Sunday, 31 July 2011

Born this way

In hindsight, I was sent enough 'hints' about what was to come that maybe I should have considered some other ways to spend my Sunday, but always the optimist I headed off blissfully ignorant that 2 hour and 43 minutes later, well I'd look something like this:

... and if you're wondering, yes, the rest of me if just as muddy, if not muddier.

The first, and not very subtle, 'hint' I had of what was to come was on a Saturday morning exploration down in the Coningham Reserve, 25 minutes south of Hobart.  I spent a wonderful few hours exploring the 4WD trails and firebreaks of this reserve before heading up to join the family for lunch, and as I was pushing my way up towards the top of the reserve, I paused to take a photo, only to have some lady come running by me from behind.  I'd been overtaken by a runner!!!

I managed to sort of, kind of justify this to myself:  I was just cruising around, I was heading up a steep hill, I wasn't racing, but the fact remained - I'd just been overtaken by a runner.  To add insult to injury, I then failed to take a required turn and managed to head off in the wrong direction for half a kilometre.  The lady of course had gone the correct way, grumble, mumble, grumble.

But wait there's more - 45 minutes later, get this, she lapped me.  I kid you not, the same lady came running past me a second time.  Please, shoot me now. 

So there it was staring me in the face: I've lost so much fitness over the past five months that I'm getting lapped by people on foot.  How many days was it to the Cape to Cape race?

After, a wonderful lunch, I headed up to the Peter Murrell Reserve to explore the trails there, and only ended up getting back to my car after dark.  I did overtake an 8 year old on his bike in the reserve, and I'm counting that.  I did have the grace not to go back and overtake him a second time, but only because his parents looked at me strangely as I went past taking the victory salute the first time around.

All up, I clocked up about 35km and 4 and a half hours on the bike which I was pretty happy about seeing I had pretty much written the day off as a loss.  Maybe it was the euphoria of time on bike that made me overlook that fitness warning that was screaming out at me.

Sunday morning and I was up early for a three hour drive north.  Lady GaGa slammed me awake about 20 minutes into the drive (I'm finding I am in a stupor until the right music comes along to create my mood for the day), and this time it was Born this Way:

I'm beautiful in my way
'cause god makes no mistakes
I'm on the right track baby
I was born this way

Don't hide yourself in regret
Just love yourself and you're set
I'm on the right track baby
I was born this way

Except I wasn't (on the right track). Setting a theme for the day, I confidently blew past the turn off to Hagley continuing on to Westbury, where I took the time to actually look at the map and realised that I was supposed to turn off to Four Springs back at Hagley.

That was hint number two - I got lost on the way to an orienteering event. Hello?!? Anyone listening?
Blissfully unaware of what was about to come, I entered the long event.  Here's a hint of how I went.  The optimal course was 24km and the winning time should have been less than 90 minutes.  Here's my GPS results just after crossing the finish line:

You will notice my time was 2hrs and 40 minutes, nearly double the expected winning time, and I cycled nearly an extra 4 kilometres.  let me just give you a glimpse into what went wrong in this race.

Firstly I took off from the start line, headed out towards control number one, thought I spotted it and headed in only to find it wasn't my control.  A quick check and I realised I'd completely missed a turn ... I'd ridden a kilometre out of the way and clocked into the last control on the course.  F*#K!, oh well at least I knew where it was now for the way back.

After (correctly) bagging control one, I took yet another wrong turn and found myself at control 4, another kilometre of backtracking, another wrong turn and finally I bagged control number 2.  
Consoling myself with the fact that I was finally getting into the map and not much else could go wrong, I took off towards control number three.  Five metres down the track my map board fell off my bike.  Now for those who don't MTB orieenteer, the key to competing is a special map board mounted on the front of the bike to hold the map where you can always see it to navigaet by.  The map board can be turned so the map is always poiting in the direction you are facing, and of course it keeps the map dry.  I had 23kms to go and no map board.  Yay.

Not to be detered, I threw the board at a junction where I could come back and retrieve it later and set off with map in hand.  I could till do this.  Things had to get better from here.

