Nine weeks until one of my favourite races in the whole wide world. Yep, Karapoti.

For the 2014 edition, I've got a few tricks up my sleeve. So, if you're setting a New Year's Resolution for K-Day (or you are looking for a race to target early in 2014 to help burn off some of those mince pies) check it out. 
Firstly, there's a must-do training camp over the weekend of 25th/26th January. This is open to everyone! Chicks, fellas, newbies, seasoned hardcore racers...anyone who wants to get round Karapoti faster than they have before, or survive it for the first time! Spaces are limited. Check out the itinerary below and click here to sign up.

Saturday 25th January - Jam packed with heaps of cool stuff:

We've got downhill maestro, mechanic extraordinaire and awesome bike shop owner, Ricky Pincott, to take you through a skills clinic so you'll carve those gravel corners like a boss. He'll also run you through bike set-up, tyre choice and the essential tools to carry for race day to make sure you make it to the finish line.

We've got a nutrition seminar sponsored by Em's Power Cookies to make sure you don't hit the wall on the last climb up Doper's and still have some fire power left to blast down the Gorge.

We've got Greg Lynch, awesome sports physio and director at Wellington Sports Medicine & Inform Physio (out in the mighty Hutt), to chat to you about stretching routines, injury prevention and all sorts of physio black magic.

We've got Cowbell Coach, Lisa Morgan, to talk about training for the event as well as a guide on how to race your best Karapoti.

And, there's me...chatting about how I've ridden every Karapoti faster than the year before for the last 4 years - to help you do the same!

The best bit is that Ricky, Greg and Lisa have all raced Karapoti themselves (in fact, Lisa is the chick in the Bicycle race kit negotiating Cedarholm Creek in style in the video at the start of this blog)! So, they know exactly what you're signing yourself up for and can help you get round faster.

We're spoilt with brilliant venues for the training camp too! The seminars will be held at the fantastic facilities of Wellington Sports Medicine and skills clinic will be held at the awesome Makara Peak MTB Park. And there's wicked coffee available at Mud Cycles now! Then we'll head in to town for dinner (included in the price - bonus!).

Sunday 26th January - Hit the trails:

You'll get a guided ride around the course you are planning to race (both Classic and Challenge options available) with heaps of tips out on the trails about how to negotiate the tricky up and down bits the best.

Not only is the training camp set at a bargain price ($100 for the whole weekend including grub on Saturday night, or an even better bargain of $75 if you are on a Cowbell Coaching programme) but your dollars will also go towards getting a kiwi mechanic to Scotland for the World 24 Hour Solo Champs in 2014.

And...I'm also sponsoring a prize draw for 5 womens entries for Karapoti Challenge and Classic events! Get your entry in before 1st February to be in it to win it. 
Photo credit: Craig Madsen

All part of sharing the Karapoti love. And pain. And glory. And mud. And quad burning climbs. And river crossings. And all the other stuff that goes along with the first weekend of March in the Akatawaras! Get ready to get your feet wet!

Done & Dusted

That's a wrap, folks. Racing for 2013 is done and dusted. Eleven months, one stage race, two 24 hour solos, one 200 mile road race, several road races, heaps of cross country and marathon events, one new 40 kilometre time trial PB, many training sessions in the rain and wind, one very special Karapoti, some new course records, many friends, loads of Power Cookies and a whole heap of fun. This year has been awesome. Here's my list of the best bits.

#1 Racing My Own Bike

Summer '13 was all about getting over myself and getting my ass back on an elite startline. Scared? You bet. Sam Sheppard needed a bike last minute. I gave her my spare. My bikes had an epic battle and when it came down to the line that day, my other bike beat my bike. It's not every day you get to race your own bike.

#2 Performance Enhancing Doughnuts

I can't tell you how much I love the Coppermine Epic. Fantastic course, Nelson sunshine, cool race vibe, and a waffle cart at the finish line. This year, after some Performance Enhancing Doughnuts the night before, I set a new course record. And proceeded to refuel with waffles. Racing pre-fuelling and re-fuelling goodness. (Note: Performance Enhancing Doughnuts should be consumed in moderation)

#3 K-Day

If I could only have one day on the bike, Karapoti 2013 would be it. Smashed my PB, posted a solidly sub-3 hour time, became the first Upper Hutt resident to win, fourth fastest female ever, and snuck ahead of the legendary Karen Hanlen. It still makes me smile thinking about it now.

#4 Race of Truth PB

There is something special about time trialling. Yep, a special burning discomfort in your legs. This year, while fighting the feeling, I inched closer to a sub hour 40 kilometre time trial. While emigrating added a good 5 minutes to my time (crazy kiwi chip seal), the magic sub-60 minute number now only eludes me by 24 seconds.

#5 Day In Day Out

Wanna ride your bike day in day out? Go stage racing! This winter, I snuck in a trip to the Northern Hemisphere for my first time on North American soil and first stage race. Fuelled by lots of maple syrup, I survived encounters with bears, Fat Albert Racing Team, and a week long battle with Wendy Simms on the most insanely good technical cross country trails I have ever ridden. Best racing experience ever. Love you BC!

#6 Big Ass Medal

Size matters, especially when it comes to medals. It took 384 kilometres and 8,500 metres of climbing in a smidgen over 24 hours on my hardtail to earn the best bling I have won to date - gleaming silver with World 24 Hour Solo Championships 2013 etched on it. You beauty.

#7 Double Century

My propensity to seek out activities that tighten butt muscles and burn calories must be the reason I get the variety of Facebook diet adverts that I do (sadly, none of the ads feature Power Cookies or doughnuts). I can confirm ten hours of pedalling averaging 31 kilometres an hour leaves one with tight feeling cheeks. And smashes through 10,000 calories. That's a lot of Power Cookies. And one cronut.

