A sunburnt country

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Summer means sunshine, means shorts and bikes, and obviously tan lines.

On the heels of the news that a new drug has been introduced, giving melanoma patients longer lives with less side effects, I figure it’s time to have a skin check. One Australian dies every six hours from melanoma. If skin cancer hasn’t touched your family, it no doubt will soon. My dad has had several cancers removed, and my dearest uncle died suddenly from melanoma related cancer that had spread throughout his body. A loss like that is not worth the excuse to not put on sunscreen or get regular check ups.

We’re Aussies, we love our sunburnt country! We spend a lot of time outdoors. Hiking, running, cycling, in fact, just the harsh Australian sun as we travel around throughout the day, to and from work, home, the gym, that sun is hitting us. I’ve heard a lot of people complain about the hassle of applying sunscreen, I’ve seen so many with serious burns, but that hot tan, those tan lines of pride that cyclists sport, they can come with a heavy price tag.

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My palm freckle that I thought was dirt and attempted to scrub off when I first noticed it.

Checking your skin for suspicious moles or spots is easy to do yourself, and it’s worth getting a professional check up every so often to ensure you don’t miss something. When it’s caught early, it’s easily treatable. First, I have to stress that skin cancers don’t only appear on areas that see the sun. I have freckles in weird places, like between my toes and on my palm, and I don’t walk around with my toes spread or my palms facing up. Skin cancers have been found on peoples feet, or even under your nails! As such, make sure you check out your whole body when you’re looking for changes, and don’t forget your hair. When you’re looking, follow the ABCD guideline, look for asymmetry, an irregular border, changes in colour or irregular colours, and changes in diameter or general size.

Of course, our risk of developing skin cancer is related to our genetics, our skin type, but regardless of this, the sun can still damage your eyesight. When we are outdoors, we need to be protecting our eyes against the harmful effects of the sun. This is as simple as wearing sunnies and a hat. Ultraviolet radiation that enters our eyes damages the retina, which over time increases our risk of serious diseases such as macular degeneration and cataracts.

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Get out, enjoy life, and be sun smart!

Even with sunscreen on, you can still tan, depending on your skin type of course. As such, coming into summer, I get a stronger and stronger tan. To be honest, I am not a fan of the farmers tan on the arm, so I tend to wear arm sleeves when riding – nice thin lycra ones in summer, and some fun colourful ones in winter (also helps keep me warm).

Regardless, the tan lines we end up with, the freckles that appear should remind us to check our skin for any changes, but also to be proud of the active lifestyle we lead. Enjoy the outdoors, remember to protect your skin, and be proud of the adventure you’re undertaking!

Race 4: Single Track Mind 7hr, Wylde

Seven hours. Seven hours on my mountain bike riding a 12km loop. Phew. What a race.

I was nervous for this one. I didn’t have doubts about whether I could make it, I had a plan of aiming for 7 laps, and having rests between each lap that were no shorter than 3 minutes and no longer than 10. I didn’t want to break for too long, but I also didn’t want to just rush through without taking proper stock of how I was feeling, physically and mentally.

Before the start, I already saw some familiarsharnaand1 faces, including one face I hadn’t seen since high school, the beautiful Sharna! I had an awesome set up, with a super friendly male pair next door, and of course Rex supporting me, as well as fellow solo rider, Dan, from TBSM, and his dad to keep up spirits and smiles!

We rolled out at the start and my goal was to settle into an easy pace. I wanted to take every opportunity to recover on the downhills, to try and gather the easy speed from some of the nice corners, and climb in sustainable ways for 7 hours. I wasn’t sure how tired it would make me, so my lap times were about 10 mins longer than the usual for a single hit up of the course. That seems to have been the best decision, my legs didn’t feel tired for the whole race, but I felt pain in my lower back (that’s a hard tail for you!), forearms and my hands! I need to get some new gloves, I had a pressure point on each palm that started to develop blisters, but other than that I feel that my legs and cardio did amazingly in this race.

7 hour

Left to right, top to bottom – Getting weighed in for the race; Lap 2 and feeling awesome; Lap 4 needing a good refuel stop; Lap 6 and it’s almost done!

