Friday, July 11, 2014

Monumental Ass Kicking

When I heard that my wife, daughter and I were heading back to her home town of Durango Colorado for a friend's wedding I was keen to find a race to work in with the trip. Durango is an amazing part of the world with endless trails to ride. I found a MTB race that sounded right up my alley, the Durango Dirty Century. It is part of an 'underground' unofficial endurance race series that happens through the summer. With an ethos of unsupported , self responsibly and hard back country courses.

I was looking for a big challenge and everything about this ride made the hair on the back on my neck stand up! Everything from the remote back country course, the altitude, the wildlife (bears, mountain lions and snakes) to regular lighting strikes on the high exposed ridges. As I dug deeper into what the race was all about I become even more excited. Emails from the organisers to 'deter' people/ make sure everyone knew what they were in for made the fire burn brighter.

"This is NOT the ride to use for your first 100-miler.
It is not for beginners or intermediate riders – experts only!
The effort here will be about 2 times that to complete a Leadville 100.
If your rain jacket can fit in the back of your jersey pocket, this is not for you.
If you cannot rig a broken derailleur into a singlespeed, this is not for you. 
If you want to bail when it gets cold and wet, this is not for you. 
If you do not have night lights, this is not for you.
If rain bothers you, or you hate post holing through snow then this is not for you."

Talk about exciting!

One of the big things I knew was going to be a challenge was the altitude. The race started in Durango at 6500 feet (~2000 m) and climbed to 12258 feet (3736 m) which is close to the height of Mt Cook (3754 m) with an average elevation of 3049 m. I had ridden in Durango many times before, but never that high. We arrived in America 3 weeks before the race. I knew I would never be fully acclimatised in this time but I would do my best. The first week we spent in Denver which is ~1600 m where I did some easy riding while visiting with family in the heat and altitude so that when we headed to Durango I would hopefully already have a head start on the acclimatisation.

It was also during this week I found out that a week long family trip we were booked on was planned for the day BEFORE the race rather than the day AFTER like I had originally thought! I was gutted! With no way of changing the travel plans I made the decision to ride the course as hard as I could 3 days before the race in a time trial fashion and see how I got on. At the end of the day I wanted to challenge myself and I could do that with or without other riders around.

When we arrived in Durango I really felt the altitude I was riding ok but my heart rate was through the roof on even the most gradual climbs and I did not seem to have the power in my legs as usual. By the end of the week I was starting to feel like I was getting on top of the altitude, but how would it be as I went higher?

It was now or never. After a bit of a mini taper to try and freshen the legs up I was ready to roll. As I prepared my gear the night before my ride I wrote down some time splits that I had found online and taped them to my bike as a bit of a carrot to chase. With everything packed and ready to roll I went to  bed for a restless night's sleep. It had been daunting enough going into the back of beyond knowing that there were 70 other riders around you, either clearing the way of wild animals or coming behind if something were to happen. Now it was just me! I had spent lots of time in the back country of NZ by myself, but never in America in the Rocky Mountains. This added another challenging aspect to the upcoming adventure.

As I set off down to the 'official start' at Velorution Cycles in the main street of Durango I had my first of what was going to be many wildlife encounters with the deer who had been hanging around the back yard for the last few days. Deer I can work with, bears and Mountain Lions not so much.

 The first 15 km of the course is pretty flat on sealed road before the climbing starts into the single track of Hermosa Creek Trail. At the first time split I was only a couple of minutes off the splits and feeling pretty good. However this was not to last long. 

After ~40 km of single track I hit a gravel road where the real climbing and the real butt kicking started. I am not sure whether it was the altitude, the heat, my borrowed bike not being 100% dialed in for me, my legs not being 100% or maybe it was just one of those days. All I know is that I could not climb to save myself. My heart rate was sky high even when I was in my granny gear spinning away, I was hyperventilating trying to catch up breath and my legs became burnt up after a couple of minutes of climbing. It was going to be a long day.

