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Friday, 19 February 2010

Speight's Coast to Coast Race Report: Part 3 - Day 2

The weather men got it right.  At some point in the night the rain came down and the wind blew a hoolley.  I didn't sleep well but that had nothing to do with the weather thanks to really good earplugs, thanks Suzanne!!!

Challenge 5: What to wear when the weather giving you everything it has got...
Everything!  Well, maybe not quite, I had a lot of stuff with me!  The rain was really pouring down.  It was really hard to decide what to wear.  We had an hour to hang around out in the open between our support crew leaving and the start of day 2 because we were all due to travel on the same road.  Whilst waiting, we needed lots of layers, but once we started peddling, we would over heat.  I opted for the my Ocra shorts with my skins over the top and on top I had a poly prop under a cycle jersey with my waterproof jacket over the top.  Finally, I have full waterproof top and bottoms on until I had to say goodbye to my crew.

Eating my porridge was tough that morning, then rain kept on filling it up with water!

I had been apprehensive about the ride, it was going to be the longest ride I had ever done.  I needn't have worried, it was amazing!  By the time I started cycling on day 2, I was shaking like a leaf with the cold. 20 minutes in to the ride and I had to stop to take off my waterproof jacket and hat because I was over heating!

Yes the ride was tough.  It involved about 85k of hills and the remaining distance was flat with a very slight down hill.  There was one point where it was so steep that most got off and walked.  It was pretty windy too, I got blown into the grass verge on 4 occasions, but lucky I didn't fall off and it never involved another rider. I witnessed that though!

The ride across the Canterbury Plains was also tough.  I was tired, had too many clothes on and was stuggling with food and water.  We had a bike transition to top up on food and water, which I did, but it was hard to eat and drink because the wind was so strong I needed to hold on.  On the plains the sun was really hot but I didn't have any sunblock on and had none in transition so I opted to keep my layers on to protect me from burning.  It did mean I was over heating.  Big time!
But it was also amazingly beautiful. And the down hills were sooooooo much FUN!  I clocked up 46.1 mph, my fastest downhill time to date.  It was also a draft legal race, no areobars alowed to two day competitors, so it was excellant fun riding in a chain gang.  You really noticed the difference when you got dropped!

I arrived at the kayak tranistion in good time.  I fact I beat my support crew!  After looking around a bit, I got told that many support crews were being held up in traffic.
Challenge 6:  What do you do if you beat your crew to transition?
I sat down by my race number, thanks to a seat offered by another competitor's support crew, ate all my food and drink and cooled off in the shade.  I was pretty relaxed, there was nothing I could do.
Challenge 7:  What do you do when you discover that your support crew have been waiting in the wrong place?
Suck it up.
I don't know what made me look round but when I did I saw Helen and Matt looking up the road for me.  They were standing at 400, I was at 500!  Neither of us had looked round for the other!  This did upset me a wee bit but there was nothing I could do.  They had had a tough day too, with lots of changes to the plans.
As I got into my kayak kit, they informed me that it was being cut short by a bit and that I would be getting on my bike again for the final 7k.
Challenge 8: A 20k kayak along an almost flat river, with no idea of distance, with the tide coming in and a head wind.
This was by far the hardest point of the race.  So close to the finish, we were meandering thfough Christchurch! and yet so far.  Because I was in the old sea kayak rather than a light race boat and with a normal paddle rather than wings it was really tough going.  Three times I asked someone on the bank how far we had to go and three times in the space of an hour I got told 10k!  A bit later I asked it became 3k left to go.  Three time I got told it was about 3k!  I got fairly close to a sense of humour failure.  I was not happy.  Luckily many of the competitors were feeling the same and so we supported each other with banter.  The final 3k, the actual final 3k, was really tough.  I just put my head down and kept going.
I finally turned the corner and saw the boat shed, yeeee haaaaa!
Helen and Matt pulled me out of the boat, helped me get changed, gave me my bike and sent me on my way.  I was really cold but had nothing in transition to put on.  Luckily I warmed up as I peddled.
That final 7k was a blur.  I was tired and felt like the wind was going to blow me into the sea at any moment but I made it.  I handed my bike to an official and started running, down the shoot, on to the beach and across the finishing line.
I staggered to the sea, touched the waves and smiled.  I had done it!

