Tuesday, April 28, 2015

2015 Road Club Nationals

I was scratched from my first attempt at road cycling's annual Club Nationals. That was 2012, and I'd recently returned from a solid block of riding at Cape Epic, and thought I'd enter the road race to see if could make myself useful as a domestique for the Port Nicholson Poneke team. A nasty spasm in my back about a week before the event didn't ease, and I was unable to make the start line.

This year, the buildup was very different, and two races were on my radar. The event was again in the Hawke's Bay, and the action for the M2 riders (men, 40-44 years old), consisted of a 25km individual time trial just after midday on Thursday, followed by a 105km road race early on Saturday morning.

It was a bit of a mad rush getting organised and away, highlighted by a last-minute and very short-notice visit to my main man, Oli Brooke-White for a quick check over the quiver.  His attention to detail never ceases to amaze me, and while I felt a little guilty at the time his fussiness was consuming, I knew he wouldn't have it any other way. 

After a quick pose, and a longer hug, it was off home to cross the next thing off the list.

Two mean machines.  And one softy...  Photo: Oli!


Various events littered the build up to nationals, with my excitement mainly directed towards the time trial. The Wellingon Masters Cycling Club had an excellent mid-week series which helped me get used to the distance (they run a 4-lap race on the 6km Liverton Road circuit out towards the bottom of Haywards Hill), and also build my enthusiasm for this race format.

Things at Liverton went well – I raced four times, improving my time on each occasion, and taking fastest time on three out of four evenings. My final ride was within half a minute of the age-record on the cool schedule the club maintains recording age vs time. (You end up in the list if you've gone faster than anyone your age or younger.) These ended on 27 February though, and by the time I hit the Wellington Centre Champs a few weeks ago, the valuable lessons I'd gained in pacing had faded somewhat.

The centre champs had been a miserable affair, and a pleasing result masked what had been a lousy ride. With the help of Joel Healy, I've been using a power meter to improve my training and racing. It would seem that power is a bit like a savings account. You line up with money in the bank, and spend your way to the end. Finishing the race with cash leftover means you could have gone faster, but my typical problem is spending too much too early, and having to scrounge around for spare change in order to get home.

So it was at centre champs. I went way too hard off the line – my Stages crank had been playing up, and I didn't trust the numbers I was seeing - and was forced to grovel around the second 12.5km lap. My average power on the second half of the course was more than 10% lower than that of the first. I'd been David Rowlands's minute man, and he'd blasted past me with about half a lap to go, being 1.5 minutes faster at the line. 

Photo: thanks to Grant Perry, I think! 

On Wednesday, I made the drive up to Puketapu – not far inland from Napier – via the Wairarapa, by virtue of yet another slip-related closure of the Manawatu Gorge. For a while I was running ahead of a southerly front, but it caught up when I stopped for a coffee in Carterton, and I drove through horizontal rain on a wee tiki-tour of the (wrong) backroads of Masterton.

The rest of the drive was uneventful, and thanks in part to Joel's SH50 tip, made good time through to Puketapu. Joel and Dan were already set up at our crib, and we immediately got our TT rigs organised for a look at the course.

We drove for a few minutes, parked outside the Puketapu pub, and then got rolling.

We missed the first turn at the south end of the course, and once the road tipped up, started to smell a rat. We headed back, and soon had corrected our blunder. The road was sweet, but a cold and strong southerly wind was blowing, and given our cruisy pace, it was grabbing our front wheels more than it might have if we had the power down. I wasn't finding it at all pleasant, and was starting to wonder if the deep front wheel Oli had just built up for me using my retired rear rim was going to have to stay in the garage.

By the time we finished the 10km, out-and-back leg of the course south of Puketapu, Angus had arrived, and we waited for him while he suited up.

Dan, Joel and I.  Photo:  Angus Taylor

Then, it was off along the northern leg, 7.5km out to the turnaround, and then back the same way.

The next part of the course was a lot more technical than what we'd already seen – a couple of hills, and a few tightish turns in between. It didn't last too long though, and then we were back onto a relatively straight forward road.

It was exciting to be out on the course, and it took all my self control on the return journey not to open up the throttle. We talked a bit about the key parts of the course, but before long were back at the car.

I stayed with Joel for the managers' briefing at 5pm while Dan and Ango headed back to base. The briefing took about twice as long as advertised, and even though we hadn't ridden hard, we had sweated a little and as a consequence the breezy school hall was not the most comfortable place to be. But, Joel had an important function to perform for the PNP club, and I'd been able to hear from the horses' mouths information about the events ahead.

Back at base, I straightaway smashed back the delicious fish curry left-over from Tuesday night's dinner, and then we got ready to head out for our actual dinner. The place we settled on in Taradale had a good looking menu, but the “side-dishes” on offer should have alerted us to the likely size of the meals. We had mixed fortunes, but, on account of my curry “appetiser”, I was well sated by the end of it all.

By this stage, Joel's team manager duties were calling him back home, so after dropping him and Dan off, Angus and I returned to Taradale to get Angus a second course from the supermarket and some stuff for breakfast.

On Thursday, I was due to be the first away of the four of us – at 1:13pm. That made for a leisurely morning, or so we all thought. With the exception of Dan, fathers all, we surfaced before 9am, not really able to shake off the usual daily patterns despite our freedom. After porridge and coffee I was keen to head down the event HQ to get my TT bike measured up. The race is conducted under UCI rules, which means the bike has to meet certain restrictions. At 1.89m, my TT bars are able to extend no more than 80cm from the bottom bracket centre, provided my saddle-tip is at least 5cm behind the BB. The Centre Champs jig was rudimentary to say the least, and at home, I'd adjusted my bars forward (the third independent attempt to hit the limit exactly!!!), and I was keen to ensure that I hadn't over done it.

My bike passed with flying colours, which was some relief, but Angus, behind me in the queue, had significant problems. His bars were far too far forward, and his saddle also had to go back. Problem was, his bars were not adjustable... Eeek. On the upside, it was only 10:30am or so, and he had 3 hours up his sleeve.

On the way back to the car, our minds were all whirring at how Angus might get out of this jam. In the end, it was a relatively straightforward task of hacksawing 5cm off the extensions, and our temporary on-site landlord was able to provide the critical implement of destruction. It was a stressful business for Angus and Joel though, and I didn't envy them their task.

That wasn't the only drama of the day, and when Dan was bitten by the resident Staffordshire terrier, I did wonder what ill-event was going to befall me.

