Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Longest Night Ride 2014

For the last 3 years the Inspiring Riding  team have been doing an all night ride on the longest night of the year. I hadn't felt fit enough to tackle one of these missions previously, so hopefully with some residual fitness from the KiwiBrevet  four months earlier and nothing bigger than  a 35km ride since, I'd be up to it.

We all congregated at the Beach Road Deli in Paekakariki for a pre-ride wood fired pizza and espresso. A dozen souls in all.
Pre ride sustenance
A look at the bikes on show revealed a predominance of cyclocross bikes (like road bikes but built to be ridden off road) a few MTBs and one touring bike. 4:58pm was officially dusk, so around then we headed off on the beachside trails through Queen Elizabeth Park to Paraparaumu. It was here that I found myself upside down in a flax bush, undone by some soft sand, fortunately the only crash of the whole ride. The next stop was to be the Tuatara brewery in Paraparaumu, we made it after riding around most of the town following some dodgy navigation. I got myself a tasting tray, samples of 4 of their finest beers, some of the more finely tuned athletes among us packed some beer for later in the ride.

Suitably fortified the next step was the Akatarawa Hill Rd, a windy narrow link between Waikanae and Upper Hutt, fortunately it's not too steep. The weather was quite mild, with no sign of the predicted rain and a northerly behind us it got hot quickly, it was a little odd at 9pm in the middle of winter to be overheating. The only other person we saw on the road that night was a spectator shouting encouragement  from his driveway, one of the Coastal Crew who had done a similar ride the night before. We regathered at the top of the hill and zoomed down to mine for banana cake and a hot drink. We lost two of our companions at this point who decided they had had enough and headed home.

The next phase was the Rimutaka Incline, the pre-tunnel rail link between Wellington and the Wairarapa. We had our only clear skies of the night at Tunnel Gully so we turned off our lights and took in the star scape. We were again assisted by the Northerly on the ride to the summit. At the summit the gas cookers came out, coffee was brewed, baked goods and chocolate were heaped up in the shelter for general consumption. The earlier purchased beer appeared as well, but strangely, no one really seemed that keen. Things were starting to cool down a bit, so extra layers were added in preparation for the descent to Cross Creek. We bid farewell to another of our companions at this point. The ride down to Cross Creek was one of the few times on the ride that my suspension and fat tires came into their own.

The Summit in Daylight
What followed was a 30km slog into what was now a Southerly along the Western Lake Rd, skirting Lakes Wairarapa and Onoke, unable to stay with the shelter of the bunch I rode most of this section on my own. Physically I found this part off the ride the most difficult, a stop to repair the only puncture of the night was a welcome respite, the cruelest trick was the 100m climb at the end of the road that felt many times higher.

The section of 4wd track between Ocean Beach and Orongorongo Homestead was a grueling 5 hours of washed out stream beds interspersed with soft sand, rocky track and locked gates. The wash outs often involved 1-2m drops in and out of the stream beds and the dark made it difficult to pick up the track on the other side. Along this section three of the faster riders parted company with the rest of us, understandable as the more waiting around you did the colder you got. The sun rose on our left as we approached the end of the coastal trail.

Me, in the trough of my circadian rhythm. Photo stolen from Inspiring Riding. 

I had lost sight of Paul and missed a turn in the track, somehow I got ahead of him and didn't make the rendezvous at the Oronorongio River bridge, assuming I had got it wrong, I pushed on to the bridge over the Wainuiomata River, still no Paul. Not wanting to head back into the wind I changed my socks and waited for the others to catch up. 

The final section is the ride from Baring Head to Days bay, a short sharp climb to bypass the  private land and then graded gravel road past the lighthouses and shipwreck back to the gate at Muritai Rd. A cooked breakfast at the Pavilion Cafe in Day's Bay is followed by a ferry ride back to Queens Wharf, then a quick ride back to the car.

Would I do this again? Probably, a ride like this needs to be considered as a complete experience. Physically and mentally it's a bit of a roller coaster, there are certainly times when you question whether this is where you want to be, and other times when you feel great. Good company, a shared sense of adventure, humor and a cooked breakfast make it all worthwhile.

