Monday, 31 December 2012

A Bigger New Year

2012 was a banner year for me, fitness wise, as I was able to complete my first marathon, set PBs in 5km, 10km and half marathon distances as well as complete 300km (x5), 400km and 600km rides on the bike. With less than two years of taking this seriously, I am extremely pleased with what I've accomplished this year and looking forward to pushing myself even further in 2013.

Providing all the stars align properly and I can keep healthy and sane, my goals for 2013 are as follows:
(The Audax cycling calendar runs from November to October)

Bike | December 15 - 400km Coal Valley
Bike | January 5 - 200km Scamper Series
Run | January 26 - 5km MS Colour Run
Bike | February 2 - 200km Ferry Long Way Round
Bike | February 9 - 200km Get Along to Ettalong
Run | February 24 - Orange Half Marathon
Bike | March 9 - 400km Coal Valley
Run | March 15 - 7km Spartan Sprint
Bike | March 23 - 200km Doin' the Dog Trap
Bike | April 6 - 300km Singleton Tour
Run | April 14 - Canberra 50km
Bike | April 20 - 200km It's the Pits
Run | May 4 - Wild Endurance 100km Trail Race
Bike | May 25 - 600km Brutal But Fair
Bike | June 1 - 200km Gorges Galore
Bike | June 29 - 200km Follow the River
Bike | July 13 - 200km Hawkesbury Howler
Run | July 21(?)- Hunter Valley Half Marathon
Bike | August 3 - 200km Permanent
Mix | September 1/13 - 700km XPD Adventure Race (run, MTB & paddle)
Bike | September 28 - 200km Permanent
Bike | October 5 - 600km Take a Walk
Bike | October 12 - 200km An Epic Warmup
Bike | October 26 - 300km Brutal But Fair
Run | November 3(?) - Carcoar Marathon
Bike | November 17/20 - 1200km Sydney to Melbourne

I also hope to keep up with this blog and update it at least weekly with each weeks training notes. 2013 is going to be stellar!

Friday, 22 June 2012

Audax Lower Hunter Valley 300km

16 June 2012. Completed my fourth 300km/200mi since joining Audax in April!
This ride took me back into the Lower Hunter Valley region where I have ridden on two previous 300km Audax rides. There were a few differences in the route so it wasn't exactly the same, plus, no two rides are exactly alike anyway. The ride had 100km, 200km and 300km options with only three of us electing the longest distance.
Leaving the house at 5:30 in the morning to ride to the starting point 4km away, it seemed that I had grabbed an older, worn out, set of legs. They weren't sore, more like lethargic and not in the mood to do another 300km+ ride, let alone the 4km to the start. This was not a good sign going into my fourth ride of this distance.

After getting to the start of the ride in Gordon and receiving our brevet cards, we all headed out toward the Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park where we rode through Bobbin Head, a very familiar set of hills for me. As you enter the park, it's a great 3.5km downhill with only a few sharp turns along the way. As the sun still had yet to rise and the roads were a bit wet, some brakes were used during the decent. Since it doesn't seem that you can have a decent without an ascent, much to my chagrin, this downhill is immediately followed by a 4km long climb out of Bobbin Head. During the climb, the sun finally started to make its appearance for the day. Well, it tried at least to poke its way through a sky thick with clouds that threatened us with a wet ride.

Once daylight fully broke, the rain began. The first 75km, or so, of the ride was through a light rain. I've ridden through torrential downpours so this light stuff didn't bother me too much. By the time I had reached the first check point on Peats Ridge Road, the rain had pretty much let up and the next 150km were dryer, though the clouds never did let up on its hold over the skies above.

Up to the first check point, my legs continued to feel lethargic but they held up their part in the ride decent enough. After a short break and quick snack, I was back on the bike for the next segment. This is also when the legs started thinking that they really didn't want to have any part in this ride and the notion of not completing the ride started forming in my head. Unfortunatly for my legs, I'm and Audax rider and that means we do endurance rides and don't always listen to what are legs want (at least this Audax rider doesn't). The rest of the ride, about 225km, became a lesson in resource management. Additional breaks and paying close attention to nutrition was my primary focus for the rest of the ride.

