Friday, December 25, 2009

I guess if there is a time to be thankful and a little sentimental it is Christmas. I feel incredibly lucky to have my family around me happy, healthy and vibrant and such good friends to share the journey through life with me. How much more do you need in life?
It's important to me to say this. I thank you all. My family, friends, the people who hardly know me that have supported me and offered encouragement along the way. Thank you all for reading my blog and understanding my words and feelings and for the words of encouragement you all leave here. It makes a difference.
I hope you all have a safe and happy holiday season. Peace.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Mount Beauty.

I have just returned from a 2 day trip to Mt Beauty in Victoria. We planned the trip as part of our Christmas visit to Melbourne as a little getaway to a place neither my wife or I had been. The added bonus of having the adventure kids along made for a potentially riotous time.
We booked a Yurt at the Mount Beauty Holiday Cark in Tawonga South as our accommodation for the 2 days. Whats a yurt you say? Well it is a 6 sided cabin with all of homes comforts. There is a small kitchen, a selection of beds depending on the size of the yurt you book and a FANTASTIC deck out the front. Our yurt overlooked the Kiewa River and the sound of the babbling stream was a constant and soothing companion. That topped with the views of Mt Feathertop and the rest of the ranges set a very relaxed and beautiful background. Pretty darn special. As a small aside I would also like to give the Mount Beauty Holiday Centre a big shout out for the clean and comfortable amenities. I have camped in a lot of places and I can honestly say that MBHC takes the cake. Unreal.
 I did plan to ride a few times while I was in Mt Beauty. Unfortunately my youngest son had an earache that made his night pretty bad and I stayed up to comfort him well into the early morning. The morning was spent relaxing and having cuddles with him  and taking in the amazing surroundings from the deck. Around the 5th cup of tea I decided that it was time to explore the area. I headed down to the bike shop (incidentally it is located at the front of the MBHC) and purchased a map. 3 bucks. Can't go wrong.
The only other problem for the trip became apparent as I peddled back to the yurt. I had freighted my bike down to avoid the hassle of taking it on the plane. Good plan in theory, not so great in practice. Somewhere along the line the front and rear wheel had been buckled badly and the front disc rotor resembled a taco. There I am in Mt Beauty, no tools and desperate for a ride. I managed to straighten the wheels out enough to pass muster but was then faced with the heartbreak of a toasted rotor. I couldn't for the life of me think how I could straighten it out without a shifter or similar. I rolled the dice and opened the boot of the car. There was a wheel brace, a spanner and a jack. Poo. No shifter. Oh well maybe I could try the wheel brace. Nup. Too big. Wait on, the jack handle looks OK. Yes! It fits in the rotor and allows me to lever the thing back to some sort of straight. Not the perfect, well aligned straight I had achieved on the service I gave the bike before packing it for shipment but still it turned without rubbing and I could ride it without being too embarrassed about the noise it made as I went along. It'll do.
The Big Hill staging area. An innocuous looking spot on the side of the highway to Falls Creek. Once you head in though it opens up to a maze of trails with options from a simple XC loop to an ass clenching descent that had me nearly looping out one minute and flipping over the bars the next. I mistakenly tried to climb a section of the state round XC course that was obviously meant as a descent. My lungs were burning and my legs screamed for mercy. Not only was it loose and technical but steep to boot. I loved it! The view from the top was worth it though.
I had allowed myself 2 hours for the afternoon and that was already quickly approaching. A combination   of my lethargy and having to stop every few minutes to read the map had robbed me of precious time on the bike. I pointed it down and pinned it. I think there were a few near death experiences along the way but the adrenaline from the fast swooping single track kept all fear at bay until well after the first Coopers had numbed whatever residual common sense may have existed in my body. I rode a massive 12 K's.
Day 2. More tea, some bacon and pancakes and a couple of nectarines and I was off for an adventure. I had heard of a track that was "easy" that went up to the top of the hill. The track is called the "Survey Track" and it winds for around 6 K's up. The track was built in 1930 as a means of surveying the road that exists now as the Bogong High Plains Road. It is maintained by local volunteers for walkers and mountain bikers to enjoy and enjoy it I did. This is six kilometers of amazing single track climbing. It is not the most technical of trails but at every turn there is an amazing view. You can look at the vista or focus on the minutiae of the flora and fauna. There are beautiful alpine daisies growing along the trail and I spotted the biggest goanna I have ever seen. That sucker must have been 6 feet long.
I reached the top of the survey track and had a muesli bar in celebration. Across to "Cranky Bernie" to link up to the "The Cattle Track" for a small zip down the fire road to hit up the top of the national round XC loop. At the top of the trail I stalled. There was a chute between a tree and a large rock that made me take pause. I was on my own, on unfamiliar trails at a reasonably sketchy drop in. Oh well. Hit it and hope. I rolled it smooth and then railed the rest of the link to the bottom. Here it splits about 200 different ways so I just pointed it down and kept on riding. My time was running out and I found a familiar bit of trail from the day before. I knew this would take me back to the staging area and the road back to Tawonga. My smile was tattooed on.  There are much more epic rides I have done, much longer and even more technical but not many in surroundings as beautiful as this.
I want to go back. This time I want to hook up a local guide and wring the best out of the Mount Beauty area. In all I rode for 4 hours and only achieved about 25 kilometers.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Generosity from afar.

