Elystan Street

Stiletto Wheels

Could there be a better way to spend at least part of your, first post New Year, weekend than with a visit to Elystan Street for a totally stand out meal and restaurant experience?

Not to my mind. I’d suggest getting yourself across there asap if good food and convivial restaurants are your comfort blanket for the misery of a long cold January.

Elystan Street has been open a few months in premises we’d previously visited – in former, unconnected, restaurant incarnation – so knew to be both wheelchair accessible and with easy parking right outside. Yay, that put me in a good frame of mind immediately.

Winding down after the holiday break, we wanted great food in a comfortable and casual environment and that’s exactly what we got at Elystan Street, probably unsurprising as there’s some serious restaurant pedigree involved via owners and staff whose stated intention is to…

View original post 412 more words

Vietnamese Iced Coffee Recipe – Bon Appétit

This is one that I might have to break the no sugar rule for.

OMG!

Ingredients

Servings: Makes 1

  • 2 tablespoons dark-roast ground coffee (preferably Trung Nguyen Premium Blend or Café Du Monde Coffee with Chicory)
  • 2 tablespoons (scant) sweetened condensed milk

Preparation

  • There are two ways to make Vietnamese coffee. The simplest method is to steep coffee grounds in a heatproof container with 2/3 cup boiling water for 4 minutes. Pour through a coffee filter into a heatproof glass.
  • Or use a metal filter, which we recommend. Bring 1 cup water to a boil. Remove top screen from filter, add coffee, then screw on top screen. Place filter over a heatproof 12-oz. glass or measuring cup.
  • Pour a splash of the hot water into filter; this will allow the coffee grounds to bloom. When coffee begins to drip through, add enough water to reach top of filter. Place lid on filter and let coffee drip for 4 minutes. If coffee stops dripping sooner, gently loosen screw to relieve pressure.
  • Stir in condensed milk until blended. Add ice, stir, and serve.

Source: Vietnamese Iced Coffee Recipe – Bon Appétit

Cycling on North Western Increases #BetterAuckland

Its only going to get bigger too with Lightpath in. We have seen at least 3 riders start their commute on bikes since one cruisy ride into town to see the Lightpath.

Talking Southern Auckland

Build it and they do come

From NZTA:

More people than ever cycling to the city from the west

13 Jan 2016 11:40 am | NZ Transport Agency

Viv Heslop is one of an increasing number of people who are cycling into Auckland’s city centre from the west for work or study.

The number of cycle journeys through Kingsland on the Northwestern Cycleway has gone up by more than 16% in 2015 compared with 2014. This has contributed to a growth of 7.4% of cycle journeys throughout Auckland in the same period.

The number of people cycling on this route is expected to increase further with a major upgrade to be completed this year and a city centre cycle network which continues to expand.

The NZ Transport Agency is upgrading the Northwestern Cycleway from Westgate to Waterview as part of the Western Ring Route. The cycleway currently joins the Nelson…

View original post 573 more words

‘Fair Go’ Discount story – my experience

Working in the bike industry over the past 3.5 years I have had to battle with the “half price’ “50% off” offers that have been rolling out of our nearest competitor on countless occasions.  Seeing the recent story on Fair Go has highlighted what we (in the store) have been discussing and planning for every weekend there is an advert in our local paper.

Watch the episode here (may be country restricted)

Are you really getting a half price bike?

Let me start with the fact that this is based only on my own experiences and there are no exact figures unless I do a direct comparison of pricing.

It was just yesterday I was going through the conversation with a customer about what bike would be right for them and their needs in cycling.  After finding out what I thought we could offer and discussing a couple of options I heard the all too common statement “I have been to ‘one of your competitors’ and they have offered me something that looks like this at half price”

“Oh cool” my reply “Do you know which bike and model it was?  Lets just check it out and make sure its the right bike you are after”

I then go through the explanation that I believe is correct.  Our competitor has a business model that works, I don’t believe its right, but it works.

