Saturday, 31 March 2012

Belbins Road MTBO

I was probably only 2 or 3 minutes into the course.  I stood straddled across my bike and hadn't moved for about 30 seconds as I poured over my map.  

I took a moment to look out over the lovely view of the valley below before again looking down at my map trying to figure out where the hell I was and how what I saw in front of me could possibly match all those squiggles and lines on the map in front of me.

 All the time I was very aware of the watch on my wrist ticking away the seconds and the fact that I was still trying to find my way to the first of 20 controls.

I was lost, completely lost, and I had no idea how to relocate myself.  At that moment I was reminded of all the reasons I hate orienteering ... it is such a perfect way to ruin a delightful exploration of an area, and at teh same time it's such a frustrating way to race.

I looked at my map for what must have been the third or fourth time, sighed deeply and seriously considered just going back to the start and DNFing, but instead I backtracked down to a major track and went in what I thought was generally the correct direction, even though I was absolutely, completely and definitely sure I was on the wrong road.  Turns out I was wrong.

I saw some singletrack heading off to my left then another piece of single track and suddenly - like an incalcitrant jigsaw puzzle where one piece slots into place and then the whole thing seems to just fall together - I realised both where I was on the map, and how the whole map worked.  I was 'in' the map.

Thanks to an extremely slow time of 6 min 46 seconds to the first control and the hit my confidence took from this huge navigational faux pas, my first lap was still slow, but as more and more of the navigational fog dissolved into certainty, as I got a feel for how the distances on the map converted to distances on the ground, as I understood the map makers interpretation of track size and how he was seeing the tracks and terrain ... I just got faster and faster.  Soon I only had to glimpse at the map, absorb the route, identify an attack point and go.

I was running at 100% speed and effort when I crossed the finish line and all memory of the stilted start had vanished from my mind.  I was sweaty and grinning from ear to ear: and that's why I love orienteering.  It challenges you, it rewards both skill and fitness, but I think more than most sports, it also rewards perseverance and not giving up.  It's a sport where you don't often see your competitors until the end, and hence you don't know whether they too have mucked up somewhere.  Sometimes it's what you think are your worst days when out on the course that end up being your best days when you get your results.  You often forget when out racing that everyone else is having to deal with the same course that you are, and are out there making mistakes of their own.

Yea, I hate and I love orienteering, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Kellevie 6 Hour Enduro - Crash Bandicoots

The Kellevie 6 Hour was to be my first Enduro, and I didn't really know what to expect. 

I confess to being a tad nervous before the event, especially about how much faster everyone else would be and how technical the circuit would be. I had many images in my head of being overtaken ... mainly whilst I was pushing my bike.

My kind of technical difficulty - taped course on grass.

But I needn't have worried .... I enjoyed watching the mass start (ie. I enjoyed not being in it) and I really enjoyed the actual course which was a good mix of technical and fast riding (see video below).  I was also pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed the team approach with Kim (especially the rest and recuperate between laps bit).

Serious recovery.  God I hate that Iron Brew.
I enjoyed catching up with a few people I hadn't seen for a while, and of course I enjoyed riding track I hadn't ridden before, especially being given a second, third and fourth chance to ride it again and try and improve my lines and speed (for the record, I got slower every lap). 

What was it like?  both brilliant and painful at the same time.  I had a huge smile on my face at the end, but I hurt myself inside and paid a bit for my efforts that night.  Anyway, below is my (likely) last attempt at bicycle videoing ... I've come to realise that a bike just isn't a good platform from which to operate a video camera, even if it is a bike specific camera built for the purpose, but I'm almost happy with this effort so I hope you enjoy (NB. This won't work in the USA due to copyright issues over the soundtrack).

Kim and I each completed four laps, so a total of eight, and I was pretty happy with that.  Kim crashed once and lost her chain twice but I think was pretty happy as well.  I can't recall anything too serious happening to me on the way around.  I did however spot this up and coming talent on the day and I'm already talking to his manager about getting him into our team next year ...

