Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Vanishing Point - Mallee Routes Part 2

As most of you know I started out on a 400k ride in the Mallee on my own at 2am on the weekend.  the reasons for this madness were many but included the desire to get home in time to spend a little time with my family on the weekend and wanting to beat the wind a little.  The latter didn't quite come off but I did get to ride for a hundred and twenty odd k's on a beautiful cold, clear, windless night with an almost full moon on near perfect roads.  I saw 1 car in that time.
As the sun came up and started to thaw me out, I rode through dozens of kilometers through beautiful patchworks of green and gold where the canola and wheat criss-crossed the countryside.  Alas the appearance is terribly misleading as many of the crops are stunted and already beginning to dry out.  In places there are farmers already cutting their losses by cutting the immature crop for hay. 

None the less, this is beautiful country.  There's a harshness and a brokenness in the nature of the land here which is intrinsically Australian.  It's barren, twiggy, prickly, hot and bare.  It's the kind of country where you'll never find somewhere comfortable to sit down.  It's a beauty which seeps into your soul rather than leaping out and grabbing you.  There can't be a better way to get close to it than riding you bike through it.


Monday, 22 September 2008

Mallee Routes 400 - Part 1

I've been remiss in not writing about my ride sooner.  It's always easier with the pain fresh in your mind.  As it turned out the worst scenario cam to pass.  I had rip-roaring head winds on the flat, open, unprotected road and I made it.  The wind was really bad and I just plugged into it.  To make matters worse, I hardly had any tailwind at all.  Still, I made it.

In the end, my time was a respectable 18:30 for 410km.  That said, I'm pretty sure I could have done under 16hrs without the wind.  I just pedalled softly, tried to keep my cadence in the mid 80's and my heart-rate in the mid 130's and let everything else fall where it may.  I do remeber one stretch where I was really struggling to do 16kph into the wind and my heart rate kept climbing into the 160's.  Ooouch.  

My friend Steve spoke the truth when talking to me about this ride afterwards.  I was riding my bike, a thing I love and no wind could mess that up.  I really did just smile all the more, every time it hurt.  I'll write a lot more about this ride as soon as I can make time to do it some justice.


Friday, 19 September 2008


I've been pretty quiet this week. That's because I'm shitting myself. Right now I'm sitting in my motel room in Hopetoun listening to the roar of the wind. Early tomorrow morning, I'm setting off to ride 400km. On my own. No other riders, no support, no sag wagon, nothing. It's unfamiliar territory and I'm really not sure where I'm going to find shops open or anything at all.

What a dumb bastard.

The terrain is almost entirely flat, with no roadside protection, no hills to change the pressure and at least 100km between turns in the road. On the way up here tonight I passed through a couple of serious dust storms. The wind is savage.

I know I can do this. No matter how hard the wind blows, no matter how slow I go. I can do 400k inside 27:30. It's all a mental game. Whether it's good for the soul or just self abuse is the $64,000 question. Time to HTFU. I'm heading off at 2am.


Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Life? Don't Talk To Me About Life.

Some days it just seems too much. My ride running career is going wild. I've got spread-sheets coming out of my ying-yang. I've got lists of stuff I need to buy and take up to the Mallee a mile long. I've figured that I need to hire a large truck to carry all the food I'm taking. I've got people changing their accommodation and hoteliers who can't count.

Add to this that I'm going up to Hopetoun this weekend to do 400km, undertake reconnaissance and sort out all the booking and I'm going nuts. Now I've got an unavoidable work commitment tomorrow night as well. This week just isn't long enough. Arrgghh.

It's just lucky I've got the bike. This morning I smashed my legs into oblivion on the trainer in the shed of pain, and tonight I did a really intense Pilates class. That helped to take my mind off things a bit at any rate.

