The last two months have flown by in a flurry of activity, adventure and indulgence. Annual holidays and beautiful sunny weather have seen the Alterno Accidentals members venturing further afield as they train, alongside commitments to family and catch-ups with friends.
Megan and Kait have done lots of work building their navigation skills over the past two months with rogaines in Taupo and at Duder Regional Park (Auckland) with Rachel from Navigation North, as well as working through the orienteering courses set up at Mahurangi Regional Park (north of Auckland) and Te Mata Peak (Havelock North). In an effort to become more familiar with using topographical maps, they purchased the maps for Taupo and Whakatane and set about plotting a couple of short kayak trips on Lake Taupo, practicing using the compass and adjusting for the declination as well as taking a bearing. They were very happy to have the knowledge gained from Rachel’s navigation workshops and some extra tutoring from adventure racing legend Debbie Chambers to get them on their way. If navigation is something new for those taking part in Spirited Women this year, be aware that it does take a little bit of time and head space to work through figuring these things out. Our navigators have learned not to skimp on the time invested to hone these skills.
Mahurangi Regional Park / Te Mata Peak
They then headed up to Northland to ride the Pou Herenga Tai Twin Coast Trail from Opua on the east coast to Horeke on the west. This 87km ride takes cyclists through beautiful scenery on mostly Grade 2 trail (with a short Grade 3 section) and is very achievable. Happily there were no major incidents on the trip for either Megan or Kait – hydration and nutrition were well managed and they even managed to lend a hand to another rider who had a flat tyre. Sadly, the pump on the hire bike she had rented was not set up for the valve on the tyre – frustrating, though easily solved. It is definitely worth checking this in your preparations. For a full report of the trip, feel free to look at the Out and About section of the blog.
The journey begins…Day 1
…and continues on Day 2,
finishing with a well-deserved beer at the Horeke Tavern.
A trip to Northland wouldn’t have been complete without a visit to the newly opened Waitangi Mountain Bike Park. What an incredible community resource! Do go and check it out if you are up in that part of the country. The wide range of trails ensures that there is something for everyone and there were certainly some thrills had. It was very exciting for Megan to realise how far her confidence has grown since her first ride back in April 2017. One of the tracks, named Ruarangi, was shown on the map as being a Grade 2 so Megan confidently suggested that they ride that track. Ruarangi is a downhill return after a uphill climb on the track named Hua Hill (described as a mellow gradient climbing trail. In the words of our Tui comrades – yeah, right!!) Had Megan read the full description of the trail instead of just relying on the map indications, she might have changed her mind about riding Ruarangi but what a rush! The Park description: The top half is reasonably mellow (hmm, there’s that word again!), but features some great berm corners. The bottom half edges towards Grade 3 with faster sections and some table top jumps.” Faster sections – that’s a bit of an understatement! This was definitely Megan’s most technical ride to date, albeit short. Even Kait exclaimed on completion that at one point, coming off a jump, her bottom and both feet left the bike. Woohoo! Miraculously, however, there were no spills for either team member.
Waitangi Mountain Bike Park
On the subject of spills, the curse of the Accidentals did strike again over the holiday period with Kait taking a tumble during navigation training on Te Mata Peak (Hawkes Bay), Abby hitting the dirt on the Rotary Ride, (Taupo) and Penny hurting her foot (Wellington). While so far having avoided an accident, Megan did manage to come down with a dose of shingles, which slowed down her training somewhat.
So while Megan and Kait headed north for their holiday, Penny headed off to Mt Maunganui with family and friends, getting a number of ocean swims under her belt over the December/January period. Abby went south to the Manawatu with her family and a highlight for her was going hunting with her dad.
Family holidays for Abby also meant spending some time with Megan and Kait in Taupo, making three out of four members for a number of training events. But where’s Penny?? The mission of getting all four team members together in one place at the same time has continued to be a challenge so the team had to get creative.
Where’s my team? Where’s Penny?
Thanks to technology, the Alterno Accidentals have undertaken virtual training using Map my Ride, WhatsApp and a combination of texting and calling. Penny reckons it’s better than the real thing!
Is Penny avoiding us...?
There she is!
Then, by some cosmic alignment that can only be described as a Christmas miracle, all four team members were in Auckland at the same time for one day! Finally we were able to meet together and we spent the afternoon kayaking at Umupuia Beach (Duders Beach – to the east of Maraetai with Duder Regional Park on the headland immediately to the east). This was an extremely valuable opportunity to introduce Abby and Penny to each other and to sort out our kayaking pairs. Santa had been very generous and brought Megan a Viking 2+1 kayak for Christmas so we took that out on the water as well as two single kayaks.
As a team we tried every combination of pairs and well as every combination of position in the kayak – front or back. It was a very important process to go through. Since the person in the front is responsible for setting the pace for that kayak, twe needed to make sure that the person behind would be able to be sustain it. And since adventure racing is a team event, there was nothing to be achieved by having one crew that was really fast and second crew that was slow. Interestingly, we also discovered that some combinations made it very difficult to steer the kayak. This was particularly noticeable with Abby at the back and Megan at the front. Luckily, an incoming tide and an onshore breeze meant that there was no risk of heading out to sea, which was just as well since that was the only direction they could make the kayak go!
Jokes aside, knowing how the team will pair up in the kayaks and having had the chance to practise in these pairs, in the type of kayak that will be used on race day has reduced a significant amount of stress for team captain Megan. Biking and trekking really rely on individual competence and fitness and as such, team members are individually responsible for building their skills. But the kayaking really needs an opportunity to be developed collaboratively.
So now the final eight weeks are upon us and things are suddenly feeling very real. The training programmes from James Kuegler have activities increasing in frequency and duration and are a great guide for ensuring that you are keeping on track. In one of the virtual training sessions, our team discussed what aspect of the adventure race will pose the biggest individual challenge for them and what each will do in the lead up to address this. We can help keep each other accountable to these goals through texting, photos, sharing statistics through Map my Ride/Walk (even kayak!)
Come race day, we’ll be ready!