Sunday, 28 November 2010

Sally's Ride : The Good, the Bad and The Brutal

I woke up in my hotel room in Launceston early on Sunday morning feeling very nervous about my ability to do the 95km ride I'd come up for.  I could tell how nervous I was by the fact that when I looked at the clock it was just past 1am and I was wide awake.

I woke up regularly about every hour from there until when I got up at at 6.30ish wondering what the hell I was doing up here, and under what manner of illusion I was under to think that without any road riding since my Ulverstone Ride a few months ago where I had only just been able to maintain an average speed of 21km/hr due largely to the fact that the last 40kms were all downhill, and on a bike I hadn't ridden for nearly 2 years, I was ready to hop on my bike and ride a 95km charity ride which had a requirement of maintaining a minimum speed of 20km/hr or get chucked in the sag wagon.

Thus it was that as I strolled to the bathroom and glanced out the window for the first time, I have to admit to a hint of elation as I saw a dense, low hanging fog shrouding the streets, and saw the heavy patter of rain on the roof outside ... surely they'd cancel the event in these conditions, and I'd be able to escape back down home early with my honour intact?

At 7.30am I had all of my stuff in the car, and I waited nervously on the side of the street to see if the first wave of cyclists (those doing the 140km ride) would come past or whether it had been cancelled.  By 7.37am my hopes were rising and I decided it was safe to wander the two blocks to the starting line to confirm that it was all over, but just as I was about to round the last corner into the park, a skoda vehicle came towards me with its lights flashing and a hundred or so cyclists in hot pursuit ... there'd be no cancellation today.

I wandered back to my hotel, trying to pump myself up for the day, reassuring myself that in the worst case scenario, I would take more than five hours, but at least at the end of the day I'll have done it, and who cares if I'm last, doing it is what counts.  With this thought in mind, I had a lazy brerakfast (my start wasn't until 9.30am), read the paper, and basically tried to ignore all the niggling fears running through my head.

So it was, at 9.30am, that I found myself nervously astride my racing bike at the start, surrounded by all these very fit people on very expensive bikes, ready to see just how well I could go. 

I did have plan.  I knew there would be a big pack and that I needed to stay with them, but I also suspected that given there were just over 140 of us, that there would probably be several packs, and there would be no way I could stay with the lead pack.  I needed to somehow position myself into the middle pack and see if I could at least get out to Legana in the shelter of a group.

My plan didn't really go astray, all that happened was that after firmly placing myself in the middle of the pack at the start, things sort of went the right way for me with the lights, and by the time we were through the last set out by Riverside I had moved up through the groups and found myself very much in that first pack that I was trying to avoid.  I wasn't too worried about this, because (a) I figured that when I dropped off this pack, the pack I wanted to be in wouldn't be far behind and (b) we were crusing along at 30-40km/hr and I was feeling pretty good about that.  In fact it was about here that a suspicion started growing in my mind that maybe my 10kg racing bike, which I barely ever use, might be a tad faster than my 18kg road touring bike with big thick tyres, which I have always previously used, and maybe, just maybe, everyone in the world isn't that much better than me.

This illusion only held as far as the short climb through Legana where I was quickly ejected from the back of the pack.  Determined to stay with the pack, I just managed to jump back on going down the other side of the hill, but then was prompty dumped again about 200 metres further on as the pack went through a bit of a surge.

Recapping, I was less than 20kms into the ride, I'd ridden on my limit the whole way to stay with the front pack that I wasn't going to ride with and was now on my own, and when I looked behind me to see where the next group was, I found myself very much alone.  I settled into a pace, annoyingly just 50-100 metres behind the front pack, but holding steady as the kilometres rolled by and I pined for the security and ease of the pack, any pack.  A couple of kilometres later, an older guy came up behind me and we started working together to try and latch back on, and god darn in, we got so close.  I actually got within 5 metres of the pack when they surged again, and we quickly found ourselves once again sitting 50-100 metres back cursing them for their meanness.  The one positive about it though was that the last surge actually split the front pack dropping a further 10-15 riders which for a while at least we harboured hopes of catching.

We didn't catch them, but the two of us got chatting, and kept a decent pace up together, and in what seemed like no time at all, we had reaced the Batman Bridge rest stop and quaffed down a banana and filled up the drinking bottle.  What's more I'd done thirty five kilometres in little over an hour ... my confidence was overflowing, and all my doubts this morning seemed ridiculous.

I was in fact so confident, that not 2 minutes after arriving, I saw a small group of seven riders from the bunch we'd been following head off up the road, keen to get in with a bunch, I launched off after them, but of course by the time I was on the road they were already 250 metres ahead, and thus began another long chase.  My advantage this time was that the first few kilometres were up hill, nullifying their group advantage, and as the group split apart I slowly manged to wheel in three of the slower riders.  Two more guys also came up behind me, and by the time we hit the East Tamar Highway there were about six of us loosely riding together.