I took the climb in short pulls having mini breaks when I could not ride any more. By the time I hit Celebration Lake I was well off the time splits so decided to put these away and just focus on getting through the day in one piece(which I had a feeling was going to be a big enough challenge) while enjoying the views while getting some awesome photos and video.

Once up onto the Colorado Trail the going did not get any better. The steep pinches, snow mounds across the trial and un-rideable sections made going slow as I climbed up to Black Hawk Pass at 3657 m. Once at the top I was greeted with amazing views for a quick late lunch stop, then there was an amazing downhill section (it was nice to be actually riding my bike for once).

Looking up towards Black Hawak Pass

 The downhill soon gave way to another solid climb up towards the highest point on the course Indian Ridge. Gradual at first then getting really steep on some exposed ridge tops I kept things steady riding what my legs would and pushing/ carrying the sections I could not. There were a number of 'bail out' options around this section and the thought crossed my mind a number of times to bail out early and head for home. However, I just could not do it. I did not know when I would get the chance to come back up here and I could not admit defeat!

As I pushed, sweated and gasped for oxygen on one non-descript steep ridge I heard a roar coming from the sky and looked up and to my amazement I saw the distinct shape of a B-2 Stealth Bomber flying over head. Like a kid in a candy shop I quickly got out my camera and got a photo of it, just as a second one came into view! When I was a kid I was a bit of a plane 'nut' and seeing these two Stealth Bombers in full flight in the amazing mountain setting rated right up there as the coolest part of the ride!

 After 115km of riding/ pushing I finally reached the highest point of the course. From here the majority of it was down hill, apart from a couple of uphill pulls. As I started the descent I did a few quick calculations and soon realised that I would be riding the final hour or so in the dark. I made the most of the sweet 15 km downhill before having a grunty final 6 km climb before the final descent to the finish.

As I rode the closing kms by the light of my head lamp I was more than surprised to come across two riders in the middle of nowhere caught without any lights after doing some course familiarisation for an upcoming enduro race. I tried riding with them for a while to provide them some light but with the technical terrain it was difficult at best and they decided to keep walking the final 5 km or so to the carpark  by the light of their iphone. This suited me fine as I was already running VERY late!

As I rolled into the finished my Garmin stopped at 16 hours 32 min, 153 km and 4000 m vertical of climbing which had made for a long hard day in the saddle.

 I was disappointed that I was so far off the pace (winning time in actual race was 10 hours 26 min) , but proud of my effort and had a new found respect for the effects of altitude and how fast the guys that live and train in this area can ride. 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Contact Epic

After the Naseby 12 hour I was forced to let me knee recover which did not allow any specific final preparation for the Contact Epic. This was to be the first time doing the Epic and I was excited to see what this iconic race had to offer. Due to bad weather the day before the course was changed to and an out and back format as the river crossings at the top end of the lake were too high to safely cross.
It was a chilly start but things soon warmed up with a fast pace set off the front. Carnage seems to be the only way to describe the first 30 min as riders jostled for position in the front bunch. Narrowly missing 2 crashes in which riders locked their breaks up on straight sections of road I was happy to settle into a small group just off the back of the lead bunch.
Not long before busting my back wheel
Photo from:

About an hour into the race descending down from the bluff I went through a rocky ford and heard a big BANG as my rear wheel slammed into a big rock.  Puncture! Bugger! I was surprised at my tyre going instantly flat as I was running tubeless, but I did not think too much of it. I jumped off and set to work putting in a tube, I was confident that my day was not over yet. Back up and running with minimal time lost, but as soon as I started pedalling I heard, psss, psss, psss, psss with every wheel revolution! Not a another puncture surely.
I jumped off to investigate and soon found out why my tyre had gone flat so fast in the first place. I had put a big dent in my rim and now as I pedalled the left over sealant was leaking out. Inspecting the rim and the spokes I was not sure if I would be able to keep riding, would my wheel hold to pieces of disintegrate on me? I thought about turning around and heading for home but then the thought of riding against the flow of the 500 odd competitors soon changed my mind. I decided I would keep riding conservatively and see how the wheel holds together. Worse case scenario I can pull out at the Dingleburn and spend the day eating the scones at the famous aide station.

