Crossing the line

02:08, Oct 12 2012

The Cheshire Cat would have had competition yesterday with the size of the smile on my face as I crossed the finish line.

I did it! I rode the full 42km without stopping once. In 1 hour, 35 minutes and seven seconds, not bad at all, I say. Maybe 287 should be my new lucky number.

I'm pretty proud of myself to be honest - not that I thought I couldn't do it. It's just the sense of pride you get when you complete a goal you've set yourself.

The rain was heavy when I was picked up on Sunday morning, and it possibly got heavier as we drove down to Glenhope.

It was not shaping up to be the most enjoyable of rides.

However, someone up there must have felt generous, because by 11am the rain had cleared and blue skies were peaking through.

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The registration point was the old Glenhope railway, situated just off the main road. We arrived about 2 hours before the race and I was jealous I hadn't thought to bring along a thermo flask of hot coffee - I did get time to do the giant crossword in the paper though.

Everyone seemed to know everyone, which was great, and they were more than happy to chat.

Finally we gathered around to hear organiser Mike Gane's pre-race talk.

Fulton Hogan had donated their time to put out signage, and Triple One Care was on hand for any spills and thrills along the way.

Support crews were welcome to cheer their riders on, but there was to be no passing of food out of windows - ''This is not the Tour de France, it's the Tour de Glenhope.''

The idea was to have fun, he said. I tried to remember that as I slowly climbed my 700th hill of the day an hour or so later.

It wasn't till we were all lined up at the start line that I started to wonder what exactly I had gotten myself into. I clipped in, took a few deep breaths and a huge gulp of water, and then we were off.

Not surprisingly, I was passed very quickly. By a lot of people.

A few minutes on, more people passed. I tried to not feel too glum.

I've only driven the road to Murchison once that I can remember, earlier this year when I was doing a South Island road-trip. I could've sworn it was flatter.

I'm glad I didn't re-drive it recently to check it out, I think it would have scared me off.

I reached my first uphill climb, chucked my bike into a low gear and tried to remember the advice I'd been given about pulling up through your heels. Before I knew it I was at the top - hurrah!

I'd like to say I was that enthusiastic for all the hills, but I can't. A few choice words may have been uttered on particularly hard climbs, and at times my speed dropped so low I was sure I would start rolling backwards.

I managed to steady myself enough to take a drink about 12km in, but it took a lot of skill and precision so I didn't try again. As you can imagine, I almost drowned myself at the finish line.

I think my average speed for the race was somewhere between 24 and 27kmh, which isn't too bad. I may not have been going at lightning speed, but if I had been, I would have missed the scenery. And really, why would you want to? What a stunningly beautiful ride it is.

Despite my heavy breathing, and a few vehicles here and there, the only sounds were nature.

The river was flowing quickly and the birds seems to be out in force, singing their tunes.

Somewhere after the Owen River Tavern - that downhill stretch that made the hard work worthwhile - the forests became farms and I couldn't help but be awed by the New Zealand countryside.

Every little smell hits your senses, it's amazing, so fresh!

I'd like to think some of the cows grazing by the roadside who stared at me were cheering me on silently.
A nice man had a seat set up at the intersection of Mangles Valley Road and gave a yell of encouragement, which was much appreciated.

Still, although it was pretty, 42km is a long way, and though bike shorts help to a point, an hour and a half is a long time to sit on a small bike seat.

I don't think I've even been so pleased to see the big green road sign of a small town in all my life.
It was an incredible feeling to approach the finish line.

I may not have been smiling the entire ride, but I definitely had a grin on my face at that moment.

I also had a grin on my face when Ralph Hetzel, complete with a seagull perched on his head, came down the final stretch with his labrador Floyd by his side. Apparently Floyd had run with him the whole way from the Murchison sign - very cute.

After sculling every drop of water from the two bottles I had in my bag, I headed down the Beechwoods Cafe for the prize giving.

The generosity of businesses from Nelson and Marlborough was fantastic. The spot prizes were plenty and varied. Vouchers, books and even a piece of artwork in a patchwork bag.

These things can go on a while, but Mike made sure things were kept interesting.

One particular item, was, apparently ''a book all about photography''. Or so it must be, he said, it's called 50 Shades of Grey, and his mother's photographs have a lot of grey. Therefore, the book is probably an intricate explanation of how do photography.

He was brilliant, and very convincing.

It was a great way to wind down after the ride - the ice cold Montieth's also went down a treat.

It may have been a fun race, but there's still always a winner. In this case I think the credit can be equally shared as from the sounds of it, these two men battled each other every pedal of the way.

Matt Black and Brendon Mathews - well done! They completed the whole 42km in a staggering 54 minutes!!

Well done also to Fiona Bonnett, she was by far the youngest there, only 11, and she did great.

It's hard to say if the race was what I expected, because I didn't really have an idea of what to expect.

All in all, it was a hard slog. I really had to work and there were times I almost felt like flagging down one of the 20 million motor homes that passed me and taking a nap.

But, I think it would do it again. If not to just try and beat my time, even by a minute, just to prove I can.

Even better than a new form of exercise, I've managed to raise $281 to date!! I know from speaking to those at Hospice that they really are grateful for any money donated to them - so I'm really happy to be able to help them out.

My Give A Little cause still has 26 days left, so if you were waiting to see if I'd actually do it before donating - now you have no excuse.

Thanks to everyone who has helped me with my preparations for this race, the advice and support you've all provided has been amazing.

I'm a little sad to know this is my last post, but, all good things come to an end, and I guess I'll just have to look for a new project to begin!

Nelson