Monday, 24 September 2012

It's a numbers game

I've never been one to over think my safety on the road.  When cycling, I follow the rules, make myself visible to fellow ride users with my hi-vis wear and do my best to read drivers' minds when sharing the road.

I've had my share of near misses - cars turning left in front of me, being clipped by car mirrors when they get too close, cars running give way and stop signs.  My personal mantra as I ride is "always catch the driver's eye".  If I don't see him/her see me, I ride defensively to ensure the best chance of arriving at my destination in one piece.

There will always be an element of risk in riding a bike.  If it's not a distracted driver, it might be a pothole seen at the last minute, a magpie attack, a fellow bike rider who doesn't give notice that they are approaching and passing, or a pedestrian who steps off the kerb right in front of me. But there are risks every time I get into my car, catch a bus or walk too.

There is a whole movement out there trying to get legislation overturned with regard to mandatory helmet wearing.  Their theory is that a helmet won't protect my head in a high impact collision.  They are right in that regard.  My aluminium frame, weighing a total of 10kg, will certainly come off the worse for wear in an accident with a 1 tonne steel car travelling at speed.

But in a low impact accident (eg going over a bonnet or simply falling from my bike due to a tyre blowout), I'd back my odds a lot better with my stack hat firmly on my head.  I've had a fall at 5km/hr where I banged my head on a garden edge.  My helmet meant I had a head ache, but no major damage to my skull or brain.  If the law changes, I will still wear a helmet, even if it is not mandatory to do so.

In the last month I've known people who have sustained injury as a result of cycling.  One friend was knocked by an impatient driver towing a caravan during an organised ride, with just some minor injury to her shoulder and a bit of bark off.  She was certainly shaken, but as the old adage goes, she got back on the bike.  Two weeks later, on another ride, she was hit by a car on a roundabout, again, during a large organised ride.

This time, her injuries are a little more serious.  She has broken her leg in two places and will require surgery to plate her bones in place.. She is heavily bruised and grazed.  But she is alive.  It could have been much worse.  Will she continue to ride?  Who knows.  That may depend on how well she heals, both mentally and physically.

Two other friends of mine have had altercations with cars - roundabouts and turns are a common cause of bike to car accidents, with the frequent cry of "I didn't see you" an all too familiar refrain.  Both riders still ride regularly.

Will these instances stop me?  At this point, no.  I won't deny that after this most recent event I haven't had a re-think.  I ride a couple of times a week for exercise, and try to commute at least once a week too.  The commute is the ride I feel safest doing, as there are a number of other regulars on the road too.  When I drive, I always notice the regulars and mentally look for them on the way.  I hope other drivers think the same way.  At the same time, peak hour traffic is slower moving, making it less likely that a car will be travelling at speed through areas without seeing me.

Leisure riding is a bit different. Even though we regularly ride the same areas, because it is earlier in the morning, many drivers aren't expecting us to be out.  Riding in back streets isn't the best idea, as people don't expect to see bikes in quiet streets.  That is also true for commuter routes.

I hope I haven't dampened anyone's enthusiasm when it comes to getting out and riding on their bike.  There are risks involved.  But the joy I get from riding my bike outweighs the risk.  Hopefully the same rings true for you too.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Life's little triumphs

Saturday, 22nd September will stay in my mind as a special day in my exercise life.  That is the day that I ran in my first 5km fun run.

I had a ball, and contrary to my original thoughts, I enjoyed running in such a large group of people.  It was great to be able to drop in behind a fellow runner and match pace, and then decide, to move out and find the next pacer.

It was a humid afternoon, and as the first run of the event, the 4pm start time meant we ran the entire race in the warm afternoon sun.  I normally run 5km without a water break, but then I also run at night.  Today I stopped at all 4 water stations for a quick sip of water and to throw the rest down over my neck and back to make the most of the fresh breeze that kept us cool on the loop back.

It was also wonderful to have a strong support group there.  Hubby was running in the 10km event, and my wonderfully supportive Zumba buddy Wendy was there to cheer on her hubby and his friend.  Another Zumba friend, Siobhan and her partner Dave were also there, as well as my running inspiration, Steve.  It was a great feeling to hear them cheer me over the line.

But the biggest high I got all day was watching so many people achieve their goals.  There is nothing like standing at the finish line and watching the faces of people who are doing something they love. There is such a feeling of achievement as they cross that line.  Triumph is in every face.  There are PBs being achieved, personal goals met and even those who may be disappointed initially will do some reaccessing and realise that they have still done something to be proud of.  To even attempt is still a step better than to not even begin.

I don't know the next step for me.  A few more fives to see if I can push my time down is certainly a plan.  But the ten is beckoning, so time to train for some longer runs to get the legs into shape.  And stretching, lots and lots of stretching to give those tired muscles every chance of success.

Thanks to my lovely friends for their support today.  You made it such a special day.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

The funny and the facts

My final blog about CQ12 today - a collection of stories, quotes and facts that I discovered whilst "on tour".

You might remember from my blogs last year during Cycle Qld how open the showering situation was, and my shock at sharing a communal dressing room.

I resolved myself to it easily and even found it quite liberating.  In fact the only issue I had with the showers this year was the lady who felt that it was acceptable behaviour to pull the curtain back at the entry of the communal area, thus displaying us in all our nude glory to the world outside.  Not only did she do it once, but three times.  I mean, come on lady, have a clue - when we start to shout to put the curtain down, just do it!

Hayden, however really found it difficult to nude up.  Quote of the showers from my boy "mum, do you know what it's like to come out of your shower and be faced with an old man's butt right there as he bends over? Yuk!". In fact he did his best to avoid showering, and it wasn't til he realised that a late shower meant he could change in his cubicle that it became easier to get him to wash.  I even tried to convince him nudity was ok.  I said to him "it's ok mate, everyone looks the same".  His response - "no they don't mum, they really don't.  There are wrinkly bits and dangly bits and boobs and everything on some of these guys".  Poor bugger, think he walked around with his eyes closed a lot!

Fact that I learned while on CQ was in regards to catering.  The night we had Irish Stew and potato mash, the kitchens went through 150kg of meat to make the meal.  That's a lot of cow!

Another fact - the oldest rider was 82 and he completed every single day of the ride.

And another - the youngest pedaller was Josie, aged 3.

There were a number of fundraisers on our ride.  Brodie, aged 12 raised over $5000 for Rosie's.  Another fellow had raised over $20000 for his chosen charity.  I love that people get on their bikes for a cause, but I did get sick of strangers asking me what I was riding for.  Hard to keep smiling and say "for fun" - the concept of cycle touring obviously hasn't seeped into common thought process.  It seems they all think we are there to raise money when we go on these long rides.  Not me, I'm in it for a holiday.  They look quite stunned when I tell them that too!

Another fact - Gayndah is Queensland's oldest town.  Apparently it is also rumoured to have been considered as Qld's capital city.

The food was once again fabulous.  A nice array of easy to digest meals, including the aforementioned Irish Stew, Hungarian Goulash, Cajun Chicken, Lasagne, Spaghetti Bolognaise, followed by yummy desserts - banana cake, fruit salad, Danishes, all sorts of yummy treats on the road and delicious juices and cordials.  Once again, I put on 3kg in a week while on the ride!

Anyway, once again, the party is over and it's time to start training for the Cairns ride nxt year.  I've been advised that it's hilly area up there, and if it's true that we are heading to Atherton, then my training probably should have started a week ago!  Not to worry, the anticipation will just have to build.

Monday, 17 September 2012

The final ride - happy and sad times

30km from Noosa to Cooroy was all that was between us and the end of our September Adventure.  We packed early and were on the road with the first 100 riders or so.

Only a few hills to challenge us today, but the legs were a bit tired, so even those few hills were a good warm up and challenge.

Our ride route took us down the Noosa longboard track.  A great downhill section that saw me riding my brakes heavily as it was quite twisty and would have been easy to fly right over the side.

And before you knew it, we were cruising along the Noosa River Esplanade and across the finish line to end our 9 day ride.

There are so many great things about cycle touring.  I've driven on many of the roads that we rode on this week.  I've seen more from my bike seat than I ever have from my car window.  I've smelled the cold, crisp outdoor air, felt the sun on my face and the wind in my hair.  This week's ride allowed me to share memories with Hayden that I may not have shared otherwise.

One morning (before I got my cold!), as we crested a rise, I smelled molasses grass.  Taking a deep breath, I told Hayden how that smell always makes me think of my grandmother - Nana Skerman - who lived in Maleny.  When we went to visit, we knew when we smelled that grass that we were close to seeing her.  To this day, I still can't help thinking we are nearly there whenever I catch the familiar scent.  He loved hearing that story, and would let me know when he could smell it once my head cold had cloaked my sense of smell.

