Friday, 3 October 2014

Re-igniting memories of childhood

A fortnight ago I dropped into Aldi and bought an item that may have just changed my views on riding a bike for the better.

For a few months now, I have been toying with the idea of buying a touring bike, a folding touring bike to be more particular.

A good friend messaged me to let me know that Aldi had folding bikes on sale that week.  That message was on the Saturday.  I held off the urge to rush straight to the store and buy one.  I held off on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday as well.  But by Wednesday my will power was weak, my bank balance was high (yay for payday) and I found myself at my local Aldi trying to talk myself out of buying a sixth bike for myself.  Yep, you read that right, sixth.  At the moment I am the proud owner of an Apollo flat bar road bike, a Merida Ride lite road bike, an Apollo tandem, a Southern Star mountain bike and a Merida Scultura Pro. Twenty minutes later, I was also the proud owner of a Crane 20" folding bike.

My husband just looked at me in disbelief when I brought it home.  I assured him it would get plenty of use as I planned to park further away from work and ride into the office on days that I didn't commute the whole way into the Gabba.

Day one, and after a non-eventful drive, I dragged my foldie out of the back of the car, clicked all of the clasps into place, popped on my old helmet (which now has a permanent spot in the back of the car) and jumped on ready for my first trundle.  The bike runs a six speed Shimano gear set, so there's enough variation to get up and down some good hills.

Little did I know as I turned the crank over for the first time that this bike would bring me to an epiphany.

Firstly, I'm in civvie gear when I ride this bike.  Not a bit of lycra in sight.  Office clothes all the way. Day one wear was pants and a blouse.  Day two a skirt and blouse and day three, oh my, a dress.  Each day I have my handbag slung firmly across my back.

Secondly, no clips.  Court shoes suitable to the office only.  Sneakers one day cos the heels don't quite work for the hills!

Riding this bike is all about freedom.  When I ride this bike it's not about how far I ride or how fast.  It's not about power or training.  It's about the joy of being on a bike.

That first day I could not get the toothy grin off my face the entire time I was pedalling the way to work, even as I pulled up at a set of lights and waited alongside the other riders.  So cute to see the indulgent smiles on the faces of the big boys as they looked my foldie up and down and dismissed us as a novelty.  What they didn't realise as they sat next to me was how much I had fallen in love with my new bike in that short space of time.

Riding that bike transported me back to my childhood days.  Days spent riding on my Malvern Star dragster, exploring the neighbourhood, heading out to friends' houses, riding solo and singing at the top of my lungs, getting doubled home on the handlebars of a mate's bike or enveloped in the arms of my high school boyfriend as I rode on the cross bar.  Those were heady days, blissfully happy, before the pressure of being a grown up kicked in, when the biggest worry was avoiding the gravel patch at the corner of Ramsay and Marigold Sts, which had seen a few high speed spills.  And come to think of it, in 7 years of riding that bike, I never had a flat!

I stopped riding for a long period in my twenties and thirties, and when I took it up again in my late thirties, it became all about the exercise, losing weight, riding faster, longer, stronger.  While I love my training, that other spark of joy had never been truly reignited.

Cycle Queensland acted like a flint and created sparks of that flame.  My new bike acted as kindling and fanned the flame back into life.  I've dropped some of my training to accommodate riding in that way a little more.  I'm loving being a lone wolf again, exploring my neighbourhood, rediscovering riding for the sheer fun of riding again.

Watching kids riding past my house last weekend once again brought that goofy grin to my face.  How good was it to ride with your childhood gang on a Saturday afternoon to the pool, or my horse riding lesson or the picnic in the park.  No helmets, no shoes, no inhibitions.  Popping wheelies, taking makeshift jumps, getting air.  What a way to spend your weekends growing up.

And so my love affair with my bikes continue.  I'm going to bring a little of that fire to my other bikes and enjoy just being on the bike.  Anyone want to join me for the ride?

Thursday, 25 September 2014

CQ14 - It's a Wrap

I'm a little behind in my wrap up of this year's ride, but that's ok as it has really given me a chance to have a good think about our 9 days on the road.

This year's ride was my fourth tour with Cycle Qld.  I've now done two on a solo bike and two on a tandem with my son.

All of the things that attracted me to previous rides still remain, even after four years.  I love the range of people who take to the road - the young, the old, the fit and the not so fit, male, female, families, mates and single riders.  The single uniting factor is the love of the bike.

Speaking of bike love, I have got to say that my new bike certainly made a world of difference this year - a lighter, slicker ride made for some really enjoyable days on the hills and some fast flat rides too.  The seat, on the other hand was somewhat uncomfortable for longer periods, but I've been experimenting with adjustments to seat height to see if that makes a difference on the longer term.
In the meantime I will continue to use my "magic potion" - a miracle ointment dispensed at the Bargara chemist.  Commercial name, Calmoseptine, common name - "Ahhhhh."

Once again the larger tent was a good choice.  Plenty of storage room for all my luggage, a place to sleep for me and my bike.  Yep, my new gal slept beside me each night.  Heard "is it just you in that big tent?" More than once, but I think they were just jealous that they couldn't stand up to put their lycra on!

