Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Updates on the new bike.

I've now got a couple of races and some reasonably long rides in on the XTC 29er 0. Overall it is a solid and well behaved platform that can really haul arse. The feeling of sitting "in" the bike rather than "on" the bike adds a level of stability when descending fast fire roads and comfort during long, sustained climbing. Both of these traits are valuable in quite a lot of the riding I enjoy. The frame is stiff and responsive so there is no perceptible loss of power when you stand up and put the power down. The front tracks true with the Overdrive 2 head tube junction and the Fox forks teaming up to keep you pointed where you aim. I am a big fan of the Fox forks and after messing around with pressures a bit I have it right where I want it. I use the lockout a bit but generally I don't feel the need. I love riding this bike.

It's not all roses though. I am really not a big fan of the Schwalbe Racing Ralph tyres. I know a lot of riders love them, I'm not one of them. They are OK but I think the side walls are too soft and that means I feel I need to run more pressure to compensate for the squirmy feel. Once that happens you lose some of the bump absorption and traction in loose surfaces. A tubeless kit may fix it but as yet I haven't put one in. Not a big fix but worth mentioning. The Avid brakes. Man those things squeal. The performance is fine, the set up is fine and I quite like the lever reach adjustment but the noise is just hard to ignore. There is also a 205mm rotor specced on the bike for this year and for me it is too much brake. I can see that for a bigger human there would be value in it as the increased stopping power would come into it's own. For my 70kg frame I really don't need it though. When I grab a handful of lever I often need to check that my fillings have stayed put after I have nose wheelied down the trail. I'm picky. Too much brake, sheesh.
The highlight for me is still the Shimano XT drive train. This stuff works. I love that even after 4 hours of slop and crap it keeps shifting with confidence. I am not known for my light shifting technique (read masher) and sometimes when I get tired (read after lap one usually) my gear choices are made rather late forcing a big jump in ratios and that disturbing crunching sound to emanate from the drive train. Even with that obvious disadvantage the XT doesn't complain and hits the gear allowing me to look like I might actually know how to ride a mountain bike. Love it.
So if wishes were fishes what would I do? First up Shimano XT Icetech brakes. No question there. Next would be some tyres and that would probably be Maxxis Ikons. I have one to try here right now but as yet it hasn't made it onto a bike. At 2.2 inch it would hopefully give a bit more volume and suppleness to the ride without saggy sidewalls. I have had great success with Maxxis as a brand but again this is a personal thing. After that it's a hard decision. While there is a case for lighter wheels it is a big expense when the stock wheels are solid with hubs that roll well and are easy to service. Get the wheels checked after a few rides and keep the tension right and they aren't too bad. If however Shimano ever gets it together and makes the XT wheelset with a 15mm hub I'll be all over them like white on rice.
As always, these thoughts are based on my personal preference and keeping in mind that I have 2 small children, a wife and a mortgage. I search out performance balanced with value and the XTC delivers both of these in spades.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wheels on Woodenbong.

Funny name, great weekend.
So there's this new race called WoW. It's in the tiny township of Woodenbong about 2 hours south of home. As there was camping advertised at the race site and the family were keen for a little adventure we packed up early Saturday morning for the drive down and departed with the hope of a nice place to pitch the tent and some good food at the local pub. Both came true and really set the scene for the weekend.
The camp site was a massive, flat grassed area which backed onto a sandy creek. When we arrived there were barely half a dozen other campers and so we stretched out and made ourselves very comfortable. he boys got straight to exploring the creek with Rohan managing to "fall in" while fully clothed. Alison and I had both joked about how long it was going to take for that to happen. As it turned out we were pretty accurate with our estimates of half an hour. They were having fun though. We were also treated to the lovely surprise of Mark, a regular racer and often lap partner for me, showing up and setting his camp right beside us. We sat and chatted for a bit and once the tent was up my wonderful wife showed just why she is so awesome for the second time in a very short space of time. Alison let me go and do a test lap with Mark of the course to see how it was. More about the lap later, and about my awesome wife.
We had planned to go to the pub for dinner as often the food in a country pub is quite spectacular. Not in the "Quail toenails with a parsnip and mint jus rested on a stack of blanched bok choy" kind of way but more the head sized rump steak and thick cut chips kind of way. I was disappointed to see the menu was surprisingly short of some of my favourite pub fare. Rohan was keen on a pizza and as Alison thought she could share one with him I opted to get one too. All three of us would get a decent meal that way and seemed like a good idea. Now, the pizzas weren't good, they were frikken fantastic! Great bases, fresh topping and really nicely cooked. I was stoked. Rohan proceeded to destroy his usual half of an adult size pizza and a few of his brothers chips. Not bad for a 6 year old. Alison and I were very satisfied with the meal and the setting out the back in the beer garden just topped it off. Jack had fish and chips.At least he is predictable. After that it was back to camp with left over pizza in a box and into the showers before bed. A small mention must be given at this stage to the adopted family member and bit parter for the weekend, the green frog in the ladies showers. Rohan had gone for a shower with Alison so we could get the boys into bed quicker when he spotted the frog. It was like Christmas. Alison even had to go back the 200 meters to the toilets with the camera and get a photo of the frog to show me and Jack. Frogs are amphibians don't you know.......
Bed, slept like a log. Woke to a foggy (yep foggy in Spring) day with the temperature already going up steadily at 6:30am. It was shaping up to be a hot day. I cooked bacon and pancakes on the tailgate of the ute and watched as the boys engulfed as soon as they were cool enough. Man they can eat when we go camping. I just strolled around from then on eating a bit more, drinking a bit more and getting my shit together to go and do some racing. I had no high hopes for a result because you guessed it, I haven't really trained. I should just not even say it now and it should just be assumed that I don't train hard. I barely train at all. Anyway, enough griping about my lack of commitment to training.
Paul and Leanne were coming down for the race as well. As Mark could do with a hand putting up his gazebo I went over to the transition area and we set up a nice little race base before the crowds arrived. While I was there I reserved a spot next to us for Paul and Leanne and hung around until they rolled up. Another lovely surprise greeted me when Paul number 2 showed up as well. I used to ride quite a bit with Paul but just lost touch with work and life stuff. It was great to see him and he was looking pretty fit. Not as fit as the new and improved Paul B in his Superman cape and tights. I have no idea how much weight Paul B has lost but my, he is looking lean and strong. That fact was only proven to me as he dropped me like I was standing still on the first lap. If the racing had of gone to poo, the social aspect more than made up for it right there.
Race time. Got to the start line and felt okay if not a little hot already. The day was heading towards scorcher rapidly. Mark had said to me earlier in the day I should aim for 10 laps of the 5.3km course and see what happens from there. I have no data for the course as I hate racing with a Garmin or similar. The course was straight forward enough with the first half being a long, steady climb after a short double track section, then 3 heart breaking little boggy areas, another short false flat and then 3 long descents with short flat sections all the way back to transition. 161 meters of vertical according to the race profile.
As I get older it takes me so much longer to get into the swing of things come race time. The first 2 laps were like chewing broken glass. It hurt and to keep going just felt like it would make it worse. My only reason to keep going, and my dark little secret from a month or so ago is my complete failure at the last race I entered. I have never pulled out of a race before until then. Only 3.5 hours into a 6 hour race, pop! Broken Heartlidge and race over. Yeah, I didn't even do a post about it.
I had no idea about the times I was doing, no idea of a placing and less than no concern for either piece of information. On lap 3 though Rohan and Alison had come over to see how I was going from the campsite. Rohan handed me some gels and a new water bottle, told me about the fun he was having and said I looked muddy. I asked him if I looked alright and he stopped, considered his answer and then let me have it. "You look okay, but how's your bike race going Daddy?"     Slap.      Yeah, how is it going Graham? Well, I'm upright, I'm feeling a little better, there are guys out there suffering way worse than me and bugger it, I'm not trying to solve world hunger or perform life saving surgery. This should be fun. From then on I was good to go. My times didn't drop or anything miraculous like that but they did stay reasonably consistent and most importantly, I was having a good time.
I busted out my 10 laps and got a time check going around the last checkpoint. It was a close thing according to the marshal with only a few minutes left until the 4 hours ticked over. I came around the last corner only to see the clock sitting on 8 minutes to go! With such short laps that put me in for another slog around if I wanted it. I wasn't sure though. My legs had been cramping most of the last 2 laps and I just backed off and kept pedalling to stop the inevitable lock up that comes with effort. It didn't seem right to pull up though as I had managed it for 2 whole laps. 2 whole laps of gingerly pedalling and crawling up the climbs. Paul B saw me in a bit of trouble and immediately offered up some magic electrolyte tablets. I scoffed them down and drank deeply before swapping bottles and heading out again. I was happy to go and make the lap slow but finish it. what happened next was both stupid and surprising.
I had seen a guy lapping around at about the same time as me. I was also pretty sure he was on the same lap as me. While I sat at transition and pieced myself back together on the previous lap I had seen him pass me and go out for a final lap. As I trudged along the grass section just past transition I could see him in the distance approaching the long climb. To my great surprise when I got to the climb he wasn't that far in front of me and to my greater surprise as the climb went on I was actually making ground on him. A spark of competitiveness flickered to life in my pea like brain. My legs were saying "don't you dare!" while my heart was saying "it's the last lap, how bad can it be?" Hmm, a quandary indeed. Hang it, I'm going after him.
I got close before the first short descent into the boggy areas. I watched as he went through the bog and got off to walk up the pinch climb straight after it. Hmm, interesting. I powered through the bog and up the pinch with legs screaming. He was still in front.The second boggy area was much the same and on the other side of this bog I could almost hear him breathing. The third bog I was on his wheel. there weren't any places to pass right there but there was just the last little pinch climb before the long descents started. Hmm, a chance?
I'll tell what happened next as I saw it. There is also a touch of the dramatic to make it more fun to read and should the competitor it is about read this and call it another way, I'm more than happy to set it right later. When we reached the bottom of the climb I was millimetres from his rear wheel. The trail opened up slightly and I called track right, meaning I intended to pass on his right. Only problem was he went right. I could see the tendons in his neck straining, hear his breathing ragged from effort and it "looked" like he tried to block me. I saw his right shoulder drop and just that millisecond before felt he may do this and so was prepared. I ducked left and onto the smoother part of the trail. I had only called right as it was polite to make the pass in the tougher part of the course so as to not disrupt the flow of the other rider. Besides, you don't give up the prime line easily. I was hanging it all out up the pinch. I hit the top a meter in front and immediately slammed it up to the middle ring and stood up. I think you could have heard my legs screaming from Mars. Shut up legs and do as you are told. the final climb was maybe 50 meters long and I crested it with a small gap on him. It was big dog time and for the first time all race I was pedalling down the descent as hard as I could. So was he. A tight right hand corner slowed us both down and again for the first time all race I got it just right and powered out clean. Another meter or so opened up. I could still hear him breathing though. A little false flat was the last pedalling before the final descent down  to transition. You had to negotiate a hairpin corner at the bottom and pedal over the line. Through the day I had been using a little short cut on the corner which allowed you to not lose so much speed provided you could make the 2 foot drop on the end of it. I was pinning it and as the corner came up I could hear him grabbing a handful of brake to get around. I shot over the corner and popped it off the drop and stood up on the pedals to sprint to the line. I got him by 1 second. Cool. My legs turned to toast soldiers and before I knew it I had cramps on my cramps. I was still smiling though.
Now I mentioned my wife was awesome. Why is that you ask? Well as I was out pummelling myself on a bike, she was quietly packing up our camp. No small job with 2 kids to watch as well. I got to head over to the camp, throw the stuff in the ute and relax in the creek and at the presentations before Alison drove us home. Awesome. Darling, you are the best pit crew ever.
I got 9th place. Not bad for an old fart racing an all in brawl.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