When I first decided to attempt the Terra I approached Finish Line Events to ask permission to use the race as a fund raiser for Working Wonders. The organisers were more than helpful and open to the idea and even put me in touch with a couple from the States who had won an entry into the race for 2010. Due to circumstances not allowing them to make it back for the race they offered to sell the entry to Spencer and I for half price! That made a huge diference to Spencer and I as it has allowed us to spend a little more on the logistics of the race and keep a few comforts along the way.
So firstly thanks to Clayton from Finish Line Events. I'm looking forward to buying you a beer for your help. Secondly thanks to Dean and Jaclynn. Your generosity is very much appreciated by Spence and me. Needless to say, if you're ever in Brisbane there will be an extra shrimp on the barbie, plenty of ice cold beverages and a guide to show you around.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Short and Sweat. (Yep that's sweat)

Wow! It was hot today. I rode Mount Nebo for a total of 50 odd K's and suffered all the way. It reached 32 Celsius by 11am and I still had the whole return trip down the mountain to do. Tough love.
The goals for the weekend have been met. I have done two cranking rides in the heat and survived. I guess the only downer is that those two rides equal about the two shortest days of the Terra. How dismal. Oh well, at least I have a goal and I know I will get stronger as the training progresses.
I think it's time I went and had a cuppa and a lie down......

Saturday, December 5, 2009


I got my long road ride in today. All didn't go as planned admittedly but in the end it was a success. I left a little later than usual with the intension of building up my tolerance to heat as the reports from last years race stated some pretty high temperatures. I took plenty of water and planned the ride to have a stop at the midway point to refill water and maybe grab a snack.Sounded great in theory.
 I would never say I felt good this morning as I set out. My sleep was broken and I didn't feel rested when the alarm went off. I ate some breakfast, had my traditional cup of tea and cruised downstairs to put the last of my gear on. Helmet buckled, shoes strapped, gloves on. Go time. I headed over the Samford Range straight up. The base of the climb (its not that big but really sucks first thing in the morning!) is only about 2 k's from home so I don't really get in the groove before I hit it. Even at that early stage I felt dead in the legs and quite unmotivated. By Samford Village I had no form on the bike and was wobbling around like Santa's beer gut! Things looked a bit grim. At 16k's they were more than grim, they were downright terminal. My stomach was cramping so I rolled off the road in a shady spot. I got off the bike. I took off my helmet. I threw up. I felt better. Not much, but better just the same. Rolled oats and orange juice never taste as good the second time around.
I sat there for nearly 20 minutes and contemplated calling my wife to pick me up several times. Then out of the blue I thought, "In March I won't be pulling out just because I feel a bit off. Harden up buttercup." And there it was. It felt like 2 people having an argument inside my head and the guy saying "stop being such a wimp" was beating the snot out of the other one with logic! So I got on and rode a bit more. I made it to Dayboro feeling pretty shattered but none the less pleased I hadn't pulled the pin.
A can of the black doctor, a couple of peaches and a big bottle of water later I was ready to go again and feeling heaps more like riding the 40 odd k's home I had ahead of me. My average speed climbed slowly and  I found that nice easy stance on the bike that takes so much less energy than the rolling fat man shuffle that was my morning so far. I even smiled. So, 75 k's all up. Not too bad, not too bad at all.
Link to the ride stats and course

Friday, December 4, 2009

Time to get serious.

The last few weeks have been busy at work to say the least. I can only say that my energy reserves have been put to the test just keeping going and as a result my riding has been non existent. Tomorrow that all changes. I am putting together a plan to ensure I get enough K's in my legs as I move toward the Terra Australis in March. I need to ride every day to condition myself to recovering after a long ride and backing it up over the 7 days of racing.
I've missed the training badly. I get moody and grumpy when I don't ride. I think tomorrow a nice 60-80k road ride to ease the legs in should set me on the right path. If I go out to Laceys Creek and back through Strathpine I will get that easy. Its a really pretty place to ride too. Good for the soul. Sunday needs to be a mountain bike ride and I think that Gap Creek and Mount Nebo would provide the ideal setting for that. Up to the top, maybe a quick coffee and then back down to finish with some singletrack and a little fun.

Each day will bring an opportunity to ride. A commute to work, an afternoon spin in the forest or a morning road ride to clock up the K's. I want to keep it fresh and interesting because this type of training can wear you down pretty quick. I know my riding friends will be there to help push me along and the messages from supporters and friends will keep my mind focused on the goal. For now I am just happy to ride this weekend.. It won't be as intense as it will get but for now, it will do.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Dirty philosophy

Singletrack. The word brings goosebumps to the skin of any mountainbiker. The thin strip of dirt that weaves through  trees or rocks with barely space for the handlebars and your shoulders. You can rail it fast or it can be sketchy and scary enough to make you go home and write your will. Near misses, perfect lines and that one moment of bliss as all the elements and the stars line up to give you the feeling of flying. But its just dirt.
Like alchemy though when the parts are added together, logs, rocks, ruts and roots, it is transformed into so much more than the separate parts. You see the vistas flash by and you may meet the local fauna. It turns to gold. Just like alchemy.

Even if it doesn't all fall into place and you bin it on the first corner you still have that moment of wonder. Potential. That strip of dirt holds all the potential to be great, or to make you feel great, or scared, or exhausted. To simply feel.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Slogging through the weeks.

Each year the company I work for seems to be overrun with work from November to January. It means long days, heaps of overnight shifts and a generally very unhealthy lifestyle. It's hard to get a reasonable meal at 3am so the fast food joints get a hammering as does my digestive tract. By the end of the 3 weeks of madness I feel pretty average. This last couple of days I have had a stomach virus and if thats not bad enough so have the kids.
I still have one more week of the really bad stuff to go but at least that means I am more than half way through it. I'm looking forward to Christmas in Melbourne with family and a side trip to Mount Beauty for a couple of days riding and relaxing. Whoa, I can hardly wait! Watching my kids and their cousins open presents is always a blast too. It resembles that cartoon character the Tassie devil and what happens as he enters a room. A cross between a tornado and a typhoon with a pinch of nuclear explosion thrown in for the carnage factor. Fun.
All this hassle will make the holiday feel even better. I'm looking forward to spending time with Alison and the boys and I haven't been to visit my inlaws in Melbourne for years. I just can't wait.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Just an update, nothing dramatic.

