Aka's Double Loop (2007)

As a final test before my upcoming Taupo Enduro I decided to complete a Double Loop of the Aka's. The outing would start in the darkness, and I intended to be turning off SH2 at about the time that the sun was about to rise, (to avoid cycling into the rising sun). The one downside of the outing was the pace. I can't help but feel that the pace was simply missing on the ride. However, that was all to come. Heading into the ride my concerns included the effect of the sleeping tablet. Would I go to sleep?? Would I wake up!! I had the sleeping tablet at 5:30pm, and knowing that I would be rising before 4am I quietly read until my eye's got too tired to stay open...
Waking up was an experience. I simply switched off my alarm clock (at 3am) and thought "Time to get up". There were probably 30 seconds of grogginess, but no more than that. At this time of the day (or is that night) feeling groggy is to be expected. I really felt like I had slept for 14-15 hours. I felt so rested it was unbelievable. A truly great start to the ride.
While riding up to Paekakariki Hill I encountered 2 sections of glass. Hearing the dreaded "pisst...pisst...pisst", as I started up the hill I knew it was time to put my tyre changing skills into practice. Obviously I picked up glass from 1 of sections of glass, and amongst other things made a note of where exactly the glass had been so I didn't do the same thing next time around. I had punctured just 20 metres up Paekakariki Hill. Not ideal. But a nasty surprise was to follow, as I realised that I only had 1 spare tube. I ticked off on my sheet that I had 2 spares, but didn’t even bother to check the bike for spares. This kind of approach can lead to a DNF, so I was pretty disappointed with my shortcut.
With the knowledge that I was 1 flat tyre away from phoning Ruth for a re-supply (not a path I wanted to head down at 4am) I carried on up the hill and just focused on getting the km's under my belt. The ride was bitterly cold on Lap 1. Within 10 minutes of leaving I couldn’t feel the tips of my fingers. This is despite wearing winter gloves. The night was cloudless and there were plenty of stars out, but watching the road was priority #1, as I knew there was a risk of black ice around every corner.
Lap 1 had very little traffic and apart from both SH1 and SH2 I probably saw 20 vehicles in total. This is not saying that the ride was without incident. Along SH2 I was starting to get a good pace and out of the darkness quickly arrived a case of beer (empty??). I swerved to miss the obstacle, and was conscious that I still had traffic to contend with, so ended up missing the box by less than a foot. This kind of thing is not a good look, as a fall on a longer ride would be just 1 more hurdle to overcome.

The view of the Kapiti Coast from the top of Paekakariki Hill.

Another hurdle was avoiding black ice through the Akatarawa's. The Akatarawa’s were the driest I have ever seen them, which is just as well, as everything was white right through the Akatarawa’s. There was even 2-3mm's of icy crystals on all of the bridges. Obviously I took it easy on all the stretches where doubt over safety existed. (I wasn't to know it at the time, but I had actually chosen to ride through this stretch of road on the last true frost of the winter).
On the way down the other side of the Akatarawa’s I came across a slip near the summit. This took up 2/3's of the road. This left me very cautious of similar slips further that may be further down the hill, but no more existed. Oddly however, neither did this very slip a few hours later!! Obviously I was looking for the same slip on my descent on Lap 2, but I never saw it, and as it's the kind of thing that's difficult to miss I can only assume that Transit(??) must have done a super fast job clearing the slip from the road.

Feeling good after Lap #1 I popped into home for the transition. A temptation existed to simply then and there, but I knew that this was not an option, as the true test would come once the km's started to get towards a bigger figure. Lap 2 began in earnest and I quickly found that the new day quickly turned my problem of cold to a problem of heat. I was getting way too hot going up hills, but knowing that it was still early in the day I knew that I would be too cold going down the other side if I removed layers. Thus, I simply unzipped layers of clothing and did them up again once riding over the top of each climb.
On my climb into the Aka's for the second time I thought the heat was fogging up my glasses, as my vision had started to blur along SH2. I stopped just to give the glasses a clean, but my sight was still blurry and at this point I realised that I had a problem. It turned out that my right eye had "fogged up" and the iris was cloudy. Very weird. Ruth of course insisted that I go to the Doctors, thus I wasted 2 hours seeing a GP who had no better idea than myself. The conditions had been cold, and the descents long at times, so I assume it was my eye's reaction to the conditions.

A normal eye. After the ride my right eye was blurred...and I could'nt see out of it.

In terms of the winds on the day, the nor westerly blew most of the day, so this is a head wind for the Akatarawa’s, but I normally expect shelter along SH2. No such luck on either lap. I had to contend with the consistent, albeit only a mild wind. So after a slight head wind along SH2 I hit the wall 20 minutes into the Akatarawa’s on Lap 2 and time had been going quickly until then. Time pretty much was standing still from that point on. But I did have the energy to ride around the coast on the way home, so I got km's just over 200km's. A good finish and I was pretty tired, but in summary a ride I needed to do for ironing out potential issues for Taupo.

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