PNP Women's & Junior Summer Series of Racing

It was a perfect evening for the first Individual Time Trial (ITT) in the Women’s & Juniors Summer Series of racing. And what an awesome turnout we had from the women. 24 keen women turned up, most never having raced a time trial before – so big thumbs up for getting out there and giving it a go! The course was around the scenic bays from Burnham Wharf to Lyall Bay. Congratulations to all who raced – Sherilyn, Loren, Janine, Alex, Becky, Helen, Renata, Karen, Angela, Bridgit, Jo, Olivia, Tash, Sally J, Sally An, Dawn, Rachael, Sarah, Leah, Claire, Shone, Karina, Julia and Deb.

Big thanks to Max Olson who took some great pics of the race.

Bring on Beijing

Hi from a very hot and humid Beijing. This is just to let you know that I'm blogging during Games time here. Check it out sometime.

Almost a Year

I've almost been with the NZOC for a year! Time has flown. And thus the lack of updates to this blog. That, and because I'm no longer racing there's not so much to write about but here's a brief update...

Firstly - highlights of 2007. Yes I know it’s well into 2008 now but during our new year celebrations a friend asked what were your highlights of 2007 and my first thought was what a fantastic year. My top three moments were...

Helping the Wellington Womens Hockey team win the National Hockey League and in doing so win Wellington Team of the Year;
Getting an amazing job at the New Zealand Olympic Committee; and
Running the Great Wall of China Marathon.

I'm loving my job which still seems pretty new.... I'm still learning lots and forming new relationships. I'm fortunate that I have some great Masters to learn from in Dave Currie and Tony Pops - we have an awesome team. Work is definitely not work. Things have been ramping up for awhile now with some long hours at the office. We head to Beijing in less than 2 weeks.

I finished two papers at University last year but had to pull the pin on the Mandarin with the new job. Bit of a shame really but I'm really glad that I started and would one day like to pick it up again. I'm coaching 4 women mountain bikers, continue to run the Capitelles women's group and I'm back on the PNP Club Committee so there's still plenty of involvement with cycling. I resigned from the Board of the YWCA as I didn't have enough time to make a difference in the organisation and I'm still doing the odd speaking engagement.

The New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants sponsored my Continuing Professional Development (CPD) in 2006 and wrote an article about my build up to the Commonwealth Games. It was fantastic to have their support so that I could continue developing myself professionally and retain my membership and qualification while also continue to compete. They wanted to do a follow up now that I've retired which you can read here. It focuses on my role as Team Manager of the Wellington Women's Hockey Team and my Marathon on the Great Wall of China.

With little time spent on the bike I was out for other adventures. 4 of us decided to run/walk the Southern Crossing - 25km or 10 hours from Otaki to Kaitoke. 2 started at Kaitoke and 2 of us started from Otaki, met in the middle and exchanged car keys. It was hellishly windy so we were literally crawling along the tops hanging onto the tussock. I can laugh now about how many times we were blown over.... but at the time, it was pretty scary! Here are some pics from the Southern Crossing

My first time at the Wellington Rugby 7's was an absolute blast. We were the Evanjandalists!

I did my first rogaine with Paul Chaplow and Barryn Westfield as team itchy & scratchy in February. The Eastbourne Rogaine was a unique "any 12 hours in 18." We started at 7pm and were doing pretty well in the first 6 hours planning on only being out there for 8 hours then coming back in for a nap before finishing it off in the morning. Our plan which would gain us maximum bonus points never came to fruition, instead we lost 250 points by being 24 minutes late and only just missed disqualification! Anyway, it was quite an experience being my longest race ever and thanks to the guys for letting me tag along and for putting up with me!

Later in February five of us headed away to China for my first, but the Planning group's, 3rd and final site visit. China was looking good - infrastructure well in place and Olympic Villages almost complete. It's so important to meet face to face with our Chinese liaisons, to plan our team space in the Village, to arrange our team function and understand what other issues we may face at Games time. We spent 10 days visiting Hong Kong (Equestrian Village), Qingdao (Sailing Village) and Beijing and the hospitality was fantastic. We were extremely well fed - which wasn't good for the waistline!!!