Crossing the line was a momentous moment - and once we had passed the finish line, photographers and friends and had dismounted, we had the chance to realise what we had done.  542km in 9 days, visiting 8 towns and passing through many others.  Milestones in terms of distance and back to back days.  New friendships formed and promises to catch up at next year's event.  And now we are done.

Thanks to everyone for their support, well wishes and encouragement throughout the event.  I love writing, and it gives me great pleasure to know that people are reading my blogs and enjoying them.  I know this year was different from the last and that there was more focus on Hayden, but that's just the way that it panned out.  I'm currently writing my summary of the event that includes cute and funny things that happened, so I'm hoping that one will be a little more like the previous year!

So now there is only 12 months until CQ13 - Cairns and beyond.  But who's counting?

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Smashing the climbs

Cycle Qld is a little bit like childbirth.  Ladies will understand this more than the fellas.  If you've had more than one child, you'll remember that moment when you go into labour the second time and suddenly think "oh shit, I remember what this is like now, what the hell was I thinking?"

Today felt a little like that for me, as we took off on another hill climbing day after yesterday's long haul.  But today, walking was not an option.  Hayden absolutely, positively forbade me from getting off the bike until our rest stops.  And he was a great motivator.  Even on the longest climb today, we never looked like stopping.  Climbed a couple of 11% grades, and had a hair-raising 15% descent that wound down around the back of the range. Struggled to hold the girl back to a reasonable speed that would not see us plummeting to our deaths over the side of the mountain!

But we are now safely in camp at Cooroy, with only a short pedal tomorrow to Noosa.  Tonight is the CQ last night party, with costumes to start with a C or a Q.  Hayden is presenting as a caveman, while I am a Quidditch player for Gryffindor.  Can't wait to see what everyone else is dressed as too.  Lots of photos tonight I think!

So what are some of the negatives of the ride?  Not much really.  You could say the climb, but that's all part of the fun.  If you don't want to work hard on a ride, this is not the best place for you to come. Snoring is an issue - I swear they are all drawn to my camping area, and without my ear plugs I might have struggled last year.  This year I ditched the plugs and decided to grin and bear it.  It's a bit like having kids really - you learn to block them out!

Mad cyclists are a problem - the ones who give you no warning they are zooming up beside you and scare the bejesus out of you.  I could do without them, but as they say it takes all kinds.

The pluses far outweigh those few minuses.  The food has once again been spectacular, with great variety, wonderful flavour and pleases most palates.  The company is lovely, and most people are happy to have a chat and tell you about their adventures.  The volunteers are extraordinary, putting in long hours at thankless tasks to ensure our safety and comfort both on site and on the road.

The exercise is fabulous, and one of the big positives today was the reward of a long hard climb that resulted in views east to west of gorgeous dairy cattle country, with green valleys, lush creeks and rolling mountain backdrops.  It was like being privy to a glimpse of heaven as we sucked in the fresh mountain air.

The bonding experience that I have had with my son has been an absolute highlight of my week.  He delights me with the little things he finds to point out to me along the way, makes me smile with his singing to his favourite tunes as he rides along, amazes me with his strength, stamina and endurance and surprises me with random "I love yous".

There is not a single thing I would change about this week.  We are having a ball.  But tomorrow the fun ends for another year and we will be counting down to the next big adventure.  Can't wait to find out tonight where next year's tour will take us.  Stay tuned - maybe you will join us!

Friday, 14 September 2012

A Dora the Explorer moment

We did it, we did it, we did it yeah, Bellisimo! I am currently doing a little happy dance while singing the Dora theme song.  Ok, ok, it's a mental happy dance, my body is resting after putting it through a long haul!

What a fabulous day! 104.73km by my trip meter, and we are now resting comfortably at Albert Park in Gympie - our noisiest campsite yet as it is situated right beside the Bruce Highway.  I think it is strategically brilliant myself that they put us here after the longest day.  I will sleep like the dead tonight, regardless of whether trucks use their air brakes or a plane crashes on the oval next to us!

The day started with a gorgeous, albeit rolling hilly ride from Tiaro to the Dickabram Bridge, a gorgeous old steel frame and wooden bridge over the Mary River.  Took some nice photos and a few of my weird and wonderfuls of things like bolts and splinters of wood, but I'm like that!

From Dickabram we headed to Woolooga for lunch and onto Widgee for our afternoon tea stop.  I ate like a pig at all of the stops.  Refuelling is extra important on those rolling hill type days.  Gotta make sure there is plenty left in the legs at the end of the ride.

Hayden rode well today, stereo speakers blaring, singing at the top of his voice.  Lots of encouragement and smiles from fellow riders and lots of comments about his level of enthusiasm.  He gets so many high fives each night as we set up - lots of our "regular" neighbours seek him out to offer congratulations on the day's ride.

I was chastised by him today - at the 90km mark we came across a hill with 10% gradient that wound about 500m uphill.  I called out that we were stopping and he refused to stop pedaling so I could unclip.  I won the argument because I have the brakes, but I was pleased that he was so enthusiastic about getting the whole distance on the bike!

The weather was particularly helpful today, not too hot, topping out at about 25 degrees, but we could have done without the headwind.  Seemed like every way we turned today, that bloody wind turned with us.

For those who followed last year, this one wasn't as bad as last year's long day.  The first 80km was quite nice, nothing too major.  The last 20 km though certainly rivalled Stanthorpe's climbs and gradients.

So now it's time to rest and rejuvenate, ready for our last two days of riding - we are off to Cooroy tomorrow, and onto Noosa on Sunday.  More hills tomorrow, but mainly downhill to Noosa.  I can't wait!

Thursday, 13 September 2012

It's a long way to Tiaro, it's a long way to go...

Ok, it's not so long, I'm exaggerating just a smidge.

We left our beautiful seaside campsite at 7.15 and started the 81km trek to the lovely town of Tiaro, population 444.  Which means when we roll into town we triple the population!

A relatively uneventful ride, but a good part of it on highway roads.  Two near misses for Team Boyd today - one from an impatient truck driver who thought we all deserved to die for being on his road.  He got very close and blasted his horn which was quite frightening.

Second close call was of our own making.  My pack came loose on the back so we pulled off on the side of the highway to right it.  Mental note, do not pull over and unclip your right foot when there's a one metre drop on the left.  You WILL overbalance and you will fall.  Or your son will act as a stopper and twist his ankle.

He was a real trooper though and fought back the tears to press on.  Once off the highway we wound through some hilly country and over a gorgeous old planked bridge into Tiaro.

I'm not ashamed to admit that the second half of the ride for me was a struggle today.  I have a head cold that is slowly manifesting into my chest cavity.  It makes breathing painful and difficult and hills are the enemy!  By the time we made it into town I was wrecked and it was a real effort to put up my tent and get settled.

A massage for us both was a great help, easing off our sore muscles.  Hayden is hooked and is quite a favourite with the massage team.  I couldn't get him in for tomorrow's sessions, but will make sure he has one in Cooroy, because he sure has earned it!

Tomorrow is our greatest challenge.  102km of hills all day, with no flat sections for recovery.  Hayden is a bit concerned we will be riding the SAG wagon, and I've been trying to convince him that it won't be a bad thing if we give it our best shot and have to catch the bus to camp.  At tonight's briefing they mentioned that the section to afternoon tea was easier than last year's Texas to Stanthorpe leg, but that after afternoon tea was the hardest section.  That was the hardest ride I had ever done, so I look forward to the comparisons at the end of the day.

I've never been one to quit before I start.  We will give it a good crack tomorrow.  But if you don't hear from me tomorrow night by about 8pm, send out the search parties and look for the carrion eaters circling in the air.  That's where you'll find us!

Rest day = welcome

After four days on the road it was restorative to have a rest day in Hervey Bay.  There were many tours and activities on offer, but I didn't book anything before our trip because I wanted to gauge how we were travelling.

It turns out that we really needed a day of rest.  The chance to reenergise the batteries and get ready for the three hard days ahead.

We had a sleep in, ate a late breakfast and caught the SAG wagon into town to check out what downtown Hervey Bay had to offer.

First stop was the Vic Hislop Shark Exhibition.  It's one of those things that we have always looked at but never done.  Now that we have done it, I know it's something I will never do again.  Basically, the exhibition is walls full of newspaper clippings about shark attacks, Hislop's thoughts on conspiracy and cover up and a couple of bits and pieces of memorabilia.  Interesting to look at, but hardly enough to get me to drag my friends to go and see it next time we are in town.

