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... http://www.everydayhero.com.au/graham_menzies

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.