I can feel the grime and sweat on my sunburnt face, my legs are pumping and I focus my gaze on the road in front of me- I get a glimpse of a bunch a few kilometres in front of us as we turn a corner. I know I’m pulling along 10 male riders, but by their pained expressions I know they have nearly given it everything that they have and they are hanging on by a thread. I swear I can feel every muscle in my body every time I move and again I ask it to give me some more. Be-be-be-beep… be-be-be-beep… be-be-be-beep… my watch reminds me its time to eat again, I am tempted to ignore it, my mind says to me… I’m nearly finished, surely it won’t matter. I see someone else take a gulp from their drink bottle and my focus snaps back- I devour 4 jelly lollies washed down with a big gulp of water. I feel the hit of sugar straight away.
There is less than an hour to go in the race and I am rallying my group, if we work together we can make some good time along the Pohutakawa lined coastline of the Hauraki Gulf back into Thames. Every time I get a glimpse of the bunch ahead of us I forget that I have 5 hours of solid hill climbing in my legs already and I push them to go that little bit harder. A rider from the back of my group cycles up beside me to thank me for my hard work and to apologise for the fact that he can’t help out at all. This gives me more motivation to push a little harder.
The riders ahead are getting closer and closer… I know we can catch them. Suddenly we are there, I am tempted to sit on the back of this bunch and just cruise back into Thames, but the competitor inside of me is not content to just sit back and be pulled along. As I make my way to the front of the bunch I spot three or four other female riders… My thighs are screaming, but I continue to push at the front of the bunch. From the pre race reconnaissance I know there are only a few kilometres to go so I grit my teeth and dig in… we hit Tararu and I know we are essentially there. In my road racing naivety I decide to try and sprint off the front of the bunch. I have no idea whether the other riders have come with me or not… I am now fully focussed on the finish line.
We are 500m away from finishing, I’m still ahead of the bunch… 400m, 300m, 200m to go, I can feel the finish. I ask my legs to give me one more level. I surge ahead again. Suddenly out of nowhere there are riders all around me, 25 of us can smell the finish line and we all want to cross it first. Riders spill around me and I feel a moment of panic, I’ve seen the bunch crashes on the Tour de France… I don’t want to go down. As we all fight for the line someone yells “hold your line everyone” …
I am still ahead of the other girls in my bunch. Suddenly the gap in front of me closes and I am boxed in, I can’t go anywhere, I am at the mercy of the riders in front of me… two girls have a better line than me and pull ahead slightly.
I cross the line in 6.18.45… the other two girls cross in 6.18.44. I can’t believe it, after nearly 200km of hilly riding and over 6 hours, it comes down to 1 second!
I head down the finish chute and we all congratulate each other. I am pretty tired but stoked to have finished in such a good time, my throat constricts and tears well in my eyes. Not because I am disappointed or sad but because I know I have pushed my body and asked it to give me a lot after no taper and a solid 10 days of training build up in my legs. I feel a both a great sense of satisfaction to produce this result on a tired body and a feeling of excitement about the triathlon season to come.
7th female overall
2nd senior women
158th/600 starters (500+ finishers)
Finish time: 6.18.45
K2 – 2,300 metres of screaming descent… (Translation: 2,300m of grinding uphill…)
K2 is named after Kuaotunu, an enchanting community on the wild eastern coastline of the Coromandel Peninsula. In Maori, the name Kuaotunu means “to inspire fear in young animals”! The 2 represents the almost 200km that the ride covers.
The K2 race started in Thames and travelled in an anticlockwise direction through Tairua, Whitianga, Coromandel and back to Thames (4 stages). This is a really scenic and varied route, travelling through sub tropical forest, pacific coastlines, rural farmland and the Puhutakawa lined coastline of the Hauraki Gulf.
Stage 1– Kopu – Hikuai 53km’s
This stage is named after the highest point on the course with a steady rise up to 425 metres. The hill starts about 10km into the stage. There is a steady 14km climb through sub-tropical rain forest to reach the top. This is followed by an exciting downhill section with a few turns to begin with followed by a 100km per hour straight (not for me, I hit 74kmh and once my bike started shaking and wobbling I as too scared to go any faster)… Nick Vaughan passed me on the downhill telling me to “eat more pies and you will go faster”…
Stage 2– Coroglen – 43km’s
This stage had one major hill to climb straight after Tairua called Pumpkin Hill which rises to 240 metres. A windy descent is followed by gentle undulating and windy roads all the way to Whitianga.
Stage 3– Kuaotunu - 43km’s
This is the toughest stage of the race with a climb up the Kuaotunu Hill rising to 170m and back down again to sea level and the township of Kuaotunu. The ride continues on towards Coromandel with three shorter steep climbs before reaching the big one, the Whangapoa Hill (this was a real tough clomb with one section at 45 degrees). There is a steep downhill with a wicked hairpin bend at the bottom known as Devils Elbow (15kmh restriction).
Stage 4– Kereta – 53km’s
There were two major climbs on this stage. After the climbs the road hugged the coastline for 30kms all the way to Thames. This is a windy, rolling road, lined by Pohutukawa trees and great views of the Hauraki Gulf.
Post Race Reflections…
After I finished the race, I sat down (with a sausage and beer…YUM) and reflected on a few things.
For me K2 was always going to be a training ride, I wasn’t specifically targeting this as a race. It was about time on the bike, this meant no taper and a hard 10 days training before (including a 4 day training camp in the Wairarapa over labour weekend). I woke at 6.30 on race day and like any other race day I did a couple of nervous stretches as an initial test on how my body was feeling. It wasn’t too bad but I knew that proper nutrition and focus would be vital in getting through the day. I needed to be wise and to pace myself. I was really strict with my nutrition and felt great during and afterwards. Kevin and I did a 20 minute run off the bike as well.
The race information had a few gems just to settle the nerves… not. The first thing on the info sheet was: “This is a very long race”… Hmmmm, I knew that! One of the other statements that really stood out for me was: “There are many steep and windy downhill sections”… descending is the weakest part of my cycling and I was really worried about this part of the race.
I decided to ride the race with my normal gears (in bike speak this is using a 23 as my largest cog on the back). To put it in perspective a lot of riders were using a 25 or a 27 cog for the ride. I was stoked to pull away from many riders on the hills still (only to be passed on lots of the downhills). In fact, up the first hill a man said to me: “you don’t have many gears there love, you will pay for that later on”. I was stoked when I caught up to him later on in the race and to his surprise I pulled away from him.
Some of the hills were really tough and it is hard when you look up ahead and you see riders (what seems like miles ahead) to be really struggling. It’s here that your ride can be made or broken. I passed numerous people who were saying “I’m broken”, “I can’t do it anymore”. I could have said that to myself, but the power of positive self talk really came through for me on these hills. On each of the tough hills I would liken the hill to one that I have climbed this season and then I just knew I would get through it. So thanks to Horokiwi, the Rimutakas, Akatarawas, Admirals Hill, Paekakariki and the steep side of moonshine! These hills got me through the K2.
Thanks to all my supporters, my husband Jason, my Coaches Kevin and Ali, my friends and training buddies and my sponsors: Jaggad, Cycle Science and the Electricity Commission.