I believe they put a bike on  the floor at inflated recommended retail pride ‘RRP’, maybe, for the ‘lawful’ period (although this I find hard to believe when I see bikes on at 50% off so soon after they have been released).  They then put a sticker on for 50% off.

Most of the bikes we go through that are 50% off are, on average, $50 – $150 cheaper than our RRP (on lower to middle range model bikes, say models under $2000)

Sometimes there is a deal that we just can’t beat or come close to because it really is an amazing deal.

Lets look at the bike online and compare it to our equivalent.

All whilst pulling out our floor iPad.   A quick search online and found the bike model the other store had offered.  This particular model that had been offered worked out to be one that was outside my averages but we had it on special as part of our Great Bike Sale so it worked out ok for me.

The bike they had offered was online for $1499.99 with a special of $750 offered in store and our bike had a price tag of $919.99.  ($580 difference in recommended retail)

As I said, a little outside my averages for this one but I believe our RRP is close to a realistic price for the bike and parts offered.   I then follow up with

What do you get for spending the extra on our bike?

  • A free 1D bike wit with every bike you purchase
  • A free 1 month service to check everything is running smoothly
  • Links to local cycling groups and communities.
  • Professional Shimano Certified mechanics in house for any future repairs
  • become part of the Avantiplus Team

Ok, this last one is a little corny but its true, I normally invite people buying their first road bike to join us for the Saturday bunch rides which are designed for all cycling abilities

Once the comparison was finished the customer felt better informed about the bikes she was looking at and her decision was coming from a knowledgeable perspective rather than price or perceived bargain.

Like myself, the rest of the team at work believe in a fair deal so this Fair Go episode has been great in highlighting something we have been battling for so long.  I didn’t even think about comparing the RRP between New Zealand and Australia which is such a simple idea but makes complete sense.

My approach with customers looking for a deal isn’t always a winner, in fact, I’m still not sure which way this lady will go because a bargain is hard to pass up, especially in New Zealand where 57% of shoppers would go with a bargain.

BUT, is it really as much of a bargain as you think AND what do you get by spending that little bit extra?

Ironman New Zealand 2015 a Race Report

This time I make no apologies for a long post because I need to let it all out and if you read on you will not only find out why but also relieve me of some of my anguish

First off –

  • I want to say thanks to everyone who supported me throughout this ‘campaign’.  I have put together some of those thanks below but I know that I may have missed someone (I always miss something) but please know I am eternally grateful for all the help I have received!
  • I want to let you know that I am still in two minds whether I will be taking part in Ironman again, (so you might not have to put yourself through another one of these, but then again?)
  • Please believe me when I say I am not a drama queen and I don’t believe I have made any of this up to try make it sound harder than it was.
  • You need to know that the day of Ironman is amazing and well worth going to see at least once and maybe one day, doing it yourself

Let’s start with the night before the day before shall we, where I left off from my last update.

Thursday night I started to feel a little tickle in the throat and blocked, stuffy head.  Tell tale signs of a little cold coming on.  I had put it down to the body playing tricks on me as it tends to do the week of a big race but when I woke on Friday morning with the same heavy head I was in two minds on whether to join the boys for a morning dip in the lake.   The final minute before they headed to the waters edge I remembered I had a new pair of goggles that I hadn’t tried out yet.  “Nothing new on race day” words to live by.  The swim had to happen but I knew it would be a quick one.

After racking the bike with rubbish bags covering the saddle and helmet due to forecast bad weather overnight, I headed out for coffee with Andrew, still feeling the sniffles and looking forward to those movies back in bed in the afternoon.   We managed to get a table right outside Body Fuel across the road from the expo center which is a great spot to catch up with so many other people on their final preparations for the big day ahead.  We had a quick chat with Mel Burke, ranked 3rd in the pro woman’s race, who was hoping for a 3hour 10 marathon after a 5hr10 bike ride, jealous much?

Getting back to the accommodation it was time to head to the room and just chill out for the rest of the afternoon.  I lasted about 1.5 cheesy films before I had to get out and mix with people again.