I finally got to ride on Sunday. Just a short run out to Cedar Creek near Samford. But what a beautiful run it turned out to be. Perfect weather, my MP3 player and my old faithful road bike.
Its only about 46km round trip to Cedar Creek with a few small but steep climbs along the way. You pass over "the range" between Ferny Grove and Samford first up, descend down to Samford and turn onto Dayboro Road for a few K's of relatively flat but quite busy road. Once you manage that you hit Cedar Creek Road itself. Just beautiful. Open farm lands to start with a nice quiet road and a few friendly dogs (yep, they really are friendly!) to see you along. Theres horses and cattle and even a few sheep to break up the monotony until you hit the lush sub tropical forest in the foothills of Mount Nebo and Mount Glorious. You get up to the top of the road before turning around and are rewarded with the sound of running water, huge boulders and masses of birdsong. I sat there for half an hour.

The cool water on my feet was unreal and really refreshed me before I set off for the return trip home. A chocolate muesli bar, a couple of swigs on the water bottle and I was off again. Wow. I pumped it back home. Theres a really nasty little pinch climb back over the range to finish off the ride. Normally I would ease back into a rythm and grin and bear it till I made the top but this time, I nailed it. I sat at a high cadence and flew up past a guy half way up the hill. I still had heaps in the tank. I felt positive and strong, tired but refreshed and basically grounded.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

It aint all lemonade and skittles....

As some of you may know, I have had a bit of a battle with depression for the last couple of years. Well with a build up of work stress, little time to spend with my family and a heap of commitments weighing me down the black dog has reared its ugly head again.
By no means is this the kind of deep seated sadness that slapped me down and made me beg for mercy 18 months ago. It's more the lethargic, couldn't give a rats kind of feeling that makes getting off the couch hard and for me, reduces my tolerance levels to the negatives. I feel guilty for being grumpy, the guilt takes so much energy that I feel tired and the lack of energy stops me feeling as though I can work through it to feel good again. I am pretty lucky though.
With the help of family, good friends and a good psychologist I can see that the feelings are only temporary and I can get through them and regain my balance. I write about the good stuff here. The stuff like the riding, my son getting better and the good times we have as a family because well, thats the stuff I want to talk about. But I don't want anyone to think I don't have bad days. Life isn't all lemonade and skittles. It can get you down and make a day seem like a year but the trick is to grab those skittles when they are there and gobble them up. Take a swig of the lemonade to wash it down. Repeat.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Hills, hills, hills.

After yesterdays tumultuous hiding at the hands of the roadie set, I returned to more familiar grounds today with a spin through the Brisbane Forest Park on the aptly named "Super V". You really can't complain about a ride that starts in the temperate Eucalypt forest and winds it's way down to a creek cutting through a deep valley full of granite boulders. After you descend for about 10 k's the holiday is over though. It's all up. It's all steep. 
At around 30% some of the climbs can chew you up and spit you out. When you add in the loose surface and occasional heads sized boulder it makes for a tough day in the saddle. What you need to do is open your eyes. Look out to your left any time the trees leave a break and you will be rewarded with views to Wivenhoe Dam and the Lockyear Valley. Quite spectacular. Throw in a couple of king parrots, a goanna and even a wallaby or two and the ride couldn't be more Australian or satisfying. Did I mention the good company?
Leanne, Anike and bloody Steve (again) were the ridning parnters for today. Heaps of laughs and conversation to make the ride rock along and keep your mind off the pain of grinding up the hills. Heaps of innappropriate comments to crack you up and totally ruin any rythm or groove you may have developed along the way. (Thanks Steve)
The pay off comes at the end of the ride. A 6.5km climb up through the forest slowly transforms into lush rainforest and cool shaded trails for the last push of 3.5km to the top. Amazingly large trees tower over you and the whole canopy is swathed in vines and staghorns hang from the huge boughs. Gorgeous.
I was a little concerned that the efforts of yesterday may take their toll as I hit the hills in earnest today but was pleasantly surprised. I kept my heart rate low and concentrated on keeping a steady, sustainable rythm. My legs were a little sore but they warmed up. In fact I felt better for the hard push of yesterday and when I reached the first hill I cruised up and had heaps left in the tank. My confidence that I can train myself to a point that I can survive and even thrive in the Terra  took a giant step forward. I am refreshed and ready to pound out some big rides and smile all the way. Theres the secret, keep smiling.
Link to the ride stats

Saturday, October 24, 2009

They tore my legs off.....