Bike unchanged, and no puncture wounds anywhere, I was relatively calm when I loaded the final bits and pieces into the car about an hour before my scheduled start time. A TT is relatively easy to prepare for, as you don't tend to carry anything with you – no food or puncture repair equipment – your body doesn't have any time to make use of the former, and the effect of a quick 2 minute change and a 20 minute walk are equally catastrophic for a 30-and-something-minute time trial, so one takes the risk of the walk.

Joel and I parked in the paddock adjacent to the finish chute, and got our bikes loaded onto our stationary trainers. Shoes on, it was time to jump aboard and get the legs warm. The sun was out, and the relatively light wind was not bitterly cold like it had been the evening before. So, sitting in the sun was a relatively pleasant affair, and I soon started to sweat.

I got a lovely surprise when out of nowhere appeared my Dad! I'd totally forgotten he, Mum and my sister's man's mother were going to punctuate their road trip from Wellington to Auckland by a bit of spectating. He wished me well, and then went off to find a vantage point, leaving me to focus on the task ahead.

As my start time drew ever closer, my nervousness grew. Final prep involved downing the double-double espresso I'd made before leaving home, and having a quick wee. I wished Joel all the best for his race, and then went to the start.

My bike passed the measurement test again, which was just as well, and I had only a couple of minutes' wait for my allocated start time, during which I quickly had to fix the rubber nose-piece that was coming off my helmet's visor, and to then untangle the straps.

Then, I was up to the line, and with 30 seconds to go, clipped into my second pedal, now being kept upright by the volunteer “holder”.

A big digital panel showed the time, and in addition the starter counted down the final five seconds. I hit the Start button on my GPS with a couple of seconds to go, took a deep breath and then was off.

The first 10 minutes or so should feel easy, and boy do they. I did a much better job of toning it down than I had at centre champs, but I was still a bit high on the power front. I felt really comfortable, and sat just above the target power Joel had suggested, hoping that it wouldn't come back to bite me.

My minute man was the top-seeded M3 rider (45-49 years old), and I'd eaten into his “lead” a bit by the time I turned at the 5km mark. Everything seemed to be going well, and I focussed on riding smoothly, and NOT TOO HARD (not too hard... not too hard...)!

The start/finish area came quickly, and I could vaguely hear mum cheering me on over the wind in my ears.

The first short rise felt good, and then it was down through the only technical part of the course. It was tight in this direction, but much faster in the other. I was careful not to overcook the first tight, dropping right hander, and again took care through another sweeping right bend that dropped into a gully and had a nasty snap to it when the road tipped up again.

Those successfully negotiated, it was now time to focus on issues in the engine room. Everything was pointing towards the fact that I'd overspent...

I tried to break what remained into chunks. I was heading out to the second turn, then had a long drag back to the hilly section, and then home. The first of these was proving one hell of a struggle, and I had grave fears for the other two.

I tried not to think about how much better my guts would feel if I sat upright – something I'd done on occasion at Liverton Road - but did accept that ignoring the target was essential. Numbers which had been easy in the first 15 minutes were unattainable at the moment.

After the turn, which seemed to take an eternity to arrive, I began to get my legs back a bit, but I was still struggling to keep the power up. Psychologically though, life was better – I was now heading back towards the finish, and I'm sure this helped immensely.

I almost came a cropper at the right turn off the main road – the cone on the centre line had been the focus of my gaze, and I hadn't noticed the shape of the road beyond it. Luckily I was up off the bar extensions so was able to grab the brake, which peeled off enough speed for me to avoid the looming kerb. Speed which I then had to fight to get back, but que sera sera.

Whether it was because I was rooted and going slower or because the shape of the course made the speeds slightly more manageable, in any case, the run to the base of the final pinch climb was fine.

The climb itself, less-so. What had been a piece of cake the evening before, and had elicited images of smashing up there at “full gas”, became a low-cadence grovel, with the ignominy of needing to drop down to the 39-tooth chainring not far away. I avoided it, but might not have done my final time any good doing so.

At least the end was nigh, and I accelerated the bike as best I could, helped more by gravity than most in the field. I didn't finish the way I'd imagined, but it might have been a lot worse, and at least I was able to accelerate right through to the line.

I felt sick to my stomach, and that didn't ease for quite a while. I was shepherded away from the finish chute, and found somewhere to lean. Aside from a great deal of physical distress, I'd been emotionally smashed around too. I actually felt like I wanted to cry, but that would have required energy I didn't have.

While I didn't feel like I'd totally fucked the pacing, I also knew I hadn't nailed it. Of course it's the same as not having the grunt when I needed it, and of course you don't know exactly what the perfect power target is on any given day, but knowledge that if I'd gone slower at the start then I would have gone faster at the end was enough to upset me, regardless of whether or not that would have made for a faster time overall (which it almost certainly would have).

After composing myself, I headed back to the car to warm down a bit. I was soon visited by Mark Donald, who I'd beaten at centre champs by about 30 seconds. I soon knew that he'd returned the favour on this occasion – I was pleased for him, and despite knowing that he has an excellent TT pedigree, and that there was absolutely no shame in being beaten by him, I was also disappointed as the wider implications of my performance started to become apparent.

Unlike a road race, when you know the finish order the moment you cross the line, it took a while for the full results to filter through. I soon learned that Aaron Strong had lived up to his name and totally smashed us, and based on my approximate time, was a full two minutes faster than I'd gone. Peter Murphy reported being a minute and a half slower than Aaron, and I knew then that I was out of the medals.

Soon the full results were up, and I learned that I'd been oh so close – Mark had taken a fine second place, taking 17 seconds less than I had (my time was 35:04). Peter was a mere three seconds ahead of me in third place! I was fourth, seven seconds ahead of Heath Lett in fifth, with sixth almost a full minute behind him. Only 24 seconds separated 2nd from 5th, tight “racing” indeed, though of course we were all oblivious to it while out on our bikes.

At that moment, it was hard not to focus on what could have been, and over the next few hours various metrics came to mind – one second per leg, or, roughly 36 metres, equivalent to about one metre per minute of riding... Awesome...

I sought Joel out, and told him the news. As he's reminded me in the past, the purpose of any good coach is “not to blow smoke up your arse”, but to identify weaknesses, and to think about how to address them. Today though, Joel's reaction was kind, and he congratulated me on what was a solid ride. He pointed out the calibre of the riders ahead of me, and the fact that this had been my first race at this level. It made a big difference to my state of mind, and I appreciated it immensely, telling him so.