The food was once again a nice variety of hot cooked dinners.  My favorite this year was the Hungarian Goulash with mashed potato.  They feed us so well at camp, great taste and good serving sizes.  I must admit though, I was well and truly over bread rolls and wraps for lunch by day 9, and deliberately found local cafés in some towns to avoid the lunch truck!

The local auxillaries wee once again outstanding with their range of sweet treats along the way.  Always a bargain for some home made snacks, although in a sign of the times there were many store-bought treats this year too.  Avoided those though, as they don't have that same yumminess as home made!

Made many new friends again this year, caught up with some old friends and had conversations over meals with more than I can remember.  That is the part of the ride that challenges me each year, but also becomes easier with practice.

Overall, it was another amazing week in the sun, enjoying the fresh air, company, sights and towns.  Will I go back again next year?  Well to give you an indication, my leave request has already been approved - so what do you think?

Monday, 15 September 2014

Day 9 and it's all over bar the shouting.

Final day today and it's that day that you feel torn.  Sad that it's the last day spent with friends old and new but glad that it's almost over and you'll be sleeping in a comfy bed, seeing those loved ones you missed and eating food that isn't mass-produced each meal.

46km on the map today from Cooroy through parts of the Sunshine Coast Hinterland until we are greeted by the sparkling Pacific Ocean on one final rise.  Still enough short hills to challenge tired legs after 9 days in the saddle but not too many boring stretches of road with nothing to look at.  My favourite section was probably the most boring section.  A long relatively flat section of motorway-type road with the smoothest surface.  Easy to get the bike up to some more impressive speeds and cruise without feeling too fatigued.  Of course that is also the section that I lost my water bottle as I was so busy concentrating on pedalling that at the moment I went to put it back in it's cradle I misjudged, hit the frame and knocked it out of my own hand. Oh well, just a cheap one that are a dime a dozen at the Gatorade tri series so not too worried.  Just glad it didn't go under my wheel!

After a cruise along the David Low Way through Peregian Beach, we finished the ride in the Lions Park at beautiful Coolum Beach.  Always a bit of a let down as you cross under the inflatable arch and realise that it's over for another year.  The beauty of a faster ride today meant I could watch so many other riders come through for their finishes.  There were assorted looks of triumph, relief, sadness and happiness, so many mixed emotions from so many diverse riders.

The real work then begins.  The transport trucks had just arrived so it was a case of mucking in and  lugging luggage into the park area ready for collection.  I love that most people get in and assist, although you'll always find the ones who find their own gear and take off, leaving it to everyone else to finish the unloading.

The park was filled with bike boxes. So many people have travelled from far and wide for CQ and the fun of pulling down your bike, packing it into a box and getting it onto the baggage truck is only eclipsed by the rush of finding the correct shuttle bus to get to the airport/train station on time. It really is a hive of activity.

After locating my luggage and packing it safely in the car (which hubby, Brendon, conveniently parked at the finish the day before)  it was time for one final chocolate frappe, a tradition started at the end of the CQ13 ride by Hayden, who insisted it was the best way to celebrate!  He was, of course, completely right and I continued his tradition even though he wasn't there to enjoy one with me.

Had the chance to say goodbye to some friends who had come through the finish chute, and then started the trek back to Mooloolaba to watch Brendon finish his Sunshine Coast half Ironman event.

Can't wait to sleep on a real mattress tonight, but at the same time also counting down the days until CQ15, which is a Toowoomba loop ride.  Only 357ish days to go.

Final wrap blog will be up tomorrow after I've had a chance to unpack, unwind and collect my thoughts on another fun week's riding.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Day 8 and the end is near...

Widgee to Cooroy, a gorgeous day of rolling hills around some of the most beautiful country in the State.  This is my camping stomping ground, and I love the views that you are greeted with after putting in an effort to get to the top.  Today we rode on the Mary Valley Road for a ways before turning off at Amamoor for a trek through the Traveston region, Cooran, Pomona and Cooroy.

The route took us over two climbs that Hayden and I had to walk up in 2012 when we came out this way.  Happy to report that today I tackled both of them and neither of them gave me any problems on the new bike.  I think she likes to climb!

Our tour photographers sat on the top of two hills today and took photos of us climbing.  Cruel to take photos of people at their utter weakest really.  Can't wait to see those pics!  After the first one though there was a sharp hill sweeping down, and the Garmin has clocked mat at 72.2km/hr.  Couldn't understand the rattling I heard all the way home until I was wiping my bike down and checking things over to discover my CO2 cartridges had shaken loose and were slowly unscrewing themselves.

Worst thing to happen today was a magpie strike just outside of Cooroy.  Sneaky little blighter made a silent hit first before giving me a loud warning shriek and then coming back for a second hit.  Stayed upright though, so not really phased other than he was sneaky!

One more day to go, with the end of ride dress up party to finish the day. Theme is something starting with a C or a Q.  Tonight there were cheerleaders (blokes), Charlie Chaplins, cats, captains, corpses, crypt creatures, clowns, queens, cavemen, calypso dancers, Courier Mails and many more.  It always looks like there aren't many in costume until after dinner when the dress ups really come out.

So after a bit of dancing, singing and catching up with friends made on the ride, it's time for bed.  A short day in the morning and then the adventure is over for another year.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Day 7 - first world problems - no service = late blog

If the worst thing that happens to you on a bike tour is a delayed posting of your blog, you've got to be pretty happy with that I think!