Marginally nicer was the walk along the Urangan Pier, chatting to fishermen and greeting fellow CQ riders along the way.  Then a yummy morning tea from a local bakery and a leisurely 6km walk back to the campsite along the beach.

I was excited to find live starfish burying themselves in the sand and waiting for the tide to come back in.  Hayden was mortified that I was picking them up and looking at them.

Onto the bike for a quick trip to KFC for lunch and the rest of the arvo was spent in the water park next door, playing in the icy cold water and having a go on the Flo Rider.

Rounded out the day with How to Train Your Dragon at the camp cinema, and all and all it was a great day of just bumming around.

Tomorrow sees us moving onto Tiaro, with out hardest day of riding after that.  Hmmm let's see how that goes!

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

A well deserved rest day is on the cards

Ahhhh bliss.  Tonight finds us happy little campers right on the beachfront at Seaside Oval, Hervey Bay.

Today's efforts were less than yesterday, only 57km from Maryborough to our lovely little beachside site.  We had a ball at the Mary Poppins singalong movie. Ok I had a ball, but whether the kids had a ball is still to be confirmed.

And most excitedly, I can now say that I have sung with the Vienna Boys' Choir.  Now I know I'm neither a boy nor a singer, but the choir is in Maryborough to perform, and they enjoyed the singalong movie with us at the theatre last night, so technically, when we were all singing, together, my claim of singing with the Vienna Boys' Choir is validated!

Hayden was disappointed not to have a milestone today, until I pointed out that today was his first "four days on the bike" effort.  He cheered up at that, and put in another great ride.  Today was a lovely, relatively flat ride, with only two horror hills.  One steep fast climb approaching the first rest stop, but at the top we were rewarded with views out across Hervey Bay and out to Fraser.  The second was a cruel quick climb after lunch.  Never fun when your legs have cooled down and have to find something in the first 200m.

The best part of today was the highway riding - something normally frowned upon for cyclists, but approved for our touring event.  The new verge had just been completed, so it was smooth sailing for the better part of 20km, and it was almost a shame to turn off the main drag onto some less well maintained roads.

We rode on a short gravel stretch today, and it was fun to be passing lots of roadies as they picked their way through the hazardous material.  Gravel - the great equaliser - friend of those with huge chunky tyres, not so much to the road bike set!

Tomorrow is a well-earned rest day for our tour group.  We haven't planned anything too major. Vic Hyslop's shark Expo, the Urangan Pier, an historical village and the shops to buy gifts for the family, but who really knows - it could be a day just sitting around camp and relaxing.  All I know is that whatever it is, it is well deserved.

We are halfway there.  Over 270km on the road, with our hardest day ahead of us, but we are looking forward to the challenge.  But not just yet.  Tonight we rest.

Monday, 10 September 2012

A supacalifragilisticexpialidocious kinda day

Today we are in Maryborough.  With a trek of 86+ km from Biggenden, this was our biggest day so far, and it was an up hill and down dale kind of day.

My little turbo is in fine form today, and is delighted to claim a new milestone - his longest ride yet.  Now I'm sure a lot of you are thinking that really he just sits in the back and turns the pedals over, but honestly he is as much a contributor to our workload as I am.  And on some of the hills he is even moreso.

We receive great encouragement every step of the way.  As one of the slower riders (we average about 19.8km/hr), we get on the road early to get as much time up our sleeves as possible to get to our destination.  That means a lot of the faster riders pass us - a lot!  But most always greet us with a cheery hello, good morning or great to see you each time they come up the outside.  Today we even copped a few "you guys are an inspiration" type comments, and my personal favourite - "here they are, Supermum and WonderBoy!"

I am loving the time on the bike with my boy.  He is chatty and funny and inquisitive and clever and I find out more and more about him each day.  And for those who are in the know (Jane) - he is practicing SMILE everyday and is becoming more confident with every encounter.

We encountered sugar train trucks loaded choc a block with cane today, enjoyed the feeling of being sandblasted by the dirt that follows in the wake of a 100km/hr B double travelling past you and a fully operational saw mill at Brooweena that had him gaping at the size of the logs and delighting in the smell of fresh cut timber.

Last night we shared our dining table with a lovely bunch of Canberrians.  There was a couple riding an Appollo tandem as well, and it wasn't until we had been there for about ten minutes that we realised that the gentleman was visually impaired.  I had mentioned that Hayden gives me running commentary on the scenery and the wife asked if we could swap.  I readily agreed, as long as her husband's legs were as capable as Hayden's!

There are some great stories to hear along the way - there are many people here who could just curl up and wish their lives away due to disability or age but instead they are out here everyday living their lives on the bike.  There's a mum and her intellectually impaired son, the couple I previously mentioned, a number of hearing impaired riders (it's quite scary when we come up alongside them, cos they can't hear us call that we are passing and sometimes we are travelling at a great rate of knots) and too many older riders to mention.

Yet all of them are out here each day enjoying life on a bike.  I think this week has consolidated a love of riding in Hayden that I hope will be a joy to him all of his life. He constantly talks about next year's ride and is already planning rides when we return to Brisbane.

Admittedly he was very quiet this morning after passing another accident scene - two riders had a slight altercation which left one heavily concussed and bleeding from a large gash to the head.  Hopefully she is ok, but it was quite confronting, and he was certainly more subdued until we talked over how he felt about the scene.

But enough of the somber stuff.  Tonight we are both getting a pre-dinner massage, followed by a ride into town to join in a singalong Mary Poppins show.  Maryborough is the birthplace of Mary Poppins author PL Travers, so what better way to spend our only night in this grand old town?

As for the massage, I know when they ask me what areas they want me to focus on, it will be shoulders, calves and butt.  Hayden's response will be "just my bum cos it is sooooo sore". I have to remember there isn't much padding there and it must get a lot of jarring on these roads.

Tomorrow we find our way to Hervey Bay, where we have a delightful campsite on the water's edge and an even more delightful day of rest.  Until then, cheerio, pip, pip...

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Just keep pedallin'

Hayden has a new longest ride.  Today's 65km trek from Gayndah to Biggenden was a hard ride backing up after a tough first day, but he attacked it with gusto.

The course challenged us with a few toughish hills, but there was no walking today for Team Boyd - there was no way Hayden would let me!  He wore his new riding shirt today - a big L plate with the wording underneath "Do not overtake turning vehicle".  He earned plenty of comments with that shirt today.  Again, all positive and all very encouraging to a young fella.

We have earned a couple of nicknames now - to some we are the One and a Half Horsepower bike, to others, we are the team with the turbo in the back.  Most people have commented that Hayden will have earned his P plates by next year and he is already making noises about coming on next year's ride, but under his own power on his own bike.

We felt great after the first rest stop, but those head winds kicked in again and it was tough times from there on.  There were many occasions of "Come on Mum, you can do it" and even a couple of "doing great Hayds, keep the legs pumping".

But here we rest now in camp at Biggenden, lazing around the campsite, eating a bit of junk food (no judgement please - we are earning it!). We set up tents and meandered back into town to take a dip in the town pool.

Oh wow! How good did that feel!  It was like diving into a mountain spring, cold, refreshing and soothing.  Our tired muscles nearly screamed with pleasure as we pampered them with a good soaking in the cool waters.

We teamed up with Sue and Brodie today, and spent most of the ride chasing each other up and down hills.  Our camps are right next to each other, and the boys are becoming friends, with their conversations less forced and more like two 11/12 year old banter.  Sue and I enjoy telling stories that make them giggle or blush, so that probably helps with the fast forming bond!

So it's time for a quick nap before dinner, then I'm off to the movies; tonight it's The Muppets.  Hope I can stay awake long enough to enjoy it!

Tomorrow we are off to Maryborough.  It's 85km to get there, so once again Hayden will hit a milestone, and he's pretty pumped at the prospect.  I think he's more excited that we are booking in for a massage post-ride tomorrow but don't tell him I told you that.  Me, I'm looking forward to the Mary Poppins singalong show on offer.

Have a great night - the weather has been treating us to warm, balmy days with mid to late 20s, and crisp, clear nights of 7-10 degrees.  I don't mind the cooler evenings, but wouldn't mind turning the temps down at midday!

But no point grumbling about what you can't change.  I'm just thankful I wasn't the fellow who had a fight with a magpie today.  It attacked him head on, resulting in a nasty fall that is seeing his CQ ride finishing 7 days early.  A spot of hot weather is nothing to complain about while I have my health and the chance to keep the pedals turning.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Bloody headwinds, bloody hills and bullocks

Day one and we are finally on the road.  56km - shouldn't be too hard!