I made a point of heading over to watch the medal ceremony, before returning to the car to pack up.

M2 TT podium:  Aaron Strong (c), Mark Donald (L), Peter Murphy (R).  Well done, men - Aaron and Peter - I'll see you in M3 in a few years time!
Back at the house, the debrief began in earnest. Joel's ride had been disrupted by a truck, and he'd had an off day to boot. Angus had ridden well, but had felt understandably out-of-sorts, basically riding a completely unfamiliar bike for the first time. Dan's hip, due for surgery in a few week's time, had prevented him riding the way he wanted to, but he'd still cracked out an amazing 5th place in the elite field, behind Gordon Macaulay in 4th, and three guys that ride professionally in Australia.

However, most of the focus was on my three seconds.

We calculated the distance, and discussed kit upgrades that might have wiped that off the board. I started taking notes, mentioning how blank my birthday and Christmas lists typically are. While a TT bike can be a money-pit, a few logical upgrades came up: a Kask helmet – without a tail, it is way faster when looking down, and not much slower when looking straight ahead; an aero front brake caliper; ceramic bottom bracket bearings; a TT-specific front tyre and latex tube - all things that combined should give a fair bit of change from $1000. A new handlebar and extensions might not, but is another potential source of “free” speed.

Financially costless, but not without opportunity cost, will be a training programme focussed on the 2016 Club Nationals TT. No Karapoti, no Easter Tour, plenty of TTing, and almost certainly more power come race day in a year's time. What I didn't know before, but know now, is that at least I'm in the ball-park.

We headed into Napier for dinner, and occupied ourselves while waiting for our meals at Lone Star - guaranteed not to have the same size issues as the night before, and not disappointing – by debating the function and operation of the PNP Club.

Given the weak cell and internet reception at our digs, it was also nice to get online, and David Rowlands's classic comment on Facebook: “bet you wished you'd gone a bit harder now!” made us all laugh. Insensitive maybe, but perfectly correct.

My final task before getting back into the car was to upload my power file onto the Cycling Analytics website that Joel and I use. This was much more insightful than we imagined it would be, and identified a flaw in our preparation.

It wasn't the power data that were surprising – they simply reinforced what I'd already described, to Joel, and as above. What fascinated us was the elevation profile of the course. In fact, it had climbed more from the end of the technical section to the top turn than it had through the technical section itself. My power had been down on the part of the course that I could least afford this to happen. We agreed that we should have been better prepared, and the folly of me forgetting my GPS for the shake down ride (not a big deal, eh?) was apparent. Had I remembered it, we might have been regretting not making a point of uploading the data, I suppose.

It doesn't take a time series analyst to notice the power fade in the third quarter!

As Dan had said that afternoon, “there's either winning, or learning.” I'd notched up a good learning experience, and I'm already looking forward to learning from different, and hopefully much less significant, mistakes next time, at the very least.

A couple of hours later, which had been punctuated occasionally by an outburst “FARK!!!!”, eliciting laughter from my cobbers, it was time for bed, and an opportunity to stop thinking about the ride for a while. In the morning it would be time to switch focus to the next day's road race.

Despite a relatively short effort during the day, sleep still came easily.


Friday dawned fine, and after a relatively leisurely start, Joel, Angus and I headed out for a recce lap of the road race course. Our abode was directly on the course, and about 4km into the lap.  As a result, our legs weren't particularly warm when we hit the first steep pitch less than 2km into our ride, and that might have contributed to it looking more like a wall than it actually is.

Once again my Stages crank was on the blink – it was completely dead, and I was getting no reading from it at all. While frustrating, at least it hadn't happened 35 minutes of riding earlier – I would have been bloody pissed off if I'd been without it for the TT, which was pretty much the point of buying it.

Various people had reported a hilly course, and while this was proving true, the gradients were, for the most part, benign.

It was the descent that worried me though – while we accumulated elevation slowly over about 10km, we peeled it off very quickly, and there were a few relatively tight corners to negotiate.

The loop completed, Joel and I headed into Napier to do some shopping: a guitar and some ukelele strings for Joel (his kids, actually), and yet another CR2032 battery for me. It was also a good opportunity to catch up on some work email – it was a Friday afterall, and while I was on annual leave, most of my colleagues and students were hard at work.

Home was relatively busy that evening, with quite a few PNP members dropping by to collect their race numbers and transponders. Dan once again had the fire CRANKING, and I was reduced to rolling up my trouser legs and ditching my shirt.

We were due to start at 9am in the morning, which necessitated a relatively early start to get some food onboard.

The weather forecast for the morning hadn't been good, but the rain didn't actually start until after 8am, prolonging the hope that the forecast was wrong.  Unfortunately it wasn't, and by the time we rolled out it was pretty wet.  On account of that and the cold air, I was rocking a Castelli Gabba under my PNP jersey. 

The PNP M2 team, minus Brendan McGrath (there'll be an important photo of him later):  Joel Healy, Ben Storey, and myself.  Photo: Ango
Angus wasn't away until after lunch, and Dan was done for the weekend, but Joel and I were joined by Rivet mate Ben Storey for the ride down to the start. I hate road riding in the wet, and while my body tends to go OK (earning me the moniker “Water Ox” after a good result one day in Wainui), drafting isn't much fun when it comes with a faceful of spray off the rear wheel in front.

The warm up few kilometres reinforced my clothing choice, and final race prep was a simple matter of signing in, and stashing the raincoat I'd worn over the top of everything else in Ben's bag.

As has so often been the case this season, the team talk was pretty brief, so we started without a clear overall picture of how we might collectively ensure PNP ended up with someone on the podium.

Coach Healy and I ready to roll out.  Photo:  thanks to Gayl Marryatt Photography
Once underway, our fourth club-member, Brendan McGrath, positioned himself near the front of the bunch, and rather than join him, I figured that gave me license to sift at the back. 

The first climb was fine, and any “attacks” were the slow and silent type – more like strangulation than a stabbing.  I'd lost track of Joel, but was aware of Ben slipping back and crested the hill for the first time at the back of a large bunch. 

True to form, I was too conservative on the descent, and had a hard chase at the bottom to pull myself back into the bunch.  I had one guy for company, but he seemed content to sit on my wheel, and I wanted to get across and didn't want to lose impetus, so left him there.