Phew! What a year! Time for some down time so these guys can get some much needed rest...



Finally, as it's the season for setting new goals, resolutions or aspirations, here's a reminder from last year. This is me at Rice Mountain Classic - two years apart. Decide. Commit. Succeed. And don't forget to ask Santa for a carbon wheelset and Italian shoes (these photos are proof that a carbon wheelset makes you look faster and Sidis last forever).



Round the Big Lake

"The bad news is time flies. The good news is you're the pilot"

Wow! Time flies. As usual, the end of November is heralded by the iconic kiwi event that involves circumnavigating a big puddle of water in the middle of the North Island. I've always loved the vibe on the journey up from Wellington for the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge, as a procession of cars adorned with bicycles journey northwards. This will be my third time at the event, which feels like it is becoming something of a milestone for me. Lots has happened in the last two years.

The 2011 edition was all a bit of a last minute decision. I was mainly enjoying the occassional club road race and a friend, Rob Te Moana, egged me on to race in Taupo 6 weeks later. I first met Rob at a club race, initially because I was tactically astute enough to cotton on to the fact that hiding behind a big Maori fella on the flat just prior to a sprint finish wasn't a bad idea. I was contracting for NZ Army at the time and he was keen for me to join a military team. Six weeks doesn't leave much time for base training for a 160 kilometre lap of the lake (and these were my racing days prior to any structured training programme) so I opted to chalk up some of the "fun ride" events in the local area last minute, including Tour de Whitemans, Martinborough Fun Ride and Tour of the Wairarapa. Being fun rides, these aren't races (yeah, right). For Taupo weekend that year, the weather conditions were a tad blustery - in fact, several trees fell during the mountain bike race and it was called short. Accordingly, I was smug about my decision to ride on the road. I finished my "Round the Lake" roadie stint in 4 hrs and 36 minutes. All things considered, not a bad effort. I was the fastest chick round the lake and fastest military rider overall. The NZ Air Force went away with the military cup - a nice irony considering my retired Squadron Leader status. I decided then that the following year I wanted to race the Friday evening criterium (it looked like heaps of fun) and one day I wanted to tackle the two lap option (not sure the reasoning behind that decision, it just was).

Then 2012 rolled around. It had been a somewhat bizarre winter with the discovery of some additional horsepower in the legs (after some fabulous coaching guidance!) and some hidden cyclocross skills. Who would have thought riding around a park in winter could be such a revelation? And so much fun?! And that I could ride that fast?! I'm not the most observant person and provided some amusement for the Ultimo clothing boys at the expo in Taupo when I failed to notice the huge photo of my mug on the wall.

Just realised what I was standing under

I provided even more entertainment when I rocked a yellow bikini around the expo with Emily Miazga of scrumptious Power Cookie (and yellow bikini wearing) fame. True to my word, I raced the criterium and had a blast. Even managed something that resembled sprinting and finished 5th. Then jumped on the mountain bike the next morning and raced the Huka XL, taking third spot on the podium behind kiwi MTB legends, Karen Hanlen and Annika Smail. I had raced Annika years before. In the Fort Bill World Cup in 2006. Although neither of us would have known it - I finished 62nd to her 16th. The margin was a bit closer in Taupo (well done, coach).

Huka 2012

And here we are. Two years later. I've piloted my way through a good chunk of fun on two wheels in that time and, true to my word (just like last year), tomorrow I'm doing the two lap version of Taupo. A work colleague chuckled when I described it like that and said, "Two laps makes it sound like a 10 kilometre jaunt, not a 320 kilometre race" followed by, "How do you prepare for that?".

The answer for this week's preparation schedule seems to be run a heap of clinics, get through a load of meetings, fit in some time to sleep and eat and pack, squeeze in a couple of easy commutes to constitute a taper, work until 11 hours before you're due to race, grab a flight to Taupo, be re-united with your bike and dedicated support crew, grab a big pizza, drink coffee, maybe a nap, more coffee, throw on lycra, and jump on the bike...somewhat relieved that all you have to do for the next few hours is pedal.

Two hundred miles is a decent bicycle ride. It will be the furthest my road bike and I have travelled together (at least when its not been on the roof of the car). My personal best prior to that was the 284 kilometre Hutt to Palmerston North loop that I rode with young whippersnapper (I'm allowed to say that, he's only just over half my age), Ryan Hunt, before we both did our first 24 hour race back in April this year. It was an epic day out and heaps of fun. We experienced the bidirectional headwind which is customary for this part of the world and cruised over the summit of the Akatawaras just as the sun went down. Ryan is a great training buddy and has since told me that, one day, he wants to ride home. That's Wellington to Taupo. Three hundred and seventy kilometres. One day.

Old bird vs young fella legs after a long day out!

I have fantastic sponsors. Really awesomely fantastic ones. Ones that not only support my crazy plans but actively encourage them. Ones that make a custom high visibility gilet cos it's in the rules to wear something like that (high vis, not bespoke clothing that is - thanks Ultimo). Ones that launch an extra tasty bar just in time for a long race (pretty sure that's the best coincidence ever - thanks Em!). Ones that make sure your bike will run super sweet on race day (thanks Slackboy & Mud Cycles- again!). Ones that are willing to be support crews at all times of the day or night (you've only got yourself to blame, coach). As well as friends that are willing to join the support crew (thanks Charlotte Ireland - I will repay you with shuttling!).

The gun goes at 1:30am tomorrow morning. Lake Taupo is a bigger than average sized puddle to ride around twice - actually it's the same size as Singapore. For those back in the motherland, distance wise it's like smashing it along the M4 from London to Swansea (plus another 10 miles and 3,500 metres of climbing hilly bits too). Or Wellington to Napier in NZ. And I hope to do it in good time for lunch on Saturday. Make that four lunches.

