Well after 10 months as a newbie I thought I had better try my first event (for club members who have not figured it out - the Newbie is Myles) .  Not being one to follow the tried and proven way of doing things I decided to do things my way.  Therefore be warned, some of what you read may be useful while other parts should be lessons on what not to do.

So in cycling newbie terms I guess I must be somewhere between nappies and toddler.  Perhaps toddler is the best analogy as it time to take my first steps.  I decided that I would choose a more low key event as my first rather than jumping in to Taupo.  I figured that it needed to be soon so as to provide less time to come up with excuses and to ensure that I did not have to train that long.  It needed to be more than 100km as I figure I can do that on any given sunday for free.  So with these conditions in mind I decided on the 'around the mountain - Taranaki 150km' event.  Making this decision at the beginning of December meant that I had just enough time to do some amount of training and not enough time to chicken out.  My other 'cunning' reason for this choice was that my wife had wanted to see the New Plymouth festival of lights for some time and our visiting in-laws had not seen that part of NZ.  

To ensure I actually did the event I went online and paid my money (once I pay for something I am always going to get my money's worth).  Having no idea of what time I would do I just guessed 5 hours and submitted that with my entry. 

Lesson 1: if you make the cycling trip appear to be a family holiday you are more likely to be able to go.

Lesson 2: actually entering and paying your money is a great incentive to completing the event.

My first course of action was to get a training plan together.  I consulted the web.  I searched for 'cycling training plan' and got lots of responses but all of them wanted me to train hard 7 days a week.  I decided to refine my search.  I searched for 'cycling training plan for busy people'  again I got plenty of results but these plans still wanted me to train 5 days a week.  So I decided to refine my search some more.  I searched for 'cycling training plan for busy lazy people'.  This time I got the results that suggested I could do it with 3 sessions a week.  I now decided to tailor the busy lazy plan to suit me even more, so I decided that I would make the 60/40 sunday ride my main bit of training and if I was energetic or lucky I would see how the other two sessions fit in.  I believe its the thought that counts.  I also made sure to focus heavily on nutrition.  So I focussed on eating what ever I felt like.

Lesson 3: don't worry if you have not done enough training as you can still do the event.  You can always do the distance based on perseverance and rule number 5, it will just take longer and hurt more than if you really trained.

So all to soon the date of the event arrived and with the nerves about "have I trained enough" (answer is no),  "have I eaten sensibly" (answer is no),  "is there anyway out of this with my dignity" (answer is no).  These questions answered and knowing I had invested $80 I was now committed.  I got some last minute advice from people I know and some complete strangers.  I packed my bags with 2 pairs of everything in case of emergency and loaded up the bike (very important not to forget this piece of equipment) and set off.  Fortunately for me I shared a ride with Mike Jeppesen who gave me good advice on the way up.  We also had loads of fun trying to figure what part of state highway 3 formed the course and committing it to memory so that we would be well informed and know where to make our move on the ride to the finish line. I found a landmark that would serve as my trigger for the run to the finish.  It was the New Plymouth Crematorium as it is all downhill from there (not meant to be wise words).

So getting to our accommodation all that remained was to register then get the bike ready, relax and get a good nights sleep.

Lesson 4: ignore Lesson 1 - you don't get to relax and sleep well, instead you have to go sight seeing and enjoy quality time with the family.

So after getting to bed at midnight and having a pretty average sleep I got up and got ready.  Checked I had everything and rolled out the door to the start line with plenty of time to spare.  I looked at all the flash bikes and all the bottles of drink everyone was carrying and .... MY BOTTLES !! I forgot my bottles!!.  Quickly I ride back to the motel, wake wife up again and fetch my bottles from the fridge.

Lesson 5: try to stay close to the event so you have easy access and can return both before and after the event with out hassle. 

Lesson 6: Stick your bottles on your bike the night before or stick a big sign on your bike reminding you to get your bottles out of the fridge.