I was impressed when Ben arrived – his chase had been at least five minutes longer than mine, and he'd had to come from further back.  We sheltered as much as possible, one lap down and three to go.

When we hit the bottom of the climb for the second time, I was still well back in the bunch, and concentrating on the wheel immediately ahead.  Bad move.  Five or six bikes ahead, someone dropped the wheel, and by the time the gradient eased, there was a sizeable gap which only grew by the top of the hill.

Bunch 2.  Photo: thanks to Gayl Marryatt Photography

I rode at the front of the group on the descent, still nervous on the wet roads, but glad to be able to control the pace a bit. Once down in the valley, we worked relatively well together, and by the time we were staring at the “wall” for the third time, the leaders were within sight.

Once the steep section was over, I spent some time on the front, but was disappointed that there wasn't much help coming from behind. I didn't think we could afford to dawdle, and so when the road steepened, I cranked it up a bit.

There was a shout from behind to slow down, and I looked over my shoulder to see a 15 metre gap. Hoping to be joined by some if not all of them, I didn't slow down.

Perhaps I should've slowed down then, but I definitely should've slowed down when Dan was passing me a bottle from the roadside. I knocked it out of his hand, but kept going. I knew I'd see him again, and sure enough, a car pulled alongside a few minutes later, this time successfully completing the transfer.

I was still on my own at the top of the hill, and at the bottom, and at the end of the third lap. I was well and truly in no-man's land by this stage. I'd come within sight of the guys ahead, but had not got to within 500m of them. I probably should have sat up at that stage, and waited for the cavalry, but stubbornly pressed on.

Enjoying a bit of time in no man's land.  Photo:  Jason McCarty

I was on my own for a whole lap, and was caught at about the same point that I'd eased off the front. Catching me had been the goal though, and once I was back in the fold, the pace dropped, and so my initial fear of being unable to hand on to these guys was unrealised.

My bike was not completely happy with the conditions, and my rear shifting had become increasingly poor. Once the climb was over for the final time, I was able to diagnose the effect if not the cause – it seemed I'd lost the bottom half of the cassette.

I worried that I'd be unable to keep up on the descent, but managed OK. I figured there were at least a dozen riders up ahead, so we'd be sprinting for 13th place or so. Despite my gearing being fine on the fastest part of the course, for some reason I figured I'd be unable to compete with these guys on the run to the line.

I made a couple of attempts to get away, but was running out of steam, and was no match for the six guys behind (plus Ben, who was getting a free ride by virtue of us wearing the same jersey). Ben said to me he'd attack on the pinch 1km from the finish, so I kept the pace high until then. Unfortunately, his line into the corner wasn't great, and he had to peel off speed to safely negotiate the turn, losing all impetus.

As the pace ratcheted up, I was done. Rather than battle, I was content to sit up, and cruise in to the finish.

I was disappointed with how my race had turned out, but not in the same way as after the TT. As is usually the case with road racing, I was just glad to be upright and in one piece. I realised I hadn't ridden aggressively enough when it mattered, and riding near the back at the start of the race ensured that I'd be riding near the back at the end, and so it was. On the other hand, it had been a good learning experience, and in particular, a good reminder that I'm strong enough to be competitive in a master's field, recent TT in the legs or not.

I soon caught up with fantastic news – Brendan had won! I knew this race was a major focus for him, and was very pleased for him. Despite the win, I was annoyed at myself for not lifting a finger to help him. It was great that he had the talent, and nous, to win on his own, but as a club-mate, it would have been nice to make his job ever so slightly easier, if I could have. 

Hearty congratulations to the M2 winners:  Brendan (centre), Glen Carabine (L), Aaron Strong (R)
(Incidentally, that photo caption is not the first time I've written Glen Carabine's name on this blog.  He was the stoker on the other tandem at Taupo, when Simon and I squabbled our way to a place in the record books - 4:09, which still stands.)

It was a good few minutes for PNP, and I was very stoked to watch Oli Ferry receive his gold medal for the M4 race soon after Brendan got his.  I'd raced a lot against Oli over the recent months, notably in the Liverton road TTs, and it was awesome to see all his hard work pay off in this way. 

M4 podium: Oli Ferry (c), Jim McMurray (L) and

Unfortunately there was no time to celebrate. I had to get back to Wellington, and after a quick packing mission back at base, was on the road within an hour of finishing, and chowing down on 45 cent roti canai in Kuala Lumpur 48 hours later!

Eating amazing cheap food, and looking at aero gear on the internet...

For a first club nationals, it was a pretty good learning experience, and I'm looking forward to getting back amongst it in the coming years.  The event had a cool vibe, and I'm stoked for all those who met their goals, and commiserate with all those that didn't.

Finally, thanks heaps to Joel Healy for his coaching, to my family, Sarah, Khulan and Kaitlyn for all their patience towards Joel and his demands, and to Oli for responding to all my bike-related whims!  I'm very lucky to have all five of you in my corner, not to mention all the others who've encouraged me along the way.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Two dogs on the Tāwhio o Whanganui

March, 2013

Before I get underway...

This blog has been around a while now, and it's taken me the last few days to remember what it's about.   There's certainly a level of routine and self-expectation now - an upcoming ride often involves getting organised, doing the ride, then writing it up.  For me, the blog is part and parcel of riding.

For the most part, that works really well - I love riding my bike, and I love sharing my experience through this blog.  The riding and writing are not the same hobby, they're two different ones, albeit connected.

Sometimes though, it doesn't work well, and the blog "hanging over my head" further adds to whatever it was about the ride that I am avoiding writing about.  I not only want these to be interesting and hopefully inspiring, but I also want to be passionate and honest and revealing.  And sometimes I feel like I can't, and on many of those occasions, I admit defeat, and move on.

Today I thought a lot about this blog - this post, and this site.  I reminded myself that it's mine, not yours.  One perk of me doing this for free, is that no one gets to complain "this isn't what I wanted".  I choose, I've remembered. 

I choose, to an extent.  I choose to sit down on the bike, and I choose to sit down at the computer.  I don't choose how I feel when I ride, nor when I write, and I certainly don't choose what it makes you feel. 

Why has this blog endured?  I daresay the words and pictures are predictable enough, and many of the posts could probably be described as formulaic.  But not all of them.  What I love about this project is the unpredictability of it.  How a simple song can put a new slant on a ride, or how a puncture can make an unmemorable ride memorable.  How material appears out of nowhere and how something so regular and repetitive as pedalling a bike can generate emotions that are anything but.

