Thursday, January 25, 2018

WORD Term Programme donation

Each term, the WORD term programme sells out quick smart (and for very good reasons).  That's 180 budding MTBers out on the trails each week, across the Wellington region.  Venues include Makara Peak, Mt Victoria, Wainui, and, for the first time, Porirua.

Ashley Peters and WORD have kindly donated a spot in the (almost sold out) Term One programme due to start on 12 February.  We will be selecting a worthy winner of a place in the programme that best suits the recipient (location and day of the week).

To apply, leave a comment in reply to my recent blog about my own mental health, and WORD's role in my family's life.  Tell us something about what resonates with you in that blog, or how the work of the Mental Health Foundation has particular relevance to you.  If you make the comment anonymously, please send an email to so I know who you are.

I have a fundraising target of $195 for the place on the programme, which is the usual price to get someone onto WORD.

Aside from the guaranteed spot, I would love it if this cost was partially or wholly crowd-funded.  If you're not an aspiring WORD parent, but would like to donate towards this target, please mention WORD in your comment at the donation portal.  If we crack the $200 mark in this way, the place will be free for the recipient family.

For every $100 over the $200 target, I'll personally contribute $25 towards getting another runner up onto a WORD programme this year, and see if I can convince Ash to put them at the front of the next queue.

We'll make the selection on Friday 2 February.

Thanks to WORD for their generosity.

* * * * *

This blog describes a fundraising project for the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand.
  • Nearly 50% of New Zealanders will experience a mental health problem in their lifetime, and one in five will have experienced a mental illness this year.
  • Depression is set to overcome heart disease as the biggest global health burden by 2020.
  • The Mental Health Foundation (MHF) is a charity that works towards reducing stigma and discrimination associated with mental illness. We provide free support, training, and resources for anyone who is going through a difficult time, or for people who are supporting loved ones.
To make a donation, visit  Any contribution, big or small is greatly appreciated, and will be put to good use by the fine folk at MHF.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Depression, parenthood, and thanks to WORD

This is not a balanced post.  But, please bear with me.

I live in a love-filled household.  Our "good morning, did you sleep well" embraces are a daily highlight, and I sorely miss them when schedules enable a late start for one or other of us.  

It's nonetheless true that my best moments are usually out of sight of my family - whether that's at work or at play.  The relatively complex home environment lies somewhere in between the energy-drain that is work, and the battery-charger that is my bicycle.  Home can be in either camp, or neither.

Becoming a family of riders was not just about individually becoming riders.  A great deal of care, and investment of both time and money, has been needed to ensure everyone's having fun - choices about when and where we ride, for how long, and on what, have all helped us get to where we are.  I'll take some credit for that.  

Whether you have kids or not, or suffer from depression or not, there may yet be something here that resonates with you.  How we conduct our every-day lives has changed dramatically in the last few decades, largely technology-driven, I guess.  One open question is "who sees us at our best?", followed by "who deserves to?"

I'm going to be unnecessarily hard on myself, because I think it helps make an important point.


I can confidently say that I'm not an easy person to live with.

I'm a creature of habit, which generally means I do the same annoying things every day (e.g. dumping my clothes on the bedroom floor).  I'm also fussy, and that means I tend to get annoyed at the same things every day (e.g. others loading the dishwasher with things touching one another).

When I ride, or write, they chomp through already scarce time at home.  When I'm not doing either of those things, I'm almost always distracted by something else.

While I really enjoy my job, it's mostly about solving problems.  Some are easy, but these tend to be numerous, and I struggle to avoid the temptation to deal to them at home in the evenings or weekend.  Others are not so easy, and while they're still on the to-do list, I find it very hard to not think (and fret) about them near-constantly. 

I rarely have time to interact with friends unless I'm at home, and in the smart-phone age, perusing social-media has an ever-present allure.

I'm trying to learn French (on my phone, using Duolingo), and that takes time.  And I'm also following the Trump train-wreck closely - it's both horrifying and fascinating watching history be made in real-time.

I'm introverted, yet am often surrounded by people at work, and sometimes my need for a bit of solitude makes it all the way home with me.

I also have depression.