Well, what more do I need to say? I left home to ride out to samford for the start of the ride at 5.30am this morning. My Garmin wouldn't initialise and so I had to leave it off for the trek out. Having said that when I got home I had 83km on the clock with an average speed of 28km/hour. Thats bloody quick!
I managed to hold on to the group for the journey out to Dayboro where the group split in two with some deciding to take an alternate route. I even managed to hang in there as the group was reaching the turnaround point at the 38km mark. I wasn't last as we got back to Dayboro and I was feeling pretty good. Hmmm, this road riding thing aint so bad. That my friends is where the whole thing came crashing down and I began my descent into the pits of hell.
About 4km out of Dayboro I was losing contact with the group. In road riding terms thats a bad thing. You can get dragged along when you are in a big group and avoid some of the head winds as well as have the moral support of the other riders around you. One of the guys dropped back and helped me regain the group but no sooner had I got back than I started to slide back again. Man these guys were flying! After that its a slow painful death as you watch the peloton cruise out of sight not having the legs to catch them and realise you need to battle the head wind and drag your sorry butt up the hills. Alone.
Oh well. What are you gonna do? I'm not racing for sheep stations, or for a living, I'm not even racing. So I stuck the head phones on and got down to business of making it back to Samford where a strong coffe and a bakery treat would revitalise me for the short climb back to home. The coffee was great as was the chocolate milk and cream donut. After that its just harden up buttercup  and get on with it.
When I got home I sat in a garden chair and turned the hose on myself. That is how to end a ride on a hot day! I should mention that thr group this morning was the Samford Velos. A really nice bunch of people. In the group I was in I was probably the youngest person and they still tore me apart. It gives me a good feeling to know that I can keep riding at a really good level for quite a few years yet and  iam not the least bit embarrassed about watching them pull off into the distance.......

Friday, October 23, 2009

Pinch of concrete! Aisle 7 please!

Tomorrow I am going on my first group road ride in 20 years. Yep, thats a long time between drinks. I am really excited about the prospect of a social ride with a big group and all the banter and chatter that goes along with it. I've reserected my 1994 vintage Klien Quantum and been out training on it with a mate. I have been really lucky that Steve, a riding buddy on the mountain bikes, has been very patient with me and coaxed me through the first few tentative steps back onto the road. So now tomorrow I will give it a whirl in the group.
I had forgotten how much I enjoyed the road bike. There are some fantastic back road loops out around my area that take in farmlands and a few hills as well as some really nice quiet roads with some really good hills. I'm not talking the Col du Tormalet here but for a guy who hasn't ridden a road bike in a few years they are serious enough to get the blood up. Going up hills on the roadie is way different to the mountain bike too. I don't have the granny gear to fall back on when it gets vertical and that means my little chicken legs need to man up and actually push a bigger gear to get me over the top. Not a comfortable experience for a mountain biker used to spinning along at high cadence with low resistance. Ah well, time to dry my eyes, add that extra pinch of concrete to the cuppa and get busy.
Stay tuned for tomorrows report on the triumphant return to the road scene by yous truly. Otherwise known as " Oh my goodness my legs are killing me!"

Monday, October 19, 2009

Has anyone seen my motivation?

It's always hard when you have to balance life with goals and aspirations and to say I have not been that successful at doing that lately would be a gross understatement. I have been working stupidly hard, have stress levels through the roof and have basically only been able to look longingly at my bikes for the past week. The doubts have started to creep in.
My next few weeks are full of late nights and early mornings interspersed with some really late nights and some really early mornings. It makes it very hard to get out and train as the limited time off means scrabbling to spend time with my family as well as throw the leg over a bike and churn out some K's. Something has to give so the training has taken the back seat for now. After a massive day Friday I slept most of Saturday only to back up and work most of Sunday. I haven't reached my training goals for 2 weeks and last week was an epic failure.
So what are you supposed to do? Get over it, harden up and get back on the bike and suffer for your lack of training. Maybe this weekend I can smash some big K's and make my head feel straight again. We'll see.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

A little more of the back story.

The whole idea of these crazy endeavours I undertake is to raise money for Working Wonders. They do amazing work for kids raising money for research and new equipment as well as providing support services to patients and thier families. My families connection with the Royal Childrens Hospital Intensive Care Unit and the Childrens Oncology is very personal and based on great admiration and appreciation. I have spoken breifly about my son Jack's battles as a baby but I think now is the time to share a little more of the personal experience through the eyes of his mother, Alison.
We kept a day book of the time Jack was in hospital. There were 2 reasons behind it. The first was to be able to keep tabs on what was going on with his treatment as often one of us had to work or just go home for some rest and this allowed the other person to explain any updates or visits from specialists etcetera. The second was to keep a record for Jack as he grew up. The possibility of Jack needing ongoing and very invasive treatment was very real and the more we learnt of the side effects and the long term effects of these treatments the more concerned we grew with how we might explain to him later in his life. Alison and I did not want him to ask questions about why we had made decisions for him at the time and not be able to say precisely why we had made them. I reckon that by the time Jack left ICU Alison and I had done most of a degree in childrens intensive care practice and knew more about neuroblastoma than most oncologists! Must have driven the staff nuts with our questions.....
This little piece of literature comes from Tueday 29th April, 2003. I have just directly transferred it from the book. No corrections, no punctuation. This is exactly as my wife wrote it.
Go in for CT scan at 9:00am- Need general anasthetic for this procedure.
Come out of anasthetic and they decide your ready to move to SURF ward. (out of ICU)
12:00pm move upstairs . Have own room with nice view. Graham and I are very excited. Jack still needs lots of cuddles and is getting very distressed when ever he is put down on the bed. I calm him and put him on the bed to change his nappy and he stops breathing!! for about 45 secs. (A LONG TIME!) Whole body turns blue. Nurse gets him breathing again and we call ICU to come down and have another look at him.
Jack fasted for scan and we are having trouble getting him back on feeds as nonone knows who to ask to start them again. Mum and Dad think part of Jacks distress is that he is very hungry.
Dr Delbridge arrives - comments on oxygen being very highand breathinh halting being of concern and Jack is readmitted to ICU at 5:00pm. We are told this is the record for return to ICU. 4 hrs!
Jack is still in distress. Stops breathing twice more. Decide to intubate. Jack put onto Midazolam and Morphine and tube inserted down nose to help Jack breathe. Now he has time to relax and get better under sedation.
Second most intense day since Jack was first admitted.
High point of the day was a visit from Oncology team. CAT scan came back clear - no lumps anywhere else in his body. Still more tests to do but atr this stage they think they'll be OK to leave the tumour with no treatment and just watch it. YEAH!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Setting Goals.