At check point two, it was lunch time and I was chatted up by a bloke that was thoroughly impressed by the ride I was doing. The check point was in Millfield which seems to be so small that the check point was at the only petrol/eatery/general store/bar in town. Small towns tend to be populated with some of the friendliest of folks and had there been beers involved, there's a good chance that the bloke and I would have talked well into the night. But I had a ride to complete with just over half of it left.

Between check points two and three, I had to stop again. Rest, recharge and refuel. Back on the bike, gotta make it to the next check point...

Check point three! I made it! Another rest and a more substantial feeding. Chicken wrap, chips, Poweraide and a chocolate milk. The chocolate milk is new form me while riding and I wasn't sure how my stomach would take it but I was willing to do anything to keep this ride alive and finish it.

From here, I only have three more tough hills to climb. Dog Track, Brooklyn and Bobbin Head. If I can make it up Dog Track, the worst of the three, I shouldn't have a problem with the other two and I will finish this ride! Back on the bike then and now it's dark and the rain starts up again. 100km left at this point and the rain continued the entire time...

Dog Track was tough but I made it without getting off the bike! This ride is not going to beat me! At the top of Dog Track is Wisemans Ferry Rd. On the other rides into the Lower Hunter, the route took us to the right at this point but for this ride, it goes left. Sure, why not. A new road in the dark while it's raining; the hell with comfort zones when your legs are hating you anyway. This stretch of road turned out to be fairly nice. No hills of any consequence to batter my legs, decent surface and little to no traffic. I actually enjoyed this slice of blacktop until I reached the end.

This is where I realized that I really should pay more attention to the details of these rides. They are all plotted out on and you have the ability to view the elevation chart for the course. Had I actually looked at it at any time before the ride, I would have known at check point three that I really had four big climbs left, not three. Perhaps this is a good thing though. Would I have continued on had I known?

The section of Wisemans Ferry Rd terminates at a round about that leads to Gosford with the first exit and Calga with the second exit. I know this place and I know the hills I'm about to hit. I groaned along with my legs...

A brief, passing thought toward the short ride to Gosford and the train station before pointing the front tire toward Calga. Dark, cold, wet and tiredness was not going to best me today!

The rest of the ride was a chore with my head down, my determination up and my wheels continuing to spin. I made the hills to Calga, turned south toward home, made the Brooklyn hill and then the Bobbin Head hill and sprinted toward the finish. Well, it was a sprint in my mind at least... The ride officially started at 6 am and I reached the final check point, the Police station in Gordon, at 11:15 pm. What a day!

All told, I completed 324 km / 201 mi on this ride. The Garmin device reported 4,172 meters of ascent whereas RunKeeper gave my 6,656 meters. Regardless of which one is more accurate, the ride had more hills than any other I've completed.

My next Audax ride is set for 30 June. Another 300km ride into territory I have yet to explore. Even after everything this ride threw at me, I can't wait!

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Audax Follow the River for Peats Sake 200km Permanent

A nice 230km ride last Saturday with four other Audax riders to Wisemans Ferry.

After the shorter ride to rest the hamstring the weekend before, I was ready to get out and do some decent distance. On Monday, I decided to map out a route that would take me on River Road along side the Hawkesbury River. I had ridden this road a few weeks back during the Audax Ride the River 150km ride and absolutely loved the ride and the views. Unfortunately, that was the week before I had a change of mindset and began enjoying the rides more and snapping photos of everything that catches my eye.

On Tuesday I had gone from mapping out my own route to seeing what permanent ride routes were on offer with Audax. If I were to do a permanent, I could get the points associated with the ride as well as the ride I wanted. Win win! The ride I selected was the Ferry Long Way Around 200km which gave me the distance and route I was looking for. I immediately emailed the ride organizers, Howard and Bec, to let them know I was wanting to do the ride and find out what was needed as it was my first permanent. I didn't hear anything back until Friday when Howard let me know that he and a few others were planning on doing the same route, only in the opposite direction, and asked if I wanted to join them. In the end, I not only got to ride the route I wanted, for the distance I wanted, but I was able to ride it with a group of great people and cyclists!

The ride started off around 6:30 with Galstons Gorge being the first destination. This is a nice descent on a rode that has half a dozen switchbacks and this time, a very dense fog. One of the riders, Wayde, had on the new Audax Australia reflective vest which has a mostly white backside. As we found out, he easily blended with the fog and we lost sight of him. Because of this, the rest of the ride included a string of "Where's Wayde" jokes. The other folks on the ride were Howard, Bec and Phillip who are not only great cyclists but also run the New South Whales Audax chapter.

