Cycle Training NZ

What does it take to ride the 640km Maxi Endurance as part of the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge

Helen [Chief Crew] and I left our Turangi accommodation around 8.30am Friday morning for Taupo.  Handed in our waiver form, got race number onto the bike & front of helmet.  Nice to catch up with Tracy Parke & saw Andrew, both of whom did last year’s Maxi and also the Graperide.  Didn’t really know many of the other starters.  I believe that 26 men & 2 women were on the start line.

Briefing was delayed a little due to a latecomer and the start was around 10.34am.

I had projected lap times just for something to focus on.  Other things to focus on were cadence & power.  My crew notes totalled 3 pages and were to be crucial later on in the event.

I didn’t have any pre-planned stops or sleep times.  I wanted to play it by ear and see how things went.  In the first lap, Helen did a sterling job on her own.  Andrea arrived later that evening.  Drinks and gels were taken on the fly and this seemed to work well.

There seemed to be a strong head wind for ages along with showers of rain.

My first lap went according to plan.  It was interesting signing in at the service station because you could see what time others had checked in.  I expected to be tail-end-charlie, but also wanted to be steady Eddie.

I don’t recall much of the 2nd lap apart from the fact that it was mainly through the night and I think Andrea was crewing on her own.  I did get to ride with the famous IRon Skelton which was cool.  His crew were very supportive of me and my crew.  Into the night I noticed he was stopping quite frequently.   I asked his crew what was up & apparently he was a bit low on sugar.  Soas I passed Andrea, I suggested she share some of my lollies with him.  Must have worked because once he got going, I didn’t see him again!!

Later on in Lap 2 I started stopping for food, drinks etc rather than taking them on the fly.  Lap 3 was a bit the same.

The weather was head wind, side wind, tail wind, side wind for all four of the laps.  It did get cold at night and I needed leggings and shoe covers (still didn’t need socks though).  Last year I rode the entire event without any leggings or shoe covers.

I had ditched the race number off my shirt early on because I kept changing the number of layers I had on and I didn’t want to use a race belt.  I knew who I was and obviously a few riders from my home town knew who I was without this ID because they yelled out “Go Di” as they whizzed past on their sensible one lap 🙂

Later on, two more crew members, Ian and Jenna arrived to help me.   I don’t recall a lot about the 3rd lap either, apart the fact that the normal 1 lappers were out on the course.  I know I was a lot further behind my time last year at this point.

Lap 3 – I recall stopping about an hour out of Taupo when I came across Tim.  Got a piece of his famous fruit cake 🙂

About halfway around Lap 3 I had a wee lay down/nap leaving Jenna & Ian to watch the groups of 1 lappers head around.  Unfortunately Jenna missed seeing her Dad who was probably tucked in a group.  He went on to get 2nd in his age group which is an awesome achievement.  At some time on Lap 3 I noticed that I was getting somewhat congested.  I coughed up lots of phlegm and several times I coughed some much that I was sick (whilst biking), most of which was phlegm and drink.

At the top of Kuratau Hill I stopped to use a port-a-loo and a mature guy came over to me and said it was tough going and he was about to quit.  Then he saw what was written on my helmet [640km] and decided to finish !!  That was nice to hear.

Before Hatepe, I had a minor mechanical.  I was so glad that I was carrying my cellphone.  I text Helen & Andrea, who had stopped at our accommodation, that I needed them.  Actually I needed an Allen key.  I hadn’t screwed my drink bottle holder on tight enough.  I wondered what the rattling was.  The screw completely come undone, but was still there.  I pocketed the screw & the drink bottle and set off, but the bottle holder flopped out in the path of my pedal.  That’s when I realised I wasn’t going anywhere before using an Allen key.  It was nice that a lot of the 1 lappers asked if I was OK.

At the end of Lap 3 when I checked in, I saw that 8 had DNF’d including Tracy.  That was a bit of a shock and I wondered what had happened and hoped she was alright.  I had a lie down beside the car.  It was really hot and sheltered.  I had a long sleeve thermal on under a short sleeve cycle top plus shorts.   Only one lap to go now.  Helen and Andrea were crewing.  Off I went, knowing I wasn’t going to finish as early as last year and my projected lap times were pretty much blown apart.  I was now looking at an early morning finish.  Joy.