I have this amazing little piece of technology that allows me to track my rides, my heart rate, power output and basically everything else about my pain and suffering while out on the bike. I have chucked the link in here for you all to have a look at and to keep me honest in my training goals. Don't be scared to post up a comment or to follow the blog. I currently have a goal of a 200km week this week and you can follow that in the goals tab at Garmin Connect. Enjoy!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Every Journey Begins with a Cup of Coffee.

Never let two mountain bikers go for a ride and then sit down to a nice cup of coffee. You just never know where it will end up! It all starts innocently enough, a joke about my recent efforts at a 24 hour race, my comment about maybe him hardening up and having a crack at one himself and finally the fateful step past the point of no return. I open my big mouth. “We should do something really hard. I reckon that Terra Australis race would be the go. I know it would be tough but you’ll still be telling your grand kids about it.” Spencer and I have been mates for years. We met via mountain biking. We love riding together. In Spencer’s words, “This is the challenge of a lifetime and I need a challenge.” Not in my wildest dreams did I think he would say yes. Now what?

Well we start training, we start to prepare and we start to beg the forgiveness of our partners and kids. A race like this is a big commitment not only financially but on your family time. If you don’t prepare properly things can go pear shaped before you know what hit you. That’s a scary thought. In the middle of the Victorian Alps somewhere with a serious problem and the possibility of a long wait before assistance you really want to be sure it’s not the first time you’ve considered this outcome. Then there’s trust. I have a family, Spencer has a wife. Is it really responsible for us to undertake an event like this without preparing properly? Our partners have to trust us to be prepared, we have to trust each other to be there throughout the training and the race, we have to trust in our abilities to finish each day and back up for the next day for seven grueling days.

Am I scared? Hell yeah. Is my wife scared? No. She thinks I’m nuts, but she's not scared. I hope that as the preparation progresses that she will see my efforts in the training and planning for this event as an indication of how serious I am to finish this thing. Hopefully she won’t get scared.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Old mates and old trails.

Today was fathers day here. I got to stay in bed late, eat home made pancakes with bacon and maple syrup and drink cups of tea all day. I even got to go for a social relaxed ride around some favourite trails in the afternoon to top off the day. Bliss.
The topper had to be getting the call from my mate Adam as I sat at the start of the ride telling me he was parked next to me and was joining the ride. I haven't ridden with Adam for nearly 2 years. We tried once a few months ago but he crashed and injured his shoulder so we cut the ride short. He puffed and huffed up the hills, looked like he might chuck the cookies at any minute but still laughed and joked at the rest stops. Onya Adam!
Bloody tops ride. Heres hoping for many more.
Get on your bikes people.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Breakfast in the Trees

It seems that the Brisbane Forest Park is my playground. As I climbed out of bed and put my obligatory cup of tea on I was a little concerned that the morning was already warm enough to not need warmers or a vest. That soon fell by the wayside as I hit the road on the way over to meet my friends at the base of Mount Coot-tha.
My course takes me on a 12km warm up ride across a steep climb on the bitumen with a full tilt run down the other side and finishing with a little singletrack in Gap Creek Reserve to the carpark. The gang of intrepid explorers planned to scoot straight up South Boundary Road to the recently re-opened Boombana Cafe for a bite to eat (read an enormous breakfast and 2 lattes in my case!) a nice chat and then a run back down the hill and off home. The day was perfect.
There were 9 of us at the start with a varied skill and fitness range from the whippet like racer boys to the slow and steady "more mature riders" and me probably somewhere right in the middle. I am always amazed at the breadth of conversation that occurs on a ride. We start talking about mountain bikes but soon that dissolves into talk of holidays, books, movies and basically anything else that you feel like chatting about. Needless to say there are some small breaks as a little pinch climb takes all your breath or the next descent thins out the rockets from the more cautious riders but miraculously the little groups reform and the conversation continues seamlessly. I must point out we always regroup along the way, noone gets left behind. We're like the marines, never leave a man behind.
At the top the cafe was run off its feet as 9 hungry mountain bikers descended along with a couple of surprise guests. The coffees flowed, the talk was of seeing our mate Eric up there and on his feet after a horrific incident on the road and the feeling of cameraderie could have powered a small town. Erics crash was an awful shock to a lot of us. He tirelessly organises adventure rides and weekend trips and gives so much of his time to the mountain bike community. Seeing him upright and talking about when he can get back on a bike was awesome.
Well, what goes up must come down. The down bit is actually slightly misleading. While there is definitely more down than up heading back to Gap Creek there are still some tough little climbs to face and man had it got hot! 32 degres, in August! I did suffer a little on the way back but I found my salvation at the Mobil service station half way home. I had run out of water so I stopped, bought some water and Gatorade and scoffed a Chocolate Billabong. Aussies know, that would be heaven. The Choccy Billabong is the king of ice creams. Refreshed? Hell yeah.
The final slog home. Up over the same nasty little bitumen climb, this time on the steep side and then down to home in a flurry of big ring and bravado. The road is really narrow in parts and I don't like riding it at all. In fact I avoid it normally but I really wanted to ride over to the start of this one to rack up some more K's for the day. Some motorists are very stupid though. Wait a second maybe 2 until it is clear and safe to go around. No, lets fly past and see how many coats of paint we can remove on the cyclists jersey as we do it. One lucky motorist learnt that you shouldn't do it at the top of the hill though where the cyclist has a more than fair chance of thumping it down the other side and catching you at the lights. The extra little burst of adrenaline only made for a more imaginative stream of expletives as I pulled in front of the clown and made my displeasure known. He felt me.....
Home and exhausted. I sat on the yard serat, turned the hose on and dowsed myself to cool off. I downed a big drink of water and checked my stats. 70km, average speed of 16.4 km, 1700m of climbing and 3 goannas. Not a bad day for a social ride.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Just when you thought it was safe to visit the blog site......

