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Girl on an adventure: words of wisdom

Good’s wellness writer Rachel Grunwell is gearing up (literally) for her latest adventure – a 100km bike ride from Christchurch to Akaroa on March 25. Check out her latest blog in this series about the challenge ahead.

I’ve been feeling “wobbly” lately over the Le Race event. Everyone I talk to – including my coach Richard Greer from Team CP – has warned me it will be a gruelling and grimace-inducing event.

There will be sweat, tears and lots of swearing. Not out loud, but in my head. Cue a weak sounding heeeeeeelp!

Kathryn Ward is a "Le Race Legend" 

So, the owner of Le Race, Sheree Stevens, connected me with Kathryn Ward, whom she dubs “the Le Race Legend”, for tips. I also had a chat/moan to Richard too for advice. He has trained Ironman winner Braden Currie, so he knows his stuff.

Kathryn is a grandmother and a Christchurch-based electrical engineer. To say this 59-year-old is inspirational is an understatement; She’s about to tackle Le Race for the 18th time. No kidding. She’s only missed it once. She’s done this race more times than anyone else (fastest time 3hr 54min/slowest 4hrs 45min). She loves the challenge. She admits too: “I’ve also got a bit of a competitive streak!”

Incredibly, three dislocated collarbones (twice on the left, once on the right) in cycling accidents over the years while out training hasn’t taken the gloss off her love of this sport.

In fact, that’s one of her first pieces of advice to this cycling novice. To toughen up and not be scared! Richard too has used these same words. What can I say, other than I’m a wuss!

She says: “You can’t let the fear get to you. Hell, no. You can’t be scared. Look, every cyclist is going to hit-the-deck at some stage. You just recover and then get back on the bike again…”

Kathryn warns me there’s “a couple of nasty climbs” in this race. “It’s a hard ride”.

My trainer Richard has told me on many occasions to "toughen up and not be scared". 

She warns me (and Richard does too) that when you think you can see the top of a hill, you may just reach it and discover it winds up, up, and up, even more.

Kathryn says: “The big thing to remember is the race starts at the hilltop and there are 30km of hills on the second summit road with some pretty steep pinches (two in particular) before you get to the long and fast decent down Long Bays Road…”  Gulp.

The gutsy Grandma advises me to train on some decent hills because in the race there is just over 1800 metres of uphill climbing (and of course the same amount downhill). Richard meanwhile reassures me that my training plan will have plenty of good build up and I will be ready by race day.

Another key thing from Kathryn: “Be aware of the weather conditions; last year I nearly got blown of my bike on a small descent on the second summit road section that was exposed to the very strong North westerly wind that was blowing.”

She tells me to be visible when cycling, indicate “always” for drivers, and take it easy on new terrain.

During Le Race, there are some cattle stops. For these, Kathryn recommends peddling over these with an easy rhythm. Richard says “ride over them square on. Keep your feet even, let your bum hover over the seat… so if you hit a bump you can absorb the shock through your knees”.

Kathryn tells me to "enjoy the vista along the way, the challenge and being switched off from technology."

Kathryn recommends not starting out too fast and to conserve energy. But Richard recommends riding hard at the start “because if you pace yourself too much then you can find yourself with no bunch to ride with later”.

They both say that during the flat section, to try and get in a good bunch of riders to take turns leading the pack, or benefiting from being swept along from behind. There can also “be some brutal head winds during this section,” warns Kathryn

Kathryn tells me to “power around the corners”.

I take in the wise advice and lastly Kathryn tells me to enjoy the vista along the way, the challenge and being switched off from technology.

‘I love it. It’s a way to get out in nature and you do it with your own horse-power,” she raves.

Richard adds to make sure I have “mental toughness” on race day, he’ll help me nail my nutrition and hydration plan “so you have the energy to keep going!)”

Lastly, he quips: “Remember to look at the view - it’s not a bad thing to do. Also, talk to others – you can cheer each other on and help each other out. And lastly “smile on the downhill because it helps you go faster”.

Rachel is Good’s wellness columnist and the director of the lifestyle website . Follow her on Inspired Health’s Facebook and Instagram