Thursday, 29 December 2011

Time for a little R&R

Wow - found a few spare moments to blog and was amazed to find my last post was in November. I could say I've been busy with work, family and the like, but honestly, it's really cos I've just had nothing to say. I've never wanted to be one of those people who writes absolute naff just to write daily.

So it's been a while. The Christmas/New Year break finds my family sharing a gorgeous camping holiday with my sister and her family. Our destination - Bribie Island, and a little campground named Poverty Creek. It's a grassy, shady, spacious site set in the Bribie Island Recreation Area within the National Park. Until camping here, I never had any appreciation for the beauty that Bribie has to offer.

After an afternoon setup on Boxing Day, we settled into our campsite and enjoyed the company of what sounded like hundreds of frogs and felt like millions of mosquitoes! A squirt of Aerogard later and it was just the frogs' chorus that we were enjoying.

My sister and I thought we would wander down to the water's edge to enjoy the view. Just as we reached the edge of the day use area car park, we were greeted by the noise of stamping hooves and angry huffing. We didn't need to be told twice, and returned to camp, watching over our shoulder for stampeding horses/cows/kangaroos. Still don't know for sure what it was, and kind of beyond caring.

Day two and we ventured down to the Pumicestone Passage to swim, kayak and generally just enjoy the cool water. No major issues to report, but there was fresh manure around the area of the hooves incident, so a bit more of a clue to our night time scare.

Now have I mentioned that this site has loos, but no showers? We have set up a solar shower at camp, and it's a matter of contortions and crouching to get the right angles to get the water flowing. Lots of giggles coming from that tent as everyone tries to rinse the dirt of a day at camp off and freshen up for dinner.

Day three and we discovered the real Bribie. 4WD trek over the sand tracks and we were on Ocean Beach, playing in the surf, driving on the beaches and finding the hidden side of the island. Lots of people who already know the secret, and now happy to be one of those numbers. As I remarked to my sister at the end of the day, it's just as beautiful as Straddie, more easily accessible and without the cost of the barge trip. We've already agreed to return to camp on Ocean Beach on one of the long weekends in 2012.

Only three more sleeps until we head home from this adventure, but then only a couple of days at home before we head of with friends to Flanagan's Reserve for another couple of nights away. Camping is back on the agenda in 2012, and I cannot wait!

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Hi, I'm Sue and I'm a bike commuter...

On my return to work after a long holiday break, I made the decision to begin riding my bike to work each day. I live about 18km from work - my home is in the bayside suburb of Wynnum West, and I work in the Brisbane CBD.

My plan was to drive to work on Monday with a bag containing clothes for the next three days of work, then bring them home on Friday. Week one started well, with the allocation of my locker in the bike room at work. I am lucky to work for a forward thinking organisation who supplies me with an end of trip facility that includes bike storage, lockers and showers so I can ride to work knowing that I have the opportunity to freshen up at the end of the ride.

Tuesday was my first day in the saddle and I enjoyed an incident free commute. It takes me about 55 minutes to ride to and from work and my aim is to find the safest route in and out each day. This explains why I had a fall on day two! I found a lovely fellow rider who showed me how to get onto the Riverside Walk from Kangaroo Point, and proceeded to ride around riverside with the aim of riding through the gardens at QUT and onto the riverside expressway bikeway.

It's at this point that I really should emphasise how important it into plan your route! Unfortunately I didn't and as a result took a tumble on an unfamiliar path. Other than a few bruises and a bit of skin lost I pulled up ok, and lived to ride home that afternoon.

I'm now into week 3 of work and am loving it so much that I am planning to ride everyday. I log each ride into "Map my Ride" to track my progress. I love logging in at the end of the week and finding out the level of carbon emissions I have saved by getting on the bike. There's also a significant financial benefit. By riding to work, I am not only saving petrol from the drive to the bus station (about $30 per week), but also the daily bus fares of about $9. Factor that into one year and there's a potential saving of about $2000 per year.

With the added health benefit of getting the muscles working and the heart pumping, I'm happy to keep the motivation levels high and keep the pedals turning.

For anyone considering the ride to work, be it 4km or 24km, I can recommend it. My energy levels have never been so high, my mood is exuberant after risking peak hour traffic and surviving each trip and I'm doing my bit to ease traffic congestion. I can easily say this is one of the best decisions I have made for quite some time.

For me, cycling has become an addiction!

Sunday, 23 October 2011

One week in, so what has changed?

It's a week now since I returned to work after a very relaxing 5 and a half week holiday break. I was a little concerned how I would manage the return, both physically (I was really enjoying daily naps mid afternoon) and mentally (I was returning to a project that had mentally shredded my ego and had me doing a big rethink of my life).

I'm proud to admit that I survived this first week and really enjoyed being back in the grind. I believe that this was possible due to a number of changes I put in place prior to my first day.

I've done some very effective self analysis through the years, and used this information to do some significant mental tidying while off work. First and foremost, I know I am someone who likes to be organised. There is nothing that will do my head in more than not having things in place and having to rush around at the last minute. Unfortunately this describes most mornings pre-holiday.

This week I set a routine in place that means when I get up in the morning, I just get dressed, have some breakfast and head off to work. Give it another six weeks to become habit and she'll be apples!

Secondly, I stopped putting unrealistic expectations on myself. Nobody at work has ever said that they expect me to work long hours and have everything finished before I leave for the day. I am the one who put that expectation on myself. So now I make a point of marking my finish time in my diary and leaving at that time. I know there will be times when I'll need to work later or start earlier, but it's up to me to manage my workload, my time and my self-expectations.

Finally, I got on my bike this week. The commute to work is around the 3/4 of an hour mark, plus shower. My regular drive to the bus stop and ride the bus to work takes about the same time. On Monday I take a week's worth of clothes to work which means I ride to work Tuesday through Friday, when I bring dirty clothes home ready for the weekend wash.

I intend to try a number of routes to work until I find one that's a combination of speed and safety. Already this week I have found a preferred ride in, which takes me off the roads at Hawthorne and delivers a gorgeous ride along the banks of the Brisbane River. Its a refreshing start to the day and the views are spectacular. The ride home isn't as important for the scenery, but gets me home quickly and quite directly.

I really wasn't sure how committed I would be to a bike commute, but can say that after only a week, I am really enjoying the time on my bike each day. Not only is it my regular travel time, but I'm also exercising for an hour and a half each day! It helps that it's coming into summer, the weather is glorious and the days are long. It also helps I'm in the right mindset to keep on track at this point in time.

So a week in, I'm feeling great, both mentally and physically. Sure I'm counting down the days to my next break, but hey, who isn't?

Monday, 10 October 2011

A pleasant Sunday jaunt

There's nothing like a 3.30am wake up call to get the blood pumping and the mind racing as to what the day will bring. Ok that's a slight exaggeration - there's nothing like a 3.30am wake up call to wake you up!

