Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Cycling, not moving.

It has been raining in Brisbane for what feels like months. We have had an amazing amount of rain considering that only a short time ago, a little over a year, the whole state was in drought. I am now at a point where the last dry ride I had was over a month ago and that was a rare occurrence on it's own.
Desperate times call for desperate measures. Not only did I go for a wet and soggy trail run to get some excercise but I also bought a fluid trainer. I have long resisted the need to have one of these cruel and evil devices around the home and always thought it was much better to get out on the bike and cop a hiding in the rain rather than sit on a trainer and go nowhere in the dry. I may have been a little wrong.
Hmm, so I set the thing up, got some gear on and went down for my first stint of cycling going nowhere. I set my self an hour time limit with the intention of a 20 minute spin to warm up and 3 sets of intervals with 2 minutes on and a 4 minute rest between each set and then a 20 minute spin down. It wasn't scientific but it should give me a bit of a burn to get me going. I was right! Crikey it hurt. I used my Garmin to track heart rate and cadence to keep a bit of science in it as well as act as the timer. It felt pretty natural and the bike is allowed to move around under you quite a bit. At the end of each interval I was begging for a rest and my legs were burning pretty bad. I definitely felt good for the hurt though.
I did a little research last night on the net and came across a way of adding a bit of motivation to the workouts. There is a site that sells worlkout videos for cycling on stationary trainers. It is spliced together from actual race footage and has prompts through the session to tell you what to do and at what effort. It is a cool interval tool and lets you race Contador, Schleck and a whole heap of others I will never get near in a bike race. Fun stuff. I watched the video this morning and it will get it's maiden tryout  tomorrow. Should be a real vomit fest by the looks of it.
Not glamorous, but it gets the job done......
My hope is that with the trainer I can get stronger. It should allow me to do some really good interval training no matter what the weather is like and no matter how crazy my schedule gets.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The year in review.

While it is probably a little early to be reviewing a year in some circles, in my life the pace is still up and before I know it the year will be gone. I have been considering this post for a while now and trying to reconcile my compulsive need to put everything in order and chronologically correct when it is not the "when" that is important, it is just the fact that these things happened. So I have decided to put the moments in my life down here in no order other than the way they come out of my mind and depending on what the previous moment prompts to the front of my memory.
If you have read my ravings at any time during it's existence you will know the main themes. Life revolves around my family and riding bikes. I like to keep it simple if I can. I am not smart enough to live a complicated life and I certainly don't have the time or energy spare to have to "try" and live a life. My family is the thing in life I am proudest of, bikes keep me sane.
Bikes this year have been exceptional. I trained hard for the first part of the year and managed a finishers medal from the Terra Australis. Truly a highlight of my life in the sense it was never a given and I persisted. Thats all I did, persisted. Along came the Merida 24 Hour and an attempt at qualifying for the Worlds later in the year. Not my finest moment but still not bad given the circumstances. It was that race where I proved I could do it, if I wanted it. Next year I want it. Then came the Boonah Marathon. Fun but tough with some issues along the way. Having Alison and Jack as my pit crew will rate as my favourite moment for 2010. Jack yelling out the number of competitors  that were passing me and changing over my bottles and giving me the gee up was gold. In a few years he will make an awesome pit chief for me, if he's not out there handing his old man his arse! To top off all of these things somehow I managed to score a deal with Cyc'd for Bikes and Giant and now get to ride around on what could be my ultimate bike. I pinch myself every time I go for a ride. So bikes, they're way cool....
When you love something and you are passionate about it quite often it will cross over into your personal life. I have made some awesome friends through riding and now sadly lost one too. This year a great guy lost his battle with cancer and left a little hole in the lives of all the people he touched. Pete was a true gentleman. I just hope the trails are fast where ever he is and that I think of him often.
I thanked all the mates and riding buddies earlier in the year after a particularly torrid time personally as they always find a way to snap me out of it. Nothing has changed there. Another month of being a hermit due to work and yet I still get calls to go for a ride. They haven't given up on me even if some days I have. I will pay them all back somehow one day. I tell you what though, I am going to be really busy doing so.
Spencer gets a special mention here though. He started as my mechanic for bike stuff, quickly became a friend and riding buddy and has stayed that way. He said yes to the Terra and in doing so helped me find out a lot about my self and I think learnt a lot about himself too. What is not common knowledge is that Spencer also set up my deal with Giant. Yep I owe him for that one! I probably owe him more for the pain and suffering I put him through on the Terra.
My best friend in life is still my wife. We have been together 13 years (give or take!), married for 3 years and parents to two wonderful boys. I can't ask for more than she gives, I can't want more than I get. If it hadn't been for her support and love through my battle with depression and anxiety I don't know where I would be now. I have the reality check I that's crucial for the times I can't see the danger coming. She has allowed and even encouraged me to do the racing I have done this year right up to giving me 10 days to go to Victoria and race. She is my strength.
 The boys are growing up so fast it scares me some days. Jack is bright beyond belief and Rohan is developing into quite the people person. I am so proud of how they are growing up and I look forward to the adventures I am sure will come along with them as part of my life. This years highlights include the camping trip with Jack's best friends and his family, and watching Rohan sing a solo at his choir concert late in the year. Both boys have learnt to ride bikes as well. If that doesn't make a bike tragic dad proud, nothing will. I love them. They make me laugh and they sometimes make me cry. I guess that is parenting though.
On the personal side the year has been exhausting. I haven't made any secret of my battles with mental health and this year my goal was to get off my medication and deal with my demons head on with honesty and by revealing my true feelings and fears. It's no picnic admitting that you have a problem in the first place but deciding that it's time to take on life without a safety net so to speak is simply the most scary thing I have dealt with  after the possibility of losing my son at 3 months old. There are no guarantees. Without my family and friends it is a dead certainty that I would have gone back to the medicated state and been reliant on that for a further period of time. I am lucky  though. One safety net, the drugs, has been replaced by the realisation that I have another in the form of family and friends. Natural, unadulterated love and affection.

I have come out of 2010 a much stronger person. Thanks for reading and have a Merry Christmas and a happy, safe and prosperous New Year.

Happy trails......

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Sunday crawling.

How's this for commitment. Spencer and I organised a ride for 6:30am on Sunday and at 6:00am he called to tell me he had slept in and I should just cancel the ride. I said no, lets just go later. So we rescheduled for 7:00am, and then 7:15am, and then finally 7:30am. Commitment. I reckoned we would both need a little help to get going so I left a bit earlier and grabbed 2 coffees from my favourite coffee shop. Spencer thought I was pretty cool.
We had a fun ride. All the usual trails and even a bit of pace here and there. We were stomping along at one point when Spencer asked"Are we going fast or am I just out of practice?" The answer was a little of both. So then we slowed down a bit and chatted about the last couple of weeks. Spencer has just gotten back from New York and I have been stupidly busy. It was funny to hear him say he was only really out for the ride to catch up. It was made funnier because it was exactly the reason I had said we should reschedule rather than cancel our ride. He did struggle a bit towards the end so I offered to drop him home rather than have him ride as he usually does. The only proviso for him accepting the offer was that I had to stay for a coffee. I was happy to agree to those terms and we sat and shot the breeze with coffees in hand. Very relaxing.
In the end there are no events to train for, no massive miles to have to achieve at the moment. The chance to catch up with my mates and shoot the breeze while doing something we love is just as important as the training. It  refreshes your mind and reminds you what the point of the riding is in the first place. All the racing and stuff is just the icing on the cake. I hope to knock over a few more rides just for fun over summer and keep that connection with my real reason for riding.
I'll be calling you all soon.........

Friday, November 12, 2010

Sneaky Gap Creeky.....

