Saturday, December 27, 2008

Looking back

Another year is done and dusted. Time to make resolutions and then forget about them, or push them to one side, or not make them at all. I usually go with the latter, as it saves the effort of actually thinking of something that I want to do in the new year, or more aptly saves me from thinking about all the aspects of my life that could do with brushing up. I'd rather just keep doing whatever it is that I'm doing, proficiently or otherwise. And it's not so bad, when I look back at the last year there's been a fair bit going on, and not much of it at all bad. The year started off about as well as it could when Josh and I headed up to Vegas for the New Year, and had some great rides with Ratas, who I was just getting to know. It would turn out that he's as sick and twisted as myself and a lot more rides and good times would be had. February saw the first of many bike purchases among our posse as Mike got a new Stumpy Expert which would eventually morph into a Pro and then an S-Works carbon, somehow avoiding a marriage break-up in the processs. Lots of new trails were revealed around the city, including Wainui, Belmont and a heap of singletrack tucked away in the hills on the way to Makara. I got to catch up briefly with my old friend/workmate Ebo when he was in town burgling the KOM jersey at the Wellington Tour.
There were more new bikes when Josh got his Turner Flux, I traded my Tarmac for a Roubaix and the Stumpy was upgraded for a new model. Mike put his new machine through its paces with a great ride at Karapoti while Josh didn't have a day he'd like to remember. I got down with Kate and James and the crew at Summerset which was a good blow-out-the-cobwebs mission. If there were any cobwebs left, I completely drowned them in a weekend of many beers and no gears at the NZ Singlespeed Nationals in Vegas, where I put my new TriCross to good use after selling my trusty Langster to Chris The Courier, who stormed to a 6th place after consuming not much less beer than me. Josh got a new Tarmac and the late summer evenings saw a couple of Wellycats alleycat races which were pretty fun. Fun was not something I'd describe a three-hour sitting with one Henry Rollins as, more like a aural barrage to be endured, even though everything he said held us captive. Everytime I rode around the Bays, or on the trails with views like this, I was reminded why I love Wellington so much and why I'm still here. Winter started to set in, and Ratas somehow convinced us that getting up at 5.30am a couple of mornings a week in the cold would be a good idea, and though it may not have been good for our bikes, it seemed to do the trick for our fitness later on. Maybe Australia would be warmer, so off I went for a three week holiday, which coincided with Le Tour and getting some wisdom teeth out in between catching up with my family, friends and cats. I put the winter training to good use with some successful races at the Whaka 100 and the Welly 12 Hour, but managed to crash before the Makara Peak Rally and not get to race it for the second year running. The lay-off meant for more beer consumption, good preparation for Ratas' Festivus celebrations, a great way to finish up a pretty decent year. If 09 is as good, then it'll be not too damn shabby either. Happy New Year to all my friends on both sides of the ditch!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Festivus: Bikes, bats, balls, beers (and Bolts!)

Festivus 08 turned out to be a great day. Ratas had it all planned out, a ride in the morning and eating, drinking and being merry in the afternoon.

Of course the Bays were calling, and the views of the city were great as always.

Karl was getting a little bit over-excited about the Pohutakawa trees in blossom. They do look pretty spectacular though, and apparently if they are in bloom before Festivus then we are in for a good, long summer.

The Petanque was hotly contested and the skills were finely honed. The front yard proved to be a better surface than the back.

The Ratahi's back yard isn't exactly ideal for cricket either, but we kept the Kiwi/Aussie rivalry alive with the usual Aussie dominance prevailing, until I managed to injure myself (again) and had to administer some more hop-based painkillers. Of course the 'underarm incident' was dragged up during the game, by Claire who isn't even a real Kiwi!

On the way over I was following this bus, which reminded me of my cat Bolts back in Aus.

I'd bought a bottle of red in his honour also, and I wondered what the little fella was up to....

Well he was filling my seat and eating prawns apparently!

I hope everyone had a good Festivus.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Festivus!

I have too many grievances to air here...

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Of K's and T's...

After my first, and only, experience with the institution that is the Karapoti Classic, I swore I'd never do it again. So for this year's race, I was only too happy to let Mike and Josh take the day off work while I dealt with the YJA's and FCS's, letting them endure the granny-gear climbs, the shin-deep bogs and the thousands of punters doing their best to make your day worse than it already is.

But as that day back in March unfolded, and even in the weeks leading up to it, I was more than a little curious, intrigued maybe, with the whole aura surrounding the race. Frequent texts to the guys revealed the heartache and jubilation that can encompass one's day out in the Akatawaras. While Josh had a race he'd rather forget (and which I've probably just facilitated in opening up those wounds), Mike had a storming ride, getting oh-so-close to the coveted three hour mark. It reminded me just how close I had come myself, and the voices in my head were telling me that I needed to have another crack. As I normally do when the voices talk, I quickly dismissed their ramblings as nonsensical gibberish, and went about my day.