Day 7 saw us strike camp at Biggenden for our longest day on the road (regular option) to Widgee.

It was anticipated that it would be a hot day, and the BQ staffers were vigilant in warning us to take on plenty of water for our ride.  On a day when we would normally have two rest stops and a lunch break, they threw in an extra stop before lunch to ensure we had the opportunity to properly hydrate and feed our bodies.

A nice long rolling day all up - a few short climbs to test the legs, but more rolling hills so always some recovery time after a bit of effort.

The highlight of the day was 6km of "dirt road" which was so well maintained it had better integrity than the sealed road we rode on for the rest of the day.

Plenty of volunteer groups feeding us today. At the first rest stop there were four separate groups who had divvied up what would be served.  Delicious cakes, biscuits and slices, sausage sizzle, fruit and the obligatory soft drinks and sports drinks to choose from.  At the next rest stop, more of the same as well as fresh damper cooked on site.  By stop 3, I couldn't look another cake in the face, so settled for a cider at the pub instead.

If you are ever travelling in the area, please make an effort to stop and have a pint at the Woolooga Pub.  The publican is a lovely old chap who moves at his pace and won't be hurried by anyone.  Worth a quick chat while you are there.  I sat on the front "verandah" on a lovely old hessian deck chair that seemed to have been saved from the days of the old picture theatres.  Extremely comfortable to rest a weary butt that has sat on the bike for far too long!

Following that, onto Widgee for a nights camping.  Not much to see in town, only a shop and a servo, but the locals put on more sweet treats, including chocolate mousse, jelly and custard, scones with jam and cream and lollies, chocolate and more cakes, biscuits and slices.  And people wonder why we put on weight during our CQ adventures!

The massage is doing wonders for my back, with not much to report injury-wise as we have the two hardest days of climbs and hills with a bit of wind thrown in.

Tomorrow we are on our next to last day riding - an up and down day to Cooroy.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Day 6 - Everybody loves a superhero.

Give a cyclist an excuse to dress up and we invariably will!  Today's ride had a theme - Superheroes.  The children at the school on our rest stop today were raising money for kids with cancer and were dressed as superheroes to greet us.  The school asked if we would dress up as well to show our support.

So after a breakfast of scrambled eggs and hash browns (not me, I had cereal) a parade of superheroes began the ride from Childers to Biggenden.  There were Ironmen, Wonder Women, Batmen and women, Supermen and women, a Boba Fett, Darth Vader, Chewbacca, Ninja Turtles and an assortment of other minor heroes.

What a reception we received at the school.  Smiles and cheers from the students, high fives from the teacher who requested the themed day and giggling parents, because let's face it, there's nowhere to hide in Lycra!

Anyway after stocking up on cupcakes made by the students, back on the road for the short end to the day as it was only another 15km to camp.

Interesting occurrence today was watching two oversized vehicles crossing paths with each other and cyclists on a two lane road.  First vehicle was so wide it took up one and a half lanes, while the other was a long wide load.  Some very skilled manoeuvring by both drivers and some smart road courtesy skills by cyclists, who probably realised the value of not getting in the way of either truck.

Our short day complete by 10am and with the campsite not opened until 12pm, I was forced to enjoy a refreshing swim at the Biggenden pool, eat a delicious steak sandwich and chips at the Tuck In cafe and wait.

The pool operator very kindly opened up the pool early for the riders and there would have been 40 swimmers in the pool while I was there.  Most of us didn't have our tosh, but the beauty of riding means lycra is always readily available.  Not only that, but it also dries quickly, so by the time I'd had my lunch and ridden into camp, I was cool and dry.

Quick tent set up today and the. It was off on an adventure of a different kind. Into a local' scar and taxied out to Mt Walsh National Park for a spot of hiking and rock hopping.  3.5km of walking through bush along a cattle trail and then rock hopping through a dry creek gorge to the top of the creek where a pristine mountain rock pool awaited our swimming pleasure.  Yep, two swims in one day - it was that kind of day.

While having our swimming break we enjoyed "local" delights - Eumundi strawberries, Kenilworth cheese with water crackers and Cadbury chocolate - what more could a girl ask for.

The water was cool and clean with enough bite to feel like the tail end of an ice bath, just what some aching muscles needed.

The return journey back to base was just as fun as the rocks we had had to pull ourselves up on had now become the rocks we had to scoot down on our butts.  Made a few new friends along the way, and hope to see Madonna and Reg out on the course tomorrow as they've promised me a friendly trundle if I need a slower pace.

Rushed back to camp for dinner (lasagna) and a massage, and now just waiting for the tiredness to hit enough to rest my head.

Big day tomorrow. 104km into Widgee with high temperatures and not a lot of water on hand.  See you all tomorrow - same Bat time, same Bat channel (see what I did there?)

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Day 5 already and we are over half way

Day 5 has come and gone and BQ turned it on for a gorgeous ride today.  

Sad to leave our campsite at Bargara (those views were to die for), we packed up our kits, filled up on brekky (ham and egg rolls) and started to slow and sad roll out of camp.  

