24 Feb 2016

Why am I doing this?

The Taupo Challenge is a prestigious event, and I've never ridden a lap. I have many friends who have done it. The stories they tell are of success, failure, pride, fear and grit. A friend of mine bent his dérailleur hanger and walked half the course in his cycling shoes. I remember driving through the steams of cyclists when I was younger, my father cursing gently at the delays, while I was wondering how anyone could actually ride around the whole lake. As I came to understand the distances involved I still couldn't understand 160km at high speed, serious amateur cyclists and Sunday riders racing in huge bunches. Then there are the stories of the crashes, the near misses. Cyclists who are strong enough to ride at speed but not experienced enough in huge bunches, cyclists who don't 'call it', who don't follow the lines...

I started riding when I was young, as a form of escape. To get away from the 'stresses of youth', which was probably a combination of serious things like being bullied, and the more teenager-esque wiles of doing the dishes and keeping my room tidy. We all used to cycle. To visit friends, to walk the dog, to get to school, and as I grew up; to get to work. Cycling for me is a peaceful lonely endeavour interspersed with interesting bits. Views at destinations, deviations along unridden lanes. Stopping to eat freshly fallen fruit at the side of the road and speculate about whether I could make it from Mutiny Road to Waipukarau and back to Havelock North before dinner time.

Riding in bunches scares me. Being social often scares me too, so as I got more and more into cycling I was spending a lot of time on the bike by myself. Exploring, commuting, and trying to impress myself and others with my Strava entries. As time went on I thought about doing Taupo, possibly some other rides, but the crowds and thought of navigating a sea of moving bike parts turned me off. I missed Taupo in 2015, realising afterwards that I hadn't actually planned to go in the first place.

160km doesn't seem like a long way. I can do 100km in a day relatively easily, 60% of that is just my commute. Throw in some hills and a few long rides on the weekend and you're done. Getting around at a decent rate, well that seems like more of a challenge, but the challenge seems to be staying in the pack. Staying on the bike. Watching out for the crashes before they happen. That sounds scary to me.

320km is a challenge. I think I can do it, but it will take some planning. I couldn't just do a bunch of riding beforehand and turn up and get it right - I'll need to be seriously prepared, worn in and well practised if I'm going to make it through. It sounds stressful, but not scary.

Anyway, that's my take on it.

Where I want to be at the end of the year is sitting at the Endurance Riders Breakfast, smug and warm having ridden two laps in a reasonable period of time, and walked out in one piece.
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