It's funny the things I think about while I'm out riding. During a recent training session it occurred to me how much cycling has been a part of my life. As a kid, Dad would take my brother and I out on long Sunday morning rides to give mum a break. Me on my cool Raleigh 20 and my brother on his little Chopper. Helmets weren't compulsory but we wore them anyway, and neither bike had gears. We'd always stop off at the local dairy and Dad would let us choose some one cent lollies. It was our Sunday morning ritual and we loved it.
Mum used to pick my little sister up from school each day on her bicycle - she'd tie a cushion to her carrier which my sister would sit on with her arms wrapped tightly round mum's waist - that was back in the 80s when road rules were a little more lenient.
Dad has cycled nearly every day for the last 35 years. Instead of buying a second family car, he brought a bike so he could cycle to work from West Auckland to the city where he worked - there were no bike lanes and the North Western motorway didn't even stretch to the CBD. He still cycles to work today. Dad has competed in the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge many times - on his debut, the weather was atrocious with howling winds and torrential rain but he got round the great lake on his Ten Speed and trainers. On Saturday, it will be my turn and luckily the weather forecast looks rosier.
I have been training for the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge since June. I was in a mid-winter rut and needed some incentive for exercising through the cooler months. I've become fitter and stronger and I've learnt a lot about the sport, but most of all it's reignited my passion for a pastime I loved as a kid.
I'm as prepared as I can be for Saturday's race, but I admit to feeling a few pre-event jitters. I really just want to get out there and do this thing. All that's left to do is make sure I eat right over the next few days so my body is properly fuelled come race day.
I've used Amy Taylor's book, The Lake Taupo Challenge Cycle Guide, as my bible. I've also trained with the author a number of times during the last few months. Here's her pearls of wisdom counting down to race day.
Three days before the race
Increase your carbohydrate intake by about 12g per kilogram of body weight. So, a 70kg person should try and consume 840g of carbs a day. This will replenish the natural stores of liver and muscle glycogen which is depleted through training.
The night before the race
For your last supper only eat foods you know your body is happy with. You don't want any belly aches, especially since you might be already suffering from some pre-race butterflies.
On race day
If you have an early start time, work out how much time you'll need to eat, warm up and be ready to go. Then set your alarm.
Eat the same breakfast you would if you were going out for your normal morning cycle and eat at least an hour before kick off. A small snack about 15 minutes before you start is ideal.
Make sure you have an extra water bottle, either empty in your back pocket ready to fill at a water station, or do what I've done and fit another water rack to your bike, if you have room.
Weather will impact on your food consumption. If it's cold, you'll probably want to eat more carbs, but if it's hot you'll crave less carbs and more fluids. Amy points out many riders often get more dehydrated when riding in the rain because they are surrounded by water and forget to drink.
By now, you should be used to the kind of food you prefer while riding long distances. I'm partial to electrolyte sachets and museli bars, but whatever your preference is, remember to eat every 45 minutes to an hour of riding time and aim for up to 200 calories at each intake. Chug back 1L of water or electrolyte drink for each hour of riding.
Make sure you have all your gear sorted - don't forget your pump, spare tubes, helmet, cycling clothes for all conditions, shoes, sunnies and sunscreen. Most of all, remember your bike!