Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Father Randonneurmas Delivers

Thankyou Santa Mark Thomas.

I was hoping Santa was going to deliver the Audax Australia Checkpoint Magazine today, but he chose to surprise me instead .
Thank you Mark, and perhaps Santa is from quite as far north as the North Pole, as previously believed?

Mark, was riding on Audax Australia’s Sydney Melbourne 1200k where I had a bit of a spill after a collision with a wombat (more on this blog soon, or see the Summer Issue of Checkpoint Magazine). Aside from  five fractured ribs and a separated AC Joint on my shoulder, I did destroy some clothing and left a few scratches on my cycle. As I’ve previously noted, finding genuinely reflective isn’t the easiest of tasks, so it was wonderful to receive this surprise in the mail.


It serves an example of the camaraderie between Randonneurs around the world.
Merry Christmas everyone.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Gerry Eddlemon sets UMCA records in New Zealand

I followed along in the support vehicle as Gerry Eddlemon set about creating a UMCA record* for crossing the North Island. With no established UMCA records in New Zealand, Gerry selected a end points of Raglan and Te Araroa to set a course that travelled due west between each side of the North Island.

Riding in the support vehicle were crew chief Ron Skelton, Tim Neal, Di Chesmar, myself and UMCA officials Christine Couldrey and Tracy Parke. Add-in Gerry's ten laps of Taupo (1 x Extreme Enduro; 1 x Enduro) and there were 107 laps of the Contact Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge crossing the North Island!

Long distance cycling is going from strength to strength in New Zealand. Now that there are some records set*, let's see if we can all encourage greater participation in the sport.

* These records are pending ratification by the Ultra-Marathon Cycling Association. Gerry also created a record* across the South Island recently.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Kime Hut Temperature Experiments

This past weekend, I was on a tramping trip with the WTMC and we passed through the “new Kime Hut” twice due to the gale force winds turning us back at Mt Hector. Yes, another failed attempt at the Neill-Winchcombe Ridge.

These were of course my first visits to the “new Kime Hut”. It is located above the bushline, without any source of fuel for a fire. Without any heating it was bitterly cold inside and as an alpine hut, so I decided to repeat a past experiment of measuring the temperature inside and outside the hut. Each time leaving the thermometer away from body heat for 5-10 minutes before taking a reading.  From these measurements I learned that every trampers hope that the new Hut would be warmer have been dashed. If “old Kime Hut” was “The Fridge” then “new Kime Hut” must surely be The Chiller. I certainly do not possess scientifically calibrated equipment, and the table below is based on very few samples. However, it does show a clear pattern - that the new Hut has not broken from the heritage and legend of the infamously cold Hut that is recently replaced.

“old Kime Hut” 1978-2013
“new Kime Hut” 2013-…
"Old" Kime Hut (5 June 2009)
6 June 2009
26 October 2013 (Photo by Mike)
Outside temperature at 0230:
Inside temperature at 1120:
Inside temperature at 0240:
Outside temperature at 1132:
1.2C warmer inside
0.5C colder inside
Outside temperature at 0930:
Inside temperature at 1340:
Inside temperature at 0940:
Outside temperature at 1346:
0.8C warmer inside
0.3C colder inside
Body heat in hut:
1 person
Body heat in hut:
4 persons

You can find my original post from 2009 here: http://craig.mcgregor.gen.nz/2009/06/tararua-forest-park-kime-by-moonlight.html

Monday, 10 June 2013

RAAM it Home, Art!

It is June. This means only one thing. It’s RAAM time baby!

This is an epic race, with no stages, no domestiques with no contrived team tactics, nor team pharmacists. The strongest legs will win plain and simple. Some come to win, others come to finish this 3000 mile race, which is the pinnacle for an Ultra-Cyclist just as Everest is to mountaineer, the Olympics to a many athletes or a World Cup is to a rugby or a football player.

In the New Zealand corner for this years race is Art Schwencke (Team Riha) whom I met at the Lake Taupo Extreme Enduro in 2011. Like past years, I’ll be following the Race Across America very closely online, with a particular emphasis on following how our Kiwis are doing in the event. Bon Courage Art! I’ll endeavour to keep my spreadsheet of Kiwi efforts in the RAAM up to date as the race unfolds. The official race coverage can be found at http://www.ridefarther.com (Microsoft Silverlight is required to view the live tracking).

