Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Kiwi Brevet - Reflections

I tried to keep the introspective stuff out of my previous Brevet posts, but it had to come, didn't it?!

What an incredible adventure! And strangely, it's one I've barely been able to get out of my mind since. Almost within hours of finishing the Brevet (well of finishing my 48 hour "meal" after it), I was thinking about doing it again, not once, but twice. And this, after telling more than one person that once was enough...

I figure it would be nice to do it once at a more leisurely pace. I'd make sure that I got to climb to Arthurs Pass during daylight hours, and soak in hot pools at Hanmer. And have a 4-shot, half-litre latte in Reefton without fear of puking ten minutes later when already back on the bike... I'd never have to rush to get to bed, and would have time to write proper posts for the web, and would have more photos to talk about.

The competitor which surely lurks within me somewhere, would also like me to compete against myself once more. I'm certain the secret to finishing this Brevet "fast" is to stay at Springfield at the end of Day 3. It would then be a long but relatively straightforward ride to Hanmer for dinner before bedding down at Acheron ready for a 7am start. It's not completely clear to me where to start the Day 3 assault from though. Perhaps Big River Hut? And getting there's not going to be trivial. No cruisy Day 1 finishing in Maitai Valley though, that's for sure. And spending 35 minutes back-tracking for a coat would be a definite no-no - there'd be no place for silly mistakes. Socialising would have to play no part in this version. I would need to take full advantage of my competitive edges: I can be ready to go from sound asleep to on the bike in 10 minutes flat, and I can eat so fast that if I'm eating with others and don't religiously wait for all the food to arrive before tucking in, I can clear my plate before someone's even seen theirs.

Looking at all that, maybe I'm really back to doing the Brevet only once more. The problem is, Version 2 looks to me nothing like a Brevet's meant to be. There'd be no photos, and no new Facebook friends at the end. If it went to plan, it might become a thing of legend, but it would be so solitary. It might as well be done alone, at Easter...

There were a lot of specific things I loved about the Brevet, and as Simon alluded to in his comment on my gear list, my Brevet lasted a hell of a lot longer than 5 days. I really enjoyed getting fit, including doing targeted (and slightly mad) hill sessions building up to the sort of climbing we might expect day after day. I loved sorting out what gear to take, and how to carry it. Tweaking the bike was a lot of fun too. I loved sorting out the technology side of things. A cell phone makes a great notepad, and a GPS unit a great navigational tool (provided it's got good info uploaded to it, and has enough juice to have it on...). All this started way back in October, and motivated (along with the Ak Attack) some pretty sweet riding.

The Brevet itself was packed with challenges, both physical and mental, often side by side. As anyone who's read back knows, I'm fairly clear that my mind controls my legs, and if my mind isn't on the ball, yesterday's fantastic legs can very easily be today's shite. Luckily, the mind came to the party day after day, at least regard to getting the legs fired up.

The riding in "my Brevet" was damn hard, and so much of it was alone, but I think the freshness of it made me relish the experience more than fear it. In fact, I was never scared, which surprises me a little somewhat. We really were in tiger country a lot of the time, and I don't think anyone could be blamed for freaking out at an indistinct intersection in the bush, or alone on a pitch black road with energy levels starting to wane...

Simon and I had trained together a lot over the months preceding the Brevet, but we went into the event without explicitly defining what we might expect from each other. We'd booked accommodation together, but even that came with no guarantees. I went in feeling incredibly untested, whether that was reflective of the true situation or not. It's not always easy being associated with someone with such huge experience as Simon, his CV extending to World Championships back in the day, and his incredible 4000km Brevet - the Great Divide Race of 2008.

Not being able to predict my own performance meant I couldn't predict any potential strain on our friendship. In the end, I think our friendship worked well for both of us, and we got to enjoy a small amount of chilling out at the end of the day in familiar company, shared some cost efficiencies, and had someone to talk to at crucial parts of the event. Simon's insistence I eat his gingernuts probably saved me from crashing my brains almost within sight of Blenheim, and he'd probably have missed his room booking at Culverden, or more likely he'd have done the business, but wouldn't have had so much in the tank the next day. I also really hate to think of him leaving that delicious chunk of chocolate cake on the "ground" and regretting it later. I'd like to think that as he fought off hunger pangs on the blast towards Hurunui, at least he knew it had gone to a good home!

I found my obligation to others much simpler, though I sometimes felt a bit cut-throat. It was weird riding away from Jasper on his singlespeed at times (I bet it wasn't weird for him when it was the other way round! TAKE THAT GEARDO!), or leaving Tim, Chris or Thomas to sort out load issues, or heading out of town when someone's only just arrived. On the other hand, I knew well enough how hard it is to ride at someone else's pace, and so could justify it to myself on that basis. Plus, we were all there to test ourselves, and sometimes it's easier to do that when no-one's watching (internet viewers aside...).

I've seen plenty of evidence that the Brevet was a great thing since getting back home. It was very very cool to read the discussion on VORB and around the place as the event unfolded. It was also great to see new connections being made, and to read about people thinking ahead to future brevets. Nothing delighted me more though than a Facebook message "Charlotte Ireland and Jeff Lyall are now friends". I'm a little bemused by this reaction to tell the truth, and I've spouted about it before, so there's probably similar emotions out there among you.

I do like how the Brevet brought people together though. I was friends (in the Facebook sense) with both Jeff and Charlotte. We'd wave on road rides, or stop and chat on a sifty MTB ride, and probably stop for a quick chat before or after a race. Jeff and Charlotte weren't friends before the Brevet (obviously), but as Wellingtonians had more than likely been at the same events on many occasions. They ended up moving together through the Brevet course, in the same way that Tim, Simon, Jasper, Darren, Thomas, Chris and I did. It was cool that the Brevet put them on each other's radar, in a way that I really doubt any other event could have. Nice!

As if there's any doubt, I can't wait for the next event of this type. Hopefully Simon and I can put together a simple HOW-TO on organising a Brevet. I love the idea of seeing more of this beautiful country! So much so, that I've already started scoping out a course for a central North Island 3-4 dayer...

As usual, I get near the end of a post, and wonder whether I've said what I meant to say... I hope so... 



  1. Never the end!! Nice words, my man. Top stuff...

  2. Sifter,
    Thank you for this addendum - I've was observing from afar (well, from Nelson) throughout the Brevet. I started out thinking that this was far beyond me and ended up knowing that I want to be part of the next one - in no small part due to following you on Vorb and here.
    Good work on and off the bike..

  3. Thanks for the thoughts, I watched the Brevet on line while my Chap braved it in his own unique way. It was totally absorbing, even from my naive non-cycling (well, I'm a skirt on a tandem at best) perspective.
    The use of technology, including your blog, was way cool.