It was bloody cold in Rotorua on Saturday night, and I slept fitfully until we all woke up around 8. We had a quick breakfast, packed the cars and headed out to the other side of the Redwoods for the boys’ mtb skills course. As I mentioned, I planned to ride the Rotorua half IM course, though I started (and finished) it at the carpark (near Te Puia) instead of Blue Lake (therefore missing Tarawera Rd- gee, what a pity..)
The first 25 k or so was delightful, apart from the always-ghastly chip along Te Ngae road. The bike path was full of gravel and broken glass, and I felt like it would have been better suited to the mountain bike. I had my first wee break about an hour in, at Rusto Bay, and sat in the sun enjoying a muesli bar and a few lollies. Perfection!
Since I had plenty of time up my sleeve (the boys weren’t due to finish until 4, and I had only 3.5 hours planned) I thought about going a little further and making it a round metric century, or about riding Tarawera and the Okareka loop on the way back, for a real epic ride.
Sadly, those grand plans were quickly abandoned as I started the next leg of my journey. My pace started to slow, and every k ticking by seemed to take forever. I’d planned to ride until 2:00 or 50k, but ended up giving up at Matahi Spit Reserve, at about 1:51 and 44k in (yup, the old pace had slooowed).
I sat in the chilly sun for as long as I could, eating my rather sad salami roll and a mandarin, and drinking a bit more water, and then started the journey back. I told myself to man up, and promised myself another break at 70k, which I thought would give me a good rest before climbing up the evil evil Hells Gate.
Leg 3 was better than leg 2. My attitude improved a bit, my cadence magically started working again, I had a slight tail wind (some of the way), and Rusto Bay came by again much sooner than expected. Unfortunately, so did Hells Gate, and all of a sudden, there I was grinding up, cursing the world and chanting “stop being tired, be awesome instead”. Hells Gate comes at a good time, actually- the way back on the Rotorua course gets a bit hard and a bit dull, and having the real effort of a nasty ass climb breaks things up a bit- even if it does hurt like f**k! The next few ks flew by (well, in relative terms), and I postponed my next break to just past the turnoff (about 74k, I think).
Leg 4 was OK. My butt was killing me, my hammies were tense after Hells Gate and my hands were absolutely freezing, but it was OK. I knew the signs to the city centre were about right in terms of distance, and I knew the end was in sight. All I had to do was get through the gravelly, cold, headwindy stretch by the airport, and I’d be away sailing! Also- there’s something about passing the same dairies you passed during a marathon ffs to make you harden up on the bike! Every traffic light conspired against me, and refused to give me a rest, but finally I was back on smooth road, and heading home. The roundabout at Tarawera was a bit of a pain- from my position, I couldn’t see the cars’ indicators, so had no idea whom to give way to, and ended up choosing a not particularly brilliant point to pull out. I managed to push it a bit back to the carpark, and finished happy in about 3:51 for 88.6k (freakin hell, I’m SLOW!!!!!). Not my longest ride ever, but my longest since the half IM in December, and by far my longest solo adventure. I have a whole new level of respect for all my training buds (Mike, I'm looking at you...) who regularly ride extreme distances alone. You guys are legends!
I thought I'd have some time to kill when I got back to the MTB park, as the boys weren't due to finish til 4. I thought about getting Max back off the roof and heading back into town, but that insanity didn't last long. No freakin way was this behind getting back onto the saddle! So I got myself dressed in the cramped porta loo and headed back to the car to relax and enjoy the sun. But who should I run into but the boys, who'd finished an hour and a half early! They were keen to try out their new skillz, so they headed out for a quick half hour while I explored the redwoods on foot. A beautiful path, but the stairs really took it out of me!
Once we were done, we headed back to town to celebrate before heading back to Auckland and New Plymouth respectively, and to replenish some (ok, all) of those calories with spicy wedges and Spring Tide.