I've tried to embed the key bits of my spreadsheets below, so they will display on more devices. If you have an overlap issue due to site styling, click here.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

The Graperide Ultimate 505k

One year ago, I allowed a blot on my record. The ugly consecutive letters of  D, N & F. I failed to complete the 505k Graperide Ultimate. This remains the only time that I have failed to complete an endurance event (although, in one instance I completed the course but narrowly missed the final time-cut). I had to avenge this terrible blot on my record and complete the Graperide Ultimate in 2013 by completing the 505km in under the 24 hour time-limit. I have ridden over 500km plenty of times, but never within, or close to 24 hours before. 

Ride Data:
Distance: 494.7km
Time: 22h40m (elapsed)
20h44m (moving)
Elevation gain: 3,623m
Ride Data: Strava / Garmin Connect
Starters / Finishers 14 / 10 (71% finished)
Location: Renwick, Apr 5-6, 2013
Leading into the ride, I felt I had been riding stronger. Strava agreed, with (“post-Strava”) personal records being achieved almost everytime I sat on my Brooks saddle and pedalled for the month beforehand. I also reminded myself, that to improve on last year, I just had to get less than three punctures on the first lap! Thankfully, I was able to carry this form into the Ultimate, which I successfully completed in 22h40m. I was especially pleased to finish strongly, even after this distance rather than suffering, hurting and stubbornly pedalling to the finish. This finishing performance has left me pumped and motivated for larger challenges coming up later in the year.

Many of the usual New Zealand Ultra gang were at the startline – New Zealand 24hr Indoor Record holder Eugene Collins; NZ 24hr Outdoor Record holder Stu Downs, the first, and fastest Kiwi to finish the RAAM Joshua Kench, defending Ultimate champion Greg Manson, Tim “the Potato Guy” Neal, Uwe Paschke, Brandon Skilton, Damian Day and few others I hadn’t met before, including Craig Harper who finished 2nd. It looked like a strong field, and the high pace was evident with defending champion Greg Manson riding 12 minutes faster than 2012, to finish third.

Lap One (3h39m +12m):

Lap one began with most riders in a bunch, rotating out the work off the front until some of the faster guys decided to step on the gas as Blenheim approached, at which time I quickly found myself spat out in my usual place - off the back. I was resigned to not seeing any other riders for a few more laps, but was surprised to come across Eugene struggling a bit in the vicinity of Queen Charlotte Drive, and the Linkwater straights. I has passed him, but he came back riding fast and strong along the straights. I joked to myself at getting him on the approaching right-hand bend (Eugene had recently obtained the NZ Indoor 24 hour record on a velodrome, only turning left) and sure enough I did. Eugene was still overcooked from his record breaking feat and withdrew shortly after that.

Matt Oliver kindly helped me refill my bottles etc (thankyou!) and I was back underway after about 12 minutes replenishing my food and drinks, and putting my hi-viz gilet in my pocket for use later in the lap.

Lap Two (4h14m +25m):

I rode the second lap in solitude, but recall Matt Oliver advising me that Tim was aiming to catchup to me on this lap. Surprisingly, even after a bit of faffing making sure I had the right spare clothing for the pending cold of night, I still hadn’t seen Tim anywhere.

Graperide Ultimate 505k 2013
Place Rider Time
1st Joshua Kench 17h46m
2nd Craig Harper 17h49m
3rd Greg Manson 18h47m
4th Jamie Campbell 19h00m
5th Gary Bence 20h29m
6th Stu Downs 21h13m
7th Craig McGregor 22h40m
8th Uwe Paschke 23h10m
9th Brandon Skilton 23h41m
10th Jon Shutt 23h59m
Source: http://www.thetimingteam.co.nz

Lap Three: 13:15 (4h51m +15m)

Ugh! Punctured. Right outside the pub in Renwick to ensure that I got a running commentary as I changed the tube, and confirmed that bar patrons don’t know what Lance looks like (or that, he never had repair his own punctures). Following the repair in haste, I could feel a bump in the tyre as I rode off, and a short way down the road, I had to deflate and reseat the tyre into the rim wall correctly again. It was getting cooler, but the knee and merino arm warmer combo was working well.

Uwe passed early in this lap, on Queen Charlotte and I returned the favour between Havelock and Renwick. We must have been riding at a similar pace, with variance in speed depending on conditions, as this occurred a few times over the next couple of laps.