The way it articulates itself in me is as an energy black hole.  Sometimes I liken it to gravity not being 9.81m/s2, but something more.  On a good day, 10-10.5 would be about right, but on a bad day, simple tasks seem to require more energy than I have to offer. 

The medication I'm on - the 8th or 9th combination, from memory - does a good job getting my usual level close to where it should be, but unless adult life simply is hard and I'm not well-equipped to deal with it, my hunch is my mood is pretty much always abnormally low.  Tolerable, but low.

The sense of fatigue I almost always live with, both mental and physical, affects the way I act.  And, I suspect the outward appearance could easily be confused with displeasure, or a lack of love towards the observer.

The killer is that none of it makes any sense, and so logic does not apply.  While I clearly have depression, I have very little in my life to be depressed about.  I have an incredible family, talented on just about every dimension I could name, and we live a very good life.  My job is rewarding and while stressful, is really enjoyable, and, depression aside, I'm in fantastic health.

I know how excruciating it is that the actions of those who care about me cannot pull me up - I experience that same frustration, while it's all in progress...  "How come he can be like that when I show him so much love?" is a folly.  But, that it is, is not immediately obvious, and I suspect that coming to terms with that fact can actually be harder than being depressed.

Luckily for my family and I, the periods when I'm really down are rare - maybe 2-3 days every month or so.  But when they hit, they suck.

Depression is a bastard.


My two beautiful daughters were born a couple of months apart.  Kaitlyn, in August 2000, in Wellington Women's Hospital, and Khulan 8 weeks later in Darkhan, Mongolia, with no help from me whatsoever.

Despite being undiagnosed for the first half of Kaitlyn's life, my depression was nonetheless hovering.

As a PhD student initially, and then as a junior academic, getting paid much more but doing essentially the same stuff (teaching and research), pretty much all of the gripes above applied (well, except for the medication).  I was only ever incapacitated on Saturdays - in hindsight, that was the only day of the week I could afford to be depressed - there was far too much stuff to do at every other time.

The lack of energy, and I think to some extent, personal inhibition, meant I was never a very "fun" Dad.  Kaitlyn and I didn't play much - but I found other ways to be an active and engaged parent.

When she was really small, we went for regular walks.  Often these would be at the Karori Sanctuary, as it was then, and I also discovered the mountain buggy fitted on Makara Peak's growing network of singletrack perfectly well.

At home, I'd bath her every night.  We'd often spend an hour in there together, playing eye spy ("with my little eye, something the colour of...", pre-alphabet) or just splashing one another with increasingly cold water.

Long after that routine had ended (I often wondered when we'd have our last bath together, but have no recollection of when or why we stopped), I made up for shortcomings in my own imagination, by taking advantage of the imaginations of others.  Roald Dahl, J.K.Rowling, Philip Pullman and many others kept us both entertained, and over the years, despite Kaitlyn being capable of reading them alone, I'd spend sometimes 3-4 hours between school and bed-time reading to her.

No matter how freaking depressed I was, I could always deliver on the reading-aloud front, and to a large extent, that was where I found my relief.

The Phillips trailer-bike gave us new opportunities, and I was able to supplement my daily 12km round-trip commute and occasional MTB ride, with regular forays into Makara Peak or the Skyline.

At a PNP race on Mt Vic

At least once a week, I'd leave the trailer-bike with Kaitlyn at school, and we'd hitch up at 3pm and head to the Skills Area for afternoon tea and story time.

We had a few good years on it, culminating in the Karapoti Challenge record (which still stands), and the most fortuitous simultaneous photo-snapping that I'm ever likely to benefit from...

Two faces in the moment, and what a story they tell...
Once Kaitlyn was too big for the trailer (well, too heavy for me to manage), the transition to her own bike seemed a tough one that at times made me wonder if the tandem had been a mistake.  She'd become accustomed to our access to some fairly technical and remote tracks, and an absence of responsibility for things like gears, braking, steering, and to a large extent, power.  On the other hand, she new how much fun MTBing could be, and had been around the large and happy community for as long as she could remember. 

