Fight the Good Fight

“It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up” – Babe Ruth
The human body is probably not designed to do any one thing continuously for 24 hours. That’s why we come readily equipped with a handy circadian rhythm.
Awesome pic of 24 Hrs of NDuro by Raewyn Knight
Almost a year ago, I was on a road trip to Rotorua for my second Moonride. It was my third 12 hour solo race and I was quietly gaining confidence exploring my personal boundaries of ultra-endurance racing. As a physician, the capacity the human body holds physically, if we are able to temper the tricks the brain plays, never ceases to amaze me and there is probably no better way to continue to surprise yourself of that than experiencing it firsthand.

The last year of racing has been all about discovering some previously hidden capacity, so it was fitting that the World 24 Hour Solo Championships were scheduled to migrate south to Australia after last year’s event in Europe at a time when I had promised myself to be on the startline of a major championship event when one returned to the Southern Hemisphere.
With the resurgence of 24 Hours of NDuro to the kiwi race calendar, there was the perfect opportunity for a practice run. It was the first time I had been that nervous about a race for a while, mainly driven by anticipation of that step into the unknown - this challenge was double the longest period of time I had ever spent on a bicycle and while I knew it was only twice as far it would be ten times as hard. Safe in the knowledge that my challenge was one of gaining experience, I was certain I was in for some tutorage with the women’s field boasting depth including ultra-endurance regulars Megan Dimozantos and Erin Greene, who have chalked up World Championship third and fifth finishes respectively over recent years.

What the hell did we just get ourselves into, Ryan?
Any pre-race hype about the women’s race was satisfied as an excitingly close clash evolved between Erin and I, which saw an intense battle gapped by a mere 15 minutes after 20 hours of racing. Support crews were equally tested to make sure bikes and brawn kept running smoothly with less than 30 minutes cumulative off the bike despite incredibly wet, muddy conditions. Both racers and crews kept the pressure on each other through 14 hours of darkness, with their efforts being rewarded by seeing two women punching through the men’s field by dawn to take control of the race overall and consolidating over 300 kilometers of racing with over 8,000 metres of climbing in under 25 hours by finish.
Erin v Kim
One lesson I learned long ago was to respect your opponent. They breed ‘em tough in the South Island and Erin is no exception to the rule. With a love for ultra-endurance racing, the girl from Dunedin strives to ride the perfect lap during even the longest events and had the ability to race to fifth the last time the World 24 Hour Solo Championships were held in Australia in 2010, just eighteen months after a pelvic fracture following a collision with a car during a training ride. With form that grabbed her podium honours in a stage of the Cape Epic multi-day stage race this year, she is sure to provide a tour de force at the World Championships in six months time.
Dunners game face - credit Shane Wetzel

I was stoked to be able to ride that close to her, be part of a race that saw the fairer sex level the ultra-endurance playing field, as well as learning some valuable lessons for Canberra when no doubt another North Island versus South Island battle will ensue. You know you have done something special when former junior World Champion and fellow 24 hour soloist, Thomas Lindup, says it was a women’s race like he had never seen in New Zealand. Here’s to the grudge match across the Tasman!

Rice Pudding

Well, that's it folks. The last training ride was completed yesterday. It was an awesome experience too, rolling along knowing all I had to do was tick off an easy spin for an hour while reflecting on the training miles I've clocked up to date. Time on the bike is a good thing. Sometimes, time to reflect is an even better thing.

Almost a year ago, I was on a road trip to Vegas for my second Moonride. It was my third 12 hour solo and I felt like I was getting the hang of them. So much so that I hadn't really thought specifically about any race plan. It was all super relaxed and a bit ad lib. I was gonna pitch up on the startline. When I got hungry I was gonna eat some rice pudding. After 12 hours I was gonna stop pedalling.

Moar rice pudding

With the race planning ticked off there was plenty of time to chat during the drive to Vegas. Interspersed with the sort of tunes that can only be acceptably played loud by two chicks on a road trip, was the topic of 24 hour solo racing. I was firmly set in my position on that one. The answer was no. Seriously, why would anyone want to do that to themselves? I've done team 24 hour events, surely that counts? After all, extending myself to 12 hours solo had only happened by accident for the first time in 2009 and was enough of a step up for a once upon a time XC jeygirl.
So, during my sifty training ride (and safe in the knowledge that I'm gonna eat my words along with mud and rice pudding this weekend) I had to chuckle about my shortlived adamance. Sometimes I'm not as stubborn as I think - dammit. But I guess the last year has been a lot about exploring new challenges. I spent all winter excited about the not so gentle pitter patter of rainfall on the morning of race day that was going to lead to the inevitable 'cross mudfest while I aimed to keep the A grade fellas honest. There was a lot of learning. And heaps of fun.
Yey! I went and rode around in some mud!
It seems kinda fitting that this next new personal exploration of where the edge of the envelope lies may provide a similar muddy environment if this weekend's weather forecast is anything to go by for my batispm into the world of 24 hour racing. Maybe all my best lessons are learned that way.
So, what changed my mind? Well, I'd always said I'd look at racing the Worlds when they were back in the Southern Hemisphere after moving to the other side of the world. This year South Africa plays host to the World MTB Champs and it turns out it costs the same to get there on your own from little old New Zealand as it does to get yourself and two mates to Canberra. I guess you could say I went for the value for money option. Plus, those are two of my best friends in the world. And, let's face it, if (as succinctly described by Mr Ricky Slackboy Pincott) you're going to "roach yourself for retarded amounts of time on a bicycle" you may as well let your best mates point and laugh at you as you do it while reminding you at regular intervals that "this was all your idea". I'm pretty sure this weekend is gonna be a perfect dry run.
Random awesome race pic... I'm pretty sure I'm not gonna look like this after 24 hours
Huge thanks to my awesome sponsors who have provided me with heaps of gear for the weekend ahead and all the great peeps who have let me borrow stuff as well as generally sending awesome vibes my way. Good luck to all the guys and gals out there with particular big ups to youngster Ryan Hunt who will no doubt be gunning for it and keen to see me a few hundred bucks lighter by the end after our little wager. If I can still type on Monday, I'll post a nice story.
PS I do hope I haven't given too much of my nutritional strategy away with the blog post title.