Oh my poor neglected blog! It's been pretty busy since my last post. Not busy in the fun exciting way but the dull, nagging and dragging way. I hadn't ridden for 6 weeks until last Sunday when I took a day off from my commitments and sat on the bike for a nice 50km spin through the hills.

First the commitments. We have a rental house, the tenants moved out and left it in a mess and ever since I have been there every weekend fixing it up and trying to get it ready for new tenants. So far the tally is 3 dead rats, 7 bags of rubbish from under the house, countless cockroaches and other bugs and LOTS of money to get the place to a livable state. Soul crushing probably describes it best.

So how bad did I need a ride? Until I managed to get out on the bike I was seriously considering upping my medication. My stress levels were through the roof and I had started feeling pretty low again. Along came my mountain bike buddies to snap me out of it. Its funny how suffering up some steep climbs and cracking a few jokes about it makes most things come rushing back into perspective. The day was perfect and the conversation oscillated between the riding and the usual collection of blue references to butts and the coffee and food waiting at the bakery after the ride. I was exhausted when I got home but SO happy. So far this week has been tolerable and with the prospect of another monster ride on Sunday things can only get better. I tell ya, get some exercises people. You won't regret it.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The wash up. (How ironic)

I ticked the box on one of my life goals this past weekend. I competed in a 24 hour mountain bike race as a solo participant. I survived.

My weekend started with a trip out to the race venue on Friday afternoon to set up camp. The rain was falling lightly at this stage and already there was a small amount of water lying around. Rohan had come out to help me and was busily laying out the pegs for my tent and then pulling the poles out for me from the bag. I put him in charge of setting up my bed and he relished the chance to unroll the swag and the sleeping bag. What followed was a very excited 4 year old playing in the tent until I was ready to leave and then a very disappointed 4 year old when he realised we weren't staying there for the night. He recovered when I said we could have McDonalds for dinner. Phew!

The rain fell all night. It was very heavy at times and as I woke in the morning knowing that the course would have got a hiding my race plan was steadily sliding away like the mud and grit that was sure to be present on the course. I headed out to the race venue and my fears were confirmed,. There was water running across the road on the entrance to the camping area and I saw people coming in from practice laps coated in mud. I had ridden at this venue last year in the wet and was painfully aware of how thoroughly awful the course could get with a little rain. My hopes were shattered!

I put my shoes on and grabbbed my helmet to head down to the race briefing. The course was shortened from 16.1km down to 6.5km due to water on the course. One person who came back from checking out the full race course stated that the best swimmer would win this race, not the best riders!

Everyone was lined up at the start with the fast kids at the front and people like me way out the back. It was a funny vibe at the back of the pack. There were a couple of us cracking jokes about how we would feel in a few hours let alone 24 hours and a few new riders looking slightly freaked out at the possibility of doing multiple laps around a wet slippery course. I had an evil chuckle to myself when one guy calmly stated this was his first ever mountain bike race and he had never ridden at night before. Should be good for some entertainment in a few hours, eh? And we were off, more with a whimper than a bang.....

The first lap is always the worst. People are cheering you to go faster and there is no way you should, the traffic is hell and basically everyone is bunched together and you walk more obstacles than you ride. I often wonder if it would be best to wear hiking boots rather than cycling shoes on that first lap. I came around through the transition area and the looks of horror from my mates told me how much mud I had picked up. This was going to be tough on man and machine. I cleaned my bike every second lap just to keep it working. An old fire extinguisher was my saviour as I could clean the bike quickly and then refill it and re pressurise it with my track pump. Gold. Well that was it, lap after lap, until dark.

Riding in the bush at night is one of lifes unexpected pleasures. You focus on just the things you need to and its like putting the world under a microscope. You see every little thing as long as it is in the beam of your lights. The emerald green reflections off the spiders eyes on the ground make it look like you are riding through Aladdins cave! I am always surprised at how many of the little beasts there are on the trails especially on the open fire trails up on the ridge lines. It became very quiet after about 9pm as many riders decided the muck was too hard and had a rest. The piece and serenity were magnificent. My mate Chris came out to offer support at about that time and arrived with a hot coffee and a few words of abuse/encouragement which really bolstered me for the next 3 hours. I managed to pump out laps until 12.30am but the cold and wet conditionds were conspiring against me and I was suffering pretty badly by that stage. I decided to have a rest and get warm for a couple of hours. That sleeping bag was the best thing, ever.

When I woke up I felt pretty awful. I hadn't slept much and I needed to eat badly. To the rescue came Gaz, hot coffee and pancakes in hand. I devoured both the life giving substances with barely a chew and was ready to rock. Clothes went on in a flash, shoes were buckled on and before you could blink I was on the bike and pinging out laps. As I came around on my first lap Marcel arrived to be my morning motivation. In much thesame way as Chris had done the previous night he made sure I ate and got fluids, cleaned the bike down and just generally laughed at me for being such a goose in the first place.