At the end of our site visit I headed off on my own to Xian to see the amazing Terracotta Warriors and in search of some down time on Mt Hua. Mt Hua or Huashan is famous for its egregious granite cliffs, thousands of years old. The area consists of five peaks which look like five petals of a flower. East Peak is 2,090 meters high and is also called Facing Sun Peak because the top of the peak is the best place to watch the sunrise. I stayed overnight in the grottiest accommodation just to see this amazing sunrise. It was well worth it. West Peak is 2,086.6 meters high and is the peak formed by a huge rock, hence it's very steep. South Peak at 2,160.5 meters is always considered to be the head of the peaks also houses the temple for God of Mt. Huashan. North Peak, which was called Clouds Stand by ancient people, looks like a flat platform in the clouds. The peak is the smallest at a mere 1,614 meters. The final peak is Middle Peak. In the past, many emperors came to pray and sacrifice to the god of Mt. Huashan. Mt. Huashan is also a holy mountain of Taoism. It is said that Lao Zi (Lao Tzu), the founder and patriarch of Taoism, once lived and gave sermons here. Now, many Taoism temples are also located on Mr. Huashan. Here are my Mt Hua photo's

On ANZAC weekend we took the mountain bikes and headed to Roto-Vegas for the NZ Single Speed Championships. Well, I conveniently left my SS at home and took my geared bike as I knew my fitness wasn't up to the race and I purposely didn't enter the race (entries closed a week before).

But low and behold I turned up and Tama from Vorb sussed out a bikeand sorted me an entry.
SSing is sooooooh much fun. I love it. The freedom of no gears, the smoothness, the quietness, the simpleness, the pain of the climbs, the physicality of it - you can't be lazy. Big ups to Graeme Simpson for lending me his primo bike. Here I am with fellow Scott riders Kat Lawton and Jim Murray.

In May Matt Chisholm & Close Up did an article on my job with the NZOC and returning "home" to China... I talk about my ancestry and how special it is for me to go to China. It's amazing that from about 3 hours of filming over in the Wairarapa we get 4 minute air time. Here's the blurb and a link to the video.

Olympian returning home
The Olympics kick off in August with thousands of athletes converging on Beijing to test themselves on the world stage. For most it is the biggest event of their lives. For little known former Olympian mountain biker Robyn Wong these games have huge significance despite retiring from competition two years ago. Working for the New Zealand Olympic Committee she is not only responsible for getting our team to Beijing and creating an environment for it to win, but she is also going home - back to the country her ancestors left for a better life more than 100 years ago.

Robyn Wong will also be instrumental in getting some others to Beijing as well. She is on the panel which decides which athletes get to bring two family members or friends along with them. Johnson & Johnson is stumping up the prize and you can take part as well by nominating the team members you think deserve having a little support in China with them. You could also win a little something for yourself.

Close Up Story, TV One, Wednesday May 28, 2008
Click on "Going home with the Olympics" under Related Video

We've since selected the families that won the J&J packages and it will be aired on Close Up this week.

The Wellington Sports Awards were held in May and thanks to Accor I was thrilled to be there to see our Hockey Girls win the Team of the Year award. Suze, as always, spoke very well and I was very proud of our team.

"The Wellington Women’s hockey team produced one of the great turnarounds in New Zealand hockey in 2007. After narrowly avoiding the wooden spoon in the 2006 National League competition they came back to take the gold medal last year after their 4-0 win against North Harbour in the final. The team, under the guidance of coach Chris Leslie , only recorded one loss in the whole 2007 season."

It was Olympic Day on June 24. I felt privileged to speak to the Olympians Club in Christchurch which was very inspiring for me. 40 Olympians from 1964 through to 2006 gathered to celebrate the founding day in 1894 when Pierre de Coubetin re-established the Olympic Games.

Well with the chilly weather that hit the country this weekend it sure has been an ideal weekend to catch some sport on Sky - AB's had a great win over South Africa in the Tri Nations, the Wimbledon finals continue tonight and Valverde took out Stage 1 of the Tour de France. And it's now only 32 days until the Games begin!

