Mt Isobel Challenge 2021

I left Nelson at midday on Friday and drove down to Hanmer arriving there in time to cook dinner at a picnic table near the race registration. After picking up my race pack I followed the shingle road that lead up to Jack’s Pass, avoiding the many possums on the road stunned by the car’s headlights. I pitched my tent in the grass and heated up a MTR curry to add to my still warm rice.

I woke to the sound of vehicles and got up as the organisers set up the transition area. There was a heavy frost on my tent and it was a clear morning. The mist that had rolled in in the evening but had gone again in the night leaving a sky full of stars. I left my bike in the transition area and drove down to the start line at the bottom of the hill.

Some hours later the race started. I had decided to be pretty cautious as it was the first running race after rolling my ankle last year. It felt like half the field got away to begin with but then some people began to drop back after the initial excited sprint. We left the road and started up the single track. I took photos as we climbed and was pleased to see that once it got steeper I was faster than those around me.  I passed a bunch of people with another guy and we talked at times as we ran. Well, I say ran. “It’s more of an angry walk” my companion noted.

We continued the angry walk passing more people and I pulled away until I was alone. I reached the saddle and started heading along the ridge and up to the summit. The first runners were starting to come back down. My running buddy caught up and we made it to the summit. The descent down the ridge was ok but busy with runners still coming up. The route turned off at the saddle and headed down to Jack’s Pass. It became very steep for a while and I picked me way slowly down. It became more runnable and then less again and we were at the pass.

Starting up the single track (Mt Isobel Challenge 2021)Posing (Mt Isobel Challenge 2021)

1) It was good weather for the Mt Isobel Challenge. It was a fresh clear morning. I took my camera with me like any dedicated athlete would do.

2) I took happy snaps on the way up the hill.

Reaching the summit (Mt Isobel Challenge 2021)Running back down (Mt Isobel Challenge 2021)

1) From the saddle we made a small detour up to the summit of Mt Isobel. 2) The route took us back down to the saddle and then down to Jack’s Pass. It was steep and technical down to the pass and I kept my camera in my bag. It was then into the bike ride again without photos. I did however stop to put my go pro onto my bike, such is my dedication.

I faffed around for a bit at the pass changing shoes and getting my bike computer going. The ride starts with a descent. I rolled down eating a banana as I went. Once finished I started to ride a little faster but then decided it would be a shame not to have a bit of video so stopped to attach my GoPro. A couple of groups of cyclists passed me but I passed some of them again. The route around the the gravel road to Jollie’s Pass was nice. The road follows the Clarence River although I kept my eyes on the gravel mostly. We turned right and headed up the road to Jollie’s Pass. I passed a few people who were slowing down on the hill and was passed by a speedy girl. I stayed more or less with her for the rest of the race although she made gains on the downhill. We finished climbing and descended down the very bumpy and rocky road. The organisers had painted arrows directing us around the worst of the ruts. I reflected that it would have been sensible to be wearing cycling gloves.

There were no calamities and I got to the sealed road at the bottom and accelerated thinking it would be a quick 4km TT to the finish. I’d forgotten the route though and we turned back onto gravel roads slowly ascending, crossing a much fuller than expected river and climbing, climbing. At one point it really became quite steep and I passed some people pushing their bikes up the hill. I got to the last downhill and descended on the gravel road to the finish line.

I finished in around 2.5 hours, which I guess was ok. It seems I’ve ridden the race three other times in the past, although I don’t remember riding it so many times. Apparently in 2004, 2005, and 2009. I can’t find the old results but it looks like it took me 2 hours 12 minutes in 2005 and around 2 hours 23 minutes in 2009. I remember one year the course was slightly different and we took a small single track for a little bit while ascending Jollie’s Pass. It’s hard to know whether to be happy with my time. I think it’s probably ok considering I never felt like I was pushing really really hard and it’s the first running race in a long time. I dug up a GPX file from 2009 and using Strava compared my 2009 and 2021 bike ride. I was actually faster this time. Interesting.

I remember cramping one year on the running descent but this time I felt fine with just the slight hint in my calf muscles when I first started to climb up Jollie’s Pass. Would I have got a better time if I’d pushed harder or just got tired?

At the finish line (Mt Isobel Challenge 2021)

Above: I finished in 2:32:58 which didn’t seem too bad considering.

Mt Isobel Challenge 2021 - Result

Mt Isobel Challenge 2009 (9km/1000m run, 24km/300m bike)

Time: 2:23:58 Overall place: 47/166 Cat place (senior male): 24/54

Graperide 2021

It’s been a long time since I rode the Graperide. I entered last year but Covid stopped it happening and my entry was deferred to this year. This is the part where I list all the excuses why I didn’t win… After a busy week at work and being ill on Friday I wasn’t sure I’d ride the race but as I was to pick up Craig on Saturday afternoon from Picton anyway, I decided I’d head over and see how I felt. I stayed the night at Annu’s flat in Blenheim.