Sniffle Juice, the real deal!

In that time Rae had arrived home from a hunt around pharmacies to find me some sniffle juice, that’s the actual name, a homeopathic cough remedy that really seemed to hit the spot.   Over the next couple of hours we all helped out with some home made spaghetti bolognase, my dad arrived from Auckland surprising me with an early arrival and thankfully Andrew was happy for him to stay in one of the spare rooms overnight so no need to sleep it rough in the back of his van with prepared sleeping mat et al.

Nina and Isabel arrived around 9.30pm which completed my night perfectly and after final preparations for the support crew’s day it was time to hit the hay.

4.30am I woke to the alarm, gingerly lifting my head off the pillow hoping for a clear head…. Sniffle juice is good people!

Time to be awesome!

Coffee, muesli, toast, attach morning bag to bike pump then make sure the family are up and ready to roll.

In transition by 6am.  Drop off special needs bags.  (I hadn’t trained with on course nutrition so my SIS stash was going to be picked up at dedicated spots on bike and run) pump tyres, visit Dylan in the Shimano tent before standing in the long cue for a toilet stop.   This time I decided to head down to the waters edge much earlier so it didn’t feel like I was rushing to the front of the start line before the gun went off but I needn’t have worried as they held everyone back until the pros were started.  I always said I wanted to see the Haka before the start but I only managed to hear it this time which still gave me little goosebumps, the challenge had been laid!

Once we were allowed into the swim start area we were filtered over the timing mat where I said my last goodbyes to Nina and Isabel before a quick warm up and settle the nerves I was expecting.  I must have been well prepared because the nerves never came, just excitement.  With 1 minute to go the crowd, in the water, started to cheer, 30 seconds to go and all started to go quiet again, 15 seco.. And BOOM!  The cannon went, we were off before I could even think about.

Feeling fresh coming out of the water.

Feeling fresh coming out of the water.

I took off like a rocket and luckily there were only a couple of slower swimmers in front of me which seem to part quite easily as I swam through so no need to swim over anyone this time.  With the coach Ben in my mind I quickly settled into my pace perching on a good set of feet to save energy and sighting intermittently to make sure the feet I was on were heading in the right direction.  The mind wonders in the water but not for long and never strays far away from the task in hand and before I knew it I was waving to the divers at the bottom of the lake at the turn around point.

This time all the way back I checked the watch to make sure I wasn’t pushing myself too hard and the body felt comfortable all the way.  Pulling the neck of my suit to allow cold water in every 10 minutes to make sure I didn’t over heat and (don’t tell anyone but) taking a few gulps of water to try keep the temperature in check.

Running the 400m green carpet

Running the 400m green carpet

Coming to the end of the swim I slowed down, even more, making sure I wasn’t too far ahead of the goal pace (Ben might have had a heart attack if he had seen me come out of the water in the time I was heading for) and I am glad I did because that 400m run into transition felt like a walk in the park this time.

4th in age group out of the water and body feeling good, time 53.19 same as last time, job done!

Onto the bike after a little banter with Stephen Morris (aiming for a sub 10hour race time) “common Alan, stop being a woos!” (He wasn’t quite as polite) and the aim was to get the heart rate down in the first 5-7km.  Through the swim all blood flow is needed in the upper body because that’s where all the oxygen is being utilized so when you stand up, run 400m finishing in a staircase to get changed then jump on a bike and ride through a bazillion people your heart is just doing everything it can to cope, that means beating a hell of a lot quicker than I would like at this stage in the day!

My cockpit for the morning!

My cockpit for the morning!

I managed to get down to the target HR zone by about 10km and settled into eating, drinking and pedaling for the rest of the morning.   All was going well, food was settling nicely, I had only been passed by a few gun bikers and there was a little rain in the air which kept me cool, I couldn’t have asked for better, until, PFST, ssst, sst, sst,sst, on every wheel revolution, the dreaded sound of a substantial puncture.
33km into the ride

A split second of “I don’t need this s#%*” then an ultra calm feeling came over me.  ‘Take your time, check your tyre, put the pit stop in and spin the wheel’ pump the rest of the canister in to inflate the tyre fully then get back on the bike and ride to the plan’  5 minutes later and I was back on the bike and into work again.