Of course that didn't last long as we discovered more of the beautiful coastline in the Bundaberg region.  Down around the heads to Kelly's Beach, with its uninterrupted views across the ocean and then opting in for the long (but not really long) option to Elliott Heads.  Absolute cracker of a choice as it was blue skies, blue ocean and golden sands.  A quick break at the kiosk to refuel and we were back on our way to our first rest stop, but not before a rousing cheer from the students of the Elliott Heads State School, who stood outside to cheer the riders on.

Today's stops were courtesy of small local schools and they certainly turned on the country courtesy with an assortment of refreshments that would tempt the fussiest of eaters.  Alloway State School boasted the best chocolate cake and cream that I've had on a ride yet, while Goodwood State School wins my "best school catering ever" award for having Pepsi Max for sale.  Seriously you would think Coke had a monopoly on all catered stops so far.  Here's hoping for more Pepsi on future rest stops!

Today's ride took us from the beautiful beachside into the cane farms of the area and past many other crop farms, including tomatoes, strawberries, macadamia nuts, zucchinis and most surprisingly, chillis.  At the end of the ride we began to see some hillier country that would accommodate cattle, so interested to see what tomorrow brings.

Rocked into Childers with a bit of time to spare, so after a quick and refreshing shower (the heat is more noticeable here than at the beach), I joined Jenny and Gillian for a Mammino ice cream, a local favourite that is deliciously creamy and full of natural flavours.  Today's flavour - Baileys Kiss - a blend of vanilla and Bailey's Irish Cream.  Followed that up with a bit of exploration of the town, including the very haunting Palace Backpackers memorial, a monument to the tragic arson attack that destroyed the original building and took many young lives.

It was great to see so many fellow riders supporting these little local towns and businesses.  One local even joked with me as I walked by.  He looked at my lanyard (which identifies me as a cyclist on the tour) and said "it's a case of spot the person without a lanyard" with a cheeky grin.  The pubs were certainly overflowing with our riders - and I counted at least three different pubs in town!

After suffering some back pains at lunch today, I was fortunate to find a massage therapist in town who has assuaged some of my worries by getting my back into alignment, so hopefully won't have any major worries about that for the short ride to Biggenden.  Looking forward to a quick set up and then a tour of the Stony Creek Gorge in the afternoon.

But the best thing that happened today by far was my accidental "finding" of a friend I made via Twitter after the ride last year.  I overheard a lady at the photographers stand mention she was staying at a B&B at the next stop.  I couldn't resist asking if her name was Mary, and lo and behold, I finally get to meet my Twitter friend face to face.  So great to finally meet you Mary and there is no way in hell I will ever see you out on the road because you get up far too bloody early!

Now as I sit here writing under the not as full moon, I'm so glad for the opportunity to meet the wonderful people I've met along these four tours I've done.  Makes me want to branch out and try a few more - perhaps even an international tour in the not too distant future.  New Zealand anyone?

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Day 4 - a day of rest

Ah rest days, my favourite day on Cycle Qld. Today there was no need to pack up the tents, no early rising (unless we wanted to) and just a day spent doing what we wanted to do.

Of course first on the agenda was a sleep in as breakfast (French toast with maple syrup) was served later today.  That all went to hell in a hand basket when I woke up at 5.30am, so it was off for an early morning jog to get the knots out of the legs from the previous day's ride.  Just a short 2k out and back to enjoy the sunrise over the beach at Mon Repos, a popular conservation area where turtle nesting season will commence in the next month or so.  Funny that a jog now helps my tired riding legs recover better than a rest as it employs a different set of muscles to get me moving.

True to my promise, we had a bike-free day today.  Just me and my best bike buddy, a couple of all day bus tickets and the town of Bundy at our feet.  

The poor bus driver must have wondered what he'd gotten himself into when he got to what I imagine is normally a sleepy stop near the caravan park, to find a group of 20+ riders waiting to board.  But hats off to the driver of the 9.05 bus #4 from Bargara to the Bundaberg CBD as he wins my nomination for friendliest and most helpful driver ever.  Big smiles, helpful advice and even gave directions on how to get back home at the end of our day of exploring.

Bundaberg Rum Distillery tour was our first stop of the day.  Great way to spend a couple of hours learning about the history of this Queensland icon.  Two comical tour guides (Jacqui and Lea) made for a fun, light-hearted learning experience, capped off with a couple of tastings of our poison of choice (all made by Bundy Rum Distillery, of course).  Not being a rum fan myself, I must admit that the chocolate, coffee, rum, caramel, vanilla liqueur that the sell only from their cellar door was nice drunk on the rocks (sip before next ingredient), with a dash of cream (another sip) and the finishing touch, filled with Fanta (oh my god it was like a Jaffa in a glass) - aptly named a Bundy Fanta-sy.  Second drink was a white Bundy Rum with passion fruit soft drink - nice but too easy to drink too quickly for my liking! 

So leaving the distillery behind, we walked up an appetite into the CBD.  Ate at an exquisite and delicious cafe recommended by a friend, Indulge.  If you're ever dropping through Bundaberg and find yourself a little peckish on Bourbong Street, as Molly would say, "Do yourself a favour," and wander in for a bite to eat.  Can't remember what we ate but it was Devine (with a capital "D") and I would love to work through the menu next time we visit the region.  