I drove out to the start line and hid my car on a side road on Saturday morning. It was a cold clear morning and the weather was supposed to be fantastic. I cycled to the start and lined up early at the back of the 2 hours 45 minutes wave. This seemed reasonable as it was 10 minutes slower than me 2009 winning time. This was my folly. The sign was misleading. Many many slow looking people lined up in front of me and instead of letting everyone off in waves dictated by their signs they let people off in small bunches of perhaps 60 people. Grrrr. I waited and waited and waited as the people in front slowly started. Then the people who were pushing in the side snuck in front and started too. Anyway….


I crossed the start line and rode hard to the front of our bunch of slowpokes. There were a couple of faster guys and we worked together much of the way to Picton until nobody at all  seemed to be keen to work. At the little hill into Picton I rode off the front with a couple of guys. Then again out of Picton onto Queen Charlotte drive I rode away with one other guy. By this stage it was really nice and warm and the views down into the sounds were amazing. The ride along QC drive was really nice although not very fast. I rode alone mostly  catching some stragglers and passing them. Later slightly before the turn off to Linkwater a bunch began to form and we rode very slowly into a headwind until the last climb before Havelock. I rode to the front with a couple of others and we increased the pace dropping the bunch before descending towards Havelock.


There were five of us as we began working together back towards Blenheim. One guy dropped off early. We worked well, regulating our pace so as not to drop anyone else. We were riding a good pace but as we came to a hill two guys powered up behind us. We jumped on and one guy put in an amazing effort and towed us for the next 10 minutes at over 40 km/h. I wish my legs would let me do that. I don’t seem to have much power these days. My legs began to feel a bit cooked. We rotated some more and then I sat at the back until the last bridge where I took another turn. We turned off the highway and it was a couple of km to the finish line. Nothing much happened in terms of sprints.

A nice ride all up but an aggravating start. Given the poor starting position I wasn’t too much slower than 2009, at around 20 minutes slower. The course is also slightly different from 2009 but I’m not sure if it’s longer or shorter.


Graperide 2021 – Time: 2:56:16, Dst: 103 km, Overall 103/524, Category: 11/21 (M35-39)

Finish result pdf 2021

Above: 2009’s result was faster but I also had a much better start, had trained more, and was 12 years younger… Not sure how much of a difference age has made. These are the results before they were mysteriously altered some weeks later.

A weekend of things

On Saturday I rode a two stage Tasman Wheelers race. The first stage was a 30km graded scratch race that headed out over Rai Saddle.  I started in B grade and along with some of the older guys got dropped on the hilly bits. I just don’t have the legs to keep up with the young guys. We had a nice descent from the saddle. I tried to mash the pedals as I used to do quite well on the flat. It wasn’t awful but I didn’t feel like I was producing the power I’d have liked to. Before the finish line an A grader, Mike, caught up with a young B grader in tow (the only one I managed to drop). I sat on and sprinted at the finish.

I started with the young B grader for the return race. It was a handicap race back. We worked together well but I couldn’t keep up with him going up the saddle and dropped off the pace as he rode away with some others. A few more passed me until Mike caught up again riding like a mad thing. I jumped on and to my surprise managed to stay on his wheel. I was working hard to keep up. He got away a few times in the descent but I managed to get back on even taking some turns at the front.

Near the end it suddenly began to pour with rain and sweat and sunblock ran into my eyes making them sting. I could hardly see where I was going having to close my eyes every few seconds. There was water everywhere but I followed. Another turn at the front I think. Then we could see the front bunch before us. Mike caught them up and then sprinted past. I stayed on his wheel for a bit but then a gap opened up. Still we were in front of the bunch and I sprinted across the line behind him and another guy who had managed to get on Mike’s wheel. It was good fun.

Two stage Tasman Wheelers race

I headed back to Nelson, got sorted and drove to the Rai Valley where I met Finnish Annu. We left her car there and drove with mine to French Pass. We pitched our tents just before it started raining heavily. It cleared later and we made a simple pasta meal before heading down to the beach to chat and look at the sky, now full of stars.

The following day we had a nosey around French Bay before driving back to Elaine Bay. It was warm and sunny and by chance we found a guy renting out a double kayak. We took the opportunity and rolled the kayak down to the shore. We spent about 3 hours kayaking in the beautiful sounds with blue sky and mostly flat water. We stopped briefly at Deep Bay and then kayaked across to the Matai Bay hut. It looks like a nice little place to stay. We then battled into a head wind until we had shelter behind and island. It was a cruisy paddle back to Elaine Bay.

Then it was home to Nelson.

Annu kayaking (Sea Kayaking Elaine Bay March 2021)Good to be on the water (Sea Kayaking Elaine Bay March 2021)At Matai Bay Hut (Sea Kayaking Elaine Bay March 2021)Kayaking (Sea Kayaking Elaine Bay March 2021)

Above: Kayaking in the sounds from Elaine Bay.