I hope that at times this makes you laugh, or want to get out on your bike.  I hope that occasionally you might think, "wow, good on you man" and I hope that I will sometimes think that too - "good on you" for getting through that ride, or "good on you" for having the balls to say what you said.  I hope that reading about my struggles helps someone understand their own struggle - even if that reader's me. I'm not writing for sympathy, but rather the empowerment that confronting myself brings. 

Rather than apologise, I'll conjecture that it's actually much more fun reading about what went wrong than about what went right.

* * * * *

April, 2015

Just over two years ago, I was obviously struggling.  In fact, my words ran dry on the morning of the third day, and the blog has remained untouched since.

Today, I'm in much better shape.  One of my university colleagues has just been walking in the vicinity of Whangamomona, prompting me to dig out some of my "Taranaki Tunnel" research.

With it, came the good memories, and a reminder of much of what this blog's about.

Best get this thing finished.

* * * * *

February, 2013

As the 2013 Tāwhio o Whanganui got closer, my excitement grew.  I thoroughly enjoyed getting my routes together, sorting out the gear I'd take, and sharing my enthusiasm with the rest of the "field" and their supporters via the event's facebook page.  The inaugural Tāwhio had been a highlight of 2011 for me, and I was looking forward to more of the same.

Despite being in the same area, the overnight stops were mostly different, and the direction opposite to that of the 2011 route - plenty to look forward to, and boy, was I looking forward to it.

So much promise and anticipation.  Though, when all was said and done, I couldn't help but feel disappointed.  This, despite the format, the location, the amazing riders who'd joined me - including three of my best friends - the incredible photo-sets that surfaced in the days that followed, the scenery, the weather - two days tried not to melt, and another two trying not to dissolve - bike and gear that functioned perfectly and a very positive and appreciative vibe from those that took part.

What was the problem?  Why would I feel bummed out after such a successful event?  Well, Ashley Burgess's wee pup Pilsner was not the only dog along for the ride.  Mine joined me too. 

* * * * *

As is often the case with these things, the event started some time before we saddled up, and I spent much of the nights leading into it getting some routes organised.  The internet makes this mostly a piece of cake, and I had a lot of fun with this website about Taranaki's road tunnels and an AA map.

I had a full car on the way up to Whanganui:  Simon riding shotgun, and Dave and Karin in the back.  I've probably done more riding with Dave than anyone else in the last 12 months (er, perhaps with the exception of Megan - was that really less than a year ago?!).  Karin I'd only met once, down at Le Petit Brevet in 2011.

A midday start in Whanganui meant for a slightly more casual start than recent the Ak Attack or Longest Day rides permitted.  I met Simon at his place just before 8, and then Dave and Karin at the Spotlight car park at the bottom of Ngaio Gorge.  It took us a wee while to successfully stack the four bikes on my rack, but once that was done, the worst part of the drive was already over.

Day 1:  Whanganui to Eltham

We arrived at Moutua Gardens just after 11am, and were greeted by many familiar faces.  Over the next while, we got the bikes and gear organised and got changed.  I had managed to get contact details out of everyone before leaving Wellington, so had no paperwork to do.  But, I did have the pleasure of giving everyone (with the exception of Jeff Lyall, who had his own in a drinking straw) a 20mL tube of Colgate, courtesy of Mary!

Photo:  Bill Brierley

As with the first event, I asked everyone to introduce themselves, wished everyone a good first day's ride, and then shifted them all down to the centre of Moutua Gardens where Helen was on hand to take mostly identical photos on a dozen or so cameras!

And didn't she do well!  (L-R):  Jeff, sifter, Dean, Stephen, Tim, Geoff, Michael, Nathan, Matthew, Pat, Fiona, Jo, Peter, Simon, Matt, Andrew, Dirk, Bill, Dave, Richard, Karin (absent, Ashley)
Almost at the stroke of noon, we rolled out, none of us totally sure which way we were going.  Rather than take charge, I had a sudden urge to check that I'd locked the car, but luckily the field hadn't seen that as an opportunity to attack, and we all rolled down the main drag together.

I busted out a few photo sprints as we made our way through suburbia, and it was cool to sense the excitement in others, and myself.

I'd mapped out the backroads we'd taken back in 2011, and these kept us off SH3 as much as possible.  The peloton broke up once we hit a few rollers, and through to Patea I found myself riding with Dave, Jeff, Michael, and Stephen, the latter sporting a mighty fine looking can of creamed rice in a dedicated bottle-cage on his singlespeed...

I couldn't resist stopping for a photo on the bridge over the Patea River, so was a couple of minutes behind the fellas when I swung into the 4 Square carpark.  It was a busy place, courtesy of a bit of leapfrogging on SH3.

One of the best bits about these trips is that you can eat with impunity.  The supermarket was well stocked, or at least it was when we arrived.  Dave got the last chocolate and custard muffin, but when the blueberry and custard one that I'd bought was so damn delicious, I went back in and got the last two of those as well.

After an ice-block and various drinks, I was feeling the need for a pee, so headed off in search of a loo.

Not a loo...
There was nothing obvious on the main drag, so I turned right soon after the 100km/h zone, and used a likely looking hedge.  I was back at the intersection in time to watch a peloton of almost a dozen cycle tourists roll by.  Andrew, trailing them by 40m or so told me Ash had shown up, and the Dave was minding Pilsner while she shopped.  So, I headed back the way I'd come to say gidday.

Still 500m short of the 4 Square I met Dave, and realised it would be stupid to go further - I'd catch up with Ash later on.  Neither Dave nor I seemed that enthusiastic to ride hard, and we cruised.  After a while on SH3, we turned north to bypass Hawera, and were treated to awesome views of Mount Taranaki.

It was funny to think that in the 2011 edition, we'd barely seen the mountain.  While it had briefly come into view as we crested a ridge en route to Stratford, little had we known it was in our rearview mirror for hours after that.

We briefly saw the bunch ahead, but they vanished again, and Dave and I were content to keep nattering away.  Our first port of call in Eltham was the superette.  We grabbed some snacks, dinner and breakfast before heading off to the Eltham Presbyterian Camp, which was expecting us all for the night.  I introduced myself to the caretaker, who'd let various administrative blunders on my part go unpunished. 

