Yet again, I find myself stuck indoors.
Let me paint the scene for you. I'm literally seconds away from a classic Wellington road loop, and a couple of minutes from some of the best mountain biking in the city. My Colnago and ASR5C sit primed in the hallway, and another couple of options are under the house. I've no company, and no constraints. And the sky is blue.
And, here I sit.
I've been mulling on this blog since late-April, and have been wondering whether it's time to write it on-and-off for the last couple of months. I guess I kind of wanted to wait until I'd finished gathering material, but that's never quite happened. So now I write, in the vain hope that confronting it as I type somehow will snap me out of it. Stranger things have happened...
* * * * *
It's just over six months since the Cape Epic. I came home feeling as strong as an ox, and as eager as ever to put my strength to good use. The road Club Nationals was in early May, and I decided I'd enter M1 and if possible ride in support of fellow PNP club member, Silas Cullen. My hard riding at the Epic had generally been on fast terrain with Megan hanging onto my bag strap, and laying down the power on the road seemed to be the best way of letting rip.
I was enjoying being back home, and managed to sneak in a couple of bays laps with Wednesday Worlds bunch, and rode well enough on the Tip Track to take second place in PNP Hawkins Hill climb event, largely benefitting from a depleted field. My good friend Alex Revell took first place, and Simon was in third. I rarely manage to beat him in a head-to-head race on the MTB, and it was a strange, almost unpleasant, feeling (much like riding up the hill!).
|Photo: Pete Marshall|
I'd loved my Yeti on the Cape Epic, I'd decided it was a keeper. But, it was a bit bling for general MTB use, so I decided to rationalise my fleet a little. I toyed with the idea of an SB-66, but in the end decided to get a bike suited to the riding I love, rather than the riding I don't.
Soon, I was seeing photos online of new wheels, and then one of the most beautifully proportioned bikes I've seen.
|Yeti Big Top Ahoy!|
Oli finished the build just a few days out from the Wainuiomata Six Hour Wurldz. Simon had lost interest in the event shortly after I'd turned down Tim Wilding's suggestion he and I enter a Roadworks team, and by the time that had all been confirmed, Tim too had cooled on the idea. So, it was me, myself and I, and my stunning new steed.
A six hour race perhaps wasn't the best shake-down ride, but I started on the Big Top. Unlike the previous year, I was riding in my cherished Roadworks kit, and also riding well - or at least happily. I'd felt out of sorts the year before, and struggled with the tightness of the trail, but wasn't conscious of that this time. The unfamiliar set up caught up with me around the three-hour mark, and perhaps too late I switched onto my ASR5C which I'd taken as a back-up bike.
My lower back was causing me grief - not the same spasm as I'd had before - just a growing feeling of discomfort. I pulled the pin around the 4.5 hour mark. Any earlier, and I think once the dust settled I'd have wondered if I'd been a bit of a pussy by stopping. Any later, I'd have ridden myself into a pulp and would have obliterated any sense of enjoyment I'd had from the earlier part of the race.
All in all I'd had a good day, and had enjoyed the riding for the most part. I waited for a while for photos of the event to surface, but once none showed up - to complement the failure of the timing system to produce any lap times - I lost interest in writing about the event.
I've been in this blog-writing game long enough to know that this spells trouble. When I'm well, the passion I have for the bike spills over into my words (I hope), and they come easily. The icing on the cake, and the cake's better for it, at least to my taste.
What with the Qantas Club membership I'd shelled out for before the Cape Epic, I'd put travel well and truly on my radar. My sister Millie had set sail for London back in September 2010, and I hatched a plan to spirit a now much-more-grown Kaitlyn over there unbeknownst to her aunt. After a stressful week or so (on account of Millie booking me a surprise side trip to Turkey), the beans were spilled, and when she met us at Heathrow, she was looking for two familiar faces instead of one.
As luck would have it, the Roadworks clothing order I'd been managing was ready from Ultimo the day before Katy and I were due to depart. Luckily I was able to boost out to Petone and the hundred-odd assorted garments and sizes were all present and accounted for, and I was even able to deliver most of them that evening before making the 6am flight to Sydney the next morning.
