Epic Camp New Zealand 2010 Day 8 – Winds into Wellington

The last day on the North island and appropriately for a trip to Wellington it was windy. The threat of gales was such that we had to get on the bikes early to have a decent chance of making it over the Rimutakas. We rolled out of Masterton at about 7:30 in the morning and headed off into more of the fantastic countryside we’d enjoyed on yesterday’s ride.

The pace wasn’t too hard for the first 66km into Featherston. I spent some time on the front again which was fun. I’m growing to enjoy sitting on the front of groups, just have to pick the right group or time to do so! The terrain was rolling and scenic and the building winds were obvious. We reached Featherston in a little over 2 hours so had made decent time.

A regrouping and chance to take on some food before we all headed off to take on the climb over the Rimutakas. Despite living in Wellington for a few weeks I’d yet to have ridden over them. Partly because it’s highway 2 that crosses the range and that’s not a fun road to ride. With a strong Westerly blowing our crossing was going to be particularly challenging.

A lot of the group were already ahead of me as I hit the road. Whilst the winds were going to make things tough for me Steven was clearly having a worse time. I passed him working on a dropped chain, unfortunately I could see it had nasty twists in it. The next time we saw him he was riding a small bike borrowed from one of the documentary crew. It ensured he got to ride the entire North island at the least.

My climb was pretty average. The road itself isn’t too difficult, but with the wind it became particularly tough. You’d turn a corner into strong headwinds. At it’s worst I stalled. Hitting an inclined corner in my lowest gear and then receiving a strong blast of wind to the face I went from about 8kph to zero. I only just managed to unclip my foot and get it on the ground before I toppled.

After that incident I was even more cautious for the rest of the ride. Fortunately nothing ever came quite as close to that again, but I never managed to climb at my best. I’m finding it hard to really ramp the power up now. I can spend long times working at reasonable percentages of my FTP, but attacking a hill is getting beyond me!

A cautious descent followed that climb, though the wind never proved as problematic on the other side. At the bottom we regrouped again and waited for the last few riders. As mentioned for once Steven was the last, looking comical on far too small a bike. As ever he was in remarkably good mood about things. Standing around had made us all cold so everyone was glad to get back on the road.

From there on in it was familiar roads. We avoided the main highway and followed Dave C through Upper and Lower Hutt passing within about 5km of where I’m staying. Finally turning down the highway and into Wellington itself. I think everyone was on a bit of a high to have ridden the whole of the North island. We’re over halfway there now.

No rest for Epic Campers though. After a break we ran to Freyburg Pool for a swim. The 2km there and back were allowed as our run point for the day. I was relieved to not have to run much more. The main aim was to complete a 6km swim. This is my third Epic Camp, but the first time I’d done a 6km swim for bonus points. Previously I’d put it off when the opportunity was there.

I’ve found it hard to motivate myself to swim for that long in a pool. This time I had an ally in the form of Dave C. We planned to do it as thirty 200s with around 20 seconds rest between each. I was aiming to keep things easy to ensure I got through. We worked by alternating lead every five or so.

About halfway through Dave decided I was going slightly too fast for us to work together and we got on with our remaining lengths ourselves. I started by switching to 400s and then a couple of 800s just to get the whole thing done. The last kilometre felt like hard work and I was starving!

After the swim I sat in the changing room munching on a bag of peanuts and raisins whilst I waited for Dave. I knew I’d hoarded that food for some reason. We dashed back to the hotel in time to relax before dinner. A massive buffet that went down very well. Particularly the desserts. Three full bowls for me, not very paleo diet I know.

It’s an easy day tomorrow. Points are neutralised so we actually take it easy and don’t go and train ourselves to death. That said I may opt for an easy 30 minute run just to keep the legs moving. I have to admit after eight solid days of training taking a day off feels like I’m breaking my rhythm. Despite that I am looking forward to relaxing a little bit more before the last six days of camp.