Wandered around the shops after that, tried to find Target to get a mat for my sleeping arrangements only to be given an initial bum-steer by Siri on my phone.  Eventually located said mat and hope to have a better night's sleep as a result.

Back to camp on the bus, with kudos to this bus driver for his care and diligence in applying the 1m rule correctly when passing cyclists.  Of course he may well have felt the eyes of about thirty riders on him watching him as he approached each rider! Talk about performance anxiety!

Shower, dinner (lamb and hokkien noodle stir fry, bread and butter pudding with custard) and a soothing massage sees us all set up ready to move on (albeit a little reluctantly) tomorrow.

Kicked back in my tent while I'm writing this, listening to the jazz from the cafe and the waves crashing onto the shore from behind me, while admiring the beautiful moon. Bargara really is that cliched little slice of heaven to visit.  A beautiful esplanade walk, plenty of cafés and eateries, a good pub and that small beach town feel that I miss about Maroochydore these days.

Thinking of hubby who is at home with my two children and thinking that if they were here it would be even more perfect.  Must start working on them for the next CQ.  Only 360ish days to go...

Monday, 8 September 2014

Day 3 riding towards a well earned rest day

After a night of cool temps and sporadic showers, we woke to overcast skies and a brisk wind.

Quick pack up, followed by a breakfast of ham and cheese croissants to prepare us for the road ahead.  It was certainly well needed on the road today.

Day 3, Rosedale to Bargara gave us a chance to test our hill skills (thanks to our coach for all his efforts to prepare us), shoulder checks (because our hill skills were a lot stronger than a lot of riders') and working against the wind.

Hills or wind as a single issue can be hard enough to counteract, but combining them both for a 77km ride is just plain mean.  Psychologically they are extremely mentally taxing, but we have to take what Mother Nature dishes up for us, so it was up hill and down dale until Bundaberg, at which point the roads got better (wider and smoother) and while the wind didn't let up, it was more bearable over the flatter terrain.  The whole time we were cycling we were both hearing our cycling coach's voice in our head telling us to "gear easier, treat it like a hill." To be honest if he had been there I may have punched him in the nose if he'd said that out loud to us, such was my state of mind.

Our triathlon training certainly assisted today as we worked in a tag team formation to work hard out the front or rest behind.  We were so good at what we did that at times we had a train of riders hanging on behind us getting dragged along.  Shame most of them dropped off before they returned the favour.  Our lunch stop in Bundy couldn't come fast enough, but what a reward to relax on the banks of the Burnett River while recovering, ready for the next session.

After making camp just after 12pm, we raced to secure a "beachfront property" at our site.  After all, this is our last two day stay anywhere, it's a rest day tomorrow, so we may as well make the most of the opportunity to enjoy a room with a view.

With blustery winds coming straight off the Coral Sea, it was certainly our second exercise in teamwork to get the tents up.  I'm sure we provided more than enough entertainment for those already set up as we struggled with billowing tents, wayward flies and pegs that would not stay in!

But persevere we did and we now have a cosy (albeit windy) prime camping site overlooking the beach.  Home for the next two nights as we enjoy the rest day tomorrow.

I braved an icy plunge in the surf this afternoon while Stef enjoyed the chance to get out of the wind in her tent.  Followed this up with a walk to the shops for supplies and another quiet drink at the Bargara Pub. Midori Splice cocktail was worth those hours battling the elements!

Dinner was a delicious combo of chicken skewers, satay sauce and cous cous.  Caught up with more friends from previous rides (Hayden, I told Dylan you said "Hi") and got myself a nice hot chocolate to settle in and warm the bones while I wrote.

Tomorrow we are catching the shuttle into town to check out Bundy, visit the Rum Distillery and perhaps a walk along the esplanade when we return.  We are not, repeat, we are NOT getting on the bikes tomorrow.  Our poor bottoms need a rest from the saddle.

I'm hoping to get a run in too, as there is a fantastic beachfront path that winds for km up and down the Coast from where we are staying.

So if tomorrow's post is a little late, blame it on the rum tasting...

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Day 2 - Take the Long Line...

We woke to a crisp, clear morning in Agnes Waters and began the only part of CQ that I don't really love - pack up. Trying to get our gear into two bags that weigh no more than 14kg individually and 22kg in total is always fun, especially on those dewy mornings where dirt, sand and grass sticks to everything.

After  a breakfast of beans, hash browns and cornflakes (in separate bowls!) it was back on the road to Rosedale.

Today Stef and I decided to take the long ride option.  On most of the days of the tour there is the option to do a few extra k's, however they are usually pretty challenging with good climbs.  This year's long options give riders an opportunity to head toward the beach before moving further inland. Our extra forty km got us to Rules Beach, with views out to the Coral Sea.  Well worth the extra soreness in the legs at the end of the day.

But before the lunch break, we had the morning tea stop at Fingerboard roadhouse.  The best part of this break was finding out that Hayden's AFL team had won the premiership just minutes before, and he had kicked there goals to help them along the way.  I've done the last two CQs with Hayden on a tandem bike and have missed having him here for this ride, but am so glad he had the opportunity to play in the final and celebrate with his team.  It may be a little hard to convince him to come along again after the taste of victory!