Yesterday certainly started early, but with a 5.00am start for the 100km Gold Coast Cycle Challenge at Southbank, we had to allow ourselves plenty of time to be fed, watered and transported to the starting line.

Pity my poor travel companions though - I started at 5 and they started at 6.15, so they had a bit of waiting around to do!

If you are a friend of mine on Facebook, you'll know that this ride was close to my heart - one of the main recipients was Diabetes Aust (Qld) and I have been fundraising for the ride with my nephew Noah as my inspiration.

As a result of my efforts, and my fabulous friends and family, I succeeded in being one of the top ten fundraisers and was allocated a pole position start. I was chuffed at the time, but even more excited when I discovered that the Green Team would be joined this year by a number of the Brisbane Lions players. Michael Voss, their coach, is married to Donna, who has diabetes and they were there to show their support.

I was very excited to see a number of players who I recognised at the starting line, including Vossy, Jonathan Brown, Simon Black, Jamie Charman, Daniel Merrett, Daniel Rich and I think Jack Redden. There were a couple of other young ones who I recognised but couldn't place a name against.

Anyway...the ride started at 5.20 and I stayed with the 30+ km/hr riders for about 2km before I made a pact with myself to finish, which I wasn't sure I could do if I tried to maintain their pace (I usually sit at about 25km/hr). So I worked at about that pace for the rest of the ride. Starting at the front can be quite daunting - I got passed a lot, as there were two more waves of riders who rode faster than me! Usually I'm the fastest of the slow riders, not the slowest of the fast.

Won't go on too much about the ride, suffice it to say that the new setup on my bike handled like a dream (it was like riding a new bike!) and I was lucky enough to meet a lovely young fellow who pushed me to maintain 30km/hr for a good 20k. When he slotted in behind me for a draught he called out, "this is a great pace mate, mind if I tail you?" think he must have gotten a shock when I called him forward for a draught to find I was a woman!

Had a great 100k - met some lovely characters, finished in 3.45.15 and did not get caught by hubby who started almost an hour after me. In fact if you look at the onboard computers, I think you'll find I beat his time by that much (fingers about a cm apart!) Just jokes Bren - I know you're much faster than that!

At the end I enjoyed the hospitality of the Diabetes Qld crew - a few cool waters, a lovely, invigorating massage and a few words with Simon and Daniel and a photo for posterity. It's a great ice breaker when you walk up, shake their hand and thank them for riding for the cause.

To all of my mates who kicked in their hard earned cash, I thank you for your support - I couldn't have done it without you. And to those of you who live with diabetes everyday, I will continue to put my legs on the line to raise much needed funds so someday we may find a cure.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Pointing my feet in the right direction....

These holidays have been a real treat for me. Usually I would have taken the week off for the ride and the two weeks for school holidays and returned to work, however this year I chose to spoil myself and take an extra two weeks at the end for some "me" time.

This ate away at me for a while. Did I really deserve that much time, was it really necessary?

Work has been a hard slog lately. I have been working on a redesign of our branch. While my job was "safe" in recruitment, a lot of people who I like and respect were put through an emotional roller coaster as their jobs were cut. I took a lot of this to heart, and owned a lot of their grief, anger and resentment. I shouldn't, but that's the person I am.

As a result I wasn't sleeping, I was packing on weight and I'm not ashamed to say that I think I was fairly close to a breakdown just before I went on leave. The one thing I found that got me through was keeping a personal journal where I could be honest and open about my feelings. I found that when I put the words onto the page, I could hold it together and make sure the people at work only ever saw the best of me. It also helped that I was absolutely blessed to meet a wonderful change manager who has been instrumental (even if she doesn't know it) in keeping me sane and stable. I am indebted to her as I knew I could leave the project in her very capable hands and not even think about it while I was on holiday.

Anyway, after thinking it through, hell yes, I deserved the extended break.

In that time I've had an analysis of my bike set up, and today I visited the podiatrist to get my new orthotics organised.

I have two very different feet, so the set up of my orthotics are very different - and to top it off, one of legs is slightly longer, so now I even get a lift in one shoe to even up the length. Once again, this is something that will go a long way toward alleviating my back pain. Two consults and two very similar diagnoses - I just can't imagine what my life will be like when back pain is no longer a significant presence in my life.

And so with one week to go, I am looking forward to a few more little pampering sessions, a long ride and then ease back into the mode that we call work. And I'm not going to feel guilty. I've really enjoyed being here in the mornings to see the kids off to school and being here for them in the afternoons. Future holidays may just have to have a few of these days built in. In fact you can bank on it.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

It's all in the set up

I've been back on the bike a couple of times now since my week long adventure, and am enjoying sharing some ride time with Hayden, as he is in training for the junior triathlon series this year. He and Brendon have recently joined a tri club to improve their techniques and get some regular training in for the events.

As a result, he booked the two of us into a bike analysis session to check our set ups and critique our riding techniques. After a long time of analysing Brendon's set up, my time came round for some assessment.

First, a measure up of the bike, some leveling of the seat and visual assessment of the bike. Result - retilt the seat, removal of a broken spoke and a buckled rear rim. Parts on order to correct over reaching for gears, braking and steering.

Second, readjust my clips to get optimum power and drive. Result - correct placement of clips over pedals and improved work through the pedals.

Third - get on the bike and ride. This is where the big revelation kicked in - my right leg is in dire need of restructure as I "wobble" when I reach the top of my stroke. Result - I have a variety of exercises to strengthen the muscles to realign my knee. Am also perfecting my drive technique. Concentration required!

Finally, and this is my favorite - I got a big tick for my mounts and dismounts - left clip in first then right clip in. Right clip out first and then left clip. So while Bren has some work to fix (yep he failed clip in and out), he also has some work helping me to correct my alignment.

And what did I find out about myself? I am proportioned like a male (in my legs anyway), which means I have better power through my legs for climbs and need to work on that to take full advantage of it. I have unbalanced legs and need to work on strength training for optimum alignment, which will result in less pain in my lower back. But most importantly I learned not to trust everything to a salesman in a bike store. My next set up will be done under the full supervision of an expert who knows his bikes and has years of experience in getting optimum performance out of cyclists. Thanks Cam!

I can't wait...

Sunday, 25 September 2011

What a difference a week makes...

Well it's a week now since I finished my first CQ event, and wow, it really seems like a long time ago.

We've since packed up the camper and headed to the Waterfall Way - Urunga (near Coffs Harbour) to Armidale to find some of the most beautiful waterfalls in NSW.

Our journey started with a two night stopover catching up with friends at Evans Heads. So glad we took out time and allowed ourselves the chance to just kick back and relax on the beach, although in hindsight, probably could have spent the whole holiday there. Hayden had a ball fishing, and it seems we will be taking our rods with us on future holidays and perhaps planning some coastal stops!

The road to Dorrigo from Grafton was largely uneventful until it got to the time to make the climb up the mountain. Then the backroads turn into goat tracks and it took us the better part of three hours to negotiate the mountain tracks. We were thankful that we didn't meet another car until about 4km out of town cos it sure didn't appear to be wide enough for two cars to share the space.