Last night I snuck in an unexpected night ride. I haven't been able to plan anything lately due to a crazy work load and when the opportunity arose last night I just chucked the bike in the truck and bolted. I didn't even check the lights but just grabbed some spare batteries.
The car park was empty which had me a little worried as I was riding alone. Not the best idea but I had told Alison where I was riding and that I would ring her at 9pm to let her know where I was and ow I was travelling. She would have called out the search party if it got too late. Five minutes in and I had lost any concerns and was in the zone. Riding at night is such a cool experience. It totally changes your perspective on a ride as you just get that little isolated view in your beam of light. You really focus on that light. Its magically quiet and there were only the odd toad and an errant wallaby for company. I did see a couple of groups of riders who were surprised to see me out on my own and I had a chat to one group at a trail head. I was ripping along Rocket Frog when I heard a "Hey Graham!" as Rupert came whizzing past. How he knew it was me I don't know but we stopped and had a catchup right there on the trail. The mozzies were ferocious though! I reckon a few minutes more and the first group would have arrived back with some friends and carried us all away. Nasty.
Back to pedaling though. I tried the climb up Dingo. I love this trail. The climb is a good workout with some difficult technical sections both up and down and a nice steady grade for the most part. The view from the top was pretty cool too. Looking out over The Gap it reminds you that you're not in the middle of nowhere but just 10k from the city. I am a lucky man. Going back down was cool too. I did decide to walk the worst section as on my own a crash here would be painful and may leave me stuck there for a while. I was happy with that though.
Now it was through the lantana and up into the last of the single track before the car. I was feeling awesome. Rolling down to the car I thought I needed to finish off with the two short sections over the road. Dirt Girls and Pony Express are cool fun. Dirt Girls is a nice little climb and pops out on a fire road. It's pretty loose with some nasty little gravel sections and off camber corners to keep you guessing. Not hard on a normal day but in the dark it seemed harder and more fun! I got to the top of Pony Express and promptly gunned it. This was my normal approach to the trail but perhaps not the best idea in the dark. I almost binned it a number of times but managed to cling on with my butt cheeks and make it to the end. Rolling back down the fire road and the biggest surprise of all came along. A really big goanna! It must have been 7 feet long. The nice warm nights mean that they stay active well after dark. No harm done as he bolted in one direction and I bolted in the other.
When I stopped at the car to pack the bike it was quiet. Really quiet. There was a sliver of moon and not many stars. I just sat on the tail gate and took my shoes off and enjoyed the feeling post ride satisfaction. Bliss.
I'm glad I can't plan.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Round we go again.....

Well another race run and done. I must say that I really enjoyed the Matrix 6 Hour. It was a great course and a very nice vibe around the course. With mostly singletrack through some very pretty areas I was quite happy to keep plugging away at the laps. I really enjoyed the fast descents around the back of the course and even the switchback climbs were enjoyable in that masochistic kind of way. At least once I got a rhythm going on them I could pass quite a few riders on the way up.
I started the day with the attitude of no training, no chance of a result. I was just enjoying riding and chatting to the other competitors. I smashed out 4 quick laps and stopped for a few minutes to get some food and bottles and went out again. Jack and Rohan were pretty helpful and changed the bottles over for me and Rohan gave my bike a squirt with the cleaner. I took off again and was really just rolling along. After 2 more laps I pulled in and had a bit of time for the kids. I really wasn't phased by not going out for any more laps at that stage but Alison assured me I would be really disappointed with my efforts if I called it quits there. It wasn't that I didn't feel like riding, I was just having a nice day andrelaxing while watching bikes go around and playing with the kids was at the front of my mind. I went out for another two laps and got through to the 5 hour mark. Instead of stopping I just went straight back out. I passed Alison and the kids at the creek where the boys had been playing most of the day. This was at 9 laps and I felt one more would be good. I got around to the creek again after having a few small cramps and yelled out that it would be my last lap. I got over the line with time to spare and thought "hang it, I've got one more in me."  That's when the disappointment set in.
I rode past Hopey in the transition area and asked if he would tell Alison that I decided to go out again. He was really encouraging and kept saying how well I had been doing. He then told me when he had checked on the leader board I had been in second! While it was hours ago there was no reason for me to have not kept going as I felt OK. I could have been sitting in as podium position! Ah well, smash the lap and be happy.
So overall it ended with up that I did 11 laps. The winner in my category got 15 laps. That averages out at about 15km/hour and is totally achievable for me with a little training. Don't get me wrong, that is a great effort in singletrack and I am pretty sure I wouldn't have managed that yesterday but I could have done much better than I did. I lapped really consistently at under 30 minutes wehn I was riding. I was smooth and relaxed around the whole course and I was having a pretty good time. Maybe next race I might have a look at the results board before I decidie to treat it as a picnic.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Reset button, engage.

Sunday looks like it could be wet and pretty muddy. Very muddy if you are racing in the Matrix 6 Hour Challenge at Canungra. I can't wait for the chance to slop around for 6 hours on my mountain bike with my family as my support crew. The boys are fired up about the kids race and the chance to mess around in pit lane and Alison is just happy to come along for the hijinx.
I do have a race plan if you could call it that. Smash a couple of fast laps and then grab some food. Smash another couple of laps and probably collapse. not much of a plan I know but it should still be a hoot. There are quite a few people I know racing and that always means a heap of friendly trash talk and "encouragement". I have a seacret weapon too. The last few weeks have been pretty intense and with that my heart rate has been sitting at about 120bpm for most of that time. Now that's endurance. I call it stress training.
My only intention for this weekend is to race hard, relax heaps and get the head straight. It's been a long couple of months.
Woohoo! Lets race some!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

My little piece of paradise.

You pedal for 30 minutes. Not long, but it is up. Three little rollers to the start of the serious stuff. We've had a lot of rain and the trails are pretty rutted out but that just makes it interesting. Control the breathing, keep the legs spinning, keep the quit thoughts away. Yeah, I really didn't feel like climbing a hill.
When the screaming meanies keep me from wanting to ride (or do much of anything) I make sure I stop and smell the roses. Actually it is a weed but it adds perspective and is a study in survival. Hang on, keep taking the nourishment life hands you, and thrive. I didn't stop on the way up but took this at the top. My game I play in my mind is to not stop. If you stop there is no reward at the top, no reason to take a minute and take in the view. Eat a muesli bar. Seems like a lot of work for a muesli bar and a look around.
Camp Mountain back towards the city.
Not a bad view though. You can see the city and beyond to Stradbroke Island over Moreton Bay. Thirty minutes from my door. I have the ability to get up here. I just sometimes need the motivation.
This way down....
My final reward is the trip back down the mountain. It's fast and fun with a few butt clenching moments thanks to the rain. Sweet. Life feels like it has been constantly handing me lemons lately. I must admit to just turning up my nose at them with disdain without a second thought for the strong, sweet flavor that they can release. So I grabbed the lemons the hill threw at me, lack of motivation, a bit of pain from not riding enough. I squeezed them and cajoled myself up to the top and there it was. Life's lemonade. Sweet as.
Squeeze the lemons people.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Armchair Rocketship Pilot. Riding the Anthem X29.