Katy and I were only with Millie for a week, but it was action-packed. Highlights, in no particular order, included a train trip to Paris...
|Waving the flag(s) on the Champs-Élysées|
...a bus tour of Stonehenge and Bath, the Tower of London, and the Queen's birthday Trooping of the Colours. I even snuck out for a ride, while Millie and Kaitlyn went to Harry Potter World.
The ride took a bit of effort to organise - I'd spent hours online before booking a guided ride in the Surrey Hills with Danielle from www.singletrackschool.co.uk and after a bit of a mission with the trains was suiting up and getting my pedals onto a rental bike...
Throughout the ride, I took photos which would normally form the basis of a blog. Danielle even kindly helped me out with the detail I had no hope of recalling after just shy of 4 hours in unfamiliar country.
|Atop Holmbury Hill...|
We got home to discover my grandmother had taken a nasty turn and was very sick in hospital. I sat with her for the most of the last two days of her life, and held her hand while she slipped away.
Ash and Steve organised a surprise day trip to try to perk me up a bit. I met them downtown early one Saturday morning, and was surprised to find we weren't alone. Soon my Big Top was on the trailer, and some good conversation, Jeremy, Mike, Julie, Ash, Steve and I were Oscar-Mike at the K-Loop out the back of Palmerston North.
We all continued to natter on the climb, which was Jeremy's local ride back in the day. We had a couple of runs of a fun little section of track before dropping through the pines on some steep and sometimes tricky singletrack. Before too long we were loading the trailer again, and getting into some clean gear.
We made a quick stop in Shannon where I ate an delicacy which can best be described as cross between a raspberry bun and a custard square.
I felt a little sick afterwards.
The bikes came off the trailer again at Kohitere Forest, near Levin. We were joined by Rod Bardsley, who I've had a soft spot for since he sold me a DBR V-Link back in '98 - my first real mountain bike.
I rode with Ash on the first climb, but cut loose on the second climb of the day, putting myself in the hurt box, and staying there as long as possible. I could still taste my legs in my mouth when Steve joined me on the side of the track. We headed back down to the others, and I didn't have too much time to rue my bike choice on the rough descent before we were back at the car.
We celebrated the impending end of our "Mountain Bike Adventure" with an ice-cream, before heading back to the big smoke.
As the weeks rolled by, my poor mood was punctuated by occasional glimpses of light, usually spontaneous.
|An impromptu spot of manual labour on "Windmill"|
|Tapped out at Worlds, but victorious|
Our bunch of 20 or so was rolling around clockwise. There were gaps everywhere and instead of sitting in the back, looking after my legs, I tapped myself trying to close gaps. A couple of minutes of that, and I was in the red. I'd just hit the front of the queue, and as I swung right, I inexplicably went all the way right, and sat up in the gutter on the other side of the road. I'm really not sure what happened. It would have been smart to at least roll to the back of the bunch, and try to seek shelter while recovering from the effort. I pulled the fucking pin at the front of the bunch! WTF?! Who does that?!
I'd been for an MTB ride with Simon earlier in the day, but it had been cruisy, and I'd eaten well afterwards, so I don't think it was my legs. I was just hating riding in that bunch, and I couldn't bring myself to endure it.
It was a day of strange turns of events. I blew my race, but felt a strange transformation come over me when I got home. I wasn't bummed, but rather, I felt determined. I got on the scales for the first time in months.
I started the next week with a ride through the country side to Johnsonville before dropping down Ngaio Gorge to work. And, I ate less than I normally would.
Round 3 was in Wainui, and I was back in Break. We had a great ride, and I felt strong. We managed to stay away from Scratch and got to the front of the race. I was 4th in the sprint, and we were only 10 seconds slower than scratch had been, helped a bit by our monstrous group which only grew as the race progressed.
|Photo: Oli Brooke-White|
By Round 4, I was a couple of kilos lighter than I'd been in Whiteman's Valley, and had a few more kilometres in my legs. And, the race was a doozy!