The rim after it all

As I rode the wheel seemed to be holding together ok so I started to work hard on the flats and up hills and take it easy on the down hills. I rolled through Dingleburn and decided it was such a nice day I might as well keep riding playing 'PAC MAN' and seeing how many of the lost places I could make up.
At the half way point I was way down the field but kept pushing trying to reel in as many riders in front of me as I could. I could start to feel the back wheel becoming wobbly as it became more and more buckled and hear the spokes starting to clink around.
Limping towards the finish
Photo from:

The end could not come soon enough as I rolled in through the finishing chute in 24th place. While it was less than a great performance, I had a great day out on what is truly an amazing course.

My back wheel was a complete write off with multiple broken spokes and rim damage which I was apparently lucky that it held together for me as well as it did. Thankfully the mechanics at R&R Sport Dunedin had me back up and running in no time at all.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Naseby 12 hour

To say my training has been up and down since the Great Southern Brevet would be a huge understatement. While the event itself provided a huge learning curve the recovery time following it was also full of learning experiences.

My knee took a long time to get better and then just as it was almost 100% again, a small knock during a slow speed crash on the MTB flared it up and I was back to square one again. This was an ongoing niggly injury that would come back to haunt me at Naseby. Coupled with this, I was struck down with a couple of colds and a stomach bug. The combination of still being slightly immune compromised and Elsie starting day care and bringing germs home meant I never got a good consistent training block.

Despite all of this I rolled up to Naseby 12 hour looking forward to the challenge that lay ahead. I had never ridden Naseby solo and it had also been a while since my last 12 hour race, so I was keen to get stuck into it. Arriving on Friday evening Nick (support crew extraordinaire) and I went out for a bit of a recon on the course before it got too dark. As it turned out, it got too dark about half way around the course so we had to bail early and head back to camp. All in all the course was running well and was the typical dry Naseby ridding conditions. Oh how this was about to change. At some stage during the night it started to rain and when I emerged from the tent in the morning it was clear to see that the track was going to be anything but dusty.

The first lap of the course was carnage with people losing control everywhere in the wet conditions. I was happy to sit back and cruise knowing that I still had a long day ahead. The mud was terrible and I was reduced to only a couple of gears until I finally did a lap on Nicks bike while mine got a clean. Slowly lap by lap the course started to dry out and parts even started to ride really well as it started to bed in.
 Around about the half way mark I started to feel my knee and achilles from the GSB. I was holding 3rd place and just focused on hold a 'steady' pace and chipping away at the laps. As the time ticked by my knee was getting more and more sore. By the final 2 hours I was struggling to put any load through it. I was glad to hold on to 3rd place and finally get a chance to rest the legs as I rolled in from my final lap.

All in all a good day out in the mud. Now it is time to put some focused effort on getting my injuries 100%.

Photo credits: St James Mountain Sports

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The ups and downs of the Great Southern Brevet 2014

I was exhausted! I reached for my drink bottle and drunk the last mouthful of dirty warm water as I shoved a piece of cold mince pie in my mouth. There I was, standing on the side of the road 10 km from Tekapo and the finish of the Great Southern Brevet 2014. My feet were throbbing, I had red hot pains shooting through my Achilles, one knee was swollen from the 1000 odd km of riding and my other knee was really swollen due to a crash late last night. Oh and guess what? My arse felt like it had been repeatedly hammered by a blunt instrument and sand papered for the last 4 days! As I looked up the road all I could see was another hill and the consistent head wind was getting really old! I was so close to the finish but it felt so far away.

The course 

When I signed up for the Great Southern Brevet I had wanted a challenge. A new challenge that would test my physical and mental limits. At ~1100 km, ~14000 m of climbing and the self supported solo style, the GSB ticked all of the 'right' boxes. My goals going into the ride were simple. I wanted to ride as much of the available 20 hour ride time each day (you were require to stop for 4 hours every 24 hours). I planned to do this by riding until 2 am each night/ morning and then stopping for a snooze between the hours of 2-6 am. If I could ride as hard and as consistent as I could then no doubt my physical and mental limits would be pushed to their limits.