Good luck to everyone on their journeys "Round the Lake" (once, twice, or may times), at the Huka, crit, or any other way you're getting out there on two wheels. Fingers crossed for PBs and sunshine all round! Go visit the Em's Power Cookies stand at the expo and be sure to grab some Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge merchandise from the Ultimo boys. And if you pass me in the morning say hi! 

Conspiracy Theory

Having survived today's session on the paining trogramme...whoops...I mean training programme, I had a sense of dawning realisation that there is a lesser know conspiracy out there. A greater force at work.

Today, was the second time that my coach suggested an impromptu point-to-point (predictive text keeps trying to make that pint-to-pint...if only) training ride. It went a little like this:

Coach says: It's sunny outside and if we go to the beach then you could ride home. Stick to the flat roads - don't ride over the hill. It should take you about 90 minutes. I'll make risotto for dinner.

My interpretation of that went like this:

Awesome! I'll get to ride on some different roads to the usual ones. In the sunshine. And I can take it easy on the flat rather than caning myself on the hills (again). I'll be done in 85 minutes instead of the 90 minutes she reckons it will take me. And I get dinner made for me. Perfect!

What coach actually thought was this:

Brilliant - it's sunny so this will be an easy sell. If she starts at the coast then she'll have a headwind all the way home. I'll get her to stick to the coastal road so she gets no shelter in the hills - I want to keep that resistance nice and constant through the whole session. In fact, that wind looks likes it's going to pick up - great! There's no way she'll do it in 90 minutes but she'll bust her ass trying. And I better make dinner because I don't think she'll want to cook after this. Perfect!

And the real world experience was remarkably close to that last interpretation of events. And that's my second impromptu point-to-point ride this month. Both experiences were remarkably similar. And, of course, both were coach instigated. With a headwind the whole way.

For the non cyclists out there, riding in a headwind is to cycling what aqua jogging is to running. With less buoyancy and more drool. And much more swearing. When I was young(er) and impressionable, I remember reading about the strength Lance Armstrong gained from training in Texas in the wind. Hindsight suggests there was a bit more to it than that but I remember feeling some romanticism about it at the time. Lone cyclist conquering the elements. Utilising Mother Nature's force to become the ultimate athlete.

Today, I did not conquer the elements. And that idea (of utilising the weather system to become the ultimate athlete) and I fell out of love. Although, there is a certain smugness associated with sitting on the couch afterwards which is inevitably worth revisiting. More importantly, I am now certain that coaches have a direct line to Mother Nature. Next time that a point-to-point is suggested I'm going to demand to ride it in the other direction than the one recommended. And ask for a motorbike to hide behind.

For pro tips on riding in headwinds (like my favorite: Get Aero. For, having got down on the drops, the aim will be to stay there as long as is necessary, which might be quite a while…) click here.

Photographic evidence of me busting my ass training in a headwind wouldn't be pretty, so this blog post is photo free. Just in case it scared small children. Plus, I'm not pro enough to have a camera crew following my rides around the Wellington environs yet.


Happy Anniversary! It's officially four years since I landed in the Land of The Long White Cloud. It was a day that left an impression and a feeling that we're not in Kansas any more, Toto. They say you can't beat Wellington on a good day. And whoever they are, they're right. All along the harbour there were people out running, cycling, paddle boarding, surfing and generally doing outdoorsy stuff. In the sunshine. Kiwis, this is how the rest of the world imagines New Zealand. Maybe with the addition of Mt Cook in the background and a couple of hobbits running about. Oh, and sheep. Lots of sheep.

This weekend felt a lot like that first day four years ago. While this winter's training has been a more isolated affair - somewhat inevitably due to the inclement weather conditions, early morning starts, and long routes in the Wairarapa (which definitely satisfies Johnny foreigner's view of New Zealand and sheep) - Spring has finally sprung and both training rides this weekend involved cruising around on some of Wellington's most scenic roads. Makara Valley. Eastbourne and the bays. In the sunshine. With people everywhere doing outdoorsy stuff.

The other thing I remember that first struck me about Wellington was that there were hills everywhere! Having never visited New Zealand, my in depth pre-emigration research had been a combination of Google Earth and watching Lord of the Rings. Google Earth did not disappoint, I was gonna like living here.

I'm not sure why I enjoy riding my bike up stuff so much. I always have done. My mum reminded me recently about how I'd ask to get driven out to the bottom of a long climb and dropped off there so I could ride up it then back home. Aged 12. I think it's got something to do with watching the mountain stages of the Tour de France as a kid. My Dad used to wake my brother and I up so we could watch the 30 minute highlights package on Channel 4 late at night. We'd huddle under a duvet and watch in awe as the peloton flew up the alpine passes. Then we'd go out on our bikes the next day and pretend we were doing the same thing.

Riding with my brother made me strong on my bike. He didn't treat me like a sister. He didn't carry stuff for me and expected me to ride like the guys we went riding with. There was a strong mutual respect but equally strong sibling rivalry. It was a lot of fun. And also incredibly painful. We'd give each other a whole heap of banter on the flat sections of the ride then smash up every climb we came to. There are a lot of them in Wales. He'd inevitably get a gap and give a glance back over his shoulder with a wry smile. Just to let me know he was kicking my ass. Very occasionally, I would get the opportunity to return the favour. He has a sweet tooth, the upshot of which was that he could be bribed to clean my bike in return for chocolate. Riding together lasted right through University. Although, by that stage the bike cleaning stakes were a bit higher than a Mars Bar.