Anyways, got into Dorrigo and checked into the Dorrigo Mountain Resort. Let's just say it's not exactly like the website, but it's quiet and peaceful and we haven't seen the managers since we arrived four days ago!

The countryside here is breath-taking. It is lush, green and smells like a little piece of heaven. We've explored 5 local falls within minutes of town, checked out the main street, played in parks and headed down the mountain toward the ocean. If you ever find yourself in Bellingen, take the time to buys gelato, a pie and meander down to the river - it is so picturesque and the people there make the most of what they've got - which means there are always plenty of people enjoying the river.

We've had perfect weather so far, however last night the rain rolled in, and brought with it a thunderstorm. We've camped in some pretty scary storms before (Woody Head for five consecutive nights!) but I've never felt so vulnerable on top of a mountain in bare, open campsites. The rolls of thunder started at 5, and continued through the night until they became cracks and hisses. Hayden was obviously affected - he crawled in with us at about midnight. Needless to say I didn't sleep much after that out of fear of falling the five feet to the floor below - he's a kicker!

We made it through the night though, and while it's very windy here right now, the rain has stopped but not gone. This may be the first and last time that rain is welcome on a camping holiday. After all, rainfall increases the power of the waterfalls in the area, and when you're here for the waterfalls, that ain't a bad thing.

So it's goodbye from Dorrigo - we are off for a spot of four wheel driving today, maybe a swim if it gets a little warmer, some more bushwalking to see two more falls and tomorrow we strike camp and head towards Armidale. After that, who knows where the road may take us!

Sunday, 18 September 2011

The party's over...and so is the alliteration!

After the excitement of the last nine days, it was inevitable that our last ride leg was going to be tinged with both sadness and happiness. I couldn't wait to get on the bike this morning so I could see my family, but I didn't want to get on my bike for two reasons - 1 it meant the beginning of the end, and 2 my butt is so sore that I couldn't stand the thought of sitting on it for 54km to get to the finish line.

But I soldiered on. Now that I'm sitting in my favorite easy chair at home, my bottom is much happier and comfier and I can now admit that I carried considerable back pain through most of the riding over the last week. I refused to acknowledge it for the duration of the ride, as I didn't want to entertain the idea that I may not finish. The closest I got to considering that option was after last night's massage, when the therapist advised I should probably not ride the final leg today due to the problems she could feel while working on my legs and back. I smiled and thanked her, but figured that I had already ridden over 500km in poor condition, so the last 50 wouldn't make it any worse!

Anyway, there's the story. This week I rode 570km over 9 days with a rest day thrown in for good measure. I made new friends, shared stories, ate well and finished a ride that I never thought I would have the ability to complete. I shared my experience with 815 other like-minded riders - mountain bikes, road races, beach tourers, tandems, tag along and trailers.

Goondiwindi to Brisbane - check. Now to look forward to Gayndah to Noosa for next year's ride. I can't wait - and have already convinced my boys that we will do it together. Now to start researching tandem bikes so I can begin training with Hayden. I can't think of a better way to grow closer than sharing such an amazing experience with them. As for Jordan - well let's just say I'll work on it!

Thank you to all of you who have commented, liked, encouraged and read my blog. I've really enjoyed sharing my experiences and each one of you has helped me along the journey - just knowing you were there mentally cheering me on was a great inspiration on the hard days. It was really great fuel for a tired body and soul.

So onwards and upwards to next year. Anyone care to join us? It's not a race - for me it wasn't about how fast I got to the finish - it was that I got to the finish and enjoyed the journey along the way. Now where's the number for my physio?

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Massages, mountains and me time

Day 8 - the penultimate day of my first major ride. 68km into Rosewood and summer has certainly shown us a taste of what is to come!

Another mountain today - Mt Walker, just out of Harrisville is a nice challenge at the end of almost 500km of riding. Another day of beautiful scenery, lush green farmland and mountain ranges in the distance - had to remind myself that we rode over two of them of them on this ride.

I'm really looking forward to my massage this afternoon. For $10 we get a 15 minute massage from a qualified therapist, and we can choose the areas for them to work on. Today we will concentrate on ankles and feet - with this heat I need the circulation to be just right for the final day's ride.

I'm really looking forward to seeing my family tomorrow - I've missed them all this week, and am looking forward to kicking back at Evans Head with them and friends next week.

I've learned a lot about myself on the last 8 days. What I haven't learned I've confirmed! I know I'm an introvert and that after a hard day I reenergize with some quiet time to myself. So while everyone heads off to the pub, I am more likely to sit quietly with a book or my iPod and just chill out alone. I only hope my riding buddy understands this - I've turned down a lot of invitations to socialise but I put it down to my nature! I've always been the one more likely to sit back and watch the world go by when I'm tired and need to recharge the batteries.

Anyway enough about that - it's almost time for my massage and I want to fit in a quick nap before then. On the road to Brisbane tomorrow - can't wait!

Friday, 16 September 2011

Feats, fun and friendships

Day seven finds us in Boonah - not long to go now and the fun will be over for Cycle Qld 2011.

Today was an 88km run, with an early start at 7.15 am - with an expected maximum of 29 degrees today, we wanted to be sure that most of our riding was out of the way before it got too hot.

What a great start to the day - we cycled over Mt Lindesay - who would have thought I'd be able to say that when I took up cycling three years ago! Lots of gentle (and not so gentle climbs) to get up and over, but the beauty was once again in the descents. The headwinds made them not so spectacular today as they slow you down a bit, but still managed to top 70.23 km/HR on one of the drops.

When I travelled in the UK we used to joke about the ABC of traveling - another bloody castle, another bloody cathedral. I've adapted my own ABC for cycle touring - another bloody climb!

The landscapes were once again spectacular, and the sound of the bell birds calling in the rainforest sections was pretty special too.

The beauty of a ride this size is the many and varied personalities that you meet along the way. Each campsite brings new neighbors, each day's ride new people to chat to along the way to camp. I've met so many interesting people, with amazing stories and a common thread of a love of riding that draws us all together. I'm already looking forward to catching up with these people at next year's ride, and this one hasn't even finished yet!

The camaraderie is so encouraging - the majority of riders are friendly, helpful and more than happy to share their experiences. And for many, these bike rides are a big part of their lives each year.

The pubs in each town are always choc-o-block with riders sharing a cold beer at the end of a hot day, and it is a great injection to each local community we have visited. One school even moved its fete to coincide with our visit, and I imagine they made record sales!

So here's your challenge. Think seriously about doing something like this just once in your life - give it a go, and see if it's something you would only do once or something you find yourself coming back to year after year.

Farewell from Boonah - tomorrow sees a short ride to Rosewood. Two sleeps to go and the countdown will start for next year!

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Camping, climbs and Coke

Well here we are on Day 6 - and we've crossed over to the dark side. At approximately 9.15 this morning, we rode over the border into New South Wales. Can't really complain though - it is beautiful country out here and the scenery has been breath taking for the entire 54km section.

