Monday, March 30, 2009

The view from the other side, plus some very exciting news

There’s a new sheriff in town
Well, that’s not actually true, but I was a marshal at the weekend, for the first time. It was Round 3 of the Canterbury XC series at the weekend and it was held at the fantastic Living Springs track on Banks Peninsula (which Pete and I helped dig). Also held at the track on the same day was the South Island Singlespeed Champs so it was a long day of racing and a very long day of fluro vest wearing. Being a marshal is pretty cool actually, especially if no one does anything silly and crashes in your neck of the woods. You are provided with a very fashionable hi-vis vest, a walkie talkie, map of the course and notebook and pen for the official look. I was disappointed not to get a shiny badge, but being provided lunch made up for that.
My day consisted of shouting encouragement, and later in the singlespeed race, abuse (they loved it, bunch of masochists), at the racers, taking a few snaps, applying liberal amounts of sunscreen and chatting to various punters. The racing was fantastic, with the course hammering everyone. The sport race guys started out in the morning and some of them were suffering from early on. It was a great race, with a few of the expert guys doing their laps early so they could punish themselves in the singlespeed race in the arvo.
I did discover a few drawbacks to marshalling multiple races in one day. If you are lucky enough to have different areas for different races there can be quite a bit of hiking to be done in a short space of time. While I did enjoy walking the track to get to the complete other side, the enormous blister that formed on the arch of my foot put somewhat of a damper on my mood. Owie (yes, I am a big baby). Also there’s not a lot, in fact there’s no opportunity for a toilet break unless you’re stationed up near the start, which I wasn’t. Luckily I have developed a bladder of steel over many years of drinking so this wasn’t too much of an issue.

The expert race was an absolute ripper and being stationed by the only jump on the course provided me with plenty of entertainment, but luckily no nasty crashes. Young Anton Cooper completely blitzed the field. That boy makes me sick, not only is he incredibly talented and fast, he’s also a really nice kid. I’m looking forward to seeing him kick some international arse in the future when he gets older.

The final race of the day was by far the most fun to watch. The singlespeeders are a mental breed and all dressed either themselves or their bikes appropriately for the race. Some the expert riders who’d just finished 6 laps of the course were lining up at the start for another 5 laps, but this time without gears. Not Right At All! Especially in a gorilla suit. You wanna sweat, wear one of those while racing. Unfortunately for my eyes costumes (if you can call it that) also went to the other extreme with one insane man wearing nothing but a horribly small g-string. Won’t someone think of the children! I’m guessing riding with a tiny bit of material in your butt crack is not a very pleasant experience, possibly even worse than riding in a gorilla suit.

I was gutted I couldn’t race this race, it looked like heaps of fun (and heaps of pain). Any race where you get to colour in, eat weet-bix and drink beer sounds great by me! Hopefully next year I’ll be fit and raring to go. All in all I loved marshalling. It was great to be part of such fun and well organised events, even if I’ve managed to shout my throat raw.

Exciting News
This is actually old news, but I didn’t want to write about it till it was done and dusted. A month or so ago I sent a couple of bits of writing off to the fantastic Spoke magazine to see if they would be interested in publishing something I’d written. I’ve always wanted to have something published in a magazine and I’ve had some encouragement from a couple of people to give it go recently. I’m over the moon to say that not only did the editor of Spoke like my writing, she then asked me to write another piece for the upcoming edition. Wooo Hooo, commissioned to write for Spoke, oh yeah! I’ve sent my piece off today and will be eagerly awaiting the next issue hitting news stands to see my name in the byline.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The promised photos

So here are the promised photo's from the trip to the coast. Please turn away now if you're bored by other people's "artistic" photo's. ;)

Tiny starfish! There were hundreds of them all over the rocks, hard not to squish.

Why are there so many, songs about rainbows and what's on the other side. Rainbows are visions, but only illusions and rainbows have nothing to hide.

I love the wierdness of this photo, it messes with your mind.........

Weka fight!! Violent, but cute bush chickens. Ramming speed!!!!

A section of the Devil's Punchbowl falls in Arthur's Pass. Almost made the climb up hundreds of stairs worthwhile.... well it was completely worth it. So gorgeous.

So if anyone from C4 is reading this - see, I'd be great to sponsor. Product placement guaranteed (even though I don't actually drink coffee).

I love cheeky wekas, they are soooo tame, dangerous to the naked toes though!

Stick insect or really well disguised caterpiller?

Bridal Veil Falls, this is a lovely walk to get there, well worth the extra time.

Alien planet?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Who said I could walk?

