Monday, July 18, 2011

A view from anywhere but the pack.

As the 'blogosphere' is currently buzzing with British National Champs posts I thought I would see if I could provide an alternative to the more race focused blogs out there and give an insight into my current mindset regarding racing.  Although this will be the second blog post today, there is really quite a gap between writing sessions.

I will start by saying that this is not about racing, this is about a weekend of doing a few of the things I love.  If I go off track and talk heavily about racing I will have to ask for forgiveness, but bear with it, all being well it will return to something a little lighter.  As such I won't give my usual course description, for this see the countless other reports flying around such as that found on British Cycling's website.  I also have no photos, so once again BC or Joolze is the go to.  I don't have lap times, I have a vague idea of how I rode and I know where I finished (for those concerned and so as not to maintain suspense for an underwhelming result, my number is 9th).  More over, I am not going to post excuses, my result was what it was and if you want to know background then it can be found in earlier posts.

My weekend started on Friday evening; I finished 'The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo' (Stieg Larsson, translated from Swedish to English by Reg Keeland, interestingly changing the title from 'Men Who Hate Women') which was brilliant, although I was disappointed to have forgotten who gave it to me and that they had not written in it.  I have made a recent decision to try and write in all of the books I read, although 1984 now has a bit of a spoiler in the front of it thanks to this, which I'm sure Ric did not appreciate when he read my copy. 

I then finally got around to starting David Millar's autobiography; 'Racing Through The Dark: The Fall and Rise of David Millar'.  I had been keen to read this ever since I first read about his writing of it, and contemplated getting it on it's release in New Zealand but postage would have been extorsionate, so I waited patiently and knew that I had to finish 'The Girl...'  So on Friday evening I hungrily started this book but I was soon asleep after 40 or so pages.  This had been enough to wet my appetite though and the rest of the weekend was spent reading as much as I could.  I was thinking of providing a book review, but I'm no reviewer; suffice to say it is a key read for cyclists and those who doubt David.

Saturday started ominously enough with rain bucketing down delaying Dad and my packing of the car, but soon enough we were away, chatting occasionally but mostly with him driving and me reading.  On arriving at the venue I signed on as usual, relaxed with Steve, caught up with others then set about getting out for a pre-ride.  I took the go-pro camera with me and got a good few (of my own) crashes on camera.  It would appear that I had forgotten how to ride flat rooty singletrack in my time away.  Thankfully half way through the actual race it came flooding back to me.

The evening was spent putting up out tent, and although I was quite out of practice it went up smoothly enough, after which we found our way to a pretty village pub with Ben, Tim, Chris and Peter for some late dinner followed by lashings of custard (it wouldn't be a racing weekend without custard).  The night and morning settled into their usual routine with Dad looking after me more than I deserve allowing me to relax and think about the race.  I have to admit to not thinking about the race one jot, which was lovely.

The race went as well as could be hoped, with me riding lazily around in the top ten knowing there was a big gap between the guy I was riding with (Jack) and the rider in front of us and knowing that I would be unlikely to bridge it.  That is until Jon Pybus (recovering from a first lap mechanical) came storming past.  I couldn't resist jumping on then giving him a lead out.  People will have their own views on my lack of competitive spirit in such a big race, but I gave Jon what I felt he deserved and did try to out manoeuvre him knowing I was unlikely to be able to outsprint him.

No water in the showers left me muddy and smelly for the journey home, but all in it was a great weekend, not dulled by the grey skies and rain.  It was great to be camping with my Dad again and something that I had looked forward to for ages.  As far as my mindset with regards to racing goes, the race was successful because I had fun.  That is all.

Now I may try and get some semblance of fitness back for the end of the season. 

No promises though.

Forever Delayed (final goodbyes)

Before I left New Zealand I was pestered somewhat to update my blog as I had been (and remain) lacking in recent updates.  I thought of some ideas, but haven’t had much spark for writing and I don’t like writing dull stuff anymore, I would rather make this blog a bit more fun.  The ideas I came up with are below and a poor attempt at a sleep-deprived-alcohol-fuelled update from the last of my time in NZ.  Most of the ideas are still untouched and may eventually become blog posts, but for the time being I wanted to get this one up (which has had little work since I first started writing it) so I could move onto other ideas.

Blog Ideas:
  • ·         Best bits of Welly and NZ
  • ·         Sad to leave
  • ·         Happy to be going home
  • ·         Pathetic Fallacy
  • ·         Trip South
  • ·         Injuries and trepidation for the forthcoming season

I’m currently sat writing this in Auckland airport, waiting for my long flight home.  Thankfully I managed to sort out some slight issues leading up to this return journey, and even managed to do a last bit of travelling to boot.  I somehow managed to lose my passport within 3 weeks of this flight, having used it successfully for a year as ID, getting (very) drunk on occasion, and yet I lost it during exams, when I wasn’t drinking.  Having searched through my flat, my sisters flat and office and Katherine’s flat with a fine tooth comb I decided to give up and get a new one.  $330 later and a lot of worry and un-warranted stress later I have a new passport, ETSA, NZ Visa and am ready to go, although I already smell like I have been on the plane for hours having only taken the short hop to Auckland.