Day 1:
As all 70 riders meet at the start line at the Church of The Good Shepherd overlooking lake Tekapo, I felt well out of my depth. There was a lot of talk about previous Brevet races people had done, big training weeks (see how I trained HERE) and age old gear debates (see what gear I took HERE). Being a newbie I did not know what to expect and I just had to keep reminding myself that the only way to tackle the daunting task that lay ahead was one pedal stroke at a time. Simple.
As we rolled out of town and started to climb over towards Lake Pukaki six or so riders started to pull away from the main field. We settled into a steady pace and the km's started to roll by. I had planned to carry enough food and water so I did not have to make a stop in Twizel. While it meant carrying some extra weight it would save a lot of time not having to stop. So while everyone pulled in for a stop at Twizel I quickly did my check in text and then kept rolling. Out the front by myself now, I settled into a steady pace and made my way towards the first real climb of the day up to Flanagan Pass. This was a tough push/ carry and the calf muscles were feeling the burn big time. Breaking the climb down into 20 - 30 steps at a time, I made my way to the top and took a moment to admire the stunning views of Lake Ohau before getting started on the brilliant downhill.

At the top of Flanagan Pass

Down on the lake front there was still no wind and I was still out on my own, so it was steady as she goes as the road joined up with the Alps to Ocean trial. Climbing once again, this time on the opposite side of Lake Ohau the views were amazing in the low afternoon light. Once at the Tarnbrae High Point it was time to enjoy a fantastic downhill and final pull into Omarama. A quick stop in at the petrol station to stock up on some water and I was on the road out of town with a few hours of day light left in the sky.

Tarnbrae High Point with Omarama in the distance

When the going got tough all you had to do was take a look around and it was all worth it. Lake Ohau

The climb up to Omarama Saddle was a tough haul with 170 odd km in the legs. I got into a routine in which I would ride as long as I could until my legs could not go any more. Then I would get off my bike and push it for 100 steps to give the legs a rest before getting on and riding again. It was not the prettiest way to get up a hill, but if there is one thing multisport and adventure racing has taught me is that relentless forward momentum (RFM) pays off. One pedal stroke and one step at a time, that was what was going to get me up this hill. As it turned out the Omarama Saddle climb was the gift that just kept on giving and it was not until around 10 pm, just as the sun was going down that I crest the top of the saddle and started on the descent. As I started down the Manuherika Valley I encountered the first of many river crossings. Ranging from knee to ankle deep, there was river crossing after river crossing. This is what it was all about. Carrying your bike through rivers, in the dark, by yourself, in the middle of nowhere. If this was Brevet racing then I was loving it!

Amazing evening sky on the climb up to the Omarama Saddle

I had seen some huts on the map that I thought could have been a good place to sleep on the first night. However, as I rolled past the first hut it was not even 11 pm yet, well short of my 2 am target. So I kept riding to see how far I could get, St Bathans maybe?
After the last of the river crossing it was back into some solid riding on a gravel road. Just after midnight I arrived in St Bathans and decided to sit down on the ground for the first time today. As I sat there to send my check in text I shared some muesli bar with a friendly little hedge hog on the side of the road. Still short of my 2 am goal I saddled back up and pushed on. Arriving at the bottom of the Thompson Gorge climb the wind had picked up and I could hear it howling through the gorge. Having been though Thompson Gorge when training and racing in the Gold Rush Multisport race I knew it could get pretty nasty in there with the wind. It was just after 1:30 am and I figured that this would be a good place to have a kip before pushing on through Thompsons in the morning. Who knows, the wind might even die down by then.
I huddled down behind a bush in my bivy bag and cooked up a feed of Back Country Cuisine freeze dried spaghetti bolognaise. With a full stomach I lay down trying to fall asleep. However, whether it was the noise of the howling wind or the fact that I was still buzzing from the riding from day 1 there was not much sleeping happening during this 4 hour rest stop.