Just a little aside on Marcel and Chris. Both these guys kept saying to me, "We aren't doing enough for you!" I guess sitting for 40 minutes until I come around for a 2 minute stop meant they were feeling relaxed and maybe a bit bored. What they did was all the things I SHOULD do but would have been too tired or unmotivated to do. They took away my excuse to get off the bike and fill a bottle or wash the bike down again, or even stop for too long and get cold which makes it really hard to get going again. That stuff is priceless.

I had to start my last lap before 11:30am. The group of people I was camped with were all geeing me up as I came around at 10:45am on my second last lap. I could get another lap in if I pushed pretty hard. No mean feat after about 18 hours of riding. A friend I ride with came to my rescue. He was about to set off on his last lap after his team had secured the win in the 4 person mixed category. Nick is a top bloke and was happy to trundle around with me at a very leisurely pace cracking jokes and generally taking my mind off the hurt. He got me around to transition and as I passed my camp I threw down an energy gel, dropped off all the bottles and took off for a "hot" lap. I went under 40 minutes, way under. My last lap was 36 minutes according to my timer. Not bad.

So the wash up? I got 23 laps, good enough for 8th place, a shade under 150km in the muck, slop and cold including 6 night laps. I had sore knees, a sore butt and sore wrists. Obviously I was tired as it has taken much longer than I hoped to update this blog. Th real win was still that I raised nearly twice as much money for "Working Wonders" as I had hoped. A big thanks to all those who have donated. Will I do it agian. Oh yes. In fact stay tuned for Octobers hijinx.....

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Pit Crew.

Well I have now finished my training for the race next weekend. I will take it pretty easy this week with just a couple of easy rides to work. It's time to thank a few of the people who have helped me along the way and a couple of others who have donated some time to act as support crew for me throughout the weekend.
Obviously you can't do a bike race without a bike. My mate Spencer has been looking after my bike now for about 10 years as well as taking me out and smashing me around the trails of Brisbane. Now Spencer does work for a bike shop, but he has often gone above and beyond to get my bike on the trails and stop me from whinging like a little kid! He's racing this weekend too and has promised to yell abuse at me as he passes by. Onya mate!
Another big thanks must go to the mob from MTB Dirt. Unwittingly they have been my training partners, motivators and even transport to the epic rides over the last year or so. There are far too many to name individually but you know who you are.
All the people who donated money to the charity! You rock.
Chris and Marcel. Marcel doesn't even ride and he is coming out to offer support and Chris has been well and truly bitten by the bike bug. I can't say that they will be highly entertained as a lap takes about an hour and that means an awful lot of doing nothing while I punch out laps. Maybe they just want to see me suffer! Next year Chris says he wants to get a team together for this race so I guess I better offer to be team manager for that one. God knows I won't want to ride the race. I may never want to ride again.......
Lastly but definitely not least, Alison my wife. There are so many reasons I love her. She is a great Mum, a great partner and my best friend. Alison has a quiet strength that has seen her get through some tough times and still come out a positive and beautiful human being. I have watched in awe as she gave birth to my two wonderful kids and continues to raise them with gusto. I could not do this without her understanding and support.
Thank you all.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

So I started a web page.......

Because this is all about raising some much needed cash for Working Wonders, I have signed up at Everyday Heroes which is a web site that allows donations to be taken over the net. There have been a few people who have very generously decided to sponsor me per lap or kilometer and thier donations can be made after the event via the site.
Wow! only nine days to go!
Here is the link...

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Reason Why.

I will post up some excerps from the day book we kept when Jack was in hospital. You might all think I am crazy, but if you don't think this is a good cause I'll do it naked. Most of the writing is by Alison and although it might read as being very matter of fact I can promise you it wasn't at the time. Lots of people asked us how we survived the stress and emotion of this period in our lives. Well I think the secret to it was the "we" bit with a healthy dose of the "friends and family" bit. There were a lot of tears and "why us" to begin with but somewhere early on as we watched Jack undergo procedure after procedure with bravery and barely a complaint it just clicked. We're a family, we're here for each other and right now there is no use in wasting energy on anything other than helping our beautiful baby boy get better.
The following is what happened on the first two days in hospital. I wrote this stuff but only in note form so excuse the grammar.

Thursday 24th April, 2003.
Paediatric appointment - breathing difficulty
Straight to Hospital after lump is discovered on neck.
C.T. scan requiring general anaesthetic.
I.C.U. for observation afterwards.

Friday 25th April, 2003.
Paediatric consult - concerned with airway so a tracheostomy (big hole in throat through which he will breathe) is ordered up.
During surgery decision is made to remove lump and not do trachy.
Didn't look good.
Removed about 80% of lump.
Breathing improved out of sight. Some complications with nerve damage to eye probably caused by swelling.
Lump appeared to be tumour and was sent to histlogy.

24 hours on a bike? Piece of cake compared to just one hour on either of those two days. If you want to donate, just put a comment up here.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


With all my excitement to write about my lessons from the race I forgot to mention the result! I managed 20th in a field of 54 with 8 laps. Thats about 85km of riding in 6 hours. Not bad eh?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

6 Hours of Lessons - Or the 6 P's of Mountain Bike Racing.

Over the weekend I participated in the Mt Perry weekend of mountain bike madness. My focus was on the 6 hour race as a warm up for my 24 hour effort and to sort out a few strategic issues to do with food and hydration. I felt great at the start with a little bit of nerves and a whole lot of excitement about riding an awesome course and finally putting my money where my mouth is as far as my fitness and technical abilities. Then BANG! Off we went.

Lesson number one: Don't be so nice at the start.

I got caught behind a LOT of people on the first lap. I am reasonably competent in the technical stuff but heaps of people got off and walked any little obstacle and that really held me up. As a guide, the first lap took nearly 50 minutes and for the next 3 laps I was banging out 40ish minute laps. I was being polite and letting riders through only to have them stall just ahead of me. I will go out harder and get some clear track next time.

