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“Be good….or be good at it”

At the risk of sounding cliche, there’s something about hitting the mid point in the year.

Wind the clock back six months and I was in a state of confusion and frustration.

The only thing I committed to was to live by the mantra of ‘Do Epic Shit’.

It’s been six months of rolling with the punches, diving into the unknown, embracing challenge, finding solutions and hustling like no tomorrow.

I took the leap of faith to go it alone, to live to my own set of rules – a stoically entrenched set of values that I knew I couldn’t deviate from.

If I was to continue to put my heart and body on the line, I had to be ALL IN. I had to back myself as how could I expect anyone else to have confidence in me if I didn’t have confidence in myself.

As today marks my kiwi birthday, the 4th of July celebrations in the United States and poignantly sits just after the mid point in the year, it’s fitting to cast a look back to see how taking the leap of faith and throwing myself in the deep end has paid off.

It’s challenged my like you have no idea. I’ve destroyed a shoulder, broken some ribs and had to suck it up. Like a bugger for punishment I decided to race my bike and throw my self into multisport as well as racing on the water. At the same time I’ve been neck deep in building a house at home and managing that from afar.

There have been more than a few moments of holy shit and hesitation. That feeling of having a lump in your throat wondering if you’re making the right decision to do or not to do. It’s pushed me, it’s challenged me and I’ve found a few new boundaries in the process that I didn’t know I had.

As America celebrates it’s birthday of independence on July 4th, it also signifies my kiwi birthday falling on the other side of the date line.

Ever guilty of being focussed on the future at the expense of celebrating the small things along the way, here’s a few moments and memories to celebrate one fine day in America and reaching another year older. Here’s a few of the many moments that have made 2017 a year that I know I’ll never forget

Big days out in the hills running the dates with mates programme

3 Weeks Notice Before 2 Days of Hell around the mountains of Wanaka, NZ at Red Bull Defiance

 

7x Consecutive NZ National SUP Titles – and a cyclone to boot

Did someone say #raceface? Any excuse to chew some dirt and throw some dust

 

5x Consecutive Carolina Cup Victories

 

The year of events in extreme weather continued with the added bonus of a win at the Olukai on Maui

Last minute trips to paddle 30 miles around Bermuda and another win over the boys

The infamous Davenport Downwinder & a victory over the boys

A first trip to the Go Pro Mountain Games in Vail, Co. 11x events, 4 days, 2nd in the Ultimate Mountain Challenge and being sent to some very dark places on repeat to find some new depths that I didn’t know existed

A chance to celebrate everything that is Live Like Jay at the Jay Moriarty Memorial Race in Santa Cruz, Ca with the one and only Kim Moriarty

While the first half of 2017 may be in the bag, there’s a monster of a second half of 2017 to contend with.

The month of July sees me in Maui, HI taking on four consecutive weekends of downwind races including three channel crossings culminating in Molokai 2 Oahu on July 30.

Looking ahead to September I have finally (for the first time in 5 years) said yes to taking up my position on the NZ SUP team to compete in the ISA SUP & Prone World Champs in Denmark from September 1-10. After turning down my place on the team in previous years for various different reasons, this year I have said yes.  Like the rest of my year, this is also a self funded trip. If anyone would like to support in any kind of way, please get in touch. 

To everyone who has supported, helped and assisted so far – THANK YOU. It takes a VILLAGE and it’s a village I’m proud to have behind me.

Here’s to the Doing of Epic Shit.

 

Ever felt like you’ve been on Struggle Street? Like you really should have rolled over and not gotten out of the car, let alone out of bed?

I think you all know what I’m talking about  – there’s going to be times when you’re winging it on less than ideal preparations and you know exactly what you’re in for.

Those are the days that all you can do is trust your intuition, have faith in what you’ve done before, realise that you could be in for a rough day and know that what doesn’t kill you just makes you stronger (one way or another!).

In my part of the world it’s unseasonably cold right now, wet and more like winter than ‘spring’ (If the Northern hemisphere is looking for some snow, come see me – I know where to find some).