I will be blogging during the Games - you'll be able to follow these here. There'll be some great read on the Team Blogs so check them out.

Until then, take care, stay warm and Bring on Beijing.

Winter in Wellington

O mi god it is so cold! The weekend's riding was wet, muddy and did I mention it was cold? Our roadie on Sunday morning was in 2 degrees for the first hour... it then warmed up to 6 degrees!

Well I've finally got a heap of photo's up on flickr from my marathon on the Great Wall of China... Photo's

Life is gradually starting to get a little quieter. I purposely haven't found any new sporting goals so that I can get on top of some study and continue exploring different career opportunities. I'm finding the Mandarin studies very challenging to say the least. After 4 months we've learnt more than 100 words and expressions, 40 key sentences and 60 written characters... it's still a long way to go if I need to know 5,000 characters to read a newspaper!!! A big thanks to my lecturers who were very accommodating with my trip to Beijing and allowing me extensions on my assignments and mid year tests. I've finished my Chinese Civilisation paper now and happy to get an A-. I loved the course and only disappointed that it was only one trimester. Anyway if you're interested in reading my 1500 word essay on the Great Wall of China I'll put it up here soon. Alongside my Chinese language paper at Vic Uni I'm picking up a "Business Chinese" paper this semester at Massey Uni. This is really going to keep me busy!

Stepping back six weeks ago my sponsors Scott formed an all girls team to contest the 12 hour Cateye Moonride mountain bike event on Saturday May 12. In a small team of four, with star studded line up of Kaytee Boyd, Katrine Lawton and youngster Jessie Loe, we completed 26 laps winning the race by 10 minutes ahead of Team Shealers from Rotorua (Monique Avery, MaryAnne Avery, Nina Trass, etc). We had an exciting race and battled with Team Shealers throughout the 12 hours, and with their camp only a few metres away we kept a eagle eye on them every lap. We weren't too shabby to finish 16th overall. Here are the Results and Photos (Team #381). And in the above pic (L to R) is me, Kaytee and Kat. And here's some great video coverage of Kaytee. Last year I raced in a different all chicks team (Team #383) again winning the event - we did fewer laps at 23 but held a very convincing 1 lap and 3 minute gap over Dirt Diva's from Auckland. Of course, conditions were wetter last year which may account for some of the difference in laps. This year we had a ball, fully supported by Jim and Julie with a mint setup of two tents/gazebo, bike racks, the ever essential gas heater, lighting, BBQ, hot drinks, food and truckloads of Hell's pizza's. Our tent site just looked da bomb and though I may be just a wee bit biased it had some very, very nice equipment. So big ups to Scott Bikes and Colorado Traders! Check out the cool Scott hoodies.

The weekend before on Sunday May 6 was the Meridian Energy kids bike jam held at Trentham Memorial Park. I was asked to lead some of the kids around a 5km course. Of course all the 12 year olds wanted to take me on! I didn't have to battle quite so hard with the 6 year olds :-) It was a fun day out and despite the rain there was a huge turnout of around 700 kids. Now all we need to do is to encourage them to keep on riding. Here's an article from the Hutt Leader - page 1 and 2.

The day prior I raced the Crazyman duathlon, more well known for the multisport event since it is part of the national multisport series. Since I don't paddle (though not through lack of some people strongly urging me to) I opted for the 18km mountain run followed by a 34km mountain bike. I won the women's class in 3 hours 52 minutes - 1:45 for the run (including transition) and 2:07 for the MTB, taking 18 minutes off my 2006 time (5 minutes off the run and 13 minutes off the bike). This year the competition was very competitive especially after Fleur Pawsey (2007 Coast to Coast Champion) had a mechanical with her boat, and quickly changed her entry and made it for the duathlon start. She kicked me severely on the run with a seven minute margin, but I clawed it back on the bike to reverse the tables and win by seven minutes. A video clip on the home page gives you an idea of how crazy the event really is. Big thanks to organisers Michael Jacques and John Cussins who put on another fantastic event and who are always very welcoming and look after me. Photo's can be found here searching under race number 236.