We had two laps of the Blue Mountains-Wallaceville circuit to ride. The Break bunch was large again, and were pretty sedate up Blue Mountains for the first time. The intensity of the week before seemed missing, and I got barked at a couple of times for trying to up the pace a bit.
I felt OK on the second climb, and watched 3 or 4 ease off the front, but was confident so long as the gap didn't open up too much, I'd be able to close the gap after the summit. That all changed when Stu Houltham blasted past 100m or so from the top. I knew the guys ahead would latch onto him, and I'd be stuck. Jason McCarty drew the same conclusion but we were a bit indecisive over the summit and decided not to totally throw caution to the air.
|To chase, or not to chase, that is the question...!|
So, I put my head down and pedalled my guts out. I wasn't as close I'd have liked to be, but I couldn't shut the metre or so between us down. Though it wasn't closing, it wasn't getting larger either. What was closing was the gap between us and Stu and co, and after a couple of tortuous minutes, the chase was over and the race changed again.
We got organised, but before too long, it became clear that the scratch boys: Tristan, Dave and Stu, were keen to shake off Tony, Steve and I. We made it hard for them, and I enjoyed shutting down one attack by Dave - the run down-valley and the pace we were riding at suited me well and I was in the right place (and gear) at the right time.
We picked up a few stragglers from slower handicap groups, and our pace got disrupted a bit as a result. I was surprised there were no hostilities and we were together at the bottom of Wallaceville with a tail wind.
I'd scoped out the left turn near the end, and knew I could ride through it at full noise with about 30 seconds of hard effort between there and the finish line. My timing was good, and I got the hot line into the corner that I wanted, and opened up a gap on the others. Going for broke probably wasn't the smartest move, but I didn't want to waste the gap or my momentum. I was still clear 100m out, and was closing quickly on another small bunch, but it turned out I didn't quite have the legs, and got caught by Tony and Edwin. It turned out we were three seconds short of the front of the race, and that Scratch had sweet-talked the starter into knocking 90 seconds off their handicap and were all DQed!
I missed what turned out to be the final round, but I had a better place to be.
|12000m asl. Pretty much on top of the world...|
Another MTBO trip to Vegas - Simon's and my third tilt at a Great Forest Rogaine title - didn't go quite as planned and we got smoked by Rob Garden and Marquita Gelderman. We were spared the ignominy of three 2nds in a row by another men's team narrowly beating us. Phew!
I feel like I've been off the bike boil for a bit too long now. Time is scarce too, as I'm back at the helm of the Makara Peak Supporters after a few years off the committee (not to mention the time black-hole that is depression). There's a (somewhat traumatic) story behind that too, but one which I'm too tired to tell. Nonetheless, it's been great fun to be working in the park again - tomorrow the number of work parties I've been to in the park this year will nudge ahead of the number of rides I've had there...
|A small but talented crew on Zac's track a few weeks ago|
Maybe this blog will serve its purpose. I was interested to note the "good" races in amongst that lot - the ones where my head was good, and in command of my legs - were in my memory as if they'd been yesterday. The Blue Mountains race was almost literally two months ago, but I can visualise the last 30 minutes of the race clearly to this day. Though, I didn't remember it when I started typing eight hours ago.
The guess work continues with my medication. I've just started on attempt number six (in as many years). My well-intentioned specialist told me the additional pills would be a bit of a drag - I'd need to take them twice a day. To which I answered, "depression is a drag - tablets twice a day doesn't seem so bad".
I hope they work, not so much now, but in six months time when the days get short again. I feel like that's where all my trouble began this year - perhaps confounded by the Cape Epic and its ups and downs.
Some exciting riding's on the horizon, and though I'm behind schedule on my preparation (I should have been riding late this afternoon instead of writing this), I hope I've got sufficient quality in my legs to do some lofty plans justice.
Here's a couple of teasers...
|Photo: Oli Brooke-White|
|Photo: Oli Brooke-White|
I'm weary of my mood being so lousy. If my life was just a bit more shit, I sometimes wonder if it would be easier to cope with it. The fact is, I'm surrounded by amazing friends and family, a wonderful community, and have remarkable opportunities. Depression, piss off already.