Today was a real effort for me. The body was willing today, but mentally I was absolutely shot. There was nothing left in the tank. I pulled over a number of times just to gee myself up and get my mental train back on track. Kept checking my brakes because no matter how hard I seemed to work my legs, they just weren't giving me any real speed. I started strong with a great 5pm climb to the border, but quickly fell away after that - and with a lot of gentle climbs all day, found myself just willing myself to go on.

But for every climb there is a downhill section to enjoy - shame the roads were so poorly maintained - had to really watch the speed cos there were pot holes and lumps and bumps the entire section.

I think some of the mental exhaustion can be put down to sleep issues as well - while ear plugs are a godsend on these trips, it has been a long time since I have tent camped. With a bad back to manage, I've been very lucky to have no real problems so far sleeping on a self-inflating mattress and camp mat. I certainly don't sleep the night through, but generally get 4-5 hours of good sleep before catnapping the rest of the night. Typical camping though - in bed by 9pm and up at 5am! Not really a holiday lie in!

And the final thing to play with my brain is that it is so difficult to get Pepsi Max! I am so not a Coke girl, but find myself forced to drink it here, as all of the local canteens only have the other brown drink! Whenever I head into town, I scour the Foodworks or IGA for my drop, but even then I'm sometimes left with ceasefire lime flavor instead. Small problem though, and not enough to lodge a formal complaint about.

Finally, part of me is really missing my family. Don't get me wrong, I love this adventure, but I really miss sharing it with Bren and the kids. So much so that next year I really think this needs to be more of a family adventure, and while I'm sure Hayden will embrace this wholeheartedly (he is too young to pilot his own bike and would be on either a tagalong bike behind one of us or a tandem bike), I'm not so sure of my 13 year old princess Jordan! Sure she'd sit on the back of a tandem, but I have visions of her with her feet up and listening to her iPod while we did the hard yards!

Anyway, must be away and resting ready for another long day - 88km from Woodenbong to Boonah - then it's only two more days and the trek is done. Not long now til I get some cuddles from my favorite people in the world. And finally - good luck to Wondall tonight at Wakakirri - we are cheering for you in Woodenbong tonight! xoxo

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Descents, dirt and dining

Weeeee - what a day of riding. More downhills than up on our 86km ride from Stanthorpe to Killarney.

My favorite downhill today was right near the end of the ride. Bicycle Qld had put a sign at the top of a fast descent - WWCD (what would Cadel do?) - so I tucked my head down and opened up the brakes - nothing compares to the thrill of 63.2 km/HR on a bike!

We had a few good downhills today, but easily the scariest was part of 8km of dirt road that we rode on today. While it was a well graded road, there were still plenty of loose pockets to watch out for. The first time my front tyre slid out, my heart stopped just a little, before reflexes kicked in and I corrected the slide. Now I know I have some mountain biking friends who do this all of the time, but I've got to ask - do you do it on slick road tyres?

Managed to avoid punctures though, with the worst damage some loose water bottle cages at the end of the dirt section, which were easily reaffixed with my trusty bike tool.

My only disappointment of the day was the showers at the end of the ride. Now I know I've described the procedure to follow, and that was no different today. What was different however was that right after I had soaped up my hair with shampoo and was covered in soap suds, the hot water ran out. Then the cold water ran out. After about five minutes of cold water kicking in and out, I was finally clean enough to finish the shower procedure and call it a day. Thank goodness today's temp rose to 22 degrees here in Killarney - cos there was no way I would have survived that at 15 degrees in Stanthorpe!

So now thoroughly refreshed, I headed into Killarney for a spot of shopping (lollies) and a chance to stretch some tired leg muscles. Finished the afternoon with a Hawaiian massage and it's time for dinner.

Now I have mentioned they feed us well. Here's how the day goes:

Breakfast 6amish - so far (and this is not a selection but the list of things that they have served us so far)- porridge or cereal, hash browns, scrambled egg, French toast, baked beans, ham and cheese croissants.

Morning tea - usually a stall run locally - lollies, biscuits, cakes, sandwiches

Lunch - some sort of roll, a sweet snack - choc muffin, giant snake, crackers with cheese, fruit, fruit juice

Afternoon tea - see morning tea

Canteen on arrival at campsite - run locally, lots of BBQ options

Dinner - chicken penne pasta, lamb stir fry with hokkien noodles, spag bol, beef casserole - all served with veges and salads

Dessert - sticky date pudding, choc mud cake, cheesecake, bread and butter pudding, fruit salad

So as you can see, I will not be losing weight after this week's adventures - they feed us way too well!

Tomorrow we are off to Woodenbong NSW - the first time Cycle Qld has crossed the border and the site of the inaugural State of Origin cricket match. It's an easy 54km ride, but with a few challenges. So until tomorrow, I bid you adieu! Looking forward to a warmer night tonight - 5 degrees will feel positively balmy after last night's -0.5 degrees!

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Rest, relaxation and rummy port

After yesterday's achievement, it was only fitting that today was declared a rest day. It's great knowing that we were at camp for two nights cos it meant no early pack up of our tent and a bit more of a lie in this morning.

If you've looked at the photos you'll know that it was once again a frosty night - but it just didn't seem as bad as night one in Yelarbon.

After a yummy breakfast (must blog about the food soon), we jumped on a tour bus with our faithful driver Michael, and headed out to a local cheese factory and several wineries. It was an entire world away from yesterday, with just a pair of sore quads to remind me of what had gone before!

Tried several yummy ports, liquers and muscats, with my favorite one a rummy port - one that I will need to source for our Imbil New Year - I have a pair of friends who I think will enjoy that one around the campfire! They know who they are!

We got dropped into town at the end of our trip and did a bit of shopping - madly trying to find warm clothes to get us through another predicted cool night. I'm surviving at the moment, but my riding buddy is struggling with cold feet at night, so let's hope today's purchases help her get a good night's sleep.

Tomorrow we travel to Killarney - 86km that we have been assured is very much downhill. I'm sceptical, but who knows! Of the 1000 odd riders yesterday, only 80 didn't make the full distance - not a bad percentage I think. But I'm sure it will be a 100% success rate if what they say is true tomorrow.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Hills, hair and hamstrings

Picture this - I'm walking through the Stanthorpe show grounds with my hands raised high in the air, chanting "we are the champions"

Today I rode 100.8 of the 101 km between Texas and Stanthorpe. It was by far the hardest ride I have ever done. I am absolutely stoked that I finished. Only one hill got me and it was reasonably early in the day, but I walked to the top, got back on the bike and just kept pedaling.

To give you some background, a 100km ride normally takes me between 4 - 4 1/2 hours. We started at 7.30 today and got into camp at 3pm. There is a constant increase in elevation, and while there are some breath taking down hill sections (60+ km/HR on a bike is freakin' scary), we knew for every down there was a corresponding up even higher still.