Boy was I wrong!  The ride start was great, with almost 1000 riders taking part in this year's tour.  Lots of scenery, a ride over a bridge, locals lining the street to cheer us on, it started idealically.  But at the 24km mark things turned sour.

Today's ride took us over the Binjour Plateau, a beautiful place but a hell of a climb.  1.6km climbing at 9% was a tough ask on my roadie let alone on my clunky tandem.  But we were tearing up the climb until traffic stopped in front of us and we were forced to stop.  At that point, it meant we had to push our bikes the rest of the way, however the downhill was pretty special afterward.

The rest of the trip was relatively uneventful, with lots of hard work on hills, mostly by Hayden, and the most breath taking downhill that saw us clock 70.2km/hr on the speedo under brakes.  I didn't tell Hayden the speed until we reached the bottom, but he wouldn't have heard me anyway, he was too busy woohooing behind me!

We had our first tiff on the tandem today when he accused me of not working hard enough.  I had to explain to him that I was pedalling as hard as I could, but the headwinds were wreaking havoc and there were times when we had to work hard to find momentum on the downhills.  It was like that for most of the ride, with the wind hitting us full in the face.  I have no idea what wind speed was, but know it was a hindrance more than a help.

With that and the hills now under our belts, I'm so proud of our efforts today.  We've had plenty of support from lots of people on the ride, particularly those urging Hayden on, and a lot of the guys are ready with a high five for him at the end of the day.  We've talked to lots of people already, all asking about how we are going and hoping to see us succeed.  It was bloody hard work today and it felt great when we finished as we realised what we had done.

We paired up with Brodie for a bit today too - he is a absolute trooper who just plugs away, and he smashes us on the hills, but we always catch him on the downhills!  He has raised over $4000 now for Rosie's and is well on his way to the $5k mark.  If you're reading this and haven't donated but would like to, you can find him on - just search for Brodie and you'll find him.

Finally, on return to the campsite, we hurried over to see a display put on by the Gleneden Bullock Team - and had one of the most entertaining 1 1/2 hours at the show.  Rob is a school teacher with a hobby interest in bullock driving, and he took us through a typical day on a bullock dray with humour, frustration and a history lesson all rolled into one.  If you're ever up Gayndah way, drop in and see the show - its well worth the $20 it will set you back.

Today was now Hayden's longest ride.  Until tomorrow when he rides 65km to Biggenden.  And somewhere along this ride he will hit the 100 mark.  So a few milestones this week.  I'm just hoping the hills are a little milder in the morning!

More tomorrow. Same bat time, same bat channel.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Gentlemen, start your engines...

Here we go again.  Cycle Qld 2012. Gayndah to Noosa via Hervey Bay. 542km from start to finish.

Sound familiar? It should.  This time last year I was excitedly looking forward to my first Cycle Qld ride - Goondiwindi to Brisbane.

This year I return a seasoned veteran, smiling knowingly at the first timers as they find their way around camp.  I know now how we must have looked last year as we were learning the ropes.

But I'm also seeing camp again through the eyes of my own first timer - an eleven year old boy who is not just excited about what lies ahead, but has a degree of doubt about whether he will be able to do the ride.

We left Brissie early this morning, much to Hayden's disappointment - he wanted to go to school so he could play inter school sport.  He slept for some of the drive, read for some and just stared out of the window for other sections.

It wasn't until we got to site that he started to get a little more animated.  He gave me a big smile as he challenged me - "first to get their tent up wins".  Have I mentioned his is a pop up tent that opens up in 20 seconds?  Hayden has now settled well into cycle camp now and is happily reading a new book on my new Kindle.  That's right - MY Kindle!

We've touched base with Sue and Brodie - a fellow Wynnum team riding this year.  I won't tell you too much about our topics of conversation, but let's just say we had the two boys in fits of giggles telling stories about pee.  Enough said.

Tomorrow brings our first riding day.  A loop out and back from Gayndah - 56km that includes some ups, some downs and a lot of in betweens.  Our tandem bike is prepped and ready to go.  Our legs are ready to ride and our minds are set to determined.  Nana and Grandad are planning to wave us off at the start and meet us at the finish.

With tomorrow out of the way, I'll be much more confident of how the rest of the week will go.  So for now it's off to bed to get some rest, ready for our midday ride.  Here's hoping its cooler than the 34 degrees we had at 2pm today!

Wish us luck!

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

New beginnings

8 weeks ago I embarked on a journey.  I set a goal to run 5km in 8 weeks.  I want to be very clear - at that point I was not a runner in any way shape or form.

I weighed 98.8kg, ate poorly, slept poorly and my exercise was usually bike rides and walking.

On that day, I decided a lifestyle change was in order.

I began with small steps.  I downloaded two apps that I have found extremely helpful in my fitness and weight loss journey.  The first - My Fitness Pal - is a calorie tracker and fitness diary.  I record all of my food intake and exercise output each day.  I don't cheat.  If I have a bad day, that's in there.  I really am committed to being honest with myself.

The second application was Couch to 5k - an exercise regime that coaxes you out of your comfy lounge chair and out onto the road.  It starts out as an interval running program and progresses in gradual steps until you are running for 35 min uninterrupted - around the 5k mark.

Tonight I ran my first 5km ever and I'm feeling pretty chuffed with myself.  So what have I learned in that 8 weeks of running training?

  1. I like running.  Because the program is a gradual build up of stamina, I found it easy to stay motivated and continue pushing myself.  Running clears my head after a long day.  It makes me tired, but I've never regretted any of my nights spent running.
  2. Self-belief is a big part of success.  At the beginning of each run I would think through how I would tackle the run ahead. And at the end of each run I would congratulate myself on getting through the task.  
  3. Equipment is important - the right shoes, a good bra (ok, that's for the ladies in most cases) and comfy clothes can make or break a run.
  4. I can push through the pain threshold.  When it starts to hurt, I can push through that pain and continue running.  That has been a weakness on previous running regimes, but this time I was determined to push through.
  5. It's important to allow the body time to rest, recover and rebuild.  I only run every other day, and mix it up with cycling, walking and Zumba.  Last time I pushed it too fast and too soon, resulting in leg pain, foot pain, back pain and, you guessed it, I didn't finish the program.
So where to from here?  I have my first 5km twilight run on Saturday 22nd September.  At the end of that run, I'll evaluate next steps.  At this point I'm thinking 10k is my next goal.  The one after that is isn't set in stone either, but I can see something in the distance - just not sure what it is just yet.  

So if you, like me, are ready for some change in life, find yourself something you like to do and get out there and do it.  Surround yourself with positive people who want to see you succeed and who will help you achieve that success.  Talk about it, be accountable, and most importantly enjoy what you do - it's easier to stay motivated when you're doing something you like and ultimately love!

Good luck!

Sunday, 26 August 2012

A girl can never have too many (running) shoes

Today I farewelled some long time companions.  They have been supportive, comforting and protective.  They have been there in sunshine and in rain, good runs and bad.  They are my ASICS Kayano 17's.

I still remember the day I bought them.  I had bitten the bullet and decided to shell out the $240 on a pair of good shoes to wear for general exercise.  I know I can get them online for cheaper, but that's a whole other blog for another time!  I went into Rebel Sport in the City and there they were - black runners, ready to challenge my credit card.  Something drove me to walk out of the store without them that day.  I made a beeline for the A-Mart Allsports further down the mall, and there they were - the same shoes on sale for $179.  It was like it was meant to be!

They are easily the most comfortable shoes I have ever owned and that's purely because I chose the best shoes to suit my running action.  The best money I have ever spent was at a podiatrist who custom made my orthotics and recommended the best shoes for my severe over-pronator feet.  Prior to this fit out, I suffered shin splints, tight Achilles tendons, fallen arches and no desire to run ever again!

But after almost six months on my feet through Zumba classes, walking, work and any other time I needed good foot support, coupled with almost 8 weeks of running training, I was beginning to get some of those familiar niggles in my ankles - a sure sign that it was time to replace my old faithfuls.

So off to the shoe shop I went, ready for a new fit out.  This time I knew I didn't have the cash for Kayanos, so thought I'd ask advice on similarly supportive shoes at a price to fit my budget.  The saleswoman was helpful and pointed me to ASICS GT-2170's.  I could buy the sickly pastel purple ones which were slightly cheaper as they were the previous model.  I opted for the new model based on colour!  However, no longer are shoes white, blue and silver.  The box proudly boasts Lightning, Blue Atoll and Charcoal as the colours!

Had my first run in them tonight.  To use Hayden's phrase (he too got new shoes today), "it was like running on clouds.".  I really hadn't realised how worn my old pair were until tonight's session.  It was like having a new spring in my step.