First few laps felt very comfortable. I had a huge smile on my face, was probably taking it too easy as I found it quite easy to chat with anyone that I passed or passed me! But, it was the first 7 hour, so best to be a bit conservative. Half way through I had Rex check my bike, just to ensure all the usual bits were tight or rolling smoothly as they should be. I tried to eat a lot, and the lovely Eliza Kwan, winner of the race, came past and told me to eat more! If in doubt, eat! So, I tried to add more and more to ensure I didn’t stay to fade. I did the same with water, I wanted to be hydrated and I did start getting headaches around the 5th and 6th laps, but I ended up feeling fine after a slightly longer break between the 6th and 7th lap, that and I took it super easy on the last lap :P

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My support crew! Always making sure my water bottle was full and food was within reach.

Mentally, I felt like I was in a great position for this lap. It felt great, I felt super happy and cheery, I interacted with the volunteers, getting them to cheer me on and joking with them. In saying that, the 5th and 6th laps were mentally the toughest, mustering up the want to do that 6th lap was a bit of a challenge. I knew I would be disappointed in myself if I didn’t ride the 7th when there was enough time, and just to keep my spirits up I asked some of the volunteers if I should do 1 more lap! No one ever says no to that question! I used that ploy as a little mental game to get me excited for my last lap.

It was truly a great race. There were a couple of crashes, some not so bad like the couple of people who washed out in front of me, some a bit more serious, like the organiser who broke 3 ribs, but aside from that, people were generally really awesome! There was great encouragement from other riders and volunteers, especially towards the pointy end of the race, and on the whole the politeness of competitors when they wanted to pass was better than many races I’ve done.

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Rock the dirt tan!

In the end, I ended up coming 5th in the open solo females for the 7 hours, and I also came 1st in the Clydesdale category – a weight based category. I want to add a little bit here about that category. At first, it made me uncomfortable and I wasn’t really sure how to feel about it. I’ve struggled with weight issues most of my life (read it here), so to be classed as a Clydesdale (weighing over 85kgs with your bike and kit) felt really uncomfortable. But then I looked at it a bit differently. I’m comfortable with my body, I am strong, and I may never be as fast as the podium winners, but I get out there and try, regardless of my body shape, we all should. So why shouldn’t I get the chance at a fairer playing field, evening out the odds a little and feeling rewarded for the huge effort that we Clydesdales put in? I hope that I can encourage other women who fit into that category to embrace it – there is nothing wrong with being larger than the incredible jockeys that seem to win endurance events! We are out there racing, we are out there trying, and I’ve got to say, that makes us winners. Here’s to all my Clydesdales!

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Winners! Awesome chicks to ride bikes with for 7 hours!

For more races, check out the Singletrack Mind Series , as well as the Evocities Series, a great chance to ride bikes in the country!

Guest blog 1: Leah Owen.

As a Roxcycl ambassador I have a goal of encouraging and motivating others to come into cycling, or to come into active lifestyles in general. I feel that part of that is to be able to be a part of other people’s inspiring stories and to share some of the inspirational women I know. As such, I asked Leah to write a post about her experiences in fitness and I hope to share many more inspirational stories throughout the year. Check out Leah’s triathlon training business here.

Eliza (Roxcycl Ambassador and cyclist extraordinaire) recently told me about a great idea she had; to invite women who inspire her to write a guest blog post with the goal of encouraging more women towards their goals.  I truly thought this was a great idea and am going to admit, I was pretty surprised when she asked me to be her first guest. Like many things in life, sometimes it just takes a moment to turn around our previous conceptions on life and this was one of those moments!

I’m going to do what Eliza asked and I’m going to share my fitness journey with you but I’m also going to tell you why my journey matters and equally importantly, why yours does too!

I was diagnosed with bilateral chronic compartment syndrome (CCS) in my calves as a teenager playing representative basketball. What does this mean? It means that in short, exercise of any duration longer than a few minutes and particularly on inclines, where my calves are under impact, results in me losing circulation to my feet because of fairly extreme pressure and swelling in the fascia of my legs and oxygen deprivation to the muscles. To put it simply, running hurts me a lot. There are two potential treatment options; the first one is to avoid activities that bring on the extreme compartmental pressure and the second option is surgery.  Surgery involves opening up the muscle compartments (in my case all three in each leg) so that they will decompress. Unfortunately surgery for CCS isn’t tremendously common in Australia and the two surgeons I have consulted with were not completely confident that a fasciotomy would resolve my issues so I’ve decided to avoid that option for now. Instead, I have been working with a physiotherapist on relieving the symptoms (via massage and dry needling) and building my other supporting muscles (ie. glutes) to reduce exertion on my calves.