Lesson Number 2: Set your pace and stick with it.

I followed a couple of my friends around for the first lap or two. It was great to chat to them but it didn't help me get a rythm going. The next major boo boo was chasing a mate so I could chat to him. I was there for a social race but I think perhaps it was a bit too social...... I basically blew up for the next lap and it really hurt after that. So, get consistent and stay consistent.

Lesson 3: It's 6 hours long, you're gunna get hungry!

Yep, I didn't prep any food before the race. I had gels and some fruit but nothing substantial to keep the hunger pains away or give me lasting energy reserves. I would never do a 6 hour ride without food so what possessed me to think it would be OK for a race I don't know. Dumbass.

Lesson 4: Murphy was an optimist.

I haven't broken a chain on a ride for years, literally. My chain was 3 weeks old and you guessed it. Snap, 20 minutes to change it. If the chain breaking wasn't bad enough I also left my tool box back at our camp site with the spare in it and my chain tool. Double dumbass.

Lesson 5: Refer to lesson 3. I just want to make sure you got the message. I'm a goose.

Lesson 6: Have fun.

Thats what it is about. I loved the race for the challenge it presented and the things it told me about myself. I couldn't stop smiling when I had finished and the adrenaline rush as I sprinted to get the last lap in before the time expired was unreal. I made the lap by a few minutes in the end but my timer showed I was much closer to missing out than that. I cramped like a bastard after that and had to wait for about 3 or 4 minutes before I could continue but after that I pushed on with a smile and a sense of relief that it was my last lap.

I can honestly say that I learnt the lessons the hard way. I didn't prepare for the race well and had no food made before the race and only a couple of options when it came to hydration. If my friends hadn't given me a well timed bottle of Coke and a squirt of Leslie's magic cramp killer I would have been in big trouble. Thats what mountain bikers are like though. I pull into the feeding station looking a bit rough and people start offering help. Cool people, very cool people. Am I ready for 24 hours of riding? Probably not but I will give it a red hot go.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Well its off to Mount Perry tomorrow. Lots of videos for the kids to survive the drive, lots of music for the parents and a sense of adventure all round to top off the fun. The six hour race is on Sunday and I feel pretty good about it. I haven't trained enough but hey, lifes full of challenges you aren't ready for. It should be a really social weekend with quite a few of my riding buddies heading up for the race. I hope to crack 90km for the 6 hours. Should be achievable and depending on how I feel mid way I might up that estimate to 100km. My plan is to use this race as a means of working out my hydration and nutrition for the 24 hour race. It will at least give me an idea of the consistant feeding and fluid intake I will need to survive 24 hours on a bike.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Back in the saddle.

After a week of no riding due to a virus I finally got back on the bike today. It may have only been my commute to work but it felt good. (Well it felt good after it stopped feeling bad!) I do about 15km each way and it has formed an integral part of my training for the 24 hour race. The bicycle commute is quicker than the train, beats the heck out of sitting in traffic and is a great way to get fit.

I have entered in a 6 hour race on the 7th June as a warm up event to "The Big One" as I have now named it. The family is coming with me and it will be a great weekend of camping and general shenanigans mixed with a bit of bike riding. Looks like a great course and if you follow the link there is video of some of the course.

The boys are both very excited and this week they got new sleeping bags to make sure they are warm and toasty for the weekend. My chief mechanic for the race is Rohan, my 4 year old. He is quite handy with the spanners and loves helping out. I usually check his work just as a precaution....... Jack is definitely the team manager. His powers of strategic planning and negotiation should see him as either a politician or a premier league football coach in later life. Trying to win an arguement with him is like trying to win an arguement with myself. My mum says it's pay back. Of course then there is the engine room, Alison. She keeps us fed and watered and even listens with some interest to my musings on riding bikes, camping gear and all things outdoors. Alison loves camping too. I couldn't ask for a better partner in my crazy adventures.

So team Menzies is ready and raring for a big weekend. I will of course post some photos and a report after the race. Stay tuned as it should be quite a read!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

24 hours for a good cause.

Well this is my first post on my new blog! The idea behind it is to share my thoughts and experiences as I train for a 24 hour mountain bike race at the end of June, 2009. A lot of my friends have said"You're nuts!" and well, they could be right. The idea of riding a bike offroad for 24 hours solid is daunting even for a bike mad nut like myself but the challenge appeals to me and hopefully the sense of achievement at the end will offset the sore backside and aching body at the finish line.

Enough about the race for now and some about the reason for this blog. Most people reading this blog will know that I have 2 wonderful children! Both boys, Jack and Rohan, and both very active and excited with life. What you may not know is that Jack had a rough start to life and spent some time in hospital from 3 months old to deal with it. He was diagnosed with a tumour on his neck just below the jaw line and had to have it surgically removed. That resulted in a series of other complications that as this blog goes along I will detail.

Jack was given the most amazing care while in hospital. He spent 5 weeks in the Intensive Care unit at Royal Childrens Hospital in Brisbane being cared for 24 hours a day by a dedicated and sensitive bunch of doctors and nurses. I could never thank them enough.

So what's it got to do with a bike race? Well, some of my friends and family have decided that they will sponsor me to do the race with all the proceeds going to "Working Wonders" which is the fund raising foundation for the RCH. I am asking for pledges that will be payed directly to the foundation (I won't collect any money) and I will post them here. Kooky I know, but I figure anything I raise is still more than nothing. Thats it in a nutshell. Laps around a course on a mountain bike starting at midday on Saturday and finishing at midday on Sunday the following day. Sounds like fun huh!