A guy from Fairbrother's took the lead into a horrid headwind, and I sat on the back recovering for a kilometre or so until I realised that no one was going up to spell him, so I came up front and took the lead through the section around Hillwood.  Just getting near the end of my legs and wondering why no-one else was coming up to help out as we were closing in on another group of six in front of us, we hit another hill, and my legs went to mush as everyone else ripped past me.  Suddenly I realised what had been happening: They all knew this hill was coming, and had been resting for it.  I really have to work on my cycling strategy a bit more.

I dug a bit deeper, and settled into a decent rhythm, passing everyone again, including a lady all dressed up in "Sallys Ride" gear who gave me a few words of encouragement as I puffed my way past.  I settled into the front group as we topped out of the hill and got chatting to a nice guy with an Irish accident who confirmed there were a couple more decent climbs ahead, .

After Hillwood, I settled in with the loose group of people that I was to cycle with on and off for the rest of the ride.  We by no means rode as a pack, one, or two often pushed forward or droped back, but we kept seeming to come back together due to the strong headwinds which quickly punished any rider out on their own.

I rode mainly with one of the older guys, who had big upright handbars due to his bad back, as far as Karoola, with the nice lady and her partner always a hundred metres or so in front of us, and his friend in between.  I stopped for some more water and lollies at the break station and waved goodbye to the old guys, and then figuring that the next section was all up hill and waiting for a group wasn't going to do me much good, I set off after a quick break to face my now biggest fear for the day ... the hill climing out of Turner's March.

The hill lived up to its promise, and I had to fight for every turn of the cranks as I valiantly tried to catch my two previous cycling companions who dangled about 100 metres in front of me whilst not myself getting caught by the two (the lady and her companion) behind me.  I lost on all accounts and got to the top of the main hill after having just been overtaken by the lady and her friend, and being no closer to the two guys than when I was at the bottom of the hill.  I did have the legs to jump the 10 metre gap between me and the last two and to then sit on their wheels for a bit as I recovered my strength as we ploughed on into a fairly merciless headwind.

These two were amazing, and we first passed a group of four, then caught up to a few stragglers in one's and two's including my two old friends, and by the time we hit the junction with the Lilydale Road, we were a group of about 6 or 7, and I was actually out front doing a fair share of the work.  In fact they were all pretty impressed that I was maintaining this pace given my lack of road riding.  I was chuffed.

It was a blessed relief as we crested the final little climb to the top of Lilydale Hill and began the anticipated 12km's of mainly downhill riding to the finishing line.  I was going to cruise this baby in.

We dropped one person coming down the hill, but then stayed together as a group coming into Newnham, and it was all getting pretty relaxed as we skirted down the bike lane, riding two abreast, until just near one of the shops when a young guy swung open the door to his 4WD in the bikelane just as we were coming up on him almost taking one of our group out, but fortunately a quick shout of "door" had given us the time to swerve.  This stuck in my mind as he didn't seem too pleased with us, but really it was he wo had misjudged our speed, and he was standing in the bike lane.

I dropped to the back of the pack after this little encounter to take a swig of my drink, and just as I caged my water bottle, I got a huge adrenilin jolt as I heard and felt a 4WD zoom past from behind and almost clip my arm.  I was about to let loose a few mental spears at the stupid driver, when I watched in horror as he just drove straight into the group in front of me.

I don't know if he meant to hit anyone, or just give us a fright, but he was well inside the bike lane and his side mirror and door struck that lady I'd been riding with since Hillwood right in the back, and I watched as she, and the rider beside her went sprawling down and skidding along the road right in front of me.  My concentration then speared onto not joining the tangle of bodies and bikes in front of me, and as I pulled to a stop and glanced off, I saw the car accelerating away.  I called out to the guys in front of me to get his registration number, but they were fixated on that poor lady, as she was just lying there on the road not moving.  I watched as the guy in the car went straight through a red light and then he was gone,.  You can hit a cyclist by accident, even if being really stupid and just meaning to give them a warning, but to then accelerate away and run a red light to get away ... that's the act of the guilty.

I thankfully had my mobile phone, and we had an amublance on the way in just a few minutes.  The lady (I do know her name but don't want to say it) seemed OK.  A young, scruffy guy, in a beat up old vehicle, the sort you'd look at and write off quickly, was the one who stopped and he used his car to block traffic as we made sure she was OK to get off the road

The ambulance arrived quickly and after a few checks, they took her and her friend away.  I stayed behind and helped the police record the details of the incident and push the bikes to the nearby Mowbray Police Station.  Her bike was in remarkably good condition, though neither wheel turned. 