By now you might be asking why so much detail on my medical issues? Three years ago I decided to take up cycling (road and mountain bike) with my now husband and fell in love with the sport. In general, cycling isn’t too bad on my legs (except for hills where you tend to use more of your calves) and it started off as something I could share with my husband. It’s grown to become my favourite hobby and through it, I’ve met so many amazing people and accomplished things I never thought I could do.

Probably building on this high and through11136698_10152801327731099_9005324966868452843_n witnessing the amazing accomplishments of a close friend, two years ago, I decided to take up triathlon. Good choice, right? Nothing like choosing a three sport hobby where potentially two of the sports put pressure on my legs! Finishing my first ever triathlon in January 2013 (a sprint distance 700m/20km/5km) was one of the best feelings that I’ve ever had. I walked most of the run (and I’ll probably always continue to do that) but I got it done and it was so empowering!

Since then, I’ve tackled more short distance triathlons, am building up to tackling my biggest goal, a half ironman (1.9km, 90km, 21km) where again, I know I’ll have to walk the majority of the run. I’ve also started a triathlon training business with a close friend and 4 x ironman finisher where we focus on introducing novice women into the sport of triathlon by providing them the fundamental physical and emotional skills to succeed at this awesome sport (www.triformefitness.com.au).

Having shared my journey, you might remember at the start of this post I said that this post is about me but I want you to know why your journey matters equally? Let me tell you why. A recent pivotal moment sparked by Eliza asking me to be a guest writer was the epiphany; we have all overcome adversity to be where we are today, we are all on our own unique journeys, we will all continue to grow and learn at different paces and that’s okay! As humans, let alone as women, too often we compare ourselves to others and feel that we fall short. Let me tell you, so long as you are trying, you don’t fall short!

Only this week I was comparing my longest run to a friend’s longest run and feeling disappointed in myself. My longest run (currently 2km before I need to walk because of my leg issues) could be someone else’s goal to aspire to! I have worked so freaking hard to be able to run that far and I shouldn’t dismiss it, I should and am, proud! There are other people just starting their fitness journeys, maybe they are doing the Couch to 5km running program and dreaming about the day that they can run 2km continuously! I want to reassure them that it is possible!

By comparing ourselves, our challenges, our journeys to other people we are losing the opportunity to help inspire and motivate others and to also celebrate what we have achieved! Be proud of what you have achieved, you’ve worked hard to get there and always remember, you might not realise it but every day you are inspiring someone else, don’t belittle their journey by not being proud of your own!

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Cross training around Sydney

These last few weeks I’ve been adding a little more hiking 11008426_10155373471090158_8109099016135883028_nand trail running to my program. The main impetus for this is to not allow me to get tired of riding bikes with such a far out goal, and to keep working on my fitness whilst seeing some of the amazing things there are to see around Sydney.

When I lived in Sydney, during my undergraduate years, I was overweight. Not to start with, but the years I lived here were the years I entered into obesity. I missed out on a lot of the amazing things around me because I was too unfit and too ashamed to try. On a run this last week I was remembering that I had said no to going on walks with friends in undergrad because I was afraid of them judging me, of the shame of my bright red face, my heavy breathing, the sweat and struggle when others were walking with ease. I am saddened that it held me back and I am hoping that if you happen to have an overweight friend, or you are that overweight friend, that you don’t hold back, that you don’t miss out on some amazing experiences because of fear of judgement as I had. They are your experiences for the taking! As such, let me entice you with some of the amazing trail runs I’ve found these last couple of weeks to help mix up my training!

Spit to Manly

This one takes a bit of time, catching a train into th10410293_10155339010625158_4262920340250933590_ne city, then a bus over to the Spit to start the walk. The weather has been off and on, wet and cold, muggy and sunny, but still great walking and running weather. Rex, Brenton and I headed off on this walk on Brenton’s 30th birthday, the day after my 30th birthday! It’s an easy hike in terms of technical stuff, a few stairs, but nothing scary, I recommend it for anyone. It takes a couple of hours at an easy pace, and is popular for runners. There are plenty of spots to relax and take a break, as well as some Aboriginal rock engraving. Once you make it to Manly, you can reward yourself with a dip in the ocean to cool off, or a meal at one of the many gelato or fish and chip shops, and there are markets on the weekends that are fun to browse. You can either head back to the city via the walk, or you can catch a ferry back to Circular Quay! This is my favourite ferry ride around the harbour, it is so picturesque, bringing you back past the most scenic parts of the harbour, the bridge, the opera house, the botanic gardens, it’s gorgeous. Worth it. About 10kms long.

