Wednesday 18 September 2013

Endura Auckland Challenge race 1: Woodhill

After my initial breathless commentary about getting into training for Huka, the weekend before last was a bit of a write-off. No real reason, other things were happening and driving for hours to Woodhill and back just couldn't be fitted in so the gym got a decent hit up instead. However, last weekend I made up for it with two rides at Woodhill, one with the Auckland MTB Club's Cranksistas group (awesome ladies) and one being my first event.

It's been a year since I entered a sporting event of any kind (almost to the week, the half marathon was at the start of September 2012) and I'd forgotten that jittery background of adrenaline that starts from when you wake up and keeps you going until the whistle. Driving up from south Auckland to Woodhill with decent weather, in various convoys of cars all with mountain bikes and stickers of various clubs and makes helped keep the jitters to the positive, motivating flavour rather than the "help-not-ready-eeek" variety. I have to say, driving up the steep "warm-up" hill at Woodhill past the punters to the event carpark was simultaneously gratifying and guilt-inducing, but ended up being the easiest bit of the whole day.

It was great to be at a start line with people I knew, even if I'd only met them the day before. The atmosphere was pretty relaxed, though there were a lot of superhero kids on carbon fibre 29" bikes that cost more than my car.

Photo not on its side, the bike is
The race itself wasn't actually as hard as I thought it would be, though that leaves a LOT of room for bloody hard. The first part of the course, a track called Uplands, was a good way to spread the pack out (being mostly up as the name would suggest) and I soon found myself comfortably at the back of the pack, pootling along at a pretty reasonable, sustainable pace. Unfortunately, nerves and not paying enough attention saw me nearly stack it coming off a drop a couple of k's in, leaving an absolutely phenomenal bruise on my thigh and making me squeak as I missed a tree by bugger-all.

Riding the course the day before with the 'Sistas was a mixed blessing. It was good to know where on the course I was and not to lose hope on the really drudge parts, but also dispiriting to know that there was another drudge part coming. There's a steep hill at the end of a trail called "Slippery's Delight" which I ended up walking every time, and I'm determined to crack the bastard eventually! The second lap wasn't as hard as I thought it'd be (traditionally I've always hated any event involving seeing the finish line before finishing), though there was some points where I had to give myself a stern talking to about making more of an effort.

So, the goals:
  • Finish
  • Finish in less than 2hr 30min
Both totally dusted, which was quite gratifying. Having completed longer distances down at the Taupo weekender with heaps of stops and chats etc. I wasn't 100% I'd be able to complete 22km in one go but despite one proper stop for a gel (delicious goo!) I did fine. Things to think about for the next one:
  • I now have replacement clipless pedals after my original posharse ones disappeared,  so they're going on the bike tonight before a ride out Friday afternoon. Hoping using SPDs will speed me up a bit on the hills
  • I'm too good at coasting on gentle inclines and flats. After the big hills and niggly bits it's too easy to just pedal on tracks that require less effort. I had to really focus on changing up a gear or two and pushing that little bit harder. Need to work on this, possibly start with some laps at Totara on Friday
Next event is the 2W Gravity Enduro down in Rotorua, which looks pretty different to a standard lap race and I'm pretty intrigued by.  The holidays will be spent on the bike both here and away, I've a big long weekend of riding with the Cranksistas, then it's just a week (yikes!) to the Taniwha 60km. I'm still not convinced I'll be able to complete the full Huka, but I'd like to think I'm moving in the right direction.

One last thing that's on my mind about the weekend. I came last. Hard. A good seven minutes behind the second last. I didn't mind, I was happy to finish and finish strong, but I know I could have done better. Being slow was never a huge deal to me when I was running. After all, at least I was out there, right? I feel a bit different about this. I feel like I need to be faster and trying harder. I don't want to be last every time. It's nice to feel more driven this time, and to see something in the sport beyond the big event...

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