Eating, Drinking and Pedalling on the bike!

Eating, Drinking and Pedalling on the bike!

The first Reparoa turn around, my first checkpoint on the schedule set by Ben and I was only 3 minutes behind.  STOKED!  My body still felt like it was on a Sunday cruise so exactly where I needed to be.  STICK to the plan!

55km in and “mate, your back tyre looks like it’s got a flattie” as a speedster rolled past me. ‘Faaaaaarrrrk, not again’ but again only a split second and I pulled over next safe place to pop the last of the pit stop in.  That didn’t work so I tried a little CO2 knowing it might not work. Sure enough it just blasted through the previous puncture so it was time to put the spare on.

Again, I was really calm, especially considering this was my first chance to change a tubular tyre.  Following the instructions given on my last day in the shop I managed to change the tub and get back on the road within 10minutes but my mind was a bit frassled so I couldn’t really work out where I was on the schedule.  Deciding to just stick the the plan of “everything is geared towards feeling good 7km into the run” I set off in the planned heart rate zone and kept on with eating, drinking and pedalling.

Back through town after first lap!

Back through town after first lap!

Heading back into town lifted the spirits with so many people lining the streets and me riding through on a super steed feeling like a rockstar!  Trying not to draft was the biggest concern as everyone seemed to bunch up heading through town.  That and the fact I couldn’t see Nina, Dad and Isabel on the side of the road all the way through.  “What a bad daddy I am for not spotting my baby girl cheering for me on the side of the road.” Ran through the mind!    I needn’t have worried as they were waiting for me just before I hit the Broadlands road section of the course with cowbells at the ready,

SOOO CUTE!

“tell Ben there’s nothing wrong with me, I just had punctures” I shouted, just to make sure he didn’t have a heart attack about how long I was taking on the bike.

Just before seeing them I picked up my special feed bag and Jarrod, supporting this year after competing last year, helped me with my rubbish et al and let me know “Brian Chapman is only 2 minutes ahead of you” “ah, nice one” says me “I’ll catch him on the way out to Reparoa”.  HAMMER Down, ‘not too much though but a bit of time in Zone 4 won’t hurt, will it?’  my mind bargained!

Close to an hour later I was idling up next to Bryan for a quick chat.  He was suffering after an extremely quick first lap and was just trying to salvage his legs for the run.  A few minutes later I was back into it, eating, drinking and pedaling.

It was only a few kms down the road, whilst stuffing my face leaning on the aerobars with my mind on nothing else but FOOD that I heard a motorbike idling up next to me.  Lifting my head to see the bike in front was probably not quite the 10m away there was nothing I could do except hope that the draft buster understood there was no way I could slow up whilst choking down on the aerobars.  Alas, no!  “5 minute penalty, you were drafting all the way down this section”. Fair cop, I wasn’t really concentrating so I may have drifted into the draft zone and not realized it.  I still thought I was only JUST inside the zone but rules are rules.  “Stop at the next penalty box to serve your time”

5 minutes later I was ‘in the box’ with 2 others and quickly joined by 5 more, including my host Andrew, who had been doing Ironman for years and this was first time in the penalty box.  After much discussion we all concluded that this particular official may have been on a mission when he was going passed as he hadn’t made enough tickets for the day.  Due to there being so many people in at the same time there was a bit of confusion when releasing people so I watched 2 people who arrived after me leave before me and it was on noticing the second one that I realised the mistake.  Quickly bringing it to their attention I was off and riding, back into eating (concentrating this time) drinking and pedaling!

It was only 20 minutes on that I hit a lump in the road and felt the all telling bump through the saddle that told me the rear tyre was going flat again.  My last Co2 canister engaged and up the tyre went, probably 120psi because when I jumped on it felt like my kidneys were being blended for a protein smoothy.

