A Busy Sunday: Cable Bay Triathlon and Rameka Track Mountain Bike Trail

With my itinerant lifestyle it is very unusual for me to get many races in over a year. The stars aligned for me this weekend when I was here for the annual Nelson ‘Cable Bay’ Sprint triathlon. However, my wife and I also wanted to spend a few days at our cottage in Golden Bay and I had resolved to mountain bike into the Bay during my next visit. No problem. I’d do both, it would just make it a long day.

Let me start off by saying that I don’t like Sprint distance triathlons. I’m an endurance guy and these short distances are just not designed for me. Adding insult to injury, I’m terrible at transitions and in these sorts of short races that really works against you. The Cable Bay race also was the site of my worst swim ever wherein I missed the turn buoy and (not so) happily continued along until one of the kayaks caught up with me and told me to turn back. So I was not rabidly enthusiastic, but a race is a race so I paid my $20 and turned up at 10:00 Sunday morning ready to race.

The Cable Bay race included a short distance triathlon, a Sprint triathlon, a multi-sport  race (no swim but with kayaks instead), and a duathlon. With some 60-70 racers, on the same course with four races, it gets confusing as to whe you are trying to overtake.

Leandre—who is a Belgian WWOOFER (willing worker on organic farms—i.e. a garden slave who works 4 h a day in return for room an board) working for my wife Lis was interested in watching the race so he came along and was the photographer for the day.

Unlike two years ago, the water was relatively calm, but still very cold. I was glad to be using my Xterra race wetsuit which is not only nice and buoyant but warm. I was impressed at the one guy without a wetsuit. Although he did have a slight blue tinge to the skin 🙂

Once the race started the swim broke into two groups. Of course I was back with the slower group, although there were others behind me for a change! Four of us stayed together for most of the swim. When I came out of the water I was a bit disoriented, it didn’t help that the ‘beach’ was small stones very hard to walk over.

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I struggled with my wetsuit in transition: I had forgotten to put on lube for one thing …  Bother. Including transition I was 17:44 for 750 m swim which made me the second slowest, but there were at least six who passed me in transition so I wasn’t *that* bad in the water. Still, shows I need to spend some more time in the pool!

It was then onto my bike which is my favourite leg of the race. I have not spent any time on my Cervelo P3 time trial bike this season, so I had brought my road bike instead. It was a good call because the course was very winding, and somewhat hilly. Within the first five kilometres I passed all those who zoomed through transition before me which was nice, but imagine if I had not fluffed about so much in transition. My 39:46 for the ride was good enough for 13/29, but it should have been better.

With only 20 km to ride, I was soon back in transition again, and passed by a woman I had about 250 m on before we entered transition. Must start practicing the transitions … I caught her after about 150 m and then started to reel in some of these further ahead, but not too many of them unfortunately. The course was improved over the previous year and consisted of 2 x 2.5 km laps, with the turn around point at the top of a sheep track so one had to avoid animal droppings.  I did the run in 23:36 for a 4:44 pace. Not bad – but I definitely need to do some more speedwork. Including transition time I was 11/29.

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Soon it was over and my 1:21:51 was only good enough for 18th, although I got second in my age group (out of two).  Good think I have six months (from this weekend!) until Ironman Brazil.

We quickly grabbed my gear to head home and over to Golden Bay. Since my plan was to ride back from the Bay on my road bike, we left it on the rack and added my mountain bike. I did a quick change of clothes into something suitable for trail riding then we were out the door. Lis dropped me off at the top of Takaka hill, and while we were unloading a car pulls up and out pops three of her former WWOOFERS who had been working in the Bay and were heading back. I left them socializing as I headed off along the road towards Caanan downs and the Rameka track.


This is a very bleak area with a very harsh climate. There is lots of scrub and interesting rock formations, but not a lot of forest. Eventually the road reached the park.


I went to the car park for Harwood’s Hole—a very large cave system—and then started on the track. On the left was forest and the right fields, with lots of rock formations. The riding was easy and the trail good so I thought this would be what the trail would be like—I was soon to be proved wrong for although the Rameka track is called ‘intermediate’, sections would challenge an advanced rider.

The photos below show what the track is like. Lots of great bush and the stillness was incredible. One feels very remote, and I reflected after falling off a few times, that I really should ride a course like this with someone else just in case something happened. There were lots of roots and rocks, but since you were heading downhill most of the time you bounced over them—as long as your balance was good (which mine always wasn’t).  I was glad I had a rear suspension bike!





There were a lot of streams crossing the track and I often chose to dismount rather than try and ride them as there were a lot of stones and falling would have been grim. Even grimmer would have been riding some of the sections which were 100% stones with a very steep drop off on one side, like the section below.


One of the disadvantages to aging is that you don’t bounce as well as when you were younger. This is hopefully offset by a reduced propensity for taking risks. SO I’m sure I walked a lot of sections other cyclists would ride.

The track eventually exited the bush and was rewarded with great views down to Golden Bay.  It transpired that this was the original pack route into the Bay some 150 years ago, which explained some of the terraces I had seen.


I descended on an unsealed road thinking this would be excellent training for the Tour Divide Race: very steep and rough. At one point there was a sign to a continuation of the track, but since it was under construction I decided that discretion was the better part of valour and gave it a miss. Later on there was some single track next to the road which I swung onto. Great riding, and they even had jumps for the enthusiasts (not me!).

By the time I was towards the bottom my left thumb that I hurt when I crashed in June was aching from the demands of the riding and I could no longer shift. It’s getting better but it is a very slow process. So I was glad to get to the bottom and the tarmac where it was a not too long ride to our cottage which made it 35 km in total from start to finish—and a 3 h ride. My fantasy of a hot bath was put paid by Lis forgetting to turn on the hot water, but the company and food was great which more than made up for it.

So ended a busy but good Sunday. Nelson region really is a great place if you like an outdoor, active lifestyle.


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