Over the weekend I was able to spend time just riding the new bike and getting the settings dialed. I have also managed to get an accurate weight of the bike stock and as it will be for racing with my Stans 355 wheelset. I thought a good ride around Bunya and Gap Creek in the single track would help to get the shakedown started on familiar trails with no excuses on my behalf. I know these trails pretty well so it was all about the bike.
First to some long awaited numbers. My medium Anthem stock off the showroom floor weighed in at 12.17kg with Shimano XT pedals. Thats a little higher than some of the reported weights getting around and even more than the weight I got at the shop. I have changed the saddle and grips to my preferred units but the weights here made no discernible difference either way. I am a bit surprised by the difference in the weight I got in the shop of 11.9kg but that was a pretty quick weight while only holding the scales and not hanging them properly. Foolish me, I thought it wouldn't matter too much. With my Stans wheels the weight comes down to a respectable 11.7kg. Not too bad.
I won't go into the specifications as you can get them off the net. I'll also put it out there that I do have a great relationship with Cyc'd for Bikes and Giant and that obviously I am grateful for the support they have both given me. Having said that I will also try and be honest and true in my evaluation of the bike. 
First the negative. The wheels are heavy. Not stupidly heavy, but still pretty weighty for a bike designed for XC racing. The wheels are still considerably lighter than last years model and a DT Swiss rear hub is a very smooth and reliable addition. Nice, loud and positive. I am non committal about the Crossmarks on this bike. They were consistent but not confidence inspiring.
I have set the fork up the same as my XTC with 80psi and then I have messed around with the external adjustments. There are so many ways to tune the Fox RLC fork that I was bamboozled for a while until I just started making changes and riding and noting the differences and whether I liked it or not. Hardly scientific but I ended up with 90psi and the preload at about half on the dial. I like the rebound pretty snappy and thats  how I have it set now. So how was it? Bottomless travel and stiff. I enjoy the feel of the Fox F-29 on my XTC and the RLC version gives more adjustments and easier tuning. 
So some riding. I rode the single track in the Gap Creek reserve to check out the suspension and handling. My first test was on Death Adder. There are some really nice technical sections that I could open the shock up and test the bump eating abilities of the anthem. I hit the first rock garden and threw caution to the wind. I bashed through it and was up the other side after a little pinch without even drawing a breath. Pretty impressive.  The true test came later on Dingo though when I cleaned the climbs that are towards the top of the trail. Anyone who rides there will know the climbs I mean. They are tricky. I probably only clear the two climbs 1 in 3 times I ride them. I was able to carry more speed into the corner and punch it through the first pinch and then the rear wheel just stuck as the rock slab of the second pinch reared and was duly dispatched with just a little holler of triumph. I thought that was really fun, then I pointed the thing down. Holy shit.
The Maestro system.
I haven't owned a dually for a while and boy did it show. You don't feel trail chatter, you don't get bounced off line and you don't need to choose the smooth line and you can pick the fast line. I got to the bermed corners around half way down and got my mojo on. The rear compressed into the corners and lowered the centre of gravity which made the bike feel stable and let the tyres just drill in to the corner. A little more body english was required to get the bike over to take the next corner but the result was the same. In deep and fast. Well, fast for me.
There are a few things I should mention breifly that only when I went back to my XTC became apparent. The 3 x 10 XT gearing is smooth. Yep, the hype said so but even through all the muck and crud I threw at this bike it never even looked like missing the shift. The Avid Elixir CR brakes are great. You can adjust the pad clearance and lever reach. I like them a lot. They are a bit noisey when wet but hey, thats life. 
There are a lot of people with opinions about 29ers being slow in single track. I want to point out that just as there are a multitude of 26 inch bikes available and not all of them are awesome in single track, so it is now with 29ers. Some of them though are awesome. Pick the bike for the purpose. The Anthem is a capable cross country bike with comfort to spare. It handles single track beautifully and while there are quicker bikes out there, I think you will be hard pressed to find a bike that will see you doing it in more comfort especially for the price range. Spend some time, set the bike up right and enjoy a very capable bike with a great spec and price Win,win.
It's all just good dirty fun.
I can't wait to get it on a 24 hour race.......

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Silver Bullet.

Warning! To those people expecting some musing on how my life is at present or some philosophical comment then you will be sorely disappointed. The following contains extreme mountain bike geekery, technical content and descriptions that may or may not contain the word "rad".
On Wednesday my fantastic sponsors, Cyc'd for Bikes, presented me with my long awaited new bike. The Anthem X29. I have spent the last two days setting the bike up and waiting for the rain to stop! Today I was just starting to think there was no chance of testing it out when a little break in the weather presented itself and I jumped on it.
I headed out to Ironbark and Bunya to try and miss the worst of the muck and not trash the trails. My plan worked a treat as the trails around Ironbark were pretty dry up on the ridge lines and it gave the chance to test out the Propedal feature on the rear shock. It works. You'll hear that a lot. Everything works on this bike. It has been a long time since I have ridden a dually and the Anthem did not disappoint me one little bit. It was cool to just sit in the saddle and not suffer trail chatter and the fatigue that comes with it. I climbed up a technical trail and the rear wheel stuck to the ground and provided masses of traction on the slippery rocks and roots allowing me to put my energy into choosing a line and pointing the bike towards it. While this was all very nice, it was hardly surprising or earth shattering. When I got over to Bunya was when the real fun started.
Traction. That is the buzz I got from my singletrack blast. I hit corners hard as I normally would on my XTC but the difference was if the corner was broken or the trail a little loose the Anthem just stuck. Everything was smoothed out and I could just pedal and turn the damn bike. I liked it. My plan for this bike is for the longer enduros and 24 hour races next year and maybe some shorter races on the harder courses. I hope the ability to let the bike do some of the work for me may help keep my fatigue levels down a bit and let me go for a lot longer. Hopefully.
The other really nice feature of the bike is the brakes. The Avid Elixir CR's are a huge improvement over the Juicy 3's on my XTC. There are heaps of adjustments and I could really set the feel up perfectly for me. Nice. I guess my final comments should go to the bikes weight. It came out at 11.9kg stock. If I choose to put my race wheels on to the bike it will knock around a kilo off that weight. Thats really respectable.

  I still have a long way to go in the set up process. More messing with shock settings, bar heights and seat heights. All these little things make a huge difference when you intend to sit on the bike for a whole day. From my first short bash out on the bike in wet muddy conditions though, I reckon my Anthem will be a winner.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Short bursts.

There has been lots happening lately. Not really anything that would make a whole post on its own so here are some short bursts. They are most certainly listed in order of event, not of importance. All of them have affected me in some way.
Last weekend I did the Boonah Marathon. It was shortened to 75km instead of 85km and in the end I did a time somewhere around the 4 hour 15 minutes mark. I say "around" because my Garmin showed 4:04:53 as my time and the officila time showed it as a 5:18:00. Yep, A whole hour extra. Not sure what happened and still waiting on the reply from the race organisers. I had a good race though felt strong until I had to throw up. I felt better after that but couldn't eat or drink for the last 15km. Alison and Jack came out as support crew and it made me smile to see Jack changing my water bottles out for me and yelling "Hurry up Dad, here come some more riders! Now you are 37th, ohoh 38th! Quick!" Tops. Thanks to both of them being there.
My best mates mum passed away during the week. She had been battling a few serious health issues and had reached a pretty good age. I won't quote that age as I can't remember exactly what it was. Joyce was a darling and she always made me and my family welcome when we visited. She raised good kids and I am proud to say one of them is my mate. Joyce's funeral is tomorrow and Alison and I will be there to see her off. RIP Joyce.
The memorial for Pete (Big Turtle) McMillan was yesterday at his family home. There was an awesome turn out with people from the car club, his work and the mountain bike community all showing up and trying in vain to find bad things to say about him. It was a really fun afternoon of story telling, chatting and of course eating as befits Pete's great loves. The ride that followed was at a very relaxed pace in the rain with heaps of smiles and joking. Jen, Petes wife was on the ride and stoic as always. I could not be so graceful under the circumstances. We'll miss you Pete.
My cat of 17 years has to be put down. He has kidney failure and is rapidly deteriorating. I took him to the vet on Saturday for another matter and he suggested that I put him down before the pain gets really bad as that is the usual course of this disease. I took him home for the weekend so the boys can say goodbye. So tonight I took him back to the vet and ended his suffering. He was quiet and very relaxed through the whole thing, unlike me.
So there it is. Life is nuts sometimes.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A celebration of a life.