2nd and last time around the Reparoa turn around and I was still feeling good.  Sure I had pushed a little harder but was now heading back with the wind behind me and I was still riding like a boss, on a boss as bike!

13km later PFST, psst, psst, psst, psst!   ‘COMON!  How can this be happening’. Flat tyre and this time there was absolutely nothing I could do except lay the bike down, take the helmet off and sit on the verge!  Spares gone, C02 gone, will to carry on almost gone!

“Maybe it’s just not the race for me?” I said to myself feeling beaten
“Do I pull out and wait for the sad wagon or do I wave down the Shimano van next time it goes past?”

A few minutes later the Shimano van was in sight and my rear wheel in my hand being waved in the air! “I must want to carry on”.    Kurt, the Shimano mechanic, was awesome.  After a slight hiccup trying to fit the wrong size tub to my wheel I had replaced my second Tubular tyre ever and was on my way, 23 minutes gone.

Rolling into town for the last time.

Rolling into town for the last time.

155km done, way behind schedule and starting to feel sorry for myself.   (Looking back at the data, I hopped back on the bike at the same time as I was aiming to have the bike finished. )

If the Ironman bike had not given me enough grief for the day the wind actually turned for the final 25km, head wind and loving it. “Living the dream!!!”

An hour later I was off the bike and changing into the much appreciated cushioning of running shoes!

6hrs 28min on the bike and felt hammered from the final 3 hours!

A good solid transition and off I went on my run hoping to keep it really steady all the way through,  ‘Run between the aid stations and stop for as long as you like at stations’ was the plan.  Looking down at the trusty Garmin I could see I was running at 4:55min pace, only about 1minute 30 per kilometer quicker than I was supposed to be.  It took me 15 minutes to slow down to planned pace!

The run at Ironman is amazing, the people lining the streets in support and total strangers spurring you on from wo to go!  The volunteers at the aid stations are so smiley and ready to offer any help they can to keep you going, I would never be able to speak highly enough of them.

Starting the run at a brisk pace!

Starting the run at a brisk pace!

Managing to keep running right through to the first aid station I realized that hills were not going to be my friend on this day!  I made the decision to walk the hills and stop at aid stations, time didn’t matter anymore anyway so getting through it safely was the priority.

My first stop at the second furthest aid station, the double banger, (you run/crawl through it on the way out and coming back for each lap)  I met up with Bryan again, on his way back to town on his first lap. “Mate, how you going” “ah shit, but getting through” we both murmered.  “What are you fellas doing over here? Aren’t you meant to be racing?”  A volunteer asked us as we chatted on the side of the road “we are having a very important Black Sands Triathlon Club meeting!”  5 minutes later, after a good feed, drink and chinwag we were off in our different directions feeling that little bit better than we had a few moments before.

The run ended up being little moments like that which got me through.  I really do enjoy running more when others are around, especially when you consider the monumentius task of 42 fekkin kilometres’ so a little interaction with people along the way helps.

Moments for me

        • Brian At the turn around
        • Bryan Farrell running like a boss whenever I laid eyes on him and “Living the Dream”
        • Verna pushing through the sickness I had heard about giving me strength to carry on (if you think my race was hard, read here because you ain’t seen nothing)
        • Peter Bosch jogging along side me for a few moments as the rain started to pour again (I may not have appreciated it at the time because it meant I had to run)
        • the few hundred meters walking with Mike Smith (who ripped my legs off on our little spin) and  Vicki ‘pass on my cold’ Earle 😉
        • quick catch up with Big Jim Goodwin on his second iron distance in 2 weeks!
        • moving through the aid station when Black Sands crew, including coach Ben, were on hand to pass out drinks, food, hugs and encouragement with a video interview to boot!
        • the smile and hug from fellow training buddies on their last laps before heading down the finish chute
        • the feeling of Vaseline through my toes on the second lap after the most wonderful aid station volunteer suggested I give it a go to ease my sore feet!
        • seeing my family, the most wonderful support crew, on every single lap, even when they had to hide in the car parked on an angle to keep me in view as I ran up the road in the rain!
        • many more that would make this an epic novel series so I may stop now.
One lap in and still running!