Last week a few of the crew had admitted to putting in an entry to the annual end of November AK47 hurt-fest through the Nevis Valley (you might as well be sprayed by a machine gun as this is what you may feel like).

I was sitting on the fence on this one – I simply had not spent enough time back in the saddle and having done it last year and almost passed out from exposure over the climbs I knew what I would be in for.

Friday rolled around and so did a severe weather warning of rain and gale force winds with a freezing level dropping to 800m.

But it’s amazing what your friends can talk you into….and before I knew it I was in the kitchen getting my baking on whipping up my customary post-ride baking favourites for the team…and deliberating about what to wear to stave off the cold as not only do you climb over two mountain passes, but you cross a river close to 30 times and that was is coming straight off the snow further up.

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They come in their droves year after year for another dose of southern spring punishment from Mother Nature

I’m not sure what draws the crowds to this particular race as it’s more a battle with your mind and the elements than against other people falling into the category of ‘to finish first, first you must finish’, but they come in their droves every year. You also could ask yourself why people turn up to Tough Mudders to be electrocuted ……obviously people like to satisfy their inner masochist.

Within 2km of the start you hit the first hour-long climb. Straight up and over you go, gales in your face at every switch back.

To put it in perspective, I think I’ve ridden one decent hill since getting home and sure as shit – it was not at race pace.

I’d been feeling fairly average all morning and knew that I would likely be in for ‘one of those days’.

20minutes in and my thoughts were confirmed.

My lower back was aching, I was debating if I’d gambled on the right selection of clothing layers and I could feel the every ounce of the 3L of fluid and safety gear that was weighing my pack down as people flew by me (for those that have ridden with me they know that this is usually the opposite way round). There was a large roster of big hitters out in force and I was very much there to make up numbers and support a local Central Otago event.

What I did know is that this race is never won in the first half of the climb.

As we made our way further up, I started to find some rhythm and started to reel people back in.

On this particular course this is where’s it’s a bit of a gamble – do you go out hard and try to to descend with a bunch to ride through the valley with company, or do you ‘self preserve’ and hope you’ll find a buddy to ride through with?

My lack of preparation and average-ness necessitated the latter.

As I crested the plateau along the top of the range, I unrolled my sleeves back up my arms, pulled on my wetsuit gloves and tried to suck as much fluid on the descent as I could.

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The view looking south of the Nevis Valley. It’s a public road only open in the summer months and was the scene of a major gold rush in the 1800s

It’s a bone chilling descent into the Nevis Valley and as soon as you hit the valley floor, you  hit your first river crossing.

If you weren’t cold yet, you’re now cold, wet and freezing.

If you’d over done it on that first climb over the Hector mountain range you’re now about to suffer through two hours of no-man’s-land through the valley straight into a bone chilling head wind.

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The final crossing of the Nevis River is a welcome sight – and one which you don’t have to ride through

As I came off the hill, I clicked down my cassette and aimed for the wheels I could see in front. I caught them and hoped to find some company but blew through as they didn’t heed my call to jump on my wheel.

Now I was in the place that you never want to be – no man’s land, all by yourself.

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Thankfully about quarter of an hour into the valley a big guy came hurtling from behind. Hell no was I not going to lose that wheel!

It ended up being more of a ride side-by-side with a steady stream of banter and chit chat as we picked off rider after rider as the km’s ticked over, each time expecting our group of two to grow as we rode through the remnants of the first climb that were now scattered through the valley, but no-one jumped on (that first hill takes scalps of epic proportions).

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The gorge which offers up a nice few ‘pinches’ precisely when you don’t want them

As we encroached on the head of the valley and the end of the ‘flats’ the final climb stretches far beyond what the eye can see up and over the Carrick mountain range before it drops over the other side into Bannockburn.

Rather than weaving to the contours of the landscape, it’s more a series of steep straight grunts that result in pinch-after-pinch through a maze of never-ending blind corners that lead to yet more pain-inducing suffering as you hit the each pitch riding at anything up to sixteen degrees of gradient.

Throw in some gale force side winds that whip your front wheel out from underneath you and it’s more a test of mental fortitude than physical that will get you to the top.

When you have bugger all deposits in the training bank, you have to spend your pennies wisely.