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Speight's Coast to Coast race report: Part 2 - Day 1

The day started with a 4.45am alarm call.

I got myself sorted, though there wasn't much to do.  I decided the previous evening to stay up later that I would like to check all my kit, food and liquid so that I could have a relaxed morning.  Meanwhile, Matt made my breakfast and Helen started to breakdown our camp.

Whilst I didn't sleep well, the morning went very smoothly.  Simon and I cycled to the the bike transition 4.6k away and my support crew headed to the run transition 50k away to wait for me.  From the bike transition, Simon and I walked the final 3k to the beach (stopping several times in the many portaloos for nerves breaks!)

I washed my hands in the sea, making sure I had a true coast to coast experience, and joined the many participants stretching, warming up and watering the flora.

The race started with a 3k sprint to our bikes.  I'm really bad at sprint starts, especially first thing in the morning, so I decided to play it safe.  This meant that I didn't make the 200 strong pack of cyclists but it did mean that my legs weren't goosed in the first 5 min!

I reached my bike, stripped off my leg warmers, changed my shoes and was off.  What a blast!  The course undulates steadily upwards for 55k and passes through lush forest, wide river plains and heads towards the mountains.  The temperature was perfect, warm with a cool breeze.  I polished off a 750ml bottle of electrolyte, a 750ml bottle of water and ate something every 30min.

I came into bike transition feeling good.  I quickly changed my top and shoes, had some food then grabbed my rucksac and was off.

After 3k of track we came to the first of many river crossings.  It is pretty standard to assist your fellow competitors at crossings and I held the hand of a girl called Marie.  I think she helped me more than I helped her!  In the end, Marie and I stayed together for the rest of the 'run'.  I say run in the loosest sence of the word, more like a walk!  I hadn't had much practice running over river beds.  I'm usually good at going over on my ankle in terrain like that, so decided to walk as quickly as I could for most of it and running when it was safe.  I hadn't had a chance to go over the running route before the race.  I'm glad I didn't try, it would have scared me.  Walking with Marie was a good partnership, she knew the route and I had the food timing nailed.  Every 30 min we ate something, every river crossing we drank something.  I also carried 2ltrs of electrolyte for the first and last 5k where you can't drink from the rivers.  Generally I was happy my nutrition stratagy re the Cliff Bars but the Cliff Shot blocs were not a good idea, they didn't have enough calaries.  After 3 hours I ditched them for my back up food.

The run was tough.  It is stoney, rocky and rooty on the way up and muddy and rooty with steep drops on the way down.  I was glad to cross the finish line.

I met with Helen and Matt (and the new kayak) and headed for our camp.  I was in the process of eating my dinner, having downed my Banana Rego, when officials started giving anouncements of an emergency race briefing that all had to attend at 7pm.

Challenge 4: What happens when the weather turns against you...
The emergency race briefing was to inform us about the sever weather warning that had been issued to our area.  We were told that we make sure our tents were well and truely secured because the weather was really going to hit us.  But that wasn't the bad news...  The bad news was that the Waimak, the river we were due to paddle, was due to quadruple in size over night!  The kayak leg as we knew it was cancelled!  Instead we were to cycle the 135k (or 145k depending on who you listed too!) back to Christchurch, over the Southern Alps, then a 20k paddle down the Avon.  In the pouring rain and galeforce winds!

Day 2 was going to be interesting!

Speight's Coast to Coast race report: Part 1

The Speights Coast to Coast happened last weekend and boy was it interesting!

For many, the biggest challenge is just getting to the start line.  This was a challenge, on many levels, but it was just one of many that happened over the weekend.

Challenge 1:  Getting to the start line...
This was a hugh mental hurdle that did not go away until it was too late.  And then re-occurred for day 2!  However, I also had the challenge of actually physically getting to the start line.  My initial plan (plan A) was to travel with my support crew (Helen and Matt), however, they informed me when I arrived that they could not leave until after work.  Fair enough though a little more warning might of helped.  I arranged with a fellow competitor and friend from Scotland (Simon) to take me bike and went onto the sportzhub website to se if I could get a lift with someone else (Bryan) (Plan B).  This was almost all arranged when I happened to be in a local kayak shop.  One of the instructors (Cam) offered to to take me and my bike (Plan C).  Bonus, I thought, I wont be separated from my bike.  The day before race registration, I called to check what time we were leaving only to find it was too late for my registration!  Back to plan B, and a rapid drive across town to deliver my bike to Simon!

