March 1 Friday – Queenstown
And just like that, today was the final day of racing. The lifestyle of the week has been sensational. Someone else provides all my meals, makes lunch for me and even does the cleaning up. I just have to look after myself and my bike J Happy days! My bike has been absolutely perfect. All I’ve had to do is grease the chain. Gotta love those new bike feels. Mother nature was kind and we were welcomed by a crisp but glorious day, blue sky as far as we can see.
As we have started every day, we warmed up with an epic climb. We were to ride straight up to the top of the Queenstown Gondola. If anyone has been to Queenstown you know this is bloody big hill. There is a perfectly good Gondola right there but noooo, they like to torture us and make us climb. If you are an average being like me, it is a bloody long push. Sigh. It was just too freaking steep for me to even attempt to ride it, so it was the usual routine. Wave my friends goodbye and see them at the top. I’m super self-conscious about making them wait so long for me. So not long after I drag my sorry ass to the top, we regroup take off again. This means they are fresh and I’m HAF – haggard as fark. Out of breathe and sweating like sumo wrestler in a sauna. It takes me an hour to get to the top.
First stage of the day was 9 minutes of insane racing down through Queenstown bike park. I ejected off the bike twice but managed to stay in once piece and finish. I’m tired, really tired. My whole body is feeling the effects of five days of racing. Fark, I think to myself as we even had an unscheduled rest day in there. Far out, I hate to think what state I would be in without. The most concern fatigue is my hands and arms resulting in very little grip strength which then flows onto poor bike control. I’m also struggling to stay positive, the mind and thought process very easily is slipping into a negative vortex that is sucking me down. It is all fatigue but damn, what a battle. Trying to stay positive when your body hurts and your mind is doing everything it can do drag you down.
After the first stage is done, now we are allowed to catch the gondola to the top but then we continue to push, well I push most people ride. We go out of the bike park and we keep going up towards the top of Ben Lomond (a mountain behind Queenstown). We come out of the trees into the grassy covered slopes. There is solid little line of mountain bikers gradually getting smaller and smaller until they look like ants scurrying to the top of the mountain. Up, up, up we go. I get to the top after what feels like an eternity but it was only 50mins. The view is stunning. Breathtakingly stunning. So far up that we can’t even see Queenstown. My friends have given up waiting for me and have already started their race. The top is exposed and the gentle breeze blowing is causing us all to cool down rapidly despite the searing sun. The first part of the stage is rough, rocky and narrow as hell. We are racing down a single track on the peak of the ridge. it is hard to focus as the vista before us is so distracting. After the top section we drop into a series loam dirt corners. Oooo so nice. We continue down into the trees and I see a bike upside down in the bush and someone in pink fox jersey. I nearly crash as I glance sideways thinking it was Chole doing a repeat of her Coronet Peak race run. Phew it wasn’t, just the photographer. That was 9 very intense minutes of racing. I’m shattered and I’m starting to fret about how I am going to finish the rest of the day. I’ve been tired before but this is a whole new level of fatigue. My whole body is struggling. I’ve become emotional about everything. My coached warned me about this but still I wasn’t prepared for the tirade of emotions that you get hit with. I wanted to cry over everything – good, back, positive, negative, indifference. Aghhhhh.
The transition to the next stage is a really pleasant cross country ride across the mountain for which I end up alone. I’m okay about this due to the crazy emotional state of fatigue I’m in. Stage 3 and the final race run of the week. Hard to believe this is it. This trail was completely different from the others. There was up and downs, creek crossings and large sections that were nothing but mats of tree roots. I crashed going up a hill in a section and ploughed my knee pad into the ground. Super glad I have those sturdy suckers on. After 14 insane minutes of trying to ride at my fastest, I cross the finish line. I can barely hold on the bars anymore. My upper body is fatigued and I can feel muscles that I didn’t know I had. We roll back to the lodge and hand our timing chips in for the final time. There are celebrations all round. Food and beers are a must. All of us are shattered. We sit, lay under the trees and recount the days events.
Seeing a great performance, whether by human or animal inspires me to no end. I’m moved by other’s dreams and by their devotion and courage in the pursuit of excellence of trying to achieve that dream. I get choked up when I see anyone fighting hopeless odds – someone that goes out the front door on the lonely road with a dream in their heart, a gleam in their eye and goal in their mind. I admire those who have the courage to step up to the start line and to give it their all for their dream.
There was a group of riders from China who have never done anything like this before. It was the hardest riding they have ever attempted. They were the first to admit they were way out of their comfort zone but determined. They were last to finish every day but they finished. When they finally rolled across the finish line, every single person in the race village stood clapped and cheered so loud the buildings shook. Tears were gushing from many people, myself included, as the realisation and the enormity of the week’s efforts were celebrated.
There was a group dinner in a pub downtown. The night was filled with beers, celebrations, presentations, goodbyes and promises to keep in touch. My friends claimed two of the podium spots with Super A winning the race and the other claiming third spot.
After six days of racing, I finish in 9th position. A top ten position that I should be happy with but I’m just not sure about anything. So many emotions. What a trip though! Despite the horrible pit of fatigue I’m in, I learnt so much, met some awesome people and overall had a very bloody good time. I called it a night and went home early. This was a training race for me and I have two weeks to get ready for the first race in the Enduro World Series. Super A may have partied hard that night, may have staggered home at 4am, may have lost her phone and her trophy, and may have been unwell for the 8 hour bus ride back to Christchurch that left at 8am the next day…. Ahhh young people 😉