Having been in a few situations like this, I knew that if I just kept turning over, respected my heart rate and used every easing of the gradient to click up a gear and keep the speeds constant, I’d ride myself up to the guys in front. And sure enough 3/4s of the way up I caught them.

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The top of Duffers Saddle and it’s (almost) all downhill to the finish

That’s also the point where it all starts to get a bit sketchy. With temps at freezing level on the top, gale force winds and an 8km descent ahead of you, what ever internal heat you  generated on the climb just got released straight into a blast chiller.

You’d think an 8km descent would be all-sorts-of-awesome come this point in the ride, but no – this is (and was) a descent of survival, attempting to lean into the wind from your right side while maintaining enough weight on your front wheel to avoid losing it in a gust.

Add in corners and corrugations and by the time you reach the sealed road for the final stretch to the finish you’re greeted with a blasting headwind and a couple of pinching rises just to well and truly finish you off.

And yes, there was a guy lying in a ditch having been taken out by the forces of mother nature on the descent (he may have been rethinking his choice to ride a cross bike at that very point).

As you crest the final brow to the finish I’m not sure what you’re more excited about. The thought of hot chips and free beer at the Bannockburn pub, or getting out of your damp shoes and manky riding gear to toast your ass in some fresh clothes beside the fire. What I do know is that you’re bloody thankful to just make it to the finish.

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Even back in the day there were riding to the pub for a pint

It’s one thing to finish near the pointy end of an event like this (and somehow I’d ridden myself into second for the second year in a row) but what’s fascinating (and inspiring) is the amount of people that turn up to ride through some country few will ever see and yes, some of these people are out there for the best part of 6-8hours….which is a totally different battle of the mind and body to those of us who finish in half the time.

With a significant field of heavy hitters hailing from mountain bike, road and multi-sport including our resident world cupper extraordinaire Kate Fluker who rode like a demon to win there’s no lack of talent in these parts as they all build into their summer seasons – most of which they dominate (this is one of those parts of the world there must have been a mutation in the genetic code giving unnatural human physical abilities out if you drank the water) making local events extremely competitive raising the bar all around which is awesome.

So this time next year, if you think you may be in need of a good dose of ‘harden-the-freak-up’, I might know a ride you’d like to lock in. You will probably hate me for it half way through, even more so at the end – but I’m betting you’ll thank me for it a couple of months later.

In case  you’re wondering what my choice of gear was for a ride like this – here’s what I used (and it was a marked improvement in the comfort stakes on last year). Hands down I’d rock the same combo next year or for any other ride through the mountains that you may experience extreme weather conditions.

World of Adventure Sports – Accidental Forks in the Road/Faroe Islands

PREMIERES TONIGHT

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It was a series of accidental forks in the road that led me to landing on the remote archipelago of the Faroe Islands in the middle of the North Atlantic for the latest episode of World of Adventure Sports.

Like many good adventures I had little to no idea of what I was going to be in for.

Leaving Queenstown airport on a June afternoon in a snow storm lugging an inflatable paddle board, hiking gear and a smattering of cold weather kit I embarked on a 40+ hour flying marathon to make it to the Faroes.cliff

First inhabited by Irish Monks a thousand years ago, it’s harsh landscape has shaped it’s people and it’s cultures. A culture of survival amongst the elements in order to stay alive and to provide.

Towering fjords, jagged sea cliffs and cascading waterfalls permeate the landscape in every direction. Faroese sheep skip about the steep hills in the land where folklore say that ‘you only fall once’.

The relationship between its people and it’s landscape is one of functionality. The ocean being a body that takes as much as it gives highlighted by the many men whose lives are lost at sea every year in pursuit of reaping the bounty of the ocean in order to provide.

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As the peaks of the mountains emerge through the ever present clouds that shroud the islands, it’s a landscape that beckons you to explore. Such has been the functional existence of this place that hiking and recreating are only just starting to be discovered as a way of bringing tourism to these forgotten lands of the North Sea.

We went in pursuit to explore, what we discovered was a raw bounty of recreation waiting be hiked, paddled and rappelled that had us itching to come back for more.