A big thanks to Paul for organizing the ride and to those I shared the night with.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Kiwibrevet Aftermatch Analysis.

Without the support of my family and in particular my wife I would have not have been able to participate in this event. Thanks also to those who posted messages or texts of support. Special thanks to my Aunt Steph and Uncle David in Renwick who helped me out with transport and accommodation during the week.

My biggest concern going in was my ability to back up long rides day after day, I knew I could do one off long rides, but this was a step into the unknown. I had set myself a goal of 7 days to give myself some leeway if disaster struck, if I finished under that, fantastic. In the end I finished in around 6 and a half days, having lost about 5 hours due to stopping in Reefton and a wrong turn after crossing the Grey River, but without doing the north side of the Wairau . Over all I am pleased with the result. I elected not to do the optional bits, Castle hill because the weather was crap, St James because of time and weather concerns, north bank because I wanted to get this thing finished tonight. I could have done it faster, but that would have involved more riding in the dark which may have caused other problems. I was pleasantly surprised by my last day, which probably came about because I knew I didn't have to leave anything in the tank.
Wrong way
For an event of this scale the Brevet is quite social, though it may be different at the pointy end. I found that I rode alone a lot, everyone tended to move at their own pace, but when I stopped I would catch or be caught up by others, all the riders I encountered were friendly and willing to share their experiences and help out if needed. The only time I felt truly alone was in the Lees valley through to Culverden. 

The spot trackers are fantastic, easing the anxieties of your nearest and dearest and allowing a vicarious experience for those watching, it was quite cool to read facebook messages, twitter feeds and the like at the end of each day.

The Bike 

I used my 06 Giant XTC, the frame was given to me a few years ago by Jaredtheamazing before he departed for Canada, the only other item of the same age are the Revelation forks that originally came with my Reign and are now on their fourth frame. Given the relative lack of genuine mountain biking the route is possibly more suited to a cross bike and skinnier tyres. I had replaced drive train, bottom bracket and brake pads in the weeks before. 

The bike caused me no real problems aside from the deraileur cable I had to replace at Sheffield, I did develop a creaking from the Headset area that I hoped was the headset and not frame or forks  

The Mind

I get on reasonably well with myself so aside from the ups and downs you would expect I had no real dramas, the only dark moments were heading up the Arnopld Valley after missing the turn off and Porters Pass. It was disconcerting at time hearing other riders talking to themselves.

The Body

Also held up reasonably well. I was popping a voltaren in the morning the to deal with the general aches, pains and sensations in my hands that felt like electric shocks when I shifted them on the hanldlebars. The legs were OK aside from the muscle soreness that you would expect, most annoying was the ache in my shoulders that would come towards the end of the day, I had upped the voltaren dose to a second one after lunch for the last 2 days. The bum held up well nursed along by Sweet Cheeks Butt Butter, the chaffing I got on day one didn't get any better but nor did it get any worse. Luckily I didn't have any of the achilles or knee problems that seem to affect many others. My little toes on each foot are still numb.

Food & Drink

I felt a bit like a vacuum cleaner in the end, devouring anything edible within reach, even with this philosophy I still lost about 3kg over the week. My preference was for proper food, and I tried to get in at least one proper cooked meal a day. At the end performance seemed to relate directly what was consumed so I suspect any energy reserves were used up in the first few days. OSMs & creamed rice = yuck. I usually carried a least a bottle of powerade or gatorade on the bike and a couple of litres of water in the camelbak. I could have probably done without the extra water in the camelbak as it wasn't to difficult to get refills.


Used a freeload rack on the back with a dry bag and a dry bag strapped under areo bars on the front, I had absolutely no problems with either aside from losing a jandal in Big River, later returned to me by Paul. I elected to take camping gear, bivvy gag, 3/4 mat and sleeping bag as I wanted to be able to camp if required and didn't want the pressure of being locked into having to be at certain place at a certain time. I slept outside for 3 nights and was reasonably comfortable. I was conservative with the rest of my gear and probably wound up carrying extra clothing and too much food.