And speaking of spring - there was a touch of humidity in the air tonight.  Not long now until my night runs will have more of a balmy feel to them methinks!

Time for bed shortly as I have an early ride in the morning.  Keep an eye out for a Tuesday blog this week - that's the day I'm due to hit the 5k mark.  Until then, just keep on putting one foot in front of the other and keep on movin'.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Clothes make the runner

I've been forced to eat my words.  Twelve months ago, I swore I was not a runner and that I was never going to attempt running training again. I was content with my cycling and Zumba to get me into shape and gave up on being a runner.

For six weeks now, I've been following the couch to 5k running program.  It's an interval program that starts off with more walking than running, then gradually swings it the other way, until eventually you are running longer each session without the walking breaks.

I'm pleased to say I'm really enjoying the training.  Tonight I ran my last session of two separate runs, and from tomorrow I will be running one long run each session.

Am I worried? Perhaps a little, but then I've worried about how I'll go with most of my runs.  Will I be able to make it? Will I hurt my ankle? Will my knee blow out? Will I get heckled by real runners as they pass me on the foreshore?

My biggest concern was my feet.  I am a pronator and have had issues in the past with shin splints, fallen arches, sore toes and aching knees.  A visit to my podiatrist resulted in a lift being fitted into my left shoe to correct my shorter leg and brand new orthotics to fix my inward rolling feet.  I've felt the difference ever since, with no foot pain and only sore muscles when they first started to re-train how they work when I first got the adjustments.

Running was quite painful before these changes, but in the six weeks I've been interval training, I have had no issues with my feet (other than from pounding the pavement!)

Tonight, I had my first foot pain but I think I have its measure.  I worked a 7 hour shift today in the canteen at my son's soccer club - concrete floors and on my feet without a sit down break.  I stupidly wore my old running shoes.  There are three problems with this - no lift in the left shoe, store-bought orthotics and stretchy laces.  I thought I was so cool when I bought the stretchy laces for my first triathlon.  My podiatrist soon put my coolness factor to rest when she explained the damage that those stretchy laces were doing to my feet.  Needless to say, I retired those shoes from running and dancing and only wear them around the house. 

So after a full shift of wearing those bad choices, my legs were already a little sore.  Muscles that had been re-trained to do their job had slackened off and the ones who hadn't done that work for a while were quite vocal in expressing their shock at being put into action again.  I changed my shoes at the end of my shift, rested the legs for a couple of hours, had a gentle stroll to the local shops with Brendon and then started to plan my run for the night.  Firmly lacing up my black Kayanos, I set off on my session.

All was good to start, but about 10 minutes in I realised I had some pain in my shins.   At the walking interval it was markedly noticeable, to the point of it being painful and I found myself limping a bit through that particular interval.  I decided to analyse what I was doing when I started my next running interval.

It didn't take long to realise, I was curling my toes inside my shoes.  Why?  I hadn't changed my socks.  I was wearing  standard office socks - no cushions, no reinforced arch, just a pair of slippery, cotton socks.  My feet were sliding around inside my shoes, and in an effort to stop them from moving, I was curling my toes to anchor them. 

I spent the rest of the interval consciously holding my toes straight and concentrating on my landing and it worked.  Shin pain dissipated and run completed.  Who would believe that something as simple as custom running socks could turn a good run into a bad run?

So tomorrow I'm off to the sports store to get me some good socks.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

T minus 48 days and counting...

I can't believe that it's almost that time of year again. How can it be almost twelve months ago that I embarked on my inaugural Cycle Qld event?

It was a great adventure, a huge challenge and the most amazing sense of achievement. The only regret I had was not being able to enjoy those things with my family. There's no way I could imagine bringing along my daughter. After all, she's fourteen and "so, like, totally, not into riding a bike." I had visions of the four of us on matching tandem bikes, until I realised that Miss J would be on the back of my bike with her feet up on the handle bars, texting her friends and listening to her iPod!

Top that off with the fact that hubby is self-employed and couldn't afford the time off, and then poor Hayden was on the back of an unpiloted bike! So I re-evaluated my little vision, and began planning a tandem ride with my boy.

In February we bought a secondhand Apollo Tandem bike. We started with a couple of 10-15km rides to find our legs and have progressed to 20-40km rides in the last month or so. Today is our longest ride so far - 55km and a really nice scenic route.

The bonus today is that we rode with a young fellow (Brodie) who is riding with his Grandma in CQ this year. Sue (his gran) rode in CQ a couple of years back with Brodie's older brother Jackson, and in what has become something of a family tradition, is riding this year with Brodie. And there's another brother to come after this one. Sue is an avid rider, and unlike any nana I've had the pleasure of meeting. This is her 10th long ride. She missed last year's ride because she was overseas - riding around England and France on her bike. I told her today that I hope I'm as active as her in 20 years!

Me, Hayden, Brodie and Sue enjoying a quick break at Cleveland Point

She and Brodie showed us some great new cycle paths that I didn't even know existed. Hayden did really well on the ride, with plenty of power on the hills and consistent stoking. Our return route found us riding up Ringara St at Manly West after 50km and I'll be honest when I tell you that Hayden got us up that hill! He pumped those legs and got us up and over the top.

Hayden, Brodie and the bikes at Cleveland Point

In another fit of honesty, I'll tell you that all afternoon I've felt like having a little nana nap to refresh, but with Physie Club Day this afternoon, have not had the opportunity to do so. Hayden on the other hand spent a good part of the afternoon next door playing and running around. Oh to be young and fit again.

So with only 48 sleeps to go until we find ourselves in Gayndah, I'm looking forward to getting a few more training rides under my belt before we spend 8 glorious nights under the stars on CQ2012. Watch this space...

PS - Brodie is fundraising for Rosie's as part of his riding adventure.  Check out his FB page where you can keep up with his training rides, and make a donation to this great cause -!/BrodiesCycleQueenslandFundraisingForRosies

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Let's go ride a bike

My first bike complete with passenger

Ok, I know I've taken a little liberty there with the words, but it got you humming, right?

I still remember my very first bike.  It was a yellow tricycle with a seat on the back that I could ride around on with my sister. 

My second bike was a throw together that my uncles made me from dump rescue bikes, painted with green housepaint and probably what you'd call a hybrid - part roadie, part BMX and part mountain bike.

My first brand new bike

My third bike was a red Malvern Star dragster.  Living in a more rural area, distanced from my friends, this bike was my first taste of freedom.  Mum and Dad would send me off on errands to the shop, the Avon Lady, the Post Office - and off I would treadle on my bike.  I have great childhood memories of struggling up the hill to get to the shop, but zooming down at full speed on the way home.  Helmets weren't compulsory in those days, and I still don't know how we didn't sustain more head injuries.  One memory I have is of my sister hitting a particular patch of gravel on a corner at the top of our street (which was the bottom of the aforementioned big hill) and coming off her bike at speed.  She lost a fair bit of bark that day, but she got back on and rode the rest of the way home.

I loved riding to my friends' homes at the other side of our suburb, singing away at the top of my voice, the wind in my hair, legs pumping to get up and down the hills.  Those were good days and I savoured every second on the bike.

My relationship with bikes continued to high school.  Although I outgrew my dragster, and didn't replace it, my high school boyfriend had a roadie.  Many afternoons saw us walking home to his place, then me getting "dinkied" home on the top bar of "Silver" (yes we named the bike).

Sadly, once school was finished, it took me almost 5 years to buy a new bike and even then it probably collected more dust than kilometres!  It was a cheap K-Mart Huffy - fluoro orange in colour with flat bar handles. 

Flash forward 15 years.  Approaching forty, I was looking for a way to get fit and lose weight.  I dragged the bike out, found a friend who was looking to improve their fitness, and we began to ride.  It took a bit of oiling, greasing and replacement parts (of the bike that is, not us), but pretty soon we were doing some regular rides.  Even at the peak of winter we were rugging up and hitting the road most weekday mornings to get our fix.  Weekends were even better as we had more time and daylight to explore our surroundings.

We even got our pics in the paper!

We grin now when we think of those days.  We thought 5 km was an epic ride and some of the smaller hills were like taking on Everest.  But we plugged away at it and pretty soon we found ourselves upping the ante and increasing our distances.  Our first "long ride" event was the 2010 Quest Women's Bike Ride, a Bike Week event organised by Bicycle Queensland.  I can't tell you how pleased we were with ourselves when we completed the 40km ride - it was about twice the distance of our previous longest ride!