The Race Organisers, who I'd also called after the ambulance, were awesome and a doctor and coordinator turned up only a few minutes after the ambulance to make sure things were OK.

All up I was only off the bike for 30-40 minutes, but it was a lonely little ride to the finish line and I felt hyper sensitive to all the traffic going past me on the East Tamar Highway.

I ended up crossing the line in 4hrs 15 minutes, which still beat my targeted time for the day by three quaretrs of an hour, even with the long break.  So that was it, it was a day of the truly brutal and ugly: To hit a female cyclist in a cycling lane, and not even stop to see if she is OK, is the lowest of the low in my books.  But it was also a brilliant day.  I faced a huge fear of mine (a fear of coming last, of failing) and found, to my surprise, that at kilometre 90 when my race came to the end I was easily in the top quartile of riders on the road, and I had done most of my cycling either by myself or in groups of 2's and 3's.  I had earnt my place on the road, not just cycled around as a passenger.

I felt out of place at the end, with all these people sitting around celebrating.  I quietly ate my salad roll and then pedaled around to my car and set off home.

Today, I'd faced a fear, and come out the other side.  I'd also completed the second of the two physical challenges I had set myself as goals when I started Project 116.2 / 85.  That is to cycle the Ulverstone Ride and Sally's Ride.

I have now got a whole smoregosboard of events I am thinking about doing in 2011, though I haven't locked in any specific one's just yet.  My goal's right now are to achieve the goals I set myself back in September for 2010, culminating in my Christmas cycling trip up North and I think I'll decide by New Years what my goals will be for 2011.

For now, my thoughts are with you Lady Cyclist.  Hope you get better soon.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Caves Track

I had Sally's Ride in my diary for Sunday, so headed up North today, planning to do the last section of the trail I hand't previously completed up this way:  Caves Track from near Bracknell up to the top of the Tiers near Poatina. 

I bypassed this section when I cycled the Tasmanian Trail all those years ago, as the guide recommended against it for cyclists, and after having just walked it I would have to say that the top half, from the Caves upwards, would be a long slow nightmare of pushing if you had a fully laden bike, but I will also say that it was a beautiful walk and if I were at Bracknell deciding which way to go ... well if I was feeling fresh, or had an unladen bike, I'd go this way every time.

The trail was pretty easy to follow, though there were one or two junctions where I had a moments hesitation about which way to go.

Here's a bit of a photographic essay of my little walk.  It took about 4 hours return from the end of the road.

Starting out ... the ford would be a better option, but I couldn't resist the bridge.

The hills to come ...

Heading up alongside paddocks.

Pretty flowers.

Spring's such a great time to go walking.

Entering the lower slopes, open bushland, great walking (and riding)

Track passes through some lovely wet forest areas as well.

Getting near the caves.

The caves, really just a sheltering overhang.


This is typical upper track, rough, rocky and steep.

Return journey, sheltering from rain in cave.

Everything's soaked now.

The end.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

The Swimmer in the White Cap

Swimming laps isn't my thing, in fact it's very far from my thing.  It's repetitious, it's uninteresting, and I'm not very good at it.  It has short term interest written all over it.

That's why I was surprised on Sunday night when I realised that I wanted to start swimming.  This came from the realisation that if I wanted to do any triathlons (don't mention the running) or multi-sports I needed to improve my swimming, so no matter how boring it was, it was time to add it to my training schedule.  A schedule that so far consists of, well, swimming ... assuming I went.

So it was at about 6pm that I found myself lowering myself into the 'medium' speed lane with the goal of swimming either 1km or for 1hour ... whichever came first.  You might wonder as to whether my choosing the medium lane spoke of some confidence in my swimming ability.  The answer is: it didn't.  It spoke of the reality that there were only 2 lanes available for public lap swimmers, one marked fast and the other medium.  Basically I had no choice.

I set off on my first 50metres, determined to turn straight around and clock up a hundred.  Iwas determined to start well:  good, low breathing technique, pushing my chest down into the water for extra boyancy, efficient long strokes and a good kicking rhytm.  Everything Helen had taught me all those years ago. Unfortunately, by about the 40 metre mark, my arms were everywhere, my legs kicking furiously trying to get to the end and I don't think I had taken a breathe in 10 metres as my desperate mind compelled me to make a mad dash for the end of the pool before I drowned.  After a fairly serious rest, dutifully pretending that my googles needed cleaning and adjusting, I managed to recover enough to head back down and knock off my first hundred metres.  Only 900 more to go.

By then end of 200metres, I had all but given up on technique and and was quickly assuring myself that just making a kilometre would be achievement enough tonight.  I felt like I'd been in the pool forever and that this torture was never going to end.