Wellington hills were a baptism of fire, in the form of quad burn. Three months off the bike, while it was stuck in a shipping container cruising from the other side of the world, didn't do much for my leg strength. In an "eyes bigger than your quads" scenario, I planned out rides that included the roads that looked the most wiggly on a map. Among the first was Moonshine Hill Road. I had to do little circles in the road on at least two occasions before the summit. You know, the ones that allow you to get your heart rate down so you can actually start pedalling again but you can kid yourself that you didn't stop or get off the bike. Yep, those ones.

Two years later, at the same time of year, I decided to get a coach. It was in a bid for a faster Karapoti time and a decision made immediately after suffering my way through the Whaka 100 having done no rides longer than 2 hours. It was an uncomfortable way to race 100 kilometres off road in the Redwoods and not a strategy that I heavily endorse. Riding up hills ad hoc on your own and being fit enough not to do little recovery circles in the road on steep climbs gets you to a certain place but some fine tuning was in order.

And it's been a lot of fun. And hard work. And all worth it. And I ride Karapoti faster than I used to, which I think will remain an annual goal for some time.

Of late, there's been a nice moral of the story bit to my posts. I guess this time it's that everyone has to do circles in the road on steep climbs at one stage or another. And with the help of a whole heap of other people you can get to the place you want to. And, while there's no place like home, there are places that do a beautiful bottle of pinot, fantastic coffee, great hills, and make you pedal faster. Those are the places that feel like home the most.


PS See you guys in the UK for a visit in less than a year. I told you I'd make it back in 5 years, sis!


Silver Lining

Longer than usual. This is 24 hour racing ya know!

Watching a race unfold that you have imagined yourself competing in for 15 months is a slightly surreal feeling. When I first found out that the WEMBO World 24 Hour Solo Championships were being held in Canberra, I wanted to be there. Not just to make the startline. To contest for the title. Some would consider that a little foolhardy, having never done a 24 hour solo event in my life before. But, I was confident we could do it. Some would consider that a little overconfident, having never done a 24 hour solo event in my life before. But, they didn't know how much we were putting into it. What we lacked in experience, we would make up for in preparation.

While reading "Better Than Winning" by Ben Gathercole (a book we picked up in Canberra - it's in the shops there cos he's a local lad - that I'd highly recommend reading), I came across a sentence that really resonated for me.

"All the professional coaches out there have a few things in common: a work ethic and a passion for their sport like no other."

A big chunk of the silver medal I won just over a week ago, was earned by my support crew and in particular my coach. She has an incredible work ethic and truck loads of passion for mountain biking. It's incredible to think back to the initial goal setting we did for 2013. How invested we both were on getting everything dialled. To make me able to ride as far as I possibly could in 24 hours. In the hope that, on that day, my best was better than anyone else's best.

Part of the preparation was learning as much as possible about 24 hour racing. A decent place for me to start to get a grip on what was involved (equipped with cuppa tea in hand) were the blogs of the current World Champions. Until race day in Canberra, I had never seen Jason English, but I'd heard a lot (and read a lot, fuelled by tea) about him. The guy is known as one of the best ultra-endurance athletes ever. Watching him fly by at various intervals in the race, I could see why. He never looked stretched! He just kept knocking out lap after lap, incredibly consistently and with enough poise to "check in" with fellow racers and chat about how their own races were going. Bad ass racer and all round nice guy.

Flick back to pre-race, I came across this on Jase's blog and took great inspiration from it. Particularly, after the mutual respect I had felt at the pointy end of some of the races leading up to the race on Aussie soil.

"I was asked if I would be disappointed if I didn't win the National Champs for the 5th time in a row. I was convinced I wouldn't be as I had prepared well for the race. If someone was to beat me then they too must have worked hard and would be a deserving winner."

Epic battles create deserving winners. Canberra was my third epic battle of this season. In fact, I've almost had one for each season of the season!

Autumn was a ding dong affair with fellow World 24 Hour Solo Champs competitor, Erin Greene. Erin is a bad ass who never gives in. I'm more stubborn than most. The end result was a gruelling women's race taken to the 25th hour of racing, in which the leading two riders overall were both chicks. We were the only riders to go out for a sixteenth lap. And we both did it cos we knew the other one would.

Winter was exchanged temporarily for a Northern hemisphere summer. It was deliberately planned that way and sadly only lasted three weeks. Coach decided the way to improve my technical riding was to do some racing on technical terrain. Canada is the best place in the world for that so we made the trip to British Columbia Bike Race. Wendy Simms is a bad ass who never gives in (there's a pattern emerging). The end result was a gruelling women's stage race, where I raced every day like a single day XCO hit out in the fight for a stage win. That week ranks as my most favourite week of racing a bicycle in my life ever. I was pulling out my best riding. And a heap of Canadians loved it that I rocked it on a Hard Eddie.

Spring. The big daddy of race days, World 24 Hour Solo Champs. Probably the best value for money race you'll ever ride. As long as you finish. You guessed it...Jess Douglas is a bad ass who never gives in. There were several other bad ass chicks on the start line, including Erin. We'd anticipated Erin and Jess would be out the front at the start. I was pleased to be in their company. We were shredding the trails and on the opening lap caught a heap of the fellas on the descent. It was all going as I'd imagined. I guess that was the surreal bit. It was like something I'd imagined was unfolding in front of me.

Then something that I'd not imagined unfolded. Suddenly, on lap three, it felt hot. Really, really hot. I'd started to notice it on the climb and figured it would get better once we started descending again. It didn't. The last time I felt that weak on the bike was that sixteenth lap in Rotorua, racing against Erin. I looked down at my Garmin, "2:31:something". WTF? Another 21 and a half hours feeling like this? I was ready to bang out. Pizza and an early night seemed like a much more sensible option. I backed off the pace to survive. And inevitably got caught. Leading bunch to sixth in half a lap. My race was unravelling. This was definitely not what I had imagined.

