Direct Approach

Racing in Vegas is always huge amounts of fun. Well, actually... maybe not once.

My debut Rotorua racing experience was Whaka 100 in 2011. For those who don't know - the 100 bit stands for 100 kilometers. Or pretty much every trail the infamous Redwoods have to offer. That race kicked my ass.

I remember asking someone how far we had left to ride as I suffered up Direct Road (which, for the record, did not feel very direct at the time... I was imagining more of an "as the crow flies" route to the finish line at that stage). I was hoping for a number closer to my shoe size than my age, but was sadly disappointed by the response. I asked someone else thinking the first respondent must have got it wrong. He hadn't. I dragged my sorry ass along those last sections of the course, which seemed to take forever then (having collapsed theatrically after crossing the finish line) I was greeted by a smiling face standing over me who commented that "that was a pretty impressive effort with no structured training".

After 12 months of working with the smiley faced person, I went back to Vegas and sliced over 70 minutes off  my previous attempt at Whaka 100. I felt suitably smug climbing up Direct Road a year later. Even if the last 10 kilometers still hurt like hell.

Down to the line at Whaka 100 in 2012

So, in 2013, I was stoked to have the opportunity to race another marathon style event in the Redwoods with NDuro bringing the Highlander back on to the calendar. Split Endz is the bestest trail in the whole wide world so any excuse to do a race that includes that piece of mountain biking heaven is a must do in my book. Plus, the organisers had conjured up a European style marathon course with a couple of hike-a-bike sections to keep things interesting. Kinda like cyclocross. Even with a bit of rain.

Highlander 2013 - fastest chick, 13th overall

A totally awesome weekend of biking goodness ensued with pre race riding in the Redwoods after a spin from the airport, another sifty ride later in the day to get a two course pizza meal (the jury is still out on whether dessert pizza is right), three and a half hours of riding for the Highlander itself the next day, then a spin back to the airport to catch the next plane home. Unfortunately, the next plane home ended up being from Taupo. The following day. The result of rain following a period of drought. Macaroni cheese and wine made it all right again.

Cool wee vid of some fun riding the day before race day

So that's it for a wee while. Well, three weekends at least. I love racing week in week out but now's the time for a bit of hard graft before my first 24 hour solo. Time for no racing, but plenty of riding.

PS Huge congrats to Ryan Hunt who became the U23 National Marathon Champ on Sunday! He's taken up the challenge of my little bet for 24 NDuro. Watch this space!!


Today, I had one of those lightbulb moments. You know...the ones that just pop into your head when you're cycling along and make you wonder how you never thought of it before. I've been sitting on my Karapoti prize money for 10 days thinking it should really go on something meaningful. After all, the whole journey to that point was pretty symbolic with a year's worth of (bordering on) obsessive visualisation and several uncomfortable training sessions, so burning it on something random didn't seem quite right. Plus, my racing bike is pretty much as blingtastic as possible. Not even I could think of any more bike porn for it (that is not a challenge, Mr Pincott).

Lightbulb moments (LOL)

Anyway, I digress. The lightbulb moment was that such hard earned cash - and let's face it there are easier ways of making money than trying to do it by winning bike races - should be recycled into someone else's ambition. No, I'm not about to attempt to launch a pro team for le Tour 2013 from the mighty Hutt Valley. Sorry. But I reckon something a little more close to home is quite possible. And, as there is no such thing as a free lunch (and I'm a tight arsed Pom), it's gonna have to be earned.

Step up two fellas who I think will be up for the challenge. Even though I haven't told them about it yet. This is me throwing down the gaunlet, Ryan Hunt and Angus Petrie. I will pay for your entry fee(s) for World 24 Hour Solo Championships 2013 in Canberra, subject to some conditions. Consider it a sporting wager. How very colonial.

I first met Ryan at Moonride last year. We were both racing solo 12 hours and the young whippersnapper was certainly determined. We raced lap for lap for hour after hour. Then did the same again a few months later at Day Night Thriller.

Being chased by Ryan Hunt (again) at Day Night Thriller

The young Endura rider has an awesome attitude (I certainly wasn't up for racing 12 hours solo at eighteen) and the sort of maturity when racing that I aspire to. So, Mr Hunt, in 5 weeks time if you finish 24 Hours of NDuro with at least as many laps under your belt as me, your WEMBO entry fee is in the bag.

Angus has a super interesting story ( having transformed himself from a self confessed 120 kilogram couch dweller to an ultra endurance mountain biker. In just three years.

Angus in action
(photo stolen shamelessley from

We are also both 1979 babies. Proving that thirties are the new twenties. Or that it's never too late to get into racing, whether it's for the first time or the third. So, Mr Petrie, if you finish on the podium at Moonride 24 Hour Solo then your WEMBO entry fee is on me.

Sharing the love. And the prize money. And the pain. None of us have ever raced a 24 hour solo, so at the very least it'll be entertaining for you to follow.