Day 2:
My alarm went off just after 5 am, I rolled over and started heating some water for porridge and a warm drink (I was very pleased at my choice to bring the cooker as this was one item I had hummed and harred about). Packed up and on the bike I had a really sore right knee as I started to climb. I must have banged it last night during the river crossings as there was a bruise starting to come out, bugger, I hope it does not get to bad.
As it turns out the wind in Thompson Gorge had not died down and I was faced with strong gusts that would blow me across the road into the gutter/ almost over the cliff or to a complete stop. Once out of Thompsons and on the road to Hawea the wind did not improve any. Strong head winds made the going very slow and tough. Thinking ahead to the crossing of Lake Wakatipu I thought that I could potentially catch the final 6 pm crossing on the Earnslaw tonight all going well. This wind was not helping my case though. As I made my way into Wanaka the heavens opened and it started to pour.

 Coming into Wanaka in the Rain

Stocking up on energy products

It was a welcome sight in Wanaka to have some of the athletes I work with cheering me on. After a quick stop at Races Edge powered by R&RSport to pick up some gels and bars, then a run through at the Bakery for a sandwich and cream donut it was back on the road heading up the Cardrona valley. The easy road ride soon gave way to the steep climb up to Rock Peak. This was a very tough push climbing ~ 1200 m on steep rutted tracks. While the rain had stopped since Wanaka the wind was unreal as I climbed higher. False summit after false summit kept appearing and I could feel every single one of the 1200 m, was this climb ever going to end? Unfortunately the thick cloud meant that the views from the top were very minimal. Luckily this did not affect the quality of the downhill which was great fun and well earned after all of the climbing.
Heading down into Arrowtown it was clear that I was not going to make the 6 pm Earnslaw sailing. During a quick stop in Arrowtown there was a rumour of an 8 pm sailing, which if I rode hard I could maybe make! Riding hard through the endless Queenstown trail network, the clock was ticking and it was going to be very tight. I finally rolled into Queenstown at 8:10 pm and there was no Earnslaw! Apparently there was in fact no 8 pm sailing, bugger. Luckily I was able to squeeze onto a water taxi and did not have to overnight in Queenstown and give away the lead I had built up.
Getting on the water taxi to Walter Peak Station

Once over at Walter Peak Station I found it hard to get into a rhythm again. I had a quick stop and got stuck into the sandwich that I had brought in Wanaka. I realised that this was the first solid food I had had since the cream donut while leaving Wanaka. Instead I had opted for the fast acting ' high octane fuel' in the form of gels and lollies to keep me going through the high workloads over Rock Peak. Now with some solids in the stomach I felt like a million bucks and I was soon rolling again down the Von River Valley.

Amazing scenery around Walter Peak Station 

As I rode along in the dark I got a huge fright as a light lit up behind me. Was it a car, a rider? As I looked around I saw the most amazing full moon climbing up from behind a ridge. It was incredibly bright and I almost did not need my lights to see. Recharged by this amazing experience I ploughed on through the cold clear night until 2 am. Finding a soft grassy spot on the side of the road I dragged myself into my bivy bag and it was lights out almost immediately.
Crossing into Southland. I was shocked when I was not asked for my passport!

Day 3:
Waking from a deep sleep just after 5 am I cooked up the most amazing breakfast of warm Back Country Cuisine freeze dried Three Fruit Cheese Cake. This was the most delicious thing I had ever eaten, on the side of a road, in the middle of nowhere! It was quite a cold morning as I headed towards Mossburn. My right knee had not improved any since yesterday. Funny that I though a couple of hundred km's would have sorted it out. It was really sore and I hoped that it would not get too much worse.

Early morning breakfast views

 As the sun rose above the hills it turned into a picturesque Southland morning. When I arrived in Mossburn I had my first 'sit down' meal in the local cafe with a bunch of confused looking Asian tourists. Ordering way to much food, I stuffed the extra into my pack for later in the day. Rolling out of Mossburn for a relatively short push to Garston along the main road I was feeling good and looking forward to the upcoming haul through the Nevis Valley.

 Was this really a good way to go?