In it's 2nd year, the Roadies vs MTB vs Runners Hawkins Hill Climb on Sunday April 15 was held in stunning conditions (as opposed to last year!) and I used this opportunity to get in a little hill climbing (about 400m elevation) and some miles in the running legs (as I continued down to Red Rocks after the race). Of course I got bagged for leaving my bike at home! Nearing the top I was in second behind Lisa (MTB) who then had an unfortunate bike mechanical and had to dnf - this left the title open for me. It was a poor turnout for the women with only 3 runners, 1 MTB and 1 roadie. Wayne Hiscock took out the Men's title and the dirt riders yet again took the overall title. Here's last years PNP report and my archived report. The roadies were gutted at coming last believing that they are disadvantaged by their course so an a-la-casual challenge was raised to swap codes. Needless to say the mtbers-on-roadies still kicked some roadie-on-mtbs butt... but from this we have agreed that the roadies are somewhat disadvantaged and next year the finish line will be at the UHF tower giving the roadies a shorter race.

Scott Karapoti Classic on Saturday March 3rd.... (to be continued)

It would've been downright wrong to miss the final round of the National MTB series since the race was held in my playground on Mt Victoria (way back on Feb 25). Needless to say I got hassled big time for racing in the Expert Class - but at least it was Expert Senior Women, not Expert MASTER women! I had a wicked time out there, climbing a hill and catching up with Rod Bardsley (who I haven't seen in years and who is project managing the exciting development of the Kapiti Mountain Bike Park) and waving and chatting to all the local supporters. There haven't been many races in recent times that I've been able to do that. Results

3 days in Kuala Lumpur

We spent our final night in Beijing at the Great Wall Marathon Gala, a delicious dinner and formal presentation for all participants. Truck loads of fine food, unlimited bubbly stuff and imported beers, just what one needs to recover from a marathon. NOT! It was a fantastic opportunity to spend some time with new found friends and laugh at the experience of running on the Wall. The funniest thing was watching the walking styles as there were some pretty sore people hobbling around. Mike, gutted that I bet him in the marathon, proved he still had it beating me up the stairs to the after function at a local bar. It was a fun night. It was sad to leave behind my new friends but I'm sure we'll keep in touch. Here's a pic of Tracey and I with the winner of the Men's marathon and new German friend Brigid promoting some German wine.

Our trip to Beijing was too short, too crammed packed with activity and just not enough down time. I would love to go back. And now that it's a few days since the marathon, "never say never," as I may consider doing the marathon again...

It was another early morning rise after the final evening partying in Beijing, heading to the airport at 7am for our flight to Kuala Lumpur. Sleep deprived I was glad that I had 4 seats to spread out. I chose to go budget style in accommodation with the Red Palm hostel down the road from the Radius International where Cam and Trace stayed. Tracey was only staying one night while Cam and I were exploring the city over 3 days. The dollars saved in accommodation meant I could face my fears and dive with the sharks. I know - crazy, but adventurous, exciting, and really I didn't know how I would fare. I have never dived before but the entire experience was unreal. My instructor Sharil was very clear and I felt I was in good hands. No kicking, no waving of arms and make eye contact with the sharks. Mmmmmn, I wonder if that was to scare the living day lights out of me! He controlled everything everything except my equilizing and mask clearing. He guided me around from above, except leaving me for 10 minutes alone with the sharks. I had to kneel on the bottom (deepest was 4 metres) and let the sharks, giant groupers, moray eels, rays and multitude of other fish swim past me. There was one black dotted white grouper like fish that was curious and stayed with me for quite some time. To eyeball the sharks, feel the toughness of their skin, feel the softness of the furry eels, have rays flap past me... Wow! I dived for around 45 minutes. It was a fantastic introduction and now I want to become certified and do more diving.

Here are some pics of the sand tiger sharks in the aquarium and a pic of the teeth I collected while diving. Click here for the KL Aquaria website.

Kuala Lumpur was a very interesting buzzing city to explore with so much shopping from expensive malls to the cheap rip off night markets; a diverse range of British, Chinese and Indian architecture and a real blend of cultures. Everything was super cheap including the raft of local foods, taxis, foot reflexology (aka "super painful foot massage"), and many of the tourist attractions were free including the walk along the Petronas twin tower bridge, the Batu caves and the heap of Mosques and Temples.