I don't think this young guy got off his bike during the whole 6 hours,
Results wise ... well we finished, and came fourth (out of five) teams which started our division, but we were two laps down on the winning team, and that's a looong way.  Still, we were both smiling ...

Next stop .. .The Wombat 50.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

We played ...

I woke up very excited this morning.  In fact I felt like a young child as I watched the clock tick slowly by, waiting to get out onto the water and play.

I was just getting into the car at about 9.30am when Steph called ... he'd been talking to Ben and they'd changed the plan (one of the biggest changes being that Ben was now coming on the trip).  We were now doing a paddle from Tinderbox to Taroona.  I grumbled a bit in shock, he told me I didn't have to come, I went.

I am pleased to say that I had a great trip, and that for his sins in changing the trip after our careful planning, Stephan capsized and had a terrible trip with waves slamming into him from the side for nearly half of the distance - not fun in an outrigger.
Given that I'd been given no say in the changed plans,  I felt I was free to point out that those were the same waves that we would have been surfing if we'd stuck to the original plan and direction. This made a good trip better (ah the joy of the self-riteous)

However, I have to give him his credit, Stephan did apologise afterwards, and heck,  I still got to paddle, and play. I got some great runs and I got to see just how good a paddler Ben really is.
Those are all good things.  Kellevie tomorrow.  Better get to bed.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Dark and angry lens on a beautiful world ...

I've been a bit messed up in my head this week, and to be honest I've been struggling to figure out why.  I've found myself easily annoyed by the people around me and only time and space (alone) have allowed me to crawl back out of my cave towards being human again.

Kim and I went for what is a beautiful peri-urban ride up to Silver Falls after work on Tuesday night.  We followed the South Hobart Rivulet track out of town, jumping over onto the trails up to and then past the Waterworks Reserve and ultimately onto the pipeline track to the Falls.

After a brief stop, we then rewarded ourselves with a fast descent back down into Hobart by linking the Resorvoir Trail, Bracken Lane, O'Grady's Falls Trail and finally  the Rivulet Track into town (see ride route here).  

I confess that I barely enjoyed a moment of it.

I went out for a club paddle on Wednesday night, and we went up under the bridge to Cornerlian Bay for a change due to the westerly winds (see route here). 

I chose to hug the coast most of the way up, and doing your own thing is accepted on Wednesday night paddles, but at the end of the outward leg rather than rafting up and joining the group for a chat and relax, I instead found myself needing distance from those around me, and ended up paddling off by myself around the point.  This is not so accepted.

The paddle back suited my mood - a dark but beautiful sunset over a choppy, moving seascape.  I paralled the main group back down from Cornelian Bay to the Bridge, just sitting a few hundred metres further offshore, but once I got to the bridge, I had a need to saddle up against the race monster and see how much pain I could endure.  I put a hard stroke into the water the moment I went under the bridge, and then just followed this with another and another and another.  I didn't stop hurting myself until I got back to Marieville Esplanade.

It was delicious and I was aching and spent when I got back to the car, but unfortunately this workout just took me back to my car, not to any answers.  I quickly packed up and was driving off as the slower paddlers were still coming off the water.

Last night (Thursday), I went down to paddle training, but after getting there early, I sat in my car and realised I really didn't want to be there, so instead went home, ate some fish fingers (don't ask) then went to bed with a very sore neck and read the recently released book "Fearless" abut Freya Hoffmeister's circumnaviagation of Australia.

I think this book may have finally been what I needed to turn my headspace around.  I was gripped by the story, and after getting a cup of hot milo and raiding my emergency chocolate store, I curled up in bed and was swept along by the story as she paddled up the East Coast and then across the Gulf despite all the nay sayers and in what to me was a foolish, but amazing feat of human endurance.

I can't wait to get back to reading it tonight ... after the TSCC AGM of course (sigh).