The heat on the ride from Wakefield to St Atrnaud
Heat and wind between Maruia nad Springs Junction.
The ride out of Lees valley.
Wind and rain through Porters Pass.
OSM bars
Missing the turn to Arnold Valley Rd. 
Forgetting my sunglasses.
Losing cue sheets in the Wharfedale.

The Wharfedale.
The Rainbow Valley.
Big River/Waiuta. 
Matakitaki valley and Maruia Saddle.
Hospitality at Blackball and Sheffield.
Sheffield Pie Shop
Big breakfasts.
Being let into the pavilion at Culverden.
The company of those I spent time with over the week.
Peanut M&Ms.

Would I do this sort of thing again?

Probably, but not too soon, In terms of endurance this is the biggest thing I have ever done. It's also quite selfish in terms of the demands it puts on the family. Overall the experience has been very positive, I thought it may give me the chance to re-evaluate a few things, but in the end my thinking revolved around the basics, ride, eat, sleep, drink, poo.

Again, thanks all for watching, reading and your support.

Kiwibrevet Day 7. Culverden to Blenheim.

Sunrise Culverden.
Red sky in morning means get up, followed the east coast breakfast model and had a steak and cheese pie and a flat white at the local bakery, grabbed a custard square for the ride to Hanmer. The ride to Hanmer felt longer than the advertised 36km, the custard square was yummy though. Hanmer has a resort town sort of feel with lots of accommodation and eateries, I broke the cooked breakfast routine and had bacon and banana pancakes instead of the largest breakfast I could find.
No eggs and beans.
I got some extra supplies from the food market and headed for the first climb of the day. Jacks Pass climbs steadily out of Hanmer to 870m, once at the top there are panoramic views back over Hanmer and to the North. I really enjoyed the ride up the Clarence valley, the weather was mild and there was a slight tail wind, only downside was the corrugations in the road surface, you could see the tyre tracks of those who had passed before wandering all over the road looking for the best line. The weather started to close in as I was going past Lake Tennyson and got progressively worse as I headed up towards Island Saddle, the highest point of the brevet at 1347m, about here the batteries in the camera gave up. I had to stop part way down the Rainbow valley to put extra thermal layers on as it was still raining lightly and the wind chill from the extended descent was making things a little cold. At the toll gate I ran into  Rick D who had had some rotten luck and managed to split the rim of his rear wheel, he was a lot more philosophical about the situation than I think I would have been. The ride down to the SH63 turn off was smooth and fast, I caught up to a number of Brevette riders, all of whom were in good spirits and enjoying the closing stages of the Brevette
Jacks pass.

Island Saddle looks damp.
The SH63 meant decision time, I had seen the facebook post at Hanmer saying that the North Bank section of the Wairau was now optional. I could either tuirn left and head to St Arnaud and complete the Brevet tomorrow or turn right and head for Blenheim. I was already wet it's a predominantly downhill run into Blenheim, it was also rumored an easterly would arrive the next day to make things more difficult, I was also now keen to get this thing finished. It was about 8pm so I thought I would make Blenheim around 1am. The ride to Blenheim was largely uneventful with little traffic on the road until Wairau Valley when a local concerned that I was out so late offered me a bed for the night, I politely declined. Wairau valley also has a bus shelter with laz-y-boy and occasional table, this would be my last rest for the Brevet.
Wairau Valley, last rest.
I was now aware that I might be keeping a raft of blue dot junkies up, some consternation was caused when my tracker wasn't updating, seems the Wairau Valley isn't the best for gps reception, and I think the spot tracker may have got turned around. I pressed on now fueled almost entirely by peanut M&Ms and dreams of glory. Aunty Steph found me halfway between Wairau Valley and Renwick,checked if I was OK and asked how I liked my coffee, white please no sugar. I arranged to meet her in about an hour at Seymour Square

Almost dead on an hour later around 12:30am, I arrived at Seymour Square, I turned my tracker off almost immediately as I was wet and cold, this may be why it never registered my finish. Aunty was there with my coffee and a cheese toastie. 