I'm trying hard to focus on my 400. It should be a very Zen time. I've never done that far before entirely on my own. I'm feeling a little intimidated by the flat open roads and what it's going to be like if I get the kind of winds we've had the last few weeks. I'm just trying to draw energy from the knowledge that I can do the distance physically. The mental stuff will just have to work itself out on the road. At least I'll have plenty of time to think.


Monday, 15 September 2008

Knights of Sidonia?

Yesterday, I rode the Audax Green & Gold Challenge. This charming ride does two loops through the gently undulating hills between Kyneton and Baynton. By and large the day was dry and we had a good sized group turn up. Sounds great so far, right?

First problem: I've been out partying until 3am and I've now got the hangover from hell. On 3 hours of sleep, I've dragged my sorry arse to the start still wearing makeup and with my nails painted black. Great look for an Audax rider. My head hurts so much, I forget how much I need to throw up.

Second problem: The wind is blowing at about a gazillion kph. It's so windy that it's almost impossible to ride in any kind of organised group because it's just too dangerous. Gusts of wind can easily knock me half a metre sideways without warning and when descending at speed, it's vital to use the entire lane. In many cases on this ride one lane is the whole road.

As well as being windy to ride in, the noise is so great that it's impossible to talk with others right along side. Being one to always look for the silver lining, I note that after a while it's hard to tell whether or not my head still hurts or it's just the roaring wind in my helmet. The worst part is that every time I push up a hill my stomach threatens to release the contents vouchsafed to it.

My heart skips a beat as we come to the thriving metropolis of Sidonia, a town which consists entirely of the sign above.

Come ride with me,
Through the veins of history,
I'll show you how god,
Falls asleep on the job.

And how can we win,
When fools can be kings,
Don't waste your time,
Or time will waste you.

Until now I always thought this song was a cute bit of fun. At least I could remember the la, la, la part.

This wasn't the best ride I've ever done. Thanks to some moral support from George, we managed to knock over the ride in around 4 hours 20 after which I went home to panadiene and bed in that order. I'm never dancing again. It gives me a headache, though I'm told it leads to fornication... See, always looking for the silver lining.


Thursday, 11 September 2008


Today seemed like a good day to play it cool. A lovely, slightly warmer morning with absolutely no wind and the sun starting to rise earlier. I'm a bit tired and still getting over the neck and a bit of a cold. After 10km I'm making good if not spectacular time and it's seeming too easy. As I cross the divide I hear a breeze in the trees at the top of Pretty Sally Hill. Within 5km I've got a strong breeze at my back.

I knock out the next 15km with 5k splits of 6:28, 6:22 and 5:57. That's around 50kph. I get to work way early and wonder why I would hurry to get to work??? With the extra time, I take a really good long hot shower and shave my legs. Whoo hoo! It doesn't get much better than using someone else's hot water to shave your legs. After that and a really nice cup of coffee I've still got half an hour to kill.

The ride home was a different beast altogether. A 30-40kph headwind until the divide and not much from there on. In fact I did better than 30kph from the top of the hill to home which isn't too shabby with a head wind.

Now I'm knackered and I've eaten half my own body weight in pasta. My stomach is still hurting from last night's Pilates and I'm thinking about what I'll do on the trainer tomorrow. It only hurts when I stop.


Wednesday, 10 September 2008

On the Sunny Side of the Street

Today either it was the first sign of the start of summer or the Large Hadron Collider has sucked us all into an alternate universe. Tonight at Pilates we had no heating and I was dressed in shorts and singlet. I think it was up to 8 degrees! Seriously, we had sun, no wind to speak of and it was just a beautiful day.

I smashed my legs again on the trainer this morning in below zero temperature but this time I was prepared. I took a towel to mop up the sweat and wore a head band to keep it out of my eyes. I'll give it a few more mornings of hard and steady before I start getting serious and doing intervals. Just get the bucket ready.

My neck and back are slowly getting back to normal. Just looking after my back and taking it bit by bit seems to be paying off. With a bit of luck I'll be back in top form in a couple of weeks.

