Lynda Gray

I blame it all on my brother-in-law Greg. His suggestion in September last year to come along for the ride a 64km, 1390-metre-climb mountain bike race in the St James Conservation Area of the Canterbury high country – sounded like a great idea.

The event, the Pony Express, is one of several mountain bike and running events held in mid-January in the St James Conservation Area alongside Molesworth Station. Husband Cam and I fooled ourselves that we would ramp up our training over several weeks to tackle the up-hills and down-hills which didn’t look that bad on the online course elevation view.

Our ride started at Lake Tennyson, about 50 lined up at the start-line and most of us rode out in high spirits, in awe of the vast and impressive high-country landscape. But the terrain – an unpredictable mix of sandy, sticky and grassy 4WD and single-file tracks; as well as numerous creek crossings took its toll on body and mind.

Then there were the impossibly steep up and down hills that meant clicking out of cleat pedals and trying to navigate tracks in shoes not made for long-distance walking.

We finally crossed the finish line by the chimney stacks of the St James Station homestead six hours and 48 minutes after setting out. We were finishers in the ‘Station Hack’ section, there was also a Dog Tucker category which is what I felt and looked like when I crossed the finish line.