The beauty of CQ, as I've said before, is that it takes all kinds to make up the ride cohort.  Even as we were finishing our extra distance, riders were still coming into the lunch stop from the regular loop.  Baffle Creek was the rest point, a picturesque tourist rest stop set on the banks of Baffle Creek.  With only 29km from the lunch break to Rosedale, it was a nice 89km day for the regular riders and a 120km day for those of us who ventured on the long option.

Of course we are at the mercy of the weather gods on these events, and today had the added challenge of head winds for most of the ride and showers for the last hour.  Nothing fun about collecting your bags in the rain and trying to put your tent up while getting wet.  But if it wasn't for the bad days we wouldn't appreciate the good days half as much as we do.  So after a walk into town, we drowned our sorrows with a refreshing ale (there seems to be a theme here!), had dinner, listened to the ride briefing and finished the long day off with a massage.

Did I neglect to mention the great services on offer on CQ? Post ride massages, physio and medical services all on site, along with a charging bar for electronic devices, bike shop and mechanic, ride reception to answer all those silly questions and sell those bits and pieces that you've forgotten and can't do without.

Did I mention camp cafe and bar as well? Yep, we've got it pretty good on Cycle Qld, but don't take my word for it.  Join me here again over the next few days and maybe you'll find yourself checking out the itinerary for CQ15.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

CQ2014 - a short day to get the legs turning over.

After a fitful night's sleep (thanks to a dodgy air mattress that didn't stay up all night), the sun rose on a beautiful coastal morning.  Although a little chilly, it was just the right start to the day as Stef (my riding buddy) and I sat in the sun eating our makeshift breakfasts.  Catering starts at lunch time and I can't wait!

The best part about these rides are the people you may only see on the event each year, who none-the-less greet you warmly like it was only yesterday you shared the ride together.  I managed to bump into two of my favourite friends today - Jenny and Russell, who are always up for a chat and a catch up.  You will not meet two nicer people on these rides and I love that we are also now FB friends so I can catch up with their adventures in between CQ rides.

I also bumped into Belinda and Anna who I met on the ride last year.  Belinda is the rider who told me to count pedal strokes on those long climbs to distract me from sore legs, some of the best advice I've used many times since.  She was a little surprised to see me (well more surprised that there was less of me) and remembered Hayden from last year. A number of others have asked about him and he is certainly remembered fondly by many of our fellow riders.

Today was a nice easy day for two reasons, one, there was no packing of the tent, and two, it was a  short 38km loop of Agnes Waters and the Town of 1770.  While the kilometres were low, there was certainly a challenge with a steady head wind for the better part of the ride as well as a couple of nice hills that our cycle pal Jason would love to have a crack at.

The idea of CQ is to explore parts of Queensland that you may not have experienced before.  I have always wanted to come up this way to have a break and after this weekends visit, these are two towns that I intend to revisit for a not so short stay sometime in the not too distant future.  1770 offers pristine views and the opportunity to watch the sun set over the water.  The ride stop at lunch offered markets and some local music talent to entertain us and the short ride to the point resulted in breath taking views that were well worth the effort to get up the one steady climb of the day.

After a short run off the bike, it was a quick shower (if you've read my blog from 2011's CQ you'll get why this is always entertaining) and off we set for a couple of quiet drinks at the 1770 beach hotel.  Great laid back atmosphere, a local band playing, a schooner or two of cider and a couple of hundred cyclists whiling away the afternoon.

First camp dinner tonight was spaghetti bolognaise, veges and salad, followed by sticky date pudding and custard.  Let's hope that I can at least maintain the weight this holiday and not pack on 4kg like the last 3 tours!

Tomorrow we head back into Agnes Waters and move south to Rosedale.  A small town that is about to be over run by 800+ cyclists - I hope they are ready for us!  Until then, I'm sitting in my tent listening to tonight's band playing some covers and waiting for lights out so I can sleep.  I'd forgotten how noisy camp can get, and how early some of these campers get up!

The biggest challenge tomorrow is packing our tents up and distributing the weight in our bags so we have no more than 14kg in one bag and no more than 22kg in total.  This could get interesting...

Friday, 5 September 2014

Cycle Qld 2014 - Agnes Waters to Coolum

It's been a while between posts, but the year has rolled around so quickly again.

2014 sees me back on my single road bike after completing the last two Cycle Qld's with my trusty turbo (read 13 year old son) on the back of a tandem.

I have mixed feelings about this years ride, as I've really enjoyed the chance to bond with my boy as we explored new places by bike, but at the same time, a bit of "me" time may be just what the doctor ordered.

For those of you new to the concept, Cycle Qld is an annual touring ride organised by Bicycle Qld.  Each year, up to 1000 cyclists cycle approximately 5-600 km in this beautiful state of ours on a 9 day pedalling adventure.  It's not a race, not a fundraiser and not just for the roadies.  I've seen riders of all ages, shapes, sizes and levels of fitness.  I've seen roadies, recumbents, mountain bikes, tourers, tandems, trailers and cruisers.   Men and women, old and young, the commonality across the group is the love of the bike (except on day 9 when you finish and swear you will never sit on that damn seat again).

The ride is fully supported, which means you ride from one town to the next carrying just what you need for a day's riding.  Tents, clothes and all of the other creature comforts are transported by truck from site to site. There are toilet trucks and shower trucks to meet the basic needs.  Catering is supplied and there is always plenty of variety at our roadside rest stops, which are run by local groups to fundraise for their charities.