Dave and I weren't finished with the riding just yet, but we did take the chance to jettison a bit of gear.  I was stunned to realise the time had flown, and that it had taken us over an hour to get going again.  Little we could do about that though, as we rolled out of town at 6:20pm, bound for Dawson Falls.

While the best route to the base of the climb was unclear from the map, we ended up picking a sweet one, climbing gently up Hunter, then Hastings Roads before hooking onto Opunake Road which took us through to Manaia, at which point we knew we were about a third of the way through a 52km return trip.

As we hit the National Park boundary, cow country immediately transformed into a tunnel of native bush.  I pointed out to Dave that I was really glad we'd added this on.  I also noted that I was saying it out loud then and there in case I subsequently changed my mind!

Every so often, the road would split - not quite so impressively as on the road over to the Nydia Bay track, but cool nonetheless.

Keep left, just because
The climb was not as bad as I'd expected, though my legs did wane somewhat near the top.  We passed a couple of trailheads, including the one to Dawson Falls itself, but plugged on up.  There was an intriguing sign to the power station which we'd investigate on the way down. 

A short distance later, we came to the end of the road, and grimacing through the not-so-dulcet sounds of an upset child, we enjoyed the various sights on offer.




Back to front
Time was marching on, and we had shit to see, so it was back on the bikes briefly.  The "Power Station" was orders of magnitude less impressive than I'd imagined, but was cool nonetheless and well worth the few minutes' diversion.

Power Room
Ditto Dawson Falls itself, almost verbatim.

I think Bridal Veil Falls will be hard to top...

I was glad I had my jacket on for the long descent.  And, I was very glad to have Dave's "company" for the ride back to Eltham.  For the most part I sat on his wheel, as we slowly but surely lost elevation.  Progress was good, and we didn't need to dig out lights.

We were back at base pretty close to 9pm, but I got tangled up making the payment for the camp, and so rode the last 100m in the dark.  I was surprised to find a very sedate crowd, with many riders in bed already.

I slunk off to the kitchen, and sculled a couple of cans of baked beans without bothering to heat them.  I didn't have the energy to hunt for the crockery and cutlery that would have enabled me to heat them up in the otherwise very well appointed kitchen (they were in a cupboard in the "dining room" next door, which, on account of the absence of any tables, looked like an empty school hall...).

At least I had Ash's company, and we were eventually joined by Dave and Simon too.  Four was a good number, and it meant we all got half a blueberry and custard muffin!

Not much else seemed to be going right for me.  I'd rinsed my bibshorts, but I never quite got to the bottom of the available washing machine.  A spin cycle seemed like a great idea, but it didn't behave, and I spent many frustrating minutes trying to free my sodden shorts from the security-conscious front loader.

There was probably a men's shower block somewhere, but it was dark, and I couldn't be bothered blundering around.  Nor did I want to disturb my companions in the small lodge, so I retired without a shower.  Tossing and turning during that night, I discovered quite a salt deposit on my eyelids...!

Day 2:  Eltham to Ohura

Sunday was the day I'd been most looking forward to.  Simon had successfully negotiated passage through some private land, though only for a group of up to six.  In the end, this wasn't a binding constraint as most interest was in the Bridge to Somewhere ride south of the Forgotten Highway, and only four of us, Andrew, Dave, Simon and myself would ride together.

Departure from the camp was a slightly stressful experience for me.  We were collectively responsible for cleaning up the facility, and I was responsible for the group.  In the end though, I shouldn't have been worried - everyone had done a great job cleaning up after themselves, and we got a big thumbs up from the caretaker.

Simon had had a bit of a sleep in, and that had been a concern too - I was wondering if he was crook - not imagining that anyone could sleep through the racket the group were making!

The ride to Stratford, 10km up the road, was a nice way to start the riding day.  We caught up to Ash just on the outskirts of town, and I admit to being a little taken by the cuteness of Pilsner in the trailer.  I'm not much of a dog guy, and combine that with a travelling light ethic, I couldn't really comprehend the motivation for dragging a small puppy around in a 14kg trailer.  But, maybe I partly got the point after following them for a few minutes...

YFY I'm cute...
A long ride through the middle of nowhere (or somewhere, as the case may be) deserves a good feed before hand, so we holed up in a cafe for a while, joined by Ash and Dean.  The rest of the bunch were long gone.

Eventually, it was time to move, and we left Ash to her emails, and moseyed.

On your marks, get set...
No sooner had we got stuck into racing out of town, than Simon pulled over with a totally flat rear tyre.  Eventually, the culprit was discovered. 

Another culprit was added to the list a few minutes later when Simon's replacement tube refused to hold air.  I gave him one of mine, and when Ash passed through, boosted.  

Tortoise about to pass the hares
We nattered for a bit, and eventually were passed by Simon, Dave and Andrew, the marathon puncture repair over.  They'd obviously left in haste, and Dean had pinged off the back. I bade Ash (and Pilsner) farewell, and made haste too.

We rode on SH43 for a while, before making a left turn onto Ahuroa Road.  The intersection was a little ambiguous on the AA District Map I handed to Simon, but I'd been reconciling it with a highly zoomed-in map on my Garmin Edge, so knew the intersection to be the one we needed.  It was funny to have the navigational "argument" we'd never had in the recent Akatarawa Attack.

50m later, we were making the turn onto Wawiri Road.  It was nice to be off the state highway, even though the state highway we'd just left probably has lower traffic volumes than almost all of the Wellington Region's roads.

We paralleled SH43 for a while, our tunnel-anticipation growing.  I was content to dangle off the back of the group, knowing that they'd be waiting for me and my two maps at the next intersection!

We'd been following the now defunct railway line for a bit, but crossed over it on our final approach to Kiore Tunnel, on Mangaoapa Road.

It was all cameras out when we finally reached it!


On the other side, we sooned turned off onto Matau Road, and climbed up onto a ridge.  The road was gravel by now, which always seemed a bit more consistent with riding a MTB.  I don't know if it's an illusion, but I always feel like I'm travelling faster with the crunch of gravel "underfoot".

Someone towing a trailer had obviously had problems on a couple of corners on the descent, but we had no such trouble, and safely arrived in Matau.  An old school site seemed to have been taken over by some government outfit or another.  Andrew and I helped ourselves to some water from there, before joining the others at the local Anglican Church (Holy communion, 2pm, 2nd Sunday of every month...).