 Historic Nevis Ski Hut

The climb up to the top of the Nevis was a Scorcher with the sun now high in the sky. The road was in great conditioning making climbing out of the saddle a good option to give the butt a rest now and then. A quick stop at the historical ski hut for some body and bike maintenance, I soaked in the views before heading off for the final part of the climb and then the downhill. With the wind at my back the ride down through the valley was great and the back country views were stunning. The multiple river crossings through the valley were a welcoming break from riding and a chance to cool off. The enjoyment soon wore off as my attention turned to the climb out of the valley over Duffers Saddle. This steep climb was made all the more tough as there were 5 trucks carrying gravel up and down the road as part of some road works that were going on. This meant every couple of minutes I would get a massive face full of dust as one of the trucks roared past.

Top of the climb. Still on the right road at this stage!

As I wound my way through the roads above Clyde I found myself at a cross roads with the option of heading right or left. This is where I ran into my first problem. The maps that I had printed for this leg of the ride did not show very good detail. I had thought that the navigation was going to be pretty straight forward here, and in hindsight I guess it was and I was just not thinking straight due to fatigue. But I could not work out where I was on the map. Looking through the ride notes the kilometre markers and turn instructions were not much good to me as my odometer was out due to the fact that it did not register at speeds below 4 km/h, meaning that the pushing and carrying uphill and through rivers that I did earlier in the day had not been included to the figure that was now showing on my screen. This is where it would have been great to 1) have a GPS (which was sitting at home on my desk) and 2) be riding with others so I could talk over route choices. With neither of those options available at the moment I choose to turn left, which as it turns out was the wrong way completely.
The detour! The way I was meant to go (red) and the way I went (orange)

I soon learnt the errors of my way when I emerged at Bannockburn. Absolutely gutted that I was now off course, I made the decision to take the main road from Cromwell to Clyde and pick up the course there. Why I did not choose to back track? I am not sure, as it would have likely been much faster, but in my fatigued and pissed off state I could not face heading back up the long hill I had just descended.
I set to work making up for lost time on the ~30 km detour. As I crossed the Cromwell Bridge I heard the sound that no rider wants to hear, hhhhhiiiiiisssssss as all of the air rushed out of by back tyre. I pulled out the big piece of glass sticking out of it hoping the tubeless sealant would seal up the hole. Unfortunately the gash was too big and before I knew it my tyre was completely flat. I sat on the side of the road in the howling wind and set to work changing my tyre. I had signed up for a physical and mental challenge, this was sure doing it!
Setting to work focusing on the process of how I was going to get back on track I put my head down and started pedalling. My pace was painfully slow as I pushed into the head wind through the Cromwell Gorge,  one pedal stroke at a time, one pedal stroke at a time. I breathed a sigh of relief as I finally caught sight of the Clyde Dam. On to the Clyde to Alex river trail I was back on course and had managed to lose minimal ground. Unfortunately the detour meant that I was arriving in Alexandra in the dark which was going to slow down the next stage.
It was great to see some familiar faces in Alex during my quick refuel stop at the petrol station. Heading into the Knobby Range track I was taking extra caution finding my way through the maze of tracks and trails around this area. As I started my push up the track it was quite over grown and in the dark it was slow going as I kept checking the map to make sure I was in the right place. 10 km into the stage I came to one of the important cross roads. In the dark I had troubles picking up the faint farm track that I was meant to be on. After 15 min of looking I decided to bed down for the night. I think it was around 1 am and I was not getting anywhere fast. I found a comfortable sleeping spot back at the last point where I knew I was on the map and waited for dawn.

