Kapiti-Palmy-Kapiti x2

From - "Stepping Up", by Stu Downs.

Chapter 5 - Kapiti-Palmy-Kapiti x2
We are not interested in the possibilities of defeat, they do not exist.
Queen Victoria.

With only 7 weeks until the 2009 Graperide event I felt the time was right for a unique test that I have never attempted before. The 200km trip from Kapiti to Palmerston North and back?? "Yes". Kapiti to Palmerston North and back 2 days in a row?? "No way!!". Until now.

The 200km circuit of this weekend's outings encompassing the main arterial road between the Kapiti Coast and Palmerston North. (See attached map of the circuit). There are several ways to get to Palmerston North from Kapiti. I have cycled via both Shannon and Foxton, and the safer option is (in my opinion) to go via Foxton. With admittedly less traffic the Shannon route fails to offer the much cherished 'shoulder' that we cyclists love so dearly.

So with the circuit and dates decided several communiqu├ęs were dispatched to (potentially) interested parties. This produced a relatively modest, but enthusiastic response from a number of local cyclists. There was even discussion from several Levin cyclists that they may join us from Levin to Palmerston North and back. The time for talk finally ceased though, with the long weekend upon me...

Day 1 - Friday 13 FebruaryThe date of the ride did not go unnoticed. Friday the 13th is a date often associated with bad luck, with many individuals avoiding uncertain situations, (and some will avoid leaving their house at all). Case at point is Paraskevidekatriaphobe (also called Triskaidekaphobe), which is a person with an irrational fear of Friday the 13th. To a lesser degree, some buildings don't have a 13th floor, many cities do not have a 13th Street or a 13th Avenue, and most hotels do not have room number 13. Why is this??

One theory states that with 13 being seen as 'unlucky' due to 12 often being a complete state (eg. 12 months of the year, 12 signs of the zodiac, and 12 hours of the clock). This, combined with Friday being seen by some as unlucky for some professions, with the day not encouraged for taking journeys or beginning new projects. All of this may be true, but personally, I believe that you should focus your energies on what you can control...with the areas out of your control not requiring consideration. "Is it dark??" Then wear reflective gear and have lights. "Is it busy traffic??" Then take a quieter road or use the footpath. This hiding from the improbable is a little self defeating, and we need to accept that risks exist everywhere if we look hard enough. What is there to fear?? Dying...or living??

My start to the day was being quite surprised at it being pitch dark outside at 6am. I was staggered by this, as I thought I'd have a little light for the 6am start for the Wairarapa Loop. (It would be a nuisance to have to fit lights for the sake of an hour). So departing just on 7am I was obviously by then in good light and enjoyed a windless cool start to the day.

The forecast was for 'strengthening southerlies', so I expected little assistance on the way to Palmy, but increasingly hard work on the way back. The winds bothered me very little though, as my HR training zone was 70-75% on the flat, and I would freewheel if I reached the top of this zone. The forecast also mentioned occasional rain, and this also proved to be correct, with rain from Te Horo through to Levin. Just enough to leave me fairly soaked. There would be more rain to follow later on...

The tempo was good, and therefore the Foxton Bridge (as shown in photo) was a bit of a nuisance. For safeties sake I prefer to use the footpath that goes under the bridge, but this means stopping to open (and close) a couple of cattle gates. The alternative is a 500 meter individual time trial, with the occasional oncoming (overtaking) truck making this is an unnecessary risk for what is alternatively gained by keeping continuity. Using the footpath went well, with (it must be said however) the wetter weather leaving my shoes covered in cow 'muck' from the area around the cattle gates. Not very impressed.

The Foxton Bridge. (No flooding on these trips fortunately!!).
Getting back into a rhythm after Foxton was made tricky due to an unexpected headwind. The wind should have been behind me. This could potentially mean a tailwind all of the way home. It didn't transpire though, with the wind swinging back around to a southerly for the return trip.

On a trip that lacks both breath taking views, and (at best) few memorable highlights, the road between SH1 and Palmerston North made everything else seem like riding the Alps. For the record, this is the most boring section of road I have ever been on. For long distance cycling this is a good thing though, with the mental aspect of long boring roads forcing you to face monotony. I recall commenting to another cyclist the following day that this 30km stretch of road would be excellent for repeats. They did'nt reply, but gave me a rather long stare...as if they were waiting for me to laugh. But I was serious.

Then, when about 5kms from Palmerston North I got the first of 3 punctures on my outing. In hindsight I acknowledge it was totally my fault, with a rear tire covered in cuts. None had seemingly gone right through, but apparently my close inspection must have missed something. With the tire changed I carried on, but that evening the tire was thrown out...and the following day I didn't have any problems at all.

With food and drinks swapped over I had covered 101kms. On the return trip it was interesting to note that there was torrential rain about 2kms on either side of the road heading back to SH1. So slowly riding into the rain I was once again soaked. This left me optimistic about the tailwind home, but strengthening southerlies were just that. The wind got stronger and stronger as I got closer to Kapiti. Interestingly enough, the winds simply died out the following day, allowing for quite a bit more pace at no extra effort. Additionally, on Day 1 all rhythm was lost with further punctures at both Levin and also Te Horo. With the heat picking up I grew a little impatient about getting home as the miles ticked away. The sooner I got home the sooner I could start my recovery for the next day.

