The countdown is on. Only four weeks until I ride the longest distance I've ever travelled by bike - 80km. I will be completing the second half of the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge on 24 November while my team mate Mary will complete the first half.
Mary's ride is much hillier than mine, but I have two monster mountains - Kuratau and Hatepe. I hit Kuratau only 1km into my ride and it lasts 2.6km. Hatepe comes near the end of the race and is a climb of 3.1km. Every cyclist I've met with any experience of the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge chuckles knowingly as they speak of these hills - I've even had two seasoned cyclists at work heartily debate which is worse (I've chosen to blank that conversation from my memory - ignorance is bliss).
I have to admit, the thought of tackling the peaks isn't bothering me too much. Maybe the cycling bug I've caught has a little masochism thrown in, because I've grown to love hill climbs. I despised them at first, with a passion. I saw them as the enemy, dominating and commanding, stretching out relentlessly before me as my tired limbs struggled to get me to the top. Now, they are like old friends - they've made me stronger, fitter, more confident and resilient. I'm certainly never going to be the fastest hill climber, but my mantra is slow and steady wins the race, or at least in my case, will get me triumphantly over the finish line.
So, with about a month to go, the only real worry I have is if I'm prepared enough and how to taper my training as race day approaches so I'm well rested and ready to go.
My trainer Amy Taylor says tapering should take place two to three weeks before the race. She suggests to continue training the same number of times per week but reduce the length of the ride. Your level of intensity and speed should stay the same. This method will ensure you don't lose fitness, but will be rested enough for race day. There would be nothing worse than training hard right up till the big day and turning up exhausted.
Most athletes can reduce their training by up to 75 per cent without losing form just as long as the intensity stays the same, Amy says.
A few weeks out from the race, make sure you have organised all your essentials. A few things to consider are:
* Have your bike serviced two to three weeks before the race.
* Check your cycling shoes, clothes and helmet are in good condition and buy any new items well in advance so you have time to break them in.
* If you're anything like me and have the good fortune to have minimal punctures, make sure you are well practised at changing a tyre in case you need to on the day - you'll want to be as quick as possible. Make sure your bike pump is working well and you have plenty of spare tubes on hand.
* Ensure you have clothing for all weather conditions - rain, hail or shine
* Have plenty of food supplies and water bottles (check out my blog on nutrition)
* Sunscreen - don't make the mistake I did a few weeks ago and forget to slap some on. I got scorched and now have tide marks where my cycle pants end along with a nice set of tanned knees. That'll look good on the beach this summer.
The more prepared you are, the more confident you'll be on race day and the more you will enjoy yourself. In the end, that's what it's all about.