I got a lift with Bryan, a fellow competitor.  This was a pretty relaxed journey!

Challenge 2:  Finding my bike...
I arrived at registration at 2.30, registration was due to open at 3pm, and started to look for Simon and my bike.  I registered, no problem, but couldn't find Simon.  We had no mobile phone reception so had no way to communicate.  I set up my tent, a nice little spot in a clean horse stall, protected from any weather, and started looking for my bike again.  At 5.15pm, I headed to my sitting of the pasta party, hoping that I would see him there.  I finally met with Simon at 6.15.  Bryan gave me and my bike a lift back to my tent so that I could start applying all my stickers.

At 8pm, we had our race briefing.  I hitched a ride with another competitor (James) who had space in his car.

Back at my tent for 9pm I finally met up with my support crew.  Thank goodness I hadn't travelled with them but...

Challenge 3:  Kayaks...
Matt approached me and said "I have been thinking and have decided that you should us the sea kayak." (Instead of the eclipse 5.7, a really nice boat, that was strapped to the roof of the van).  I was a little confused but decided to go with the flow.  Matt continued... "We had a little accident on the way here, drove over the rachet strap stabilising the front on the kayak, practically snapped the kayak in two!!!" OMG!  This was Matt's pride and joy!!  This was only going to be the 3rd time the kayak had seen a river!  Matt had only paddled it once before!!!! OMG!!  Poor Matt.  He looked sick and probably felt it too. His kayak was insured, but that was not the point.  As far as my race was concerned, I was in luck.  Matt would go back home and pick up his old sea kayak whilst I was doing the running leg.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Saturday's kayaking trip

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This is the instruction that my mate gave me on Sunday and I know it is true.

I am on a huge rollacoster ride at the moment.

I go to spin training or kayaking and I'm on top of the world.  My race is on.  I can do this.

Then a matter of hours later I'm in the depths of dispare and worry.  I see 3am, 4am, 5am or all of them.  So much is going round my head that it drives me insane.  The distractions, in no particular order, go like this..
  • Can I do this?  Will I enjoy it?  Will I ruin my 2 month sabbatical by racing?  Will I ruin my 2 month sabbatical by not racing?
  • What am I going to do with my bike whilst I'm travelling?  Shall I take my bike or shall I try to get one locally?  It is a bit late to hire one now so can I borrow one?
  • Bike bags
  • Boilers
  • Can I rent my spare room out whilst I'm gone to help with my mortgage?  Will my flat be ok if I rent my spare room out to a stranger?
  • What to do with my mortgage?  Do I fix in again or do let it switch to the standard variable and hope that the interest rates on the fixed mortgages don't go up too much before I fix in?
  • Have I done enough kayaking?  Enough kayaking in the right kind of boat?  Can I lie on my kayak certificate and say that I did the test in a boat similar to my race boat?
  • I've not run in weeks.  Can I get away with some intensive run training over Christmas?  Does it matter as long as I'm fit after all it is 20 miles over boldery river beds.  I'll probably be safer going at a slower pace and not risking injuring myself.  Oh hell, what happens if I get injured?
  • If I pull out, will I disappoint my friends who have put in so much of their time helping me get to the starting line?
  • Will I have a support team?  Will it all fall into place for the start, or will it not and I loose my £375 entrance fee?
The list goes on and on.

I know how to stop the worrying.  It is to be proactive.  I keep a notebook and pen by my bed to write down my concerns so I don't then stay awake worrying about forgetting what I was worrying about!  I try and cross off something off of my list every day.  Keep moving forward every day.

The crazy thing is that I know I can do this.  I know I can do anything I set my mind to. 

If only I can just shut off these damn worries, get it sorted, get some sleep.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

I can do this!

I must remember, I can do anything I set my mind to.

Recently I have been plagued by a bad back and a heavy, chesty cold that have run alongside a busy November the 5th season.  All this has meant that my training has really suffered and with that my confidence.

I must jump back on my bike, run in the hills and try not to swim in a river with a positive mind that I can do it!