It was about then that I started becoming more aware of the other people in my lane.  There was an old guy, who really needed a slow lane, as he doggedly swam 50 metres before resting for 5 minutes and setting off again, there were 2 young girls freestyling 50 metres and then breast stroking back 50 metres, and then there was the girl in the white cap.  I came up behind her just after the 200 metre mark. She was overtaking the old guy, and so did I, then I over took her.

I let her go off in front of me for the next 50m, and although I caught her by the end of the lap, by the time I'd had a rest, and headed back up again, she was a nearly a full length in front of me.  I realised that whilst I was swimming the laps faster than her, she was resting much less and hence pulling ahead.   Suddenly the idea formed in my head to set my pace off her ... to not allow her to get any further ahead.  At 300metres, I started chasing the girl in the white cap.

For the next 300 metres, I pretty much kept pace, I forced myself to take shorter breaks, to swim more consistently, to listen to my body and let it set it's own rhythm for breathing and exercise.  Somewhere around the 600metre mark, I realised that my gasping breathes had gone, my arms ached less, and I actually started to feel ... well ... good.

As I touched at 750metres, I noticed the girl in the white cap, for the first time was only half way up the next lane.  I set off with only a five second rest.  By 850 metres she was only 10 metres in front of me.  I stopped pacing and started racing. 

At 900 metres I touched almost in sycnh with the girl in the white cap. She politely offered to let me go in front of her, and after pleading for a few seconds to get my breathe back, I set off.  It had taken me 600 metres, but I had caught and overtaken the girl in the white cap.

I also realised that time had flashed by.  I touched in at my1 kilometre goal, and noticed I'd only been swimming for 30 minutes, for a moment, a brief, brief moment I actually considered lifting the target to 1.5km, but then I remembered I still had to ride home, and there would be other days.

I rested in the lane for a couple of minutes, and watched the girl in the white cap do another 100 metres.  She offered to let me go ahead again, but I said I was done and getting out.  She just set off, probably oblivious to how easy she had made my first swim.

Ten minutes later as I walked past the pool after getting changed, I noticed that the girl in the white cap was still there doing laps.  I sent her a small, quiet thank you in my mind and walked out the door. 

I have no idea who she is, but the girl in the white cap had reminded me of something I had almost forgotten ... the joy of the chase, the passion of focussing only on one thing: that person in front of you, the effort it takes to first just hold onto them, to match pace.  The strategy of thinking how and when to try and catch them, how to close the gap, the moment when you execute and pull alongside, the countering of any surge forward they make to hold position, the passing, the consolidation, and then the triumph in knowing you've pushed yourself harder than one more person in the world, a fleeting moment only, because then when you take a breathe, settle back into your rhythm and look up, you'll seem them again - another the person in front of you ... it's time for the chase to begin again.

 Thank you for reminding me of that gift, that passion, my anonymous swimmer in the white cap.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

The Gog Part II

It rained all night, and I mean it rained.

I struggled out of bed as the alarm went off at 6.30am, feeling less than motivated for today’s planned walk over Mt Roland, and glanced out the window to see how wet it really was. I could still hear the rain falling on the roof above me as I glanced out the window.

It wasn’t good, a thick low lying fog covered all of the paddocks behind my motel room, and as I shuffled down to the kitchen for breakfast, my inner voice was pointing out how sore my legs were from yesterdays ride, how cold it would be up on Mt Roland, and how I wouldn’t see anything anyway due to the thick fog.

I hadn’t exactly talked myself out of the walk as I left the hotel and threw my stuff in the back of the car, but as I settled into the driver’s seat, I glanced at my watch and saw it was already 7:30am ... I’d basically have to drive, and drive hard, to get to the start line in time for the start of the walk at 8:00am.

Instead, I just sat there with the engine running, wondering what to do.

In the end I didn’t go, and yea I’m a little disappointed about that, but instead I drove back towards Deloraine, stopping about 10km’s short and pulled out the bike to cycle the last little off road section of the Tasmanian Trail that I didn’t manage to cover yesterday.

From what I could tell from the maps, and the very steep hill in front of me this still promised to be a pretty good physical challenge, and as the day panned out it didn’t disappoint.

Today I essentially did an out and back from near the end of Gardiners Ridge to the Mersey River Camp Site.  I expected to be spending a lot of time cycling through heavily logged forests again, with a 1.3km section at the end which I suspected I would need to walk.  So with this expectation I was very pleasantly surprised by the route.

You take the high road, I'll take the low road.
After a steep initial climb (for a couple of hundred meters), the trail then sidled around the side of the hill passing through a couple of quarries and a newly establish eucalypt plantation before diving down into the bush and across a very small creek and turning up again for a bit of a push to the top of a hill.  Wildflowers abounded through here, and the rain, although constant wasn’t cold, so I was really enjoying myself.  I even had to stop and take some pictures of some never before signs actually telling me that the Tasmanian Trail had been re-routed through this section.  Luxury plus.