A big leap forward came when our paths crossed with Ashley, and the pre-loved "Montana Judy" made a huge difference to Kaitlyn's riding.  Wellington's trails remained steep and narrow though, and I was not a great teacher.  So much of mountain-biking becomes as simple as the fellow imploring you to try it says it is, only after a successful attempt.  For whatever reason, my urgings were not compelling, and the Koru-Lazy Fern lap continued to be a stressful affair, for both of us.

And thanks to WORD...

I'll get rid of the elephant in the room right up front.  We're a WORD family in an unusual sense - Sarah and I may well have met and married if our two daughters had not been on the first WORD holiday programme, but certainly the kids knowing one another (and getting along in a fashion to rival the parents') sped things along nicely.

The Wellington Off-Road Riding Department opened its doors (or more specifically its outdoors) to a group of seven young women on 22 January, 2013.  The 3-day holiday programme included riding at Karori Park and Makara Peak, Wainui and Miramar, and concluded with a spot of trail-building in Polhill.  At the time, WORD was Ashley Peters (then Burgess).  Not content with giving Kaitlyn a bike, she was determined to "build confidence, encourage new friendships, and foster a lifelong love of mountain biking" in as many kids as she could find.

I remember Kaitlyn being incredibly pooped after those three days, but also that when she'd recovered, she was a different rider than the one I'd dropped off on the first day.  In some ways it was astonishing how much had been achieved in such a short time.  But I knew too that mountain-biking can actually be easier than it seems, and Ashley had clearly created an environment where Kaitlyn was prepared to give things a go (to hell with the consequences).

I don't take that particularly personally.  I'm sure the peer pressure was helpful - seeing someone your own size doing something is surely more compelling than seeing your old man (who's been riding for aaaaaages) do it.  But Ash also has the sort of personality that draws the best out of people, and it couldn't have been more perfect that her first clients were a group of young women keen to emulate, if not impress, their hero.

Team WORD at Revolve's Women of Dirt event, 2013.

When I got home from France that July, Kaitlyn, Khulan and I went riding together - not the first time we'd done so, but the first time without Sarah and the Waghorn and de Mayo families.

Top of Hawkins
We were getting used to one another, and the riding provided a very nice context in which that could happen.

Five years on, the girls have become incredibly talented riders - both have incredible fitness and skill, exceptional not only among women of their age, but exceptional among any group of 17-year-olds, or adult cyclists for that matter.   Their prowess, and the way their progress motivated Sarah to also master the fine art of hooning down a rough track, has enabled us to do some wonderful things together as a family; most recently, the gnarly Moerangi Track, a tough but stunning ride in the middle of nowhere.

Yes, seeing them be awesome is cool.  And yes, doing things as a family is cool.  But, for me there's a another reason I'm so glad we can ride together. 

What I really feel thankful for is that they get to be with me when I'm riding my bike - and not as a bystander, watching me compete, or welcoming me at the end of a ride.  I truly value them seeing me do it.

I was very critical of myself at the start of this blog, bringing attention to some of my worst qualities.

What balances me out, and in many ways is one of the single biggest factors in my wellness, are the moments of complete calm and freedom I feel when I'm riding my bike.  But these best qualities are mostly hidden from view.  They sure as hell help me, but it tends to happen when I'm on my own, giving onlookers a systematically incomplete picture.

If it weren't for the rides we do together, its a part of me that they might not know existed.  Or, worse, they might confound me being on my bike with me being away from them, and figure I'm only happy when I'm alone.

My kids being able to ride with me allows them to see me at my best.  They see me free from stress, self-doubt, or distraction.  They see me fully in the moment.  In the context of my life, that genuinely feels like a small miracle. 

* * * * *

WORD's beginnings were far from easy, and whether or not that first camp would go ahead hung in the balance until a few days before when the Ariella, Mili, Lucy, Sophie and Khulan signed up en masse.  When you look at it now, it's hard to imagine how easily it might not have happened - all it needed to go that way was someone less passionate, committed and confidence-inspiring than Ash.

These days, there are 25 instructors and 15 assistant instructors involved, with around 800 enrolments per year (about 180 per term in after-school programmes, and 100 in each holiday) - seriously heart-cockle-warming stuff.  Kaitlyn's spent four days last week instructing two holiday camp groups, and I've every confidence that the young people lucky enough to be in her groups responded to her in the very same way that she did to Ash.