More Than Just A Race

Well, that is the end of one of the most surreal Mondays of my life. It seems that all the mental imagery I conjured up during every hard training session over the last year played out for real this weekend. Either that or I'm still dreaming. Whichever it is, it feels pretty awesome.

Karapoti - it just is 

Karapoti is a special race. In fact, it's more than just a race. It's a an iconic piece of kiwi mountain biking history, a stripped back brutal no holds barred course left pretty much au naturale, and a huge challenge whatever part of the elite to weekend warrior spectrum you sit on. It also holds a place dear to my heart, being my home town race. For all those reasons, I totally love it.
Lovin the 'poti vibe - giggles on the startline with the Olympian
Everyone has their own goals going in to Karapoti. Surviving. Completing. Joining the "sub 3" club. Setting a new PB.
That's kinda the order things worked out for me. I actually have four Karapoti finishes to my name. My first was a baptism of fire so please add experiencing the infamous Karapoti induced mechanical failure to the list too.
My lesser known first 'poti was actually a bit of a disaster. It was in 2010 just a few months after moving to New Zealand. Despite a great start, I punctured on the Rock Garden then underestimated the distance to the bottom of Devil's Staircase and elected to ride on the rim then fix it at the top of the infamous hike-a-bike section. At the time it seemed like a very logical place to opt to sit down for a little rest and fix a puncture. Unfortunately, I suffered several punctures subsequently (probably due to minor *cough cough* wheel damage quite possibly sustained from riding on the rim) and at one stage sat at the side of the track trying to glue multiple patches to a tube. After yet another deflating moment, I gave up on my trailside repair efforts and embarked on a run from Doper's back down the gorge to finish in 4 hours 25 minutes. It was a nightmare. I almost wanted to do it all again the next day just so I could see what I could do with better luck. Almost.
Karapoti 2010
Early Education on Karapoti
Instead, I took the more sensible option (unusual decision for me) and waited until the 2011 edition. For the first time, women had a mass start with elite and expert age graders setting off together. I surprised most of the elite field, as well as myself, with a new M1 women's course record of 3 hours 10 minutes and a second place finish overall behind multisport ace, Elina Ussher.
Karapoti 2011
New Women's M1 Record
Four months before 'poti 2012, I'd made the plunge back into structured training under the watchful guidance of Cowbell Coach, Lisa Morgan. Spurred on by the coach's suggestion (she was actually quite adamant) that a sub 3 hour time was possible, I cracked out a 2:59:59 and a second place finish behind Karapoti sub 3 hour club regular, Fiona MacDermid.
Karapoti 2012
Sub 3 Hour Club

I still remember taking my first look at the Karapoti Hall of Fame. It's an impressive who's who list of mountain biking history and something I already felt totally humbled to have become part of. The women's sub 3 hour club is even more exclusive and 2012 was a special effort to get myself into that club. I had never felt so emotional at the end of a race as after that 20-something minute on the rivet effort from the top of Dopers back to the finish line never quite sure if I'd make it or not but never backing off just in case it was possible that I could. One hundredth of a second was all that was in it in the end!
After two consecutive runner-up positions, I was pretty sure I could take the next step up on the "right" year (which for Karapoti inevitably means the right mix of conditions and right amount of luck in addition to the right amount of hard work beforehand) but I was never quite sure when it would be. I have to say that the addition of Karen Hanlen's name on the 2013 startlist made me contemplate that this may not quite be the "right" year for me! She is a formidable athlete with incredible strength, awesome attitude and an ability to ride herself back into a race like no one else I have ever seen before. Having Karen as an opponent was always going to inspire some fast riding and I was in PB form going into the race at the very least.
Karapoti 2013 was certainly not a flawlessly executed ride. I snapped my bottle cage while shouldering the bike on an early section of congested climbing and a long dry summer left the descents super loose ending in some blood letting on Rock Garden and a high speed spill on Pram Track. Somehow, I choreographed a crash-roll-grab bike-remount sequence on my Pram Track crash without ever fully grinding to a halt. The key is to keep momentum going at all times (LOL). Despite those minor setbacks, I set a fast time of 2 hours 50 minutes, smashed out a PB, became the fourth fastest female in the history of Karapoti and came home as the first ever Upper Hutt resident to win. Totally stoked (words don't do it justice but you get the gist).
Karapoti 2013
Victory for the Home Girl
I'm sure there'll be many, many, many more Karapotis (or Karapotii?) in my future with grand stories to tell from each of them. I have a feeling it will probably become a lifelong obsession. After all, for some of us, anything after the first weekend in March is just the start of the countdown to the next Karapoti. But for now, my more immediate goals include celebratory drinks (mugs of tea count too) and sleep. It may be some time before this smile wears off.
Huge thanks to my awesome sponsors who have helped me ride faster every year - you guys are the best!