2012 XTC 29er 0. Some first thoughts.

Lucky me has a new bike to ride. Over the next couple of months I will be out there in the dirt with a shiny XTC 29er 0. I haven't had a chance to really put all that many miles on the bike yet but so far I'm pretty impressed. I have the 2010 model of this bike and the up speccing is pretty obvious this year. Shimano XT running gear, Avid  Elixir 7 brakes and the banging Fox F29 RL fork. Another nice little addition is the Schwalbe Racing Ralph tyres. I haven't had a lot of experience with the brand but these tyres felt quite good right out of the blocks. Time will tell if that continues and whether they wear well or not.
My first ride was out at Clear Mountain in the steeps. It climbs like a spider monkey on Red Bull. There is no flex from the Power Core bottom bracket and that translates to all the power going into forward motion. again the tyres were a pleasant surprise with little slippage in the gravelly conditions.
I did get a little time in the singletrack over the weekend and I liked it. The steering is precise and quick. I got it around the trails with no effort at all and the brakes were good if not great. There is a 180mm rotor on the front  this year and while it isn't essential for someone my size, I guess it will help with brake fade on long descents.
This may look a bit lack luster as far as thoughts go but that is far from the case. This is a step up from my 2010 XTC 29er no doubt however I knew what to expect. I expected the bike to ride as well as it did, I expected the XT to work as well as ever and I expected that the package would be as good as it is. All in all, I like it so far.
Once I get some more time and a race or two done on the bike I will do a more in depth review. For right now this is just a teaser. Check the specs below.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Pedal Til You Puke

Today an intrepid bunch of guys from all sorts of riding backgrounds got together to do a charity ride. It was to raise money for Graeme Ardern who needs surgery to remove a tumor on his neck. Graeme's family and friends are trying to raise $30,000 to pay for the very expensive surgery. More of his story in the link here.
A massive shout out has to go to Neil Ennis for organising the whole thing. He organised the route, had T-shirts printed and was generally an awesome host for the ride. Props also to ALL the riders who showed up and rode to show support for the cause, donate a bit of cash and just generally climb like maniacs.
To add a bit of fun it was a challenge. There were some prizes that riders had donated and a T-Shirt for the person who cleared the most climbs. It was all in fun though. There was heaps of support for all the riders with a very relaxed vibe. Just how it should be.
The bunch with Graeme in the white T-shirt.
This is the link to my winning effort up Mango Trees. I got the win with my sparkling singing voice!
I wish Graeme and his family all the best in his fight. There is a link below if you want to drop a couple of bucks his way to help out too.
A whole bunch more shots here.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Eating Cake, Chasing Dogs.

It's pretty obvious that my motivation has been in the red for the last couple of months. A combination of stress at work, too much booze and not enough riding has left the tell tale marks that the black dog has been gnawing away at my mental stability. I overslept on Saturday morning and missed a ride that day and felt really disappointed in myself. The only thing that can give me any chance of actually getting out of bed to ride is to set up a ride with someone else. If I am meeting someone, I will most likely show up. So I rang Rients.
The plan was simple. Ride up Nebo and have a coffee and then come back however we felt was best. The plan worked amazingly well with Rients in no hurry due to a big tour ride he has planned next weekend and me just happy to plod along and get some miles in. We talked all the way. Have a look at the average speed! The coffee was great at the top as was the massive banana muffin. The company was awesome all the way. It really was a perfect day for riding.
So here I am, kicking back to Nick Drake and wondering when the drive will come back. I'm off the booze (for a while at least) and I know that always helps to get some balance back. I usually start to get energy back after a week or so and hopefully then it will be on. I have had the black dog chasing me pretty solidly now for a couple of months. It's time for me to take that figurative rolled up newspaper that is my bike and give that bastard a touch up. Instead of having it chomping at my heels, I reckon its time I chased it down the street swinging that newspaper like a maniac. I know it is too much to ask to see it tuck it's tail between it's legs and scarper yelping all the way, but hey, just knowing I have the bastard on the run will do.
I'm happy and content now. The ride did it's magic today.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

I went riding.....