So, now I'm on my way home. It's been an amazing trip!

The Great Wall Marathon

Saturday May 19th 2007 was the day of the 8th annual Great Wall Marathon. The early 2:30am start and inadequate packed breakfast of bread, jam, egg and cake did not really excite me however I forced the food down and managed to close my eyes and get an extra hour’s sleep on the 3 hour journey to Huangyaguan. We arrived an hour before kick off to very cool temperatures, I’m guessing around 10 degrees. We were limited to one plastic bag of bare essentials for the day so I had little warm clothing with me. It was difficult to keep warm as we readied ourselves for the start. Queues for the traditionally rancid squat toilets were long but the fort square was alive with activity. Then the aerobics began, the music adding a bit more hype as we neared 7:30am and the thrashing arms and legs helped some to keep warm. As I reluctantly stripped off my ‘warmer’ clothing to just lycra shorts and singlet I was very happy that the sun appeared and with it some warmth. Ahhhh, now I’m ready to go.

So, why was I about to run a marathon, my first marathon, along the Great Wall of China? Originally it was for the adventure, a new challenge of completing one of the toughest marathons in the world, because it was different and, because I could. Then with my recent studies in Mandarin and Chinese Civilisation I am now more than ever intrigued by the Wall and curious as to its history, how it was built, what it means to the Chinese and to learn its myths and legends. On Thursday I experienced the Wall for the very first time. Its grand scale and magnitude oozed an indeterminable power. The Wall, thick and grey, has a very harsh beauty about its presence. Its majesty in the serene surroundings puts one in a trance, the desire to stand still, breathe deep and feel the moment. Was I going to feel this today in my 42km journey?

Some runners train for months for an event like this. I gave myself 10 weeks. My intention of this adventure was to enjoy, have fun and be relaxed with no expectations from myself or others. Despite that, I had a rough idea that I wanted to complete the marathon in four and a half hours. The woman’s record held by the legendary Wellington multi-sporter Jill Westena in 2001 was 4 hours 14 minutes. As I met more people on our tour in Beijing I realized the high caliber of runners participating in the marathon; fellow kiwi Sara Winter just 3 weeks ago posted a 2 hour 46 minute marathon time in Italy and many others are running their 6th or 7th marathon. But on the other hand, some were there to walk the marathon. (Note, the marathon must be completed within 8 hours.) Due to its toughness this is not an event to post any record breaking marathon times so emphasis is on participation and there are no merit prizes.

Sara and I managed to start near the front of group one. Group two started 5 minutes behind. I stayed with Sara for a mere 500m then it was wise for me to peg it back a little. After about 3km Aussie Sharon Ryder passed by, then the Spaniard. The first 5km were all uphill on a sealed road leading up to the entrance to the Wall, then it was 3.5km along the Wall. I remained in 4th place through the 1800 odd steps of the Wall. I walked the steep steps (i.e the 80 degree slopes!) and ran the flatter steps, some two at a time. Going up was actually easier than coming down. Full focus was required. We were assisted on some of the more dangerous descents by temporary ropes covered in material attached to the Wall. Part of the final descent was on a dirt goat track, on rocky and rough terrain and more steps, before climbing up to the Wall again. It was here I managed to pass some guys so my training on Mt Vic and in the Crazyman run had paid off. It was tough, but challenging and well, at this stage, quite enjoyable. It wasn’t as bad as I imagined, though this was only the first time over the Wall. The second time would be a different story. I completed the first 8.5km in an hour. I thought to myself if I could pull off the next 25km through the villages in just over 2 hours, then allow another hour and a bit for the 2nd time over the Wall then I’d make my time.

So the next section is where the true marathon runners showed their form. I hooked on to a few guys and adopted a good pace, apparently 5 minute kilometres. Everyone was pretty social having a little chat along the way. The roads were lined with locals coming out to ogle at the strange foreigners and still going about their everyday business. Children were merrily playing in the dirt and stopped to wave and practice their “hello.” One young girl handed me a yellow daisy which I accepted with “xie xie” and a smile. We were provided with bottled water along the course, and that along with the gels I carried on me, kept me fueled and hydrated in the now hot temperatures. I believe it got to the mid 30’s while I was running but by early afternoon it could’ve hit 40 degrees. Needless to say, cramping was the biggest problem for most people.

