Aka's Double Loop #1

From - "Stepping Up", by Stu Downs.

Chapter 9 - Aka's Double Loop #1
If everything seems under control, you're just not going fast enough.
Mario Andretti

The Aka's Double Loop is where it all began really. My first Aka's loop was in April 2006, and the first Double Loop was in September 2007. On my first Double Loop I had doubts in my mind (about both the Aka's Double Loop and also the Taupo 2 lapper) as I headed off, and completed the 2 laps with a net time of just over 9:12. Not exactly fast stuff. The loop in many ways laps acted as a marker for me in terms of my training, with the larger events often having laps of this loop interspersed into my training to ensure I had some honest hill work thrown in for good measure.

I would be riding with John Robertson on this outing, and at the completion of Lap 1 we would be meeting our regular Kapiti 805's group, with the group riding Lap 2 with us. Needing to be back in Kapiti by 8am we departed at 3:40am, and this early start would mean that the rules of night would apply to the first few hours of this ride. This would be the first time since Taupo that I would be riding at night, and with it being the only night riding before the Graperide Ultimate event I thought it best to make an honest assessment of my efforts in the dark, with any nervous problems most likely leading to more of the same before April's outing.

Overall it went well though, with the Graperide's overnight riding (which will encompass approximately 40% of the ride) looking on track. "On track" is more than can be said for the drunken individuals I passed while cycling to Coastland's (being spoken to by Police in a children's playground), and also making their way home at approx 6am as we passed through the Hutt area. Perhaps it was the nature of the way we were starting the day, or maybe I simply have an awareness of how much better my life is without alcohol, but seeing those individuals (literally) staggering home was a little sobering. Paekae. Hill and the Hayward's Hill were taken pretty easily.

Just incase you had any doubts about Paek. Hill being steep!!

I commented to John that the night was very similar to what we had encountered for Taupo last year, with it also being highlighted to John that the Graperide will not have these (relatively) balmy conditions. "Have clothing that will suit a frosty morning", was essentially the message. I guess at the pace the Magnum riders go it doesn't matter though, as they'll be tapping out 40kms per hour, and holding the wheel of the rider in front will be at the fore of any thoughts...not cold temperatures. Along SH2 I was a little concerned that the pace would be too low. After all, I am targeting a higher intensity at the moment on the longer rides. Was this a foolish plan?? Would I end up doing 2 slow laps??

The concerns were unfounded though, with John sitting on my wheel the entire way along SH2. In fact, with it still pitch dark as we started through the Aka's John passed me. Specifically, this was at the switchback just before the cemetery. Seemingly the flag had dropped, and the next 15 minutes were spent with me following John on the gradual climb, until he finally (and thankfully!!), announced "I don't know if I can go any faster". The pace after that was only slightly slower. So it was, as the sun was rising, that we reached the summit of the Aka's and mutually decided to descend 'at pace', but also at our own respective top speed. I turned back for John once the road levelled out and estimate he was only a minute behind me.

Reaching Kapiti at 7:40am John and myself decided to do a 10km loop around Kapiti to avoid falling into the trap of simply stopping and chatting. Keeping the momentum going on these rides is paramount. So we tapped out the 10km circuit around 18 minutes and got back in time to change clothes and give the ride briefing. After a quick change of clothing, and an even quicker ride briefing, we departed. Lap 2 had a very simple approach. Reach the summit of every climb and then turn around and cycle back down (going further than the slowest cyclist) and ascend so you reach the top at the same time as the last rider.

I pushed the pace on every climb, sitting on 85% maximum HR and this continued until about half way through the Aka's, where the legs went, leaving me at 77-78% maximum HR for my top intensity. It was through the Aka's that the pace really caught up with me. I had the will to push the pace, but the legs were pretty much had it. It also tweaked a muscle behind my knee near the summit, (which has been 100% ok since), but this another sign that the outing had been anything but '2 slow laps'. Getting to the summit everyone else had gone, with the temperature getting too cold for those who had arrived there first. I enjoyed a good descent with Greg Cundy, and we both circled back for the slower cyclists once we reached the base of the Aka's. Along the way much was discussed about cycling, the Kapiti Cycling Club, and future goals.

Eventually the miles ran out, and with everyone turning off to their respective areas of Kapiti. My total distance ended up being 210kms. Hats off to John, with a top effort and a great attitude. A few days after the Aka's Double Loop I took part in the weekly Waikanae Crit (for the third week in a row). I have recently introduced the weekly Waikanae Crits into my training, and the evening on this occasion would effectively be the last Crit of the season. About halfway through Lap 5, (while sitting on a wind assisted 50kms per hour), I lost contact with my group and needed to go onto Plan C for the remainder of the race. (Plan A and Plan B assumed I was actually still with my group!!).

Needless to say, the bigger rides from recent weeks finally caught up on me. Upon crossing the finish line, changed down gears, and simply carried on cycling until home. I figured, to go along with my humble pie, I finished the evening with apple pie. It is funny how in a single day things can go downhill so quickly, and I wasn't back on the bike until the following Sunday. It seems that so much of life is based on self confidence.

So what's happening after the Graperide Ultimate?? No idea...

Oddly, over the next couple of days several cyclists approached me, gleefully pointing out that they finished ahead of me in the Crit. This was possibly the highlight in an otherwise utterly forgettable week, as I actually considered both individuals to be better cyclists than myself, but their surprise at finishing ahead of me has told me that the feeling was obviously mutual. I know for sure that only a year ago this perception would not have existed.

Finally then, the Aka's Loop needs a last mention. On this outing I would have my 49th and 50th laps of the Aka's circuit since I started cycling. It would seem fitting that I felt pretty much turned inside out as I reached the summit on the 50th lap of the Akatarawa's. Reaching the top I did what I knew I needed to, and turned the bike around without stopping, to repeat the last 15 minutes of the climb. This last climb of the day saw me get pretty tired, it may even be said "Taupo Tired", but I knew that unlike that first trip around the Aka's 3 years ago, this time I needed to keep pushing the pace...because the clock won't stop for the 9am cut-off at the Graperide.

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