One lap in and still running!

Heading back on the final lap people will tell you that your pace quickens, finish line fever kicks in and nothing else matters. That’s true to a certain extent.  Your legs go as fast as they will take you, for me that still meant some walking.  Your mind starts to think about your celebrations but also ponders on the day that has been and the realization that you are actually about to finish an Ironman!   Then the knowledgeable crowd starts spurring you on as they see you heading up the main Road of Taupo with an orange scrunchie on your wrist, you are about to head down the finish chute! “You are almost there”. “Enjoy it mate, you deserve it”. Well done, you legend”. “Keep it going, last stretch” “great effort its your day”. “Don’t trust a fart”

I was really taking it all in this time, enjoying every comment, high five, hand slap and mention of my name! “Go Alan” “Go Leticia”

WHAT THE????

Leticia Hughes another training buddy had seen my back a few K’s out and was hunting me down, with 150m to go she had me!  I turned to see a big grin on her face and with a quick slap on the back she was gone!  I thought about chasing her but the way my legs felt I probably would have fallen over and made an arse of myself so let her go.
Chicked!  In the true sense of the word!

Enjoying the moment!

Enjoying the moment!

The finish chute was something else for me this time around, Leticia finished just before I entered the red carpeted pantheon of an Ironman Finish!  I enjoyed every single second of it, waving my hands in the air, slapping the hands of people I knew and total strangers alike, jogging across the line with my fists above my head victorious and a screech of excitement followed by a hug from Leticia waiting on the other side!  I may have given her a few choice words at the same time 😉

12hours and 50 minutes, I had completed my second Ironman!

Victorious!

Victorious!

I always have to look back to understand what could have been done better.  I said before this race that I was only doing it because something went wrong last time, I had unfinished business in Taupo!  If I had done 12h50 and that’s just what the body could handle then I would be happy with that and move on.  I WOULD!  but alas, punctures came a cropper.  It’s all well and good to say, ‘you spent about an hour on the side of the road so take an hour off and you are all good’ but alas no!  An hour extra on the bike course with a bit of chasing in the mind meant the legs were stuffed for the run so even more time lost there.
I recon that the plan for 11hrs 15 minutes would have been spot on as my first turnaround time was so close to the plan and I felt like I was on a Sunday Cruise!

SO, sorry Nina, that means there is still unfinished business in Taupo!

The Best Support Crew Ever!!

A massive thanks to

            • Andrew and Mike accommodation and advice
            • Rae for thinking of me when I had sniffles the day before and sorting out ‘sniffle juice’  then also giving me magic spray for sore legs after
            • Bryan Chapman for the ride down and general company throughout the whole training weekend et al.
            • Brian  Farrell for the laughs on a few runs and over coffee now and again.  Along with
            • Brian , Lisa and Liam for supporting all the way through
            • Jeff, Cat and all the crew at AvantiPlus Waitakere, great riding buddies, advice, keeping my feet on the ground through the big journey
            • Department of Cycling and all its members for great training rides, banter and general support throughout
            • Jacqui Martin and Jason Fricker.  Jacqui for asking and Jason for doing my lawns when I was in the middle of my big block of training.  I was lucky enough to only suffer a mild case of “Iron-lawn”
            • Black Sands Triathlon Club and all their associates for great training sessions, push when I needed it and support throughout
            • My coach Ben who calls me at random to just see how I’m doing, always reads my sessions and knows when to rest me and can push me when I need to be pushed
            • Craig, Mereille and the crew at Hobsonville Physio who manage to fix me when I don’t listen to Ben and damage myself
            • Isabel for always greeting me with a smile, no matter how long I have been out training and is the only one really willing to give me a hug when I am sweating like a pig
            • My dad for making the journey down and willing to sleep in the van just to support on the day and also for letting me know on occasion how good my Uncle Alan was at running;)
            • My Uncle Al for running sub 3 hour marathons just to give my dad something to throw at me;)
            • Nina, for allowing me to be away from home for so much of the time, looking after the house when I let a lot of things slip, putting up with Iron-brain (forgetfulness, lethargic all the time etc) and for always supporting me when I know this isn’t really your thing, being so organized and getting everyone where they need to be at the right time!