With the deadline approaching for the latest issue of SPOKE magazine, Eleanor (our fearless leader and tormenter of contributors) appeared at work one day with an offer, or more like a desperate plea, for Josh to write a piece on the 2009 race. He'd have two days to write it, and as a bonus, he'd get a free entry. Probably still unable to sleep at night from wrestling with his DNF demons, or possibly because he has a slight disdain for being put under the pressure of an unreasonable deadline (coupled with a strong aversion to not being paid until months after the fact), he declined on the spot, and as I happened to be in the vicinity (and having been conveniently branded a 'staff writer') I was the designated sucker. I wrote the article, took the entry and tried not to think about the actual painful part (the riding).

Now I knew there would come a time when I would, indeed, have to start thinking about that actual painful part. And I've been thinking about it a lot, to the point that it is starting to dominate my riding thoughts, rather than just the usual "I can't wait to have a beer after this" which is about the only time I give credence to the voices within. Even the 'T' word has crept into my psyche... training. And training for the Karapoti always seems to involve that other horrible 'T' word, the Tip Track. Ian suggests doing repeats up it, three at a time. That's almost the total times I've ridden it! Ratas wanted us to climb it yesterday at 8am... of course we pointed out his stupidity and left him to acsend alone. But I concede that I'll have to face up to it sooner or later.

So the entry is in, there's no backing out, and the sub-3 is the goal. I'm entered in Pro/Elite class, the idea being in the first wave of riders gives you no traffic to battle with the later start of the age groups (and being so old, that's a lot of riders to wade through). There's talk of the major sponsor Merida loaning me a bike to ride, either for the race or a pre-race photo shoot, and the bike will be a Ninety-Six, a light XC weapon. Not sure which spec, but I'm hoping it's this...

My other thoughts have been to maybe getting a new Epic and tricking it out with my nice bits...

Or the Stumpjumper 29er is still in the back of my head too, I could build it up nice as well...

If money was no object (and it is) then I'd pony up for one of these (frame and fork only)...

Whatever bike I'm on, the only certainty is that I'll be suffering, and when it's done in under 3, I'll be able to walk away from the K word forever... or will I?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

This, that and the other

Getting old(er) can be a real bitch. Hair gets grey and falls out, joints creak and aren't as flexible as they once were, and youthful good looks wane and the ladies don't swoon around as they did before the creases took over your skin. Okay, so the last one isn't completely true, I'm still magnificent and chicks dig me! What's this got to do with riding? I'll just fight back the impending senility, and, oh yeah... one thing that really bugs me about the onset of seniority is the inability to bounce back from cycling-related accident injuries. As told in my last post, I took a bit of a trip over the bars last weekend on Makara's Trickle Falls, seemingly innocuous at the time, but rendering my knee a stiff, swollen, useless joint for a couple of days. No problem, I've had plenty worse than this before, and I presumed a few days rest would see me right to race the Makara Peak Rally on Sunday. But, the advancing years saw to it that I would still be feeling pain in the knee on even the flattest, easiest-spinning road rides. A late fitness test on Sunday morning forced me to let Josh take my spot in the Solo Open category, meaning it would be he who would suffer up, down and around the Peak, covering every sweet singletrack (and only the slightest smattering of fire-road and asphalt) in the park. The weather was perfect, about 22 but with that NZ bite to the sun which makes it feel a lot warmer, but doesn't fry your brain. I hung out and caught up with a few people, then went for a walk to get some pics and video (which I have no idea how to upload, but I'm working on it). God and Josh (that's him leading up Lazy Fern, above) finished second and third respectively, but Ratas didn't even offer an excuse for his own no-show, only to tell us later he was going carol singing with Claire... the end is nigh for that man. There's one in every crowd... Rich (Joe) didn't learn from his near-death-Santa-suit-experience from last year, and had a near-death-Capt. America-suit-experience this year. Proof that postmen are 20cents short of a stamp.

Meanwhile, another happening event that I've been unable to attend is the return of the Underground Super D series. Paul, Jim and Tryfan are up to their old tricks, getting the rabble together at undisclosed spots around Welly for some racing and drinking, not necessarily in that order. And in a move that may jeopardise the legitimacy of it's 'underground' status, DB Breweries have been enlisted to supply their Export 33 beer for all the rounds (good enough reason for me to get to the next round, bung knee or otherwise). Pics by Caleb, who dropped me off a sixer of said brew to review for the next issue of SPOKE. Chur!

Mini-Me Mike took on Taupo a couple of weeks ago on his Langster, and kicked its sorry ass! We had feared the worst for the little fella, after the 'tapering' phase of his 'training' had lasted the better part of three months. At least he was well rested, and the lack of gears and a freewheel didn't stop him posting a time of around 5 hours and change for the 160km. Karen, who had done a lot more training and who we secretly believed (and maybe just wished a little bit) might show Mike how it's done, rode a sub-6 hour circumnavigation. Well done those people! Read their reports on the big day out here.

I saw one of the best movies I've had the pleasure of viewing in a long time (well, a week, after one of the worst) on Sunday at the lovely old Penthouse Cinema in Brooklyn. In Bruges is one of those films that you want to see again right after walking out of the theatre. I'm not a Colin Farrell fan, but he plays a great character in this film, and the plot is tasty enough to keep you interested beyond the dark comedy which dominates. It's got sex, love, death, violence, and midgets, everything you need for an entertaining night out. It really is a 'must-see'.