The future is bright.

Thumbs up indeed, daughter!

* * * * *
  • Nearly 50% of New Zealanders will experience a mental health problem in their lifetime, and one in five will have experienced a mental illness this year.
  • Depression is set to overcome heart disease as the biggest global health burden by 2020.
  • The Mental Health Foundation (MHF) is a charity that works towards reducing stigma and discrimination associated with mental illness. We provide free support, training, and resources for anyone who is going through a difficult time, or for people who are supporting loved ones.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Family riding - native forest edition

One of Family Randal-Tumen's finest annual traditions is a few nights away together in the height of summer.

We've hit some fantastic spots:  Nelson, Northland, Rotorua and the Central Plateau, and the lure of a return visit has been strong.   On the other hand, New Zealand is packed with wonderful riding, and the chance to go somewhere new is hard to go past.

This year's trip took shape when Kaitlyn mooted the possibility of a Christmas afternoon flight to visit her maternal grandparents in Tauranga.  Not long after, we'd agreed to pick her up on the morning of the 29th, and had accommodation booked for that evening in Whakatane.

* * *

Sarah, Khulan and I set sail from Wellington relatively early on the 28th.  We figured the chance to sneak a ride in at Rotorua was worth forgoing a sleep-in.  We inadvertently left when the roads were quiet, and made good time up the lower North Island.

It's been a while since I've ridden at Rotorua, and had forgotten that they're not big on climbing trails.  They are big on glorious descents though, so smiles were restored eventually, and it was nice to take a break from the car.

Our accommodation for the night was in Putaruru - a bit of a random choice, but within easy striking distance of Tauranga.

The Pakihi Track

We met Kaitlyn and her grandparents in Bethlehem the following morning, and then made our way into Tauranga to find some breakfast.  The "Best Metro Cafe in 2015" signage all over the windows was a good drawcard, as was the convenient location on the edge of the city.

Not long after leaving the cafe (satisfied, but a bit lighter in the pocket), we found ourselves with a choice of the Tauranga Eastern Link toll road, or the "free option" that most drivers seemed to be taking.  For novelty value, the $2 was value for money, especially given the recent legislation permitting 110km/h along this stretch - elsewhere it can be a lot more expensive to go that fast...

I disregarded Garmin's suggestion to stay on SH2, and instead followed the sign to Whakatane.  As a result, the day had really marched on by the time we parked up at the top of the Pakihi Track - the jewel in the Motu Trails' crown.

Before setting sail, we had a big ol' picnic lunch, and wished the car a safe few hours on its own.

The track immediately plunged into some of the finest native forest I'd seen.

Exhibit 1
The Pakihi is given a Grade-4 rating, but only really because the trail is exposed in places.  The track surface was almost uniformly wide and smooth.  Interestingly, Sarah seemed nervous, and had fared much better on the feature-laden and more technical trails of Whakarewarewa the day before.  Observing her nervousness engendered my own, but at least the girls seemed to be having a blast (and the scenery was off the hook).

We popped down to see the Pakihi Hut, which necessitated a bit of a grovel back up to the main track, and queries as to the point of the side-trip.

Pakihi Hut
Soon after, we'd peeled off most of the 400m altitude we'd lose, and the remainder of the ride was spent just above the beautiful Pakihi Stream.

Pakihi Stream, and Sarah off in the distance

While I was going to have my work cut out for me to get back to the car before dark, my companions had a lot of time to kill.  As we all gazed longingly down at one of the many swimming holes we passed, I did try to point out that there was no particular need to rush.

At the end of the single-track, I left my companions, and enjoyed smacking it along the gravel road towards Opotiki. That soon turned to seal, and I was stuck with an unfortunate tail wind - nice while it lasted, but I was going to soon turn 180-degrees, and would have preferred it on the road up to the car.

Just before hitting town, I jumped onto the Otara River stop-bank, which served as a useful bypass of civilisation, to a large extent.  I did make use of the cell-phone reception though, to communicate with our evening's land-lord, and the operator of the White Island tour we'd take the next day, and to let Sarah know those things were sorted.