I'm a great believer that on longer rides the training doesn't stop until about an hour after the ride finishes. First a protein shake (with no colouring or flavouring!!), and some food. Then a shower that alternates hot and cold to get the lactic acid out the legs. This is utterly unpleasant, but better than being sore the next day. Finally, recovery clothing, which includes Skins and also compression bandages. With all of this done I can relax. The forecast for the following day was excellent, so I spent time with my children and later slept very well, getting enough sleep to have me fresh for the next day.

The roads were long and boring...perfect for a longer ride!!
Day 2 - Saturday 14 February (AKA "Groundhog Day")With Day 2 of the back-to-back Palmy ride came another day of note. A cynic may state that Valentine's Day was simply created after the collective heads of Hallmark, Cadburys, and Inter-Flora got together to inject some much needed cash into their respective industries. This excuse I am sure has been (naively) flouted by spouses lacking foresight. But the day has had a longer standing than many are aware.

Several theories exist in terms of the origin of Valentines Day, but it is difficult to go past the story of St. Valentine. It is said St. Valentine was a Roman who was martyred for refusing to give up Christianity, (he died on February 14, 269 A.D.). Regardless, February 14 informally became the date for exchanging messages between those in love, and eventually St. Valentine became the patron saint of lovers. The commercialism of all things Valentines had humble origins in the 1800's, with wooden 'love spoons' the done thing in Wales, and in many countries it was the done thing for a young woman to receive a gift of clothing from a young man. If she keeps the gift, it means she will marry him. Simple times.

With me seeing my Wife effectively only on Sunday afternoon this weekend...and this is keeping in mind that she had work at 3pm, I thought it best to have her feel loved as I set off for Day 2. So a small bunch of flowers were put on the dining room table for her. (I thought an item of clothing may have seemed a little random). I knew the weekend would have me doing the second most number of kms ever (after the Maxi Enduro), so kms 201-400 were not to be taken lightly. So it was then, with a cautious departure that I setoff to see who would be turning up for the much anticipated group ride to Palmerston North and back.

Much to my relief the cloudless morning gave a great deal more light. I also made a note to apply an obscene amount of suntan lotion for the day ahead. My concerns about struggling to make the meeting point (let alone cycling 200kms) were alleviated, and my legs felt fresh and rested. Leaving home at 6:50am I wondered how many would be at the meeting point. There were thoughts of splitting the group if it was large enough, but this would require close to 10 cyclists. As it was we had 7 at the start, with 1 of the riders planning to ride 25kms with the group before turning back.

My briefing highlighted that the tempo needed to be consistent and this was more or less adhered to, with the pace a little on the high side into any headwind. This said, the pace wasn't "hot", so no criticism of the group. In fact, the communication, holding of lines, and smooth group riding were all out of a text book on safe group riding, so all in all we were fortunate with the make up of the group. We also picked up a coupe of riders en route to Palmerston North, not least of which was Paul Rawlinson, who is planning on doing the (300km) Wairarapa Loop with me in several weeks time. Paul commented that his long term goals include an Iron Man in 2010, and also doing a sub-4 hour ride for the 160km Taupo Solo again. (Note the 'again'!!). It's great to catch-up with people who see these kind of goals simply as achievable objectives.

The ride up to Palmerston North went well, with the footbridge used to avoid yet another day of quite heavy traffic. I played school teacher at the halfway mark, and announced "Right, 5 minutes and we're gone". I then enjoyed the only true tailwind of the 2 days, with 35kms per hour held for about 15kms heading towards SH1. Then a slight headwind from Foxton, with some tired legs. It should be noted though, that spirits were good and the group worked well. A couple of us also raced ahead at the Foxton Bridge to open the gates for everyone. We then played catch-up and the group reformed about 3-4kms down the road.

The circuit was pretty straight forward, with Palmy via Sanson considered early on.
The remainder of the ride went well, and apart from feeling the effects of a warm day I felt good. The last 20kms were easy riding, with me quite pleased at how the training has been progressing recently. I have an iron deficiency and had 2 bouts of illness in January (each after an 8 hour ride). Thus, I recently started on iron supplements again, and as a result feel good in the days after the longer rides. Case at point; I was on the bike for 16 hours in the weekend, and then did the Waikanae Crit on Tuesday. (I felt great after all of this). But previously, the 35km Waikanae Crest on it's own would leave me feeling smashed for 3-4 days.

So was the 2 x 200km outing a good approach?? Yes, I think it works well. I feel good with my training and view the weekend's training as having added value to my fitness and endurance. The bottom line is that I am now 2 smaller steps closer to a goal that awaits. What that eventual goal is, (and whether I accept the challenge), will in many ways depend more on my self belief than any other variable.

I have the Wairarapa Loop in 2 weeks. Then my studies start again at the beginning of March, with juggling to keep the family, work, cycling, and University all ticking along as the Graperide looms ahead. Yes, I will take it 1 day at a time. But while I breath I will continue to remind myself that there is always hope to reach the finish line...where ever that may be.

Looking Ahead
Considering eight.
Dreaming of what I could do.
Of what I could be.

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