That is all. I got on my bike and rode for 3 hours. If it wasn't for Nick ringing me and giving me no excuses for pulling out I would have bailed and stayed on the couch. It was well worth it though. Breezing around Bunya on the single speed is something that should be put on the therapeutic goods list.
The plan was to roll around at a very relaxed pace but not stop. It means we get to chat along the way and get a workout without thinking about it. After an hour or so Nick got a call and soon Eric was joining us for our cathartic spin in the bush. The route was nothing new but it is always fun.
My legs hurt now but my brain feels great. There is precious little time over the next couple of weeks for me to ride but at least I got one ride in. A big thanks to Nick and Eric for the company and the awesome conversation. Now Nick has even convinced me to have a crack at an 8 hour race in a month or so. Should be a real laugh.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

A spark to light the way.

It's been a long time since I just sat here and waxed lyrical on why riding a bike is so important to me. I know it must be obvious to those people around me as today I had a family friend and my Dad asking me if I'd been riding lately. Life has been a bit up and down for me recently.
Riding gives much more than just fitness and a day out. Riding is "intelligent" in its therapy. You go out some days and just smash yourself, because that's what you need. Other days are a roll around with mates for laughs, conversation and time out. Sometimes the coffee post ride is the thing that sets all the buttons back to normal and washes away the dross of a day or week. How can something inanimate "know" what you need? Because you get out what you put in and you get to choose how much you put in.
I haven't been putting enough in for a little while now. The state of my riding is reflected in my life, or perhaps it's my life reflected in my riding. There are struggles to find motivation, to find the spark to ignite the fire again and burn away my lethargy and sloth.
I need the pain again. I have had my perceptions of what can be endured and what can be achieved irrevocably altered by the people around me, and indeed by my own efforts. When I think of the next challenge it gives me a brief  vision of how I should be in life. Passionate, committed, determined. Now it is more persevering, controlled, listless. Time is drawing me closer to another challenge. I don't know what it will be but it needs to be big. I need to know that whatever I take on is not a certainty. I need to know I could fail, if I don't put my passion, commitment and determination on the line. Toe the damn line. It'll be on a bike though. My muse and my tormentor.
   Determination. Pictures, Images and Photos

Monday, July 4, 2011

Moon light riding.

I received some really exciting news a couple of weeks ago and have been busting to get it out there. The guys from QBC, the distributors for Giant and a number of other brands here in Queensland offered me the chance to ride with their new light brand, MOON Lights. Looking at the spec sheets for the various units had me salivating with the option for a 1500 lumen light with a 3 hour burn time and a 1000 lumen with a 4 hour burn time the top dogs.
Normally I only like to ride with a helmet light so when given the option of which unit  I could get I went with the 1500 lumen X-Power 1500. With 5 power modes including a flash mode you get plenty of different light levels. They also come with both a helmet and bar light as standard as well as an extension lead and a strap to mount the battery wherever you might choose. All in all, a nice little package for a great price. The whole lot retails for $399.
These puppies are bright! After nearly blinding Drew on the first singletrack run I turned the light down to the 1100 lumen level. The quality and spread of the beam meant this was more than enough light to ride most trails. In fact it punched along the trail so well it was difficult for Drew to be in front. At least that was his excuse for lagging behind!
After the impressive results for the X-power 1500 I was also keen to try out the X-power 1000 units as for endurance racing I thought that one of these on the bars and one on the helmet might be a good combination. The 1000 uses 2 Cree XPG emitters and 1 XML emitter to give the lesser lumen output with a slightly better burn time. I really like the mounting brackets for these lights too. The bar mount is simple to use with a rubber strap that loops around and hooks back to the mount that sees only the rubber in contact with the bars. A nice touch particularly if you use carbon bars like me.
I got the opportunity to test the lights against another light in a similar price bracket and output. Again I was joined by Drew and also this time Reg came along for a roll too. Reg was running a 1400 lumen bar light and a 900 lumen helmet light. All three of us agreed that the MOON was a superior beam with a much wider throw and less hot spot than the light Reg was running. Not bad for $270 odd dollars! MOON lists the run times for the 1000 lumen as 3.5 hours.

The wash up of the first couple of rides with the MOON lights is that they produce an astounding amount of light. They might not be the lightest units in terms of weight but from my research they are comparable with lights of a similar output. You can go with the 1500 lumen model and need nothing else or go with 2 of the 1000 lumen units to put a light on the bars and the helmet. I still need to run the lights a few times to really confirm the run times. At this stage they seem pretty accurate though as I have ridden twice with the X-power 1500 with no issues and the X-power 1000 did a 2.5 hour ride with no issues.
I am really excited to get these lights out and race them. They fit right into my ethos of performance at a fantastic price. As I get more time with the MOON lights on the trail I will report back with updates. There are also a number of other products MOON does that the guys from QBC have given me to mess around with like tail lights and a very classy looking 300 lumen commuter light. All in all I could be spending a whole lot more time night riding from now on!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Enduro Series Race 4. Sunday in the Vale.

There is a certain satisfaction in finishing what you start. Race 4 of the Enduro Super Series came and went this weekend with an 8 hour format on the cards. As an observation it has been really interesting to have to prepare and consider the 4 different durations of the events and to start to get a feel for just how hard I can go out in each one. It seems a consistent theme that I say I feel I could have gone harder. I might just need to get on with it and put the hurt on a lot more.
Anyway, a race report. I had a full dance card on Saturday with some kid commitments and that meant I wasn't able to get out to OHV to set up a pit area on Saturday as I had done previously. It also meant a 5am start to get out there on Sunday. I hate 5am starts. I arrived at 7am and already the pit lane was full. I wasn't surprised or even upset as with a solo rider all I needed was a spot to put my cooler to hold bottles and some food. Luckily though I ran into Meg and Pete and they very kindly allowed me to hand out in their shelter. All good. I did still have to rush to get ready to race and didn't really get to stretch properly and wasn't ever really sure if I had everything. I guess I'll know in 8 hours or so!
For the first time this year I pushed towards the front a little at the start. I wanted to get a good start as there was a small chance if I raced well I could get up into 3rd place overall on the series points. Well that was the plan. The start went around a hairpin corner and across a muddy land bridge in a dam which when all was said and done successfully killed my flow on the run out. I got around a few riders from there on the first lap and happily tapped out the lap. It was still under 50 minutes for the 14km lap and the second lap was even better. lap 3 was my best for the race as I caught up with Matt Killin and had a great chat and really pushed along nicely swapping pace setting duties along the way. Matt ended the day with a very respectable 4th place in elite after punching out consistent laps for the 8 hours. I stopped for food and water and Matt kept going through.
I had a little bit of bad luck. Lap 4 and going across the muddy land bridge a rider in front lost his front wheel and fell. My front wheel smacked into his rear wheel and I slipped forward and smashed my hip on my stem. It was no problem at the time, just a bummer for both of us really. As the lap progressed though my hip, or more precisely my ITB, started to tighten and make my knee quite sore. By the end of the lap though during the climb up Escalator my whole leg was killing me. After crawling back to the transition area i was feeling really bummed. We had fortunately set up next to the masseuse and as I was pretty well screwed anyway I thought I might as well give the ten minute massage a try. It did the trick. Trevor, the masseuse, knew his stuff and my leg felt almost good for a while. He instructed me to hydrate really well, do a few stretches and keep an eye on it.
I had been off the bike for 40 minutes and everyone had put at least a lap into me. Any chance of getting a podium were well gone so I just went out to ride some more laps and salvage some personal pride. I'd like to point out that when I say my chances of a podium had gone, I should qualify that the guys who finished in front of me and that I had gone into the race with the intention of matching it with were riding very strongly. I felt great until my hip went pop but the guys were just super consistent and may have left me weeping like a 3 year old who'd dropped his ice cream. Well done to Jay and John for finishing the series well and fighting out the minor places while Clint smashed everyone.
Anyway, 4 more laps after the massage for a total of 8 laps. That's 112km for the day and not a bad days work. Even with a disappointing 7th place in this race I still managed to finish 4th on points for the series. Happy enough. I want to mention some great performances by a couple of mates too. Well done to Matt Powell and Anthony Zahra for a series of great racing, well done Nick Westwood for putting in a gutsy effort on Sunday and being pipped for 3rd by seconds. Of course a big thanks and congratulations must go to Tailwind Promotions for running a really fantastic series of races.
So now what?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Long weekends