Day 7, 241km in 17 hours.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Kiwibrevet Day 6. Sheffield to Culverden

Overnight I had replaced the frayed deraileur cable that I had noticed about 300km earlier, if had broken on the trip over Porters Pass I think I may have cried, it was down to it's last 2 strands. The Famous Sheffield Pie Shop opens at 6am, steak and cheese for breakfast, bacon and egg stuffed in the camelbak for lunch, lamb roll and pizza bread for later. During this time I saw Brett heading off in the direction of the Wharfedale.
Breakfast of champions.
Had the usual  trouble getting moving, the 20km to the Wharfedale trail head seemed to take forever, this wasn't helped by one of the local bogans who had stolen the Woodstock Rd sign. The Wharfedale is an excellent piece of beech forest singletrack, again, the ever cheerful Paul caught me up, he also had a bag laden with goodies from the Sheffield Pie Shop. This was the first piece of proper mountain biking since Big River, and it's not a proper mountain bike ride unless you've had to carry the bike at some point.
Mountain Biking at it's best

Wharfedale hut

We stopped at the Wharfedale hut and hooked into our baked goodies. The sandflies and wasps made their presence felt so we didn't stay long before heading out into the Lees Valley, we had the same navigational dilemma that others appeared to have with the double river crossing, but were only held up for a couple of minutes till we found the trail markers. I had lost my cue sheets somewhere in the Wharfedale, Paul kindly let me photograph the remaining cue sheet, before the usual pattern of him disappearing into the distance when the terrain became more suited to his cross bike, this was the last time I saw Paul for the Brevet, indeed it was the last time I saw a fellow Brevet rider until the end of the Rainbow Valley.
Lees Valley
I hated the Lees Valley, it was hot, exposed and there was a headwind, the climb out of the valley with it's unchanging scenery felt endless. Lees Pass marked the beginning of the private land section through MacDonald Downs, this was more exposed gravel farm roads and plenty of climbing. I found the navigation through this section tricky whether this was from fatigue or not I don't know but I was glad to have my topo maps to get my bearings, the only sign I found wasn't much help.

The cue sheets gave conflicting instructions at the exit from Macdonald Downs, once I worked out which way to go the route wasn't difficult to follow. I got to Hurunui about 8:15 which gave me about 40 minutes to get to Culverden before the takeaway shop closed at 9pm. I put the hammer down and got there at about 10 minutes to 9, ordered fish and chips and got 2 magnums for desert. Both the hotel and motel were booked out, so I headed back to the camping ground where there was shelter next to the pavilion and started to set up camp, a Sweedish tourist who was travelling the South Island trout fishing took pity on me and let me into the pavilion, where I slept on the floor.
Day 6, 138km in 14 hours.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Kiwibrevet Day 5. Jacksons to Sheffield.