Day 4:
I was up before dawn, packed and ready to ride. The cloudy morning meant that it took a while to see the track it needed to be on. Sitting on top of a rock tor I could finally make out the faint farm track making its way up the ridge in the distance. I set off up the hill with my legs feeling surprisingly good and NO knee pain, yay. However, now my right Achilles was sore, which potentially could have been from me over - compensating for my knee.
Looking back towards Alex on the Knobby Range

I had been here before, again as part of the Gold Rush Multisport Race, however heading in the opposite (downhill) direction. The climb to the top soon gave way to a fantastic downhill into Roxburgh which helped bump the average speed up and clock up some easy k's for the morning. A quick shop in Roxburgh for what I thought could be my last opportunity to get fresh supplies and then it was off up the epic climb to Lake Onslow. The inside of my mouth and tongue had developed some painful sores that stung when eating. Choosing 'comfortable' foods to eat now became a real challenge. One thing I found really good was the small bottles of favoured milk. There is even some research out there showing flavoured milk to be an effective sports drink, so it ticked two boxes.
I broke up the ~30 km climb up to Lake Onslow into 10 km segments having a small rest and something to eat following each segment. The mist was hanging low around the hills keeping temperatures cool as I climbed. I finally broke through the mist and was greeted by the sprawling Lake Onslow and some well overdue downhill. The next few hours were taken up with rolling high country terrain and what felt like hundreds of farm gates (it is amazing how many different latch configurations farmers can come up with to keep their gates closed. Over this trip I beat I have seen them all). Down onto the Maniototo Plains and it was a strong head wind all of the way into Ranfurly for a quick feed, air the feet out and swap some chat with some friends who meet me there.
Somewhere on hot and dusty road

After 10 min or so it was time to push on to Naseby, Danseys Pass, Kurow and who knows maybe, even make a start on the Hukataramea Valley. With 145 km already in the legs it would be a game of wait and see. While the Naseby Water Race Track was a nice break from the 'gravel grinding' the bumps were torture on my battered bum. Luckily it was only a short detour. The streets of Naseby were buzzing with families enjoy the last of the sunshine as I pasted through only stopping to use the toilet. The climb up to Danseys Pass was a little bit of a letdown (in a good way). I had prepared myself for another epic climb, however the grade was quite gentle and more than manageable. As I rode towards the ominous looking dark clouds I knew that I was going to be getting a bit wet for the second time in the Brevet. As I crested the pass the thick fog limited visibility to about 5 meters and it was raining quite steadily. I rugged up warm and started the descent in the fog and now the dark. With minimal visibility the descent was extremely slow going.

If the going was not already slow enough I came around the corner onto a bridge that had raised wheel tracks. I found myself in the middle of the bridge between the raised tracks and was drifting to the outside of the bridge due to coming out of the corner. My wheels started rubbing up against the raised wheel tracks and I tried to get back into the middle. However, with the weight of my loaded bike, downhill speed and force coming out of the corner I could not pull myself back on track and ended up hitting the ground hard. My right knee took the full impact of the crash and almost instantly started to swell Great, now my right knee was sore again! With blood running down my leg and my knee stiff and swollen I took stock of the situation and did a bit of a quick body check. Nothing else felt broken or bruised, what a relief. I proceeded to Duntroon with whatever the equivalent is of limping on a bike is. All I can tell you is that it was slow.

 My knee at Duntroon

My knee in Tekapo the next day after finishing

At Duntroon I was having trouble pedalling so I stopped to inspect the damage. I got out my compression bandage and bandaged my knee as tight as possible while still allowing some movement for pedalling. Then getting back on the bike I pointed towards Kurow and half one legged pedalled and rolled the longest 20 km of my life along the 'painfully' straight flat highway. When I finally arrived at Kurow I doubted I would be able to make it to Tekapo tomorrow with how my knee was. Because it was around 1.30 am I knew Lily would not have appreciated a SOS call for a ride, so I decided to get some sleep and see how it felt in the morning. As I lay there with my knee throbbing I had a feeling that the morning was not going to be bring anything apart from aches and pain!