When an opportunity arises, you should grab it. On Friday I normally have to play Daddy Daycare and collect the boys from school and don't get me wrong, I love doing it. Friday past though Alison managed an early finish and I was able to convince Nick to come out for a late afternoon jaunt. He said he was going out on the single speed and I thought, hang it, why not! I also thought it might mean the ride would be a bit more casual. I was pretty well as wrong as I could be.
Nick has a Friday loop. It is a really cool mix of the single track around Bunya with a few good fire road climbs to test the legs. We pushed along at a nice pace and while I was slowing Nick up a bit he didn't mind too much. at least I climbed all the hills and only walked "The Steps". They really are just steps. You can't ride them. We had a very entertaining ride and shot the breeze which helped keep my mind off the fact that my legs were screaming. It was a nice scream though and not a "get off the bike now" scream. What a top way to start a long weekend.
Saturday dawned rainy and grey. The forecast had predicted it would be but I had held out hope they would be wrong. The boys had a soccer match each in the morning which stops me riding early and then swimming lessons take us through until lunch time. By then the rain had started and riding in the afternoon was really not much of an option. I hate the cold, and I hate being cold and wet even more. The trails were most likely sodden and my wheels would only make that worse. By late afternoon though I was getting very restless. From time to time I have resorted to drastic measures when this is the case. I go for a trail run. Yep, me running. I stick mainly to the fire roads and some of the ridge line single track and as the weather scares of the mountain bikers it is perfect. Some people ride or run with music devices, but when I run I very purposefully don't. I figure if I am running on MTB trails the least I can do is wear bright clothes and pay attention in case a rider does come along. Running, well it smashes me. How someone does a marathon I don't know. Man my legs were stinging by the end of it. It's only 6km in a very moderate time of 30 minutes but wow, what a workout.
Friday's single speed ride showed it was time for a new rear tyre. I had a new Ignitor sitting at home for just the purpose and a quiet beer on Saturday evening saw the job done and ready for the next day. Again Sunday morning was pretty ordinary and my plans for a big ride up into the hills was looking more than a little shaky. It stopped raining at around 2pm and that was my cue to get busy! I bundled the single speed in the car, chucked the riding gear on and set off for Gap Creek. I wasn't keen on trashing my nice clean bikes and the single speed suits the task with no pivots to clean, no gears or cables to clog and a 5 minute clean after the ride. Oh yeah. Gap creek was deserted. I had the trails to my self and with that in mind I rolled around in a state of near bliss. I was almost disappointed when I finally did come across some other riders. 
Up and over Dirt Girls and Pony Express, on through to Skink, the painful fire road climb up Magic and down Rocket Frog. Phew, time for a muesli bar before the next bit. There is a little bit of transit single trail to the bottom of Dingo and then up. I love this trail as it is an arse kicker. I'm yet to tame it on the single speed with a couple of little log roll overs that when wet are just damn hard. Sometimes discretion is the better part of valor and with a race next weekend I wasn't out to prove a point. I got off and walked a couple of the trail features. Going down was an exercise in traction control and 2 wheel drifting. The lack off suspension on my bike made for more than a few butt clenching moments with the best being the split second I was able to see me rear tyre in my peripheral vision. Yeah, I hadn't turned my head.
It was nice to get warm back in the car. I was reasonably well soaked through and the thought of a hot cup of tea and a warm shower appealed greatly. Big smile on my face though and a very satisfied feeling to have snuck in a ride.
Then there was today. A late start because I could, a coffee to get going and the family off for an outing. I was off the hook with a whole world of trails to go ride. I didn't head far from home, I don't need to. Down to the end of the street and into Ironbark for a few hills to warm up. To my great surprise and delight I came across the new trail head for Sunset. I've written about this trail before. It had been closed due to erosion but the trail fairies have cut a new entry and cleaned up the really bad bits to improve drainage and it's good as new. In fact better than new. My undying respect and thanks to the trail fairies. You rock.
Over to Bunya for some single track. There is a short tarmac traverse to the top of "Track 8". I barreled around for another hour until I ran into Antz. He was out for a final run before the weekends 8 hour race in the single speed category. In the SS category he is running second with strong results in all the races. As we talked he told me he hadn't been able to find a link into Ironbark from Bunya. As I was heading home by this time I offered to take him over and show him the roads. We had a good chat along the way and as is often the case we both mentioned that it was about time that there were a few more rides for us. I look forward to it as Antz is a strong rider that can only make me go harder to keep up. If him and Nick come out for a ride it will be really on. We said goodbye at the turnoff back to Bunya with the promise of catching up next week. I was off home for some left over macaroni cheese and a big drink of water. I felt great.
So there it is. Now I just get a couple of commutes before the 8 hour race next Sunday. I really couldn't be happier with my weekend. I couldn't be happier with the years racing so far.

Friday, June 10, 2011

I haven't had anything much of a positive nature to report for the last few weeks. I had a virus that knocked me around,  didn't ride, I got lazy and I have suffered the emotional effects of all those factors sliding by my "Not all is well in my head" filter. I have felt pretty darn ordinary for a few weeks now. Yep I still have those days, sometimes weeks, where depression insinuates itself into my life and tries to mess with me. It usually manages to do some mischief before I wake up to myself and send it packing. How does that saying go? The price of freedom is eternal vigilance. Never truer than with anxiety and depression.
Anyway, a ray of sunshine. I have commuted to work every day but today and feel tops for it. Somewhere along the way I got some balance back and my head and heart feel much more like they should. I have apologised to my long suffering wife for being a very second rate human of late, and as much as it never ceases to amaze me, she doesn't seem to hold a grudge. Yet another reason I love her. And today, I mentioned I didn't commute and there's a great reason, I went out and did "Nicks Friday Loop" with a twist. I did the ride on my single speed.
Nicks Friday Loop it is fair to say isn't particularly long, but it does have a few challenging hills. as much as I was wimping out with a very low gear ratio it is still heaps harder than dropping it into the granny and spinning up a hill. I am not unhappy with the fact that I rode every hill bar "The Steps" which is literally a set of steps and bloody steep. I certainly didn't set any land speed records but Nick was happy to let me chug along and not be too stressed if I was slow. I count it as a win.
The feeling of my legs burning and lungs popping when I try and muscle up a climb on the single speed is a heady tonic indeed. I am not a gear burning, lefty, extremist single speeder but I do appreciate the simplicity of not having gears, not being distracted by which gear you should be in, and just getting on with it. All hills are a challenge to be attacked and given no quarter and if you aren't honest with the effort the results are very predictable. You walk. Maybe it's a litmus test for how you really feel?
So life has been all about battling up the hills lately, both figuratively and physically. I might not be at the top emotionally but I'm cool with that because sometimes from there the only way is down. Physically I plan to crest a lot of hills this weekend and savor the view from the top. I know my legs will protest but they can just shut up and do as they are told. All in all, no distractions, no excuses.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Merida 24 Hour, the redux.

It went well. Nice way to be able to start a post really.
I've spoken about why this race was important to me previously so I think enough of the in depth analysis on 24 hour racing for now. What I will say is that mt preparation was good, my planning was solid and my result is right about where I had hoped it to be. I didn't meet abritrary goals I set of 300km or riding non stop for 24 hours but I was sensible and well placed compared to the efforts of the other competitors. I managed 18 laps, for 252km and finished 4th in my category. It's worth mentioning that Clint Pierce won the overall honours and is also in my 40+ category. He's a machine.
Race report time.
I was lucky to have a fantastic support crew for this race. Marcel, Mike and Spencer had all given up part or all of their weekend to come out and make sure I ate, drank and rode as much as I could. Marcel and I rocked up to the venue on Saturday morning to be met by Mike who had travelled out there on his own. We set the pit tent up with an absolute minimum of fuss and I was ready to race well before the gun. All the essential were laid out and within easy reach and now it was just time to sit back and wait for the start.

