Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Family Fun at the Day Night Thriller

I still find it hard to believe we're staring down the barrel of October already - this year really has gone by in a blur, and I've felt constantly in need of a break.  In addition to the Monday to Friday pressures (which more often than not spillover into Saturday and/or Sunday), Khulan's weekend job at Mud Cycles has also taken a toll on our ability to hang out as a family of four. 

So, it was with some delight that when the 2017 Day Night Thriller event popped up in my Facebook feed, an enquiry to my cobbers on the family couch elicited some degree of interest.  Never one to piss around when a decision is made, we were soon entered, annual leave had been approved, and an Airbnb booked in Atiamuri.

The last time I did the Day Night Thriller was back in 2011, riding with Alex Revell and Megan Dimozantos as Team Yeti, in the trails around Spa Park in Taupō.  Despite the non-technical nature of the event, or perhaps because of it, I'd had a blast then, and had always imagined it would be a fun event to do as a family, given we were all capable of enjoying ourselves on mountain bikes.

The event had since moved to Tokoroa, and rather than attempt an after-work drive on Thursday, we opted to drive north on the Thursday.  Accommodation in Atiamuri seemed to make sense at the time of booking, and actually worked fairly well in practice.  It sits at one end of the Waikato River Trail, and is about 40km from both Rotorua and Taupō, so we'd have plenty of options for a ride on the Friday without being too far from the event itself.

All winter long, I've often arrived home to find a mud-slick on the driveway, a sign that one or both of my beautiful daughters has been out on her bike (and dutifully cleaned it before stashing it in the garage).  For both Sarah and I though, an off-road ride is a rarity, so our bikes needed a bit of attention, snuck in around a hectic work schedule.

Luckily, not only are we compatible riders, but our four bikes marry together well on the Q-spear bike rack.  As a result, the loading process on Thursday morning went pretty well.  Not so well was the driver.  I'd raced on the road the previous Sunday, and what I thought was a bit of my legs rattling round in my lungs had turned into a full-blown cold. 

It rained all day long on the Thursday, making for tough driving conditions, and while Friday dawned fine, none of us seemed super-inclined to go riding.  That not only made for a restful morning, but saved us about an hour of bike cleaning later in the day, and bought me some recovery time.

Around lunch time, a walk to the lake was suggested, which I countered with a much more sensible idea.  We were soon riding, in a very European sense, and not long after we were at the lakefront.

The girls seemed content lying about in the sun, so Sarah and I left them to it and went to check out the power station below the dam. 

Atiamuri Power Station
Not only had the fresh air and the sights been nice, but it was good to know the bikes had travelled well.  

We were joined that afternoon by the grandparents, who Sarah and I left in charge of the daughters while we popped to Tokoroa to register, and top up our grocery supply.  The trip wasn't entirely necessary, but I wanted to test the water with the organisers about a grade-change.  My cold was still in full-effect, and while entering in the 12-hour option had seemed like a good idea at the time, none of us were keen now.  

Thankfully, the organisers were very encouraging, and were happy for us to make the call in the morning.  The likely options looked to be a 6-hour women's team, or 6-hour mixed if I wanted to ride (and the girls would have me).   

The day dawned fine, and we were well ahead of schedule by the time we hit the road.  Once we arrived at Cougar Park, first order of business was swapping into the 6-hour grade.  Not a soul was interested in the 12-hour, whether I was riding or not.  

We were soon setting up camp - a rather rudimentary one - but perfect given the conditions.  In between a fairly decent playlist, the organisers were occasionally giving us information about the event, including that no grade changes would be accepted after midday.  With a 10am start, that would give us a couple of hours to sort ourselves out.

Warming up
We were told time and again to send our "strongest and most experienced" rider off first.  Khulan got that nod, with Kaitlyn being next - I wanted to ensure Khulie was able to brief Sarah about any potential trouble spots on the course - sensible I thought, given the last time she'd been on the MTB was in Kaiteriteri (where not all blood stayed on the inside). 

After a briefing, we watched the 12-hour teams start, giving Khulie 5 minutes before she'd be off. 

Ladies and gentlement, start your engines...
As it turned out, that time hadn't been used particularly wisely, and when the gun went, it was a long while before Family Randal-Tumen's first rider made her way past the increasingly anxious onlookers.  Almost dead last, so the only way was up!!!

Not 15 minutes later, the first 12-hour riders started returning, and it was very nice to see how clean they were.  The 6-hour teams arrived roughly 5 minutes later again, thus beginning the endless stream of riders past our campsite. 

Khulan's first lap had taken around 30 minutes, and she arrived back reporting no technical sections, but a lot of climbing!  Her red face seemed to reinforce the point.

With Kaitlyn taking over duties, the three of us (and the grandparents in their management role) had a bit of a pow-wow about the relative merits of me suiting up.  It was agreed that I'd enjoy myself and so I went to the car to get organised only to discover I wasn't organised at all. 