In the pits I had a whinge. My crew told me I'd come right. Just keep going. We'll get you right. I kept going. It took 3 hours to come right, but it did happen. I still don't quite know how those guys kept me going. Or how I kept myself going. And I have never ever felt so glad to see the sunset while riding.

The best thing about 24 hour racing is that tomorrow's another day. You can have a rubbish day the first, then a flyer the next and it all counts. Before heading to Canberra, I'd spoken to Jenn O'Connor Patterson, bad ass kiwi chick who I'd raced against in the motherland. By "raced against" I actually mean I could still see her just after the gun had gone (but not much longer after that). I'd like to think I'd give her a bit better run for her money nowadays (at least for a few more minutes, particularly now she has retired). She was fast on the XCO circuit and struck me as one tough cookie, which I'd always attributed to her clocking up a heap of 24 hour victories and a silver medal at the 24 Hours of Adrenaline in Canmore before smashing the shorter stuff. Anyhow, I figured she'd know what she was talking about.

Back to the race report. I felt awesome. It got hot. I didn't feel awesome anymore. I suffered. The sun went down. Then, I spent all night in some state of mantra. Jenn had recommended repeating a couple of affirmations at the same point each lap. My mantra soon changed from something pre-determined that probably sounded nice while I was stretching in the sunshine during a taper week to, "I'm not leaving without a medal to match my f***ing shoes". I don't even know what made me think about it. I'd bought myself a new pair of Sidi Dragons to race in in Aussie mainly cos the last time I raced in my old ones, I lost a toenail. They were bronze and black. They looked awesome. And a medal to match my shoes meant a spot on the podium. That was the absolute least I would settle for. Apparently, sometime around 1am I came flying into the pit saying, "I'm not leaving without a medal to match my f***ing shoes" and only Lisa had a clue what I was on about.

Generally speaking, gaps are quick to open and slow to close in 24 hour racing. Unless something happens to the person in front of you, like a mechanical failure or bodily malfunction, your opposition can keep rolling along at a decent pace. Jenn had warned me about it and Erin had already taught me about it. It took me hours to close the gap to 5th place. Back to the mantra. More food. Add another mantra, "food is your fuel". I spent the night entrenched in the idea of fuelling my body to the best of my ability so I could close the gaps in the morning. By dawn I would feel strong, the air would still be cool, and I could smash it to the end. And I wasn't leaving without a medal to match my f***ing shoes.

A mate of mine, Iain, had asked me to ride the dawn lap for him. Apparently, it's his favourite time to be out on his bike. It's my favourite time to be in bed, so I figured some extra motivation would be perfect. It worked wonders. My nocturnal pastime of saying stuff about medals and shoes with an expletive or two coupled with awesome fuelling and riding a lap for a mate, resulted in my 4th fastest lap time of the race! It was the first sub hour lap anyone in the women's elite field had clocked for a very long time. I'd been on the bike for 18 hours. I started to feel awesome again.

The rest is kind of a blur. I stuck it in the big ring and kept it there for the last 99 kilometres of a 384 kilometre race. I concentrated on riding as hard as I could. I knew I was catching people. I also knew I was running out of time. I couldn't believe it, but I actually wanted more time on the clock! Catching Liz Smith in the closing stages of the race got me to a medal position to match my shoes. Eliza Kwan wasn't far ahead. I caught her too. Jess held me off admirably. I reckon, common to all sports, is the fact that champions are those who are able to demonstrate resilience when under pressure. Jess she sure did that.

So, we went to win and didn't. But we came close. I can't say I'm disappointed. Like Jase said on his blog, I'd worked hard and was beaten by a deserving winner who had also worked hard. The way I rode that last six hours of racing isn't something I'll forget in a hurry. I guess the real silver lining from all three epic battles this season wasn't in the colour of the medal, but in discovering a whole heap of tenacity. I'm pretty sure it's here to stay.


Week 0: Le Mans

Daily routines. We all have one. Alarm clock. Shower (speedily). Eat. Drink tea. Rush to work. Squeeze in training. Drink coffee. Eat some more. Sometimes more work. Drink wine. Sleep. Repeat.

In hindsight, my daily routine has been somewhat time compressed for the last 12 weeks. Mainly due to the usual workload that winter's seasonal offerings brings coupled with long training rides for some race I'm doing this weekend, which involves a fairly long time in the saddle. I've been impressed with the ninja level of self discipline and determination I have developed to make it all fit (even be it snugly) into a 24-hour period. Not least due to the interesting celebration of Mother Nature's elements that is associated with doing it all in winter in Wellington.

Tapering is my new favorite thing. If only you didn't have to do the big block of training beforehand for it to have the desired effect. It's provided an opportunity to mix up the daily routine. Ditch the alarm clock. Shower (leisurely). Eat. Drink tea. Stretch. Enjoy training sessions in the sunshine. Eat some more. Drink wine. Sleep. You get the idea. It's what I imagine being a full time cyclist is like. I'm sure it's not actually at all representative but it's a nice idea.

Tomorrow, my daily routine will be in for another remix. After the predictable wake-shower-eat-drink tea sequence of events, I'll run to my bike and not get off it until sometime around midday on Sunday.

I'm not sure who came up with the idea of 24-hour mountain bike racing. I'm pretty sure it was born in the USA. But, I do have a vivid memory of Patrick Adams (the mastermind behind the UK's ever popular Mountain Mayhem and, at the time, my team manager) excitedly describing this race format he'd heard about in some far off land. I was sixteen years old. I sat wide-eyed and horrified that anyone would suggest riding for that length of time. In a team. Some time later, I found myself participating in a my first Mountain Mayhem as part of a military team. Some more time later, here we are on the eve of the World 24 Hour Solo Championships.

