My goodness, how the time has flown. We got back home from Europe in mid October, which is still Springtime in New Zealand. Splashes of snow still lingering on the tops of the mountains and still quite chilly in the mornings & evenings. Not quite swimming weather just yet. It takes a little while longer to heat up and stabilize on this little island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Summer only really kicks in properly around December, when the Pohutukawa flowers start blooming as well as all the other beautiful blossoms. There is this summer buzz in the air and whiffs of bbq’s surround you wherever you go. The high-pitched screeching of the Cycadas will drive you insane, but it is such a typical summer sound, and our natural temperature gauge.
Anyhow, being home again after 5 months on the road is bliss. I get to recharge, rest up and savor all the little things that you miss so much when you’re not at your own house. Plodding around in the garden, planning the next project for the house, catching up with the neighbors and friends we haven’t seen in months. Drinking flat whites and eating all my favorite yummy veggie food is such a highlight after months of baguettes and cheese and when a margarita pizza is your only veggie option. I get to wear all my clothes and shoes I don’t get to travel with, so everything seems new again. One of my highlights is getting to ride all my favorite local tracks again and seeing & hearing the Tui & Fantail birds flitting around your head in the forests. The musty smell of the Beech forest & the lush rainforest is such a comforting, welcome sight. Ahhhh, it has been a great few months back at home, but there wasn’t much time spent sitting back with my feet up drinking G&T’s.
We’ve had a whirlwind of an off-season. It started off with me not touching my bike for about a month – I think that’s the longest break off the bike I’ve ever had, but I just had no desire to ride my bike. The 2014 race season was probably the hardest, most intense and full on race season I’ve ever had. I was physically knackered and mentally pretty drained, so the time off the bike was just what I needed. I was tramping (hiking) and loving my yoga and also embracing just not having to do anything that elevated my heart rate if I didn’t feel like it. Of course after a month, I was getting anxious to get back on the bike again, to start exploring, riding and getting into the swing of summer. I had no plan, no structure, no training schedule; I just went riding my bike.
October & November were filled with errands & catching up with everything that gets left behind. It entailed loads of weeding, planting, lawn mowing & house cleaning. It wasn’t all dull though, Sven & I (and a builder), built a massive deck onto our house, something we’ve been wanting to do for a while now, so that was a great project to plan and build that. Sven also had surgery to fix up an old injury, so it was the perfect project for him to keep busy, instructing us on what to do and how to do it.
December = summer in New Zealand. Flowers, blue skies, birds, road trips, beaches, 4X4, camping, swimming, and boats – you name it, the whole lot. It’s always a crazy month with Christmas and all that going on. We ended up heading over to Santa Cruz, CA for a quick week trip, to collect photo & video assets for the new Juliana Team, and of course to attend the Santa Cruz Christmas Party. That was an amazing week of riding hero dirt with likeminded people, and that really fired me up to get back on the bike properly and renewed my excitement for riding again. I was looking forward to get back home and back out on my local trails. We ended 2014 with something completely new, but very exciting, a proper backcountry 4x4 adventure to the middle of nowhere with a bunch of friends. New experiences, new places & new challenges, was the perfect way to end a pretty epic year and of course set the bar for what was to come in 2015.
January marked the start of an actual training program for me. I’ve never tried this before and thought I’d give it a go. It was also the beginning of a never-ending flow of friends and visitors. We love this, as it forces you to get out and show people around, to do all the touristy things and of course ride all the various trails. Sven thought he’d be back on the bike by now, but alas, due to complications, the poor guy is still not back on the bike four months later, so I’ve been solo tour guide for the past few months now. Our first lot of visitors to arrive, was Jerome Clementz & Pauline Dieffenthaler for the month of January. We squeezed in as much as we could. We rode and rode, and rode some more. I felt like I was on boot camp some days – yearning for a day lazing on the beach. We did a road trip down to Queenstown, rode all the classic Craigieburn tracks, all the classics in our area, local trails, faraway trails, tattoos in Christchurch, camping in Kaikoura, swimming, training, sleeping and repeating. It was amazing. I was knackered!
February started off with a scouting trip to the West Coast, followed by the Dodzy Memorial race (my first race since Finale in October – can you say RUSTY), straight into the Santa Cruz bike launch we did on The Old Ghost Road on the West Coast, with 10 journalists and 30 new bikes – quite the logistical nightmare, but all worked out perfectly. It was an epic trip to say the least, with loads of new friendships formed. The month continued with Josh Kissner, SCB product manager and friend, staying on for another week after the Santa Cruz bike launch and our dear friends John Parkin & Hannah Barnes were also in town escaping the brutal Scottish winter. Our summer adventures continued with these guys, riding, camping, overnighting in yurts, swimming and some more road tripping. As John, Hannah & Josh left, Tracy Moseley & James Richards got to Nelson, so off we went to show them all our favorite local trails and sample all the yummy restaurants. I’ve had a few women’s clinics in-between and Sven had to have another surgery to try and fix something – which doesn’t seem to have worked, so I haven’t had my usual adventure, riding buddy all summer, which makes me really sad. O, yes and I’ve been busy with that training thing I’ve been fitting in-between all the road trips, bike launches, visitors and of course ice cream stops!
And here we are in March – holy crap, it’s go time! March really marks the beginning of the season, as it’s all starting up a bit earlier this year, I tend to start feeling a bit panicky. Panicky, because that means it’s almost time for us to start thinking about leaving again, and panicky, because I’m scared that I’m not quite ready to race just yet, and it’s just generally an anxious time of the year for me. Like it’s all coming to an end and I’m trying to make the most of our time at home, but I’m running out of time. Savoring all the little things, not wanting it to end.
We’ve got the NZ Enduro happening in our backyard starting on the 13th of March. This event is going to be such a crazy weekend. It’s being held on some of our all time favorite trails, proper backcountry, and technical tracks. I love riding these trails, but I’m not too sure how I feel about racing on these tracks, as they’re all pretty special, sort of sacred to me and now they’re being opened up to the world. The forests are magical and mystical and I don’t want the racing element to ruin that experience you get when you ride there. It’s my special place. I guess I’ll find out soon. The other thing is that because it’s so close to the first EWS race, we’ve got pretty much all the top EWS racers in the world attending this little weekend race in the whopwhops (middle of nowhere) of Nelson in our backyard. The likes of Tracy Moseley, Jerome Clementz, Anne Caroline Chausson, Anneke Beerten, Nicholas Vouillos…the A-list goes on and on, so really, the first round of the EWS is in our backyard, not in Rotorua! After that weekend of course, everyone will make their way up to the North Island, to the bubbling, sulfur smelling, fern clad, rain forests & Redwoods of Rotorua for the much anticipated round one of the EWS series.
There we go, my summer in a nutshell. It’s been real, it’s been busy, and it’s been amazing. I still don’t have a tan (due to constant knee pads), I don’t feel rested, I’m sad to start thinking about leaving & the leaves have started to change color. Fall is in the air, and as the seasons change, and the leaves turn, we too start preparing for our migration North. I have to admit though, I do get excited about heading to Europe, as I do love the old villages, the history, the cheap food & wine and just having a change and experiencing a multitude of cultures excites me. Maybe it’s not so bad living two lives. I get to experience the best of both worlds. Bring on the never-ending summer!