Ten minutes later it started to rain and my map turned to mush. 
I had to carry it intermittently between my mouth (during the technical sections) and my hand where it got mashed against the handlebars. By about control 8 it was unreadable.  Seriously this is my map, or at least what is left of it:

It's hard to tell, but there about a third of the map is missing.
Fortunately, at about control 11 three guys who were riding together came up behind me and so I put on my most desperate, downtrodden face (not hard as this was the same one I had had on for the last hour) and asked them if I could steal one of their maps, fortunately, they took pity on me and I had a brand new map in my hand and it was in a plastic bag.  Oh joy.
I still managed to take many, many, many more wrong turns.  I took the long way into 12 because I thought there was a cut over track which didn't exist, completely headed down the wrong track towards 13, and then again at 14 I managed to go completely the wrong way for about a kilometre (my best effort during the whole race).  The problem was that without a map board I was either going from memory, or because I was holding the map in my hand, I was making mistakes because I couldn't follow the map.  My last mistake was because I didn't notice that my thumb, which was supposed to be marking where I was on the map, had slipped going over a jump causing me to turn left one junction too early.

It was such a relief to roll over the finish line.  Usually an orienteering event is a bit like life, you take a few bad turns, you lose a bit of time, but overall if you keep going, then you tend to make it back somewhere else later on.  But, not this time.  This time a combination of my terrible fitness and not having orieteered for about a year just left me well - last.

Despite all this, it was still a good day out, and I got to catch up with a few people I hadn't seen for a while before turning around and driving the three hours back down to Hobart.

What it has made me aware of though it that with it now being less than 90 days to the Cape to Cape MTB Race, I've got a lot of fitness to gain.  A lot of a lot.  To be honest, I'm in trouble.

Soooo... Bring on next weekend, because like the Lady says, this is the way I'm meant to be ... I was Born this Way.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Chasing the Girl in Yellow

Finally, after meaning to and wanting to for several weeks, today I got around to getting myself organised enough to get down to Next level Kayaking's free Wednesday night paddle training session.

To achieve this was actually quite a committment: not only did I have to remember to pack all my paddling gear, but in doing this I realised there was no way I could get my PFD (life jacket) into either my panniers or a backpack, so I ended up cycling to work wearing it under my (unzipped) jacket.  God knows what all those car commuters thought this morning when they saw some cyclist heading to work on an electric bike wearing a life jacket.  Actually, I probably don't want to know.  Thank God I wear a winter face mask so no one can recognise me.

The night's exercises were a series of shortening paddle sprint circuits (see map above) with the first intended to be about a 20 minutes paddle, then 15 minute, then 10 minute followed by a final out and back 5 minute super sprint.

I was in the first group of four that headed off, and it was immediately apparent that there were two paddlers who were 10-15% better and faster than me, and one guy who was a way off the three of us.  I did the only (unhonourable) thing that could be done in this circumstance ... I jumped onto the wake of one of the faster paddlers and held on for grim death.

In short, I was in a chase and I loved it.  For the whole first lap, all I could do was hold on.  The girl I was behind was appropriately decked out in a yellow canoe and kag and I just did everything I could to hold onto her tail.  She accelerated several times, and it was touch and go, but I held.  I did have the good grace not to sprint past her at the end having sat on her tail the whole way around.

We headed out again before one of our four had even got back, and twilight had turned into dusk reducing visibility on the water to shadows and lights.  This time I found myself in the front, with the girl in yellow sitting on my tail for the start.  However as I tired she came up beside me and we had to help each other figure out where we were supposed to be going in the dark.

I got a better turn around at the half way mark being on the inside of the turn and as we hit the wind and waves my ability to chug out a slower, deeper, stronger stroke actually gave me a break and I found her on my tail again.  I surged a couple of times to no avail - I just don't have the acceleration to drop someone, but then after settling into my stroke and concentrating on building the depth and strength of my cadence I found I had a metre gap, then two ... just as we came back past Wrest Point Casino another guy from a faster group came past, and I dug deeper, and tried to stay with him.  I held his pace, so he accelerated, I accelerated, he surged, I surged ... he continued, I blew up, but fortunately it was just 50 metres from the finish line so I was able to glide gracefully over the line in the dark and not look too bad.

Problem was the two minute call was already out for the next sprint and I could barely lift my arms.  Before I knew it we were off again, and I unashamedly sat on yellow girl's tail the whole way out and I struggled to stay there.  Just after the turnaround, another boat came past again and he was only going 5-10% faster than us, and so of course I figured "My arms aren't that bad ... I can do it", I jumped from yellow girl's tail to the new guys tail and lifted my cadence to stay on mystery man's tail (by now it was completely dark).  I managed to stick with him all the way to the end.  I think the girl in yellow also jumped onto my tail, but to be honest I don't know if she did, and if she did, if she stayed there.