St James Anglican Church, Parish of Stratford
We had quite a long break here - the day had warmed up significantly, and it was nice to sit quietly. I nuked the water from the school yard with my Steripen, and we ate various sandwiches and things we'd hauled from Stratford.

I'd mapped out a very-long-cut but Simon's negotiations meant we could go right at the next intersection rather than left.  If it didn't work out, all indications were that we wouldn't mind...

Simon's instructions sounded confusing, but finally made sense when we got to the end of the road, and we were soon blasting along an old farm track reminiscent of parts of the Whangamomona Road ride of a couple of years ago.

When we got to the Waitara River, it didn't look like it would have been hard to cross, but, as Simon pointed out, it looked the colour of toilet water that hadn't been flushed for years.

Dave and I had the misfortune of being 20m behind Simon and Andrew when they passed a herd of cows, and ended up shepherding (is that even possible for cows?) them for five minutes or so.  Apparently they were nervous, and kept doing mini shits, some of which we inevitably blasted through...

Eventually we came to a gate, and after a minute of willing the animals back the way they'd come, we were free.

We soon found the bridge over the Waitara, and looking down at the scungy water, I think we were all glad of its existence.  We made our way back down-stream, and after a nifty little ride through some pines, we were back on gravel road (and the map) again.

Next up was Uruti Tunnel.  The approach was stunning, if not a little alarming.

The "notoriously unstable" tunnel had exposed ceiling rafters unlike the Kiore tunnel which was dirt through and through.

Southern portal
Northern portal

The day was marching on, and we were almost as close as we'd be to civilisation.  A ute came through the tunnel soon after us, and we flagged them down to enquire as to the odds of getting an icecream at Uruti.  "None" they told us, and the short detour was off the menu.

After a rip-snorting descent, we were soon at the Moki Road intersection, and climbing again.  Andrew pointed out the very cool landforms to our south, which I was glad to stop for.  It looked like the Taranaki landscape had a bad case of warts.

After a decent climb, the next highlight was Moki Road Tunnel, not to be confused with Moki Tunnel on SH43.

This was again followed by another fast descent, and I got a bit of a surprise to see another vehicle on the road.  I indicated there were another 3 behind me, and hoped the fellas would all be OK.

At the Kiwi Road intersection, I was greeted by the sort of sign that really lightens my mood on trips like this.  Simon, and to a lesser extent, I, have really done well picking quiet back-country roads to ride over the last few years, and it looked like Kiwi Road would be another doozie.


The sun was beating down on us, and our water supplies were running low.  Cruising along the valley, Andrew spotted a side-stream, and he, Dave and I parked up and did a bottle-filling mission.  When we got back to our bikes, Simon was nowhere to be seen, so we moseyed on, only to find him chilling out under a tree a minute down the road.

Simon and Dave cleared out on the long, hot climb to the next summit.  I trailed them about 100m behind, and focused on not coming to the boil. 

At the far end of Kiwi Road Tunnel we had a sit down in the shade.

Last but not least, Kiwi Road Tunnel

After a parlay, Simon and Andrew decided they'd chill out there for a while.  We had a serious climb coming up - the biggest of the day - and neither was keen to tackle it until the temperature had fallen a bit.  Dave and I were more keen to get to Ohura, riding conditions be damned, so we left them in the shade.

A side trip to Okau Road Tunnel - the one that most grabbed my fancy when working out where the tunnels were, and how to link them up - was so far out of the question it didn't even come up, and we made the right turn towards Ohura.

The road was sealed for a long while, but eventually turned into gravel.  Dave noticed some bike-sign, and before too long we came across Tim on his road bike.  He'd gone the long way around, and seemed to be enjoying himself!

We chatted with him a while, but as the gradient increased, he slipped quietly off the back.  We thought of him, and his narrow tyres, many times over the remainder of the climb, and didn't envy his task.  It was bad enough with fat mountain bike tyres.  On one stretch, Dave and I were hugging the batter on the right side of the road, when an extremely rare oncoming vehicle forced us out of the shade and back onto our own side of the road for some more blazing sunshine.

However bad the gravel on the climb had been, the descent was much more chunky, and again, Tim was in our thoughts.  He subsequently reported no trouble with it at all, surprising us both.

My AA map didn't quite extend as far north as Ohura, but it wasn't far off the map at all.  The outskirts of "town" were a bit lumpier than I would have liked, and I wondered outloud what the point of inventing the bulldozer was if not for knocking the top of these annoying little climbs.

The main drag was dead, and we both realised neither of us knew where the accommodation was.  The "General Store" looked like it wound up years ago, but the "Cosmopolitan Club" over the way seemed to have a bit of activity - not bad for a Sunday afternoon - and so I popped in there to ask for directions.

A few minutes later, we were leaning our bikes against the front wall of the Ohura State Prison - the sole reason we were stopping in Ohura.  Once I'd discovered someone had refitted an old prison as a B&B, I'd fallen hook line and sinker for their "YOU CAN DO THE TIME WITHOUT THE CRIME!!" marketing.

Dave had booked himself into a "cell", while I was in a shared room across the way.  The Bridge to Somewhere crew were already ensconced, and soon, we too were showered and starting to think about dinner.  The Prison crew were all very welcoming, and did a marvellous job of facilitating our calorie ingestion. 

Although there were no obvious expectations on me to play host to my self-supported riding buddies, my own perception of things was different.  I was starting to feel overwhelmed by it all, and my mental fatigue was well and truly trumping any physical fatigue.  When in a position of responsibility, I can adequately switch off my introversion, and even depression can be effectively parked to the side, but there's a limit to it, and after a couple of days "on the clock", my brain was starting to push back.

I'd made things harder for myself too, by not really discussing schedules with Simon before we'd left Wellington, and I felt like I'd been two-timing him a little by boosting off with Dave.  I've got a very good ability to make simple things much more complicated than they actually are.  Apparently my brain needs something to fret about.

Nonetheless, I had a solid sleep, so was at least physically ready for the next day's ride.

Day 3 - Ohura to Raetihi

The day we woke to was quite in contrast to the one we'd said goodbye to hours before.  Hot and dry looked to be gone, and cold and wet had arrived.

After a good breakfast, I rolled out with Dave, stopping ever so briefly to grab a nice shot of the old prison complex.  I realised the irony of romanticising a prison, but had appreciated our stay nonetheless.

While the weather was not great, Dave and I were both well kitted out for it, and made good time through to Taumarunui, the last stretch on the relatively busy SH 4.

