I can’t do it.
I can’t swim in the lake.
I can’t bike on the road.
I can’t run those hills.
I can’t do this race on Saturday.
I just can’t.
So this week was full of negativity and gloom and doom. I have a bit of a knee injury and have drastically reduced my running. I’m pretty sure its just in my head though. Pre-race nerves coupled with my parents asking if my knees are holding up ok, after years of chronic knee pain. Yes, Mum its fine. Well it was fine, now I’m not so sure.
I’m stressing and panicking about this race on Saturday, We have just come back from Rotorua racing mountain bikes and I am due back there again on Friday ready to race Rotorua Suffer Triathlon on Saturday. Ryan cant get the Friday off work, so I am looking at a solo weekend away, which isn’t helping with my anxiety about the situation. After the horrendous drive last week, I’m worried about what may happen on the journey this time. How long will it take? How bad will other people’s driving be? Add to this a fairly big player in my decision to go is that fact that I can’t afford the fuel to get there. With all the road works, stopping, starting and extra detours, it takes a whole tank of fuel to go one way. It will cost me $80 to fill up, so thats $160 to go there and back and as of Thursday evening I have less than $90 to my name. So I guess I’m not going then.
Friday morning and I am acting normal (ish) at work and pretending like I am still going away racing. I pack and check all of my racing kit, my wetsuit, trisuit, bike helmet, shoes, running kit, race belt, nutrition. Its all there ready to go. I load up the Suzuki still not sure about what to do or where to go. Its only lunch time and now would be the ideal time to set off to make it to race rego and have a quick scout of the course before a decent feed and an early night.
But I don’t go. I go back inside and pack 2 nights worth of kit for mountain biking. More helmets, shoes, gloves, lycra, baggies, food, water bottles, spare clothes, chargers. It all goes in the bag and the bag goes in the car. Its 3pm and I still have no idea what I will be doing this weekend.
I go back inside again, sit on the floor and I cry. I feel like such a failure of a person. I’ve wasted money on entry fee’s and I’m not even going to try and go to the race? Of course I can do those distances, its what I have been training for. What’s the problem? Why can’t I do this. I don’t deserve to be part of such an amazing MX Endurance team. I don’t deserve to have such awesome bikes. I don’t deserve Ryan being so kind to me. I can’t do this anymore. I’m not good enough. I can’t do this. I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to be here. Make it stop.
The sound of the cow shed starting up pulls me from my hysterics. Ryan will be home soon. He’ll have a plan. I clean the house and cook dinner. I feel its all I can do to try and be a good person. Everything is packed for some kind of bike adventure. Its up to him where we go, as it seems silly to waste a rare weekend off staying home feeling sorry for myself.
Ryan arrives home and goes straight into the shed to put some gears on his bike for the weekend. He has a plan and I can’t wait! We are going to ride the Timber Trial in Pureora Forest. Eventually we set out at 8pm. On the drive, I am frantically looking for somewhere to stay close to the forest. We end up stopping at Awakino Hotel, which is about half way. Ryan has already booked us a seat on the shuttle bus, we just need to be in Ongarue by 8:30am tomorrow morning.
The early morning start was fairly easy, thanks to a helicopter taking off from the hotel. We woke up around 5am to the whirring sound of an engine starting up. I was hopeful that it was some super industrial sized coffee machine making me a morning cuppa. We could see lights flashing outside and the noise changed slightly. Ryan guessed it was a helicopter and went to the window to check. It was a helicopter so we got dressed and headed outside to watch it take off. It was only a little one, but it did the job of getting us up and out of bed on time. After breakfast we were back on the road to adventure and arrived at the end of the Timber Trail in Ongarue with plenty of time.
Epic Shuttles took us and a few other couples to the start of the Timber Trial, 82km away and after a bit of a safety briefing about what to expect we were on our way. The others from the bus were stopping off in the middle at the campsite or lodge, but we were riding straight through. Its my first ride on my new LIV Pique Advanced 1 so will be a great opportunity to see how it goes. After a few set up adjustments in the first few km, we are happy, comfortable and ready to ride! Its funny to think that yesterday the idea of riding 45km on the road was too much, but today I am going to be riding 82km off-road and that seems totally fine.