For helping with my entry fee

        • Suzaine Greenshields and family
        • Claudine Gillies and family
        • My mum
        • Jeff and Cat Webb and family
        • Nina and Isabel (yes money box was raided, all replaced now)

Cycle for Life 2015

The Cycle for Life Cycle Challenge is Auckland’s longest running road cycling event. The event has been organized and run by the Buckland Beach Lions Club for the past 17 years and in the process has raised tens of thousands of dollars for children’s charities. 

My first experience with the event was last year when I helped out with social media and ended up driving the lead car for the elite race.  What an experience!  I was lucky enough be doing the lead car when Steve Furminger and Brendan McGrath (both well known through AvantiPlus Waitakere)  pulled off 1st and 2nd with a 2man breakaway with 60km to go!  I had never been so excited in a bike race!  I was inspired to race it this year. 

In the week leading up to race day discussions about the weather were at the forefront of shop talk.  Duane and I had decided to race together, which is rare as we are often working when the other is racing, and we had a big Department of Cycling (DoC) contingent heading down to ride with.  It was going to be epic, as long as the rain held off!  Sunday 29th March, I open the curtains at 6.45am to see darkness with Auckland glow hitting a ceiling of low lying cloud above, RAIN!  

The conversation on the drive to the start line in picturesque Clevedon was dominated by “should we just turn around” (not an option for me) “it will clear” “what are we doing” rain talk!  Stopping at a great little store for my regular 4shot flat white we were confronted with stares from the barista and a look that conveyed both pity and ‘are you nuts’ all at once followed by a quick “I hope it gets better for you”. I knew we were in for a tough one.  

The rain eased whilst we were filling in race entries and getting changed but it was only to lure us into a false sense of security because as soon as riders huddled near the start line, the heavens opened once again which started a wave of groans followed by chattering teeth!  A quick word of “thanks for turning up on a day even the Ducks were hiding” from race director Geoff Barnett and we all made our way to the start line.  Thankfully, 5 minutes later and ahead of schedule the elite riders were sent off and shortly followed by the rest of us. 

  

Adam (our Sheppards rep at the shop) and Scott (former marketing manager) sat on the front for the first couple of kilometres keeping the pace respectable and my mind started to ponder the fact that I might be in the lead group all the way to the end, that was until we hit the second tier of the first climb when the pace just got a little rich for my blood.  I recon I may have been able to hold their wheel but I would have suffered for a very long time and remember, I had come to race with Duane who was a group back with the rest of the DoC crew!   Easing up and beginning to feel human again it wasn’t long before Duanes group caught up and a good bunch of about 29 riders had formed.  Another 10km, a few gentle words of encouragement (maybe a couple of shoves in the right direction) and we had the whole bunch lapping out like true professionals and we were humming along at a great pace. 

That was until 30km in when we turned into the main road to Whangataphare when we heard the all to familiar (especially to DoC riders lately) crunch of a bike hitting the deck at the back of the bunch.  A quick turn of the head revealed Andrew Brown (one of our crew) along with another rider had slid out on the turn and were picking themselves up.  Another turn of the head, hoping he would be back on the bike and I would be able to slow the bunch for him, revealed Duane heading back to help whilst Andrew was struggling to get the bike back up and going.  I decided to turn and see if I could help.   A few minutes later, checking scratches, adjusting brakes, straightening shifters and the 3 of us were back up and rolling until, 500m down the road where we found Brendan Smith (DoC rider) wrestling with his tyre post puncture!  