Lap 4  Headed off but 10km up the road (54mins @ 12kph) I felt frozen.  I wonder if my body had a false temperature reading from lying sheltered in the sun.  Clouds stopped full sunshine, the wind felt really really cold and my high spirits disappeared dramatically.  I wasn’t really sure what was happening.  All I know was that I didn’t feel I could continue for another 150km feeling like that.  Plus my finish time was getting more & more pushed out and I was feeling guilty for my crew that I was taking this long.  I text my coach – can’t exactly remember what I said – but I thought he might think it was indeed wise to pull the plug.   Then Helen & Andrea arrived and then my phone rang.  It was Tim’s partner Lis ringing to see how I was getting on.  After the event, Tim said that I rang him, but my phone confirms the call was incoming, not outgoing !  I told Lis I was so so cold and I was probably going to pull the plug.  She said that Tim, who was driving, was pulling over to speak to me.  His words had a big impact.  He said that whatever I did, I was still a “hero” [or words to that effect] in his eyes.  He said he knew that I was capable of finishing.  That conversation played over in my mind frequently from that moment until the finish line.

Cycle Coaching NZHelen wanted my phone, but I wasn’t giving it up.  I recall telling her I was “exhausted” and her saying “you’ve still got enough energy to run away from me” when she was trying to grab my phone.  How could I go from being so positive to so down so quickly?  I’ve never cried before in an event, but I became a bit of a sobbing mess.  Sitting under the back hatch door of the stationwagon, Helen & Andrea dressed me in leggings, shoe covers, long sleeve tops & whatever else while I shed some tears.

I was reminded that in the crew notes I had written:

“I’ve had enough, I’m outa here, I’m happy, I’ve done it before”

If I say any of this or similar, interpret as ‘rider wants to keep going, but first may need…’

  • Some warm food
  • Warmth to bring body temperature up
  • A lie down
  • A sleep – 30mins max
  • A change of clothes

Crew to remind me that I do want to cross the finish line

Helen & Andrea kept reminding me about this & I wished I hadn’t even put it in there.  I wanted out.  On reflection, I have to thank Helen for sticking to her guns.  We must have debated for at least 20 minutes and not once did she hesitate in firing back things to counteract my pleas.  There was no hesitation to give me a chance to win the war of words.  Andrea, on the other hand, looked a little stunned, but I am sure she has learnt a lot which will benefit future clients she might coach for similar endurance events.

Helen came up with a compromise which was to ride for an hour & look for somewhere sheltered for a nap. An hour later with another 11.4km covered at such an oh so low speed, I found a triangle “hut” by a farmers driveway.  Crew popped a mattress down there and it was so good being out of the wind.  The scrambled eggs they cooked up disappeared quickly & I had a nap.  50 minutes went way too quickly.  Darkness had fallen and it was time to put on the headlamp and tail lights.

Saddle friction had started to be a nuisance, so I started using chamois cream and Helen gave me Panadol, which I was surprised to find took away the discomfort feeling.  I found out after the event that it wasn’t Panadol, but Ibuprofen.

2hr 33 and 36km later another stop of about 15 mins.  Another 20mins (5km) and I had a 70min stop.  I think that was a sleep on the grass in my sleeping bag with rugs etc.  Sean arrived to pick up Andrea.  I seemed to be struggling in the dark.  Wind, cold, showers.  Unable to make out any landmarks or be aware of where I was on the course.  Back on my bike for another 47mins & I reached a familiar rest stop with a nice lookout, except it was pitch black and there was nothing to see.  I wanted a long sleep & I was going to have one.  I remember Sean was there with Andrea.  They were most reluctant because they thought I wouldn’t get back on my bike.  I knew I would.  I just needed to be off that saddle for a while, get some better sleep and hopefully it would be a bit lighter.  I was happy to tuck down behind some long grass in my sleeping bag etc.  No one would know I was there.  They could go & get some sleep & come back later.  They weren’t having a bar of that.  Some room was made in the back of Helen’s stationwagon & still with my cycle shoes etc on, I tucked into my sleeping bag.

I have since been told that I said I’d sleep under the picnic table (which is exposed).  Maybe we were all sleep deprived and confused because I am sure I said I’d sleep over by the fence in the long grass (hidden).

When I woke naturally, I was surprised to see new crew in the front of the vehicle !!  It was around 5am and I’d had 3 awesome hours sleep.  It was daylight.  I was fully awake in a flash & fairly promptly on my bike.  The saddle was still a bit uncomfortable, so I had more Panadol.  My speed picked up for the ride into the Turangi service station.  I stopped frequently for the chamois cream & bits of food and in the little town before Turangi, crew got me hot dog and chips with tomato sauce which I ate once in Turangi.  They were yum.

