Northland's Steve York says he doesn't really like cycling.
However, his efforts last weekend seem to prove otherwise as the 51-year-old spent 33 hours on his bike, travelling 640 kilometres or four laps around Lake Taupō during the annual Lake Taupō Cycle Challenge.
As gruelling as it sounds, York is no stranger to pushing his physical and mental limits.
The Whangārei Hospital podiatrist has completed eight Ironman, finished the 242.7km Coast to Coast and earlier this year, rode 2027km from Cape Reinga to Bluff in 13 days.
Read more: York on a mission to conquer Coast to Coast
But at 8am on Friday last week, York embarked on what would be his toughest test yet.
York was one of 13 riders who entered in the four-lap division, but he would be only one of eight to finish the following day.
Once the initial adrenaline rush wore off after completing the first of four 160km laps, York's thoughts turned dark as he questioned his motives.
"I started to really doubt myself as to why I was there," York said.
"I just wanted to throw my bike away and never do Ironman, never ride my bike again and I was hating myself for putting myself through this."
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Fortunately, York found his second wind after a short break and reuniting with Jason, one of the other four-lap riders. However, 20km into his third lap in the early hours of Saturday morning, York became weary and started to fall asleep while riding.
Thankfully, he was able to stop for a self-made coffee which turned out to be just what he needed.
"Once I had [the coffee], it was just like rocket fuel and I just started to take off."
Unfortunately, a roadside coffee didn't go so well for riding partner Jason, who had a violent vomiting episode after consumption about 410km in.
York ended his third lap at about 8.30am on Saturday and surrounded by his support team - mother Shirley, stepfather Norm and son Taawhiri - before he started the fourth lap, York's commitment to finishing was tested.
"That was the moment when I thought, '480km is good enough, maybe I should just lay here, close my eyes and if I fall asleep, I fall asleep'," he said.
"But people were walking past, congratulating and encouraging me so I thought, 'I've just got to do it', so I got up and jumped on the bike."
After making it to Turangi and reuniting with fellow four-lapper, Nicola, York battled through the infamous Hatepe hill before crossing the finish line at 5.02pm with Nicola alongside him.
Here's the video of crossing the line 33 hours after starting out on this ride. I crossed the line with a rider (Nicola) from Hamilton who I had ridden the first lap with two others. We continued on after the other two waited to recover, but I told Nicola to ride on after hitting the wall 10kms into the second lap. As I predicted, the real effort began as I entered into the dark spaces of the psychological battle to overcome a near successful willingness to give up, throw the bike down a bank, never ride a bike again, stop doing Ironman, make up some sort of excuse and many more negative thoughts as I rode alone and in the hot and humid afternoon. After a short break and lying on the gravel stretching out the back, one of the other riders (Jason) caught me up as his friend pulled out and we rode the second lap together and I got my second wind. After 340kms and about 20kms into the third lap, I was near falling asleep on the bike where you catch yourself momentarily lose focus, so we quickly stopped for a roadside billy coffee. This was like rocket fuel and I found another gear and the third lap would be my best in terms of energy and the confidence to finish. Unfortunately, Jason was struggling and had to stop about 410kms into the ride as he started vomiting powerfully at a quick stop. By this stage the two lappers had no long started a started riding past. I managed to catch up with some bunches and made my way into the end of the third lap about 8.30am on Saturday and over 24hours riding. At this stage most of the single lappers had just started off, so I took 30mins to fuel up and lay on the ground and hoping to fall a sleep as 480kms was better than nothing. Lots of riders waiting for the bus to take them to start the half course commended me for my efforts, and this with a strong desire to finish something I had started got me back on the bike. Again it was extremely hot, but also lonely beside passing some of the two lappers. By this stage, it was survival mode and counting down 10km blocks and aid stations. I made a plan to get to the Z service station in Turangi to buy a coke to help finish off the last 50kms. When I get my coke, Nicola comes out of Burger King, so we rode the last 50kms together. Out of the 13 starters, only 8 of us finished and one of them got more of a sun tan than what he was born with. Will I do it again? NO!! Seriously, No! Will I recommend this to anyone? No. Why would you? Do the two laps instead. Have I got a sore arse? Fuck yes! I could feel every bump and change of road chip sizing in the bitumen. Has this made me like cycling anymore more? No. Cycling is a means to an end. I want my 12 Ironman so I can get a legacy pass to Kona. In the meantime I'm passing the time with stupid challenges. Was I right about giving the brain a thorough workout? Yes, definitely. I found it harder psychologically, than I did physically. The brain is such a powerful organ, 'cos it will tell you what you can and can't do. When you're out on a bike for 33 hours you get to think about all sorts of things. This is one of the things I thought about with respect to sports psychology 101. Over the years, I've often heard responses such as "fuck that, you must be mad, are you crazy?, are you going though a mid-life crisis? what's wrong with you? etc..." when people do extraordinary things. There's probably more in it for the person saying it than the person doing it. Imagine if we changed the language to "fuck yeah!, you must keen, you are crazy not to, you are cruising through your mid-life, what's good with you." Yes, I think of these types of affirmations to will the mind to a positive place. Forgive the rant. I'm sleep deprived as well as a 5 hour drive home, but this is what I did over the past couple of days.Posted by Steve York on Sunday, 1 December 2019
"I was a little bit proud of myself that I did it," York admitted modestly.
"I've tried to relive or recount it and it's still a bit of a blur, it still really hasn't sunk in."
What made York's achievement even more extraordinary was his relatively simple training schedule. Apart from regular indoor workouts, York had been on only three 100km-plus rides since March.
His training regime will have to increase if he wanted to complete the 515km Ultraman Australia endurance race in May, which York was selected for as one of 53 people to participate.
Facing a 10km swim, 140km bike, 281.1km bike and 84.3km run - all to be completed within 36 hours over three days - York knows it will be his biggest test yet.
"The 84km run will be probably be challenging because I don't like running," he laughed.
"I've only been for one run this year and it was on the treadmill for 10km."
Despite his obvious skill for endurance-based sports, York was fascinated by the idea of 'mind over matter', the mental strength required to finish extreme physical tasks.
While the father of two considered himself a fairly typical Northlander, York said he prided himself on honouring the commitments he makes to endurance races.
"You lay your mana on the line by saying you're going to do this and in some ways, you don't want to be known as someone who starts something and couldn't do it."
York's ultimate goal is to complete 12 Ironman, which would make him eligible for a legacy pass to the World Ironman Championships in Hawaii.
Still undecided whether he would make it to a dozen, York said he was happy to be encouraging family and friends to believe in their ability to do the impossible.
"It might sound cliché but the joy that I'm striving to get is to make the seemingly impossible, possible for other people," he said.
"That's probably the biggest buzz I've get out of doing all of these things, witnessing and watching other people do it."