After a very brief spell on SH35, I popped onto the Dunes Trail which sits between the Pacific Ocean and the highway.  At times I questioned my choice - not because there was anything wrong with the trail, but simply because I was keen to get back to my family, and the faster progress the road would afford was tempting.

Who wouldn't rush back to these beauties (and the photographer)?!
I had a short break at the foot-bridge between Jackson and Motu Roads, and then it was onto the latter for the 600m climb up to the car (which I hoped would still be there!).  I'd been up the road back in January 2010, when the signage was a bit newer!

December 2017
January 2010
Before the climb-proper started, I saw a cyclist coming towards me.  Bloody small world - it was Ben Knight, owner of the AvantiPlus store in Masterton.  It was lovely to catch up briefly, and he seemed interested to hear how nice the Pakihi had been.

The climb is broken up into two large and one small chunks.  By virtue of the drive in, I knew pretty much what I was in for, and while my energy levels were waning somewhat, I did have plenty of food in my pockets.

Meremere Saddle - top of the first pinch.  

Water was another story, so it was lucky I was surrounded by so much native bush, through which surely (hopefully?!) flowed drinkable water.  I assumed so, and filled my single bottle - a downside of riding the fully - a couple of times.

I had soon crested Toatoa Hill as well, and from there it was just a short push up the final ascent to the car.  I'd ridden into light rain, not worthy of a rain-shell, but cooling enough to don my vest.  And, the car was indeed unmolested.

Not a 5-star look on my face, but definitely a 5-star ride

The Pakihi Track itself had taken us about 1.5 hours, and the full loop just over 5 hours. By the time I was back in Opotiki, it was getting pretty dark, by virtue of our 2pm start, and long drive back down Motu Road.  In total, the return car trip must have added 3-hours to the day, and did have me wondering about the best way to tackle this track in the future.

Actually, I wouldn't recommend anyone replicate our approach.  The climb to the trail-head is fairly long, but quite stunning, and worth cruising up.  The Pakihi Track is not particularly physically demanding (if you're fit), and so little energy is required once you've tipped downhill.  The end of the singletrack is alongside a lovely river, and soaking in the water on a warm afternoon would be a nice place to kill some time while the driver boosted around to the bottom of Motu Road for the car.  If the wait there got boring, a cruise down the road to Opotiki would just about fill the gap perfectly, I think.

* * *

The awkward timing and specifically the late start on the Pahiki was mostly to make way for a trip out to White Island.  It was the first time I'd been, and the crew at White Island Tours looked after us well.  Once we got back home in the early afternoon, I dropped Kaitlyn and Khulan at Ohope Beach, and then gave my bike a bit of lovin'.  The chain in particular was desperately in need of some lube after the damp finish to the ride.

The next day we took a side trip to Rotorua, and spent a few hours riding with Ashley and Steven...

About to head into Te Tihi o Tawa - a gem, and in native rather than commercial pine forest
...followed by another couple on our own.  Then, it was off to the supermarket to get supplies to last us a couple of days, followed by a 90 minute drive to Minginui (including a lap of Murupara).  We were booked in with Whirinaki Forest Holidays, and were warmly welcomed by Garry and his partner, who were about to go out on the ran-tan to celebrate New Year's Eve.

Our room - "The Surgery" was small and simple, but had an awesome shower, and pretty much a full kitchen, so we were able to prepare a normal dinner, and finally clean some of the Whakarewarewa dust off our legs.

Not a soul was keen to see in the new year awake, and we all hit the sack early.

The Moerangi Track

The Moerangi Track was on my short list of "ones that got away".  Nailing it on the first day of 2018 was surely an auspicious start to the year (The Tourmalet, I'm looking at you...!)

Simon and I had decided discretion was the better part of valour back in 2011, when neither of us had a fully-functioning rear brake, and we'd ridden straight into Minginui on the road.  It was good to be back, albeit six years later.

While the top of the track was officially "Closed", Garry reported cyclists had been getting through, so I made the executive decision to give the full track a go - Plan B had been to do an in-and-out as far as Roger's Hut.

