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.