Slept a bit later this morning due to getting in late the night before, thankfully it hadn't rained overnight, being so close to the highway I had been woken a few times in the night by passing trucks. I had an appetizing breakfast of creamed rice and an orange, during this time I was passed by the early risers who had stayed at the Jacksons camping ground. The morning was sunny and cool when I set off up SH73 riding into the sunrise
Sunrise at Jacksons.
The 18km to Otira was the usual struggle to get moving, I stopped at the Otira Hotel for a coffee and a packet of chocoade biscuits. Martin and Alistair were at the hotel and had both decided to pull the pin, they had had a hard time getting through Big river and were both carrying injuries, I wished them well and left them there waiting for the bus. As I was rolling out of Otira the train came through with no less than 5 locomotives pulling.
I had passed the official half way point sometime the night before but crossing the main divide felt more like a natural half way point, Arthurs Pass was as expected, steep with a mixture of riding and walking, interrupted by the kea that tried to eat my rear tyre at the lookout, the anemometer on the viaduct was motionless. I had seen Paul pass me at Otira, I cuaght him at a cafe in Arthurs Pass and had a proper breakfast. Paul hit the road and I want back down the road to the Sanctuary where I used the coin operated shower, $4 for 12 minutes. I knew Porters Pass was higher than Arthurs Pass but I was unprepared for how lumpy the terrain was between the two, I began to dread each river crossing as you had to invariably drop to the bottom of a gorge only to have to climb your way out again. Landmarks like Mt Horrible, Mt Misery and Broken Hill were appropriate with Broken hill just about living up to it's name.
Climb beside Lake Grassmere.
Somewhere past Flock Hill the weather packed in, the wind came up and it didn't matter which way I was facing it was into the wind, the rain then started which turned the climb to Porters Pass into a complete grovel. The wind finally turned on the downhill run into Springfield. I had thought about making a push to the Wharfedale Hut, but on stopping in Sheffield realised I was knackered. I  grabbed the last cabin at the pub which was a bit like the crooked house that Jack built, but most importantly was clean and dry, 
Huts at Sheffield, mine was back left.
Brett had stopped there as well and was suffering from the cold ride over Porters. I had an excellent steak for dinner while watching the Eagles and then Fleetwood Mac on the big screen, The Sheffield Hotel was another fine example of small town hospitality and the locals seemed genuinely interested in what we were doing, if a little bemused as to why. I ended the day trying to get the washing I had done earlier dry by the heater.
Day 5 about 127km in 12 hours.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Kiwibrevet Day 4. Reefton to Jacksons

The day started cloudy and a bit moist in a return to West Coast form, due to having to wait for Reefton Sports to open at 9am I got to take my time getting ready and having breakfast. Breakfast these mornings now included a dose of voltaren, my hands and shoulders were now beginning to give me some grief, my chaffing was no worse and the legs we a bit stiff in the morning but otherwise OK. The shop opened a little early, I got my cable and a replacement rear light for the one I had lost on the first day. Phil and Brett had long departed and those that had spent the night at Springs Junction were starting to roll in, I met a couple of riders just as I was about to leave town, I'm pretty sure it was Martin and Muzz, I didn't linger as I was keen to get moving
Morning in Reefton
The ride to Big River started as a gentle 4WD climb, but soon got rockier and steeper, at the Big River Goldfields sign a group of DOC workers passed me and told me I was on the right track and that they would see me about lunchtime. About an hour later Paul caught up to me, I hadn't seen Paul since Picton on day one, he had stayed at Springs Junction and had had the benefit of a tailwind into Reefton where I had a headwind the night before, it seemed appropriate that we would meet again in damp beech forest reminiscent of the Akatarawa forest back home. Paul soon got ahead of me, his fixed gear forcing him to move at a faster pace than me, the only time I was able to catch up was on the rocky descents where his rigid cross setup gave him a disadvantage. As promised the Big River hut arrived around lunchtime, the friendly DOC workers were there doing track and hut maintenance, I'd caught up to Paul again, the DOC guys put the billy on and shared their coffee with us. Their hospitality was a delight and one of the small moments that make the Brevet, we left with promises of a downhill run all the way to Ikamatua. I can't remember the last time I had to work so hard for a downhill, the magnificent boardwalk accross the saddle was followed by a genuine piece of jungle riding, including the odd push or carry, in the middle of which I got my second puncture, a pinch flat after hitting a rocky dip a bit hard. The ride out of the Waiuta Ghost Town gave me the closest call I had all week with a vehicle, I got squeezed between an oncoming camper van and a fallen tree that was resting partially across the road, I don't think the driver even saw me.
Big river Boardwalk
The 36km through Big River/ Waiuta had taken 4 and a half hours, the reason mountain bikers tend to measure rides in time rather than distance. That said I would love to return to the area with more suspension and a lot less weight. Ikamatua was a chance for something to eat and drink before the ride through to Blackball, which had developed a good reputation as a stopping point after previous Brevets. I met Paul again at Formerly The Blackball Hilton, the publican, a blue dot junkie, after consulting his ipad proceeded to tell us who we were, and after a magnificent repast of venison, mash, beer and entertaining company it was time to move on again. We had talked of getting to Jacksons, but that seemed a distant 70km away, I suggested Paul not hang around as he was moving faster than me.
The Formerly Black Ball hilton
I made a navigational error after crossing the Grey River when I turned right and headed to Dobson instead of turning almost immediately left down Arnold Valley Rd, an error that apparently had people yelling at computer screens telling me to turn around, I realised something wasn't quite right and turned to the sanctuary of google maps to work out where I had gone wrong. Reoriented I headed off in fading light towards Lake Brunner angry at myself for having wasted an hour. The evening was pleasant enough and on back country roads I felt comfortable enough riding in the dark.