The Kennett Bros' book points out the ends of the track are 37km apart.  When we set off in the car, I had that figure in mind, but hadn't stopped to think about the implications of neither end sitting on the state highway.  To make matters worse, my memory of the Okahu Road turnoff bore little resemblance to the actual intersection, so I didn't recognise it when we drove past it not long after leaving our accommodation.

Once you've passed what you are looking for, you could go on forever without finding it.  And, as the drive went on, I tried massaging the data to fit.  Perhaps the speedo was under-reporting distance due to the gravel road?  The trail starts high, so surely the intersection is at the top of this hill?  Both attempts to deny the increasingly obvious:  you've gone too far.

In the end, it was clear that we'd missed it.  In fact, had the track been a dead straight-line, we were probably too far from Minginui for it to get us home.  What a shambles, but the plus was we were sufficiently close to Lake Waikaremoana that it was worth continuing a little longer just to admire the view for a moment.

A small but beautiful consolation
Sarah, Kaitlyn and Khulan probably sensed that I was beating myself up for the mistake, so kindly didn't rub it in.  My screw-up was not without its implications though.  Our sedate start, and the 100km detour, meant we didn't start our ride until 1:30pm, close to three hours later than if I'd paid more attention to detail.  In any case, no point crying over spilt milk, so focus turned to the task at hand.

We parked at the DOC campsite a few kilometres up Okahu Road.  There were half a dozen tents up, but we didn't see anyone.  Despite some evidence of storm damage, the road was in good condition, and the 8km through to the trail-head passed relatively quickly, despite the steady climbing.

Moerangi trail-head
The first section of single track was a lot steeper than the road had been, and there was even a short flight of steps to push our bikes up.  That soon ended though, and once gravity was on our side, we had a good 5-minute hoon down to our first compulsory dismount.  Nonetheless, the trail behind us was good enough for Khulan to remark that this was her favourite track on the trip.  Premature, as it turned out!

Negotiating the first bit of damaged track was a breeze, and as yet, our feet were dry.  But as we progressed, the hike-a-bike sections became more regular, and more worthy of attention.  In a couple of places the track had disappeared into the stream, necessitating us to do the same temporarily.  The water level was low, so it was no problem, but had the stream been pumping, a short ride back to the car would have been our only option.

As we continued, each obstacle seemed to be more time consuming than the last, but the riding in between was nice, and the surrounding forest and stream were as beautiful as any you'd find.  It was also a damn sight better than being stuck in the car on a windy gravel road...

Wet feet on this one, I'm afraid
It was 7km to Skips Hut, but it took is 1h15 to get there from the trail-head.  By the time we left, it was already past 3:30pm and as we tucked into some afternoon-tea, we sincerely hoped our rate of progress would improve.

Skips Hut (not shown, Onga Onga - a nasty stinging nettle in the vicinity that the 17-year-olds brushed past)
Our hopes were ill-founded, and soon enough we reached a massive slip.  There was probably about 10-15m of track completely missing, with a 40-50m slip face dropping right down to the stream in the valley below.  We were about two-thirds of the way up the slip, and short of going back a way, passing below it was out of the question.

Trampers (or other cyclists) had been over the top of the slip though, and there were both fluoro tags to follow, and footprints.  After a quick recce, it was clear I would need to ferry the four bikes to the top at least - a time consuming and somewhat exhausting process.  At least the girls were able to cope with the descent on the other side, and soon enough we were all back on track.

It was almost 5pm by the time we arrived at Rogers Hut, but not before one of the daughters had asked if we'd be better to go back to the car.  I'd given an emphatic no, but didn't really qualify that answer.  The question came not long after the big slip, and the thought of undoing all that hard work was too much to bear.  I also knew the track was fine (i.e. open) from Rogers Hut onwards, and felt that the ordeal-half of the ride was almost over.

Rogers Hut with 22km out of 35km still to ride
The second hut did indeed signal the end of the damage.  Our new annoyances were rain-laden ferns which often completely obscured the track below, and drenched us as we rode between them.  I was on point, and hoped that my companions weren't getting quite as wet as I was.

