Home again. Stephen and I are just back from the East Coast and the Longbeach Challenge mountain bike event.
We took a night off from the b&b, put the dogs in the kennels, got our locums Debbie and Amelia to look after Breakers and we headed across the hill to just south of Ashburton for the night ready for our ride the next day.
The Longbeach Challenge is an event run by the Hinds and District Lions Club and Longbeach School. All proceeds from the 2011 event were being donated to helping a Christchurch Primary School – New Brighton Primary, to get back on its feet after the Canterbury Earthquake.
There are three events run in conjunction with each other – bike, run or walk.
Stephen and I were signed up to do the 35km bike ride. The racing started and finished on the picturesque farm property of Tannaghmore on the south side of the Hinds River, south east of Ashburton. The course covered three farm properties riding through farm paddocks and farm tracks, numerous stream crossing, onto the beach, up and down gullies and taking in rural and sea views along the way from atop the soaring cliffs.
It has been awhile since I’ve done an event – apart from team events and I haven’t started first off the line. This was a mass start with the 35km entrants sent off first. I have to say, my heart was fair pumping – rather a nervous start for me. Stephen was cool as a cucumber and had a good laugh at my expense…..
The starter gun sounded and we were off. Everyone took off like they were possessed – think the majority had done this event before! I was conscious that I don’t get anywhere enough time on my bike and had a long way to go yet. I kept my pace steady and there seemed to be an ever constant stream of cyclists passing me – oh well. Stephen was long gone and soon well ahead of me.
It was a stunning East Coast day, beautiful sunny skies and it got quite hot. There were quite a few stream crossings and these were a welcome relief. There were numerous marshals out on the course and they offered moral support and cheered us all on. I did offer on occasion to swap with a couple of the marshals but no-one seemed keen to take up my offer – can’t possibly understand why. Now I would have thought 35kms was achievable for me and it was – I did finish, eventually. In saying that though, this was a very challenging course and much of the terrain we are not used to riding on the coast. It was predominately mowed farm tracks so quite taxing on the body and just when you thought that was enough there was some soft sand and gravel closer to the beach to ride through also – great, nice and taxing for already tired legs. The scenery was lovely though and it was such a stunning day.
It was a good group of people out participating on the course – lots of laughing or grumbling together…..
The finish line finally beckoned for me and I have to say it was a relief to finally make it back. Stephen was waiting at the finish line – camera in hand and I did manage a smile for him!
We stayed for prize giving and the legendry steak sandwich that was included with your entry fee was a tasty reward for a hard morning’s effort. There were numerous spot prizes handed out and one lucky entrant went home with a new mountain bike that was kindly sponsored and given away as the grand spot prize.
For us one of the highlights of this trip was the outstanding hospitality we received from Ange and Phil Cushnie. Ange was involved with the promotion of the event and via some email correspondence when I was enquiring regarding places to camp, Ange kindly offered space on their own property for us to park our little van for the night. The hospitality extended by Phil and Ange was amazing, not only a place to camp out but we spent the evening in their home with them, shared some fantastic food and wine together and great conversation. Their son Mitchell was an absolute delight and even greeted us with a shake of the hand and a hug.
The hospitality extended by Ange and Phil seems to go hand in hand with the area. Everyone we met was friendly and hospitable and very proud of their little slice of NZ.
Having done many events over the years the organisation and friendliness of this event is something this little community should be very proud of. We feel this is probably one of the best-run events we have ever attended and we are already in training for next year’s race!