I want to just share some sad news of the passing of a friend and riding buddy and just briefly celebrate his life through my fond memories of him. Pete or "Big Turtle" was a generous soul, a ready conspirator in any fun and a true gentleman. Pete and his lovely wife Jenn are responsible for the best race memories I have and I know I'm far from alone in this. Words can't ever portray how enthusiastic and giving Pete was to those around him and how much he loved life. I figure a few photos may show just what I mean better than me rabbitting on. Have a look, spare a thought for Jenn and Kristen and remember what Pete would have told you. "Live your life, you only get one of them...."

All the following photos are of the Insomnia 24 Hour Race, 2008. A triumph to the McMillan clan.

The Turtles organisation. Our camp rocked.

Pete making sure everyone was fed in between laps.
He broke a LOT of stuff! Fixing a chain at stupid AM in the morning.
The Cranky Old Bastards. Pete really wasn't...
Pete doing what he did best. Just like in life, stomping along and loving every minute of it.

Mate, you'll be missed. I hope the trails are fast and the laps fast. Roll on.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Super V X 2

I must say I was pretty nervous about taking off on a 100k epic with a whole lot of hills thrown in this morning. I haven't done anything like that since getting back from the Terra Australis. Any worries that I had last night about the weather were blown away by the view out my front door! Perfect. It stayed perfect all day.
I met Rients at 6:30am and we took off along the Pony Trails to the base of the Goat Track. It was a nice warm up as the Goat Track is a steady climb with no real pinches to blow you up. There is a long bitumen haul over to the top of Lawton Road past Mount Glorious village we had a little chat along the way, drank some water and cruised along. You must realise that from home it's about 35km and over 1200m of climbing just to reach the trail head. It's a tough little haul to start a ride!
When we got to Lawton Road I was stoked to see Meg! Rients hadn't told me that there was a chance of catching up with her and another rider I hadn't met before. Nick, not the Nick I normally ride with, was a nice guy who we met along the Joyners Ridge Road as he had already knocked out lap of the V before we got there. So off we went. The four of us chugging along the road up to the Lawton Road turn off. From there its a long fast descent to the first of the climbs on the Super V. While it has the profile of a descent there is still a lot of steep climbing to be done in that descent. As well as spectacular views. You can see all the way to Esk and Wivenhoe Dam and today was no exception. It was clear and cool and it had us all commenting on how it was a perfect day for riding. We all just kept rolling the legs over and eating up the K's until we hit the next descent off Northbrook Mountain.
Climbing! Thats what you do for the next 10k's or so. It starts in the lush forest along England Creek Road and slowly makes it's way up through the eucalypt and into the the semi temperate rainforest with massive trees and lush undergrowth. You do work for it though. It pinches up to about 18% in a few places and the loose surface means you slide around on the saddle a lot to try and keep traction. That coupled with 10k's of up makes it an achievement to clear the climb without stopping. Meg and Rients were barreling along at a great pace. It wasn't blistering but it was certainly consistent. a couple of times I caught Nick and we chatted about life, riding bikes and how lucky we were to be out in an amazingly beautiful area right on our doorstep.
I reached the top of the first lap. The big drink and a couple of energy bars were welcome by that stage as was the chance to stretch my back and legs and just catch my breath. I have to admit I wasn't to keen on the second lap. I just knew I would feel disappointed in myself if I didn't.So off I went. Slowly but surely at first but as the lap went on I got better and better. Not much to tell from there. I got to the top and felt really good about it. We all headed up to the cafe for coffee and a burger. All there was left to do was the butt clenching descent down PEI Road and the 20 k's home. I got home shattered.
Check out the profile. It tells the story best.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Writers block.

After three days of trying to write about whats been going on in my life, I decided to just go with the guts of what I wanted to say and leave the rest for another time. I have had a pretty ordinary time lately. My depression crept up on me and made life really hard work. There are heaps of little reasons and none that were big enough to make the radar on their own but add them together and you have trouble. I'm back on an even keel now and i want to say thanks to the people around me that helped me along. Whether they realise or not, it's important. Their input and understanding is the antithesis of the little troubles that build up and stump me because just like the troubles, a kind word or a quick call or a ride on the bikes put the smile back on my face and reconnects me with the world.
I have to mention my family first. I have two awesome kids that continually amaze me and make me laugh. The little monkeys are like the Duracell bunny on red cordial! and then theres my wife. I still wake up most mornings and wonder what the heck I did so right to end up with her. She listens to me when I need to talk and offers common sense when I can't see the wood for the trees. I am eternally grateful.
Now in no particular order and with just a brief explanation why:
Steve. Thanks for being supportive and understanding and not scared to tell it like it is.
Adam. Been mates for years and it's still great to catch up and chat.
Nick. Thanks for giving me that gentle and not so gentle push I need from time to time.
Ricki. Keepin' it real.
Paul and Leanne. You will probably never know how much a quick visit one afternoon meant to me.
So there you go. Finally I got it out there. Cheers you lot for just being you.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Boys and Bikes

So this is just a couple of short videos of the boys riding around on their bikes. 2 weeks and the result is both of them nailing the concept and Daddy dropping a small fortune on new bikes. Loving it!

Jack gets the mountain bike thing from Graham Menzies on Vimeo.

Rohan decides it's time to learn to ride too! from Graham Menzies on Vimeo.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The proudest day.....

It's been a big day in the Menzies household. In fact it has been a big week. First the exciting but somewhat overshadowed news that Cyc'd for Bikes has again pulled the goods for me and I will be riding a spanky new Anthem X29 in the next week or so! The photo below was jacked from the net but mine is pretty much the same. I can't wait as I think it will be the perfect endurance racing machine. Along with my XTC 29 I have an ideal kit to get out there and do some big races! rock on.
Now for the really big news. Today the family all went down to the park and practiced riding our bikes. doesn't sound like much does it? For a person who spends so much time on a bike the fact that my boys had no interest in riding a bike was somewhat confusing. Alison and I haven't pushed the issue in any way as we both feel it is best the kids make their own minds up about things like that. So yesterday when Jack suggested that we might go to the park and practice riding the bikes I was skeptical about it. This morning though he kept it up and was pretty keen even after the swimming lessons and soccer match so this afternoon we headed down to the park with the bikes. Rohan was the first to try out the bike! He jumped on and we did laps of the track while  I held the back of the seat to keep him balanced After a while I even got to let go of the seat now and then and he flew solo. I was pretty stoked. Jack played on the swings.
Finally Jack got the urge to have a crack. He put the helmet on we got started right away. At first he complained that it felt weird and he couldn't balance. I was frustrated as we have tried to learn to ride before and he gave up really quickly but this time we both stayed cool and he kept trying. He was going really well too. After about twenty minutes of running along beside the bike holding the saddle he was nailing it, and I let go.
He rode on his own! It was the best 150meters of cycling I have ever seen. Before he knew it he was going it alone and loving it. The confidence went through the roof and before I knew it he was trying to start on his own, stopping and getting his foot down in time. Unreal. So in the end I was buggered, the kids loved the bike and now the Nintendo DSi they wanted has become a new bike each. Stoked. 
Tomorrow is another day of riding practice. They are hooked and my bank account will get a hiding over the next few years as BMX's become mountain bikes and the mountain bikes become more expensive mountain bikes. I'm looking forward to every second of it.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

I love public holidays

Wednesday was the public holiday for Brisbanes "Ekka" or exhibition. The Menzies family took the opportunity to head off for a short adventure up Mount Mee and do a little dirt driving. We first headed up to the gantry off Sellin Road where we then headed into the state forest for a look around. The whole adventure took only 5 hours but we got a few photos and the boys had a great time exploring the Rocky Hole as well as Bull Falls. 