Definitely found maintaining speed in darkness an issue, especially without a high volume of cateyes and road-side post-mounted reflectors. Suicidal hedgehogs were all over the road to add some slalom action!

I completed the lap and arrived to Damian sleeping in the TPG shelter, and no sign of Matt Oliver (who I later learned had gone to fetch Tim whom had withdrawn due to achilles tightness late in his third lap). Pure self-service for refilling this time round. It was definitely getting cold. I placed a balaclava in my back pocket, for if it got any colder on my fourth lap.

Lap Four:  18:15 (4h45m +18m)

Ahead of me, was fast approaching behind me. The head to head duel for line honours between Joshua Kench and Craig Harper was on. I understand that Josh punctured, when Craig passed him. Craig passed on Queen Charlotte while I fought hard not to be lapped with my light battery slowly fading away. I swapped my battery over on the Linkwater straight and heading over Mahakipawa Hill where Josh came through and lapped me, on his way to a narrow three minute victory.

Lap Five: (4h07m)

I managed to depart for my fifth lap marginally ahead of the one-lap riders start and received some encouragement from Josh and others as I departed for my final lap. I hoped to make as much use of drafting as possible. This was good in theory, but the bunches that had just started had far too much enthusiasm for my 400km+ legs. I passed Uwe, for the final time on the way up Old Renwick Road to Blenheim. I received plenty of encouragement from other Onslow Tarbabies – Frank et al as they whizzed by. Gillian kindly offered some drafting assistance on the way into Picton until she was able to hold onto a bunch. In general, I was okay on the flats on this laps against those with fresh legs, providing they didn’t attack. I was grinding out the hills a bit more than usual on this lap.


I briefly saw fellow Tarbaby Rachel at Linkwater on her way to winning the two-lap Magnum – congratulations on your victory. Once over Mahakipawa for the final time, I was amongst split bunches of riders riding one lap in about 3h30 and was able to hold their wheels, and even lead the bunches at times. With the final hill about 6km from the finish I gave it a nudge and went hard for the line from there. When I saw Rick & Jo from the Tarbabies in their car next to me over the Wairau River bridge I knew I couldn’t let up and remained in the big-ring and down in the drops riding hard the whole way to the line – after all, this is where the cameras are, and it is important to look good for the cameras!!



All done in 22h40m13s. This is by far my fastest 500km or thereabouts. My trip data is showing a little less distance than the claimed 505km. Most likely due to both GPX file straight-lining, and not coming in and our of the Forrest Estate Driveway on each lap.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

A very brief moment of Strava Glory!


Strava is a GPS based training motivation tool. They reguarly have challenges, to ride at least a certain amount of time, or as far as possible within a certain timeframe. As a Randonneur, naturally the distance based challenges are well suited to me and during the “January Base Mile Blast”, while not at the top of the overall leaderboard, I successfully logged the longest ride. Not because I tried to, but because I needed a 600km brevet completed for qualifying for The Big Wild Ride 1200k in July.



It was nice to receive some goodies earn a small reward, after opening the Picton-Westort-Picton 600 with 300km of headwinds. I was impressed to get a handwritten note from a technology focussed company.



Sunday, 10 February 2013

I’m a “Super Randonneur” again..


The Super-Randonneur award is awarded for the completion of 200km/300km/400km/600km rides within a Randonnuering year (Nov 1 – Oct 31). It is also the qualifying requirement for many 1200km events, which was my primary motivation. This is the second time I have completed a Super-Randonneur series, the previous time being while qualifying for Paris-Brest-Paris in 2011. Here is the 2011 medal, I’ll need to wait a while to see what the 2013 edition looks like.





Randonneuring (or Audax) rides have a low profile in New Zealand, which is a shame because we have found some nice rides, in very scenic areas. If you would like me on any of these rides give me a yodel or see http://www.kiwirandonneurs.org.nz



400km – Marlborough Mayhem

Riders: Craig (22h36m); Rita (AB)

Time-limit: 27 hours


It is often argued that 400km brevets are the hardest to complete due to being longer than a 300km, but not reducing the average speed enough for a sleep break like a 600km brevet. So, naturally that is what I started with, jammed into the Christmas crunch, was our Marlborough Mayhem 400km brevet. With a desire to qualify for  1200km ride further afield later in the year, I promptly rescheduled my flights home for Christmas and booked a ferry across Cook Strait and back again.