Whoever the brainchild was, they drew significant inspiration from the 24 Hours of Le Mans. In fact, most 24-hour mountain bike events kick off with a "Le Mans start". Some lesser known other parallels are also quite striking.

Commonly known as the Grand Prix of Endurance and Efficiency, Le Mans race teams have to balance speed against the cars' ability to run for 24 hours without sustaining mechanical damage to the car and manage the cars' consumables, primarily fuel. Replace "car"" with "rider"and that's not unlike the job we (Ricky, Lisa, Emily and I) have in store this weekend. Having lost a toenail at the first 24 hour event I raced back in April, I would like to add "not losing another toenail" to the list of things to avoid sustaining mechanical damage to. I'm sure Ricky has a much longer list of things he hopes I don't do to my bicycle.

Apparently, nowadays it is mandated that three drivers share each competing vehicle at Le Mans. Three riders each sharing the same bike sounds like a bloody good idea to me. As long as it's not at the same time. I'm sure I will reflect on that some more at some time around 2am on Sunday.

Le Mans is held near the height of the European summer in June, leading at times to very hot weather conditions for the drivers, particularly in closed roof vehicles. Not dissimilar to Aussie in October. Phew for ventilated helmets! No closed roof for me this weekend. Although that option would have been nice in Rotorua.

The car race begins in mid-afternoon, racing through the night and following morning before finishing at the same time the race started, the following day. Another tick. We kick off at midday on Saturday (2pm Auckland time and 2am London time, for those who wanna know). And, while Le Mans is a distance over six times longer than the Indianapolis 500 or 18 times longer than a Formula 1 Grand Prix, this weekend's efforts will be over eight times longer than Karapoti or 16 standard cross-country events.

Finally, back to where this roundabout comparison of mountain biking with car racing started, the race start. The Le Mans traditional starting format involved cars lined up in echelon along the length of the pits. Up to and including 1962, cars were lined up in order of engine capacity. The starting drivers stood on the opposite side of the front stretch. When the French flag dropped to signify the start, the drivers ran across the track, entered and started their cars without assistance, and drove away. By 1963, people were worried someone was gonna get squished so they stopped those shenanigans. You guessed it. On Saturday, our bikes will be lined up (in rider pecking order aka engine capacity) and I will gallop to my steed then ride away. Although, the only Tricolour involved will be the one being rocked by fellow elite chick, Mimi Guillot.

Back to the daily routine stuff. My usual one involves talking to people. Lots. The topic of sporting endeavors naturally crops up from time to time. Most people's response to a quick description of a 24 hour mountain bike race is, "Why the hell would you do that to yourself?". That's a totally understandable reaction that I am yet to find a concise answer to. But, I did have to smile recently when a patient replied, "Wow. I wish I loved my sport enough to do it for 24 hours". Amen, to that. A 24-hour celebration of an awesome sport.

So, Judgement Day is nearly here. Thanks to everyone who helped me get here and those who will help me through the next step. I imagine there is only one thing harder than racing a 24 hour event, that's crewing for one. Just like motorsport, it's a team effort.

There's a live results tracking service on the race website (at the bottom of the page here or a direct link here) if you fancy checking in at various times while enjoying a cup of tea to see what we're up to.

Over and out!

Week 1: Pit Crew

This blog update is brought to you in a prompt manner this week for two reasons. The first is that the latter part of the week will invariably be taken up with packing. I've never carted enough stuff to race for 24 hours overseas before. BC Bike Race was all wrapped up in 20 hours over seven days. Different racing but still puts it into perspective. I'm sure I'll be the source of much interest from onlookers at the airport. Small woman with large baggage. My favourite answer to the inevitable, "What's in that bag?" question that travelling with a bike bag seems to encourage is, "Shoes". The second reason, is that I have less training on the horizon for the next fortnight. Finally, all the hardwork is done. For this chapter of the book anyway. It's a nice feeling. And gives me time to schedule a performance enhancing haircut. Nothing too radical or ultra weight saving.

Racing in Canberra is gonna be a whole heap of fun. Not least because of the sunshine (there had better be sunshine, Australia) but also the fabulous people I'll get to share the experience with.

Nelson sunshine - more of this in Aussie please!

Twenty-four hour racing is definitely not a one man band affair. Everyone needs a pit crew. I'm stoked to have these guys on mine!

Lisa "Cowbell Coach" Morgan

Strength: Making people ride their bikes faster than they thought they could.
Weakness: Chocolate and red wine. More of an addiction than a weakness.
Cowbell Coach riding Hammerhead in the 2008 World Cup

The mastermind behind all things performance and data analysis related. This will be her second time round crewing at a 24 Hour race in Canberra and this time she's coached three riders for the event. She's even experienced her own time in the hurt box at Stromlo racing in the 2008 World Cup to a top 20 finish. Best known for racing cyclocross in cowprint gumboots. The girl that got me back on an elite startline, at the pointy end of races and increased my red wine and chocolate consumption exponentially. She brings order out of chaos. And Monkey Lights to the team.

Ricky "Slackboy" Pincott

Strength: Degree in Bodgability. Ain't nothing he can't fix.
Weakness: Pies and beer. More of a basic necessity than a weakness.
Slackboy at Mount Vic

Maestro of the spanner (and other bicycle tools). Best known for building awesome trails and riding all sorts of bicycles including a fixie at cross races. He rode Karapoti in high heels once too. The genius behind my custom built race bike last year and the man who fixed my middle finger braking habit and made me more rad on my bike (mainly by means of optimised bike set-up coupled with merciless banter). He brings manliness to the team.