However, already inspired by what I've read, I met Steph for a coffee this morning and after checking the wind and swell predictions for tomorrow, We chose to ignore the slight sprinkling of snow that fell on Mt Wellington overnight and locked in a paddle from South Arm around to Cremorne ... and we've timed it for the middle of the day when there will be maximum swell and wind - predicted 20-30 knot winds and 2-3 metres swell and sea. 

Time to go out and play with my dark side ...  sometimes that's what I need to remember how beautiful this place is.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Wellington Ranges MTB Ride

I was supposed to be competing in a 12km paddle race today, but just didn't have the desire so instead pulled out one of my 'backup' plans ... my backup plans being a list of  rides and walks, most fairly close to home,  that I've been meaing to get to "someday".

Apparently today was the "someday" for the Wellington Ranges circuit.

Collins Bonnet up close and personal.
Today's ride started at the Grove Store, which is on the way down to Huonville.  The route I'd choosen headed out through Crabtree to the start of Jeffrey's Track.  Although on the road, it was actually quite a pleasant ride and a good warm up.

But then I came to the start of Jeffrey's track and it was time to get serious, the uphill had begun.

I had last been up this way probably two decades ago, and then I was a teenager learning how to ride a motorbike.  I remembered that the ride up this way was steep, and I was right.  I soon found myself pushing my bike, though this turned out to be fortuitous as just as I stepped off the bike (at the last house before the road becomes a track) a dog raced out and tried to have a go at me.  At a slow speed clipped into the bike I would have been helpless.

However, the next kilometre or two was just a slow, but pleasant, push upwards ever upwards.  Fortunately this was what I was expecting, so it wasn't really a problem.

 Eventusally I came to a small flat section, before another push, and this process repeated itself many times over, though each time the climbs seemed a little shorter and the sections I could ride got longer and longer.  Then before I knew it I was riding along the plateau and heading past the turn off to the White Timber Trail.  I was back in known territory and well ahead of my expected schedule. 

I was quickly over the top of Jerrfreys Track with a fun, but short ride down to the turn off onto the East West Trail.  The wildflowers were all in fresh, young blooms, and a wonderful dew had settled on the leaves fallen on the track, and darn it, it was just so good to be there ... hot, sweaty and alive, and with the final big hill in front of me.

Fortunately although the start of the East West Trail is steep, it is only a relatively short push and before I knew it I was back on a mostly ridable trail, albeit with a few short pitches and one very long puddle to negotiate.

In fact, I was ankle deep in the one and only very long puddle, happily pedalling my way along thinking "Please, God don't let me fall in" when I looked up and saw the only other person I met all day.  Another cyclist pushing his bike in from the opposite direction.  Like me, he was out for a day ride, but he'd come in from Collinsvale and was planning on turning around soon.

I think I was about 18kms into the ride when I reached the base of Collins Bonnet.  From here I planned to turn onto the Mountain Creek Trail and reap the reward for all my uphill efforts - kilometres of fast, technical descent.

What I saw instead was a track that indicated it was closed to cyclists ... NOOOOOOO!!!!!!

I was shattered.  I had both walked and ridden down this track before, and knew it was hard, but didn't think it rated being closed due to being too dangerous.  I was torn over what to do - should I turn back or stick to the original plan? 

In the end I decided that I would walk my bike down the top section that was within the park (the signage said the track was open to walkers) and then figured I could jump on my bike when I exited the park and ride the bottom section.

I should have stuck to the plan, and yes I can now understand why the track is closed to cyclists.  You know when you're slipping over and falling down just walking down the trail that it's pretty dangerous, and in the end I decided it would be safer to ride than walk,  and I ended up riding probably 60-70% of the top section and it was rather awesome fun 95% of the time and terrifying the other 5%.  I couldn't recommend this ride to anyone, and if you ignore my advice and the signs, then be ruddy careful ... there were some very steep, slippery, nasty little sections, and I went over the handlebars more than once ...

Part way down, I had this very surreal, end of the world type moment, when I stopped on the track only to see a few crows noisily moving up the track towards me.  They were hopping from one tree to the next, and were followed by more and more and more ... within a minute I had about fifty crows sitting in the tree tops surrounding me looking down ... awaiting my doom?  I pushed on.

