Monday, August 31, 2009

PNP MTB Series Round 1 - Makara Peak

Sunday was the first round of the PNP Mountain Bike Series. I haven’t really done much mountain bike racing in New Zealand, but I have been riding quite a bit in the last few weeks, so I thought I might have a go.

The course was pretty long compared to what I was used too from Canberra with significantly more climbing involved.

The race started up a steep tarseal road (grades of 10-11% for the first km). We then headed into the first bit of singletrack. My grade started with some of the younger guys (under 15s maybe) who sprinted up the hill only to slow down heaps in the singletrack. There was a short bit of uphill fire trail after the first singletrack which I used to pass quite a few of the youngsters and a few of the guys in my category (including a guy on a full rigid singlespeed).

After that we were back into the singletrack and heading down. I was held up by other couple riders before hitting the bottom. We had sharp right hand corner to negotiate where I managed to cut inside the guy in front of me which left me with a pretty clear go for the next few kilometres.

We climbed most of the way to the top of Makara Peak before turning left and heading down a ridge. One the faster female riders had passed me on the last bit of uphill so I made it my task to try and catch her up on the down. She was riding really well and took me quite a while to catch her up. She went into Nikau just ahead of me and set a really good pace down it. I find if I try to go fast downhill I usually just end up doing stupid things and going slower in the end. The pace was just right and we flew down Nikau. The climb out of Nikau is pretty much all uphill, rocky and bit damp making it pretty difficult ride cleanly. There was a fair amount of traffic in this section with people coming off their bikes and not much room to pass. The fast girl left me behind as I was really starting to feel tired now.

It was probably four kilometres and 100 metres of climbing to the top of the last hill. I had to use the granny gear a few times to keep moving and give my sore back a bit of a break. It was slow going for a while and I probably lost a fair bit of time here.

Once at the top it was pretty much all downhill. I could see a couple guys just ahead of me on the last few switchbacks so I tried to catch them up down the fire trail. I didn’t manage, maybe if I had Dave Osmond’s fire trail descending skills I might have. There was a short bit of uphill before turning into the last bit of singletrack. I put all I had left into trying to close the gap on that hill and came close, but they both got in before me.

I had shortened the gap considerably on the hill though and set about chasing them down. Ridgeline Extension is one of my favourite tracks and I knew it well. By about halfway down I had managed to close the gap and sat in behind the guy ahead of me. The track ends at a fire trail and a new track picks up on the other side. A bit of passing confusing meant that the lead guy went in first followed be me and the guy that was ahead of me just behind.

The last two tracks SWIGG and Starfish are fast downhill tracks. The guy in front of took off and I hammered after him. He was flying through the corners and riding really smoothly through them. I barely managed to stay with him. At the bottom of the hill this time we turned left out onto the tarseal to the finish. I pulled up next to this guy and he said that was probably his best run down those last two tracks ever. I had to agree.

It was about half a kilometre on the tarseal to the finish. I rolled across in 1:35:54 tenth in my class out of 36. I was pretty happy with that given most of the guys ahead of me were way ahead of me (5 and 10 minutes except the guy who finished ninth).

Friday, August 28, 2009

Skyline Epic

While Helen was out tramping I was riding my mountain bike. On their way out of town Helen and Anne-Laure dropped me off in Johnsonville at the northern end of the Skyline Track. My plan was to follow it all the way to south coast.

The proposed route

The track started out friendly enough, but quickly turned a corner and went up a steep grassy slope. I was off the bike and walking. Shortly, the slope started to mellow out and I was back riding again. The track wound its way up and over a ridge giving me my first glimpse of Mt Kau Kau. The Kennett Brothers have built a bunch of new singletrack along the track to make some of the climbs easier for cyclists as well as adding cattle stops to bypass most of the gates.

The track continued to climb up towards Mt Kau Kau getting quite steep near the top. From the top of Mt Kau Kau I had 360 degree views: down to city and up to Porirua and Pahatinui Inlet. Now, finally some downhill! The track down from Mt Kau Kau was a bit bumpy and I managed to catch some air a few times. This was bit scary as it was fairly windy at this stage and if I left the ground I got pushed sideways a fair bit as well.

City view from Mt Kau Kau

The rest of the track to Makara Road went really smoothly. All the hard work by the Kennett Bros meant I was able to ride this whole section without getting off the bike once.

Johnston Hill

After crossing Makara Road, I entered the Makara Peak Mountain Bike Park. I was back on trails that I knew well, only I was riding them in the opposite direction to normal. I rode up Varelys and Zacs to the summit. From there I decided to try riding down Ridgeline, which has become quite feral over winter. I had an over-the-bars moment which ended up with me landing on my feet, but a steep slope such that I tripped over. I managed a funky roll which left a bit shaky but unharmed. I managed the rest of Ridgeline okay and continued down Ridgeline Extension and Lazy Fern.

At the car park I stopped for a bit of rest and muesli bar. After a wee rest I was back on the bike and heading up Salvation to the top of Wrights Hill. From there it was along the Sanctuary Fenceline towards the windmill. When I finally reached the tarseal near the windmill I was faced with a decision: carry on down to the coast as planned or go straight across the road into Car parts Extension? It was still pretty windy and quite cold when hit by it full force. I decided to keep to the sheltered singletrack and went straight.

Car Parts Extension and Car Parts are some of my favourite tracks in Wellington. They are fast flowing tracks that have a bit of a drop-off on the side to keep them interesting. From the bottom of Car Parts I shot across the road and down the Roller Coaster. From Denton Park I took a track to Holloway Road and then rolled into town. From there it was up Marjoriebanks street to the top of Mt Victoroa and then home.

All up, the ride was about four hours and maybe 40-45km. A big morning out and I spent most of the afternoon on the couch recovering.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Day walk in the Tararuas - Kapakapanui

After a couple of weeks of nice weather and not too much rain it was time to test the tracks in the Tararuas. Usually over winter they are muddy and slippy and although there were a few boggy patches up near the top of Mt Kapakapanui, the tracks were pretty good.

I went with Anne-Laure and for this short, but typical Tararua style walk, with very steep ups and downs and a rather twisty, rooty path. It was, however, nice to use the walking muscles again. I have to say I was a bit sore on Monday.

Lots of lovely ferns in the Tararua forests

View from Kapakapanui Trig onto the Kapiti coast and island

Kapakapanui hut

It was an almost perfect day - except it was a little hazy and I forgot my lunch! Fortunately Anne-Laure took pity on me and shared hers!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Birthday flowers

Well a rather uneventful birthday this year helping some friends renovate their house. However Anne-Laure did organise for a group of friends to get together the night before and we had wonderful food and played fun games. I have some great friends in Wellington!

I also got my first bunch of flowers from my husband - so I thought I better write about it on the blog for a record. Then I can never complain that he has never bought me flowers as you all know now. He even picked some of my favourite flowers, daffodils and irises, which suggests he knows something about me after 6 years of living together. (Or it was a lucky guess!)

Birthday flowers - delivered to work!

I also got breakfast made for me by Aaron and an amazing raspberry cheesecake as a birthday cake (payment for tearing down walls). So it was a pretty good birthday considering earlier in the week I had been rather down about being another year older!