As you’d expect from the top of the hill, the trail headed down, firstly through some nice rocky trails through the bush , before emerging into another new plantation and then after a bit of a steep descent that I really wasn’t looking forward to that on the way back, I dropped out onto a gravel road and continued downhill for a couple of more kilometres.

Just before Lobster Rivulet the trail dives back off the road and circles around yet another plantation, but nice enough trails before switch backing down to the rivulet.  To be honest when I first pulled up I thought maybe I’d reached the Arm River there was so much water flowing down it.  All the rain from the previous 24 hours had the river at near flood levels and I was either in for a very wet, very hairy crossing or this was the end of my days ride.  

 I was taking some photos whilst pondering what to do, when I noticed what looked like a large log just 20 metres or so upstream, and after a bit of bush bashing I found myself crawling across the hungry waters on a very slippery log, but convinced enough that it was possible I wandered back and manhandled my bike to the end of the log ready for the crossing.

Bit worried about getting my feet wet.

Notice my bike at the far end of the log.

In a surprisingly conservative move for me, I actually crossed the river in two crossings, firstly just me and the bike, and then in the second crossing all my electronic gear and valuables.  I was grimly happy to find that this conservative approach caused more problems than it saved as it ended up being much easier crossing the log with the bike than without it as I could use it as a third pivot point by shuffling across with the bike pointing up river and acting as a third anchor point on the log.  I found myself feeling very unstable as I recrossed the river on a downward sloping, slippery log without the bike, and am not ashamed to admit that I did one section on my hands and knees.

After that little adventure, the trail runs along some lovely double track parallel to the rivulet through flat bushland and around yet another coupe before emerging onto another gravel road.  A couple of more junctions, and I found myself heading off road again into some very inviting open bushland.  My fears of having to walk and bash the last 1.3kms to the river turned out to be for nought, instead I found myself on a lovely bit of lightly used grassy track that ran virtually all the way down to the river with just one small little descent for the last 50 meters.

Definitely get my feet wet crossing this one.  Basically Impassable.

The river level was significantly higher than when I’d been on the other side a few weeks ago, and I wasn’t in the slightest bit tempted to try and cross.

Although having the option of following an ‘emergency exit’ route noted in the trail guide and avoiding the re-crossing of lobster rivulet, the ride had been such fun it was really a no-brainer to turn around and retrace my outward route.  Although there was quite a bit more uphill in this direction, I knew what was coming and so was able to just settle back into it and enjoy the climb.  I do admit that I was a tad surprised at just how steep a few of the sections were, but that’s why I’ve got feet, and it only seems fair that I push my poor little bike every now and then given everything I put it through.

I got back to my car about 11.30am, so probably 3 to 3.5 hours return ride, and really recommended if you’re in the area and looking for somewhere to ride.

Incidentally I headed down towards the section off Leonard’s road around the Montana Falls Track, only to find that this section has now also been rerouted and you just continue straight along Leonards Road.  That said it was still a nice section (though of course I was in a car).

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Clueless on the Cluan: Another Tasmanian Trail Story

Ever had the experience whilst flying down a long hill inwardly rejoicing as kilometre after kilometre disappears beneath your wheels, of glancing down at your handlebars to only then notice that your GPS isn't there anymore?  No?  Well to be honest, up until today neither had I, in fact to be honest, I hadn't even considered it a risk.

What I can tell you is that it's not the best feeling in the world.  As I came skidding to a halt, mind rapidly trying to process this event, my thoughts immediately returned to a loud noise that had caught my attention a long way back.  It had sounded like a rock kicking under from under the tyres, but it had been really loud.  I'd remembered glancing behind me at the time thinking that maybe something had fallen out of my backpack.  I now realised it was in most likelihood probably the GPS deciding to go it's own way.  Sitting there on my bike, unsure what to do, my next thought was a bit depressing ... that noise had been a loooonnnng time ago.

I sat there for 30 seconds trying to justify continuing on my way and coming back in the car to find it, but the logic for this approach quickly unraveled and reality set in, so I turned the bike around and started the long ride back up the way I'd come to see if I could relocate my GPS.  Yep, it's another day on the Tasmanian Trail, the section through the Cluan Tier to be exact, but for once the backtracking appears to be 100% my own fault.

I'd driven up from Hobart in the morning on a cloudy overcast day with rain forecast all day, getting worse tomorrow.  I had sort of forgotten to bring a road map of the area, but managed to find my way out of Cressy and through the many unsigned junctions to Bracknell (figuring it had to be westish somewhere) and from there onto my planned start for the days ride at the junction of Bracknell Road and Myrtle Creek Road about 4 or 5km west of Bracknell itself.