The trail is amazing! The bike is amazing! This is exactly what I needed! Ryan lets me lead the way, so he can assess my riding position for any further adjustments and he keeps an eye on the pace and makes sure I keep moving. There is a bit of a climb near the start and I am determined to be better than when Ryan rode it with the boys. No slowing down, no complaining, no struggle noises, just smooth steady pedalling; well that’s the idea. Turns out I really need to work on being efficient with my cadence and pedalling and not bounce around so much. It was super obvious when I locked out my suspension and felt myself bouncing all over the seat. (The Pique Advanced 1 comes with remote lockout for your front and rear suspension, perfect for those long steady climbs.)
We make it to the top of the climb and begin our descent down to the lodge and pizza at the half way point. I am still in front, but seem to have forgotten how to turn right and almost crash into the ditch a few too many times. Ryan goes ahead, but soon gets bored of stopping and waiting for me, so reluctantly tries to teach me how to corner, again. Flowing through the forest and across epic suspension bridges with a grin plastered across my face I am slowly gaining confidence in my riding and in the bike. I haven’t ridden 29” wheels before and the tyres are fairly low profile, but its makes for a seriously fast ride. I feel like I am finally getting the hang of cornering and getting more confident at trusting the tyres and moving my weight around and even hitting a few jumps and wall rides, that I nearly miss the turn off for pizza!
The timber trail lodge overlooks the forest and is immaculately clean inside! It looks amazing and I’m almost sad we don’t get to stay here. We order a pizza each and decide that ginger beer will probably be better than actual beer. The pizza is 80% cheese, but it fills our stomachs and washed down with fizzy ginger beer we are good to go again. Refilling our bottles I get talking to some guys who have also stopped for lunch. Its perfect timing, as they are heading in the opposite direction and it could have been a disaster if we were to meet head on along the trail!
Onwards we go. There is a bit of a climb within the next 10km and I am thinking that pizza was a bad idea. My head is foggy and I cant think straight. I am weaving all over the place and struggling to maintain momentum. I’ve forgotten how to ride again. Ryan has pushed on ahead and now I’m being caught by the trail runners we overtook a few km’s back. This was the worst idea ever, there is no way I can finish this thing, its too far, I can’t do it. But before the negative thoughts fully consume me again, I see Ryan waiting at the top of the climb. I rip into a caffeine gel and we push on, aiming to be done in 6 hours. The caffeine kicks in, my mind clears, I can distinguish things on the trail, am back in the zone and I can turn right again. After a fun descent we hit a long flatish section. I’m pretty sure its more a false flat as it feel like a struggle and we chat as we count the kms down. I try and address my cadence issue again but might have to settle for the fact that I naturally have a lower cadence, which isn’t great for this sort of riding, as my legs are starting to feel it. This section is a little bit boring, but there are plenty of information signs to keep you busy if you need to stop. We don’t, and press on.
At 67km there is a super long descent before you get to the Ongarue Spiral, an ingenious feat of engineering which is essentially a curved tunnel. The decent is fast and flowing and a bit more challenging with some puddles, rocks and little drops and ruts to jump over. Its awesome and I am loving it. The Pique is so light and agile, it tackles the terrain no worries. A quick picture stop for the view, across a few more suspension bridges and we are at the tunnel, narrowly avoiding a collision with 2 other cyclists who had stopped just in the entrance. The tunnel is on a curve and you are in total darkness when you first enter. We had our lights on and lead the way for the other 2 bikers. Its not a long tunnel, just a bendy one and you are through it before you know it and back to hooning down towards Ongarue.
Only 10 km more to go now and I can’t believe we have done it (almost). Another super fun descent before traversing through farmland to arrive back to the car. The flatter sections are sucking the energy from my legs, but I do my best to keep up with the lads. There are some sections of really long grass and my handle bars get caught and I nearly end up tangled in a fence, but the responsiveness of the Pique saves me and we stay on track. The race is on now in this final stretch to make sure I beat the time Ryan set with his mates back in March. We finish in 5:15 (moving time) around 6 hours total time on the trail. I’m so happy to have spent the day doing this instead of racing. But the competitiveness in me wants to come back to do it all again, even faster!
Sometimes you just need to take some time out. Do what you love, with who you love and remember why you are here. We all need a bit of spontaneous adventure in our lives. Get out and find yours!