After Turangi I was joined by a female cyclist who accompanied me until she turned off to where she was staying.  She’d brought a group of young cyclists over from Horowhenua to train over the weekend.  A bit further down the road, she rejoined me !!  Her young cyclists said she should get out there and ride with me to Taupo, which she did.  Last time over Hatepe was nice.  It was tipping with rain, but I was warm enough.  I hooned down Hatepe, rain driving into my face and then was onto the last stretch alongside the lake.  A bit further along here a couple of young women said they’d seen me cycling the day before and asked if they could join me.

What a difference it was finishing in daylight.  Many cars were heading home and I got a few toots.  A couple of cars with Wairarapa people stopped to call out J    I was rapt to see Tim cheering me on & he stopped and gave me support all the way in.  Told me to finish at the Yacht Club.  It was so cool having the other 3 riders with me.  Managed to have a wee chat while they did their best to shelter me.  My speed felt a lot faster than the 22kph I was doing, but I guess it was faster than what was happening the night before !  Turning onto the last stretch, the wind was blasting and the others couldn’t provide any shelter.  My speed dropped to 17kph.  What a mission the last kilometre was.  I asked the girls to come down to the finish with me, which they did, but they hung in the background a bit and I missed an opportunity to get their names.  I’ll have to do some detective work !

My arrival at the Yacht Club coincided with the conclusion of their 20th Anniversary breakfast and a few of them came out to greet me in.  That was most unexpected and rather overwhelming.  I felt a little dazed.  I was presented with my Anniversary medal by the famous Colin Anderson.  IRon Skelton, Shona, Craig, Tim, Helen, Sean, Caitlyn, Andrea and her cousin, Mike Parker and his wife were all there.  I was in such a daze that when Tracy Parke came up to give me a hug, I didn’t recognise her.  I’m so used to seeing her with her hair tied up.  I’m not sure who I thought she was, but I asked how she got on and then was puzzled when she said she’d had to pull out and then realised it was Tracy!  Brain fade is a big side-effect of long distance – well for me anyway.

The Maxi was a team event.  Certainly during the last 2 laps, my crew played an enormous part in my finish.  Conditions weren’t that great and often when I stopped, crew members had their arms wrapped around themselves looking chilled.  I’m particularly grateful that my crew did not let me pack it in when I got cold soon after starting the 4th lap.  I knew early Sunday morning that I’d be fine to finish after a “decent” sleep.  I didn’t let the crew down, or myself at that point.

This is the 3rd endurance event where I have finished a long way outside the time I expected.  Challenge Wanaka was the 1st one.  I believe I will remedy that sometime in the future.  The 2nd was the Mammoth, which was all good up until the completion of the 9th lap when I took about an 18 hour break and then finished the 10th lap.  Physically & mentally I did not need a break that long.  I won’t be remedying that one.  I think I am OK with my finish time for this year’s Maxi.  I keep hearing about how challenging the conditions were, so I think I can accept my finish time on that basis.


Bananas seemed to give me the boost I needed most of the time.  I ate heaps early on in the event.  Pouches of baby food worked well.  I had numerous gels.  I had separated the caffeine ones from the plain, however I didn’t explain to crew that it may have been best to leave the caffeine ones to the latter part of the event.  They grabbed whatever was handy.  The Bento box held ample food & I didn’t really need to tuck anything into my back pockets.  I had chicken noodle cup-a-soup.  Meant to get a pouch of something more “solid”, but forgot.  Hot chips in a cooled state were good.  Didn’t have water bottles on my bike frame at the start, so was having gels with electrolyte drink.  Had hot chocolate drink a few times.


I was asked what the line was for crew to say to a rider “get back on your bike” or “you need to stop now”.   I believe it is a fine line, probably different for each individual rider and one for which you would get a gut feeling.  For me, I would say the “stop now” would need to occur if I was obviously medically unwell.

Helen advised that it was wind & showers the entire time with bursts of sunlight.   For future enduros, she advised it is beneficial to have at least one crew member who has been part of an enduro support crew before.  They will recognise rider fatigue i.e. rider weaving as opposed to manoeuvring and will have an idea of how hard to push the rider.

– Di Chesmar

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