The boys ran ahead down the walking track towards Bull Falls and marveled as the trees would join up over head to form the canopy of the rainforest. Whip birds called and let us know they were there and sometimes a glimpse of a small bird or insect would quieten the boys just for a moment. The recent rains meant the falls was quite spectacular with water spraying some distance over the cataracts.

We walked back to the car so we could head down to the Neurum Creek camp site. Hopefully over summer we can get up there for a weekend away. I didn't stop as I was conscious of not bothering the only family camped there but we did get a good look for planning purposes. As we got back to the main fire trail the sign to Rocky Hole beckoned. The boys loved it here! There were big rocks to climb and trails to explore. The water was gushing through here too which left it brown and turbid instead of the clear green water we had seen last time we visited up there. Rohan thought the water  looked like a huge bubble bath. Yeah a bubble bath after those little grubs had been in it.

It was a little cool up there though.
The boys exploring the rocks

Jack was looking cool as always. 
In a rare moment, the boys sat down long enough for me to take shot of them together. They were having a really good time! 

With much protesting we all got back in the truck. It looked a little like rain and we were out on our own. I didn't want to risk getting stuck in heavy rain alone as the trails can turn to slippery water slides really quickly in the wet. It was only a 20 minute run back to the gantry and there were lots of plans being offered from the back seat about how we could camp at Neurum Creek soon and what we might be able to do there. This all stopped about 8 seconds after we hit the black top. The sounds of snoring from the back seat was deafening! Alison and I had a very quiet trip home. Kids make this stuff.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Merida 24 hour.

Over the weekend I had the privilege of racing in the Merida 24 Hour mountain bike race. I was hoping to use the race to qualify for the world championships in Canberra this year but just couldn't pull the goods for that goal. While I am a little bummed about the result I am not really surprised given my lack of training and preparation for such a big undertaking.
Anyway, enough whining about how I could have done better and how I could have trained harder. I didn't. I did however get to ride a top track and even surprised myself with a few good laps. There is also the undeniable pleasure of hanging out with some mates and the camaraderie of your fellow racers asking you how you're travelling at 4am. Gold. By the way, I was travelling pretty badly.
The first couple of laps were really good. I got a great first lap and passed a few riders after taking it real easy off the line. I was almost last to leave as I couldn't really see the point in tearing off to only be caught in the mess of riders at the first corner. I rolled out and then hit the first climb a bit harder to pick up some places. All going well so far. Lap 2 was really a carbon copy of the first only that I had a clearer run in the single track and had a bit of fun railing the corners and bombing one or two sections. The sections through rock bottom and 007 were awesome but after 8 hours I was ready for some easy fire road. My arms and wrists were shattered and the dust was choking me. I had trouble seeing out of my left eye and under lights the trails became pretty scary. Nick had been filling me with food and coffee to keep me going up until this point and encouraging me to keep plugging out laps but my resolve failed at 8.30pm. I dropped my bundle big time and decided to get off and have a sleep. A hot shower and some food later I was tucked up in the sleeping bag quite comfortable. I didn't sleep much though.
The internal battle raging in my head kept me awake. I could have toughed it out and kept riding. I could have made a few more laps. My mental state was really fragile and it took a huge toll on my physical state with the prospect of more laps leaving me in a very dark place. I was struggling with every little climb and battling through the single track at night meant my lap times were going up faster than my emotional state was coming down. Finally at 2.30am I got up, put on the riding gear and went out for some more laps. I'm glad I did, but boy it hurt.
The dust had settled with the dew and I could see again through my left eye. I went out slowly to try and last through the morning until midday. I was a mile behind qualifying and had no real hope of getting back in the game. Each time I came around I would stop for a minute and eat a little and drink as I was finding it hard to eat on course. I had a chat to a few riders during those first two laps back and that was nice. It lifted my spirits quite a bit. As I came around for lap 3 Nick was waiting with coffee and some kind words. I thought he had been asleep but he said he had heard me slip out but had stayed in bed as he thought I was going for a comfort stop. The coffee was great and gave me a little bit more of a lift and saw me through that third lap quite nicely.
Really after that the whole thing became academic. I pumped out a couple more laps to total 15 for the race. This sat me in 10th in my age category and 46th overall out of 81 solo male competitors. Not good enough to qualify for the worlds but it just wasn't to be this time. The painful truth that my lack of preparation had meant I had not achieved my goal this time was a pretty bitter pill to swallow. It was made even worse by the fact that it was my mental strength and not my physical condition that let me down. I got to a point where I really did not want to complete any more laps and was happy to admit defeat. Oh well, back to the drawing board and lots more hours on the bike.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Green Light for Punishment

No choppy choppy for my knee! The doctor has said that I will not require surgery at this stage and that I should be fine to ride in the Merida 24 hour next weekend. I can't wait. I have nursed my knee for the last few weeks and been really scared to push it hard in case the effort did more damage. One week out though and I can knock over a few big rides over the weekend and then some quiet spins during the week and then it's on.
Nick has kindly offered to be my support crew still and whip my butt if I get slack and decide to get off the bike. He is also helping me feel bad about not training by going out and doing 125km on the road bike today with 1890m of climbing and then backing up for a spin around Daisy Hill tomorrow.
I managed a run around Camp Mountain today finished off with a single track blast at Bunya and felt really good. At least recovery rate is still very good as if I was a bit puffed I could stop for a minute or two and bounce back strong. I ran into Matt Powell on the way back as he was completing a ride with 3000m of climbing as his preparation for the race next weekend. Luckily he is not in my age category. Unfortunately the guy he was riding with, Jeff Toohey is. I am not even in the same school let alone class as Jeff. He is a machine and it will be good to watch him tear apart the field over the race.
So do I have a plan? Nope. If I feel tired I will stop and eat. If I need sleep I will rest. Other than that it is go as hard as I can, enjoy the riding as much as possible and generally have a top time on the bike. I may qualify for the worlds if I am lucky as there are already a number of riders qualified in the field. Overall I and very excited about the prospect of another test for myself. I have been pretty slack in the last couple of months and found plenty of reasons not to train or push myself. This weekend will be a real wake up call and remind me how much I like riding and racing. Giddyup.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Whoosh clatter rattle.....

I am sick and tired of thinking about work. I am sick and tired of not riding my bike. I ma sick and tired of being sick and tired. The cure temporarily is to bash out a few miles on the Gap Creek single track and just totally immerse myself in riding. I can't push too hard at present as "my little friend" on the back of my knee gets a bit tetchy and gives me gip for hours after a ride. I'll give you the tip though, unless the surgeon tells me I will lose my leg if I do the 24 hour race in two weeks I will be there.
Whats a whoosh clatter rattle? It's the noise my bike makes as I fling it through a corner and rumble over the braking ruts. It isn't a bad noise, it just means that you're hangin' it out and speed is bouncing your chain around and your tyres are chomping into the dirt making a very satisfying whoosh. My favourite sound today was the noise of the guys breath suddenly being inhaled as I nailed a tough line with gusto that he was walking up on "Dingo". A tricky little climb over a rocky ledge that comes straight after a rocky loose descent that takes all your speed and makes you either commit or fail. Truth be told I only make this section one in about four times I attempt it but today the frustration and disappointment of not riding enough bubbled up and exploded as a moment of sheer belligerence. I had too much speed on to be sensible and way too much to back out by the time I hit the base of the pinch. Fuck it, brakes off, sit forward and when the time comes pedal like your life depends on it. It kinda did. The reaction of the guy was like a cold beer on a hot day.
I really like riding my bike. Hopefully the doctor will say it's all good and the race will be on. I look forward to the hurt.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

