The Bike the Trail ride last week was fun, but being 99.9% flat, and generally downhill, not particularly strenuous. The annual Hospi Bike Ride fundraiser for Wellington Children's Hospital (and this year Canterbury earthquake relief as well) is something of a different beast. Twice as long at 50 kilometres, uphills totalling about 700m of climbing, and not a lot of flat bits anywhere. On Bike the Trail my experience of riding into the wind was to come in handy, on this one my hill climbing experience was exploited.
My goals were not to come last, and not be forced to get off and walk at any point, both of which I managed. It was about as hard as I expected in terms of hills, and none of the climbs encountered were harder than what I have learned to cope with when I ride to and from my house (having an ambulance momentarily shadow me climbing up Makara hill was slightly disturbing though), even if they were completed not particularly quickly. Also every climb was rewarded with an immensely fun downhill, the best of which was a couple of K's worth from Brooklyn to Owhiro Bay, without pedalling. Not out of laziness, but because my mountain bike gearing makes pedalling ineffective above 40 or so KPH.
This being a road oriented event, and us riding on mountain and commuter bikes rather than road bikes meant it took us around three hours to do the 50K. The hard-core road cyclists on the other hand (including my nephew) started finishing after less than an hour and a half on the route. My nephew placed 10th. I placed 263rd (out of 277 finishers), so will happily bask in his reflected glory. He did it in almost exactly half the time we did. To be fair though, he is exactly half my age, his road rather than mountain bike probably weighs half as much as mine (definitely way less), is geared and rigged for way higher speed than mine and he is probably twice as fit :). That's my excuse anyway and I am sticking to it.
On to the pics. Fi acted as support crew, photographer and cheerer-oner, but couldn't follow us out onto the rural part of the route (we didn't think it would be smart to add to the bikes/cars/narrow windy road combo) so there aren't any pics from there. Speaking of cheerer-oners, all the marshals marking the course were really nice and encouraging at every turn, especially since we were slow and responsible for keeping them out on the course longer. I really enjoyed it. It struck me later on in the day that at no point on the ride did I think "this sucks, I want a break". I had fun the whole time.
Who can resist a cuddly furry mascot? Not us.
Getting ready to go. We thought about attaching the seat and having Charlotte ride with me, but not having ridden the route before, and a lot of it being a long way from anywhere by bike, thought better of it. Charlotte wasn't entirely convinced she wasn't going riding with Dad this morning though. We sort of planned to put her on the back once we were back in the suburbs, but she was napping in the car by then.
Our intrepid trio of me, Rich and Maria, wearing possibly famous last smiles before the start. Snoopy along for the ride because I figured for something like this event a mascot was in order. It isn't like his drag was going to slow me down or anything. I'm built more for endurance than speed. I also happened to wear appropriate for the charity Canterbury colours, by accident rather than design. I was more focussed on the Greatest American Hero T being a good ironic thing to wear for a potentially tough physical activity than anything else :)
The front part of the pack assembling for the start, including the cycling advocate Mayor (Mayoress?) of Wellington ("So what did you get up to this morning?" "Oh nothing much, just went cycling with the mayor. Oh and 300 other people..").
Setting off, 50 K's to go, and about to be blitzed left, right and centre by passing road cyclists going a lot faster than us.
The first gentle climb of the route, warming up for the first hard climb literally around the corner. Was gratified to pass people on the climb (since I haven't often ridden hill climbs with others, I have little idea what my relative ability at this is).
Close to the rear of the pack, but progressing steadily through Karori having just climbed and descended Makara hill. Smiles from knowing that theoretically the hardest bit is now done, even if there are still 20 odd K to go.
Hooning down from Karori at something close to the legal speed limit. Another hard climb from Aro Valley to Brooklyn still to go (but still not as steep as part of my regular run home. Just longer).
We three tired but happy at the end, after three hours of cycling. I got a cramp in one of my legs with about five K to go, but managed to stave it off by quickly chopping about half a bottle of Powerade (thought process: "Ow, is that cramp? I think it is. Trying to massage it out isn't working, what fixes cramp? Hydration, and that electrolyte stuff all the advertising mentions might help. Wait I still have Powerade in the rack!" Gulp! Cramp abates). Nice to know that sports drinks are more than just fancy advertising and can be useful rather than just looking good. Also a reminder to keep my fluids up next time regardless of feeling thirsty or not.
On completion every rider was rewarded with a bottle of Powerade, and a little lion mascot. Charlotte quickly requisitioned the latter.
There is a write up from a cycling website with nice pics here (it makes me feel better about my ride that they describe the hill climbs as 'tough'). The pics are from the top of the first hard climb of the route in Johnsonville. My pic is in the red helmet group, while my nephew is the fourth picture in the blue helmet group. I take a bit of solace in the fact that while a heap faster, he looks like he is working a lot harder than I am :).