Not long after this one, we competed in our first triathlon at Caloundra.  While my friend continued to compete, I decided that I loved the riding, but hated the swimming and the running, so I stuck with just the bike.

I also decided it was about time for my next upgrade - a charcoal grey Apollo Alfa; a flat bar road bike that belonged to my friend's husband, but was quickly discarded when he upgraded to a better road bike.

Brissie to the Bay

Now this bike got some kilometres.  Hubby and I did a bit of riding in organised rides, including the Brissie to the Bay (50km - relatively flat and a good way to ease into bigger rides), Great Brisbane Bike Ride (80km - Mt Cootha is a cruel and heartless climb, especially in the pouring rain) and the Redlands Classic (75km that finds just about every hill in the Redlands area).  My friend and I entered the Gold Coast 100km Classic - our longest ride yet, and if I was a bloke, I'd call it a ball-buster - but being a woman on a bike I'll call it a fanny burner!  There were some absolutely challenging climbs on this one as we rode up into the Gold Coast Hinterland and back down into Southport.  I can tell you, you could not wipe the smile off my face after that one - it was one of the hardest rides I have ever undertaken - that is, until I rode from Texas to Stanthorpe!

Time for my next upgrade, and I finally got myself a "real" road bike. I love my Merida Ride Lite 94, it's perfect for the commute to work, foreshore cruises and all of the events I enter to challenge the mind and body.

At the start in Goondiwindi

All of this was great preparation for the one ride that we had planned and trained for for almost a year.  Cycle Qld is a week long event that spans around 600km of riding through the Queensland countryside.  Last year's event took us from Goondiwindi to Brisbane, via Yelarbon, Texas, Stanthorpe, Killarney, Woodburn, Boonah and Rosewood. 

I've written about this one previously, so won't go into any further detail other than to say it was hard, it was fun, it was one of the best things I've done in my life.  I met people from all walks of life, ranging from 5 - 75 years of age, all with the same aim, to enjoy the ride.

Brrr - the bike got cold in Yelarbon - check out the icy rims

I'm now back in training for this year's trek - Gayndah to Noosa via Hervey Bay.  This time I'm doing it on a tandem bike - complete with my 11 year old stoker, Hayden.  I just need to find an exercise that can help with saddle soreness - after 8 days in the saddle, the thought of climbing onto the bike for that last day's ride was akin to being tortured.  There is no comfortable riding position after that length of time!

I can't explain what it is about riding that draws me to it.  I am by no means competitive.  I don't have to be the first to finish.  I just like to finish.  I don't think of myself as a "cyclist"  I prefer to call myself a rider.  When I think of cyclists, I think of Cadel Evans type riders - pros.  Fast riders, always looking for the next challenge. You know the kind.  Saturday mornings at 5am you'll find a pack of them flying along at breakneck speed in a large pack, shouting at each other to be heard above the whir of the tyres.  They are the guys in lycra who have a hard ride then find the nearest cafe for a rewarding coffee at the end.

Me, I'm more the kind who loves to raise her face to the sun and sing out loud as I'm riding.  In fact I did that a couple of times on Cycle Qld.  There were some very bemused cows between Inglewood and Boonah, watching this woman on two wheels belting out some tunes.  Commuting to and from the City each day was both exercise and cathartic as it allowed me to collect my thoughts, work out my frustrations and get the blood pumping all in the name of travel alternatives.  That and the fact that it meant I could save over $2000 per year in parking or public transport fees!  

It just keeps calling to me.  It could be that it's the perfect exercise as we age - minimum stress and strain on the body, but still hard enough to challenge you, tone you and keep you coming back for more.  You can work at your own pace, which means you can bust your ass or you can just take your time and get there when you get there.  You can see things you don't see in a car, cos you have the time to see them.  But most of all, I think it's the freedom you have on a bike.  It's the hard uphills, the breathtaking downhills and all of the flats in between.  It's about the ride.  It's about the journey.  I love it. 

There are many things I don't know, but the one thing I do know for sure - as long as I have a bike, I'm happy.


Wednesday, 16 May 2012

The switch has been flicked...

I have struggled with my weight most of my adult life. I am what is known as a yo yo dieter - I lose vast amounts of weight, only to gain it all back again, and then some. I've often likened my struggles to a light switch. When the switch is on, the food intake becomes healthy, exercise is undertaken and the weight comes off. However when the switch is off, no matter how much I know it should be on, nothing works. After the last loss and gain, I refused to diet ever again. I dont want to be one of those people who know all of the points for weightwatchers or count calories. I don't want to watch every morsel of food that goes into my mouth. Having said that, the switch has been thrown. Probably more from necessity and convenience than any conscious thought. Since finishing work, I no longer partake of morning tea every day, I eat regularly and all of our meals are home cooked. "Sometimes" foods are just that - "sometimes" foods. With winter on its way, I've climbed back onto the bike in the dark hours of the morning, braving the cold air, with an aim of cycling 5 out of 7 days a week. For Mother's Day, my family bought me entry into this year's Cycle Qld event, and with the hope of bringing my 11 year old son along for the ride, it's time to get the body back in motion. There is nothing like cruising on your bike on a crisp winter morning; watching the sun peek out from below the horizon and the glory of sunrise over the bay is a great way to start the day. For now it's just me on the training runs. Hayden will train with me on the weekends, but as the event draws closer he will find himself out on a winter's morning getting some k's under his belt too. That's our trusty steed in the photo above. Until then, I will enjoy the solitude of my own company on my morning sojourns, in preparation for longer rides in the future. Onya bike peeps - it's a great season for it!

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Ah the serenity...

Today finds the family camping on the banks of Lake Dyer, just a km or so away from central Laidley. It's a beautiful campsite, set up only about 50m from the water, with plenty of shade trees, well appointed sites with lots of room, lush grass and picturesque views across the Lockyer Valley.

We stumbled onto this place quite by accident. My husband was born out here, and on a Sunday drive out to his birthplace we followed the signs to assuage our curiosity. That was about four years ago, in the middle of the drought. There was about 20% capacity back then and the grounds were a barren dust bowl.

Post floods and we now have 99% capacity, and it's green all round.

If you listen closely you can hear the trains as they travel through town on the way west to Toowoomba and beyond. There are plenty of boats on the dam as well, so the throb of boat engines is a constant, but not annoying sound.

Jordan and I came up last night with the camper trailer to set up. Now when we got here there were 20+ people in the communal area next to us, watching me drive in, back up and set up. I'm not one for looking like a fool in front of strangers, but have to admit I was proud of our efforts and we were soon sitting in the comfort of our annex enjoying the cool afternoon breeze, listening to some tunes and just passing time in our own little piece of country paradise.

As the sun sank toward the horizon, we wandered over to the banks of the lake to watch the spectacle of the sun setting behind the mountains in the distance. There was a distinct chill in the air and we congratulated ourselves on having the forethought to pack light coats "just in case". We followed that with a text to the boys to pack for a cool night when they come up.

They stayed behind the first night so Hayden could play cricket on Saturday morning and once that was over, the plan was to have them tow the boat up so we could play on the dam.

I love just getting back to the easy life, pitching camp and watching the world go by. I've finished one of my books already (Jordan is onto her third) and am catching up on a few magazines as well. Camping is ideal for me, because I don't feel the need to do anything while we are here. We don't have to organise excursions or activities, we just take each day as it comes. If we want to wander over for a swim, we do. If we want to have a nana nap in the afternoon, well that's ok too.

I love the sounds of the country, the birds singing, the wind rustling the leaves on the native trees that are abundant on our site. I love watching the way the colours change on the leaves as the sun begins to wane in the sky, the galahs flying overhead on their way home and the sounds of silence as camp begins to settle. The clink of cutlery, pots and pans as dinners are prepared, the whistle of kettles boiling, the hiss of gas stoves cooking away - all sounds that bring a smile to my face.

And as night sets in, the bats come out and wing their way across the sky, dark silhouettes on a darkening backdrop. The birds go quiet and one by one the stars come out. Last night I reacquainted myself with some old friends - constellations that are only barely visible in the city night sky are luminous in the country where light pollution is low.

Taurus, Aries, Pleiades, Orion, Canus Major and Minor, Leo, Triangullum, Scorpio and of course the Southern Cross all twinkled across the night sky - ok, I saw Scorpio on a toilet run at 2am, but still saw it! It also helps having an app on my iPad to help me identify new clusters in the night sky.

And so to bed. Gorgeous night, not too hot to sleep and cool enough to enjoy the light summer doona's comfort. Can't wait to see what the new day brings...

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Mudflats to mangroves

Hubby and I decided we needed a good hard bike ride this weekend, and with such beautiful weather in the mornings, we had a little brekkie, pumped up our tyres, packed our gel packs and water bottles and made our way from Wynnum West to Redcliffe return.

