Some people never learn

3/30/2015 10:04:00 pm

Looking back through a scrap book from 2007, I came across the following annotation: 'note to self - if you cycle 50 km in a day, your ass will never forgive you'. 

Self! Why did you not remind me of that note before I undertook an ill-advised 55 km bike ride last week, without the aid of padded pants?!  WHY. 

In 2007, we set out on 3-speed cruisers, sans helmet and possibly wearing sandals, with a sandwich each and a plan to keep riding until we felt like turning around. On the flat, sunny Swedish island Gotland, we made it 50 km without a care in the world. We picnicked in the shade of an old church and collected fossilised coral on a pristine white rocky beach. It was tranquil. I distinctly recall cycling along a narrow road, the yellow fields of stretching out as far as we could see, and we kept shouting back at each other, "it's just SO BEAUTIFUL".

That's why I thought that the 55 km final stage of New Zealand's Alps to Ocean (the A2O for those who talk the talk), Duntroon to Oamaru, would be ok. I mean, I'd done a ride that big before. And we are of intermediate fitness. We ride to the beach on the weekends. 

A family friend who complete the entire 312 km ride a couple of weeks earlier said of stage 8, "it's.... interesting". Stupidly, I assumed he meant the scenery. Of course, the scenery was amazing, but taken as a whole, 7.5 hours of riding into a strong headwind, most often through a trail surface best described as 'large white rocks and pebbles mixed with sand and molasses', sweet jeebus that was difficult. Interesting, to say the least. 

We forgot the map, which was fine in the sense that the A2O is very well sign-posted throughout, but the challenging nature of the trail surface, combined with the fact that huge tracts of stage 8 are up hill, we had no idea how fast we were moving, and accordingly, no clue how far we had to go. At lunchtime we glimpsed, on the very far-off horizon, the ocean, and the knowledge that we were supposed to meet it before dawn the following morning was almost enough to do me in. 

At that point, my quads were already super fatigued and my sitting bones were screaming. The track was so bumpy in places that my Fitbit registered 22,000 steps.

When a farmer who stopped to ask if we were lost, on learning that we were headed for Oamaru, stated in wonder, "You're gonna get there before nightfall? He hehe hehehe..." I was tempted to throw myself in the back of his ute with the dogs and beg him to take us home. In fact, later, on joining a main-ish farm road, we were passed by many 4WDs and utes, and I began to fantasise that one of them would take pity on us, pull over, and drive us to Oamaru. I even figured out how they would fit two large mountain bikes in the back cab of a 4WD as well as two people.

The nice lady who we passed at the 6.5 hour mark noted, rightly, that it was hard going with the wind. In fact, the wind was so strong at that point that, on a steep section of sealed road, we had to pedal. Down hill.
When I gasped at her, "How much further until the ocean?" she replied, "Not far, about 10're almost there, but there's a bit of a climb coming, and then it undulates a bit". She was lying about the distance but not about the elevation.

Anyway, we made it. We ate wood-fired pizza and drank excellent beer at Scott's Brewing Co. The lovely motel where we stayed, Highfield Mews, had a large spa bath in which I almost fell asleep. There was a sense of achievement. And although the next day was spent largely in the car, both of us exclaimed loudly anytime any kind of sitting, or change of seated position, was required.

Did it. Never need to do it again. 

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