Day 5:
I woke up in a content sleepy daze. This soon disappeared as I quickly remembered where I was, how I felt and what there was left to do. I sat up and went to get out of my bivy bag. Then I felt it, my knee. While it was not as acutely sore as it was last night it was not very keen on bending. I pulled on my shorts for one last time, just as well as, the chammy felt like cardboard. I used copious amounts of chammy cream everywhere and then hobbled around getting my bike packed.
All that separated me from Tekapo now was 105 km and 1110 m of climbing up and over the Hakataramea Pass. Luckily the going was pretty easy early on and it gave my knee a chance to warm up. As long as I did not push too hard with my right leg the pain in my knee was bearable, just. I plugged in the ipod for the first time this trip and set to work ticking off some k's. As long as the conditions stayed good I could be in Tekapo for lunch, maybe.
The sun was out, it was calm and things were good. I reached the end of the seal at Cattle Flat and had a quick stop to finish off a pie that I had picked up in Ranfurly yesterday. I washed this down with some water that had a mix of 1/2 tablet of Nuun Cola and 1/2 tablet of Nuun Tri berry. Which tasted pretty close to raspberry and coke! Yum. The only complaint is that it did not come with ice.

 At the top of Haka Pass

Not far to go now!

Pushing on, the wind started to pick up as I climbed up towards the Haka Pass. I was greeted with amazing views of Mt Cook and a stunning downhill. The easy run had to end soon and as I hit the seal and pointed my nose towards the final haul to Tekapo I was greeted with a stiff headed wind. It ticked over 12 O'clock which meant I had missed lunch time in Tekapo. I pushed on along the seemingly endless road and then that was it. I was exhausted! I reached for my drink bottle and drunk the last mouthful of dirty warm water as I shoved a piece of cold mince pie in my mouth. My feet were throbbing, I had red hot pains shooting through my Achilles and both knees were swollen. Oh and guess what? My arse felt like it had been repeatedly hammered by a blunt instrument and sand papered for the last 4 days! As I looked up the road all I could see was another hill and the consistent head wind was getting really old! I was so close to the finish but it felt so far away.
I had signed up to push myself and find my limits. I wondered if this was it. Was this my limit or just another low point. I took a big deep breath and started off again, one pedal stroke at a time. Struggling up the final climb I started to see signs advertising Tekapo, not far now, surely. Finally I rounded a corner and caught a glimpse of the bright blue lake peppered with white capped waves from the wind. The final downhill in to Tekapo was magic and as I pedalled along the final straight back to the Church of the Good Shepherd all of the fatigue, soreness and pain disappeared. I was greeted by my wife Lily and daughter Elsie. I sat on the grass and relaxed (truly relaxed) for what felt like the first time since I left this place.

Pleased to be finished

It was around 1 pm and I had done it. 1100 km + with ~14000 m of climbing in just under 100 hours. According to my GPS tracker I covered 279 km on average each day with an average moving speed of 15.1 km/h. I had seen some amazing places and been some places that I had no real desire to go back to any time soon with a fully laden bike. I was truly a trip of huge highs and lows. Would I do it again..........YES, but not for a while.

A big thanks to Dave for organising such an amazing ride and well done to all of those who took part. Big love to Lily and Elsie for giving me so much strength and thanks to all of you for your support on line and out on the course. Also to my sponsors who helped me get to the start line and helped kit me out with the best gear.
Everyone was out there for different reasons and with different goals. I just hope everyone found what they came looking for. I know I did.

If you are interested in the gear that I used check out this video or if you are keen to know how I trained for this read this article.

New bike! Giant XTC 1 29er

Cheers to the guys in at R&R Sport for getting me my new Giant XTC 1 29er sorted out and set up for me.
Rather than writing about my new ride check out a quick review video of it below.

2013 wind up

Man 2013 just disappeared and 2014 is starting to disappear as well! It has was a whirl wind but a great time in the Graham household over 2013. Below is a summary of November and December.

In early November I competed in the Dunedin 6 hour MTB race. A very wet, muddy track meant for a tough day on the bike with my gears limited only to a few gears in the big chain ring. I ended up placing 2nd to Tom Bradshaw who is a sharp young athlete that I work with and is training for some World Cup races in 2014. So it was good to see him performing so well. 

Thanks again to Brendan Ward Photography for his amazing photos

In mid November we headed to America as a family to catch up with the American family and show Elsie off to everyone over there. I am pretty lucky in that Lily (my wife) is from the mountain town of Durango Colorado. This amazing high altitude town has some amazing riding so I spent most of our holiday taking in as many of the trails as possible and used the chance to demo some different bikes.

Bring on 2014!