Disaster struck at the 21 km mark as I was half way through the 200m elevation. My right knee was becoming painful. I then remembered the crash in the 12 hour Cateye Moonride MTB race the previous Saturday in Rotorua when during the night, I tried to take a hot line to get past some slower riders but I unexpectedly hit a hole, hit the deck and fell on my right knee. At the time I thought the blood was more impressive than the bruising and inflammation but now it was coming back to haunt me. As I continued pounding the tarmac the pain got more excruciating which eventually forced me to a walk. Walking was pain free, a small blessing. But then I’d run again and the pain was too much. I dropped back to 9th. I was so gutted; all I wanted to do was run. For a short moment I wondered how much damage I was doing to my knee and that I wouldn’t finish the race as the thought of all those steps again was too painful. But I’d flown all this way to complete the marathon and if there are hundreds of people out there walking, well then so can I. There were many people suffering just as much as I and were also stopping for breaks or walking. Now I just wanted to finish and if I had to walk then so be it. I hit the 34km mark and headed back through the fort for the second time to start the grueling Wall all over again, except this time from the other direction and even steeper. Just 8km to go and five of those were downhill. This I would’ve usually been excited about. Climbing the uneven steep steps was painful and a lot slower than my previous ascent on the Wall and the descents were far worse as I was forced to go down sideways leading with my left leg. By this stage the Great Wall had lost all its charm and mystique! When I eventually made it to the tar seal for the final 5km I tried counting steps to run 100 then walk 100 but even that didn’t work to remove the pain. More and more people passed me including six females. By now it was very warm. I was hanging out for that finish line. I finally crossed it in 5 hours and 5 minutes in 15th place (out of 123), 2nd in my age group and 71st overall. I’d just completed my first marathon.

During the afternoon as we lay broken in the square I caught up with some of my tour group and everyone was just buzzing from their marathon experience, each with a story or two to tell. Two male friends were gutted that for my first marathon I bet them. I like that. Tracey completed the 10km in just over 2 hours, her first ever sporting event. And Cam timed it nicely to finish walking the 42km in just under eight hours, but unfortunately he was severely dehydrated and ended up on an IV for 3 hours. Kiwi Sara Winter won the women’s event in a record time of 3 hours 50 minutes and Spaniard Salvador Calvo won the men’s event in a record time of 3 hours 23 minutes. The results are on the official website.

Exploring Beijing

No opportunity to update you all yesterday as it was one full on day of sightseeing. I will return to elaborate when I get some more time but briefly it was really fascinating observing the beautiful craftsmanship of the buildings and temples. It was also pretty crazy how many tourists there were! We visited exquisite gardens, had a lesson and sampled the local cha (tea), ate Peking duck, and took in an Opera. The mind blowing experience of the day was seeing up close a father and his 2 young children (not much more than 10 years old) jump the ropes surrounding the National flag, drop to the ground, bow their heads to the concrete and start wailing. Within seconds the guards and police were pulling them from the ground and forcing them away. I couldn’t understand but I believe they were protesting at the Government for taking their mother.

The Great Wall Inspection

It was a late-ish night after the Beijing Opera and dinner then with only 5 hours sleep we were up at 4:30am ready for a 3 hour drive to the Huangyaguan Great Wall.

The objective of today’s inspection was to give us the opportunity to walk the 3.5km along the wall then giving any runner or walker the chance to change their event. This year, the 8th year of the event, there are 450 people partaking in the full marathon, 450 in the half marathon and 237 in the 5km and 10km walks. Participants are from 37 different countries with one person having done all seven Great Wall Marathons, and there is even a runner with a heart transplant doing the full marathon! Apparently today was the best weather they have had for an inspection without the usual sand storms and though it was sunny the wind kept the temperature cool.