 Jascksons arrived about midnight, rather than waking up the camping ground I set about finding a spot to bivvy, it had started to drizzle so I was keen to find some shelter, I camped under the awning at the front of the now abandoned Jacksons Hotel   
Jacksons Hotel
   Day 4 about 152km in 15 hours

Kiwibrevet Day 3. Lake Rotoroa to Reefton

Slept much better this time, maybe because I'm more tired with 2 days riding in the legs. Woke about 6 and took about an hour to scoff left over pizza and pack my stuff up. Some had already left and some were sleeping late, Mike was trying to track down the issue with his tyre by the time I left for the Braeburn Track. The chaffing I had got on the first day, possibly because my shorts weren't sitting quite right, had got no worse, I had  come to learn there is no dignified way to apply chamois cream and that it also fantastic for nipples. I didn't enjoy the Braeburn too much, mostly because I was struggling to get moving. Crawled into Murchison at about 9 feeling a bit flat.

Brekkie in the Murch
Breakfast time at Beechwoods, Hanna, Jo and Brett who had also camped at Rotoroa were already there, I had spotted Phil at another cafe in town, the biggest breakfast available seemed to be the standard fare, this time with baked beans! I left Murchison after the others the proceeded to ride down gravel road that runs parallel to the Matakitaki river, caught Martin, Alistair, Brett, Hanna and Jo at the bridge, Phil was also apparenetly not too far ahead. A good chance to have a wee rest and refill water stores, the river it seems is infested with trout. 
Rejoining SH65
I left after the others, but regrouped after the Maruia saddle at Reids Store in Mariua, where Mike also caught up. To this point the ride out of Murchison and Maruia Saddle were one of the most enjoyable parts of the Brevet, the climb up the saddle is reasonably gentle, one of the spots I would go back to. Reids was one of those places that seemed to have grown used to the steady stream of smelly cyclists passing through and were only to happy to fill dry bottles and camelabaks. Since leaving the Maruia Saddle and hitting the highway again it had got very hot, and on leaving Maruia onto The West Bank Rd to Springs Junction a headwind had also sprung up. Half way along the West Bank Rd I got my first puncture, it was a releif to sit in the shade and replace the tube and repair the hole in the tube I had just removed. It was still hot when I got to Springs Junction, apparently last time the cafe had been handing out muffins to Brevet riders, no such luck this time. I got an ice cream, gold rush, and said goodbye to Mike who had decided to turn left and do the Brevette course, Martin and Alistair were also apparently mulling the same question.  After reading the twitterr messages it seems quite a few made the choice to turn left at this point.  I had lost touch with the others after my puncture.
Springs Junction
I had been thinking I might try for the Big River Hut, a DOC hut of palatial proportions tonight, but first I had to climb the Rahu saddle (690m), the payoff being the nearly 35km downhill into Reefton. 3/4 of the way to Reefton I had a quick stop for a stretch and a snack, on giving the bike the once over I discovered that my rear deraileur cable had frayed half way through, seems to be something to watch with the new XT deraileurs with their more direct and exposed cable routing. Bugger. I had heard that there was a sports shop in Reefton so I did a quick recce on my way into town, and yes there was, but it didn't open until 9 tomorrow morning, there was an emergency number, but this didn't really seem like an emergency. Brett was in town booking accommodation, I booked a room at the Reefton Auto Lodge and ran into Phil, we had a chat and shared the washing machine and dryer. I had an meal at the bar which I virtually inhaled along with a heineken and a litre of water. Did I mention the first shower in 3 days, the locals must have smelt us coming long before they saw us. Took the opportunity to charge up the phone and call the family, slept in a proper bed, luxury. Day 3 about 153km in 12 hours.