Each night there is entertainment including a ride briefing, live bands and plenty of opportunities to catch up with friends and make new ones.  I'm not one to actively look to meet new people (call me shy!), however I've met some great people out on the road who I'm really pleased to call friends now. They're the ones I'm most looking forward to seeing when we get to camp on Saturday.

So follow me as we venture onto roads unknown.  It's Friday evening, we are all set up and tomorrow the adventure begins.  Can't wait to get out on the road and report back on the sights and sounds of Cycle Qld 2014.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Give it a Tri!

In 2010 a friend and I trained and competed in our first Triathlon - the enticer distance at Caloundra. While the feeling of crossing the finish line can only be described as a buzz, it was also (I thought) my last tri - check, goal complete.  My friend went on to do a few more and continues to compete in the teams events.

Hubby came and watched me race and was bitten by the tri bug.  He began with enticer length, graduated to QTS, and even did Olympic distance.  In 2012 he raced his first 70.3 Half Ironman.  He has done 4 now, and is signed up for his first full Ironman in Port Macquarie in May this year (2014).

These longer distance, endurance triathlons take a lot of time out of an already busy week with a full on training regime.  In 2013 as he trained for the Mooloolaba 70.3, I began training on the bike with him, the only leg where I could at least "keep up" - for the shorter rides anyway!  Every Sunday would see us on the road at 5am rolling out to get 100k under our belts before the sun got too high in the sky.

In November I joined a nutrition challenge at work and began to slowly shed the extra kilos that had crept on in the previous twelve months.  I had lost 20kg the year before, but had put half of that back on again.  Eating better and exercising saw that extra 10 kg disappearing, and with a target of another 18kg, I began to join other training sessions with Brendon.

Having never learned to swim as a kid, I joined an adult learn to swim squad.  Run club on the foreshore made running seem a lot less of an effort.  My first tri back, ironically, was Caloundra.  Unlike the first time, at the end of that tri, I signed up immediately for the next one - Bribie Island Short Course event.

The Caloundra tri was better this time. While the swim was still abysmal, the ride and the run was much stronger.  I finished 12/26 in my age bracket.  At Bribie I elected to race in the Athena category, an open age group with a weight classification of 70+ kg (I was 79kg on race day).  It's a smaller pool of competitors (8) and after a poor swim, I took the lead on the bike and extended my lead on the run.  Yep, I finished first!

That week I bought a tri suit and told my husband I was going to continue training.  I won't be in the Athena weight group next season, so if I want to improve for my age category, I need to get better across all of the disciplines (although I do hold my own on the bike already, I can always find a bit more speed there I'm sure).

This weekend, Brendon and I joined other members of his tri club for a training camp at beautiful Kingscliff.  We commenced with an opening night dinner at the local sport club, followed by a great guest speaker - 75 time Ironman Athlete, Jason Shortis.  Not only did he entertain us with funny stories from his time on the circuit, but also inspired us with his never give up attitude and tips for succeeding in any sport.

Saturday morning (after a luxurious sleep in), we swam in the pristine waters of Cudgen Creek, a salt water creek where the swim leg of the Kingscliff tri is held.  Split into groups of strong and not-so-strong swimmers, the first group swam the almost 1.5k course, while those of us in the second group swam a course of 330m out around a buoy and back.  The first time I did it without flippers and struggled to maintain freestyle stroke, so my lovely swim coach asked me to put fins on and I completed the second loop in freestyle stroke.  I have a long way to go, but was really happy to have broken down a couple of my anxiety factors during our session.

Directly after the swim, it was onto the bike for a quick spin around the 10km Kingscliff Tri bike course.  Broken into groups at the end of the 10km, we rolled out for another 15ish k, practicing our group riding techniques in anticipation of the next day's long ride.

Short break for lunch and a nap, then it was back to the park for a run.  Set on the Kingscliff Tri run course, it was a 5km loop that runners could opt how many rotations they wanted to do.  After such a full day (for me), and due to the high humidity, I opted to do 5km.  Happy with my 32.26 time on tired legs, I was grateful to fall into bed early after a quick ocean dip, a delicious pizza and a cider.

Earlier start on Sunday for the bike ride that took us through the beautiful hinterland region, over the range and down to Murwillumbah before rolling back to Kingscliff.  A tad over 75km of fast flats, challenging climbs and equally exhilarating descents.  I might be slow going up, but I'm no sloth on the downhills - don't think I used the brakes on any of the drops, but only a top speed of mid 60s due to horrid headwinds.

After a lovely refreshing swim to cool the muscles, it was pack up time.  My muscles thanked me for the rest!

If you had told me twelve months ago that I would be attending a tri training weekend and participating, I would have laughed in your face.  Now, I find myself looking forward to the next training session and wondering what I might be capable of next event (whatever that may be).

The people I've met, trained with and been encouraged by are some of the most amazing people I know.  Not because of their athleticism (which is top notch) but their inclusiveness.  There is always an encouraging word for those of us who are still finding our stroke/stride, and the people are genuine in honouring each others' achievements.  As I plod along on my run, there is always a smile, a high five or an encouraging "keep it up, well done" from fellow runners.  Might sound hollow to you reading this, but coming from people I admire and who inspire me to be better, it can be all I need to keep me putting one foot in front of the other.