The Huangyaguan Great Wall is to the north of Ji County in the Tianjin province, not one of the usual sight seeing sections of the Wall since it is more remote. This section of the Great Wall possesses many features including antiquity, grandness, steepness and gracefulness, and it is regarded as an 'Impregnable Pass' in Tianjin. It’s the longest restored section of the Great Wall with a length of 3052 meters.

Long before we arrived at the Great Wall, we could easily see where we were heading. Off the bus I stood still, frozen by the magnitude of the Wall. I felt so insignificant beneath the towering mountain, viewing from East to West the Wall meandering its way along the craggy mountain ridges until it drops out of sight over yet another mountain. It’s an amazing sight of which I don’t think I can find the words to do the Wall justice.

After taking about an hour to walk (yes walk) the three or so kilometers and taking a heap of photos, I stood in the fort waiting for lunch with shaking legs. Oh mi god! I was so relieved to hear that other people had reacted the same way. There isn’t going to be much running along the Wall – it’s so steep, with all sized steps, and it’s so narrow in some places with no side wall and a sheer drop to the side that we queued in line to carefully descend in single file. It’s going to be one tough marathon.

Bring it on. I can’t wait until Saturday.

Arriving in Beijing

After 23 hours of traveling via Kuala Lumpur, Tracey, Cameron and I were pleased to arrive at our hotel in Beijing. The Xiaoxiang hotel is in the Chongwen area and not far from the Temple of Heaven. We settled in, cleaned ourselves up then ventured out into the streets of Beijing. First thought was drawn to the haze and hue of grey making the city appear dull. Next thought was the calamity yet the calmness. Despite the rather chaotic and noisy traffic changing lanes within centimetres of one another and honking their horns to indicate their presence, there was a calmness about the city as the locals went about their usual day, many on bikes, some laden with produce, others waiting for buses (though most are already jammed packed with suits and well dressed people), then others are strolling along the dusty pavements and crossing the 6 lanes of traffic with ease and without impatience. I can't wait to explore...

We spent the afternoon wandering the six floors of the Silk Street Pearl Markets with everything you could ever want to buy in China - from paintings to footwear, precious jewelery to electronics. Of course many of the big names are not genuine. And these sellers, of which it is interesting to note are mainly female, are very pushy in making a sale. It is advised not to ask a price unless one is truly interested in haggling and buying the goods! My favourite purchase of the day was a painting of the Great Wall personalised with my Chinese name and Beijing in characters. Here's "David" as he begins the painting...

It's been a long day with only 4 hours sleep last night so I'm off to bed. We're touring tomorrow - Tiananmen Square, Mao's Mausoleum, Forbidden City, Coal Hill, Temple of Heaven, Hongqiao market and we even take in the Beijing Opera. Can't wait, it's going to be a full on day.

Where has 2007 gone?

What the hell is Robyn doing now???

I’ve been taking some time out to create new opportunities and find other adventures since retiring from international competition after the World Mountain Bike Championships in Rotorua six months ago.

It’s not an easy decision to retire from sport and definitely not one made overnight. It takes time to ensure it’s the right decision at the right time and to know it’s for the right reasons. For me, starting cycling at a late age, I have done so many things I never dreamed about and I have absolutely no regrets. I left it all out there, I put my best foot forward by doing everything that I could do, and I was the best that I could be. Now, I am excited about the next chapter of my life and with wide eyes, optimism and positivity I know I’ll find other open doors.

Being an elite athlete has emphasised what is important to me but to be sure I wanted to take some time out to be certain of my next steps. I know I am driven by challenge, and I know I want to make a difference in other people’s lives.

So what have I done over the past six months?

Straight after Worlds I did some public speaking at some school sports awards (Chilton St James, Wellington Girls, and Wairarapa College). I also spoke at the Levin Chinese Fundraiser for China’s flood relief and to our future Chinese leaders at the Chinese Youth Leadership Conference in Auckland. I get great delight from public speaking, inspiring and motivating others, and even more so when it’s not sport related as it’s all about making that connection with the audience and speaking from the heart, something that doesn’t come naturally to me.