As I dropped lower, the rocky scree / watercourse track turned more intoenclosed forested tracks, with lots of overgrown trees fallen on the track, however after crossing a stream and then another bridge, I finally got to the 'clean' section and had an awesome downhill run back out to the road.

End of the track looking back up to Collins Bonnett (Sleeping Beauty)

I noticed that the "No Cycling" sign had been scratched off the bottom of the sign at the end of the track, but didn't hang around long as I followed my nose the last 8 or so kilometres back to the Grove Store.  The road was predominatly downhill and it was fast (3min/kms) and fun all the way back.

All up the ride was about 35kms, inclduing over 1000 metres vertical ascent, and was absolute great fun. I would love to put it up on, but I can't put up a track that has a section closed to cyclists.  Sigh.  I guess I'll just have to keep the memories.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Electric Bike 2.0

Over a year ago now, I bought myself an Electric Bike conversion kit from solarbikes.

Electric Bike V1.0
It has been brilliant for that time, and I would rave about it as the perfect commuter bike, but then a couple of weeks ago I plugged it in to recharge ... and nothing happened.  After a nummber of phone calls to Matt, and trialing a number of other chargers and even another battery the verdict was that my old lithium battery was dead.

To his credit, Matt sold me a new battery below cost, and after a bit of fiddling today, I present to you, Electric Bike 2.0 ...

I haven't taken it out for a spin yet, but the electrics are a lot neater than in the earlier version (though still messy given it still uses the original controller), with less fuses to blow up, and even a nifty little button on top which shows you how much charge the battery has.  Apparently it is a much higher quality battery as well ... here's hoping.

The biggest upside I see with it is that whereas the old battery took up the whole rear pannier, I now have all this pannier space for carrying work gear and my shopping.  The big downside is that I can no longer get away with zipping past road cyclists on the way home leaving them thinking wtf?  I'm afraid the big battery gives me away too much ... the sacrifices we make.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Bike Count

Once a year I give my little bit back to society by volunteering to count cyclists for a couple of hours ...

I know, on the scale of world volunteering, it's not much and it is kind of fun getting up at 5am in order to be ready and in place to capture the first cyclist coming past at 7am as the sun rises over a waking city.

This year I was doing my count on the juntion of Regent Street and Fitroy Place and I expected to see stacks of cyclists, and frustratingly I did ... but all at the wrong times.  In the 15 minutes I was waiting to begin the count, I had seven cyclists go through my intersection and then in the five minutes after 9am, eight more cyclists went through my intersection.

It was like the pesky buggers didn’t want to be counted!  My official count was 46, but with those extra 15 it could have been 61.

However, the count ended at 9am and so my task was done.  It was time to get to the nearest toilet block, not count pesky cyclists  ...

Monday, 12 March 2012

Give a monster a camera ...

The monsters discovered this weekend that I was happy for them to use my cameras ... and it was interesting as I downloaded the pictures to see what it was that caught their eyes ... for example, who wants to photograph the surrounding bush when here's a beautiful sign to photograph ...

There was a bit of creative, perhaps abstract photography ...

Little Monster taking a picture of her T Shirt.

Well ... I guess you could call that a small Monster's eye view ...
Big Monster was more food focussed ...

As mentioned, there was a definite fascination with signs from the bigger monster ...

... and of course there were close up face shots ... lots and lots and lots of close up face shots ...  also notice the big monsters signature "finger on lens" approach to photography ...

OK, so this one is actually quite good.

as is this one ... maybe Kim stole my camera?

I wasn't trying to get in the photo, I was trying to give him the finger
little monsters perspective was lower than I expected.

Little monster was never shy of the camera ... can you see the hulk in her?

... see it coming out now

but my favourite was this one,  I think it captured the weekend perfectly ...

finger on lens, feet up, tight jeans, cool shoes ... perfect.