Friday, March 5, 2010

Karapoti Challenge 2008 - My favourite race EVAR! (from the vorb files)

On the eve of Karapoti 2010, I'm busy uploading old (quality!) posts from vorb onto this blog.  And I found this old gem.  I've added a few photos to the original post.  I still think about this ride often...

1 March 2008
My preparation for this [2008]'s Karapoti outing started years ago, when my daughter Kaitlyn and I saw a Phillips trailer bike hanging in Mud Cycles in Karori. She had recently turned 5, and while she was a bit too small for the 20" wheeled half bike, at a pinch she could sit comfortably on it, and turn the pedals OK.

We bought it, and got it hitched up to my old Avanti Ridge Rider which was at the time my core commuter bike. For the next while, once or twice a fortnight, I'd drop her and the trailer at school, then meet her after school, and we'd head up to the Makara Peak Skills Area for afternoon tea and some stories. We became more adventurous, and before long had ridden over the summit and down Zac's and Varley's.

It became clear that the bike hadn't been specced for the sort of riding we were doing, and so we sourced a slightly bigger rear cog which enabled Kaitlyn to help out a little more on the climbs. At age 6, she did the first lap of the Creek to Peak relay with me, and just before her 7th birthday did the first Makara Peak round, and the Mt Vic round of the PNP series.

We finished mid-field in the Rec Men's class in both. Last December, against my better judgment (due to my knee injury), we rode together in the Rec class in the Tour de Peak, which included a very sketchy ride down Livewires. It was becoming clear that Katy was out-growing the bike, and that her weight was starting to cause trouble - the combined weight of her and the trailer was almost 35kg, and it is un-braked at that.

I was keen for her to experience one of the highlights of the MTB calendar, Karapoti, so in mid-January, I fired off an entry for us to ride in the Karapoti Challenge as "Family Randal". Despite Katy and I looking dashing in our matching Makara Peak Supporters' green jerseys, I am honoured to be supported by Oli Brooke-White at Roadworks and like to race in his colours whenever possible. While Katy doesn't own her own Roadworks jersey, our good friend Harry Brooke-White was happy to lend us his prized jersey for the day.

Entry and kit organised, our attention turned to training. For Kaitlyn, this largely consisted of a massive ride from home in Karori, out to the South Coast via Wright's Hill and Long Gully, and back home via Happy Valley and the bottom of the Roller Coaster. For me, there have been all sorts of weird and wonderful rides that have been fairly well documented on this fine forum.

As the big day loomed, our excitement grew. I borrowed my sister's car, and collected Katy from her Mum's at about quarter to nine on Saturday morning. I had the bikes in the back, our race clothes, tools, food and drink, raincoats and suncream! We had a great drive out to Karapoti, and saw a few other car-loads heading our way. We parked pretty much as soon as we got to the queue of cars, and ended up with quite a long ride to Karapoti Park past hundreds of metres of free parking. I don't know what innovations Michael made with the parking, but whatever they were, they were great!

We got changed at the car, and headed to the briefing just in time to miss the end of it. We explored the event area together, chatting to people we knew, and wishing them good luck. We were on the river bank for the first start, on the bridge for another, and at the point where the riders first hit the tarseal for a third wave. We watched another from the middle of the river.


I'd been anguishing about the start for weeks. Under no circumstances did I want to lose my most precious possession (Kaitlyn, not my Epic) under a whole lot of water and a stampede of mountainbikers. I decided on having Kaitlyn on my back, and holding my bike as if I was lifting it up some stairs, and to forget all about the trailer - it could look after itself. My vantage point from the river told me we should be in the middle start position.

We spent about 5 minutes warming up on the road, and then got a position on the start line. Katy climbed on my back, and we tested out our technique, before reclaiming our place on the beach.


We were singled out by a photographer, and also Mick on the mike, who was keen to know where my beard had gone! Before we knew it, we were off. I was keen to move as quickly as possible across the water, partly so we didn't get run down, but also to repay the people around us, who had graciously given us heaps of space, and not given us a hard time about plonking ourselves in a prime start position.

I kept running on the other side of the first crossing and we passed a few folk who'd thought that riding would be faster. My little limpet was hanging on for dear life on my back, arms around my neck, and legs around my waist. On the far side of the second crossing, I found a nice spot on the right side of the track, and put the bike and Katy down. After she'd mounted the bike, I ran for a bit, and then jumped on, and we were away.
 We stayed about 20m off the back of a large bunch all the way up the road, passing odds and sods along the way. At the stream crossing there was a bit of mayhem, and we had to dismount and run up the other side. Katy was a champion, and did everything perfectly. She ran, she held a good line keeping herself safe and she jumped back on the bike as quickly as she could. So many things we hadn't talked about in advance, but she was all class.