After Galstons Gorge, we headed west to Windsor and our first checkpoint. When I had left the house, the temps were in the low teens (Celsius) and I had on a wind coat. After the 11km ride to the starting point, I was boiling so the jacket was stuffed into the saddlebag. During the ride to Windsor, the temperature dropped to its lowest point for the day of 0 (you know, freezing...). It's not easy to drink a coffee when you can't stop shaking long enough to take a sip before it sloshes out onto your lap. Oh well, there is more than one way coffee can be used to warm you up.

After Windsor the route turns northward and we hit the first of two ferry crossings.

Howard (back left), Phillip (center) and Wayde (right) on the ferry as we cross the Hawkesbury River.

A shot of the river from the ferry.

After the ferry crossing we get on River Road which was the reason I wanted to make this ride again.

The following pictures are just a sample of how beautiful this part of Australia is.

A good portion of this road includes rock cliffs on the right and the river on the left.

In two sections, the road turns to dirt for no apparent reason. I assume a couple people on the road crew have wonderfully paved driveways now...

River Road takes us to Wisemans Ferry which is our second checkpoint and second ferry crossing.

(Left to right) Phillip, Howard and Bec.

The Hawkesbury River again.

After the ferry crossing, we are on Wisemans Ferry Road which follows the river for a while longer before a nice long 15km hill that takes you from sea level to 325m above sea level. It's not a hard hill to ride but it feels like it will never end...

After Wisemans Ferry Road we hit Peats Ridge Road, our third checkpoint and turn south towards home.

The sun is setting and the temperature is still nice making the last 60km or so very pleasant. With about 30km left, I felt like I still had too much left in the tank so I turned up the speed in an attempt to burn out my legs before the ride ended.

After over nine hours of riding and about thirteen hours since I left the house, it was the end of the Audax portion of the ride. I still had another 12km to get home but not before having a beer and a plate of chips (french fries) with everyone else on the ride. Is there any better way to finish a long day of riding?

This weekend is another Audax ride for 300km!

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Weekend Ride - 2 June

Short, easy 72.5 km ride with Nikki this morning.

The day started off with the plan that Alicia and Nikki would be doing a 50km loop and Roger and I doing a 100km loop, starting and ending in Wahroonga. I left the house just before 6:30 to ride the 9km up to Wahroonga and meet up with everyone else. As soon as I got out on the road, I realised that I had forgotten something.  Even though I had been up since just before 4 am, I didn't think to eat anything... A quick stop at Danes Cafe near the Wahrronga train station will solve that issue so no need to turn back.

Riding up through Gordon, there was an ambulance parked outside a McDonald's with its emergency lights going. I wonder if those fries finally took a life...

Stopped at Danes, grabbed a coffee and slice of banana bread then rode over to the train station car park to wait for the others. Yes, I can ride a bike with a hot coffee in one hand, though I am still in the design phase of adding a cup holder to the bike. As I roll into the car park, I'm reminded that the first day of winter was yesterday.

While waiting for everyone else to show, Roger calls to let me know that Alicia and him were dropping out of today's ride but would stop by for a coffee. Nikki arrives, gets her bike and gear sorted and we head over to Danes to meet up with them. Of course, Alicia has to show up with her new bike to tease me a bit more. At least she was pleasant enough while I drooled all over it :)

After coffee, Nikki and I headed off to do the 50km route I had mapped out. Up Pacific Highway to Berowra then down to Berowra Waters. This is the first time I've ridden down to Berowra Waters from the eastern side and even though I was looking forward to rocketing down the 200m descent (over 4km), the road was just a bit too wet to indulge my insanity. With the low lying clouds and a bit of morning fog, Berowra Waters is absolutely stunning!

Nikki arrives at the bottom of the hill a little bit later as she has a  much better sense of self preservation than I and we wait for the ferry to take us across the river.

Then it's a 200m climb out of Berowra Waters and through Arcadia before turning south to Galston's Gorge. The course had us on a road I haven't ridden before and I had to stop when we came across an orange grove. To me, there's nothing like a little orange grove to prompt a Kodak moment...