The plan (though as usual that may be too grandiose a term) was to cycle Stage 5 of the Tasmanian Trail in reverse, then follow stage 4 back as far as the Lake Highway before hooking back around through Golden Valley and Liffey (via Bogan's Road) to my starting point.  It looked to be about 60kmmostly tracks and gravel roads, and a nice enough distance.

Tassie's pretty green right now, and with Spring in full bloom, it's all just plain pretty.  So it was that I set off up Myrtle Creek Road enjoying the pastures, young lambs and calves frolicking around and wended past a little vineyard before the climbing started as I entered bushland.

I didn't see any Tasmania Trail signs for the first couple of kilometres. which was concerning me a little bit, but  just as I was really starting to get worried, one magically appeared on a tree beside the road, so I set to the increasing gradient with a bit more conviction assured that I was at least where the trail had once been.

In doing this I had of course broken a golden rule of the trail: Never get complacent or think things are under control.  Only another kilometre or so up the road, I came to a gate with more warning signs than Area 51, but fortunately amongst all these signs was one small TT sign pointing up the banking on the side of the road, I was guessing this was some sort of detour.  I clambered up the bank and found another TT sign up there pointing back onto the road and from where it was located I deduced I was supposed to head up a very steep fire trail running around a fairly recently logged coupe.  The pushing had begun.

This fire trail started out steep, and then it got steeper.  After about 10 minutes, I came to a bit of a flat bit and looked at the section in front of me and it looked like a cliff.  I had also got a bit worried by this point as I hadn't seen a single TT sign since leaving the road, and this really didn't look like a trail.  However, I couldn't see any other option, so I threw my bike onto my shoulder and continued the climb.  To make things worse I found myself pushing through waist high bracken ferns and clambering over downed trees.  It was a real hoot, and I was very glad to get to the next flat spot as I dumped my bike and went in search of TT signs ... none were still to be seen.  The fire-trail appeared to continue straight ahead and up in front of me (and in retrospect was probably where I was meant to go), but an alternate snigging track headed off to my right apparently along the contour line, and the temptation of a bit of actual riding was too much for me and so off I went.  As it turned out, this track dropped me back on the road about 50 metres behind another gate, which I assumed was the other entrance to the property as it was also covered in five different signs telling people to go away.  The only one that caught my attention though was a big TT sign on a tree over the fence showing the trail went this way.  I quickly pushed my bike up to and around the gate, and took a sigh of relief knowing I was back on the proper trail.  I still don't know where I was actually supposed to go on that detour.  I may have gone the right way, or I may have been supposed to keep going up the firetrail and then cut back onto the trail somewhere above the gate, but for the life of me I saw no other trails entering the trail from the left.

Anyway, from the gate it was a lovely section up through a bit of gully forest with a creek running down below, which then flattened out and the trail followed a fairly convoluted path along bush trails and around a couple of coupes.  All rideable, and worth the effort of getting up there.  At one point, I popped out on what I believe was the top of Cobbles Hill with magnificent views out over Liffey Valley and the Tiers.  I have to admit though that I'd just copped a handlebar smash in my mouth carrying my bike over a downed tree so I probably didn't enjoy it as much as I could have.

From this lookout (which is actually just off the track)  the trail sidles around a coupe, often branching off and remerging for short sections, with my advice being to follow the old trail sections, not the newer trail which runs right beside the coupe (in simple turn when heading east - west go left at any junction).  The TT signs get a bit confused around here.  I came across one sign which seemed to indicate I should ride straight into the plantation (which I eventually ignored) then another sign which did send me off on a right turn to appear out onto the road.  What was strange was that about 500metres along this road I came to another TT sign, pointing riders coming form the other direction down a trail off to my left.  Curious, and not in a rush, I followed this to find myself doing a nice little loop back to the junction again.   Having cycled so much of the trail with no signs, it was hilarious to me to have found two alternative routes, both signed.

Fresh wombat tracks on the trail.
However, time was ticking on and I'd only traveled 11kms since I'd started so I proceeded along the road, which went uphill more than I would have liked, past unsigned junctions where even my GPS was no use to me as the roads I was on weren't even showing up as tracks.    However, I eventually got dumped out at a fairly major junction and was very pleased to see a TT sign pointing the way I'd come.  The road had very firmly started to point downhill at this point, and so anticipating 10-15kms of fast down hill all the way down Cluan Tier to the Stage 5 camp site I set off with speed.  It was just past this point that I heard that strange rock getting kicked out from under my wheel, but not seeing anything as I glanced back I continued on for several more kilometres before I came to the skidding halt staring at my empty handlebars where my GPS should have been.

Once I successfully retrieved my GPS (which had separated into four pieces) I at least got to console myself with a second go at the downhill run, and much to my delight it was mostly a downhill run all the way to the Cluan Campsite (feel sorry for anyone coming the other way).