After my initial enthusiasm to be back on the bike, the resultant achy sore elbow convinced me that maybe I shouldn’t be getting so excited and riding 3 days in a row just yet. However with my appointment with the surgeons at the hospital on Monday and my physio giving me some weight lifting exercises (no I’m not learning the Clean and Jerk) I decided this morning would be a good morning to commute by bicycle again. It hurt my elbow less and the rest of me slightly less than last time so maybe there’s hope for doing the recreational race at Mt Somers on the 19th of April after all. I’ve sensibly realised that barring an intervention by supernatural powers I just won’t be up to the sport race. 20 fairly flat kilometres should be doable with a month of preparation.

In the meantime I’ve been doing more swimming and my hubby and I headed over to the West Coast for the weekend to do a bit of walking about in the bush. We had fantastic weather and did some lovely walks, and I discovered that the muscles you use for biking are not the same as the ones you use for walking and that my walking muscles didn’t know what hit them. I was hobbling round like an old woman on Saturday night! Luckily a couple of Monteiths sorted me out nicely.

We did a really gorgeous 3 hour return walk up the Pororari River, spotted some birds and stick insects, threw stones in the river, and generally had a lovely time. That night we got eaten alive by sandflies watching the sun set at the beach a couple of minutes walk from the bach we were staying in. Little buggers. It wasn’t until we got back to Christchurch that I felt the full force of their itchy menace.

Being on the Coast was very inspiring and I have a number of poems brewing away in the back of my mind, including one about the fantastic wekas that frequented our accommodation, cheeky sods. Much amusement was had from watching them sneak into the house and chase each other round outside. Silly chickens.

The second day we stopped in Arthurs Pass and did more walking, which once more left me crippled. Ahhhh, the staggering around after another 2 ½ hours of walking, so amusing to my unsympathetic husband. I did enjoy being in the bush though and despite the sandflies I’m really keen to head back over for more exploring. However this might not be such an easy thing to do in the future as I’ve made the big decision to commit to doing the Alpine Epic. I’ve lined myself up a coach, the lovely Andrew from Hub Cycles, my local bike shop. Now I just need to be able to ride for more than 30 minutes without feeling sick or my arm wanting to fall off and I’ll be away. It’s going to be quite a challenge, but I’m looking forward to really seeing how far and hard I can push myself.
PS: I'll put up a few photos from the trip at the weekend

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Happy Blogday to me!

Yep, today is my blogday. My blog is one year old so where are the presents?

Unfortunately there are no presents because it turns out my weight goals were a tad unrealistic; well a complete fantasy. However I have learnt that the weight thing really doesn’t matter that much, not at the level I race at anyway, that level being rather low. I know that my diet is very good, and that once I can get back into a routine my fitness will keep getting better. This year I’m going to let my weight take care of itself. So no shiny new, lighter bike for me, but I am happy with my achievements so far, even if my new and improved ability to break myself has hindered my racing ability for the few past and coming few months. Now its time for some new goals, but I have a problem. The one thing I can’t stop thinking about seems so far beyond me I’m almost afraid to write it down.

I really want to do the Alpine Epic. 5 stages. 4 days. So very huge and scary.
Stage 01 - Mt Somers to Inverary 35km, 800m ascent. So that’s almost the Moa Hunt right there and that just about killed me.
Stage 02 - Inverary to the Rangitata River 35km, 1250m ascent. More climbing than I’ve ever done in one day (lets be honest, more climbing than I’ve done in 2 days), and that’s with the previous day in my legs already.
Stage 03 - Rangitata River to Rangitata Gorge 17km, 500m ascent. A time trial, straight after stage 2, sounds like a piece of cake? Doesn’t it?!
Stage 04 - Rangitata Gorge to Sherwood Hall 84km, 2000m ascent. Oh. My. God! Two Thousand metres of climbing inside 84ks of riding. Cue insane laughter.
Stage 05 - Sherwood Hall to Tekapo 72km, 1750m ascent. As if stage 4 wasn’t bad enough, this is beyond crazy. Day 4, stupid amounts of riding inside the legs and then another 72ks and 1750m of climbing. It’s just not right. Even pootling round the Redwoods in Rotorua I was knackered by day 4.

But I can’t stop thinking about it. It’s such a huge challenge, so far beyond my current capabilities, it would be such an awesome achievement. The thing is, I just don’t know if it’s realistic. I’m currently less fit than I’ve been in the last few years, but I’m hoping once I can ride regularly again that my fitness should spring back pretty quick. Is a year enough time to go from struggling through 80kms with a net altitude lose to doing day after day of big climbs and big kms? I think I’m mentally tough enough to do the training, but who do I get to train me? Will my gammy knee, and now gammy elbow, be up to carrying my heavy bike up hike-a-bike sections? Am I setting myself up for huge disappointment?