Tired Bike

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Kiwibrevet Day 2. Maungatapu to Lake Rotoroa.

I woke with the sun at about 6am after a restless night sleep, the thing with the bivvy bag is that there is absolutely no motivation to sleep in, got myself packed up and munched on left over OSM and bumper bars from the day before, and was riding/walking the rest of the Maungatapu Track by around 6:30. The legs were struggling to get moving and it wasn't long before some early risers that had camped further down the hill, or at Pelorus were moving past me, I wound up chatting with Mike Revell, a repeat offender from 2012, I would cross paths regularly with Mike over the next few days.

Eventually the top came and a and gave me the chance to use the suspension that been a passenger for the last 140km. The extra weight made for an interesting descent, the Nelson side of the Maungatapu is a looser and rockier surface than the Pelorus side, I caught up with some of those that had passed me on the climb, including a loose association of Brevetters not riding as a team.

I hit Nelson just after 9am and joined Mike for my first proper breakfast of the Brevet at Fords Restaurant and Bar, hung around for too long and we hit the road for Wakefield just after 10am, the Great taste cycle trails out of Nelson are a bit of a maze so it was handy to have some help with the navigation. 
                                                                         Nom Nom

Wakefield is the last resupply point before St Arnaud about 60km away, grabbed a yummy pizza at Chateau Rhubarbe, ate half and stuffed the rest in my camelbak for later. Dean was just rolling out of Wakefield as we turned up, maybe suffering a bit from his early morning arrival in Nelson. We had also been passed by a few faster riders who hadn't pushed so hard  on the first day or maybe had risen late after staying in Nelson. The others left before me so I wound up on my own leaving Wakefiled, 88 Valley Rd climbs steadily out of Wakefield and after a couple of name changes culminates in two climbs. On the way I caught up with Phil Brownie another rider I would see quite a bit over the next day or so. The heat, by the time we hit the climbs was intense, it wasn't surprising to see riders on the wrong side of the road sheltering from the sun. The days highlight was passing Beeby's Knob apparently named for a distant relative on the wife's side.
                                                         Beeby's (eroded) Knob

St Arnaud was a welcome chance to have a rest and resupply, I joined the gaggle of riders lounging outside the Village Store and decided that I would push on and camp somewhere around the Porika. Dean had booked a motel for the night and the last I saw of him for the Brevet he was riding off for a comfortable bed. I left St Arnaud around 7pm, the 16km to Howard Valley is a gentle downhill so I made good time, the road turned to gravel and then tuned upwards as I entered the Porika. The Porika was mostly a walk, a climb that I am convinced I would have ridden with fresh legs. The descent into Lake rotoroa is steep and rocky, some of which I walked, footprints on the side of the track told me I wasn't the only one. I got to the lake at about 9pm having passed Mike who was having tyre issues. I joined a growing number camping at the Lake Rotoroa camp site, with riders arriving for the next hour or so having done the descent in the dark. The legendary Rotoroa sandflys are indeed legendary, if you stood still for a few seconds your legs were black with them. Day 2 about 152km covered for 14 hours on the trail.
                                                                     Lake Rotoroa

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Kiwibrevet Day 1. Blenheim to Maungatapu

I'd taken the 1:30 Bluebridge ferry the Friday before and arranged lodgings with my Aunt and Uncle in Renwick for the night and was duly delivered to the briefing at the Top Town Cinema the next morning. We were given a run down on the private land sections, spot trackers and given the info for call ins, there ensued  an awful lot of fumbling with cellphones particularly from those new to the twittervese, call ins this time around were to be via twitter. Briefing over we had about an hour to kill before the start, a chance to get some last minute supplies including a cream bun. In the square I meet Paul and Dean two guys I had previously shared jungle riding adventures with in the Akatarawas and Tararuas.