As I rode up the long false flat that is the Wairau Valley the misty morning cleared albeit, not enough to allow us to see the mountain vistas of this area. As St Arnaud approached the false flat was replaced by real climbing as we made our way up to this alpine village. With Elaine's cafe which I frequented on many a past tramping trip no longer trading, I bought a snack from the general store, before heading to Kawatiri Junction and up over the Hope. It was soon obvious that I was not a climber as I struggled up the steep pitches.


I had a brief flat patch, with zero energy and feeling mildly faint just before reaching Nelson and had to stop for an emergency snack on the cycle way, just moments away from Nelson. I must say that I was very impressed with Nelson's  integrated, and signposted cycle network.


Leaving Nelson required climbing the Whangamoa Hill, with sea fog set in on a warm and humid night. There was another bump before dropping into the Rai Valley and onto Havelock well after the shops had closed for the night.


I waited a few minutes for Rita to arrive but unfortunately it getting too late, and tiring, she chose to abandon and take a 20km shortcut back to Picton via the hillier route on Queen Charlotte Drive. Meanwhile I proceeded the flatter, but more distant route via Rapura Rd, although I will admit that I did sneek in a much needed needed a ten minute snooze to manage my tiredness en-route back to Picton.




300km – Round the Tararuas

Riders: Craig; Simon; Tim – All 17h51m

Time-limit: 20 hours


After Christmas I returned home to Wellington and was joined by Tim and Simon. We were able to meet Paris-Brest-Paris ancien Ed Allen for a snack at our first control in Carterton. Before the devastating heat of the afternoon kicked in, with the thermometer well over 30 degrees for most of the day. In Wellington we think it hot if it reaches 20 degrees! This led to us many time consuming rest-stops to eat more ice-creams, in all contributing to over four hours off our bikes.




600km – Picton – Westport – Picton

Riders: Craig (38h57m); Rita (AB)

Time-limit: 40 hours


It briefly looked like we may have had up to five riders for the 600, but after late withdrawals, it was just ride organiser Rita and myself.

Two days beforehand we swapped the route around so that more services would be open, and the overnight rest stop at Murchison could be at 382km instead if 440km. This seemed like a good idea - until getting our bikes at 5am on Saturday morning and riding into a headwind up the long false flat that is the Wairau Valley. At the top at St Arnaud we were a mere 40 minutes ahead of the time limit, so it was starting seem a tad tight even at this early stage. Time for fruitful hours of sleep was already seeming unlikely.


We met up with Kiwi Randonneurs stalwart Duncan and Tony in Murchison, where after 290km into the headwind Rita decided it wasn’t much fun and chose to abandon. As for me, this was the only 600km ride I had available for qualifying so I pushed on into wind and rain down the beautiful Buller Gorge to Westport, where all businesses decided to celebrate my arrival at 9pm by either closing or ceasing to be serving anymore food. So, it was nuts and snackbars on a concrete step outside New World (thanks for the extra snacks Duncan – was looking grim).


Then it was a climb up to Murchison for a 90 minute sleep in the motel before setting off over the Hope and into Nelson. No sign of the rain of the Buller from the night before as a sun shone and the temperature soared, especially felt when climbing over the Whangamoa Hill. The strategic placement of a control point at Pelorous Bridge for a good pie, didn’t quite work out as all I wanted was anything frozen to help cool me down before the final push around Queen Charlotte Drive and back to Picton.



200km – Taranaki Spin

Riders: Andrea (12h30m); Craig (12h30m); Rita (8h45m)

Time-limit: 13h30m


This was “multi-sport” weekend for Kiwi Randonneurs, with Rita backing up from a half-ironman the day before, and myself from an ascent of Mt Taranaki. I mostly rode with Andrea who was visiting from Brazil, although I wasn’t sure if I was going to finish when I broke two spokes near Stratford. Thankyou ‘Z Stratford’ for the loan of some tools, which enabled me to loosen the in tact spokes so the wheel would turn between the forks and enable me to complete the ride, and my Super Randonneur Series.


Our route was a variation on the Round the Mountain which would have only been 150km. Ironically, some of the best riding was in the quiet rural roads, and the scenic finish along the New Plymouth Coastal Walkway (a shared path) which had been added to bring the distance up to the required 200km.