We stopped to help out, after all, 4 chasing the bunch down was going to be far better than 3.  4 minutes later we were back up and rolling, for another 400m anyway when we heard a bunch of expletives and the familiar psst, psst, psst of another puncture.  Same tyre, same bike!   Closer examination of the thoroughly narrated tyre found a fraction of glass embedded in the casing that only poked the tiniest of holes through but was enough to cause another 8-10 minutes on the side of the road.  This time did however give another group of cyclists time to catch up and this crowd hosted another DoC member, Mike O’Kane, a beast on the bike who is coming back from a long hiatus away from riding.  Hoorah, another member of our merry band of men chasing down what was now, close to, the rest of the field but now in beautiful Sunshine! 

Tyres fixed, bunch of five together, we were off and the pace was on!  On like Kong!!  

We lapped out, just the 5 of us, for a good 15 to 20km passing riders dropped from their bunches with the intermittent hanger on until we picked up a couple who managed to contribute to the speed we were maintaining.  What a buzz that was.  I tried to take some slightly longer turns as I was feeling relatively fresh and wanted to utilise the training I had put in for ironman but there was no real need to do so, everyone contributed evenly throughout until we caught up with a bigger group heading down the coastline.  Again a few words of encouragement as we rolled, more to stop excited riders flying off the front of the bunch when they took a turn than anything else and we had a great rhythm going.  Unfortunately it was along here that we lost one of our merry men when a spoke broke on Duanes rear wheel and with all the power he was putting through it the wheel got more buckled than was manageable and his race was done.  We did see him one more time before the finish line, hanging out the window of a Holden commodore “go faster boys” with his bike on the carrier attached! 

 Just before we headed inland Mike mentioned that he would probably drop off on the climb heading inland and I took this as ‘cool, he will drop off and Cruze on with the bunch around him’ so when the hill came Brendan, Andrew and I found ourselves off the front and holding the gap with 40km to go!  We stayed out the front all the way up Snake Hill, a great climb with about 30 to go and it was only on the downhill the other side that a familiar bike came rolling up behind us.  Mike Was back!  “Thanks for waiting on that last hill boys!!! Grr”  

Yeah, oooooops, my bad!  Mike wasn’t telling me he was going to hang back, it was more like ‘just letting you know I will fall back and a little help would be appreciated team mate’. What a bad mate I am! 

We worked hard together for the next 20km, well to be fair, Mike put in MASSIVE turns to keep our speed up, and with about 7k to go I could stay with them no longer!  BOOM my foo foo valve had gone, the elastic band had broken, I went OTA (out the ass) and survival mode kicked in!  I was probably running way too hot and the tell-tail sign was wheezing breath on the last 3km home!  I finished a couple of minutes behind them still chasing as hard as the legs would go and when I did cross the line it was straight to hands and knees to try stop myself from throwing up or passing out.  Definitely the heat thing and thankfully Adam was on hand with ice cold water to through down the back of my neck.  A good 10 minutes later and I was good to go again. 

 

Merry men! Steve Furminger taking Andrew Browns (injured) place far left, Duane, Mike, Brendan, me.

 

What a day!    It may have started out a day for the ducks but it ended up a day for the Merry Men of DoC and Avantiplus Waitakere to show their grit, determination and commeradare to finish only a few minutes behind the bunch they had lost 15 minutes to 39km in!  We had gone through a lot of emotions through the day but we had conquered and we will be back to fight again next year!! 

Oceania Champion Taylor Gunman took 1st ahead of another Merry man Steve “Watts” Furminger (Avantiplus Waitakere colleague) and Cameron Wyniatt in 3rd! 

The open Race was won by Scott with Adam leading him out so there was no chance I would have stuck with them until the end.  LOL! 

The Cycle for Life is a charity event that has been run by the Lions Club for 17 years and all funds raised go to New Zealand Children in our community!  If there is one event to keep running in Auckland its this one because they really do give all proceeds to the Charities they support.   Please check out their web site and like them on Facebook!  Keep an eye out for entries opening up late this year and enter.  Early Bird is only $45 for 107km of beautiful scenary around the picturesque Hunua Ranges!