I cannot express how proud I am of today's achievement. The riders around us were all so encouraging, and at no point were we discouraged. My hammies got pretty tight by the end and for a little while I thought I'd find myself finishing in the ambulance with a corked thigh, but I persevered and here I sit in my tent, quietly reflecting on my ride before heading off to see James Blundell at our rest day party.

So now to the hair. I got my hair cut short so it was easier to manage while camping. Big mistake. Big, big mistake. My hair invariably resembles the proverbial bird's nest at any time of the day. First thing in the morning it emerges from under my beanie (yes I wear it to bed, it is THAT cold!). So I swap beanie for helmet - and the onset of helmet hair begins. End of ride means shower, so for about 30 minutes it looks fabulous, then it dries and it's time for a beanie again! Not a lot of photos of me being taken I can tell you!

There is a rest day tomorrow (thank goodness - my legs need it), and we are off to do a tour of the local wineries, cheese makers and apple pie connoisseurs - mmmm can't wait.

So as I listen to the man in the tent opposite mine snoring loudly enough to wake the dead - I leave you with this..."You never know what you're capable of until you try" - today I found out!

See you all tomorrow - but this time if I don't write, don't send out the search parties - just bring a glass!

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Freezing, frost and feedbags

So the last you heard we were hunkered down in our cosy beds ready for a lovely night's sleep. Things did not go quite to plan thanks to a cold front that hit the region yesterday afternoon.

After shivering through the night (large fleece jacket, t-shirt, thermal shirt, fleecy lined pants and -5 degree rated sleeping bag), I finally had to drag myself out of bed to go to the loo. Stumbled out, got to the toilet and as I removed my gloves, wondered why they were wet. Wasn't until I returned to my tent that I realized the problem. My tent is dark green. I had trouble finding it when I got back - it was completely covered in frost and was now white. The moisture was from opening the door and getting a handful of frost!

My poor bike was all frosted up too - so cold in fact that my drink bottles had frozen over and there was an icicle forming on the outside from a slow drip. Brrr - and I wondered why it was so cold inside!

Anyways, packed up our very wet and cold tents and set off on the road to Texas. Today saw us eating brekky at 7am, morning tea by 9 and lunch at 10.45ish. We trundled into camp by about 12.30pm and were relaxing in our tents by 1pm. Put the phones on charge, had another bite to eat (they feed us well) and then headed over to the massage tent to work out some of our aches and pains. Bit more r&r, followed by beers in the cafe, dinner, and here I am blogging our day's adventure.

It was a gorgeous day for a ride - beautiful blue skies, warmish sunshine and good roads. 67km today (from memory) and absolutely fabulous scenery to take your breath away. Our campsite is the Texas show grounds, looking out across the plains to the mountains beyond - a million dollar view on a beer budget.

The weather is turning cold again now - time to rug up, snuggle into the sleeping bag and rest up for tomorrow's 101km epic uphill to Stanthorpe. If I don't blog tomorrow night, send out the search parties!

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Turtles, trucks and tents

Well here I am tucked up warm(?) and snug in my tent at the end of day 1 of Cycle Qld. Today was a 57km ride from Goondiwindi to Yelarbon - a tiny town along the Cunningham Highway. It's the hometown of former deputy opposition leader Laurence Springborg and is apparently the most eastern desert town - who'd have thunk!

It was a great ride today - it's the only day that we all start together as a group, so everyone shares the ride together. The land out here is largely flat and quite green, so absolutely perfect for riding. Thankfully it was largely an uneventful ride. The roads are fairly well maintained and you only need to keep half an eye on the terrain as you go.

I made my first stupid move of the week at the very first rest stop. I was busting to use the toilet, so did not stop to read the sign on the outside of the portable toilet block, but just ran on into an empty stall. It wasn't until I had sat down that my brain processed the fact that there were urinals in there. Yes ladies and gentlemen, I was in the gents!

Shortly after the lunch break, Stef and I cycled wide around what looked like a sizable rock on the road. It wasn't until we got closer that we realized it was, in fact, a turtle crossing the road - not a big one of course - probably only 15cm across, but a turtle in this desert landscape nevertheless!

Not long after we had a police car pass us in the opposite direction. Didn't think anything of it until we saw the massive semis following just a little further back down the road. There's nothing like a bath of dirt and dust to clog up the nostrils and put you off your riding experience, even if it's only for a short while.

The rest of the ride was pretty normal, with a few chances to find out more about our fellow riders and learn about life on the campsite.

I've attached a photo of our tent city at Yelarbon. There are tents of all shapes and sizes - but can you pick which one is mine?

And finally I really must comment on the thing that would put a lot of you off this little adventure (apart from the riding of course). The showers are basically a room with lots of individual stalls and a communal area outside. The shower etiquette is - 1 find a shower stall that is free. 2 strip bare in the stall and shower. 3 get dressed in the communal area which is so tiny you bump bare body parts against the person next to you. Now for me this is not a challenge - those of you who know me know I don't mind nuding up in front of others - after all I have nothing that you haven't all seen before (a number of times depending on what parties we've attended together!) However this is quite confronting for some people and could be the reason that this would be their first and last Cycle Qld!

So now I'm freshly showered, fed and it's off to bed after one day on the road. They've warned us to take it easy tomorrow, because day three is "just really hard". Hmmm I can hardly wait!

Friday, 9 September 2011

One sleep to go...

Well Friday night finds us in Goondiwindi at the Gundy Star Caravan Park. After a worrying drive through four seasons on the way up (we honestly believed that we were going to be setting up a wet camp), we are sitting here under a cloudy sky and making last minute preparations for tomorrow's ride.

Registration is complete, the ride jerseys are ready to go and we have cool new T-shirts for post ride casual wear. The bikes are loaded ready for drop off in the morning and I've struck my tent for tonight's rest.

I only have one real concern now - it's cold. I've packed for early spring and not late winter, so hoping I don't catch my death from the frosty nights. Even if I do hit the stores tomorrow, there are no items that I can afford to drop to stay within my luggage limit, so will just have to suck it up!

Anyway enough for now - it's time to hunker down and get warm in preparation for a good night's rest!

Monday, 5 September 2011

Almost there...

Well it's hard to believe that I'm now less than a week away from my epic ride. I'm both excited and anxious at the same time with just a hint of trepidation on the side.

But probably the greatest feeling I have is guilt. For the first time in my life as a mum, I am putting myself wholly and solely first. Sure I've been away for a girls' weekend every now and then - generally two nights max. This trip takes me away for eight nights.

Not so bad I know, however when I think about some of the events I will be missing in that week, it does make me somewhat sad. On Saturday Jordie competes at Zones for Physie. On Thursday Jordie performs her end of camp concert and Hayden competes in the finals for Wakakirri. All the while I'll be kicking back and enjoying the company of my best riding buddy and 1500 new friends on the road.

The one big positive is that I have a fabulous hubby who is taking on single parent duty for the week and an equally amazing group of family and friends assisting with making sure the kids get to where they're supposed to. While I'm sad to miss the real thing, I am excited to catch up on all of their adventures when I get home, just like they'll be looking forward to hearing about mine.