After the orange grove, we jump on Old Northern Rd. and head south to Galston. This is also when we learned that they had the road totally torn up and it's a complete mess. Fortunately we're not on this road for too long before turning onto Mid Dural Rd which takes us to Galston's Gorge. The ride down to the gorge is a 180m descent on a narrow two lane rode that bottoms out with a single lane wooden bridge.

The bridge spans Berowra Creek which is part of the river that goes through Berowra Waters. It just doesn't support boating as well...

Feel free to scroll up and take another peek at the Berowra Waters photo and compare the two pictures of the same body of water. I'll wait.

Now we have to climb out of Galston's Gorge. This is probably one of the easiest climbs we do around here as it's only a 160m ascent with half a dozen switchbacks. Riding down this hill is a blast as you get to go from top downhill race speed to nearly nothing because these switchbacks are 180 degree turns. Another benefit of riding up this hill, over down it, is that you get a chance to enjoy the view of the hills and gum trees that make up the gorge.

After climbing out of the gorge, the road flattens out and we ride through Hornsby, get back on Pacific Highway and cruise on back to our start point in Wahroonga. I don't remember when my last Saturday ride ended up being less than 100km but it was nice to slow down, take it easy and enjoy the ride. Thanks again Nikki for riding today!

Next weekend I have my thoughts set on a 200km course I've mapped out and the following weekend is another 300km Audax ride. If I manage to keep to my ride schedule for the month, it's possible that I may end up with a total of 1500km, or more, which will put me comfortably over the half way mark for my 12,000km cycling goal for this year. As of today, I've completed 46% of this goal with a total of 5,508km on the bike(s).

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Audax Brutal But Fair 300km

Three a.m. Why the... What’s going on with the alarm? Oh yes, an Audax Ride. More specifically, the Brutal But Fair 300km ride. The alarm has done its job this morning and done it well. It has gained a reprieve, this time, and will not be rushing toward the far wall. My fourth Audax ride with this being the third 300km.

Five a.m. Out the door for the 12km ride up to the start in Hornsby. My goal for the day, as was with the previous 300km rides, was for a total of at least 322km when all is said and done. That’s 200 miles; an intercontinental double century ride! Do people really call it that or is it just me?

Just before six a.m. Chris arrives outside the TAFE entrance in Hornsby followed by Phillip and a bit later by Bec and Howard. That’s everyone for the ride. Chris had grand kid sitting duty but was determined to get in as much of a ride as he could within the established deadline handed down to him. The rest of us are hopping around eager to get the ride started. The hopping could have been contributed to the 7°C temperature, but I doubt that had anything to do with it...

Six a.m. (ish.) We are off! Chris rides with me as far as Pie in the Sky in Cowan before having to stop and check the time. I’m not sure if he turned around at that point or had time to go a bit further. For me, Pie in the Sky is the beginning of one of my favourite descents - from 230 meters above sea level down to 6 meters within about five kilometres. I don’t know how most people ride that hill but for me, it’s a tight aero position and no brakes until I get to the bridge over the Hawkesbury River!

From this point on, there are no time hacks to start each paragraph. Now I’m on the bike riding and time loses most meaning and relevance. I know I have time frames in which to make each check point and complete the ride, but I am confident in my cycling and those thoughts can be pushed to the back of my mind; pushed back to the darkest regions of my mind, you know, where I also put Chris’s address, even though he claims it is the easiest address in all of Australia to remember. 42 Wallaby Lane, Sydney is easy to remember, but only because I’ve had years to memorize it, not 300 kilometres to forget it...

Bottom of the hill, crossing the Hawkesbury River with the sun starting to make its daily appearance.  I just had to stop to take a picture of this sunrise.

This is also when I realized that I don’t really want to rush through this ride. I’ve ridden this course before and know that it takes me through some absolutely stunning country side in the Hunter Valley. I’m going to take my time, enjoy the sights and snap a few pictures along the way.

So that’s how the rest of the ride went, with only a couple notable exceptions that we will talk about later. This next photo is just a random bit of the road between the Hawkesbury River and Calga but does well to represent how beautiful and serene this stretch of road can be.

On Peats Ridge Road you are reminded that it is fall in Australia but that this is also New South Wales; there is something in bloom all year long. I have no clue as to what the purple bush is in the next photo but it was coming to life at the same time the trees behind it were displaying their fall colours and preparing for the winter ahead.

