Monday, 11 January 2010
Wind and Whales
They call them "The Southerlies". In any other country the word would denote a simple wind direction: Nor'wester etc or a dodgy Country N' Western band. In the South island of New Zealand they are more than a mere wind direction. The issue is geographical. Winds from Antarctica blow across the southern ocean, picking up speed and intensity. The first land mass they hit is New Zealand, specifically the South island - more specifically the coastal areas of the South island.
You can tell what is coming.
I did say yesterday that even though todays 129km ride looked inocuous enough - the conditions could cause carnage. They did.
Lets back it up first - an early start this morning 0550 for coffee before a 5min walk to the local pool in Blenheim. I had already decided to do a few bonus points sets with David Craig (the premise is that Scott Molina pens a number of swim sets that you can acrue bonus points for. David and I were targting the 12 x 150fs/100IM - which in English means swim 150m freestyle immeadiately followed by 100m individual medley (fly/back/breast/free) done 12 times in a row without stopping. This would net us a 3km swim and a bonus point. After doing this and struggling with 25 athletes in 3 lanes, David and I nabbed a lane each after the others had finished and did 200m fly - another bonus point. It wasnt pretty, it wasn't efficient but we both got through it.
Breakfast at the motel (my standard breakfast - 4 slices toast with Nutella) was followed by the entire camp rolling out together ready for an early chance at glory - the KOM (KOM is King Of the Mountains - points are awarded for your position at the top of a climb - denoted by the committee). The KOM for today was 5km from the motel. That fact coupled with 25 'rested' athletes looking for glory made for the hardest first 20km of the camp so far - i was stuck over 300W for the first 10 minutes as cyclists shot up the road. Eventually a breakaway group formed and it was left to John Newsom and Scott Molina to pull a group of 10 (including me). Rob Reid - you would be proud - I attacked our group on a small rise before the start of the climb and even though Newsom, Molina and a few others came past I held on for 9th - my best placing by far. It cost me though, my highest HR and avg wattage seen so far this camp. But hey ho - its only 109km left right? How hard can that be?
This is where the aforementioned southerlies came into play - we ground our way down to Kaikoura into a stiff, cold, nasty headwind. To put it into perspective I recorded my highest avg wattage for a ride this camp and my lowest avg speed. Not good. As the road wound its way into a bay, we would get a few moments of relief before the next headland. I dont think anyone had any other thoughts except head down and push. Thank god it wasnt 180km. Oh wait, thats tomorrow :-(
No one had a really good day and everyone seemed to suffer (although some naturally more than others) - unless you were heading North, it wasnt a good day to be cycling the South island.
On a more positive note the scenery was jaw droppingly beautiful - when i managed to put my head up into the wind I caught glimpses of cresting waves crashing against rocks, seal colonies stretched out lazily over the coast, snow capped mountains in the distance and miles and miles of deserted beach. Kaikoura itself is a popular destination for whale watching - I looked (briefly) but saw no whales. Maybe tomorrow.
Alas the day was not over - as i mentioned yesterday, I need to run. So I laced up and ran 5.5km along the coast to a well known seal colony - snapped some pictures (seals are SO cute!) and then ran/shuffled the 5.5km back to the hotel for a massage (more pain) and coffee/cheesecake.
As you can imagine "The Southerlies" are on everyones mind. Will they abate? Will they swing round to a bog standard, helpful and not-nearly-so-importantly-named northerly? The forecasts, like most countries fixated with the weather (UK included) all seem to contradict each other. Some seem to say "relax, its a tailwind - lie in and you'll still be there by lunch" others are more "you'd better leave now if you want to be in Christchurch by tomorrow evening fat boy".
So a simple method from Scotland - "wake up and stick your heed oot the windae - and take a jacket"
180km to Christchurch tomorrow over rolling hills - the South island version of SBH.
first though a 7km run - 3km swim in Kaikouras outdoor pool (wetsuit needed) - and 2km run before breakfast.
Big day - pray for a tailwind!
POTD is another action shot - me leading a small group of Russell and Lee. The expression on our faces says a lot.