The Te Horo Circuit

From - "Stepping Up", by Stu Downs.
Chapter 3 - The Te Horo Circuit
Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.
Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
Mention the ‘Te Horo’ circuit and you’ll hardy place fear into the hearts of the local cyclists here in Kapiti. In fact, the 10km circuit is so inviting that cyclists of all abilities compete (mid-winter) over 4 Saturdays in a series of high speed graded races. The circuit, it could be said, is straight forward, but this is also what makes it tough...if you choose to ride seemingly endless loops.

It's now 9 weeks since Taupo and time has come for my first test since the Maxi Enduro. Ok...second test if you count 10 hours of climbing the Maungatuks on 1 January!! What a day that was, with the hill and later hung-over motorists testing my patience, endurance, and resolve. Later I would learn that the Maungatuks were almost 10% (on average) in gradient over the 2km climb. I would have had a restless night before that outing if I had known the true steepness, keeping in mid the 30 climbs I aimed for and completed. The Te Horo circuit though is known in every respect. So there should'nt be surprises when doing the loop.

On 5 occasions during my Maxi Enduro training I completed the 'Te Horo Loop' outing. My goal was simple, and involved cycling from Kapiti to Te Horo, before cycling round and round and round the 10km circuit. The Kapiti Cycling Club ‘Winter Series’ was held every second weekend mid-winter, so on the alternate weekend I setoff to ride (ironically) possibly more loops of the circuit than anyone in the district, despite never participating in any of the races.

My Te Horo circuits have gradually built up over time, (more for my mind than my body), with distances increasing from 85kms, to 169kms, then to 192kms. Closer to Taupo I then had several more outings, with the distances at 206kms, and finally 210kms. This outing would finally end up being 215kms. I believe I could have 'happily' have done 300kms on this outing, but this would have achieved little if it left me smashed for the rides next week.

The KCC Winter Series was a huge success. (Image used with permission from KCC).
The purpose of the repeated loops is to provide an outing that is harder than a simple A to B ride. If you are getting tired, but carrying on is the quickest way home, (eg. Past the halfway mark of the Aka’s loop), then you’ll simply ride on. But to have the ‘easy out’ available on every lap, (in my opinion), installs a sense of inner resolve and later pride, because you pushed yourself despite thoughts of ‘turning right’ at the end of every lap. Yes, this outing is a mental test as much as a physical endeavour, and with the 505km Graperide Ultimate looming I am very conscious that rides needing mental tenacity are a must.

I am always acutely aware of the dangers of underestimating rides that have been previously ridden. Take them for granted at your peril. Thus, as I step further away from what seems (for me) like a shadow cast by November's ride, I am conscious that I will either go forwards or backwards. So it was that I setoff at 7am on a clear but windy day, for my day of torment. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Reaching the Te Horo loop I started the count that would take place once a lap. With a moderate north easterly I was to get no reprieve along SH1 on each lap, but I was presently surprised that once I turned left off the highway the headwind wasn’t too bad. Then left again and a cracking tailwind had me sitting on 35-37kms per hour. Then the small climb and almost back to the end of the lap. This was the theme of the day. It should be noted that I was focused on staying within my target HR range of 73-77%. This was to prove no problem, with the later laps still seeing me needing to back off, and I am sure I could have sat on 80% of my maximum HR. I am however conscious that this is just 1 ride in my week, with another 60kms tomorrow, and a Crit on Tuesday (which has all of a sudden become essential due to the Graperide Ultimate now having time constraints.

On and on, with the inner torment that really got to me at times late last year very much reduced. I guess I know I can push through now, so it all seems more achievable. The heat had it’s part to play however. It’s interesting that this summer doesn’t seem to have been the hottest on record, but every time I do a longer ride it’s a scorcher. On Lap 6 the winds really picked up, and at this point my hopes for 17 laps of the Te Horo circuit were pretty much dashed. The following lap and reminded myself that I only needed to trim a mere minute per lap to squeeze in the 17th lap, with 16th being my most (in the time available) to date.

Lap 10 saw the winds increase again, and I was holding 20kms per hour along SH1 at times. Pretty slow going. But it was big chainring all the way heading south. Riveting stuff, but this is kind of the point. You get so sick of the endless laps that you let your mind wander and then realise that you’ll still be on the bike doing endless laps when you’ve put the world right. I recall on an outing last year trying to count every cow on the circuit, but 1 of the fields had over a 100...and they kept moving about. Another time I set myself the challenge of seeing 10 dogs, with number 10 barking at me from inside a car on the final lap. Good times.

The Te Horo Circuit – It really is the middle of nowhere.
Like all good things I came to the end of my journey. There is a very good way of knowing that you have had a good workout. If you are happy with you finally finish the loops, then you haven’t done enough. If however you simply ‘turn right’ and head home, then it’s all good. I did make it to 17 laps, but did'nt give it too much thought. This had only been a training ride after all.

So back to home. The following day I’d be back in Te Horo, cycling up there with my cycling group we would have a relaxed coffee before heading home. It doesn’t always have to be pain and torment. Nearby, the KCC were hosting Race 1 of the Inter-Club Summer Series. I'm not sure how the racing went in the wet conditions, but I recall the door being shut (in our cafe) to keep the cold wind at bay while we chatted in the warmth. My only thoughts of the outside world were hopes that my much loved bike would'nt get nicked.

With my training altered for the Graperide I feel that I am stronger with 2 longer rides each week. I will assess this after April’s outing, but will most likely continue this approach for Taupo, as cycling home through the Aka’s is always cherished, even in the depths of winter. It worries me little if it is cold and long as i'm on my bike.

Several aspects of the Graperide event have subtlely altered within the last couple of days. Firstly, the start time of midday has shifted to 2pm. Secondly, and more significantly, there is a cut-off of 9am for the start of Lap 5. This means that both of the events this year will be time focused. (With the Taupo Enduro having a goal of 6 hours for Lap 1). Hence, I will develop a new set of strategies and feel that (relatively speaking) I am again a beginner.

I will focus on the present however, and remain strong in my belief that we can all follow our dreams while living in the reality of work and day-to-day life. A foot in each world perhaps. By choosing to step onto our chosen path we take the first step of the journey. At the end is what we want most. Whatever that may be...

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