On the weekend of the 16th and 17th of January the Rays had their first team training weekend in Taupo. We were very lucky to have a couple of experienced and enthusiastic adventure racers, Susan and Louise, with us for the weekend. They were only too happy to impart some pearls of wisdom and provide general guidance on the training and fuelling.
We were up bright and early on Saturday morning and after a nutritious breakfast, which consisted of some variation of oats and fruit for each of us, we set off on a walk down to the Lake. We did approximately 8km before returning to base to get changed for paddle boarding. What to wear was the question? Everyone resigned themselves to the fact that there was a very high chance that they would fall in at some stage so swimwear or quick dry clothing was deemed appropriate.
The guy looking after the paddle boards down by the Lake was in the Lake when we arrived – he had a paddle board but appeared to have spent a bit of time in the water as he was all wet – we didn’t think that boded well for our chances of staying dry. The Lake was quite choppy and there was a bit of a breeze. Only two out of the six had done paddle boarding before and that was in flat, calm conditions.
Paddle Boarding Guy gave us some pointers and advised us to start off on our knees before progressing to our feet. This was good advice in the conditions. Ray 3 who had paddle boarded before was the first to come off – she learnt that talking, looking around and paddle boarding don’t mix – there was to be no multi tasking with this discipline – not yet anyway. The rest of the group did really well, eventually progressing from their knees to their feet. They also all launched themselves into the water at some stage much to everyone else’s delight – Renee’s running off the front of the paddle board was probably the most impressive. Louise managed to last 55 minutes before introducing herself to the Lake – the rest of us were of course delighted : )
Paddle Boarding Guy had told us to take care of the fins on the paddle board when getting close to shore – luckily he was too busy getting a tan when Ray 3 was washing up on the rocks. The Rays then decided to try two to a Paddle Board – one standing up paddling while the other sat on the front and used their arms to paddle. Apparently Paddle Boarding Guy glanced up from his sunbathing position but quickly resumed it so we gather there was no harm in loading up the boards : 0. There was a bit of falling off and nearly falling off but we found that the boards were actually a lot more stable with two people on them.
All in all it was a great introduction to Paddle Boarding but more time on the boards prior to the race will definitely be beneficial.
Back to base to re fuel and change into our bike gear. Susan had planned a bike ride out to the Craters of the Moon Mountain Bike Park so we could practice some mountain bike basics on the Grade 2 and 3 trails. Rays 1 and 4 were very new to mountain biking and Ray 2 had an unfortunate experience during a mountain bike skills course so they were all a bit tentative. One of the key things with mountain biking is to find your centre of gravity, relax and let the bike do it’s thing all the while looking and steering the bike where you want it to go – so much easier said than done. The death grip on the handle bars is very common in the beginning : )
Everyone did very well and there were no disgraceful dismounts. It was then time to head back to town and have some lunch. Just before we got back to Taupo there is a little side track called Acid Drop which Susan thought we should take – the sign said something along the lines of “concrete is boring, take the Acid Drop instead”. Acid Drop turned out to be a short, sharp, fun downhill track which sure did wake the Rays back up again. It was then a steep uphill back into Taupo to the Storehouse for lunch. The Storehouse is a hidden gem in Runanga Street – highly recommend this place if you’re in Taupo – great food and great coffee. What more could a group of hungry girls want : )
It was a stunning Taupo day so after lunch we cycled down to the Lake for a swim in our cycle gear – it was absolutely stunning and beneficial for the muscles. It was then back to base for showers and some rest and relaxation which is also very important when preparing for these type of events.
We wandered down to the Mole & Chicken for dinner – another of Taupo’s hidden gems. The sun was still shining making it the perfect evening to sit outside. Over a glass of wine and as we waited for our dinner, Louise inspired us all wth her story about riding a tandem bike around the world for which her and her husband still hold the Guinness Book of World Records for.
Susan and Louise also shared some stories about their various sporting endeavours and we discussed fuelling and the role of the support crew. A discussion also developed regarding the ‘soft, delicate, girly bits’ that can be held to ransom after a bit of time on the bike. To avoid this area ‘being closed for maintenance’ it is wise to wear bike pants and possibly invest in some chamois cream. You may also want to make sure that your bike and bike seat are a good fit for you and that you are sitting properly on the seat. Don’t be shy about discussing such matters with more experienced female riders as it has happened to the best of them at one stage or another.
The neighbours had partied hard on the Friday night and kept some of us awake so we were hoping for a quieter night on Saturday night. When we went to bed all was quiet on the neighbours front, however, they did have a little flare up about midnight but it didn’t last long which was a blessing for the lighter sleepers amongst us.
6.30am Sunday morning we were up and raring to go again – well OK, maybe not raring but we were up. This morning’s plan was to do the Huka Falls and Aratiatia Dam loop on our bikes and perhaps a spot of paddle boarding if conditions allowed. It was another lovely morning so minimal layers were required. After a good oat and fruit breakfast we were off.
The majority of the riding was grade 2 with the odd spot of grade 3 – it was exhilarating weaving through the bush and practising the skills we had learnt the day before. The vistas were fantastic – we got to see how the other half holiday at Huka Lodge and then Huka Falls from both sides. The bush was beautiful and we especially enjoyed cycling through the Redwoods. We stopped off at a jeep wreck and did a bit of crash scene reenactment – these weekends are supposed to be fun after all : )
We then headed down to the Lake for coffee and to contemplate our next move – we had ridden approximately 31km in two and a half hours. The wind had gotten up and the Lake was fairly choppy again so we decided showers and lunch would be the perfect end to a great weekend. Backing up the first days training with a solid session on Sunday was good for our endurance – we felt a bit jaded but in a good way – nothing beats that feeling of being physically tired after some rewarding exercise in the beautiful sunshine.
The key things we all took away from the weekend were:
- Hydrating & fuelling appropriately
- Ensuring your bike is the right size for you and the seat you are using is the best fit for you
- Don’t underestimate the power of talking with more experienced adventure racers or sports people
However, the most crucial element in preparing and doing these events is to have fun with like minded women – there is nothing more therapeutic than laughter – laughing at yourself and with others.