We continued passing people up the gorge, occasionally blasting through puddles or piles of rock. The trailer hitches right up below my seat, and so you simply cannot swoop the bike around any of the berm-like puddle edges. You've got to live with any evasive maneuver taken for a lot longer than you would riding alone. The left turn onto Magee's bridge was pretty sketchy with all the loose gravel.

We got some nice feedback from a couple of guys who passed us on the first part of the climb - one in particular seemed pretty relieved to have finally overhauled us! On the steep stuff Katy's contribution is limited on account of her gear. Nevertheless, when she's mustered a bit of strength, my bike makes these disconcerting, yet incredible, surges as she puts the power down. As we passed the marshalls at the bottom of the loop, I was surprised to hear we were in the top 20.

We held our own on the climb. The gradient was almost at our limit, but Katy was still able to contribute well at the very low cadence she was subjected to. I have only one gear when it comes to climbs like that, with the aim to get it over and done with as soon as possible without blowing myself. This means a nice high cadence and a focus on steady pedalling. This was our first ever time using the Epic as the towing bike. Our test ride around Karori Park on Friday had highlighted the need for more air pressure in the Brain shock, and I think I pretty much nailed it with the prescribed pressure for a 115kg rider. Up the hills, as is always the case, the front end wobbles around a bit, so we were a lot like a pair of drunks on our way up the hill. Pretty quick drunks though. We passed a couple of guys, and had about 8 more riders within our sights the whole climb. It was only at the top of the hill that they accelerated away from us.

Apart from the river crossing at the start, my biggest concern was this descent, and it was the main reason for using the Epic. In the end it wasn't too bad. We lost one place, having passed one bloke, and being passed ourselves by another two. We burnt past another competitor on the descent to the river, and gave a wave to Hilary and her mates sweeping the rear of the course in their fluoro yellow vests.

Back on the gorge it was now hammer time. It was nice to be able to use gravity to our advantage a lot more, as well as my big old legs, not to mention my powerhouse stoker. As my brain began being deprived of oxygen, we started missing our lines a little more often. At one point I bellowed "pedal!" at Kaitlyn, only to apologise as I actually meant "puddle". She's such a trooper though. We didn't communicate much at this part of the race. For a start, we were moving too damn quick to be able to hear each other very well.

We rode the stream crossing nicely, and made great time out to the road. I could feel the body starting to object along the road itself. At the speed we were going, Katy is pretty much a passenger, as she can't pedal fast enough to help out. Nonetheless, she is a fantastic motivator, and kept me going hard. At the river crossing we rode right to the water's edge, we both jumped off the bikes, and I picked her up in one arm, sort of like a rugby ball, the bike(s) in the other, and charged into the river. About half way across, it got rather deep, and I began to stumble on a couple of boulders. With my precious cargo aboard, it was time to stop, reboot, then get going again. It was worth the micro pause, and we got safely to the other side. We ran off the beach, and then jumped back on the bikes for the home stretch.

We got an amazing cheer from the folk watching the finish line, which I'm sure made us up a couple of seconds. I almost brought us down at the line by hauling on the front brake a bit heavily, letting my rear wheel come off the ground and then jack-knifing, but luckily there were a couple of marshalls to keep us under control. 

We were greeted by my parents, and Katy's Mum, who were all a bit surprised to see us so soon.

Once we'd got our breaths back, we celebrated in the best way, with a great big hug. Neither of us could have had such a wonderful experience without the other. It was a huge thrill for both of us. And I don't feel like I made a sacrifice to do it at all. A lot of people had asked me how I was feeling about Karapoti, and whether I was looking for a personal best. I might have been good for one, but I had something more important to do.



Mum, Dad and Jo headed off, and Kaitlyn and I spent the rest of the afternoon sifting around, celebrating with our friends. For the record, it was incredibly satisfying to once again do the Roadworks jersey proud. I had hoped to finish in the top 20, but didn't for a moment think it was achievable. We also had our eye on Kerei and Angus Thompson's record. In the end, we met all our goals: 7 minutes taken off the record, 19th place overall, and of course the most important bit, we did it together and loved every minute of it...

If you made it this far, thanks for reading!

Originally published on vorb


  1. Jeez, man. Call Me a softy but you almost made me choke up a little there, haha. Great story!