I'd brought heaps of riding gear, but no shorts!!!  What to do...?!

I was wearing heavy canvas trousers - totally inappropriate riding attire.  We began to relitigate our decision in light of my sloppy packing, and 40-minutes deep into a six hour event, we decided it would be worth me taking the grandparents' car back to Atiamuri.  There seemed to be general agreement, so off I went.

Hoping to find my bib shorts on the bed, overlooked at the last minute, they were actually neatly packed away, adding slightly to my embarrassment.  I don't know what had gone through my mind, and while I could vividly remember setting aside one of the pairs I'd brought, soon after I must have fired them away with the discards. 

I put them on then and there, lest I forget them again, and grabbed the creamed rice we'd also inadvertently left behind, and some leftover pasta from the night before. 

By the time I returned to the team, Khulan's arrival at the end of our fourth lap was imminent, and while Kaitlyn headed out for our fifth, I struck off on my own for a warm-up on the streets of Tokoroa.  I made good use of the time I had, and wasn't waiting for too long when Kaitlyn arrived.

I'd decided to do a double lap, lest I be unable to get going again once stopped.  I didn't particularly ease into it, and was soon "passing on your right". 

When I handed over to my dear wife some 45 minutes later, I was probably about a kilo lighter, due to the sheer quantity of snot I'd ejected during the two laps.  That had been a lot of fun, but I'd also enjoyed the riding, and hadn't had too much trouble with traffic. 

The team manager was impressed by my consistency, and while the second lap had felt rather horrible, I'd been only about 30 second slower than the first.  At a guess, I probably lost about a minute on the climb, but had a cleaner run on the long descent. 

Sarah, looking slightly worried about the next bit!
Sarah came in looking absolutely shattered, and her time reflected it - despite being  relatively new cyclist, Sarah has well and truly mastered the art of being in the box.  Khulie was next, and by all accounts enjoyed some parts of the course more than others.

With our 9th lap underway, it was time to start the arithmetic, and when Kaitlyn set out, we thought we needed to average about 29 minutes to complete another four laps (in fact, we'd initially overlooked the 10:05 start, so had a little more time up our sleeves than we'd thought).  While there was absolutely no way we'd manage a fifth - the race rules said all laps had to be completed by the six hour mark - barring accident or bike problems, we wouldn't have to kill ourselves to get the four extras done.

I rode again immediately after Kaitlyn, and was disappointed that the snot production had tailed off a bit.  On the other hand, it was my fastest lap of the three, largely by virtue of reduced traffic and familiarity with what I was up against. 

I headed to the far end of the camp area to watch Sarah come in, and a minute later was able to cheer Khulie on as she set off on our final lap.

Goooooo Khulie!

She came in dead on schedule, and pushed it hard to the line, an effort that didn't go unnoticed by the announcer:  "what a magnificent strong finish!!"  We agreed wholeheartedly, and were looking forward to seeing how the results had fallen.

Khulio bringing it home!
We'd packed most of our stuff into the Corolla, and once Khulan's bike was loaded up, Mum and I drove out to the carpark, all the better for a quick departure after prize-giving.  That done, we regrouped with Poppa, Sarah and the girls, and the ceremony began moments later.  The organisers did a fine job, perhaps with the exception of one award of an unfortunately named sampler-pack of beer:  "and [insert woman's name] is going home with a Hairy Box...".  Oops... 

Other than that, Murray Fleming ran very efficiently through the podiums for the 3-hour solo riders, and the various 6-hour categories, unsurprising, given this is the 15th year of the event. 

When it came time for the mixed teams, we were delighted to learn we'd placed second, 10 minutes behind a team of Smurfs!  This was fantastic in and of itself, but it was also nice to note that we'd managed the fastest lap of the division, and that our ratio of women to men was somewhat unique! 

The most important thing of course, was that we'd all really enjoyed ourselves, and each other.  The grandparents joining us had made it even more special, and had been excellent time keepers and transponder swappers, and general encouragers. 

I realised too the folly of my original instinct.  I'd entered us into the 12-hour division, thinking that we wanted to maximise the time together.  I suppose that logic does make sense for individuals who would arrive from disparate places and then scatter to the winds once it was all done.  Why hang out for only six hours, when you could enjoy a dozen together?

For us though, I realised only with hindsight, the entire trip was family time.  And when push came to shove, enjoying the second six hours of the event not on our bikes but soaking in thermally heated water at the bottom of Spa Park, having a meal at a restaurant, eating dessert back at our bach, and even watching a bit of election coverage, was actually nicer than doubling up on the first six hours.  As nice as they were, the economist's law of diminishing marginal utility surely dictates they could not be beaten. 

As it turns out, more is not always better, unless the "more" in question is simply some top-quality family time. 

I'm so proud of us.  Not because of how fast we rode, but because we did it together.

Thanks Event Promotions, for a great event.

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful! Your family are so inspirational, and lovely to boot! Thanks for the great read, bro.