I wasn't really ready for a break so continued along the trail to the next off road section between Maroneys Road and the Lakes Highway.  My recollection of cycling this section 10 years ago was that it had a steep descent (make that an ascent today) just off Maroneys Road and then the trail was through thick overgrown plantations.

Things have changed.  Well the hill is still there, and it still steep, but this area now looks to be a very popular motorbike area with tracks criss-crossing everywhere.  The upside to this is that the trail was nice and open and easy to ride, even if I did once again miss a turnoff, and came out at the wrong spot on the Lakes Highway (I came back later on and rode in from the other direction, and forgave myself for getting lost as the trail chooses a particularly convulated path, at one stage detouring nearly a kilometre out of the way to cover a distance of about 50 metres in a straight line). This is where I got lost as I think someone has removed the TT sign to cut out this detour.

Anyway, somewhat glad to be back on bitumen, from here I just basically followed my nose back along to Golden Valley, and then up and over Bogan's Road (it is a fairly long climb for tired legs) before a steep drop back down over the pass, and a fast, easy ride back along the Liffey River and my car.

Road heading back towards Liffey.
All up, I was out riding for about 5 or 6 hours, and covered just over 60kms with my bit of backtracking.  I would definitely do the ride in the direction I did it, as the other way I think the climbs would be a bit dispiriting.  Best to get the big climb out of the way first and have fun for the rest of the day I say.

Taking the dog for a walk the Tasmanian Way.  This guy just drove off leaving the dog to chase him home.  It seemed very happy with this arrangement as it ran past me.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Poets, Potters, Yellow Hippos & Frolickers

Start of trail, top of Poet's Road.
 'tis Friday, specifically it's Friday, 5pm ... it's time to frolic.

It's the second week of the Frolic, with my departure getting somewhat delayed by not actually having a bike.  Said bike, being in the bike shop getting new brakes.  Well, I thought it was getting new brakes, but when I got there it only ended up getting one new brake as they only had one set of avid eclipse disk pads, so they just put those on (and no if you're wondering, I'm not so mechanically challenged that I can't change over some disk brake pads.  The problem was the new brake pads were rubbing against the disk and had to be "bled".  Now I'm even less a surgeon, than I am a bike mechanic, and the only way I make things bleed is if I hurtle into them head first, and go "ouch, that hurt ... darn I'm bleeding", and to be honest I usually, no always, only do that by accident, not by intent).

So it was nearly 5.30pm by the time the bike and I in motion chugging up from my chosen starting point on Goulburn Street in South Hobart.  I deicided to start down low and pedal up so as to get a warm up before hit the real slopes.  I was soon cutting off at Faraday street, and *pushing* my bike up the steep pedestrian connector path to get onto Poet steet.  Yes today's route had been selected to start out honouring our artisan's of word and finish up honouring those of mud (potters).

Just before the top of Poet's road, I was paced by one of those tiny toyota echo cars ...  This was noteworthy because it had two racing kayaks on the roof racks and a mountain back thrown in the back.  I was very impressed by this mechano set configuration, and the last section of uphill was barely noticed as I pondered whether perhaps I could downsize to a more environmentally friendly car.

Trust me, steeper than it looks (or I'm lamer than I think)
My attention was well and truly snapped back into the moment as I left Poet's road and quickly found myself in granny gear trying to keep enough forward momentum to get up the track in front of me.  Gravity and inertia still seem to be my betters, so I found myself for the second time in under 20 minutes pushing my bike up a hill, not riding. 

Fortunately this section is very short (<50m) and I was back on the bike climbing up onto the knocklofty paths before I knew it.  This is a beautiful little section, though lots of mozzies seem to be coming out.  The key thing is that is was previously un-cycled, so I'm chalking that up to the frolic account for new paths discovered and covered.

From here it was onto the previously explored Summit Circuit (yes, including a bit more pushing) then around the side of the hill on the Mt Stuart Track.  Who knew this section was uphill?  I could have sworn it was dead flat when coming from the other way a few weeks ago.  After my usual near crash going through the rock garden I crossed the firetrail and was about to head downhill when I espied a few bike tracks leading off into the bush to the left ... thus was born (unknown to me at the time) frolic rule number one:

1. Though shalt not cycle past an unexplored path

This trail turned out to be a short section of twisty, rocky, turny, beyond my skilly most of the timey piece of single track called the "Yellow Hippo" that ran down parallel(ish) to the main trail I was originally planning on descending.  It was mostly fun, but was still a couple of grades above my skill level, which is currently ranked as "pretty pathetic, mainly relies on luck, has been known to do better blindfolded".  Anyway, the good news was its one of the few downhill sections I've ridden where my heart rate went up going down hill as my certainty of impending doom increased around each corner and over each rock sending me into adrenilin overdrive.

