28 Mar 2016

No surprises

I went for a mountain bike ride on the weekend. I love my mountain bike. It's a Giant XTC, a bit more cross-country than the full-suspension bikes that my riding buddies are all throwing around, but from my experience it's about the closest thing that you can get to a BMX and still be riding a mountain bike. A sweet, sweet ride.

Even though it was technically a training ride I didn't see the problem with inviting a few extra people along, so The Lawyer and I started off with a nice ride down the Hutt River Trail to get warmed up, before heading up Wainuiomata Hill and smashing out some trails in the Wainui Mountain Bike Park. We met up with a couple of other riders who knew the trails really well, so we were able to follow some sweet lines and had an absolute blast. It was absolutely awesome. After a couple of hours everyone had pretty much had their fill and were ready for the rest of their weekend, but I had a small problem - my training wasn't completely over, and I still had to get home.

The plan was to ride along the fire break/4WD track that runs along the top of the hill and provides access to the ECNZ Power Pylons. This track, on paper, connects the top of the Wainuiomata Hill with the top of the Pinehaven valley, where I live. The track goes through private land at two points, both of which appear to have public access but the common restrictions on motor vehicles and dirt bikes. When I say 'on paper', that's basically because there isn't an official track, so there are no directions or signs, and at some points there isn't even really anything that passes as a track. I love this type of riding.

I got lost. I hadn't actually deviated from the path I was supposed to be on... much... but the whole time I had one growing problem.


The ride was planned to start at 8:30am and finish around midday, based on the numbers that were in my personal training sheet. At one point, about an hour after I was supposed to be home, I texted B to let her know I was at the top of the ridge and about to descend into the valley. In reality I was actually still miles away from home, with no proper idea where I was going. Turns out it was pretty straight-forward to get out, but with an additional 15 minute deviation down, and up, someones 13% grade driveway doesn't count. It totally looked like the way I was supposed to go! Who the heck has a driveway like that anyway?

I got home at 2pm.

When I got home I wasn't in trouble. In fact B cooked me tuna wraps and bacon wraps (tuna and bacon wraps?), plied me with hot cross buns and a beer, and listened attentively as I told her about the amazing ride I just went on. She also shepherded kids for the afternoon while I recovered.

And she did this instead of doing work on her PhD.

All my cycling has an impact on the family that comes along in a number of ways. There's the constant tiredness, the obvious time that it takes to actually do the riding, and the expense of pursuing such a ridiculous endeavour, but some of the impacts are more subtle than being 3 hours late for lunch. One day last week my legs were so sore I couldn't walk properly - they felt like someone had been punching them. Hard. It was a really slow walk around the supermarket that day.

I am scared by stories that I've read - Josh Kench mentioned a relationship breakup which seemed to be due to his excessive training. Tyler Hamilton, who rode for the US Postal Team with Lance Armstrong, mentioned a break-up with his partner due to the incessant nature of his training and, little things, specifically, not being able to walk around markets because his legs were basically only able to cycle. It's a bloody good read, I recommend.
I'm not in the same league as either of these guys, I can assure you of that, but that doesn't mean it doesn't have a similar impact on those around me.

Right around the time that the Taupo events are on it is my daughters' birthday. It would be complete madness to drag her away on her birthday weekend, or even for just me to go away for that time, so I asked her what she thought. To my surprise we agreed that she would have her birthday and some awesome experiences in Taupo, and I am allowed to do the race as well - on the proviso that I have enough energy left over afterwards to sing Happy Birthday. Pretty awesome for a 10 year old. She's even taken to the idea of doing the kids race, where they get to ride the last 5km with a parent who is taking part in the even. It would be the last year she could do it as she is turning 11 on the day, but I just got told "there's nothing you can do to stop me!". You couldn't expect a better answer than that.

The trick has really been in talking about it, which is made slightly easier because talking about it is something I do all the time.

When I decided I wanted to do this it was in my typical manner; I got an idea stuck in my head and then carried on about how this was just the most awesome thing ever and that I really really wanted to do it. I obcessed. I researched, I planned, I gathered information; I talked about it non-stop. I think at some point it simply became tangible for us both - the realisation kicked in that this was going to happen, it wasn't just passing fad, I wasn't letting go; I was actually going to ride around Lake Taupo twice.

I still talk about it all the time, perhaps in a little more moderation, but all that talking helps; assuming they are not secretly tuning me out. Regardless, I natter on about how long my training rides are going to be in a few months time - My Top Secret Trainer has indicated that I'll be doing 200km+ rides on the weekends. That's a pretty long ride when you think about it, and it might take me hours to complete. This pretty much wipes me out for the whole day, and that has to be managed by us all; but everyone already knows about it and we are already starting to have conversations about how we'll handle it when it happens.

Last night we were working on the budget for my cycling for the year, scheduling in the regular maintenance that my bike will need and the parts that I'll be wearing out - if my chain needs replacing approx every 2000kms I'll theoretically have to fork out for a new one every 8 weeks. We worked through the numbers for all the parts and supplies that I'll be needing and came up with a timeline, a budget, and a plan. We talked about when things need to be booked in. B doesn't ride a bike, but she can organise a bike maintenance plan with the best of them. While I'm constantly amazed at how much money you can actually throw at a bike, we both know it and can plan for it.

It's about making sure everyone knows what is going on. Being open, honest. Planning ahead.

No surprises.

And so we move things around, we negotiate - I spend as much time as I can with the kids to allow B to get to her PhD. She lets me ride, encourages me to stick to my training. I make every effort I can to arrange my cycling around the family, and we schedule it in. I actively work at not being selfish about it, and when it comes to the crunch, if something has to give, I don't go for the ride - I figure out how to make up the time later, or I just write it off. We are going away to a conference for B's PhD at a point in the future, and for that whole week I can't ride. There isn't the time or space, so I've simply chosen to take that week off.

At the end of the day we all know what I've signed up for. We didn't realise it at the time, perhaps, and I know we'll find new and interesting ways that it will test us, but we are all on board with it, and that is the biggest reason I'll complete this event. Not because of all the training, but because they are all behind me every step of the way; because I know that I'll still have a family to come back to when it is all over.
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