong and really gave it my all. I ended up 3rd in what I think was quite a solo strong field and 4th overall.

I would like to thank all the ladies who kindly pulled over and let my past so quickly and nicely, it really made my day! Sorry about the very load hub too!

And, thanks for the photo Pete Marshall.

I was pleased to get some good solid kilometres into my legs and topped it off with a quiet hill run today!

Big November Weekend 2: Great Forest Rogaine Rotorua with Tim - 12th Nov

Big November Weekend 3: Le Petit Brevet

Big November Weekend 4: Huka Challenge - far more interesting than an Election

So, what is all this leading up to? (not just my wedding) the So, for at least the month of November there should be some blogging again!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Heaphy Track

Tim booked our Heaphy Track trip in December, soon after the announcement of the 3 year mountain bike trial. After 5 months of anticipation the trip kind of creapt up on us.

The plan was to fly to Takaka on Golden Bay Air on Friday, spend the night at Brown Hut, then ride through to James Mackay for Saturday night, spend Sunday night in Karamea and then ride to Westport to fly home on Monday. Things didn't exactly go to plan. The weather conditions in Wellington and Takaka prevented Golden Bay Air Flying, I thought this would be the end of our trip however Golden Bay Air flew us to Nelson, drove over and picked us up and then shuttled us to Takaka. I have to say they were fantastic and totally exceeded our expectations.

On arrival at Takaka we made a last minute decision to stay at the Junction Hotel, put our bikes together in the dry, and have a warm comfortable night. The weather in Takaka was very wet, and as we had got soaked through on the tarmac at Wellington staying was an easy decision.

The Golden Bay Air pilot kindly picked us up at 7am (on his day off) and dropped us ot the first ford on the Heaphy Access road. We used the farmers bridge to cross this one, the second ford was up to my waist and the water was moving fast, Tim had to rescue me from the main flow when I got stuck!

The rain was steadily falling and it wasn't exactly warm. All our gear was in plastic bags inside our dry bags, and secured to Freeload Racks. We both put most of the weight on the bike.

I wore a jacket, baggies, a merino base layer, and cycle top, Tim had the same plus his wet suit top, and long skins. By the time we reached Aorere Shelter we were both frozen. For some reason we found the climb, about 12km very slow, it was wet, with various sized rocks, but the gradient wasn't too bad. Due to the weather I spent most of the time looking at the ground.

At the shelter we were glad of the gas cooker we were carrying. I cooked us a hot meal and a hot drink, and we had a general purpose grizzle. We were concerned about our lack of progress and started to worry we weren't going to make it to James Mackay before dark. We made a conscious decision to up the pace.

After half an hour more riding we made it to Perry Saddle Hut, the gradient here was almost flat and we were heartened when passing the sign noting the "highest point on the Heaphy track." - 910m we think

After Perry Saddle the ride was down hill and rocky. On this part of the track the rocks were sharp so some care was required. The descent was great fun and it was wet enough for the mud on the trail to slow you. On reflection this was my favourite part of the ride. We were still focused on moving at a good rate and started passing people who had started over an hour before us.

We made it to Gouland Downs in what seemed like no time. The ride on the downs was undulating, there were big boulders and fast moving rivers. I am sure it was quite pretty, but we just couldn't see anything. We met the first two swing bridges on the downs - what a pain! They were hard to cross, energy sapping, cloth snagging, and dry bag ripping. We found out later that a rider in a group behind us had decided to cross the river with his bike, rather than use the swing bridge, he got swept 40m downstream and was close to drowning!
We had a coffee break at Saxton Hut and then headed up the climb so we could descend to James Mackay Hut. This section of the track floods regularly and we were lucky not to have a flood. The descent to the Hut was very wet and the type of mud seemed to change from grippy to slippery. Just before we reached the hut I caught a whiff of a coal fire - I never thought a coal fire smell would be so welcoming.

The first day took us 7 hours including all breaks etc. I think we had at least 1 hour inside huts and could have moved quite a lot faster in the first few hours. I ripped my dry bag on a swing bridge and so double bagging our kit paid off. The hut was warm and it was easy to dry our stuff, and we stayed warm in 2 season sleeping bags all night. We were comfortable in the hut and managed to consume about 1.5 litres of wine! (Thanks for carrying the cask Tim)

We were joined in the hut by 12 members of the Ground Effect team. Guy, Laurence, and the guys were exceptional company! It is easy to see why Ground Effect is such a successful business, the enthusiasm and positive manner of the group was neat.

Thunder and lightning entertained us overnight and we awoke to a southerly change and more rain. After a hearty porridge breakfast we were off. Both Tim and I put on every piece of clothing we had, we were both comfortably warm on the 1.5 hour down hill ride to Lewis Hut.

The descent was heaps of fun, and certainly the most technical part of the trail. I really enjoyed it, it challenged me but was still fun. We both had a couple of crashes, I was most amused to see Tim slowly go over the handle bars in one of those slow speed crashes you can't do much about.

After Lewis Hut we were greeted by 4 more swing bridges and a lot of energy sapping mud! We started to get cold at this point. We were both wet through and waiting at the bridges didn't help retain heat. I think I whinged a lot on this section. We lubed our chains regularly on this section but both still got chain suck. My drive train was brand new (wrecked now) and so I'm not sure what else I could have done to prevent this.

Finally we reached Heaphy Hut and we had lunch with the ground Effect crew heading in our direction. They were a lot warmer than we were (superior kit maybe?), I was pleased to be wearing my Helter Skelters, why I carried them all day on Saturday and never put them on is beyond me.

The terrain after Heaphy Hut was pretty much flat and coastal. There was a lot of getting on and off bikes to cross streams, sandy sections and more mud. I think this was the most scenic section with huge forests of Nikau Palms right down to the sea. After about 1.5 hours we reached the track end.

At the track end it started raining again and we realised our 16km ride into Karamea was going to be into a 100kph head wind! As we were riding past the very green coastal farms even the cows looked unhappy and Tim said to mention he was riding with his right eye closed to keep the hail out! (I was drafting and sheltering of course)

After an eternity we arrived at our motel, Karamea River Motels. These guys were excellent. Kay and Joe had the heater on in the room and the washing machine ready. Kay then took us to the Last Resort for a yummy dinner. When having dinner we mentioned that given the weather we would try and get a lift to Westport, Joe didn't hesitate to offer us a ride as he was heading that way anyway. If you are in Karamea I thoroughly recommend the Karamea River Motel

In the morning Kay and Joe drove us to Westport and we learnt a lot about the history of the area on the way. We managed to waste the day in Westport with coffee, food, beer tasting, coffee and food. We just about didn't make out of Westport as our plane had trouble finding a gap in the clouds to land.

It was a challenging weekend indeed mainly because of the weather, my advice is:
  • double and triple bag your stuff when in dry bags
  • wear polypro, merino is not warm enough
  • take matches to light the cookers
  • 2 season bags are warm enough
  • take some extra brake pads just in case (neither of us wore out a set but nearly - we are not hard on brakes)
  • take a little gas stove for emergency warm food
  • candles are useful in the huts
  • take lots of lube and use it, also make sure your drive chain is in good condition
  • there are pots etc in most of the huts
  • Hot chocolate sachets rock
  • If you can keep your back wheel off the ground when crossing the swing bridges it is easier