I'm back on the bitumen tomorrow so you can bet it'll be urinating down.


Tuesday, 9 September 2008

The House of Pain

I had my first serious ride on my new trainer and the harnessed Nancy MkI in my shed this morning. At shortly after 5am I rode into the 4 degree morning. I thought I'd do an easy start. I knocked out a 5 minute warm-up at around 120bpm on the heart rate monitor, 35 flat out (160+) and a 5 minute warm-down. I can't believe that 35 minutes could be so hard.

By the last ten minutes of the 35 I was really hurting. On the road, I can ride at that output for hours. I suppose that on the road there are some let-ups even when climbing. This is just relentless. To make matters worse I had the TV set to some dreadful early morning American "news" program and couldn't find the remote.

My main reason for getting on the trainer is to do some exercise on the days I can't ride to work without resorting to running. The plan is to aid in my weight loss, which hasn't been going anywhere lately.

By the time I finished, I was down to knicks and a singlet top and drenched in sweat. My legs were really hurting and I knew I'd been through the ringer.

I guess I could get to enjoy this after all.


Monday, 8 September 2008

Back to the Grind

After a my first weekend in ages with absolutely no cycling, I found it hard to get on the bike to go to work this morning. It was really chilly, drissly and I was into a ripper head wind. I still knocked over the 50k in less that1:50 but it was a struggle all the way. I tried every trick in the book but being wet and cold is hard to sing ones way out of.

My Fathers' day weekend consisted of lots of home projects, welding (badly) and seeing my youngest boy Joseph get out on his motorbike. He's been avoiding it for a couple of years but finally got out on it yesterday. He quickly got his courage up to the point of crashing at 60kph in the paddock. Straight back on to try it again. I only wish I could still bounce back like that.

My other big news is the arrival of the Fathers' Day present. A magnetic trainer. I've got Nancy MkI all set up on it in the shed and ready to go. I'll be out there at 5am tomorrow to see what's on TV at that hour or listen to a bit of music turned up too loud. It should be as much fun as eating my own body weight in stale muesli without milk.

After my hard ride to work, I had a ripper on the way home. I got away on time and romped home with a lovely tail wind. As a result I had enough daylight to read my bike computer until the last two km home. I also had a great run with courteous drivers, with people repeatedly waiting to ensure it was safe before overtaking/pulling out/turning left. I made sure to give them all a big wave in acknowledgement of their good driving. It's easy to turn a hard day into a nice one. Turn around and ride in the other direction.


Friday, 5 September 2008

It Can't Last Forever

I've been having a good run lately. Too good. I've been really looking forward to the "Spring into Seymour" ride this weekend but it's not to be. A million tons of work, firewood, gardening, Fathers' Day and the fact that I just need a little rest have all conspired to knock it on the head.

I've had two really big projects go live this week. The second one rapidly turning into a disaster. My blood pressure must be about a gazzillion over a bit less. Anyway, it's time for a little rest. I think I'll just do a bit of recreational welding with the kids on the weekend. I wonder what kind of bike frame I can make out of 20mm angle?

Hopefully I won't go mental over a weekend without a big ride.


Thursday, 4 September 2008

A Day of Curiousness

What a weird day on a bike. Today was a beautiful spring day on a bike. Clear, crisp, sunny and still. I had a great ride, got rained on, was breathalized at a booze bus, got an even better torrent of abuse than usual and beat the traffic on the Hume Freeway home by half and hour.

This morning I left home under clear skies and just enjoyed pedalling off into the dry chilly blackness. About 10km from home the heavens just opened and it rained heavily for around 5km. It was the only sign of the likelihood of rain for the whole day. I had, of course, left my jacket at home and got very wet. Fortunately I had pretty well dried out by the time I got to work.