A part of me just wishes this idea would go away and I could settle down to setting some challenging but realistic goals like doing the Molesworth in under 4½ hours , completing a 6 hour solo at the McLean’s Island Day Nighter, completing the Canterbury XC series next year (assuming there is one) and doing the Moa Hunt in under 3 ½ hours. Maybe I could throw a new race into the mix, like completing the Lake Tekapo Pursuit, 90kms in the middle of winter? Or head up to the North Island and be part of a 4 man team for the Moonride or maybe a 2 person team for the Day Night Thriller?

So many questions. For my blogday the only present I want is advice. What could my goals be?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

I can ride my bike!

Yes, that’s right. I’ve been for an actual ride, on my actual bike, outside!!! It was a beautiful sunny day today and when I got up there was no resisting the lure of my squishy bike. Also my physio made a very surprising off-hand comment along the lines of why are you not riding your bike yet? Aha!!

Being a very sensible lass, despite evidence in this very blog to the contrary, I decided to ride on the road on my squishy bike and make it a relatively short, easy ride. It has been 69 (tee hee) days since I last rode my bike outside after all. I got off to a wobbly start and one thing was immediately apparent. I need to relearn how to position myself on my bike. My left arm straightens and my right arm doesn’t. This means that initially I actually found myself pulling to the left. I quickly adjusted my left arm to match my gammy right arm. This was good, my new position is actually a much better riding position. The problem is that my left side doesn’t know that yet and so after cruising along for a while I’d find myself all lopsided again. This meant that while my elbow was pretty much fine with the whole ride, my right wrist and shoulder, which were trying and failing to compensate for my bendy arm, were pretty sore.

I know you are all dying to know how much fitness you lose after 69 days of pretty much no exercise. Well, the answer is all of it, and then some. My blog is almost exactly a year old so now would be a good time to recap. My goals were:
1. Lose 10kgs by November 2008
2. Complete the Molesworth Muster in 2008
3. Lose 15kgs in a year
4. Be competitive in the Sherwood Enduro 30km race and the Mt Somers race
Goal number 1: Fail!
Goal number 2: Succeed!
Goal number3: Comprehensively fail
Goal number 4: Ahahahahaha!

I did manage to lose about 6 kgs during 2008 and I am very proud of completing the Muster, but since breaking my elbow all hopes of being competitive, or even competing in races for the next few months has gone out the window. I went for a 14km ride on the road on my squishy mountain bike and it just about killed me. Mainly because I went out and attacked the little rollers like I’ve been riding every day like I used to. I felt very sick after about 7kms and decided that maybe just maybe I’d gone a bit too hard, but also that stopping near a piggery is not a good idea.

So I’m thinking it could be a bit more of a mission than I initially thought to complete the Mt Somers race on the 19th of April. In fact I’ll have to see how commuting goes next week because 14kms on the road isn’t very far. Don’t get me wrong though, I am SO HAPPY to be riding again. Driving to work and back every day has been horrible. I hate driving to work, even in bad weather. I’ve been getting a little bit of a jealousy thing going on when I stop at the lights and 5 or 6 happy carefree cyclists pull up beside me, enjoying the summer sun and the ever present close-call adrenalin. No more car for me now and hopefully in a couple of weeks my arm will be up to the road bike too. So stay tuned for future goals, there might be some biggies!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Rubberbands and Swimming Revisited

It’s all about rehabilitation now. My elbow bends to 130° and straightens to about 3° meaning I can do most day to day things without too much trouble. I can reach the back of my neck finally and can touch my right shoulder with the fingers of my right hand. So good progress there.

Unfortunately my right arm is very very weak still. I can hardly lift anything and all the muscles I built up at the gym in the last nine months have gone. Bugger. To combat this I have been given a big yellow rubber band, woo woo! Yellow is the easiest of rubber bands and I hope to progress to the harder green and blue ones quickly. I’ve found the rubber bands useful for more than just strengthening my feeble arm. They can be deployed in such a fashion that I become a rubber ninja, or as attractive head scarves or even to give the impression of flowing golden locks (well actually none of this accurate, what I really look like when using the bands in these ways is a complete idiot, but hey, we all need a laugh now and then).

Now that I’m finally working on strengthening my arm, the desire to get on my bike for a real ride has been insanely strong. So much so that I’ve actually been for an extremely tentative and short 2km ride for the Bikewise Business Battle. I was safe at all times and had no real problems, other than not really being able to reach the handlebars and not being able to put any weight on my bung arm. So I learnt an important lesson. I’m not ready for the bike. Sigh.

However in the spirit of perseverance I’ve discovered an old favourite fall back exercise, swimming. I really love swimming. I always have. In fact as a child it was impossible to keep me out of water from the moment I could toddle. My poor parents, I was continually throwing myself into puddles, usually face down, and generally being a menace.

As you can see I was at home in the water at 9 months old and by 20 months was an accomplished swimmer. As you can also see from the second photo, we should all be extremely glad that stubbies craze that swept New Zealand in the 70s is over (shudder).