Our next milestone was the turn-off to Moerangi Hut - it was a 1km side-trip that none of us were remotely interested in, though I couldn't help myself but ask if anyone wanted to go there.  After that, the fairly mellow stream-side climb turned into a sterner challenge, and while Khulan and Sarah went ahead, Kaitlyn and I paced ourselves slowly but surely up the 300m ascent.

I jabbered away, hoping to distract and/or motivate - Katy was low on physical energy, and stress levels were high.  She was justifiably concerned at the time of day, and had extrapolated our very slow progress on the first third of the track right out to the end.  As much as anything, I think the emotional toll was a bigger factor in her apparent fatigue than the physical effort.

We could see Moerangi Saddle getting closer and closer, by virtue of the angle of the daylight through the trees.  As we crossed from one catchment to another, we both cursed the trail builders for not immediately starting the descent, and it wasn't until another few minutes had passed that we met Sarah and Khulan and began our 500m descent.

I was fascinated to watch the daughters disappear off into the distance.  Kaitlyn looked like she was just starting a ride, and not at all like someone over five hours into a somewhat stressful mission.  It's interesting how fatigue articulates itself non-uniformly - we'd been on and off the bike on the climb, and as we switched modes of progress, each change seemed to bring a wee boost of energy.  Similarly, once gravity was helping rather than hindering, she seemed to have plenty of gas in the tank, not only to safely manage the descent, but to actually enjoy it.  (PHEW!)

Sarah was in fine form, and it struck me as strange how the relatively benign Pakihi had given her the greatest problems.  The descent, while damp, was tacky, and it was a lot of fun hooning along.  This was just as well - we'd worked bloody hard for this reward...

There were a few short climbs to negotiate before we reached the River Road carpark, and some huge rimu and other trees to admire.  We could hear kaka screeching above us too, which made a nice change to a ride relatively devoid of bird-life.

Celebration, and some relief
The Moerangi Track itself had taken us 5h20, which even despite the initial grovel, was near the lower end of the Kennett Bros' ride duration.

While the Tumens engaged in a bit of cat-and-mouse racing down River Road, Kaitlyn and I got into time-trial mode.  The width enabled me to ride alongside her and give her a helping hand from time to time, which I think we both enjoyed. 

It also gave me a chance to admire the strength of the Tumens.  Khulan had been rock-solid, despite riding the bike I least enjoyed ferrying around the slip (i.e. the heaviest)! And I've never seen Sarah mountain-biking so well.

We caught Khulan together, and when I drifted off ahead, I decided that was a good point to make for the car.   When I passed Sarah, I told her so, and then cranked up the legs.

I contemplated ditching the back-pack at our digs, but in the end kept going.  The highway section was over in about 20 minutes - the 150m climb was almost entirely sealed, while the descent was gravel.

When I got to the intersection, I was both grateful that it had come so soon, and bemused that "we'd" missed it earlier.  Despite there being no overt signage about the Moerangi Track, it was clearly a road that needed investigation...

Ohaku Road turnoff
The campsite, and car, were a couple of kilometres down the road, and as I loaded up my bike, a camper came to say gidday.  The 71km loop had taken just over 7 hours, and while it was not yet dark, it was virtually so by the time I got back to our accommodation at Farm Road.  There, I found my family in the process of deciding to eat without me, so my timing was impeccable!!!

It was a pretty impressive effort by the team, and although Khulan downgraded the track's "favourite" status, I reckon absent the time pressure, it would have retained its initial status.  Aside from the large slip, and seeing Kaitlyn a bit stressed out, I would have to rate it as one of my favourite mountain bike rides, and when I described the day to Simon on the phone a couple of days later, I told him he'd have loved it.

Kaitlyn made an interesting observation on instagram...

#goodthingstaketime #whatgoesupmustcomedown

While I accept we probably get back from these family "holidays" a bit too pooped, I make no apologies for challenging them.  They're now more than capable of going for a ride on their own (and each does, often), and to a large extent, I feel like my role is to show them (in a supportive and sensible fashion), exactly how capable they are - in many ways, just as Simon did for me starting about a decade ago.