The final sprint had to be honourable.  We launched, and I got dropped.  Stuff honour, I put everything into sprinting back onto girl in yellow's tail and once there used her way to recover until the turnaround.  Trying to regain some honour, I made the choice to leave girl in yellow's tail and take an outside line back to the finish.

We crossed pretty much side by side at the finish, though I may have got over by a few inches, but I think I may have been trying slightly harder as well. 

That was it. We had lost about half the group over the four loops, several leaving due to other committments or concerns over the dark.  I paddled way harder than I would have if by myself and my upper body felt the workout.  As I got changed out of my cold, wet clothes back into my cycling gear ready for the ride home I had a smile on my face bigger than any winning margin over the girl in yellow.

No doubt that in a one on one race she'd drop me everytime, but who cares ... I just love the chase.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Now that's a good weekend

Imagine a sunny weekend spent exploring new trails you didn't even know existed just one week before, then following this up the next day with a top ten in a white water kayak race and an exploratory ride along Tahune Airwalk's new MTB trail ... oh and watching some guy called Cadel move into a yellow jersey after an amazing time trial during some race in France.  You'd have to call that a good weekend huh?  I certainly do.

So going back to the beginning, I headed over to Lime Bay State Reserve on the Tasman Peninsuala on Saturday and spent five hours exploring the tracks, hills, beaches, buildings and lagoons of the area.  It was rather a random, haphazard rouote as you can see from the GPS below:

I might of only covered 35km in total, and spent a lot of time chasing dead ends, pushing up hills and being scratched on narrow tracks, but it was oh so worth it, even if my legs were cramped and my back sore as I pulled back into the car at the end of the day.  Check out some of the pics below.

Convict Mines Site

Convict Mines Site, Wharf

Sunday I got up early and watched the previous nights stage of the Tour De France - the time trial - and all credit to Cadel Evans.  I may not have been a fan of Cadel before this stage, well to be exact I called him a whinging second-rate cyclist who relied on other people to lose, rather than setting out to win, but he was different this Tour and he deserved the win. 

That's my way of saying I was wrong.  I still think his book sucks, and hope he'll put out a second edition which might actually be readable now he's won the Tour.

In the meantime, back to Sunday where despite my mis-givings I loaded my kayak onto the car, threw the bike in the back and headed down to Huonville to compete in the fourth Derwent Canoe Club Huon Series Race - a Whitewater race.  Today was a bit strange for me as Kim from work came along for a ride and it was kind of strange after doing my own thing for a year, to have to suddenly think about another person's objectives and plans for the day (something, unfortunately I didn't do very well).  There was a thick frost outside when we left, and as we came over Vinces Saddle overlooking the Huon Valley we could see a thick fog settled low over the valley.  It wasn't inspiring weather for a kayak race, especially given the warnings that the river was currently being fed by snowmelt.

I grabbed a chai latte at Banjos to try and fortify myself, and headed off  to Judbury where I expected to see 30 or 40 paddlers.  There were however just 4 or 5 cars when we pulled in, and I knew most of the guys that were there, and after chatting in the brisk morning air, I somehow forgot my promises that I would only do the event if there were a stack of other inexperienced paddlers like myself (which there weren't) and instead found myself unloading the boat and getting ready to race.  It wasn't until I was sitting out in the main current, with my fingers freezing in my gloves, that it occured to me to ask myself how I had got there, and by then it was too late.

As it turned out there were ten of us competing (hence my top ten finish).  I actually came second last, but it was a brilliant paddle down.  It really is a wonderful river, and I only took the wrong line in the rapids once, OK twice, but I'm not admitteding to anymore than that because there are no witnesses to prove it so twice it is, though I did leave an awful lot of blue plastic boat on the rocks and stumps on the shingle rapids heading down that river.

I really wish I had taken my camera with me and snapped off a few pictures, but all I've got is these few pictures of my arrival under the Huon Bridge.

Please notice the sexy blue helmet (I won't mention the broken strap).

By the time I got to Huonville, it had gone noon and poor Kim had basically got up at some ridiculous hour to stand around all morning waiting for me to go paddling and providing a shuttle service for my car, so feeling a bit guilty, I quickly loaded up the boat and we took off towards Tahune Airwalk.
After a quick lunch (well quick for me), we unloaded the bikes and set off on the new bike track.  The track is actually still 'under construction' in that the signs are still printed on A4 pieces of paper and this is my excuse for why we missed one of the turns on the way back and just headed all the way back along the road.

