I'm not really what you'd call a sporty kind of person. Exercise has never been my thing. At school I always came last in the athletics carnival sprints and I was the kid who always made-up new kinds of illnesses to get out of having to play rugby in PE. I know how important exercise is to my wellbeing, but it's always been something I felt I had to endure rather than enjoy, and I was never able to find a sport I was actually good at.
One blustery day back in July, while suffering from a case of the mid-winter doldrums, I decided on some kind of incentive to get me through winter. So, without giving it a second thought, I registered for the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge. What better way to get rid of those extra few winter kilos that had accumulated round my waist?
The thing is, since completing the race last Saturday, I don't think I'll ever quite be the same again. I'm a changed woman. Cycling is my thing and I can't be without it now.
Race day couldn't have gone better. I woke early on Saturday morning to a gorgeous sunrise and ventured in to Taupo to watch the solo riders begin their race. Smiling, chatting and full of energy, thousands of eager cyclists sped off through the streets of Taupo to begin their 160km cycling adventure round the great lake.
I had opted to ride the second half of the race and a total of 80kms starting in Kuratau, round the southern end of the lake, ending in the Taupo township. I hopped on a bus out to Kuratau to wait patiently for my team mate Mary, who was already busy completing the first 80kms.
Within no time, Mary sped through the transition and I was on my way. The moment had finally arrived. Five months of training led to this - the longest distance I'd ever travelled by bike. Surprisingly, I felt strong right from the start, but I told myself not to go out too fast or I might wilt too quickly.
My game plan was to simply meander my way round the course and enjoy the stunning scenery of Lake Taupo - but something came over me and I turned into a speed demon of sorts. I had an energy that seemed to come from nowhere and I felt powerful and confident. I was actually overtaking people. I never overtake people! I motored up hills and along straights.
My wonderful family, who doubled as my support crew, met me along the way, cheering as I sped by, giving me more incentive to get to that finish line even faster.
Maybe all the training I'd done had finally paid off, or maybe it was just the race day adrenaline that kicked in, but I sped over the finish line in a time of 3 hours, 29 minutes and nine seconds - over half an hour faster than the time I'd set for myself. That was the icing on the cake and I couldn't be happier.
Next year I'll be back - but this time it will be to complete the entire 160kms, and I can't wait. Until then, I'm just looking forward to my next ride.By Sarah Lawrence