Lining up for a mass start is always an excercise in frustration for me. There are the genuinely quick riders that I don't want to get in the way of, the soloists who will just want to pace themselves, the newbies who are just petrified and then the people who think they will be smashing it right up until they hit the first bit of technical single track. The last group are the ones who cause my frustration. Never mind, smile and just get on with it. No further than 300m past the start I came across a racer who had tried to take a line over a wooden obstacle and got it horribly wrong. A few people asked if he was OK but no one was stopping. I saw him struggling to get off the course and sit up and immediately pulled over next to him and worked out whether he was safe to move to the side of the course. Once off the course I asked his name and tried to see what exactly had happened. Poor guy was in Lala land. He insisted on finishing the 14km lap but with help from Andy, a fellow rider, we convinced him to stay put and let the medics have a look at him. There were still a lot of riders coming through at this stage so I ran back up the hill to the start line to get the medics. That got the old legs working! In the end the young guy was OK to continue after a little rest and being checked out. He might hate me for slowing him up but hey, he looked like poo when I got to him.
The offending jump. Take the B-line next time.

Anyway, on with a race. Andy and I struck out to complete our first lap together. It was cool to chat and pass the time and soon we were passing the first of the flat tyres for the day. At least stopping had let the course clear for us! We were flying along. So after a some what longer than expected first lap I came through transition and around to my pit area. The boys jumped too and I had food, water and a bike check in seconds flat and it was out for some more fun and frivolity. I just kept pumping out consistent times for  the next 5 hours. I was in the zone, everything was working well and I was happy to be racing again. I had pretty much put all thoughts of a podium aside by that time with the 30 minutes lost to the first aid call on lap one. I had a fantastic mind set though as helping the young guy was the right thing to do. Karma was on my side.

At around the 5pm mark I came through transition to be instructed that it was time to fit the lights and get busy with some night laps. I'm not the best of night riders, my night vision is ordinary at best but do enjoy it heaps. You get to see all the little green eyes of the spiders and other insects and they just glow like emeralds. That and the fact that it is so quiet out there. I plugged up the MP3 player and got some reggae pumping to keep the mind occupied and off into the gloom.
The pit crew chillin'. Literally.
Man the temperature dropped though. Around then was when my only real issues of the race made their presence felt. With the cold came a few cramps, a few aches and a few dark thoughts. I couldn't get warm no matter what I did as my riding gear was wet through from perspiration and each time I stopped to take on water or food the next ten minutes were hell on wheels while I tried to warm up again. I persisted until midnight when I was scheduled to stop for a hot food break. At that point I made the decision to get changed, get a hot shower and grab a nap. I wanted to ride solid for 24 hours but the truth was trees were jumping out at me and I was riding like a nanna. I figured it was time to hit the reset button before the trees stopped jumping out at me and I ended up in one. In hindsight, it was the right decision.

Pit crew to the rescue again. Hot food was given to me, while I showered my swag was layed out and the guys had organised who was going for a sleep and who would make sure I got up in an hour and got riding again. That all went like clockwork. Total time off the bike was 2 hours, total time asleep was one hour and total goodness felt for having done it was off the hook. Now all I needed to do was punch it through for another 10 hours or so.
I popped out a few more laps while it was dark but really I couldn't wait for the sun to come up. As the glow increased in the East and I could turn off the lights my riding returned to some sort of normality. I got some flow back and could feel the laps get easier. I was no longer struggling to get the bike through the course and relaxed heaps at that point. It also warmed up and that was like a double espresso with a Red Bull chaser. Oh hang on, no that was breakfast.... Anyway, lots of caffiene and some food and I was really enjoying riding again.
Dawn coffee break.

Mike did a lap check for me around 6am and returned to tell me I was running fourth with some good gains in lap times and only 1 lap down. The thought of a podium fired me up a bit and so I got back out and did the best I could to keep chipping away at the lap times. No matter how hard I pushed though it wasn't going to be enough as Gary had the bit in his teeth and was gritting out gutsy lap after gutsy lap. I was still keen to get fourth though. It would still be my best result ever. Rather than monster myself and make mistakes I took it smooth and easy with consistent if not blistering laps to just make sure the gap was big enough. With 2 hours to go I was looking good and feeling relaxed on the bike. Not bad after 20 hours on the bike and 22 hours in the elements.
Still smiling after 22 hours.

Two laps to go. That should seal it. I have no drama filled moments, no suspense to drag out the inevitable, just the satisfying feeling of completing a race. I loved my last two laps because I got back to riding and had some fun. I got one lap in with Matt Powell on my second last lap and another in with Ky Lane to finish off. It was good to chat and hear that I was not the only one who felt the course was hard and made you earn your turns. Matt romped in the single speed category and Ky had battled through a head cold for 13 laps. Just to clarify, the single speed category means that the riders have only one gear for the whole race. No bail outs. These guys are hard as nails.
I crossed the line and dutifully Mike had checked the results and there was a small chance that 5th place could catch me. I had come over the line at 23 hours and 52 minutes which would have allowed me to start another lap for 19 total and a sure 4th place. I sat down with a beer instead. If the guy could smash out a lap faster than he had all night I would let him have it. Actually no I wouldn't. I sat and had my beer with my helmet and shoes still on and ready to go. I even snuck in gel just in case. I was glad when the announcement came that the time was up. There it is, my best result ever in a mountain bike race.
It's over.

Racing for 24 hours takes a lot of commitment and preparation. If it wasn't for the help and support of a number of people it would all be for naught though. First thanks to Giant and Cyc'd for Bikes who look after me with bikes and gear. My Anthem X29 never missed a beat and made a huge difference to the fatigue I felt last year. Of course my family are pretty awesome. They let me go out and train and indulge my dreams of being a boy racer. There needs to be a special mention made to my pit crew. I was fortunate enough to have help from Marcel, Mike and Spencer over the weekend. Spencer gave up some of his weekend to come out and hang out, make sure the bike was ticking and give some cyclist specific encouragement and advice along the way. He also lent me his awesome Ayup lights as I wasn't able to sort my set out before the race. Cheers geezer. During the week leading up to the race Mike called me and asked if there was some room in my tent for him to hang out and take a few photos. What that turned out to be was a whole weekend where he missed out on sleep to hand me bottles, food and encouragement over the 24 hour period. Marcel offered way back when I signed up for the race to come out and help. It's the second time Marcel has done so and he doesn't even ride bikes. They both just kicked back and made everything happen around me. I came back in after the first lap to see the whole pit area changed around to be better organised with all my stuff at my finger tips. When it was time to change into warm gear I found it ready to go and the help was there to get it on. I'm not sure if the guys even know how important all those little things are in the big picture. If you go out on a lap without the right bottle, some food or the right kit you can suffer through an hour of hell. That translates further down the line as it saps you of energy and motivation. So while my bike was faultless, my preparation and planning was great my pit crew was perfect. They never missed a beat so I never had to worry about anything but pedaling a bike. A massive thanks boys, massive.
The A Team
Now I am just going to bask in the success of the weekend for a while. I have a few plans for another race later in the year and I just have to work out how to get my pit crew to Victoria with me....... Hmm, I wonder.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Final thoughts of a 24 hour punter.

I had a massive post drafted and ready to upload with heaps of filler about the last couple of weeks riding and preparation but in the end I thought, "Screw it, I am much more succinct than all that." So in a nutshell here it is.
This my fourth 24 hour race and my third solo. I've prepared pretty well physically, although as always for a punter racer like me you could have done more. I've got no excuses in that I have been healthy and had no major injuries so far this year. Above all else though I am looking forward to racing for 24 hours. Before you say it, yes I am a bit crazy because you have to be. I like the challenge so lets leave it at that. I feel better prepared mentally and emotionally to ride for 24 hours than I ever have before and I am actually relishing the thought of getting out there and proving something to myself.
Last year this course beat the snot out of me. No other way to put it. I missed a qualification for the worlds and lost all motivation to ride for quite a while. That problem is long gone now and I am enjoying riding more than I have for ages. I won't set land speed records or be up with the big boys but I will be consistent, and have a sense of humour the whole way through. If I can do that I will be one happy camper.
So come Saturday I'll be on the bike from midday with the intention of not getting off for any length of time until midday Sunday. With a lot of help from Marcel and Spencer, my fantastic pit crew, I'll get it done and have a cool story to tell you all about. Should make for some interesting reading. Lets be honest, my worst day on a bike is still better than my best day at work.......

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A little of this, a little of that, and a lot to be thankful for.