The track itself was pretty good fun.  It is easy to intermediate single track for about 3kms before coming out at Picton Bridge and then heading back along the road for most of the way back.  There was plenty of mud slippery undulatons, all of which were mainly fun, and Kim wasn't a sit back and photograpth the mosses, spot the platypuses type of rider.  She was more a Jan Ulrich type of rider - big gear, and ride, ride, ride.  So not many pictures, but I did have my video cam on and might try and edit that down later on.

It's not a ride I'd head down there specificially to do, being only 3km of single track and 3km of road riding, but I'd definitely add it to a day trip if I were down there for other reasons, or add it onto other trails.  I plan on getting it up on as soon as I can.

After the ride, Ian from the Tahune centre came over and had a chat about the trail, set me right to where we'd gone wrong, and gave us a guided tour of the new accommodation.  He was a brief bright light in the usual drab world that they call Tasmanian hospitality.

So that was my weekend, not bad, not bad at all.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Sloping Island

Who'd guess I was playing in the snow 6 days ago?
I finally committed to entering the Cape to Cape MTB Ride in Western Australia this coming October, so with less than 100 days to go until the event I decided to start my training ... by going for a weekend paddle.

I love being random.

I also predict that in exactly 94 days time I will look back on this decision and think "well getting on a bike might have been a bit better idea, huh, Mr love being random man?"

Sloping island is a small island just off Lime Bay on the Tasman Peninsula.  It's one of those places I've always meant to go to, but never actually got to, so when I saw there was a club trip going out there for the weekend, I thought I'd tag along.

View Larger Map

We arranged to meet in Sorell on Saturday morning, but three of us (yes, including me) went to the wrong coffee shop (perchance distracted by the Oomph coffee sign?) but it all worked out, we all got to the same cafe eventually, and the rest of the group made plans for the day as I worried about the effect of three coffees on my bladder with several hours of paddling ahead of me  ...

Due to the size of the group, we'd agreed to split into two, and our group headed off first from the boat ramp at Gypsie Bay just around from Primose Sands.  We initially set off towards  the Isle of Caves for a bit of a circumnavigation and play in the kelp. before continuing on towards Sloping Island.

It was kind of nice to be paddling with a group for a change, and after initially heading off up front by myself to the Isle of Caves, I throttled back for this second crossing and took the time to get to know a bit more about the other paddlers in my group (Jill, Jim, Kevin & Sylvia).

The two groups split off as we approached the island, and after being unable to find the "beach just before the cliffs" landing point, our group pulled onto a rocky ledge for lunch and to see if we could find the nights campsite.  It was a beautiful sunny day, though not overly warm with Mt Wellington in the background covered in snow, and it was just lovely rock hopping around the shoreline, exploring the penguin rockery and snapping off some pictures to see what my camera could do.

After eating and mucking around for a while we set off, just as the other group came into view (we'd covered about 10% of the island whilst they'd got all the way around) and we quickly ascertained that the beach had washed away in the recent storm.  Four of us decided to still head off and circumnavigate the island, whilst Jill who was feeling a bit under the weather went into the camp with the other group.

The paddle around the Island was very pleasant, particularly the southern side which was very green, and the eastern side was also quite fun as I paddled along within 4 or 5 metres of the shore ducking in and out the little bays.  We saw a bull seal and a mother and calf seal out on a nearby reef., and the whole circuit seemed to just fly by.

Mother and baby seal on reef.
Cormorants on the corner of Sloping Island.
The tents were pretty spread out to fit us all into the site and as the last to arrive I ended up at a spot right out the back.  I went for a wander once I got my tent up and enjoyed snapping some more photos in the light of the setting sun before returning to camp for tales, arguments and cooking around the campfire that night.

The next morning, after a lazy breakfast, we headed over to Green Head via Hog Island.  Most of the group either headed straight back to Gypsie Bay from Hog Island or Green Head, but three of us (Jim, Sylvia and I) had a good play along the bottom of the cliffs and continued about half way around to Lime Bay, before ourselves heading off in pursuit of the others.

Sitting off Hog Island

Green Head Cliffs

All up, it was a pretty easy two days, with each days paddle only 10-15kms in length, and to be honest Sloping Island isn't a place with enough draw-cards to pull me back there anytime in the near future given all the other places I have yet to explore, but that said I'm really glad I went along as the conversation was good, and it was just really nice to get outside for a weekend and explore ... now what was it again - 94 days to some bike race?