I also did a small amount of Management Consulting for Colorado Traders (Scott, Time, Serfas), Ministry of Education, Department of Building and Housing, Australo, and VTNZ. Over the years of cycling I’ve been careful to keep up my continuing professional development (20 hours per year) as required by the Institute of Chartered Accountants to retain my professional qualification, so I spent some time at seminars and workshops on leadership and strategy.

At the last minute I decided to utilise my Gold Prime Ministers Scholarship (a scholarship to be used after retiring from sport for study up to 3 years) and enrolled at Victoria University to study Mandarin and Chinese Civilisation for personal interest. I returned to Uni as a “mature” student on February 26, spending 9 hours on campus per week (estimated 24 hours study per week), and I absolutely love it especially the contagious enthusiasm and passion of our lecturers.

Despite not racing internationally I don’t think I’d ever give up riding my bikes. I love it too much. So over the past few months I’ve still been involved in races and events.

I was a guinea pig for the Massey run Mountain Bike Performance Study testing whether sports drinks containing both maltodextrin and fructose are better than maltodextrin and glucose only for mountain bike performance on December 6 & 13.

I was approached to do a group coaching course for some girls wanting to race the Karapoti training in March. I had nine keen girls who were up for an intensive 10 week program (from January 3 to March 3) who were so much fun to work with. Since then I’ve taken on some individual coaching which I’m enjoying.

From 24-28th January I was the Team Manager of 5 guys in Team Petone Water for the Tour of Wellington. I was extremely proud of the guys – Josh England (Auckland) getting 3rd in Stage 3 and 18th in GC; Paul Odlin (Christchurch) being awarded the most aggressive rider, 6th in the ITT and 20th in GC; Don Oakly (Auckland) 47th; Andrew Williams (Christchurch) 55th and unfortunately Ross Stewart (Christchurch) had unbelievably bad luck and timing with a puncture on stage 5 and thus DNF’d. The team finished 9th overall.

Other events (which I will return to and elaborate on at a later stage):

PNP 2 day tour, February 3 & 4
National MTB race on Mt Victoria, Sunday February 25
Scott Karapoti Classic on Saturday March 3rd
Hawkins Hill Climb, Sunday April 15
Crazyman Duathlon, Saturday May 5
Bikewise Kids bike Jam, Sunday May 6
Cateye Moonride 12 hour teams MTB race, Saturday May 12

So in between cycling and running and the occasional bikram yoga class, I also played Thursday night Social Basketball in the Women’s C Grade for a bit of fun and since I wasn’t subbed often, a really solid workout. Somehow I’ve agreed to play for a Wellington Sports and Cultural Centre team in the upcoming Queens Birthday tournament.

Now, onto the big adventure...

Tomorrow I head off to Beijing for 6 days to partake in the “Great Wall Marathon.” Yep, you read right – it’s a running Marathon. Never did I think I’d ever want to run a marathon but when a friend mentioned it, I was like “hell yeah.” It’s not your usual 42km marathon. For a start it’s not on the tarmac, mainly gravel and dirt roads through villages and rice paddies. Then the elevation gain getting up and along the Great Wall is something special – over 1,000m. We run 3.5km along the Great Wall twice which includes over 3,700 steps. Add in the heat of up to 42 degrees Celsius and wow, it’s going to be one huge challenge! Check out the profile and a description of each section.

Here’s how it’s summed up. “The Great Wall Marathon is a tough, beautiful and definitely extraordinary experience. The 3700 steps of the Great Wall will put your physique to the test, and the breathtaking surroundings of Tianjin Province will compete with your tired muscles for attention. The Great Wall Marathon is the ideal way to combine an unusual running event with exploring one of the world’s most astonishing sights.”

Finally, check out this video and some You Tube videos in the media section of the official Great Wall Marathon site Now, I’m really worried!

To enter the Marathon one has to be part of a tour in Beijing so we’ve signed up for 6 days. Here’s the itinerary. So, stayed tuned for some updates and pics while I’m away.

I’ve got two more exciting ventures to talk about but that will wait until after China. Here’s a hint – Wellington Women’s Hockey team and the Wellington Hutt Valley YWCA.

Until soon,

World Champs Pics

I've uploaded some photo's into flickr. Check them out in the Gallery.