As I said to Kaitlyn on the way up to Moerangi Saddle, her general fitness and skill level were a huge asset to her, and I would like to think that she, and Sarah and Khulan, got a great deal of satisfaction from a job well done.

And so it was.  I'm immensely proud of them, and glad we got out and gave it a nudge.  Maybe one of these days, they'll plan a family holiday at the beach, and drag me along (kicking and screaming probably), but until then, I'll be looking for more opportunities like these.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

2018 Wellington Off-Road Hill Climb Series

In signing up for yet another trip of a lifetime, namely, riding the 2018 Tour de France route, one day ahead of the pro peloton, I've committed to a fundraising target for the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand.  All proceeds from this four-race series will go towards that target.

Those of you who are preparing for Karapoti will find these races excellent preparation.  If you haven't tried Karapoti, you should - it's part of NZ's mountain bike folklore - here's the blog from my most recent attempt, and you'll find all sorts of great content at

Deepest darkest Karapoti!
For others, hopefully the novelty value of these events, and the worthy cause, appeal.

If you don't feel like riding, but would like to be involved, please email me on - I'll need a few marshalls/track sweepers each round.

Wellington Off-Road Hill Climb Series

When:  Tuesdays 16, 23 and 30 January, and Wednesday 7 February.  From 6:30pm.  
What:  Off-road climbing, time-trial format, suitable for MTB or generously geared CX bikes (ridden carefully through the rough stuff)
How:  Turn up from 6:15pm with warm legs, and join the start queue!  
Cost:   Entry by donation to the Mental Health Foundation.  Minimum donation: $30 for the series, or $10 per race.  
Enter:  make your donation here, and simply mention the hill climb series in your comment.  Or, pay cash on the night (and forgo the tax-rebate receipt).


  1. Makara Peak, 16 Jan.  Assemble at the end of St Albans Avenue.  Course:  Rimu, Miro, Smokin', JFK, North Face, 4WD to summit.
  2. Karori Park/Makara Peak, 23 Jan.  Assemble at north-west corner of Karori Park.  Course:  Wahine, Varley's, 4WD, North Face to summit.
  3. Te Kopahou, 30 Jan.  Assemble on the south coast just before the stream crossing before you get to Devil's Gate.  Course:  Red Rocks track, to high point of Barking Emu.  
  4. Polhill, 7 Feb.  Assemble on Holloway Rd, at the bottom of Clinical.  Course:  Clinical, Roller Coaster, Carparts to windmill carpark.  
Tracks will be closed to other users during the events.  Note that you CANNOT practice the round 1 course, nor ride the final sections of rounds 2 and 4 (North Face and Carparts, respectively).  

Thanks to:
  • Simon Kennett, with whom I developed the original concept for this series
  • Landowners Wellington City Council for event permits
  • Makara Peak Supporters and Brooklyn Trail Builders for developing and tending to the amazing infrastructure.
Extra special thanks to:
  • Michael Jacques, for spot prizes: three entries to Karapoti and one entry to the Crazyman.  One of these will be handed out each round.  
  • Jennie Taylor, from Sweet Cheeks.  Jennie's "natural products for athletes" are great, and the person with the longest total duration will be getting a tub of one of her finest products, the Butt Butter.  
  • Kashi and Mat at Yeti Cycles for some wonderful Yeti socks.  The first four Yeti riders to enter the whole series get a pair each, and there might be a few extra pairs to give away to stragglers.  (If you ride a Yeti, forward your donation receipt to, and I'll chase down your size if you're early enough.)
Proudly flying the Yeti flag

* * * * *

This blog describes a fundraising project for the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand.
  • Nearly 50% of New Zealanders will experience a mental health problem in their lifetime, and one in five will have experienced a mental illness this year.
  • Depression is set to overcome heart disease as the biggest global health burden by 2020.
  • The Mental Health Foundation (MHF) is a charity that works towards reducing stigma and discrimination associated with mental illness. We provide free support, training, and resources for anyone who is going through a difficult time, or for people who are supporting loved ones.

To make a donation, visit  Any contribution, big or small is greatly appreciated, and will be put to good use by the fine folk at MHF.

Round 1 Results

Round 2 results

Independent Herald, 24/1/18

Round 3 results

Round 4 results