What a fantastic weekend of riding! If the 90 odd k's of road riding yesterday through beautiful farmlands and along quiet roads wasn't enough today a visit to Parklands on the Sunshine Coast really topped it off.
First things first. It has been a while since I have ridden with Steve so we organised a spin for Saturday morning. We had spoken about a nice cruisey roll of about 24-25km/h and maybe for 60km. A great way to blast a few cobwebs out after all the sickness and health problems that have been plaguing me. As it turns out there were two other riders joining us and they were pretty darn handy on a bike. Darryl and Luke were waiting with Steve at the agreed spot and I knew I might be in trouble. I had ridden with Darryl before and I know that at 40+ he is strong as an ox and able to pump out the power.
I struggled a little from the get go. We weren't breaking land speed records but the pace was certainly up. There were some long flat sprints and they really hurt my knee and made me more than a little uncomfortable. I looked down at the Garmin at one stage and we were knocking out 45km/h along a flat into the wind and had been for some time. So much for the 24 km/h cruise. Around the back of the route there are one or two small climbs. They may be only short but at 18% they really nail the legs and get the heart rate pumping. Anyway, rolling right along. The final few k's were pretty steady. I didn't attempt to smash myself but rather took it easy and just kept the legs buzzing along. After all that it ends up at 28.5km/h for 90km. Not bad.
Parklands. I have never ridden there before and all reports had it as technical and bloody hard work. It lived up to all that and more with the first entrance into the trails being a monster steep run in through rocky broken single track. From then on it was 2 hours of on the rivet madness.
Nick and I were meeting Pete along the way to the coast and as Pete climbed in the car the banter started and the trash talk flowed like warm honey on hot toast. We pulled into the carpark and met up with Andrew who would be our guide for the day. It didn't take long before he had joined in on the ragging and snapping off merciless one liners if someone put a foot down or blew some maneuver on an obstacle. The fact that this was his backyard and he was a very skilled rider meant it was instantly on for young and old. Pete was smashing it through the single track and keeping pace with Andrew while Nick would easily catch up on anything that pointed up leaving me to hang on by railing the descents as fast as possible and struggling to stay with gang on the climbs. It's important to note that all of this riding was on single track. The whole day we did maybe 500m of fire road.
We popped out on a ridge line after riding through the rocky terrain characterised by the first part of the ride. Then we dropped into another world. It changed from dry eucalypt forest to lush temperate rainforest with all the slippery roots and tacky loam soils you can handle. It's fast and furious down in the valley with not a lot of elevation change and some areas to get off the brakes and make the most of the grippy soil. Man it was fast. There are some narrow bridges and log rides to get you across some of the gullies and tricky little G outs for the rest. I love this type of riding as it requires you to concentrate totally on what you are doing and look down the track in preparation for the next challenge, the next obstacle. Andrew was flying.
We rode around to the far side of the forest and had a little breather and a muesli bar. The park was busy and we saw at least another 5 or 6 riders just while we sat there. The trail that followed was just another highlight in a day full of them. There were several log rides and the tightest, twistiest switchbacks I have ever ridden. My rear wheel spent more time in the air then on the ground as I tried to muscle the bike around the corners. Once the flow came on though I had a smile you couldn't surgically remove. Sometimes it just takes one move, one perfect placement of a tyre to switch the brain from the mode that has you trying too hard to where you let it all go and just let the bike do the work while your body just floats with it.
More climbing. Up out of the eucalypts again and along the rocky single track back to the cars. Mega. we had been riding for 2 hours, covered only about 23km and worked for every single meter. As a measure of the difficulty of the trails I can usually average about 15km/h in single track without much drama. Managing only 10km/h was pretty humbling. As we scoffed coffee and cakes at the Swiss bakery though Andrew admitted that 10km/h was a pretty good result for Parklands. Even locals struggled to grind out that pace and we had done it without the advantage of prior experience of the trails. I feel pretty good. Smashed, but good.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Saddle sore and satisfied.

Finally after 3 weeks of sore knees, spewing and coughing my way through life I got back on my bike and rode a few K's. Yesterday was only a 15 km stroll around Bunya to turn the legs over and basically sit on the bike to say I had. Not impressive, fast or hard but it was a ride nether the less. I ran into Nick at the start of the ride and he rolled around with me for a bit and we organised to meet for a ride this morning on the roadies to try and blow a few cobwebs out. The road bike is great for that as it tends to be a more consistent effort rather than the more intense efforts that characterise a long mountain bike ride.
It was bloody freezing this morning though. Luckily Nick and I have agreed that if we organise a ride then we both feel bad if one of us bails out. That and the fact that the person who pulls out is mercilessly ragged on for the next ride and publicly ridiculed to any person who will listen. The male ego provides some very powerful motivation when necessary. Anyway, pinch of concrete in the teacup consumed, winter woolies donned and I was off. Bloody freezing. The plan was a lazy loop of the dam, out to Samford on Wynn Road and home via the coffee shop near home. Should total about 50km and be pretty relaxed. It was. I was pleasantly surprised at how casual Nick was taking it and I was coping with the pace quite well. Then he told me he had knocked over a bottle of red the night before and was feeling a bit ordinary. Right then, time for some fun. I pushed it a bit harder than I thought I could with a head still full of snot and made sure I didn't slip back on the climbs and made him work just a bit. The payoff came as we headed over the Samford Range and he complained. "Where's the bloody elevator!" I have never heard Nick complain on a hill and he realised he had slipped up immediately. He turned to me and said "You're not going to tell anyone that you heard me complain about a hill are you?" Oh hell yeah I am. "Nick, I am going to get it sky written. I will shout it from the rooftops and tell random strangers in the street." It was one of my finest moments since starting to ride with that skinny mountain goat of a human and I am still savoring it now.
After that he pelted down the other side and I had to try really hard to not get left behind. The taste of coffee was pulling us along like an invisible rope and with the last push back to home flat and open it was down in the drops and on the gas. Nothing blistering but still a solid 50km/hr all the way to the coffee shop. Coffee carrot cake and conversation. The perfect finish to a ride. I may have even lit a little spark in his head about taking on the Terra next year. We'll see.
It feels bloody good to be back though......

Monday, June 7, 2010

I must admit that my riding over the last few weeks has been sporadic and some what inconsistent in terms of distance. My left knee has been troubling me since the Terra and though I put it down to just soreness from fatigue. It turns out that there may be a bit more to it than that. A visit to the GP today after finding a lump behind my knee means that now I have to have an ultrasound to see what the heck it is. My doctor feels it is most likely a cyst that is causing other inflammation and giving me pain all over my knee. All I know is that after a few K's it's bloody painful and it doesn't stop hurting for days after a ride. Most annoying! The race at Mount Perry is on this Sunday and short of me having to have my leg amputated, I will be going. I may need a couple of pain killers after six hours of riding but hey, I've given up alcohol so whats the harm in that?
The medical front isn't all doom and gloom though. Today marked the start of my trial run of being off my anxiety medication completely. I have been steadily reducing the dose for a while now and today my doctor agreed that it was time to go solo for a while and see how that goes. I feel very positive about the move as I have been feeling really good with the lower dose and I have some great coping strategies now to deal with the stress and worry that plagued me for so long. I've learnt a lot about myself in the last year or so and while that sounds strange coming from a 40 year old guy it's the truth. Some of the things have been positive, and some not so much.
On the negative side was seeing that I weaknesses like any human being, I'm not perfect and I do make mistakes. Sometimes I can't please everyone and sometimes people aren't going to like me or want to listen to what I have to say. On the positive side is knowing now that all of those things are okay.
I'm stubborn and persistent. Sometimes thats a great thing and gets results but you can't let it rule your life. Keep some perspective on whats important and be prepared to "cut it loose" even if in the short term it is painful and causes you stress. In the long term it is most likely for the best.
Here's my dirty great caveat for what you read below. All of what is said and done below has been in consultation with my doctor.
I have treated getting off the meds like the training and preparation for a race. Set the goal, make a plan and do what needs to be done to achieve it. I have learnt to deal with stress and anxiety as my first step. Call that the base miles before the intensity training starts. During this time I was heavily dependent on my medication to moderate my stress but as I got better at it I decreased my dose and kept a close eye on the results. Just like upping your miles and watching your average speeds and heart rate. Monitor it, apply the results.

