Whenever I’ve done a cycle tour I’ve found that I’ve got fitter throughout the tour despite not taking rest days. It’s made me question the idea of having to schedule rest days in a training programme. Yes, if you’re doing some full on track sessions or weight sessions then some down time is required but this does not need to be full rest (ie no activity). If your training is generally aerobic then is there really a need for complete rest ? Or is doing something just a little easier the key.
Since arriving in Christchurch my approach has been to do just get out there, train and enjoy it. This means on the bike I’ve ridden 11 days on the trot now, covering 900 miles and have no plan to stop this streak. Today I felt on fire on the bike – the best I’ve felt since well before Kona last year. Yesterday I’d joined Jo on her hill repeats on Dyers Pass and though I was steady I had no zip, it ended up a easy(ish) ride. This was probably because of a big ride on Friday (more on this later). The ride was a success as we established that the awful creaking on descents was due to my Xenti front wheel. Luckily Scott has kindly leant me a front wheel to train on whilst we’re here. Come today I felt awesome.
Good news is we’d planned a big long ride. We got up and away by 6.30am to head out to the Banks Peninsula and Akaroa. This involved heading over “Hilltop” a 4 mile climb from sea level to about 500m. The picture above is of me after climbing it a second time on the way back. On both climbs I felt in control – able to take it easy or push on the pace. What a great feeling.
We stopped in the Blue Duck on the way back for Coffee and savoury muffin. We made the wise choice to ride back around the flat. As we came round the Port Hills we could see a massive storm over Christchurch. We both put on waterproofs and within minutes it hit and within seconds of that we’d ditched our bikes and were trying to find some sort of shelter from the marble size hail stones. A family stopped in their four wheel drive and told us to jump in. It turns out they’d been going the other way, saw us and realised when the hail stared what a state we’d be in so turned round to help us out. HOW KIND ! We must have sat in their car for a good ten minutes before we decided it may be best to get the bikes in the back. He turned the car round and pulled up beside our bikes where we waited a further 5 minutes before the weather was good enough to go outside. They kindly drove us to the edge of Christchurch. It turns out they’d live in Edinburgh for 2 years as he was a professional rugby player. He was a prop forward who played for the Crusaders and the All Blacks.
On Wednesday Jo and I joined a local guy on his big ride – we did The Gorges and Long Bays. This meant first 100 miles at pace on the flats / rolling terrain before a hilly 20 miles and finally 15 miles home. It was a stiff pace throughout and by the end I was pretty exhausted. A much steadier ride on Thursday saw me ready to see if I could get to the top of one of the Southern Alps passes on Friday. I headed out through the Canterbury plains – dead straight with a slight rise – I think over about 40km you gain about 400m height. I got to Springfield having battled the last 10k into a stiff headwind. Quick refuel and I headed off for for Porters Pass. The stiff headwind was brutal – I had serious doubts about whether I’d make it especially as I didn’t know how far it was. I kept persuading myself another mile another mile. Then the road started to rise more sharply and I pushed on. The final couple of KMs to the top were really quite steep, it was all I could do to turn my 39 x 26. Then the top came – nondescript other than the sign saying 993m. Now for home, better put the hammer down otherwise Jo may worry. Soon I realised that the stiff headwind had also been a gentle uphill. I covered the next 40 miles in 1 hour 35 minutes of absolutely joyous cycling. Not quite in my top gear but spinning along nicely and making awesome progress. This was a 119 mile round trip and Arthurs Pass is a further 35km on ! Sounds like enough of a challenge that Jo and I are very tempted to try it.
We’ve really settled in to a routine now and the training environment here is awesome.
50m 10 Lane pool 2.5 miles away. Two squads swim each morning for about 90 minutes so you can chose to go at 6am or 7am and know you’ll get an excellent coached swim session.
North and West provide loads of quiet, flat, junction free roads. perfect for interval sessions and aerobar practise. South are the Port Hills – lots of hills, great for hill repeats and also social rides as loads of cafes all along. Southern Alps and The Banks Pensisula provide great mountainous terrain further a field as a target for longer rides. Christhchurch itself has wide roads most with cycle lanes making riding safe and easy. Even the roads out of town tend to have a decent shoulder to make riding feel that much safer (especially when combined with wide roads and very little traffic).
We’ve found some great running: the river provides a lovely run into town and out to the sea. There is a path along both sides. Bottle Lake Forest Park has loads of marked trails and gives great running with shade. The beach is 2 miles away and runs about 10k in each direction, there’s a path along the dunes and if the tide is right you can run on the beach. A bus ride away are the Port Hills – loads of trails marked for great hill running.
Add to all this the great food, awesome coffee (why don’t we get Flat Whites in the UK) and how friendly everyone is here makes for a great place for an extended training stay.