Bren always sets a good pace, but is also mindful of not killing me in the first 20km. We wound our way through Lindum, Lytton and Hemmant and before we knew it, we were prepping to ride the Leo Hoelscher bridge (Gateway).

With fresh legs on my side, I stuck with the big cog on the way up - a slow pace but a great warm up for the quads and hammies. Quick check in at the top and we began the fun part - the downhill after the hard slog to the top.

This is a great ride that takes you through a stack of different environments. Rural, industrial, airport, bike paths, wetlands, foreshores, back streets, with plenty to see on the way. Relatively uneventful on the way there, and after some nice hills around Shorncliffe, it was nice to rest the legs as we made our way along the picturesque foreshore bike path and over the purpose-built shared walkway on the bridge that links Sandgate and Clontarf.

Stopped for a rest and a drink before the return ride. Toilet stop at the end of the bridge in some high-tech, interactive toilets. Push the button to open the door. Push the button to close the door. Simple enough. Then the toilet man (electronic) welcomes you to the loo. Explains how it works and that you have ten minutes to do what you came to do. Some pleasant elevator type music plays (mine was "What the World Needs Now"). However midway through my business the man advises that scanners have detected no movement (pardon the pun), and that if I wanted to keep the door from opening I needed to move. Now with my butt planted firmly on the seat, the last thing I needed was an open door, so I frantically waved my arms. Toilet man thanked me and advised I had a further ten minutes.

Need toilet paper - press the button and it comes out of a slot in the wall. On completion of your task, no need to flush - this one flushes automatically when you either wash your hands or press the button to open the door. By far one of the more entertaining toilet sessions I've ever undertaken!

Stopped quickly at Shorncliffe to inspect a bike I wanted to buy and we were back on the way home.

The ride home was just as uneventful as the ride out - although we did get to see Emma Jackson (world class triathlete) on a training run. Midday sun, long run, and she was striding it out like a Sunday stroll. Worked out she was running at about 20km/hr - made our bikes look relatively slow!

Trundled along nicely until the 95km mark, at which point I began to doubt whether I'd make it home. Legs were cramping a little with some tightness in the upper left. Made it home ok, and had a fabulously cold shower as my reward.

Would recommend sections of this ride if you don't want a big day out on two wheels. Drive to Boondall Wetlands and the kids will enjoy the ride around the parklands. Alternatively, drive to Sandgate and take in the esplanade bike path - nice and flat with views out across the bay. The ride across the bridge is on a good bikepath and there are lots of parks on the other side where the kids can have a rest and you can rejuvenate before the return ride.

Off you go - on yer bike!

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Watching others have fun can be just as rewarding.

My son turns 11 on Friday and our gift to him was a surfboard. Normally he would have to wait to use it, but we were heading off to Caloundra this weekend. Who am I to stand between a boy and his newest love?

Hayden joined the surf groms program at Surfers Paradise last December. It's similar to the Auskick program (Aussie Rules), where they teach the basics of the sport over a series of one and a half hour lessons. After a four day intensive, Hayden was hooked! His coach said he had a natural talent for the sport and he's one of those kids who just keeps persevering when he wants to learn something new.

Surfing bit him hard. Our recent trip to Sydney included a trip to Bondi, where he hired himself a board and spent an afternoon riding the waves. The board was the natural choice for his present.

We spent a couple of hours each day this weekend up at Kings Beach at Caloundra trialling out the board and getting the feel of how it performed. Day one saw a nice windy day, which made for quite choppy conditions. Hayden ploughed through the waves to get to the right spot and proceeded to smash and get smashed. It makes me proud to see him pick himself up after being dumped and get right back onto the next good wave.

Today saw him get frustrated though. Not with the board and not with the waves, but with his fellow beach goers.

There are very clear rules for surfers at the beach. Under no circumstances are they allowed to surf between the red and yellow flags. This is not an issue - he understands that his board can hurt when it hits, not to mention the fins cutting skin like a sharp knife at speed.

There is a section of beach reserved for surfers. It is designated with a blue and white check flag, as well as a large permanent sign that states "Surfcraft" with a directional arrow. Unfortunately, in this beautiful weather, the swimming area is busy, so people see the relatively empty surf area and swim there instead.

For someone as aware of the rules as Hayden is, this is a difficult pill to swallow. A number of times today he was on a great wave, but had to abort to avoid hitting a stationary swimmer who was just wading in the area. While he wasn't aware of it, I did hear one mother who had her two toddlers splashing in the water complaining about how close he had gotten to them with his board. I politely set her straight about the surf zone and suggested if she was really serious about somewhere safe to swim with her kids, perhaps she could move to the patrolled area. She didn't take my suggestion well, and let's just say we agreed to disagree!

Hayden voiced his frustration himself as we left the beach. He couldn't understand why people chose to swim out of the patrolled area and insisted on swimming in the surf zone.

What could I tell him? There are people out there who think it is their god-given right to do whatever they like. To hell with everyone else, rules be damned. If I choose to swim here, I choose to swim here. Gone are the days of courtesy, of sharing, of harmony.

But here's something to ponder. On Main Beach at Surfers Paradise, the surf zone is also in the area where there are often rips or other dangerous currents. Hayden's learn to surf lessons were held right in front of the "Danger No Swimming" signs. While there were a few idiots who still entered the water to swim there (yep, tourists), the majority did the right thing.

The same applies at the north coast - board riders often find they are in the heavier surf zone. This is because learning to read the signs of the beach are all part of the sport. Any surfer will tell you it can be hard enough sharing the waves with fellow board riders, and surf rage is alive and well - especially if you don't follow surf etiquette. But adding swimmers to the mix just rubs salt into the wound!

So next time you're at the beach, take some time out to look for the surfer's designated area, and if you don't have a board, move on up to the patrolled zone. Spread the word. It's a big beach and it's much more pleasant if we could all just learn to share.

And next weekend, when it's Hayden's actual birthday, look out for us in the surf zone at Main Beach - he will be the one on the big blue board. Happy birthday buddy!

Monday, 30 January 2012

My Zumba family

I feel extremely lucky to have stumbled upon Zumba classes run in the Wynnumarea by the talented, friendly, inclusive and spectacular Cassie Blazer.

Thanks to Kristy, Shelley and Kathryn, I dragged myself off to Monday evenings at Moreton Bay to try my first Zumba class. It is fair to say that I have now been spoiled for all future Zumba instructors!

I've taken other classes under other instructors, and while some are great dancers, it's Cass' ability to teach a move that sets her apart from the rest. Yes, there are times when she just totally bamboozles me, but she breaks it down to the lowest common denominator and before I know it, my uncoordinated, busted ass body is moving in what feels like a semblance of Cass' moves.

But it's not just Cass who keeps me coming back for more. My fellow Zumba devotees are like family to me. There seems to be an inclusivity within the group - whether it's the fact that we all recognise the love we share of the music, the movement, the dance, I really can't tell you. We've had some hilarious road trips to masterclasses on the coast, surprised Wendy with a Zumba party for her 60th birthday and shared lots of giggles during class as we learn new choreography.

We follow Cass to masterclasses, party classes, dress up for themed classes and we do it happily. Cass has shared the chance for us to meet and dance with some amazingly talented ZES' and introduced us to the ZIN network. They support each other, hold fundraisers for class members in need, take the time to find out the story of every person who rocks up to class.

If you don't make class for a couple of days, there's always a quick note from Chris or Wendy "checking in" to make sure all is good with the world. The last time this happened I had been in a bit of a funk. Those encouraging words dragged my sorry butt back to class, and after an hour of music and movement, all was good with the world!

Sometimes it just seems easier to sit on my butt in my easy chair. But I could not name a single time that I wished I'd stayed at home once I'd dragged my ass to class. The music and moves are a great mood elevator - as is Cass' smiling face at the front of the class.

So Monday, Wednesday and the occasional Friday you'll find me sweating it out at my local Zumba fitness class. Aqua Zumba is also looking like a goer this summer too. Feel free to message me for details - would love to see you there.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Ride like the wind Bullseye!

Ok, not so much riding like the wind, but riding into the wind.

This weather gives a perfect excuse to skip training and stay warm and dry inside. After our adventures in Sydney (where we walked a lot) I wanted to ensure I continued on the road to regular exercise, so after doing my civic duty on the Bunnings BBQ today, I planned a ride on my bike.

