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Girl on an adventure: Facing hills, facing fears

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. In this blog, she talks about facing hills and facing fears. 

When my alarm clock bleeps at 5.30am I do question my sanity. It would be easy to ignore the bleeps. But I’ve arranged to meet my training buddy, Newshub presenter Mike McRoberts, at 6am. That’s the power of having a workout buddy by the way, I can’t do a no-show because I will be letting someone else down, as well as myself. This is called the ‘Group Fit Effect’ by the way. Yes, it’s a thing!

Mike and I arranged to meet at Carrington Hospital - which is the Unitec campus now, but used to be a psychiatric hospital. It’s a creepy old haunted looking building in Mt Albert. The irony is not lost on me; Meeting at a former mental asylum is kind of fitting. Some friends have joked I’m a bit “mental” for taking on this challenge. But Mike and I thrive on doing crazy, cool adventures.We both reckon we are addicted to the exercise “high”, which is not the worst kind of addiction to have. It’s just a bit mental, that’s all. Chuckle.

Our mission was to aim for the hills – West Auckland, that is. Last week we both simulated the Le Race event by doing 100km, but without too many hills. So this ride was all about hill-finding to get more of a feel for the hard-and-hilly event.

Cicadas filled the air and looking down on Auckland under a red, hazy beautiful light made the ride worth getting up for. There’s true magic in that moment.

Watching the sun come up like a red-fire-ball ablaze above Auckland city while we were out West was unreal. Cicadas filled the air and looking down on Auckland under a red, hazy beautiful light made the ride worth getting up for. There’s true magic in that moment.

Getting up those hills, however, put us in the “hurt locker”. That’s what my coach Richard Greer, from Team CP, calls it. I guess it’s a kind-of-world where you are locked in pain and feel like you are in a place that you can’t escape. You’re locked into the situation. It’s not pretty.

But we grimaced and carried on. Mike had to head back a little earlier as he had an interview arranged. So, after two hours, he headed off and mentioned he would text me when he reached home and asked me to do the same. Talk about a gentleman. So, I kept heading for Piha Beach until I could see the sea. Seeing the sun glisten on the water was a heart-lifting moment. I ate a chocolate and oat muesli bar, drank some water, took a pic and then headed back for home. After a while I got a text flash up from Mike saying “Fast trip back. Hope the rest of your ride went well.”

At this point I wished I was home too. My heart sank. But I just had to keep on keeping on. A thought ran through my head that I could ring my husband to come and rescue me at this point. Maybe put a spin on it like “how about we do coffee in Piha?” But I knew he would see right through that excuse. Besides, I’m too bloody-minded to give in. I guess this is what training for this race is all about. It’s about digging deep, just keeping the legs turning over, building mental toughness and believing “I can do this” and knowing I will get out of that hurt-locker. Eventually.

The trip home was pretty quick for me too. Well, not quick, but quicker than riding out West. I felt confident down the hills which was a win for me. When I started this journey the hills scared me. My incentive to ride down them fast was this would help propel me up the next beastly hill.

I rode 82.1km with an elevation of 1278m in 4hr 20min. I text Mike to let him know I’d crawled in my house too. And I promptly ate scrambled eggs on toast and then walked into Mt Eden Village for a celebration coffee at the Circus Circus coffee shop. This is rather fitting too. My life is a bit of a circus fitting in the long-hours of training, but there’s nothing like a hairy/scary challenge. My coach was right, tackling some gnarly hills gave me a bit of confidence. But it also has given me a healthy respect for this challenge. It might just be the hardest event I’ve been mental enough to sign up for. And that’s saying something. I’ve run 16 marathons…