So only a few more training rides to go before the fun begins. Bring it on...

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Variety is the spice of life!

Well I've always been the type of person who gets bored with the same old same old. So life for me is about injecting some variety.

Last night I played netball for the first time in about 16 years. It was a bit like riding a bike - I never really forgot how to do it. I was of course a little rusty. I had to adjust my three feet a little to suit the umpire and get the balance right on my one leg (and boy am I feeling that calf this morning).

Nevertheless, I had fun. The one thing I had forgotten was how hard you work playing netball. By half time I was drenched with sweat and even by the first few centre passes I was breathing hard.

Backed it up this morning with a brisk early bike ride with my husband. Bren let me set the pace (thankfully) - the legs are only a little stiff from last night. Again, I love a bit of variety, and it was a great opportunity to try out a few bike paths we hadn't used before. As I hit these new trails I couldn't help but feel a sense of pride working for BCC - they've come a long way in making Brisbane an active and healthy community by developing some great bikeways networks.

I was particularly impressed with the new bikeway connecting Wynnum Rd to Minnippi parklands - there was a pristine new path where, 18 months ago,it was a poorly sealed road. Lots of little pathways yet to explore!

Following this up with a Zumba fitness class tonight - think most of my muscles will have had some form of workout over the public holiday!

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Looks can be deceiving...

Ok so the 50km ride to Esk didn't eventuate this morning. After the best night of sleep I've had since January, Stef and I agreed that:
1 it was bloody cold and;
2 it was bloody early

So we decided to do the shorter ride back to Fernvale to get a coffee and a pie for breakfast.
This was based on the fact that we woke up thinking maybe we wouldn't ride at all, so 25km was better than no ride at all. Now that would have been great, but it wasn't til we got to Fernvale that we realized it was a 40km, hilly round trip!

We took off from the camp site, only to be greeted by a large mob of kangaroos - just sitting by the side of the road. I think we both wanted to be that cute little joey snuggled up in his mum's pouch. That could be because it was 8 degrees and we were riding!

There were some lovely gentle rises along the way, all good preparation for the Texas to Stanthorpe leg of Cycle Qld. The views were worth the effort - driving along over the dam spillway was breath taking as the sun made its way over the horizon.

And if that wasn't reward enough, the wagyu pie with mushy peas from Fernvale bakery was absolutely delicious.

After a short break to enjoy said pie, we turned and retraced our tracks back to camp. This is where the deception crept in. Those gentle downhill runs on the way became long uphill climbs on the way home. Every time Stef said it was the last hill, there was another one after it.

Decided to challenge myself by maintaining a 20k speed on the uphills, however had to revise that to 19.6k! Once again though there were some great rewards. Looking ahead we thought there was a dog on the road. Turns out, it was in fact, a koala. Tried to take a pic but he very craftily scaled a tree and moved to the other side so I couldn't get a clear shot.

Back at camp, we did a quick pack up and headed back to Brisbane - once again, via Fernvale Bakery.

We've vowed to return to Wivenhoe, but next time with our daughters for a girls only weekend. Now to set a date...

Friday, 12 August 2011

It doesn't get much better than this!

Well Friday evening finds me sitting next to the camp fire on the banks of Lake Wivenhoe.

What more can I say? After an early mark from work, my girlfriend Stef and I packed the car and headed west. The traffic on the Ipswich Motorway was horrendous but we had enough gossip in us to get through the delays. Couple that with a game of chicken (judging when other drivers should dart across traffic at the Esk turn off) and we arrived just on sunset to set up camp.

Noisy air mattress pumps, neighborhood children - doesn't matter where we go, the kids gravitate toward us (Grrrr!!!)- mallets pounding pegs in and a few giggles during set up finally saw us ready to start a fire.

Fire blazing and it was time for a nice antipasto for dinner. Mmmm antipasto!

Sitting round the campfire enjoying a glass or two (or three or four...) of wine and catching up on what has been happening in our busy lives seems just perfect tonight.

Anyway it's getting time to have some dessert (read chocolate) and head in for an early night - we have a 50+km ride planned in the morning - I just hope Stef finds a coffee sooner rather than later!

Good night from our million star campsite. Ah the serenity!

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Preparing for the fun and games of our excellent adventure

In September, my girlfriend Stef and I are heading off on our first multi-day bike ride.  Now some of you might think that we would start out slow and perhaps do a weekender.  But for those of you who know either of us, you'd know that we're not the type to start slowly and work up to something, so we found ourselves signing up for the annual Cycle Queensland event.

Cycle Queensland this year is starting at Goondiwindi and will see us travel to Texas, Yelarbon, Stanthorpe, Killarney, Woodenbong, Boonah and Rosewood before heading into Brisbane.  We will travel 570km in the nine days we are on the road, with a rest day at day four after we have climbed into Stanthorpe.  Each night is spent camping under the stars in our own little tents as part of a 1500 strong event village.  Funnily enough, we are probably more excited to be enjoying a fully catered week where we won't have to cook or pick up after anyone buy ourselves than by the actual ride.

Today I packed my bags ready for our trip.  Ok, I know it's well over 6 weeks before we are off, but there are strict baggage limits and as we'll be setting up our own camp, I was keen to see how long it would take.  I also want to be familiar with how to erect my tent.  I do not want to be one of those people looking helplessly at the array of pegs, poles and ropes that is supposed to be my accommodation for the night.  I certainly don't want to be that person if the weather is not so good.

So after packing my bags, I unpacked them and set up my tent.  It's a cute little 3-man tent that takes only 10 minutes to put together.  Add in a very comfy camp stretcher and a self-inflating mattress, my sleeping bag and a pillow along with my two bags and my bike kit and I have a gorgeous little home away from home.

Had a lovely little rest on my stretcher (was almost asleep in fact), when Brendon came downstairs to let me know he'd organised our ride for the afternoon.  Again, as part of being prepared, I pulled down my tent and repacked my bags ready for my next trial run.

Now to prepare my bike.  Before the ride, I will book my bike in for a service (mental note, call  99 Bikes tomorrow to book the bike in for a service).  Before my training rides, I just need to check my lights, my tyre pressure and the general functions of the bike (brakes and gears) to make sure there are no mishaps along the way. Check!

After picking up our biking buds, the four of us headed towards the Gateway Bridge.  Stef and I had already done the climb once this week, but Bren and Pete hadn't done it for a while.  Needless to say, they aced it and made the two of us girls look like rank amateurs (as they always do!).  I had asked Brendon to plan this ride, as he has recently done the ride to Redcliffe and back, and had found some shorter routes from Eagle Farm to Nudgee Beach.  They cut about 15 minutes off our previous time, so definitely in the memory banks for our next ride north.