A snippet of landscape along George Downes Drive. In the year and a half I’ve been in New South Whales, I have yet to find a stretch that is straight and flat... I am seriously considering going out to Perth when I’m ready to do my first 400km, or greater, ride!

Further on you are reminded of how this great country came to be with a convict built culvert and stretch of road.

And then, amongst all the greenery which makes it hard to believe that it is fall in Australia, another burst of colour to remind you that winter is in fact approaching.

And what would this place be without the following wildlife caution sign?

I will openly admit that the only reason I stopped to take a photo of a caution sign with the picture of a wombat is because I’m American, we don’t see these very often in the land over yonder...

Somewhere along here I reached the first check point in Kulnura, grabbed a drink and meat pie and as I was about to head back out, I spot Howard and Phillip arriving. The helmet and gloves come back off as it’s now time for a cup of coffee. Howard arrived prepared with Bec’s breakfast order and she arrived just moments after her sandwich came off the grill. Why doesn’t Howard take care of all of us like that...

Okay, back on the bike and into the Lower Hunter Valley. We are in wine country and there are any number of little stops between Kulnura and the next check point in Cessnock where great amounts of will power must be used to prevent you from stopping to taste the local “products.” As you are showing restraint and not stopping at every little hut promising a free wine tasting, they go and put these on the front lawn!

I have a 9 year old son at home! How can I pass these by when they look like something out of one of his video games! Okay, stop and take the photos. You can do this without having to taste the wine (as long as get out of there quick, the rest of the thought goes...).

Check point two in Cessnock is next and lunch! Sometimes, I swear the only reason I ride so much is to allow me to eat anything, any time. After a few minutes, Philip arrives and we have a quick bite to eat and a chat then its back on the bike. I didn’t make it far beyond Cessnock, heading south-east, before being struck, again, by the stunning country side.

Next up is Quorrobolong and Mount Vincent. I only mention Quorrobolong because I figure even the folks that live there can’t spell it, let alone pronounce it. Other than that, Quorrobolong doesn’t play into this story at all. Then again, after four times mentioning Quorrobolong, I still have no idea how it is said it out loud...

In Mount Vincent we jump on Leggetts Drive and head south. On this stretch of road, it seems that the worst of humanity has to make its appearance. This is the second time I’ve ridden this stretch of road and received the same single finger gestures, shouts and curses from motorists. Ah but this time, something new! This time, I’m smacked on the bum and knuckles by a car’s side mirror. Yes, that’s how close it was... Had the kid simply rode off after this, I probably would have been fuming for the rest of the ride but he actually turned around to make sure I was okay. I was instantly over it and probably did more to sooth his nerves than what his apologies were doing for me. I figure I may end up with a bruised bum and he lost his side mirror but since there really was no real harm or malicious intent, all was still good in my little cycling world.

Check point three at the servo in Ourimbah. Hey! How did Bec and Howard get there before me? I dropped them after the first check point and never saw them again, yet here they are. It turns out that they snuck through Cessnock without so much as a wave as Philip and I were having lunch. Having ridden with Bec before, this doesn’t surprise me one bit. She is one of those riders that just seem to keep moving. They’ll take a break when necessary but these breaks will be as short as possible and then it’s back on the bike.

After check point three, it’s the home stretch back to Hornsby. This means hills, hills, hills and Howard telling me about the hills in Queensland. Then came the part that makes doing hills even easier and more exciting - night! It may be just me, but I find hills are easier if you don’t know where it crests. Just keep plodding, just keep plodding, until you get to the top (Woot! Second lame Finding Nemo reference!). Howard rode to the top of Dog Track Road with me and then stopped for Bec to catch up and ride the last bit with her. I kept going with thoughts of stopping at a chicken shop, purchasing their remaining inventory and getting home. 

I arrived at the final check point in Hornsby around 9:15; Howard and Bec were 25 minutes behind me and Philip 20 minutes behind them. Everyone finished and finished with plenty of time to spare. 

Brevet card signed for the final time and I’m off for the final 12km ride home and search for chicken. Everything’s closed; no chicken... I did end the day with 326km/202mi so if nothing else, I achieved my goal and had a great day on the bike!