Saying goodbye was hard, and I have to say that I am completely in two minds about my departure.  On the one hand I miss so many things from home and so many people, but on the other I am leaving behind the most amazing place I have lived, where I have started setting up a life, with work, friends and other interests all catered for.  The riding has been superb and I think I am going to be longing for ‘deliverance’ for quite some time.  I’m already planning my return for a riding tour, and am hoping that Owen and Andy will be keen for some more Summer-time fun.  Looking back on it, I can safely say that the ride that we went on was the best thing I have done to date and I will have to try and replicate and better it; sooner rather than later.

My final hurrah sent me South again, this time in a car with Heather and Sarah.  Goodbyes were said in Dunedin to Emma and Tanya before a quite dash over to Queenstown for the opening of Winterfest (without snow, but with John Key and some classic Kiwi-Aussie one-up-man-ship).  In true Queestown style the two days were spent riding some fun tracks and getting drunk with Irish people met randomly on the street.  My riding here, and throughout the trip was hindered by IT-band pain in my left leg which hopefully some rest, massage and stretching will cure when I get home.  However I did manage to get up into the bike park twice, once riding down Hammies (not worth the climb in my opinion, fun, but not technical enough to maintain my interest) and the other time having ridden the Fernhill loop track in reverse before descending Vertigo and Singletrack Sandwhich, both of which provided more of a challenge, but nothing that scared me.

The bike propped up in a stream, I got a little lost...

 The Fernhill loop track however was fantastic, with stunning views over the lake and up Ben Lohmond; it felt pretty close to real riding and made me long for fitness so I could have done some real back country epics.  The Beech forest over the top was enough to make me grim wildly and find myself torn between wanting to take photos of the beautiful native woods and riding as hard as I could at and over the myriad of roots fingering their way across the track.  As usual I didn’t take enough water, but I find drinking out of mountain streams to be one of the most satisfying elements of riding in the hills so was more than happy to risk Guardia again (having drunk from streams quite a bit on the previous Southern trip).

A kayaker paddles across Lake Wanaka

 From here we explored Arrowtown and then moved on to Fox Glacier with a brief stop in Wanaka, a place which holds many happy memories for me having spent two Christmases’ there in the past.  Fox provided us with stunning weather and some beautiful shots of Mt. Cook reflected in Lake Mattheson at sunset.  After one night here we undertook (or rather I) the long drive to Abel Tasman and our next hostel in Motueka.  Turns out we scored with this one too, a cushty room saw me in a double bed.  From here the girls did a small part of the Abel Tasman track whilst I went off and found some riding over Takaka hill.  I may have taken the car on a mountain bike track in the process, but it seemed to cope ok with it, even if we did get a bit sideways trying to race a 4WD on the way back...

One of those 'stunning' shots of Mt. Cook reflected in the Lake.

 Here we see a slight break in proceedings due to more alcohol being served and my dislike of having my laptop in my face and hands typing from my chin.  Continuing this from an extremely cushty plane with plugs for laptops in economy (air NZ plug) and with 2 glasses of pinot noir and a Jonnie Walker whisky in me (not my first choice, but beggars can’t be choosers as they say)...

My ride of choice in the Kahurangi Park was that of the Kill Devil track, which takes you from the valley floor (pretty close to sea level) up to a nice wee ridge and from there undulates over the ridge.  Not all of this is rideable, whether it be due to restrictions placed by DOC (who have only recently opened up any of the track) or your own ability (some of the switchback on the ascent, which later becomes the descent; riding in NZ has gotten me used to riding both ways along tracks, are pretty tricky).  The track is however, good clean fun.  I didn’t make it all the way to the top due to the knee, but otherwise I want to go back and give it a proper go, I reckon I could clean it all with relative ease and some (sick) trials skills.

From here we returned to Welly via a pretty choppy ferry crossing with motion sickness setting in for the first time since a hung-over bus journey years earlier in Bolivia.  This just left me with final passport sorting and packing.  All done now thanks largely due to my amazing Sister; if one person has made this year it is her, as she does every year I spend in the same city as her. I can’t say I would like to live with her again: as I think she would agree, we need our own space, but being in the same city allows us to share our lives and be there for each other.  She is doubtlessly my best friend and has been for some time.  

On that note, it has not only been the place, but the people that have made this year so special, they gave me the opportunities to do all of the amazing things I have done, they made everything that I have done so much better.  It wasn’t long ago that I thought being alone would be fine, but in reality it is our relationships that define us, and as usual it is who you know not what you know; even if that statement is taken out of context. To that end I would like to thank everyone I have met this year for making this year the best so far.  I will miss you all, I have fond memories of so many people, including people that unfortunately I have failed to remember the name of; hopefully I will be forgiven.  

In the near future I hope to write a little travel recommendations blog for cyclists in Wellington, hopefully people can use what I have learnt this year to enhance their experience and maybe bring more people to Wellington; as I have recently been reminded by an important person in my life, New Zealand does have a large tourism industry, maybe I can put something into it having spent the last year as a tourist, although Wellington felt like a home by the end.

With that I say goodbye.  It’s been good, and I can’t wait to come back, maybe next time with some fitness so I can take NZ by storm...
As something of a postscript, the pathetic fallacy idea is largely in relation to the weather on leaving Wellington, a cloudy day, with classic winds, some rain, but shafts of sunlight breaking onto the bay.  The weather in Wellington providing the perfect representation of my mood.  Also, I will try to live up to the goals I set myself here, but the travel guide idea may be a while off.

I will leave you with a view from Queesntown of the sunrising on a new day...