I haven't managed to get back to my blog for a little while now. Life has been pretty fast paced and when I did have time I was too busy enjoying time with my family to bother. We have just returned from a week in Tully, North Queensland visiting my parents. Unless you have been living under a rock or are from another country you will be aware that on the 5th of February this year Tully (more so the surrounding region) was hit by a Category 5 cyclone. Winds were estimated to have reached 300km/hour and the results are still everywhere to be seen. In true NQ style though the locals are bearing up and are still as laconic and friendly as ever. It shocked me though. I grew up in the area, I lived through cyclones, but this was very different.
Having the boys there really made my parents happy. The boys put on a good show too with heaps of cuddles for them and plenty of hilarious moments along the way. We made the most of the time with some activities that made my childhood happy and adventurous and the smiles and laughter from all of us showed the success of the trip. We swam in the creek at the back of mum and dads place, we went to my favourite beach in the whole world and we even got to the outer reef for a snorkeling trip. I won't go into all of the details but some snippets really must be mentioned. First is my favourite beach. Etty Bay. I spent hours there as a kid and all the reasons I loved it have become the same reasons Alison, Jack and Rohan love it too. we spent hours searching the rock pools for fish and crabs, swimming in the sea and of course eating fish and chips from the kiosk.
Jack contemplates whether it should be icecream or lemonade.
Rock pool adventurers
Rohan just kept smiling for a whole week.
The next adventure worth more detail was the reef trip. A whole day out on the outer reef of snorkeling sounded great but we had some concerns as Rohan is only six. We should not have been worried as he was ready to give it a go as soon as the boat stopped and when the first thing he saw once in the water was a green sea turtle the day was set. We saw so many fish, huge clams and starfish it got to be too much. Rohan and I swam through a huge cloud of small blue fish and got to see an eagle ray gliding over the bottom but all he wanted to see was a reef shark. The tour operators went to great lengths to assure everyone they were harmless and after that it was all he wanted. Alison had taken him for a while so I could dive down a bit and explore and just after they left I turned around to swim off and there, not ten feet away was a white tipped reef shark. Bummer, he missed it. It was OK though. The boys are both still talking about the day.
We are home now. I feel blessed to have shared more quality time with the family and lived every moment of it. Easter came and went with barely a whimper but again the time with family was the focus. Alison and I had a chance to kick back a little and let the grand parents spoil the kids so everyone was happy. I have had time to reflect on how lucky I am to be where I am now and be thankful for all the help and wonderful support that has been given to me and my family along the way. This time of the year is always a time for reflection for me. So much has happened, good and bad, all falling around this time of year.
Eight years ago today began 5 weeks of torture for Jack, Alison and myself. Jack was admitted to hospital with a lump under his right jaw line. It later turned out to be Neuro Blastoma, a malignant and aggressive type of tumour common in young kids. He under went too many procedures to mention and was then put through regular tests and check ups for another 3 years. Seven years on and he was given the all clear and is now the happy, bright kid I love and cherish.
I stopped being reliant on medication to deal with my anxiety and stress issues. After two years I learnt to deal with the demons and got off the pills and have remained so. It would not have been possible without my friends and family and all the love and support I received during "The War". I still keep my little "check up, from the neck up" going, and I still make sure my feet are firmly planted on the ground but now it's more as a precaution than a way of life.
So now I am just going to cuddle my kids too much, kiss my wife until she gets annoyed and generally keep a stupid grin on my face for a while. Thankful doesn't even come close.
Life isn't always perfect, but to be living life, sharing life and loving life is perfect enough for me.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Enduro Super Series 2, 6 Hours of Mud.

So as far as race reports go it is really pretty straight forward. I showed up, I started riding, I rode for 6 hours and then I stopped riding. There was no real drama or close finishes to write about and my bike ran well with only a couple of small issues that were more than to be expected given the mud. Oh, did I mention the mud?
While there hadn't been too much rain, the soil was soaked and as 200 sets of wheels went over it, well it turned to more of a liquid than a solid. There was about a 300 meter section that became unrideable by my forth lap and seriously no fun for most of the day. After lap 9 I was stopping each time I passed the lake to give my bike a wash and clear the mud off the tyres. At least that dropped a couple of kilos after the mud section!
The bit that is writing about, at least from my point of view, is that I didn't pull the pin at 4 hours like I thought I wanted to. My day wasn't going well with my head in a particularly ordinary state and the mud and crappy conditions only added to that feeling. I struggled with a slow start as I got caught behind a lot of traffic due to a mass start and a very tiny start area. Imagine trying to fit a whole football match on a field the size of your living room. That about sums it up. anyway I got through to 4 hours and having thought I had done only about 6 laps I was fried in the head. A cold beer and a burger were all I wanted to think about by then and as I pulled into the start finish line I asked how many laps I had done just to be sure. To my surprise I was told I had done 8 laps! That was a surprise. Spencer had come out with me and had decided he had more than had his fill of mud and was sitting in the tent chatting to some people. As I came around he just said "Don't stop, just keep going." So I grabbed a gel or two, changed bottles and took off again. Once I had realised that I wasn't going to quit today, things got heaps better. Someone once said to me it is only as hard as you want to make it. I started the day telling myself how hard and crappy it was. I finished the day saying I was glad I hadn't quit and that I had a good day. Attitude people, attitude.
The upshot, 12 laps and a 6th place finish. I was still 3 whole laps behind the winner but there was a matter of minutes between me and 4th place. I am really stoked with the result and it has provided me with some more motivation to train a bit harder. My next race is a 24 hour race in 5 weeks and while the training hasn't been spectacular or even very consistent it is working slowly. My mental toughness is holding firm and I reckon if the race is dry I am a chance of a good result. Top five would be ace. Lets see what happens shall we.


Monday, March 28, 2011

Up down across up down.

My biggest mistake on Sunday was saying to Nick earlier in the week that I thought it was time I put a bit of hurt on myself for the next couple of rides. Now although he says things like "I don't feel great" or "We'll just take it easy" or that crowd favourite "It's just a cruisey ride" I pretty much know that each time we go out he somehow tricks me into going harder than I thought I would. I'm a stooge! This time I employed the technique of reverse psychology in an attempt to trick him into going easy on me. The result? 60 kilometers, 2000m of climbing and about 150 gels to get through it.
I do make this sound unpleasant don't I? The truth is it was a great ride. The plan changed a bit along the way, the hills got a bit longer and steeper but all in all I had a top day riding around with a top bloke. We started out with the climb over Camp Mountain the short way. It's a climb that has consistant pinches of over 20% gradient and goes for about 2.2km. It has also suffered pretty badly with the rains here and is broken up and loose most of the way. Nick sat just behind me and we chatted for most of the climb. Occasionally I had to stop talking and concentrate my energies on making the particular section and then get my breath and only be able to speak in short bursts. I employed the Dale Garvey method for this climb. Don't look up, just keep pedalling and don't give up. I was even surprised when the summit appeared and although I had worked hard to clean the climb I never felt like I wasn't going to make it. I do have to admit to taking a really long time to warm up though. I reckon Nick must have heard enough of me whining to last a life time in the first part of the ride. Sorry mate.
Before long we were ripping down the tarmac to start the short haul up Nebo Road and the start of Scrub Road. I still wasn't feeling great or even normal. Dr Nick prescribed a caffeine gel as I admitted to no coffee before leaving on the ride. Half way up the climb on Scrub Road it hit me like a train! Legs felt better, head felt better, now I actually feel like riding. Alright! So up past the shelter on South Boundary and turn left towards Creek Road. The descent down to the valley floor was awesome with the usual double track four wheel drive trails reduced to a single file ribbon of dirt. It was tacky, red and swept clean of the gravel that makes the surface slippery and treacherous usually.
At the turn off to Augies Nick suggested we go further down to the very base of Creek Road and take Lightline Road back up to Nebo Village. The vallet floor had 9 creek crossings. It was beautiful to see the creek flowing clear and deep and it was pretty hard to not stop, break out a bar and have an impromptu picnic there and then.
About crossing number 6.
 Lightline is about a 12km climb with a section about 8km to start with and then a short respite before the final 4km grind to the top. It has been somewhat of a favourite of mine since the first time I made it to the top without stopping a couple of years ago. There were heaps of walkers out training for the Oxfam 100km walk. an old riding buddy of Nicks was amongst them and we stopped for a chat and a bite to eat. A pair of horse riders further up were very appreciative when Nick and I pulled over to let them pass on a steep hill. We really didn't want to spook the horses. As they passed us they stopped and asked where we had come from and told us of the conditions on Branch Creek Road where they had come from. Up we go now with the smell of coffee starting to invade my senses. it was like a ghost, just there and yet not quite. I was stoked to cross the gate at the top of the climb and hit the short tarmac traverse into Nebo Village and Boombana Cafe.
Coffee Nick style ensued. Long black, milk on the side and a panini with leg ham, swiss cheese  and tomato with just a smear of dijon mustard. Heaven. On. Earth. We stayed heaps longer than we should have but the conversation was easy and the surrounds perfect. It's always times like that where the best planning for epic rides happens. Nick and I have a couple of crackers planned now.....