Emily "Powergirl" Miazga

Strength: Mastery of cookie creation.
Weakness: None. Powergirl has no weaknesses, silly billy.
Powergirl smokin' it at Coast to Coast
Photo credit: Sportzhub

Last minute addition to the team is the kiwi based Canadian adventure racer. She's famous for being the Em bit of Em's Power Cookies and best known for yellow bikini antics at the Tour de France. With three Speight's Coast to Coast World Multisport Championships victories to her name, she knows what it takes to get through a long day at the office. She brings endless enthusiasm, delicious cookies and adds another funny accent to the team.

Big Ups

Huge thanks to all my sponsors and various people who have spurred me on. I feel privileged to have such amazing support. Many of you provide inspiration without even realising it, like Karapoti race organiser, Michael Jacques, who told me in 2011 that my race entry for the following year's event had better be for the elite category otherwise he wouldn't accept it. Getting back in the saddle has been a lot of fun.
Forget diamonds, ENVE wheels are a girl's best friend!
Mr Slackboy arrived with rad bike bling before the 2013 season kicked off

So, the next blog will be posted when I'm on the other side of the Tasman. There's even a live timing update thingy running during the event so I'll chuck links to all that sort of good stuff up. Good luck to all the kiwis competing... Megan Dimozantos, Erin Greene, Jude Young, Charlotte Ireland, Tim Collinson, Tim Farmer, Matt Andrew, Matt Lees, Thomas Lindup, Angus Petrie and Ryan Hunt (sorry if I missed anyone!). See you all there.

Week 2: Commandments

Spring is in the air. Rain is in the air too. The last three weeks have been reminiscent of springtime training in the motherland. It’s a good job I don’t shrink in the wash.

This week, the ten commandments of training randomly cropped up over coffee. Not heard of them? Me neither. Cafes provide many moments of clarity, not only that the combination of pumpkin, walnut and maple syrup in a muffin is seriously delicious. A quick rundown provided a great deal of insight, even if there was some uncertainty about whether the first commandment was “train moderately” or “train modestly”.

Train modestly probably should be added to the list. Heaven forbid flaunting inappropriately short shorts. Bibshorts are the answer to hide those Dagenham cleavages too, fellas. Never mind the transparent properties of white lycra when damp.  Thankfully, all lessons that I have not learned the hard way.

Life experience has taught me that I have a natural propensity to learn most things the hard way. That extends to how to get the most out of your training. Under my own guidance, I spent heaps of time training erratically. Mainly involving doing lots of what I love doing most - going uphill.* It gets you to a certain place (mainly hill roads), but not much further.
The last two years have been a bit different. Being coached invariably meant that a training plan to follow popped up in my inbox at regular intervals. With goals and stuff. And planned sessions that sometimes involved staying on the flat. Even sometimes doing sprints, reps, intervals and a variety of other uncomfortable experiences that can be had on a bicycle without even going anywhere near a climb. Weird.

At this point, I must confess that my ability to learn things the hard way is only outstripped by my determination to unwaveringly stick to a game plan. Aka stubbornness.  This came in handy when I thought my coach had lost the plot getting me to do sprints. Or ride on the flat.  I imagine it’s also going to come in handy in a couple of weeks when I challenge myself to racing round and round for 24 hours.

Reviewing the commandments made me realise that I have learned a lot and I’m now sticking to most of them without even knowing it. But I’m still a bit rubbish at the “realize that all plans can be changed - yours will not be chiseled into stone” bit. I’d say my plans are more etched in semi-permanent marker nowadays. It's all a learning curve and long races are good at teaching you some lessons in adaptability.

All that said, this week my own basic instinct got an opportunity to flourish. I got to tick off a ride I’ve fancied doing for ages. After all, it was in my training programme. Rimutakas, Akatawaras, Paekakariki, Haywards, Blue Mountains, Wallaceville and Moonshine. For the non-Wellingtonians, that’s a heap of awesome hill roads. All in one ride. With rain cos it’s springtime.

*I know that’s slightly strange. I can’t explain it to you. It’s just the way it is.

Week 3: Smiles & Chocolate

Riding bikes makes you smile. Sometimes, you riding bikes makes other people smile. My cool little niece is testament to that. This is my favourite pic of the week. Rad balance bike skills by Olivia aged 3.

Sometimes, you get to tell others stories about riding bikes which makes them smile. Just like my second outing of the year as a guest speaker, which I survived on Monday. Although a little more wiggle room on the day would have been nice, aiming to join the exclusive Sub 3 Hour Karapoti Club in 2012 and clocking 2:59:59 makes for a cool story. Thanks to the Rimutaka Lions for being such a welcoming audience.

Ride bikes. Share stories. Smile.

Short and sweet. Mainly because I have chocolate to eat. Sometimes, riding bikes lets you eat more chocolate too. :)

Week 4: Fine Tuning

After a week of stormy weather, I couldn't believe our luck for the tune up Cowbell Coach had planned this weekend. She masterminded a 13 kilometre route that replicated the Worlds course profile nicely, provided some of the rocky terrain we can expect Mt Stromlo to throw at us, and even arranged for Aussie sunshine to grace Karori all day long.

It wasn't just me benefiting from Lisa's enthusiasm this weekend. Cantabrian Angus Petrie popped up from down south, student Ryan Hunt rolled down from his digs, and singlespeeder Charlotte Ireland hopped across from Eastbourne. I really don't know how Charlotte does it on one gear. But she does, admirably. Between us we cranked out 28 laps, 364 kilometres and 12,250 metres of climbing. Charlotte's partner in crime, Tim Collinson joined us later in the day as well as Christchurch's hostess with the mostest, Michelle Peterson, who was visiting the capital city for the Trailfund NZ Conference. Both made their contribution to the "all in a day's work" kilometre count.

