Journal: Meet Andrew Robinson

When Andrew approached us for sponsorship he had an ambitious schedule of adventure races planned and we instantly knew a pair of FLITE TrailLite carbon wheels would help him compete at the pointy-end of the pack.

The Naseby 12 Hour is one of NZ’s longest running adventure races with 2022 being its 17th edition. All profits from the event go into developing mountain bike tracks in the Otago area and supporting various Naseby community organisations.  

Andrew took on the 12 hour solo category and - spoiler alert - managed to finish standing on the podium. But like any good adventure, how it finishes is only a small part of the day.

Here’s Andrew’s story of the Naseby 12 hour.

- Tristan

Naseby 12 hour – 8 October 2022

Going to bed the night before the Naseby 12 hour, I felt like I had tapered perfectly. I felt fresh, but not antsy, however expected by the time I got up I would be feeling on fire

Waking up at 6:15am, I felt fantastic. I went for my usual morning walk – approx. 15 mins – just to get some forward ambulation, fresh air and to spin the arms around and get the blood moving. The morning was perfect, and I knew it was going to be a good day.

Pre race prep was the usual, I normally listen to some music to put me in the zone, and for some reason I had ‘Patiently Waiting’ by Eminem in my head so that was what I put on. With the music keeping me focused, I prepped my aid station, made sure all water bottles were easily accessible (they were individually labeled so the crew knew which bottle was which), laid out all options of food I had, and then sat with myself for 5 mins contemplating the day ahead and pacing the lap out in my head.

We went to the briefing, understood what needed to be done, and then off to the start line (it is a Le Mans style start, so I would run about 500m to get to my bike).

I ran, and I never knew how boisterous mountain bikers were! They were pushing me around, and although I was running quick, I was solo for 12 hours, most of these people were teams and could afford to spend some energy! Once I saw Michelle, I jumped on my bike, and was off. I held with the front end of the pack and felt fantastic but finishing the first lap in 32 mins made me very nervous.

"Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth" – Mike Tyson

I quickly changed water bottles (to Michelle’s confusion, we planned to change bottles every 2 laps!) and carried on. I felt good, and I wanted to do the work I could do while I felt that way. I continued to feel good on the second lap and was making the most of the climbs while I could. On the big climb on the second lap Myles caught up with me and hung with me on that climb. Being a road cyclist, he had the fitness for that stuff, and I should have held back a bit. We rode together to the top, and then leading into Hepi Highway (the long flowy single-track part of the course) and Collar Bone Alley (it’s relatively gnarly and very fast – a great combination to break a collarbone if things go wrong!) I managed to lose him, and realized that was where my strength lies, in the more technical stuff.

I rode a few laps solo, and then John Mezger (the man who went on to win the race) and I did a lap together. He said was feeling rough, having had Covid-19 8 weeks earlier, however when someone who has won the race several times says something like that, I always take it with a pinch of salt. We rode together, and at some point, he lost me, never to be found again.

Myles and John are quick mountain bikers. Having a huge amount of experience, and time on a bike, they know how they perform. I don’t class myself as a “strong athlete” compared to the best of them, so I know I must make up minutes where I can, and I knew if I stopped the bike as little as possible, I might be able to make up seconds, if not minutes, throughout the race.

I knew I had to be smart about a few things. One was the transitions, which we nailed. The other was bike maintenance, which luckily, I had some very passionate bikers around me, and they were able to quickly check and clean the bike while I stopped to drink and restock food stores. The other was bathroom breaks. I knew that to minimise time stopped there probably wouldn’t be enough time to get off the bike each time I needed to pee (and I need to a lot in longer races!). At one point I was asked to overtake someone who was in front of me, I politely declined, and it was a few minutes later I overtook him and explained why I had offered to stay behind him,;he was very grateful!

After 6 hours, I was 9 laps in (on pace for 200kms!) but feeling rough. One thing that I never accounted for was the amount of focus required to ride a bike non-stop for any particularly long period of time. My body was sore, yeah, I was cramping, yes, but one thing that was killing me was my head. I decided to take a page out of the book of the great Courtney Dauwalter and take a 1-minute nap. The aim is not to sleep, or anything of the sort, but just close the eyes and give the brain a minute to relax and relieve a tonne of stress in minimal time. While running, it’s easy to close your eyes and walk for 10 seconds, when you’re on a bike, it’s almost dangerous to blink, let alone shut your eyes!

My crew were encouraging me to keep going, but it was about the 8-hour mark that I really felt like quitting. I felt like I was dying, and I wouldn’t be surprised if I was. If I had to estimate how many grams of sugar I had consumed in the 8 hours, I would guess about 500g. That’s a lot of sugar, and my body didn’t like it. Luckily Laura asked if I wanted anything savoury to eat, and I asked (very specifically) for a “half a vegetarian burger” to which she struggled to imagine where she could find such a specific request. In my mind it made complete sense! I ended up with a salad which had many a carb heavy vege in it and went down a treat in some nice buns.

I have had a huge amount of support leading into this race. Some of that moral and emotional support from the amazing ladies who crewed for me between their laps in their team event. Some support from my workplace – GIG Limited – who have allowed me to start late and sneak away early on the occasional day to train (not to mention the massive sponsorship that they are providing for me to race in Godzone in February!). Other support from Brobike in Queenstown who helped me with the Scott Spark 920 that I am riding, and the servicing and tuning needed to have a reliable and raceable rig. And lastly the amazing support from Wheelworks who have provided me with a set of handmade, FLITE TrailLite carbon wheels. When I first heard about Wheelworks, I only heard good things, but I never really thought that the wheels could be that good, that much better than the set that the bike came with. Turns out I was wrong!

I continued on in pain, struggling, wanting to stop, wanting to finish, until 4 laps to go. I had one more 1-minute nap and got on the bike. Once finishing that lap Jess explained I was closing the gap on Myles, and it was about 20 mins with 3 laps to go which made for a fantastic target (I wasn’t going to get the 18th lap – 200km – Unless a miracle happened). I carried on as I was, focussing on keeping the pace, and not falling too far behind. One more lap in and Jess explained I was 12 minutes behind. Time to go! I put the pedal down and pushed hard. I had completed a relatively quick lap, however I guessed with Myles and John going head-to-head, they weren’t going to slow down unless something big happened, so I enjoyed the last lap in the dark, as cold as it was, and came across the finish line in a world of pain, joy, confusion and ecstasy. Yes you can have all of them together!

I went into the Naseby race with 3 tiers of goals. The pie in the sky goal was to get a course record and/or win the race. My realistic goal was to podium and/or complete 200km in the 12 hours. My worst-case goal was to have as much fun as possible in the pain cave! I can comfortably say that I am proud to have completed two of those goals: a podium (3rd place) with 190kms, and a hell of a lot of time having fun suffering!

One thing that I would like to finish on and reiterate all through this experience, is how amazing Michelle Stark, Jess Rathgen, Laura Reidy and Mary Jowett were though all of this. I genuinely believe I wouldn’t have been as effective, had as much fun, or done as well if it wasn’t for them, and I can’t thank them enough for all the support and help they provided throughout the day – thank you 1000 times over.