Refueling and planning. Oh, and a little sponsor placement!

Unfortunately I had a time constraint on the morning and it was fast running out. A combination of the longer route to the top and the slower traverse across the valley floor had left me tight for time to get back home and meet my familial obligations. The tough decision was made to stomp back down the bitumen to Camp Mountain and then take the steep, brutal and boring climb over the summit and take the short track back down to the start point for the ride. I was sad to cut it short as we were travelling well and could have pumped out a reasonably epic ride. Nick was happy enough to oblige me and not make me feel guilty about the shortening of the ride. It was still a really satisfying ride and has left me wanting to get out that way again soon. I think that this winter is going to hold some truly epic endeavours and I can't wait to get into them.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Mount Coot-tha Challenge.

So what else do you do on a rainy Sunday morning after throwing up for two hours the night before? The answer is ride 110km with some friends and have a to day!
I was shady when I got up. I had a wedding the night before and was careful not to drink too much. I ate heartily but not to excess but boy did I feel crook about midnight. So two hours of fun ensued and well, I was not happy.
In the last few months I have pulled the pin on quite a few rides with Nick. As he and Annick, his wife, were my riding partners for the day I knew if I bailed out from this ride and wasn't dead or missing a limb there would be merciless ragging. I got out of bed and struggled through the last of my preparations and rode over to the meeting spot, losing my breakfast along the way. Not looking good. Of course Nick coaxed me into cruising into the start line with the words"If you still feel crappy you can sit at the finish line and have a coffee while we ride." Yeah, I can see that working. Might even be fun. I got to the line and felt a whole lot better!
 I didn't think I could eat anything so I drank sparingly of my energy drink and water and vowed to take it easy and just cruise along. The plan worked great as we rolled off the start and through the city streets. The first fun bit came when we got to ride through the Clem 7 tunnel. It is usually off limits to cyclists and has a long steady descent to the bottom of the tunnel where you can really crank it out. There were a few pace lines forming and I got on one or two and even made a couple of my own. It was cool to fly down the tunnel and then start the long steady climb back out into the rain. Did I mention it rained all day?
After that it was over to the hill for the timed ascent. I had no illusions about a good time as I am a reasonable climber at best. I managed a 11:06 while Nick nailed it in 8:35. He got second in his category! All this and he was complaining of not feeling great before the climb. Just to put my effort into perspective the overall winner did  the climb in about 6:30. He could have done it twice in my time...... Once we were at the top it was awesome. There was mist! We never get mist here. The top of the hill was shrouded in cloud and you seriously could not see the other riders 50 meters in front of you. It felt like I was riding in the Swiss Alps or some other mist shrouded and exotic place. Cool.
Down the other side. It was really frustrating that everyone was on the brakes heaps. I hate that. It is much more dangerous trying to keep the speed down so much that you loose the rear wheel all the time. If you just ride through the corners and use the brakes sparingly the traction is much better. Oh well, I passed a lot of people. I also went really fast!
So there we were. Annick, Nick and I had all met up again and we were rolling along chatting and generally having a nice time. We met up with two other riders we knew in Troy and Tony at the first feed station and enjoyed some fruit and Winners Bars while chatting. The five of us set out from there and had a great ride swapping the front and trucking along at a very respectable pace. Troy has done some amazing rides around the area and is really into Audax style events and he and I chatted about some plans I have been formulating for a while. He is strong too. He held us no problems on his touring bike with mud guards and racks fitted. Tony is a laugh and we kept the banter going for ever. We just kept on trucking. With the ride over to the start and back it was about 110km.
We crossed the finish line, we had a coffee. It really wasn't much more than that. It was the company and the vibe that made it awesome. We were able to chat for the whole ride. Sure we all had a punt on the timed climb but even at the top we regrouped and rode along together again. Nice. There could only be one way to top off a perfect ride and that was with gourmet hamburgers at Nick and Annicks with my wifes lime syrup cake for desert with macadamia honey ice cream. The cup of Zambian single origin coffee, well there aren't words.
Not bad for a guy with a dodgy stomach.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Some shots from the Super Series 4 Hour. Check out the mud. It's really just proof that I do ride my bike sometimes and not spend all my time blogging and sitting around.

Rider briefing.
This carnage was after just lap one. I did fall off but hey, you get the idea.
The go fast berms. I loved this bit. The mud started just after though.
Spencer. Game face on.
Me still cackling maniacally
How's my form?
Yeah, almost over it. Almost.
Massive thanks to my wife for not chucking me out of the house when I brought my riding clothes home! Love you darling!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Classic Nebo, classic mates.

I got a real treat on Sunday. It's a little run from Gap Creek up South Boundary Road to the Boombana Cafe for a coffee and muffin. It's the same ride I have done many times and it always makes me smile when I think about it. The difference was I got to do it with soem really ace people. I've ridden alone alot lately and while I enjoy that, the social part of this ride was the highlight. I also got to ride with some quite inspirational people.
It was a big group, 12 in total. The usual suspects, Nick, Pete, Meg, and Gaz and then there was John, Rob, Bruce, Brad, Hal, Ross and Tim. Now Nick, Pete, Brad, Gaz and myself are all over 40, Tim and Hal I think are in their thirties, Ross in his late twenties and the rest were all over 50. If anyone is thinking that this meant the pace would be slow they could not be more wrong. Right from when we set off to do a bit of single track to start the ride it was on like Donkey Kong. Man they were pushing it. We blasted out of Death Adder to start the first part of the climb up South Boundary and I thought my lungs were going to jump out of my throat. I had John breathing down my neck the whole way through the single track and it was only when I cleaned a tricky little pinch obstacle that I got away. He blew it.
The best was yet to come though. The climb up South Boundary started and the pace settled a bit for the first hill or two. We hit a long fast descent and I let it go and flew through overtaking a couple of the bunch as I went and started the grind up a long incline relaxed and feeling pretty good. That's when the train hit me. Three guys, all over 50, in a pace line up a 14% gradient. Wow. I tried to grab on and managed to cling by a thread sticking out of my gloves to the back of the line. What's even worse is they were goading each other on! "C'mon JT what are ya doin'?! Pick it up a bit. It's not an afternoon in the country!" No JT, don't. Just stay where you are. Please god no. Ahhhh! Sorry, that bit was me.
Now it is about 25km to the cafe up South Boundary and this kept up all the way. I might get past a couple of them on the descent and then it was grind and groan to try and stay with them. There were a couple of short stops to regroup and let the back markers catch up. The group was pretty evenly matched so these were short, and Bruce made sure they were. "C'mon, lets go. I'm cooling down here." Apparently Bruce is 60. I don't believe it.
Finally it was time for a coffee. Sitting there and thinking how lucky I am to do what I do, I thought also of how lucky I am that I can continue to do it for a long time yet. Bikes are good. We all shot the breeze and enjoyed a very lively conversation about bikes and life. Very nice.
Time for a leisurely cruise back down the hill. Well it was leisurely if you call smashing every climb and then sprinting on the descents  as hard as possible leisurely. There is 890m of climbing to the top of Mt Nebo from Gap Creek in 25km. There is also 500m of climbing on the way "down". Not bad hey. It wasn't until the very last bit of single track that the legs fell off the old boys. I got to run riot over them and even managed to catch up with Nick and Ross. We cruised back along the last of the single track and down to Gap Creek and the cars.
So there we were, 50+km with over 1300m of climbing and an average of over 18km/h. Damn those old boys were fast! I am trying to be that fast now consistently. Great to think I could still be that fast in 15 to 20 years time. When I think of it I smile, a lot.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Oh yeah!