After a day of battling personfully with the evil MicroFlacid, I pedalled of home into a lovely evening. Only 3k from work the traffic on the Hume stopped. I whizzed up the shoulder at around 40kph past a 5km line of stationary cars. The abuse was amazing. I never even thought of yelling at them when they hurtle past me at 110. I even had the couple of obligatory nitwits who felt the need to move over and block the shoulder as I approached. On each occasion they had to move right up the the car in front in order to do this, making it easy for me to go around them on the other side with no way for them to move back and block me again.

It turned out that there was a late concrete pour on the foundations for the new overpass at Donnybrook and they had to completely stop the traffic to manouvre the trucks in and out. The abuse at the workers was equally brilliant.

From there I had a great run with only a trickle of traffic coming by. When I was nearly home I came across a booze bus stopping all traffic in both directions. I was nearly going to coast through when the copper called out, "Oi, you too!". They had a great time joking about drink cycling. Of course, I'd never do such a thing. That would be stupid.

I got home to find that my son's friend was waiting to be picked up by his mother. She finally arrived 40 minutes later to tell us that she'd been held up at the toad works and had seen me pedal by. That's one for the record books. I beat a car over 50km on 110kph roads by 40 minutes. I must be getting faster.


Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Coming Good

Today really felt like Spring and my neck is slowly starting to come good.  I'm doing lots of relaxation exercises and rubbing horse liniment into it a couple of times a day.

Yes, horse liniment.  The stuff I use is called Rapigel.  It's marked clearly 'for animal treatment only' but it really works.  It's got a huge following among us country folk.  The important thing to note is that it has a nil meat withholding period so it'll be ok to eat my carcass if we're stranded somewhere on the GSR.  Mind you, I'd be pretty stringy.

The cold is clearing slowly to and I'll be fighting fit before I know it.  It only seems to take a long time to get over these things at the time.  Every day I don't ride or need to take it a bit easy seems like a million years.  I'm off to bed to get a bit more recuperation under my belt.

See you on the road.


Tuesday, 2 September 2008

The Joy of Riding - II

Tonight I was thinking about how hard riding is right now. I'm not so well, busy as hell and the weather hasn't been great.

I had a call from my mate Steve who's been off the bike with illness for quite a few weeks. It was great just to hear him wax lyrical about how good it had been to spend half an hour on the wind trainer today. It made me realise just how lucky I am to have been able to ride as much as I have. How good it is to get out there with the wind in my hair and push those pedals round.

I just want to carry that feeling with me like a talisman. Every time I get cold, tired and wet. Every time some dick feels I need to be yelled at or scared with their big impressive car. Every time it just seems so hard to get out of bed.

I own that feeling. It's the reason to get cold, tired, wet, abused, scared and tired.

I want to ride my bicycle
I want to ride my bike
I want to ride my bicycle
I want to ride it where I like


Monday, 1 September 2008

It's Spring!

I know in some countries Spring doesn't start until the solstice but here in Oz we start today on 1 September. All in all it wasn't a bad start but I could have done a fair bit better with it. I did ride home with bare legs and fingerless mitts though.

The ride to work was pretty easy with a bit of thick fog on the divide as I crossed Mt Pretty Sally but I had a gentle breeze at my back, no rain and it was light by the time I was half way to work. I've got an official measure of when it gets light now. I deem it to be light when I can read the speed on my bike computer. By the time I got to work I had the sun on my shoulder and the breeze at my back. I can't ask for more than that.

The accompanying photo is proof both that there was some sun today and that I exist. My shadow doesn't seem to be making nearly as hard work of pounding into the wind on the way home as I was.

As far as the riding goes, I'm still battling my body so I'm reluctant to push too hard. I still have some dramatic pains and muscle spasms in my shoulders, neck and back and over the weekend I've been fighting off a bout of cold/sinus infection/pain in the arse. I'm not about to let anything spoil the first day of spring though.

Not even the gale force head wind on the way home. The lovely frolicking tail wind on the way to work, somehow turned into a ferocious monster by the time I headed home. I just slugged into it, bare legs and all.