Anyways, the ride was a good one.  Not too hard, but certainly not easy.  Some very challenging hills (read Gateway Bridge twice) and a couple of 40 something fellas who always put us through our paces.   Stef and I have already agreed that we will not killing ourselves on our adventure - it's all about enjoying the ride, seeing the sights, soaking up the atmosphere and meeting some new people who are sharing our adventure with us.  Bring it on...

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

The countdown is on...

With just over 50 days to go until I begin my first multi-day cycling event, I'm back in the saddle.

Winter is not the best time to recommence training.  Two reasons - it's bloody cold and bloody dark.   Layers can assist with the cold factor.  Some mornings I've been known to wear a pair of thermals under my long trackies, a thermal singlet, thermal long sleeve, bike shirt, scarf, beanie and thermal gloves.  Believe it or not, I still get cold.  Any bare skin is almost blue by the end of the ride, and it hurts to shower - it burns as the feeling returns to cold body parts.

The dark is scarier.  Bike lights (well the ones I own) either alert a car you are coming or show you the road ahead.  They do either of these, but rarely both.  Now I don't mind the occasional adrenalin rush, but I draw the line at flying down Whites Rd hill at Manly West with very little line of sight beyond my front tyre.  Pot holes are frightening enough with full visibility, but as a last minute option, it's never a good thing.  Even worse are cat's eyes and manhole covers.  On a frosty morning, hitting one of those with a slick rear tyre can really ruin a good bike ride.

But here's to looking on the bright side, and there is a bright side.  Brisk mornings make for a great excuse to work hard to get the blood pumping and the body warm.  Dark starts result in some of the most amazing sunrises over the bay as we drop the pace and begin the warm down on the way home.  The mixture of dark sky, still, black water and the first pink, yellow and orange rays of sunlight pushing up over the horizon make for a breathtaking reward for a morning's hard work.

Not surprisingly, after a morning's ride, things always seem brighter.  Work seems a little easier to handle, my mood is always on the up and the depression that often skulks around the corner at the thought of another commute into the City for a long day's work is put firmly in its place back on the shelf. 

So think about me on those cold winter mornings when you're snuggled deep under the covers in a warm bed.  I'll be the one out on the bike, getting the legs moving, the heart pumping and the nose running as I head off on another early morning training ride.  As much as I grumble about it, you'll also notice I'm the one with the smile from ear to ear as I'm doing it.  After all, no one is forcing me to exercise.  For the first time in my life I've found that one activity that I'm yet to tire of.  And I'm lovin' it!

Keep those pedals turning!


Tuesday, 12 April 2011

To ride or not to ride - that is the question

Ok, so I love to ride my bike.  It's a great form of exercise (for me) and I've always found that if I enjoy doing something, I'll continue to do it.  For those things I don't really enjoy (read "running"), I will do it, but I don't commit to continue doing it.

So lately I've made the foray into tranforming that form of exercise into a valid form of transport.  I'm a (not too regular yet) cycle commuter.

I love the freedom of jumping on my bike in the morning and heading into the City for work. 

Funnily enough, my regular car commute goes like this: 
  • 6.45am leave in the car and drive to the Gabba (sitting in stop start traffic the entire time).
  • 7.25am park at the Gabba.
  • 7.35ish catch a bus into the City. 
  • Arrive at work anytime between 7.45 and 8.00. 
Pros - I can listen to the radio or music.  I have some degree of control of when I get home, but do have to rely on the bus which can sometimes add 30 minutes on either of my daily trips, due to overcrowding, traffic, accidents and the like.

Cons - sitting in stop/start traffic, overcrowded buses (Sorry Bus Full is the most frustrating sign you'll see on the front of a bus), over friendly passengers who love to share their stories, body odour and music with me

So here's my cycle commute:
  • 6.45am leave home and cycle to the City
  • 7.30am arrive at BSQ Bike Room
  • 7.35am have a nice refreshing shower, get ready for work
  • 7.50am arrive on floor 10 ready for a new day
Pros - getting some exercise (about 1 1/2 hours each day), time in my own head (you'd be amazed how much work I think through on the way to work, and how much I debrief on the way home), a sense that I'm doing my bit for reducing traffic congestion (one big red car at a time) and the environment (MapMyRide tracks my carbon emission savings for each commute) and setting an example to my kids in Active Travel.

Cons - let's face it, riding in traffic is frightening.  You can't zone completely out when travelling in bumper to bumper traffic.  Cars constantly change lanes trying to get purchase on the faster lane, people take last minute turns to circumvent the long waits on the main roads and there's not much mirror checking prior to these changes, which makes being a bike rider an absolute adrenalin rush!  Add into that a distinct lack of music - it's just too dangerous to ride with an iPod in your ears.

So why do I choose to get on my bike and take on the challenge.  Simply put, I feel fantastic when I get to work.  Ironically, I am more energised after expending energy riding, I have a more positive attitude and I haven't built up a gutful of bile sitting in the traffic.

Riding isn't an option every day. I do like the convenience of having the car close for those days I have early evening commitments (the drive home only takes about 30 minutes), but my target is regularly riding one day a week to start.  By the time we get to the big adventure in September, I'm hoping to be riding at least twice a week to work.

Only time will tell if I achieve this goal.  All it will take is a couple of flat tyres, a near miss or (heaven forbid) an accident for this to all come crashing down.  A friend of mine had a mishap with a car last year, and I admire his fortitude in getting back on the bike and continuing his daily commute.  I don't know if I have what it takes to get back into the saddle after an accident.  Let's hope I don't find out!

So for now - I'm back in the saddle for a regular ride on Thursday, and riding to work on Friday for lunch with the girls at Carindale.  A much shorter option than the City commute and with a better result at the end.

Keep on Pedaling

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Ipswich 100 - what a ride

A couple of times a year, my riding buddy and I sign up for one of the many 100km events to challenge ourselves on our bikes.

The first challenge for the two of us this year is the Ipswich 100.  Starting at the Uni of Qld Ipswich campus, we wound our way out to Rosewood, through the outer Ipswich suburbs, around Mt Walker and back into Ipswich.

Sounds relatively easy, right?  Boy were we wrong!  Ipswich is a city surrounded by hills and mountains.  What were we thinking.

Now after the Cootha Challenge, I was determined to not complain about hills again after the arduous climb over Mt Cootha.  So today's blog will not see me complaining about the ups and downs.  Every single hill on today's ride was manageable, from the short steep climbs, to the long winding uphills.  What made them unbearable at times was the cruel and constant headwind that seemed to whip around every time we changed direction.

You know it's a tough wind when you pedal down the long hills and still find yourself decelerating due to the force working against you.  Oh, and when you can smell the roo that is decomposing 2km down the road for about 5 minutes - you know it's a strong wind!!!!

Anyway, back to the riding.  Managed to finish the 100km in just over four hours (although less if you take out the time we spent at the rest stops eating watermelon, bananas and fruit buns - yes you read that right - fruit buns!!!!)