With all of the punctures I've sustained of late, I was spoiled by hubby who went out and bought me a new set of tyres. With a Kevlar band (yes, the material used in bullet proof clothing), they will apparently be more resistant to punctures. I guess only time will tell! One problem - I told Brendon the wrong size, so I now have thinner, slicker tyres on my bike. Time to be a little more thoughtful on those corners, especially where there is loose material on the ground.

Anyway, I changed the tyres over and took off out of the driveway, without a route in mind. I guess maybe after my impromptu holiday I figured I could try winging other things as well.

Brendon had already done a 60km ride today, so I didn't nag him to join me. I really don't mind riding by myself. It helps me get right inside my own head, and I think through a lot of things that are bothering me, leaving me much more relaxed and clear-headed post ride.

Today I set myself some challenges along the ride, including taking on a hill that I've found difficult in the past. As I rode I extended the ride to fit in more hill work, some long flat stretches and some new streets that I had not ridden before.

Proud to say Whites Rd hill climb did not defeat me, and I added in more hills after the climb to give the legs a chance to break down the lactic acid build up.

The greatest difficulty during the ride is the headwind that pushes against me along the flats on the foreshore. Seems like no matter what the direction I'm riding it will swing round and hit me face first. The positive though, is that it makes for a great resistance workout.

The new tyres were great to ride on. Less rubber on the ground = less resistance = faster riding. That certainly seemed to be the case today.

Felt great at the end of my ride. What could have been a lazy, indulgent afternoon became another step on the way to a regular routine. They say it takes ten days to break a habit and 90 days to form a new one. Plenty more reinforcement required, but there's motivation there, so bring it on.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

The weary travellers are home

After what proved to be a whirlwind tour of Sydney, you'd think I'd be glad to be home. It's always nice to come back to my lovely, messy, familiar abode, but the kids and I had such a great time over the past 3 days that I really didn't want it to end.

Those who know me well know how truly anal I can be about my trips away. They are planned meticulously to the minute and I spend most of my time away watching my blood pressure rise and barking orders to hurry up at the family. The last big road trip I planned involved less planning and more off the cuff days, which meant a more enjoyable time for us all.

Sydney was my first experiment with a list of things to do but no firm plans on how to execute them. The only "booked" activity was The Potter exhibition, because it was paid in advance (thank goodness cos it was sold out the whole time we were there). We knew we wanted to do Bondi and the zoo and the Jewish Museum, but had no set plans. This meant we didn't spend so much time rushing to fit it all in - we just did one thing then checked the time and decided what else to do. The weather was a deciding factor at times, other times, it was just what mood we were in. There were times when it was an activity that we all wanted to do, one wanted to do or a combo of two out of three. Yet we all blended nicely, there was limited fighting, and we had a great time.

If this is how holidays can be all the time, I can honestly say that I would happily list my occupation as world traveller and spend my time exploring the world with my family. Of course money wouldn't be a problem with that huge lotto win under our belts, but until that time I will have to just enjoy the short breaks on offer. Hayden has his heart set on Darwin, so I've started to save already for another long weekend getaway.

For those thinking of a short trip, Sydney has so much on offer at the moment. The Harry Potter Exhibition is fantastic, Luna Park is hosting Dinosaurs Alive, an animatronic, robotic dinosaur display with 8 life sized dinosaurs in the display and there's one of the best zoos around at Taronga. Highly recommend all three of these activities and if you're clever and take a bit of initiative, you'll even find discount entry to a lot of places in Sydney just by surfing the net. Splurge on eating out - we ate at cafes, restaurants, snack bars and did not indulge in franchise fast food chains the whole time we were in the city. I had a beer or a cocktail with most lunches and dinners and thoroughly enjoyed trying new tastes and flavours (plan a Friday night dinner in Chinatown mall - great price and de-licious!)

We did so many things we don't do at home on holidays - dessert for dinner, leaving the hotel at 9pm to go out for a meal, wandering the streets of the city late at night...things I wouldn't dream of doing in Brisbane.

Anyway, time for this weary traveller to soak her feet, have her last late dinner (love eating after 9pm on holiday) and settle back into working life until my next holiday. Bring on Easter I say...

Friday, 27 January 2012

A day of mixed emotions

When we planned our trip to Sydney, there was a to do list that I thought may have been a little long. But with the way we have utilised our travel passes, tomorrow is now a day of new things to explore.

We started the morning with a lovely light brekkie at a French bakery. The kids chose croissants (savoury and sweet), while I partook of the tuna crepe. What a great start to the day.

It was then that the real adventure began. The Harry Potter exhibition at Powerhouse Museum is a collection of props from the movie on display for a limited time in Sydney only.

If your kids love to run and jump and touch stuff, then this is NOT the exhibit for you. It is a strictly hands off, read-fest of all things Potter. If your kids love the books and the movies, they will love this. From the moment you enter via the great hall and the sorting ceremony, through a frightening journey into the Forbidden Forest, you are transported into another world.

It's not until you get up close and personal that you realise the detail and craftsmanship that goes into the making of a movie. From costumes (more wizarding robes than you can poke a stick at, ball gowns, casual clothes, hats, shoes, glasses) to wand manufacture to furnishings, curtains and other props, there is a place for everything and a justified reasoning for its inclusion into the frame. I took the option of the audio tour, which added to the detail given on the cards in the displays by allowing you to connect with costume designers etc for the movie, who explained some of the things they did and how they came to make some of the choices.

There was food from the Great Hall, Quidditch practice, mandrake plucking, Hagrid's comfy chair (which I loved cos my bum looked tiny in it!), the life size replica of the horn tail, the Goblet of Fire, Dobby, Kreacher, petrified Colin Creevey, Quibbler magazines - a plethora of memorabilia from the film sets.

The only disappointment was the gift shop. Priced at the high end of the market, it was disappointing to find wands cost $60. Thankfully Jordan was satisfied with a Ravenclaw tie, and Hayden swallowed his disappointment and didn't buy anything. At $25, I thought the best value was the exhibition book - with no photos allowed in the entirety of the display, at least the commemorative book is a good memory jogger. We also got our photo taken in the great hall, and forked out the money to have a nice personal lasting memory.

But overall, was it worth it? My oath it was!

Our next stop, after a quick bus trip through Paddington was the Sydney Jewish Museum, a humbling monument to the suffering of the Jewish people throughout history, but in particular during the Holocaust. Not a great place for Hayden, who has only a limited knowledge of the history, but for Jordan it was an eye-opening, intense (her word) experience.

As I wandered from exhibit to exhibit I found myself aghast at the fact that no one stopped this atrocity in its earliest days. Where were the allies to assist the Jews, to be a voice against Nazi Germany? How could people do this to other human beings, how did so many turn away with a blind eye? 6 million people. 6 Million. One and a half million children. Where were our voices? Where was our outrage? Our compassion? Our empathy? Our quest for right to triumph over wrong?

I found myself moving from display case to display case, holding back tears, swallowing through the giant lump in my throat. The children's memorial did me in. They have erected a crystal water feature. It holds one and a half million water droplets - one for each child killed in the death camps.

I know the story. I've read my fair share of histories and yet it still sickened me. But I'll leave it at that for now. My thoughts are destined for another, stronger blog when my outrage has slackened somewhat.

Back on the bus, and we disembarked at the iconic Bondi Beach. After a delicious bite to eat at Moo Gourmet Burgers, we tore off the shoes and got some good ole Bondi sand between our toes.

Now Hayden has been having surfing lessons and could not pass up the chance to hire a board and surf Bondi. Cheap as chips at just $15 for the hour, off he went into the swell to test his skills. Massive 6 foot 4 inch board, heavier than normal, but ride he did. I had to feel sorry for the adult learn to surf class who he was sharing the beach with - talk about making them look like rank amateurs!

Was so proud watching him out there - it was a busy line up but he held his own and had a blast. For a kid who has so many anxieties, he can sure put them aside to enjoy himself at times.

Returned the board and I finally got the chance to test the waters; refreshing, cool and did I mention I got smashed! Fifteen minutes was enough for me, but it was another half hour before I tore Hayden away from his great love!

Back on the bus into the CBD and after a brief stop at our room to get our Gleek on, we ventured out into the Sydney evening to enjoy a guilty pleasure at the Lindt Cafe at Darling Harbour. You know that it's rich when even Jordan can't finish her sundae. Especially when she started to tally her food for the weekend and found she had managed to include chocolate in every meal!

So another great day in Sydney. Tomorrow's plans include a leisurely stroll through the Rocks and dinosaur animatronics at Luna Park before a late afternoon flight home. Hope Jordan's ears are better this time - so hard to watch your almost 14 year old in tears because the pressurisation in the cabin has created intense pain when her ears wouldn't click. Let's see what tomorrow brings.