I don't recall being nervous I guess when the event is 1100km long there is no point getting too worked up. The clock chimes and we are led out in a neutral start until we have crossed under SH1, then it's all on at the front end, I decided to take things easy as I was expecting a hard time around Port Underwood Rd, but it is difficult not to get exited and push a little too hard. Port Underwood Rd is a seemingly endless roller coaster of ups and downs each descent taking you back down to sea level. Fortunately the day was overcast and not too warm, there were plenty of riders around some of which I would cross paths with many times others I would not see again. The last climb was sealed but seemed to go on forever I found the last 15km into Picton difficult and had developed a headache possibly a consequence of not having drunk enough.

A stop at the Picton 4Square where a gaggle of riders had gathered, overflowing rubbish bins evidence that a large number of riders had already passed through, bought some fruit and powerade and hit the road to Havelock, Dean caught me on the hilly section of Queen Charlotte Dr heading out of Picton, though he was spinning out on the flat sections and I would catch up to him again. We arrived at Havelock together at about 7pm and had a snack, there were still plenty of other riders around, some looking more haggard than others, I hoped I wasn't one of the haggard looking ones. I wanted to get to Pelorus at leas this evening and around this time discovered I had lost my rear light somewhere on Port Underwood Rd, so I wanted to get off the highway as early as possible. We hit Pelorus just after 8pm, I was keen to carry on at least some of the way up the Maungatapu Track, the biggest single climb of the Brevet, Dean was keen to get to Nelson and make use of the available accommodation there.

We set off up the Maungatapu as it was getting dark, I stopped just before 10 having already passed a couple of campsites at the side of the track and set up my bivvy, Dean carried on over the top to Nelson. I'd been on the road nearly 10 hours and covered 138km.

Kiwibrevet beckons.

The Kiwibrevet is an unsupported 1100km cycling event around the top half of New Zealand's South Island that must be completed between 4 and 8 days

I'd watched the last two Kiwibrevet fascinated by the little blue balloons making their way around the top half of the South Island, wondering if it was the sort of thing I, a cyclist of average ability, could do. The Grand Depart facebook page appeared in May this year, at this point I floated the idea to SWMBO and wasn't turned down. The die was cast.

I decided to finish the Hockey season before I got into any kind of training other than my normal riding which at this point was the odd commute a couple of lunchtime rides and a longer ride every few weekends, averaging according to Strava less than 100km a week. 

The Hockey season (my first in 6 years) finished a little early with a strained hamstring. The idea was to use my commute a 56km round trip as the base for my preparation,  this would have me doing the bulk of my riding during the week and leave my weekends relatively free. I gradually built up my mileage to around 300km per week, with every fifth week being a quiet week due to being on call.

I started doing some longer rides, extending my commute to include the Eastern hills above the Hutt Valley and the Akatarawas. Highlights included a trip from home to Battle Hill to play a game of golf with the "Old Farts" which turned into more of a grovel the closer I got to Battle Hill. My first 100km ride in November was an extended commute through the Akatarawas, I remember being tired afterwards but not too broken. Next up was the Longest Day Ride an annual event, brainchild of Tama Easton and a fundraiser for Arthritis NZ, this was my first attempt at riding all day, I managed to cover 159km with plenty of hills.

In the meantime I was reading all the previous blogs and rider profiles to work out how I was going to equip myself for the event. A new bike was out of the question so I was going to use my 06 Giant XTC. I decided I would take some camping gear as I wanted the option to bed down wherever required, I would mount my gear in dry bags, one on a freeload rack on the back and another strapped  to areo bars on the front plus my camelbak for extra water and for stuff I wanted to get at easily. I tested out the camping gear after Christmas when I camped at Maungaweka and did 4/5 of the Gorges to Sea Cycleway in the Rangitikei the next day, I discovered that the bivvy bag is not an ideal solution in the wet as any water you get into it as you are setting up stays there. In the end I did 162km fully loaded. 

Just over a month to go and there not much else I can do to prepare, just fine tuning of gear, sorting of maps and cue sheets etc.