The legs did get sore and at the 50km mark, if we hadn't stopped for a rest break, I'm not sure if I'd have made it the next 50k.  Funnily, it was after the second rest stop that I realised why I had "struggled" through a particularly long stretch of rolling hills.  (At one point I even pulled over to check my tyres for air and the brakes to make sure they weren't rubbing).  So as we left the rest point, I thought I'd push it up a cog and work a bit hard through some of the flat sections.  Went to change gears and realised I'd been in the harder gear through the entire section.  Here I was wondering why I was having problems on hills that normally posed no problems, only to find out that I had 10 extra gears I could have used to get me up and over. 

While I find myself cursing my stupidity for entering these events at around the 80km mark, that feeling as you cross the finish line to the cheers of many volunteers and the sound of automatic shutters clicking on the motion-detection cameras outways every cramp, niggle and spasm.  Today I even got to finish with my bestie beside me, so the photos will be great to check out when they're published on the website (hope I smiled and didn't grimace in pain!!!)

Feeling pretty good now.  Will make sure I have a good stretch before bed tonight, and may give Zumba a miss tomorrow night, but all in all, today was a good day.

So what's next?  Cycle Qld event in September is riding from Goondiwindi to Brisbane over a 9 day period.  572km, some mountains, the Great Dividing Range, camping at the end of each day - now that's a challenge I look forward to.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Zumba - "Cancel my 3 o'clock"

Ah Wednesday night, how I love thee.  Not only are you the night of hump day, which means we are more than half way through the week, but you are also one of my regular Zumba nights.

Now when you see Zumba on the tv, you see gorgeous, toned, tanned Athenas and Addonis' shaking their booty and flashing irridescent white smiles.  Their washboard abs ripple beneath their crop tops as they effortlessly samba, salsa and mambo through their routines.

I have to tell you, there is only one person like that in our class - and that's our beautiful instructor, Cass.  The rest of us are a nice cross section of middle classdom, ranging in shapes and sizes, across the whole age spectrum.

Having said that, I really enjoy getting out on the floor and shaking my groove thing.  The first few weeks were spent frantically trying to work out what Cass was doing with her feet, and when you've finally mastered that feat, then the arms come into play.  Hips are wiggling, tummy's jiggling and there are body parts moving every which way. 

During my first class, I was reminded of that episode of the Simpsons where Dr Hibberd is testing Homer's body fat.  He says to Homer they can figure out how fat he is by jiggling his flab and timing how long it takes to stop.  He jiggles Homer's ample frame, watches it jiggle for 5 seconds or so, looks at his watch and speaks into the intercom "Nurse, cancel my 3 o'clock."  That's how I felt that first week!

Happily, things improve a little more each week, at least until Miss Cass brings in a new routine.  Then you are catapulted right back to week one all over again.

Last Monday night we had the privilege of attending a Zumba Masterclass led by international instructor Michael Thomas.  Oh what a night!  You might think someone of such stature in the Zumba fitness movement would be somewhat full of themselves, arrogant, self-absorbed.  Instead, we were presented with a wonderfully generous, fun loving man who loves to share his passion for dance with others.  Oh, and did I mention he had gorgeous eyes, a beautiful smile, washboard abs and hips that should carry a warning label?

After an hour and a half of full on dancing, it's always surprising that you've managed to fit a full on exercise class into a fun time with friends.  It's not til the end and the music stops that I realise how much of a workout I have put my body through.

So if you haven't had the chance to shake your booty at a Zumba class, I can recommend it.  You just have to promise to go back a few times to get your eye in.  And if you don't enjoy the class, shop around to experience some other instructors.  When we've gone to fundraisers and had other instructors lead groups, some have blown us away and some have just blown.  Cass and Bre seem to be just the right fit for my style (or lack thereof!)  Don't buy the videos - you really need to experience the fun firsthand in a real, live class.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Welcome to my nightmare

Let me set things straight right from the start.  I am not complaining about my life.  In fact, quite the opposite.  I'm a firm believer that we are the creators of our own destiny. 

I love that I am a busy working mum.  I love that my work is sometimes all encompassing.  I love that when it's not work that overwhelms me, it's my family, pick ups, drop offs, dance groups, soccer practice, exercise, bill paying - whatever it is that life throws at me.  I love that sometimes I drop one of the balls I'm juggling, cos I love the fact that I just bend down and pick the ball back up, rub off any hair or grit from off the floor and recommence my juggling.

So really, the title may well be "Living the Dream," however "Welcome to my Nightmare" is probably more likely to have people read it.  After all, don't we all love the doom and gloom stories more than the positive life affirming ones?

Let me tell you a bit more about me and mine.  I'm a mum of two amazing kids - a 13 year old daughter and a 10 year old son.  My girl is a dancer, my son a soccer player.  My very active husband of 18 years is an indoor cricketer who plays at representative level (think State and National rep) and has recently discovered a new challenge - triathlons. 

As a family we love to camp and spend many of our holidays camping with friends.  Hubby and the kids ski on our holidays at Easter and Christmas, but September is reserved for annual red dirt treks into the Outback.  The land calls to me at that time each year, and I'm busily planning this year's road trip.
I work full time in government as a Project Manager, and really enjoy the work that I do.  I've met some fabulous people, I'm constantly challenged in my work, and (most of the time) I enjoy getting up to go to work each day.

My group of friends is many and varied.  There are people I've known most of my life, and new friends whom I've only just met, and I value and love them all for different reasons.

I turned 40 recently, and over the 2 years prior to that milestone day, I befriended probably the person who is my closest friend, greatest rival and biggest inspiration.  Together we have lost a combined 30kg between us, have discovered a love of exercise and regularly train together to keep active and healthy.  She is also my best drinking buddy, but that's for another blog!!!!

This year, in celebration of our fitness aspirations and a show of sisterhood, my bestie and I are heading off on the Cycle Queensland event, cycling 570+ km from Goondiwindi to Stanthorpe.  Crazy?  Maybe.  Fun? Hope so.  Can't wait?  You bet - we're both raring to go - September cannot get here fast enough.

In preparation for the week long ride, we are starting to get in some longer rides on our days off.  Last weekend we both rode in 40km events at Mooloolaba, and this weekend, we're riding the 100km event at the Ipswich100.  If you're reading this and feeling a little inspired, it's a nice cruisy speed (given the distance neither of us are out to kill our best average speed), and we'd love some company.  Who knows, you may get bitten by the cycling bug as hard as we have been. 

That's me, front row with my sunnies on at the completion of the ride.  It was my first large pack ride, and while I was absolutely terrified to ride in such a large group, I realised how fun draughting is, and what a great way it is to conserve energy.  So it's pack riding for me in future I think!

Hubby and I have long had very different interests when it comes to exercise - he's a natural athlete who always seems to be great at whatever he plays, while I'm just average at everything.  It is great however that we've both discovered a love of riding, and it was great to share the ride with him last weekend.  That's him front left in the photo.

Anyway, really should leave something for my future posts.  My blogs are my chance to share my thoughts, log my journey on the ride of my life and maybe bring a few people along for the journey!

Until next time - keep those pedals turning!!!!