Back to the pool I’ve headed, but lets be honest here, while I love the actual activity of swimming, I very much loath many of its necessary ceremonies, and even more so now that I can actually see. Before this week the last time I went swimming I still had glasses which meant I really couldn’t see properly, which was often a blessing. Why you ask? Well let me list my top ten things that I loath about associated evils of swimming, in no particular order.

  1. Full frontal female nudity. I don’t want to see it. Call me a prude, but I don’t. I especially don’t want to see it in my colleagues. And I can definitely live without seeing in from anyone over the age of 60, that’s just too cruel a reminder of what is still to come.
  2. Being surprised in the showers by a colleague when naked. As much as I hate seeing my workmates naked, I like them seeing me in my birthday suit even less. It is just wrong. Unfortunately when there’s a pool less than 10 minutes walk from your office and you swim regularly it’s bound to happen. The only way to prevent it is by not showering properly and spending the rest of the day smelling of that delicious chemical chlorine, and/or perform the dance of the wet towel whereby you try to dry and dress yourself without exposing any flesh between your neck and your knees. Of course it is impossible to properly dry yourself in this manner and this in turn makes your struggle to pull your clothes onto your still mostly wet body, while keeping it covered, more than a little ridiculous. After you’ve attempted this fiasco once, and been left feeling like a prudish idiot, you soon come to terms with that fact people are going to see you naked when you get changed and if you just get on with it quickly and don’t make a fuss, generally no one will even notice. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll never be one of those women who confidently stride about the changing room with their towel wrapped around their head (?!), but I have learnt a bit of dignity when dressing and undressing and that means flashing a bit of boob and butt. No one cares after all.
  3. Groups of screaming school children. Oh how I hate them. My first day back at the pool and I walked into a maelstrom of screaming. There were school swimming sports on in most of the lanes. But worse than this is when you’re in the shower, just finished drying and suddenly the changing room erupts. One moment peaceful post swim serenity, then next 20 small girls all shouting at each other and a stressed teacher trying to control them. Upon exiting the shower you find your gear has been subsumed beneath the tiny people and you feel like a giant intruding into their hideously loud land of pre-swim excitement.
  4. Men in speedoes. When I couldn’t see it didn’t bother me, but now. My precious eyes. Remember kids, speedoes are wrong.
  5. Wearing swimming togs in public.
  6. The walk of shame. That long, long walk the goes from where you’ve put your gear on a chair, to where you get in the pool. Everyone can see you in your lovely swimsuit, your fetching swimming cap (mmmmm purple rubber), and your extremely flattering googles. You’ve never looked better in your life and you know it. Yeah sure, everyone else has to do it as well, but what are self-confidence issues for if not to point out how hideous this situation is. I find it is best to focus on walking purposefully, as tall as possible, gut sucked in like you’re trying to squeeze through the eye of a needle, and focus on cleaning your googles or checking which is the slow lane. I get to the end of the pool quickly and slip into the water with as much grace as I can muster. Once in the pool all worries evaporate in the flaw-hiding water.
  7. Wearing swimming togs in public.
  8. Fast people in the slow lane. I’m slow at the moment. Really slow. In fact mostly I have to use the kick board only because my bung arm isn’t up to doing more a couple of laps in a row. I don’t want to be mown down, I also don’t want to be dived on when feel the need to get in the pool like a show off, or kicked in the face when you do a kick turn. Lots of people in the fast and medium lanes? Bad luck, either swim slow in my slow lane or get in a crowded lane with all the other fast people.
  9. Wearing swimming togs in public.
  10. People trying to talk to me at the pool. When I’m at the pool, I’m in a zone. It’s the zone I use to cope with all the horrors of swimming as detailed above. I’m there to swim. Do Not burst my bubble, I won’t be polite, I’ll possibly ignore you, I may not even notice you. Once I’ve exited the pool, then I can talk to you. Not before.

That’s quite a list of things I hate about swimming isn’t it, but none of these things, or even all of these things combined, can keep me from swimming. Once in the water I fall into a happy trance of going back and forth, up and down the pool. It’s almost as good as being on my bike. Obviously there’s no adrenalin rush, but swimming de-stresses and calms me like nothing else. And as an added bonus my physio says it’s one of the best things I can do for my arm. Yes! So I’ll be back next week. Doing length after length. Getting my arm stronger and stronger so when I see the doc on the 23rd of March there will be no reason for him to say I have to wait to get on my bike.

And now, another poem.


The line is hard and straight
Silver & purple
A narrow, raised ridge.
It curves with me
A shallow valley

The line tells a tale, but only half.
Of harsh impact
Of rebuilding
Of boundaries crossed

The line hides the steel
Close to (close up) the surface
Deep inside
Use that steel

The line reminds
A fine wire fashioned from flesh
from me
for me

The line drives me on.