So if you like, the decreasing of the dose has been like increasing the intensity of training. As my dose comes down, I am dealing with more and more of the stress on my own so to speak. And now it's all me! I'm happy to take this step finally and even a little bit proud to be able to. Nowhere in the mental health handbook does it say it's a lock that you'll get off the medication once you have started it or that if you do you will stay off it. Life is just not that cut and dry. I feel pretty confident though that I have a red hot go at it because I have my family and a fantastic support network of friends to help me if I need it and  that my "training" has been good and solid.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

What a weekend! A healthy dose of "Get off your arse and go ride" took hold yesterday with a 40km smash around some singletrack with two much stronger riders. It started out pretty cruisey but a crash to one of the guys that started the ride meant that 3 riders dropped out leaving me, Nick and Rupert. Nick most of you know by reputation as the "leg ripper offer" and Rupert is well, just younger. Fast, bloody fast and just keeps going.
We started at Bunya and headed straight over to Ironbark and the start of the hills. There are some cranking climbs in there and by the time we had made the top of "Fridge" the legs were burning with the 20% gradients and the promise of the fun technical descent was all that kept me going. After heading over to "Mexican" the next step is the bitumen climb up Bygotts Road to the link track that spits you out in Ironbark again. The reward is "Sunset". If you have the pleasure of doing this trail as the sun hits the horizon you will see where it gets its name. The grasses get a golden hue and the insects become little beacons as the sun bounces off their wings. Pretty special. The trail also happens to be wicked. Nice flow and some tricky little spots to negotiate before the balls out bolt down to the main fire road around Ironbark that runs parallel to Samford Road. Sweet.So then it was up to the top of the fire road and over to "Powerlines" for more fast and furious descending. The nice social punt along the rail trail to spit us out on the climb up "watertank" to finish off with the small bitumen roll back to the car park. Not bad for a shade over 2 hours and 1000m of ascent.
Now today. Boy howdy. The plan was to ride out to Granchester and Old Hidden Vale for the 3+3 event to have a look and then roll into Ipswich and catch the train back to Brisbane. About 130km at a pinch. 6am and we were off from home loaded with food, fluids and a positive attitude. Out to Jindalee via Bardon and some hills to warm up on and through the back of Darra to avoid the new road to Springfield and then finally onto the Centenary Highway for the 50 odd K slog out to the Roseview turnoff. All was going pretty well. I needed a stop at about Yamanto to refuel as a bonk of epic proportions started to hover with that empty feeling in my stomach and a loss of concentration as well. If you don't know, the bonk is the cycling equivalent of the wall. The body runs out of fuel and it may happen before you really know it and then its a hard road back with only food and rest as the cure. Iced coffee milk, a nougat bar and a banana and all is good. On to Roseview.
It felt like a bit of a death march into Roseview with a gravelly surface that bounced me around and made it hard to keep a rhythm. I was very relieved to see the sign announcing the township and even more relieved to stop for a comfort break! Full bladder, bouncy road, rigid carbon bike. Bad, bad mix. 20km from Roseview to Old Hidden Vale through the little town of Grandchester and we were there. After chatting for an hour or so and necking an espresso frappe (yep, espresso frappe!) Nick started making noises about rding all the way back. I said I wasn't sure but would ride back to Roseview with him and see how I felt. The bakery there served up a couple of pies and more fluids and the time came. What was I gonna do? I didn't feel great but thought it was time to harden up. Whinging about feeling crap wasn't going to cut it as Nick is very sympathetic listener when it comes to that whole excuse thing. Not! Suck it up and stop complaining. So off we went again. I was surprised to see that we were still ripping along at around 27km per hour as an average and pinging it along the flats at around 35km per hour! Not bad.
The road became smooth once back on the Centenary Highway and the pace didn't let up. That continued until the hills started again in Toowong. I reckon some of those hills had me pedaling with my nose I was so hunched over the bars. But I was still going. Finally Samford Road and the bike track home. I rolled along and chatted to Nick until I had to climb the last cruel hills to home.
I now have that nice feeling back of accomplishment. It has been a while since it hung around with me but now the motivation to train is back. All it took was 240km in two rides and the suffering and succeeding that comes with making it through a tough ride you were sure was going to beat you. Here come the big rides.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Wanted - Motivation.

To say my motivation has been lacking over the last 2 weeks is an understatement. The term "lacking" indicates that there was some attempt that has fallen short or failed but my situation is more of a complete disappearance of said item. It is really unfortunate timing considering that I have this little race in a couple of months that I was hoping to do pretty well at. I have had a couple of small problems with a cold and some leg and back pain but nothing too serious. I just couldn't be arsed.....
I have really enjoyed the few rides I have managed  over the last few weeks. The problem is more that the volume is seriously lacking in terms of training and preparing for a race. I know my leg strength has decreased and certainly my base fitness is declining rapidly. Funnily enough it doesn't stress me though. I'm OK with it for now. It'll hurt like a bee sting when the torch is lit though and I can expect that feeling of barely keeping my breakfast down and the suffocation of oxygen debt to be the wake up call I am needing. God I hate those feelings.
My mates will help snap me out of this funk too. The merciless ribbing when I drop off the back and struggle on the climbs will sting like that bee but last a whole lot longer. Such comments as "Are your brakes dragging?" and "No mate, you're not holding us up" when you know that really they are wishing you'd get a move on just sit in the back of your mind and eat away at you. It really does help though. Really.
Anyway if you are walking down the street and come across a lonely motivation looking lost and forlorn please just send it back to me as it is most likely the one I lost somewhere in the last few weeks.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Get 'er done.....

The race has been entered, the money paid. Now it is just a simple case of sitting on a bike and pedaling as fast as I can for 24 hours.
How hard can it be?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Decisions, decisions...

