knocking the Bastard off

29 12 2010

It began with a horrible car journey the day before – a 5 hour drive from Wellington to Taupo. We stopped for lunch at the Licorice Cafe in Motuoapa and i was looking positively green. I don’t know what it was but it was all I could do not to chunder. A wee sit down in the fresh air and then a wee walk by the lake and off we went.

Next up was to do a bit of a recon of Hatepe Hill. It was my biggest fear of the whole ride – the steepest hill and 120km into the ride. Yup, fears realised – it is pretty steep.

The registration process in Taupo town was really easy, lots of credit to the organisers for making it totally stress-free and stream-lined. Oh and I won a spot prize at registration – a tube of le Tan sunscreen, yes!!

Dinner was at the Caboose Lodge where we stayed. Its the safari style hotel on Lake Terrace – you cant miss it. This was our last opportunity to carbo load so we scanned the menu expecting to see an array of pasta dishes to choose from. Turned out that there was only a small pasta entre, poor judgement by the chef. I went for it followed by the fillet of beef – medium rare. Turns out we got the last portions of the pasta entre as the people on the table next to ours tried to order it as well. We promptly apologised for taking the last portions!

After dinner it was time to polish up the bike – clean bikes do go faster. Then an early sleepless night thinking about what was to come the following day………..

I had my breakfast of champions – weet-bix. Can’t remember how many I did, maybe 8. The morning was a cracker. Hardly a cloud in the sky, minimal wind and the promise of soaring temperatures.

We made our way down to the start line. I had optimistically placed myself in the starting group with an estimated finishing time of between 5 hours 10 minutes and 5 hours 30 minutes. After a few nervous trips to the toilet I met my cousin at the start line and we settled in with the 10,000 other cyclist awaiting our turn to set forth on our cycle challenge.

The two main lessons I had learnt from the events I had previously taken part in were: 1. pace yourself from the start, and 2. keep on eating and drinking. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to keep up with the other cyclists in my starting group so I quite happily let them sail on past me as I found my rhythm. I foolishly purchased two new drink bottles that I had never used before in training that were a different shape to what I was used to. The problem with them was that I could get one of them out of the bottle cage no problem, but I couldn’t get a grip on the other one without fear of dropping it so I thought it better to just leave it lest I cause an accident. I was originally planning on cycling past the first water stop and topping up once I reached the stop at the 70.5km mark. My water bottle issue changed this plan somewhat as I effectively only had one bottle to drink from so I stopped at the 40km mark.

I was feeling great at this point. Really enjoying myself and the glorious views to be had of Mt Ruapehu in the distance.

The first real challenge I had was Kuratau Hill. I was very unfamiliar with the roads on the Western side of Lake Taupo and had heard many stories of how tough the Kuratau Hill was to cycle up. There were actually several times that after cycling up a hill I thought it must have been Kuratau, I even asked someone I was cycling along with if that was it, he was a Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge virgin too and didn’t know. Then we reached it. It seemed never-ending. Lots of blind corners. I’d get to the top of one blind corner thinking that I must have been at the top, get around it and to much dismay realise that I was still faced with an upwards gradient. I got to the top and made it to the water station at Waihi Hill, about the 96km mark. This was where I noticed the patches of salt on my black cycling jersey from where my sweat had evaporated in the harsh sun.

The section from Waihi through to the base of Hatepe was meant to be the easiest part of the challenge because it was flat. I found it the hardest. By this time the wind had cruelly changed direction so that the tail wind I was relying on to push me up the Eastern side of the lake back to Taupo had done a full 180 degree turn so that it became a nasty headwind. I hate headwinds. I tried latching on to groups of cyclists that went past but I just didn’t have the legs for it. There were long stretches here where the tar on the road had melted so it felt like I was peddling through sand.

Eventually I made it to the base of Hatepe Hill. This was the big challenge. The steepest climb where spectators set up camp waiting to see people cease up in agonising cramp and unceremoniously fall off their bikes onto the hard road. There was no way I was going to stop on this hill. I would feel really disappointed in myself if I had to stop and walk. This was my goal from over a year ago. I’d done the training, not as much as I should have but enough to get me through.

I killed that hill. I was passing people left right and centre. There were people walking. There were people stopped at the side of the road panting and sprawled out on the grass sucking in lungfuls of air.

I made it to the top and was totally out of water. Stopping at the water station at the top I managed to only top up with half a bottle – that’s 250ml to get me the 25km to the finish line. They had run out and people were not happy!

Thankfully the rest of the journey was mostly downhill.

I crossed the finish line in a final time of 7 hours, 15 minutes and 18 seconds.

Finished!!

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