After diversion number two, I discovered a couple of "rides for another day" heading off to the left and right as I headed around past Noah's waterhole and up towards the New Town Track ... the goal of today's ride.  Half way up the push just past the waterhole, I paused for a breather and noticed a very obvious track heading off to the right and left.  With the idea of "no path left unridden" tickling my mind (admittedly combined with the fact that it wasn't as steep as my current route) I jumped back on the bike and headed off along this track.  This actually turned out to be a good choice (which is unusual for me) as it was a nice section around the hill, joining the New Town track a bit lower down than I had planned, but at a point from where I could cycle back up on a less cruel gradient, so from there I managed to claw my way to the top of the saddle and lurch down the other side.  I stopped two thirds the way down, heart in mouth and wondering how I was still alive after barely dodging several slippery sections and rock drops, and took a couple of pics of the sun setting behind Mt Wellington, as I allowed my pulse rate to drop a bit and my courage levels to rise.

Enjoyng sunset, not woried at all about rest of descent.
I finally reached the Main Fire Trail a bit after the sun had slipped behind Mt Wellington dropping the temperature several degrees as I started my plunge down the track alongside the firetrail, just because the route I'd found this on on said I should, plus as it was beside the fire trail, not the firetrail itself, this made it new trail which was definitely in the spirit of the frolic.

From here it was a fun descent down pottery road (that's what the sign said, though I think trail would be a better description).  The only prblem was after my sweaty ride up, and the sudden drop in temperature, I started to get a little cool.  I saw my first wallaby for the evening just before emerging out onto Pottery Road proper, and more strangely I passed and said hello to a guy walking up along the track in his good town clothes, reading a paper as he walked along, with a backpack on his back.  I was sorely tempted to turn around and find out his story, but felt it was kind of rude to ask someone "Are you strange?" by way of intro.

Yea right, I bet it's a four lane highway.
As I hit the bitumen road, I cut a sharp right, past a gate and then straight up towards the water station ... I was now back at the very bottom of the New Town Trail and I had to push the first section before the slope eased up to where I can ride it (noting to myself that I had seen five cyclists effortlessly take off cycling up here just a few weeks earlier) but from there I was off and pedaling. 

The next 30 minutes were a hoot as I was on virgin ground for me.  I took off down several previously unexplored trail, often having to pull my front wheel up, and leave trails for another day as the my GPS was telling me I had less than 30 minutes before full darkness and I'd realised that I'd left my rear light on the back of my lifejacket after Wednesday nights paddle.  On the way back I followed the little bit of trail I'd found earlier in the opposite direction and soon found myself criss crossing my own trail on unknown tracks, and having to make many choices between unknown destinations.  I emerged out onto the top of Noah's hill at one point and found myself cycling along with five bennetts wallabies which seemed to have no fear of me as I snapped off a couple of pictures.

Where's Wall(ab)y?
There were so many sections of single track I just had to leave for another day due to the iminent sunset meaning I had to turn and make a run for home. 

I retraced my tread around to Knocklofty, but having by this stage started to lock in a few concepts in my head about the frolic that I intended to pursue I found myself unable to just peacefully chug past a small section of very steep track I had previously not ridden, and which I knew headed to the top of Knocklofty.  Therefore despite the growing darkness, I turned the front wheel up hill, and with several "Froooolic's" shouted to an empty audience I began the push to the top.  It as only a few hundred metres, but it was all up. 

So many tracks, so little light left ...
The fruits of my labour was the switchbacking trail down the other side on the new section of the summit trail.  That's when I got very proud of myself.  At the bottom of the junction, and with only eight minutes to sunset showing on my GPS, I turned my wheel right and started what should have been a quick and easy descent back to my car the way I came up,  But then it happened: I found my speed slowing and my wheel turning 180 degrees and with a mischievious smile I again heard myself yawping out "FROLIC!!!" as I instead sped of in the exact opposite direction away from my car to see if a path I'd gone past a few weeks earlier might also drop me down near my car somewhere. 

It didn't:  it dropped me off at the Mt Stuart Lookout, but it was a fun ride, and it also meant that I got to fly down the bitumen road from there, cut off down Melifont Street (steepest street in Hobart), around Landsdowne Crescent and back to my car and I still made it back in reasonable time.

All up I'd been out for about 2.5 hours, and only clocked up 18.5kms (including a fastest speed of 58.2km/hr coming down Melifont Street), but most importantly I'd froliced and that was all I ask of myself.

There's Wall(ab)y!!!


On the fifth day , God didn't really say "and it was good", he actually said "and now they should frolic".  Like all those who frolic, he was simply misunderstood.

1. At any junction, a frolicer should always pursue the unknown path, and do so with a smileon his face.

2. All steep hills should be greeted with a YAWP like "FROOOLIC" and should be attacked with a frenzy.

3. The Hill will usually win, regardless See rule 2.