Some where along the lines I got an extra place. I made the top ten! Well in my old fart category anyway. I am well pleased with this as my training has consisted of sitting at my desk working or drinking beer. Lets see what happens when I put a bit of effort in shall we. Still no photos though, sorry.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The 4 hour facial.

No it isn't some kind of crazy beauty treatment. It was the first race in the Super Series here in Queensland. It's run by Tailwind Promotions and is new for this year. There are a 4 hour, 6 hour, 24 hour and an 8 hour race in that order all about 5 weeks apart. Nice idea, lots of racing.
I'll get the praise for the event out of the way now so I can get down to tin tacks in the race report. It was a well run event on a great course with a really good vibe. There was a lot of mud. A lot of mud. Even with all the mud it was a top day and a real challenge. The post race burgers were a highlight too!
Spencer had decided to do the race as well. He was even more under done than I was but it was a fun course and we were with fun people. We caught up with each other a couple of times and even lapped for a while together. It's great to shoot the breeze and take the mick out of each other while passing quite a few riders. It's also cool to have someone to have a coffee with on the way out to the race and a coldie on the way home with.
Right, to the pain and suffering. I got a good start although there was a lot of traffic and basically once we hit the first bottleneck it all turned to poo. Down through the first section of course looked really promising with fast corners and tacky dirt. Unfortunately once you were through that it turned into the first of the mud sections. It went on with little let up for about 2 kilometers and included a climb up a fire road that became the equivalent of having teeth pulled without anesthetic. I had little or no traction and it culminated in a spectacular 180 degree spin where I didn't even have time to unclip or put a hand out. One second the bike was tracking along nicely and then it started to let go and suddenly I was in the mud, fully clipped in and facing the wrong way back down the trail. No damage was done and all I could do was cackle maniacally as all the people I had passed so far rode through. That pretty much set the mood for the rest of the day. I was going to try my butt off to do well but was fully prepared to have fun and laugh my way through the race. What else can you do when half the time your bike is going where it wants and not where you point it?
I knocked out a couple of reasonably quick laps for the next two laps and all was cruising along fine. The mud was pretty sapping though and I didn't really factor that in too well to my race plan. More on that later though. As I came through the last of the mud sections on lap 4 I heard a strange noise that was like having a leaf of small stick caught somewhere in the drivetrain. As it turns out I had a slash in my rear tyre that was bleeding air for a minute or two until the sealant kicked in and after that it was smooth sailing again. I had felt a bit squirrelly in a couple of the fast descents and only realised I had a problem when another rider commented on how low my rear tyre looked. I have been well impressed with the Maxxis Aspen tyres and the Caffe Latex tubeless sealant I use. This is the first flat I have had in 10 months. Not bad.
Lap 5 probably cost me my goal of a top ten in my category. I had some shocking stomach cramps brought on by too much carb in my bottles. It came on fast and doubled me up on the side of the trail in a matter of minutes. I got off and tried to walk to complete the lap but found it getting worse. I decided to do the only thing I thought may sort me out and headed off into the bush and empty my stomach. After nearly 20 minutes of suffering and hurling my guts out I felt much better. I got back on the bike and finished the lap with just 5 minutes left on the clock. There was a lot of back slapping and "well dones" going around but I soon put the brakes on that! If I start the lap before the 4 hours elapses it counts. I wanted the 6 laps as my goal and the mud had made that a much bigger challenge than I first thought it would be. Suddenly I had bottles being changed, the bike getting a spray to clear the drivetrain and gels being slipped in my jersey pocket. A slap on the arse from some "helper" and I was off for my last lap. It's a good feeling even though it was close to the time limit to head back out on the track and know that you couldn't have given more than what you are doing right now. I chatted to a couple of riders on the last lap but still pushed a little up each of the hills. I was flat by then with the stomach emptying of the previous lap really stamping it's mark and no gel was going to dig me out of the hole I had dug through my own lack of understanding. It wasn't going to get me down though as with little training I had gotten to my goal in some less than ideal conditions. I love a tough race as it sorts out who really wants to be there. I slid, I ground, I groaned. But I got there.
I was stoked when I crossed the line. I gained what I consider high praise from Nick, he said it was gutsy. That will do for now. Stay tuned for race two. The game face is on! A big thanks to the rocking sponsors I have in Cyc'd for Bikes and of course the boys at Giant for the race van, the tent and all the other cool stuff. Cheers lads!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Everything in it's right place.

Today promised to be hot. 33 degrees Celsius, 91 Fahrenheit. I planned to get away early and Spencer was meeting me at my place for a punt at about 50km in the hills. Unfortunately after a rough night Spencer had to pull the pin and I was on my own. I left a little late and had plans to pull the distance in a bit and maybe just avoid the heat. It sort of worked....
Over Camp Mountain the short way. What a misleading statement. It's 1.2km (or there abouts) at between 17 and 23% gradient. Add the fact that we have had the wettest summer since 1974, including floods that devastated a huge part of the city, and the erosion that has caused huge ruts to form and head sized boulders to litter the trail and it gets quite tricky to clear the climb without getting off. I zoned out, turned the pedals and listened to my MP3 player. Grind, grind grind.  am always glad to reach the top of this climb. It is never a given that I'll make it without stopping. There was a bit of tarmac from there over to the next climb.
Scrub Road. One of my favourite trails as it starts with a descent into a quiet gully lined with huge trees and rainforest vegetation. Today was more exciting though as again the rain had taken a toll and the bottom of the descent was gone. It turned into a massive landslide followed by rut that was large enough to eat a bike and rider if you lost concentration. I managed to get through it and start the climb out to South Boundary Road and what had been planned to be my half way point. My MP3 and the Scrub Road climb had other ideas though.
Lucky I missed this one.

Sometimes it just clicks. A beautiful area, a song that starts at the perfect time, and the head space to hear it and know it is a sign. Radiohead, "Everything in it's Right Place". I was in my right place. On my bike, climbing a hill in a most beautiful place with my thoughts and my breathing for company. When I say the song started at the right time I mean it was in the perfect millisecond to make it's presence felt. I had felt OK until then but not "inspired". Here I was though out in the bush pushing my body to make the climbs, rail the descents and just be me. I was smiling on the inside so hard I reckon you could see the light from space. It got Zen from there.
Plugging up the hill, reggae blaring and past the half way point. No stops and then down South Boundary to Gap Creek. It all just rolled along. There was a brief chat to 3 guys heading in the same direction which was a chance to cool off a bit and just be sociable. Heck, if you can't enjoy what you're doing whats the point?  I raced through some single track in Gap Creek and stopped just long enough to eat a bar and fill up a bottle. Now the only decision was which way home? I could go via the road for the shortest most direct route but that just seemed to go against the flow for the day. It was hot, but I had plenty of water and was feeling pretty strong. Nah, up the hill it is and over Centre Road. There is a great waterhole at he bottom of the descent down Centre. I have even heard that there may be platypus living in the creek.
Cantre Road waterhole

It's always a wake up call for the first 300m of the climb as it hits 25% and is loose as a goose. No problem, I have the groove on. It's funny what you think about as the pedals turn and my mind wanders. I had a few thoughts of a coffee on the way home, then it was the movie I watched last night and finally it was the surprise as the gate loomed at the end of the climb.
Two climbs to go and neither of them particularly taxing. The batteries had run flat on my MP3 but it didn't matter. I had heaps of tunes to sing and all the company I needed. I just kept pedaling, and smiling! By the time I had made it down the hill for the last time it was hot. Nearing midday the temperature has supposedly hit 33 degrees and my water was low. Once I hit home I just sat under the hose on a chair and let it cool me down. Man. it was good.
I lived in my own head for 5 hours and loved it. My legs are dead, I feel cooked and god it's the best feeling ever.