Having secured my fluids I went back to the start.  There I met up with Adrian McKenzie, Mike Jeppesen, Greg Cundy, Eddie Bright, Wayne Oliver and Neil Harwood. 

Lesson 7: Choose an event where you know some familiar faces

Now came the serious part, choosing where to start.  Luckily while the others headed to the front Wayne and I found a nice spot in the sun to wait.  As we were aiming for around 5 hours we thought we would stand in the 4.5 to 5 hour zone,  but that was in the shade so we moved up to the next section.  Then thinking that there were not that many cyclists around and we could always drop back we moved up another section.  Then just prior to the start they told everyone to move up.  So basically we ended starting in the 4.15 group.  My strategy was to be sensible and pace myself and not worry about my time.  I would stick with Wayne as he had done at least one event.  I would not push to hard and just enjoy the experience.

Then the gun went off.....

Strange how your strategy disappears about the same time as the gun going off.  We had a great start with a big group and beautiful weather and fantastic scenery.  20kms later the weather and scenery were still great but the group had shrunk.  My legs were working harder than I thought they should have and my heart rate was not in the realm of 'sensible' but I was still with the group and the ride was going well.  The first 50kms turned into a nice ride with plenty of chat and looking up at the mountain as we went along the coast over undulating hills.  It all seemed so easy.

The next 50kms had significantly less chat and viewing of the scenery as we battled a long slow incline in the ever increasing heat. I kept fighting to stay with my group. At this stage a fellow cyclist said “this is the stage that the groups split” and he was right. I rode forward he and all the others behind me disappeared. I kept working to stay with the group until past the 100km mark when eventually I had to let them go. But with less than a third of the race to go I felt I would be ok. After a short ride on my own I was fortunate enough to pick up the wheel of a local rider who was going just the right pace for me to hang on. I told him that I was just hanging on but would take a turn if he needed to which he replied “its alright, we have to look after our visitors”. I found him after the race and thanked him profusely for towing me towards home.

Lesson 8: Stick with a group for as long as possible.  If you lose a group wait for others to come along

After some more hot and hard grind with plenty of standing up to rest my aching posterior I started to recognise some landmarks which began to cheer me up.  We rode into Inglewood and I knew we were getting close.  All I had to do was wait for the crematorium and it was all downhill to the finish line.  A few kms later I spotted the chimney and yelled out in joy.  A couple of riders had joined me and my faithful tow partner by this stage so I quietly exclaimed “so long suckers” and changed up my gears and proceeded to power off from them as I surged to the finish line only 5kms away.  Shortly thereafter I came to a hill.  Seems I forgot about that hill and the riders I had left behind caught me back up.  Not to worry at the top of the hill I once again powered away at great speed only to round the corner to another hill I had forgotten about. 

Lesson 9: Be careful when picking landmarks especially while driving.  You may not notice the hills so much when your in a car

This repeated itself numerous times until finally I crested the last hill and could see the finish line in the distance.  I had one rider on my wheel but I was damned if I was going to let him pass me.  So with a final flourish I used my gears to power down the hill and crossed the line with my pursuer dropping off (so what if he was twice my age).

I crossed the line in 4hrs 30mins exactly and was glad to see Adrian, Greg, Mike and their families sitting around a table enjoying their complementary beer and butter chicken.  I joined them for an afternoon of tales and recovery.  I ducked away for a quick massage which was fantastic.  We were joined by Wayne and Des Batton.  It was a beautiful day and we enjoyed the music and beverages while waiting to win the main prizes at the prize giving.  Alas our luck was not in and none of us will be flying off to Hawaii.

We all then enjoyed a picnic in the park with all our families while we waited for darkness so we could experience the Taranaki light festival.  A great time was had by all.  Even by those of us falling asleep in the middle of the kids playground.

Lesson 10: take time to enjoy the post ride with friends and family

So there you have it my first event and some more lessons for newbies along the way.  Its now 2 days after the ride and I actually want to get back on my bike, so that must be a good thing. 

Lesson 11: get back on the bike