I have committed a vast amount of time and energy to some things this year that have proven incredibly fulfilling. There has been a feeling of pressure and of impending deadlines since September last year and sometimes this has really eaten at the enjoyment I might have gained from doing the things that I love. So I have made a decision. I am going to enter the Merida 24 hour race in July and attempt to qualify for the World 24 hour Championships in Canberra in October. Yeah I know, it's more riding. This time however it's for me. I have no team mate to let down, I have no donors onboard and most of all I have nothing to prove.
My training has started again and I plan to well and truly have my race face on by June for the Mount Perry 6 hour race which I will use as a tuneup for the Merida after which if I qualify for the Worlds, I will have a short break. To be honest, I don't even know if I can still qualify for the Worlds because the places were running out fast. Only the top 10 finishers are automatically eligible and it would take a miracle for me to finish in that company. But hey, you will fail at 100% of the things you don't try.
I have the luxury of a support crew willing to give up an entire weekend to come out to a race course and sit through 24 hours of me going around and around a track. There is definitely a certain amount of sadism involved in it as not often can you get away with telling a mate to harden up and go out and do some more laps and be thanked for it at the end. The difference between racing with a support crew as opposed to without is polar though. You can pedal the bike, navigate the course and thats it. Food and fluids are sorted for you, the bike might even get a little tune up and most of all there is at least one person in the place just to rev you up. So whois this sadistic samaritan? Bloody Nick. Maybe the hiding he gives me on our rides isn't enough? Now he wants to make me suffer through 24 hours.
I must also mention how stoked I am to once again be able to suit up in the Giant/Cyc'd for Bikes gear and aboard the XTC1 29er for both races. The bike continues to amaze me with how nicely it rides and with a few recent modifications how much more enjoyment I have gotten from it. Spencer made the discovery that torching the brake pads silenced them and improved the performance all in one go. When you couple that with a ghetto tubeless conversion and the ability to run much lower pressures now the thing corners on rails and stops hard enough to loosen your teeth! Awesome. My descent into the world of the XC whippets is now also complete. I have bar ends on my bike. Hey, they feel good.
So there you go. There should be some more fun and games to read about soon. Stay tuned and be along for the ride and see where the trails take us.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Giant XTC1 29er review.

Ok, I am no MTB technical guru. Thats my disclaimer. I have however ridden bikes for most of my life and mountain bikes for the last 13 years. I have dabbled in everything from downhill to 24 hour racing. Thats a fair breadth of experience I reckon.
I guess the best, most positive and strongest endorsement for the XTC 1 is that after only a 20 kilometer shake down ride I rode this bike nearly 600 kilometers through some very challenging terrain and over some monster climbs and descents. And survived. The geometry of the bike suits long hauls and with some very minor adjustments to bar height and seat height it was very comfortable and felt natural. I was quite impressed with the mix of XT and SLX gearing as it worked flawlessly over the week of hard racing with only some small adjustments to deal with new cables. Not bad considering that on one day alone there was 6 creek crossings where we ended up drenched and the bikes where submersed on one or two occasions. There were a couple of issues though that did detract from the overall performance. The brakes sucked. No other way to put it. Not only did they grab badly when hot but they howled like a banshee. Spencer said he knew when I had fallen off on the one stack I had because he didn't hear my brakes for a couple of minutes. They were that bad. I changed pads, sprayed them with Swisstop and messed with alignment all to no avail. I suppose the positive is that at an RRP of $2399 you have room to move and change out the brakes at the shop. I didn't like the saddle much either but that is a personal thing and really I should have changed it out for my own saddle before deciding to ride 600 km on it. Dumb, really dumb.
I am quite happy with the Fox F29 fork and was very happy with the 15mm through axle as it was easy to use and very positive when tightened off. I do feel the Giant handled better than my Fisher with tighter and more responsive turning however whether this was due to the head angle or the 15mm axle and tapered steerer is open for debate. In singletrack the bike felt confident and grounded considering how little I had ridden it before the race. The Beechworth singletrack is rocky and very technical but I only felt that I had pushed to far on a couple of occasions and I think mainly because I was flying! I would recommend that if your intended use for the XTC is as a trail bike that you stick some slightly more aggressive rubber on with a bigger bag than the 1.9 Kenda Karma's that are supplied. Having said that, if it's an entry level racer you seek then just get out and thrash the thing. The Karma's will be fine. I ended up using 2.1 Maxxis Crossmarks mainly because I use them as an all round tyre here so stayed with the devil I knew.
My only other small gripe was the lack of a second bottle mount. Thats it. End of story. Yeah you can spend a bomb getting a boutique branded, custom specced bike and you will get what you pay for. With the Giant though you get MORE than you pay for. As a base the frame and fork are great and if like me you are on a budget the spec is very adequate and the price is hard to beat. chuck on some new brakes, bend the wheels beyond (good luck) saving and whack some lighter ones on and you have a rocket ship.
Go out and thrash it.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Single track, single minded, singular joy. Stages 6 and 7, Terra Australis 2010.

No more numbers, no more elevation gains and losses, no more explanations of the route and how hard it was. You all get that. This was hard. I'm a stubborn SOB and at times I wanted to cry and curl up into a ball and rock. You all get that.
So what is it that made these two stages awesome and totally worth the pain? Single track. Beechworth's flowing, rocky, twisty goodness. It ended the stage on day 6 and started day 7. There is a fantastic mix of tight and twisty trail with real rock drops and roll overs and then the open, fast ribbons that weave through the trees and allow you to go so fast that it all becomes a blur and drops you into that special world where only the bike and you matter. This place should be visited by all mountain bikers once in their life.
I personally think that there is magical properties that exude from single track offering increased strength and concentration much like spinach does for Popeye or the elixir does for Asterix. Once your wheels hit it then all the encumberances of fatigue drop away to let the dogs off the chain to go chase that fun, no matter what. After feeling like death warmed up for the start of day 6 and continuing to feel that way most of the way around the course we were dropped into the first taste of Beechworth single track and it was like someone had just mainlined a double espresso into my veins and booted me in the arse with a size ten. Zip, gone, see ya later! We passed some of the riders who had been killing us on the long gravel roads like the were standing still. Stomp, stomp , stomp. All the way to the finish line.
Day 7, well it started with some new single track. I got a flat only about 20 minutes into the ride and watched as all the other teams went past me. I just calmly fixed it with the knowledge that te further ahead they got, the clearer the trails would be for me. I had been held up quite a bit on the early sections so was intent on enjoying this experience even if I had to wait an hour for the course to clear. Spencer had gone off the front when I got caught up but he called me and was happy to wait too. That clear single track was a real lure for us both.
Once I caught up to Spencer the trails didn't stay clear for long. We were bombing it! It really showed me how much time we could have made up if there was more technical single track on the other days. We ride it all the time and it showed as the pair of us carved a path through the other teams back to around the 2 thirds mark of the pack. Yep, we really could ride our bikes in this single track stuff. Real mountain biking. We talked and joked about it all the way to the finish line.
There is nothing much left to say about the race. The final two days were a fitting end to the race and the elation at crossing the line on Saturday is indescribable. There was a lot of congratulations and pats on the back, lots of cheering as teams crossed the line and a general feeling of comaraderie amongst the racers and support crew alike.
My final feeling as I crossed the line? Pride. Pride in Spencer for getting up after being knocked down and finishing every other stage. Pride in how we had carried ourselves as a team and as competitors. Pride in myself for taking that first step over a cup of coffee months ago, saying I would train and be ready for the start line, and most importantly pride in finishing.

Thanks again to Russ Baker for the kind use of the image. Onya Russ!

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Terra top ten.

While I finish up the last of the race reports I thought I would just lighten the mood a bit and throw in a top ten. It's what all the TV stations do when they don't have anything else to program so why can't I. So here it is.
Graham's Terra Australis Top Ten. (In some kind of order...)
10. Greens pancake mix. The breakfast of champions.
9. Rockin it to dub and reggae all the way to Mount Beauty on the way down.
8. Steak at the Victoria Hotel in Goondi on the way home. Just awesome.
7. Spectacular scenery every day for seven days. Everywhere you looked it was another post card view and it just kept getting better.
6. Beechworth single track. If you ride it, you'll know......
5. Beechworth Brewery after Beechworth single track. What better way to exaggerate how good you were in the single track than with a couple of fantastic hand made brews and some good friends. Yeah, we were pretty cool.
4. The Giant XTC1 29er. It performed fantastically well. Not bad for a bike that retails for $2300.
3. Lucas's Paw Paw ointment. My butt thanks you. Lets leave it at that.
2.Finishline Events and all the other competitors. Amazing people, an amazing event, an amazing experience.
1. Spencer. He was crazy enough to say yes. We are even still mates!