Frequent visits to the summit reminded me how lucky I am to live in Wellington. Makara Peak is a really great mountain biking location.* The views are spectacular and the trails are super sweet. I also had an hourly reminder of how lucky I am to have such awesome support. The week after a weekend spent crewing for a 12 hour race, Lisa gave up her opportunity to chill out on Saturday to provide us with a pit zone. Kat Sullivan rocked down from the Hutt to give her a much appreciated helping hand. Various friends who were out enjoying riding their bikes while soaking up the rays gave us big ups. Gus, Ryan and I all felt the love. It's not difficult to stay motivated to keep pedalling in those circumstances!

A wicked day on the bike was rounded off with an hors d'ouvre of some amazing smoked salmon (thanks Gus!). But before tucking in, on the way home we called in to watch the end of the evening's team cyclocross race that was being run as part Upper Hutt's Cycling Festival. I declined the offer to smash out a lap. It would have ended in tears (my own). We bumped into Alex "De Snor" Revell who was wearing a glorious white jersey adorned with a fern. Seeing him rocking a National Champion's jersey was the perfect end to the day. Talk about bringing a smile to a girl's face.

Fantastic mugshot from Winter 2012 by Craig Madsen

For me, racing is increasingly becoming not just about enjoying the events you compete in but the journey before and afterwards, which includes the journeys of others.

*Huge thanks to Makara Peak Supporters for letting us use the park all day long!

Week 5: Twelfth Hour

This should probably be renamed eleventh hour. Talk about getting the blog post in late. I'm determined in my quest to post something every week pre World 24 Hour Champs, so here we go.


An easier training week didn't seem to equate to more time to relax and find my inner zen (yes, I am getting my excuses in early). At least I can't complain about being bored. This weekend I ticked off my fifth twelve hour solo. Funny to think that the first time I completed one of these events, I asked the first person I saw when I crossed the line to never let me do that to myself again.* Yet, here I am blogging about racing another one.

It's amazing to see how the physiological stresses placed on a body allows it to become more finely honed at adapting to future similar stresses. It took me a long time to eat much of anything and an even longer time to get back on the bike after the Torq In Your Sleep event in 2009. Fast forward to yesterday's effort and demolishing cheesecake, hamburger and fries, bacon and eggs, hot chocolate, normal chocolate, chocolate chip cookies, Mexican stack, chicken biryani and a naan bread in less than 24 hours has been done with such ease that I also had time to do the ironing for the week and drink coffee. While my nutrition sponsor may be horrified by the news (did I mention my pre race pizza?) she was heartened by the beetroot, quinoa and almond salad I had for my lunch on Friday. I'm pretty sure those power foods and a diet coke cancel the rest out.

Before this turns into the Food Channel, I'd better cobble together a race report of some fashion.

This year's Day Night Thriller was held on a somewhat condensed course allowing everyone to get cosy on the 4.2 kilometre circuit. I tried my best to be an awesome role model and offer inspirational commentary to fellow racers along with the pleasantries of "Pardon me kind sir, but would you be so gentlemanly as to let a lady pass at the next most convenient opportunity?" in an appropriately polite British accent, but after sixty minutes or so was reduced to grunts of "On your right, fella".

The deceptively flat course provided 4,100m of climbing over the twelve hour proceedings including a nasty short sharp pinch which my quads liked more than my hamstrings. Accordingly, I resorted to out of the saddle grunting (yes, more grunting...this is a twelve hour race, grunting is mandatory) for the last eight hours. The  pit area was conveniently placed close to the sharp pinch so onlookers could share the experience.

There were several peeps there giving it a nudge before popping over the Tasman for the World 24 Hour Championships, including a very cool and very speedy man from Dunedin called Matt Lees. Not only did Matt make the whole thing look pretty easy, he even had time to chat with me for half a lap sometime after 8pm about how our races had gone. While we were still racing. On his way to clocking up 60 laps.

Mine had gone well. I only stopped moving forward from start to finish for two reasons. The first was a large guy riding into me sideways. The second was when I rode over a course marker peg. The guy behind me saw both incidents, which happened within ten minutes of each other, and commented on my temporary lack of good luck. Quite on the contrary, somehow I managed to ride over a pig tail course marker peg, which had had the tape long since ripped out of it, with such finesse that it spearheaded the lower part of the rear mech cage and was relatively easily removed (once I worked it out and stopped thinking, "Oh cr*p, this is not good") without any damage to any moving parts. Talk about lucky. Luckier would have been seeing the damn thing before riding over it. And the large guy avoiding me. But such is racing. Everything else was done on the fly while riding so I could spend more time riding, while keeping the fuel tank topped up so I could keep riding more. I think I'm starting to get the hang of this endurance racing game. Job done.

Young whippersnapper, Ryan Hunt, also gave a great demonstration of getting the job done. Despite a heavy collision at the end of lap one (so, in the first twelve minutes of racing), he rode on to finish second in the Open Mens. The resulting wardrobe malfunction inspired him to bring his own take on Moonride at Day Night Thriller, with plenty of on course feedback about the hole in his shorts as he passed riders. He waited until after the race had finished to consult a medical practitioner about the severity of his somewhat swollen right hand. Unfortunately, she was engrossed in cheesecake eating.

As well as Ryan, there were many other impressive efforts from team and solo riders. Too many to mention here. But big ups to everyone who took part.

Time to grab forty winks.

*I do realise that I left that bit out from last week's inspirational piece.