I can't wait to see where triathlon will take me.  For now, I'm excited to be supporting my husband through to his first Ironman event.  I'm excited to be part of that larger community who will cheer these athletes home and I will do it with people who are all equally excited and happy to see people achieve their goals.  Bring on Ironman Australia Port Macquarie - I'll be there.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

A positive from a negative

As with most Sundays over the last two months, the day started as usual with a group ride with hubby's tri club.  Rolling out from Manly Pool at 5.15ish, we were today making our way over the river via the Gateway Bridge  to Redcliffe and back - an 80/90 km trip that was a slight extension of the previous week's outing.

It was all pretty non eventful to start - the group split into two to tackle the first climb over the Gateway and the only issue we had was stopping to pick up a light that had dropped off one of the bikes (yep, mine!)

The group again split on the Sandgate Esplanade for some speed work and regrouped just before the bridge over to Redcliffe, where we proceeded as a group to cross the Hornibrook passage.

We were maintaining about a 23km/hr pace and chatting as we do while we are riding.  I was toward the back of the pack and was passed by a group of riders travelling quickly on my right.

Five or six riders ahead of me, these riders overtaking our group  split to go around a jogger.  She was in the right place (pedestrian side), however as one of the witnesses described, one rider passed on her left (correctly), while another tried to pass on her right.  I think when the first rider passed she may have moved a little to the side and into the path of the other rider, who hit her at full speed, crumpling her to the ground.  He also went over his handlebars and hit her full force, forcing her hard to the ground.

How the twenty or so riders around us stayed on our bikes, let alone stopped, dismounted and ran to the runner's assistance I will never know.  As a first aider I went towards the rider, however one of our group is a nurse (R), and I must admit, I was extremely glad to let her take the lead and be directed by her.

While another club member called 000, R stabilised the jogger, a truly amazing feat that I was in awe of.  R calmed the lady, managed a bad gash to her head, kept her still and safe until the ambulance arrived.  Another one of our group found out her husband's name and proceeded to ride back along the foreshore asking males walking alone if they were "P" so we could let him know about her accident.  Bren took off to meet the group members who had opted to stay at our rest stop until we returned to let them know what had happened.  A couple of us performed traffic control duty to ensure the safety of those treating the casualty and the casualty themselves.  That was the role I took on.

I was horrified at some of the rather blasé attitudes I encountered and more than a couple of riders felt the sharper side of my tongue!  One fellow slowed down as directed and casually said "oh well that's what happens when you ride in a large group."  I quickly put him straight that the casualty was a jogger.  Another man complained that we were blocking the path and shouldn't be on the pedestrian side anyway.  He backed down quickly when I explained why we were blocking the path!

On the most part though, people were very understanding and accommodating.  When the ambos arrived there was no shortage of people available to assist them in getting their gear over the barriers, maintaining further crowd control and generally lending a hand.

In all of this, the poor fellow who had hit the runner was also assisting, turns out he is an ED doctor at a Brisbane hospital, but we also kept an eye on him as he was in a bit of shock as a result of the accident.  Shame some of the others in his group were less than friendly and quite arrogant and rude to some of our guys when they tried to find out if they were ok.  Think they were more than a little miffed that their ride had been interrupted.  If that's the worst that happened to them today, then they should think themselves extremely lucky.

Thankfully the lady's hubby was located and he arrived  in time to talk with the ambos and get details of the cyclists and others involved before she was loaded into the ambulance and taken to hospital.

And so it was back onto the bike for the ride home, cut short as the day was wearing on, but riding at a steady, slightly slower pace along the bridge back to Sandgate.  It took all I had not to shout at riders passing us on the bridge at speed.  But then if you weren't there to see it, it isn't really real to them anyway.  I do know that when we do the ride next Sunday, we will certainly be riding single file on that bridge.

Regrouping at our designated rest stop, our ride leader "J" gave a quick debrief to ensure riders felt safe, understood that the accident was not the fault of any of our group and finally recognised the great skills we displayed in not further contributing to the accident with our quick emergency stops and evasive manoeuvres (something that we practice regularly at our training sessions).

But the single greatest positive I got out of the day was the sense of comeraderie and community that I got from our entire group.  Bayside Multisports Tri Club has some absolutely wonderful members, and every person on our ride today should  recognised for their efforts today - whatever they were.

I was so proud to be part of the group, and as we recollected the group and rolled out of the rest stop, I know there were people feeling a little fragile, a little shaky, a little too "human", but we got back on and rolled along.  Even a very loud puncture blowout from Bren's bike wasn't enough to dampen spirits and on arrival back at the pool at the end of the journey, that sense of achieving something together was uplifting.

So to all those involved today, thank you for letting me be part of something positive out of a negative - I feel richer for having been part of that experience.

(And a further positive that is entirely selfish to me - one person who offered to help was a podiatrist who didn't stay when he realised the calibre of assistance already in place.  When he explained he was a foot doctor, I asked a question about an issue when I ride and he directed me to a fabulous website to help me treat my "hot foot" issues.  So another little rainbow after the rain!)