We stopped for some hot coffee and a bit of food, and were soon joined by other similarly bedraggled riders.  The rain was torrential at times, and although sitting in wet clothing wasn't exactly pleasant, the alternative wasn't flash either.

Peter, Dirk, Fiona and Richie waiting on their orders

Eventually, a brief easing of the rain lured us out, and it was onto the back roads to Owhango.  Although unsealed for much of the distance, the heavy rain hadn't yet turned the road surface to porridge, and there was little to regret about being away from the main road.

A few brave souls were heading for Fisher's Track, but once onto SH 4, Dave and I stuck to it.  We gave ourselves a break from the rain at the bottom of the Raurimu Spiral, smashing back some fresh food we'd bought in Taumarunui, before racing a train up the hill...

Dave offering T-Rex a snack

No problem...
We were both glad to arrive in National Park - our imposing victory over the train hadn't perked us up as we'd hoped!  After browsing the shelves for a bit, I settled on a highly calorific, and uber-delicious Bumper Bar, and a can of hot coffee!  

Coffee in a can
The can was hot, and I didn't want to hang around sipping it's equally hot contents, so chucked it in one of my jersey pockets, and got back on the road.

For the next half an hour or so through to Horopito, that can radiated heat into my lower back, and my only regret was that I hadn't bought six of them.  Remarkably, the coffee was still surprisingly warm when we stopped at the start of the Ohakune Old Coach Road - indeed perfect sculling temperature.

Despite the extra time and energy it was consuming, the Old Coach Road was fun.  It was nice to be doing a bit of mountain-biking, and the track ticked by surprisingly quickly.  The viaduct was as spectacular as ever, and while the rain was on-again off-again, it wasn't so bad as to keep the camera hidden away in my handlebar bag.

I've never enjoyed the last few kilometres of the track, and this day was no exception.  Once back on tarmac, it was a short distance through to the satellite "suburb" of Ohakune.  We admired the new pump track - from afar - neither of us suggested we cut a few laps.

At this point, Dave and I parted.  He was keen to smash out an ascent of the mountain road up to Turoa.  While it is a climb I've enjoyed many a time, I was feeling weary, and wasn't sure I was up to the 1000m elevation gain on New Zealand's only hors categorie road climb.

Instead, I made straight for Raetihi, enjoying the solitude and the spectacular landscapes, and the ever-so-slightly downhill road.

I wasn't the first to arrive at the Snowy Waters Lodge on the hill overlooking Raetihi.  A few had taken the direct route just down the road from Horopito, bypassing Ohakune, missing some good mountain biking, but cutting out a fair bit of distance.  Once clean and into dry clothing, it was nice to sit in the lounge, and keep an eye out for the next arrivals.  Dave was one of the last to arrive, reporting insanely strong winds at the top of the road, which had nearly thwarted his effort to get up to the ski-field. 

There were various dinner options, including a walk or ride down into "town", and a roast put on by the proprietors. 

Bikes all tucked up and ready for bed
Most were glad to avail themselves of an opportunity to wash and dry the day's (or the trip's, in many cases) riding attire.  The return of the laundry made for a somewhat amusing event, as tired riders tried to remember what they'd had with them...

"I think that's mine..."
The low-light of the evening was saying goodbye to Ash.  She'd had a remarkable ride, towing Pilsner and that crazy-heavy trailer around for four days.  She was due back in Wellington the next day, so had started one day early in Raetihi.  Impressive stuff! 

Day 4 - Raetihi to Whanganui

I was organised fairly early in the morning, but by the time I was ready to roll out, I'd seen no sign of Dave.  Stephen had, and said Dave wasn't far from being ready, so I thought I'd wait for him at the cafe on the main street, grabbing a coffee while I did so.

Eventually he arrived, but long after everyone else had gone, so it was just the two of us again.  I was feeling pretty down, and tired physically too.  The pace, or at least my perception of it, became uncomfortable on the many short climbs that we were being treated to, and I lost touch with Dave before the start of the main descent down to the river.

Stopping for a photo or two cemented the deal, and I was able to ride through my rough patch without any social obligations.  While things inside my head were not great, the scenery was as spectacular as ever, and seeing evidence of the land succumbing to the weather was cool.

I continued to have a fairly miserable time through to Pipiriki.  It seemed like my legs - great for the first three days - had deserted me, and that I was in for a long grovel back to Whanganui.

Though helpfully, my symptoms were mental rather than physical, and it took only a few random bits of stimulation before a switch upstairs was flicked, and all of a sudden things became easy again.

Exhibit 1

Exhibit 2

Exhibit 3
By the time I got to a pair of my favourite signs, I was still alone, but hauling again. 

Luckily, I'd not been completely shut off from my surroundings, and their beauty had been motivating.  I stopped giving myself reasons to struggle, and started to simply enjoy where I was.

Before too long, I started seeing riders, and kept motoring along until I found Simon.   We were battling into a cold, wet southerly wind, and his weather-proofing cracked me up!


The Matahiwi Cafe and Gallery was impossible to go past, and it was lovely to stop for a hot drink and some fresh food.  It was also nice to see again the lovely kuia who knew my great-aunt, and who had served a similar motley crew at the first Tāwhio two years earlier.

All good things must come to an end, and eventually it was time to get back out into the elements.  I made good use of my recently rediscovered powers, and did my best impression of a locomotive, with Karin, Simon and Dirk tacked on behind, accepting that a face-full of spray off the rear wheel in front was a small price to pay for shelter and the relatively easy progress that it afforded.

After so many hours without civilisation, it was cool to see signs of life again.

By the time the Whanganui River Road hooked into SH 4, we knew we were almost done.  I made a quick stop at the church at Upokongaro, and found a plaque that had eluded me the previous two times I'd passed through.  

John Randal, grandfather of John Randal, who in turn had a grandson named John Randal, aka sifter

Not long after, we were hauling on the brakes at Moutua Gardens.  Despite a relatively short day of a "mere" 110km, the conditions (and resulting temptation of a long stop at Matahiwi) had ensured the day had marched on, and it was 2:30 or so. 

The car brought with it welcome new clothing options, and once suitably kitted out, it was time to grab some food, locate Dave, and then load up the car for the mercifully short drive back to Wellington.

It might not have always felt like it, but it was good to get out.
Thanks to Colin, who recently went walking out back of Whangamomona, and who prompted me to dig out my tunnel research.