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 (L) The city in the background and some locals (R)

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Part of the Coast Track, a great walk along the coast of the Royal National Park, is a quick out and back to Wedding Cake Rock. It’s only around 4-5kms all up, and it has a mix of sand, rock, ups and downs, a great little early morning hit up. The views are again spectacular and I highly recommend it. The whole Coast Track is a 26km walk, doable in one day, otherwise you can camp along the way (on the to do list). When whale season comes around, I will definitely be making some regular runs along this track to see some of those gorgeous mammals playing in the ocean!

Cape Solander Track

11008508_10155393284630158_6537655090858778263_nThis trail is within Kamay Botany Bay National Park, near Kurnell. Another great spot for watching whales, but has some great running and hiking along the coast, sheer sandstone cliffs, some sandy hills that seem so much steeper when you’re running up them, and a gorgeous lighthouse that makes photos even more picturesque. This hike is only accessible during park opening hours, but if you’re ok with a few extra kms of walking along the roads, you can park outside the gates and walk in. It is about 8kms and is easy to follow. The views at sunset were incredible when I headed out there, starting from Cronulla end, and I can’t wait to head out there again for more and longer runs!

Winifred Falls

On a great hilly little road ride around the Royal National Park, I found a turn off to Winifred Falls. I looked it up and it turned out to be a great little waterfall in Sydney that you can swim under. We headed out and took the turn off I found for the walk. It was a very short and very steep 2km walk that took us down to the waterfall. It was a great little swimming hole that I intend to return too via Audley instead, making it more like a 8km walk in total, in which case the swim at the waterfall would feel much more like a reward than the quick little trip down we took. It’s so great to find all these little gems around Sydney that are reasonably close to where I live.

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Let me know if you ever hit up any of these great hikes, or if you know of any others that are great for some cross training whilst adding some beautiful scenery to my runs :)

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Mountain biking mental games

Two weeks ago I crashed my bike. It’s not the first time, and it won’t be the last time. Nothing was broken, just grazing and bruising and another concussion. Today’s blog is not going to be about the dangers of head injuries, but I will be touching on that at some stage. Today I want to focus on the common issue of the loss of confidence. The struggle to ride the obstacles that were once conquered. It doesn’t even have to be a big crash to throw you off your groove.

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A pretty awesome crash that a year on has left me with a dint in my leg and I’m still not able to ride that rocky section!

Why does that happen? Why, when we know it’s a mental barrier, that we once were capable and now are not, why do we struggle to push past and instead halt at that roll over, grabbing the brakes at totally the wrong time? It can be so frustrating, infuriating, defeating and even potentially dangerous. It can feed our self talk, something we are already trying to work on.

When I’ve tried to read up on these things, it all seems to come back to our natural instincts, you know, those ones that stop you from leaping off cliffs. When we mountain bike we are often throwing ourselves into dangerous situations, whether real or imagined, and our brains are playing the mental battle to try to keep us safe. When we have a crash, or a near miss, it only makes that survival instinct ramp itself up and steps us back in our progress. So how do we get past that? How do I get past that, now that simple obstacles are holding me back?

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Taped up knees, a common sight among cyclists.

Firstly, acceptance. It’s natural that I’m going to find simply things difficult after a crash, so I can’t be too hard on myself or push myself into situations that are just going to hold me back in the long run. It’s going to take time to feel the flow again, and I need to give it that time and not get angry at myself. I need to get out on easy rides and just feel the groove again, let myself focus on the enjoyment of these easy rides and have fun without expectations. I need to give myself a break, increase the challenges in small steps whilst remaining relaxed.I need to be ok to take a step back if I try to push too quickly, and ask for help if I need it. The more nervous I feel, the more likely I am to have an accident just like the first one, so I need to focus on feeling relaxed again, and if that means a few weeks of easy rides, then that’s what it takes and that’s ok.

Other than that, focus on physical recovery, no point pushing the envelope with training if my body is still suffering, it’ll only put me back in the long run. With concussions, recovery can be a difficult process, but thankfully, 2 weeks on from my amazing crash, I am mostly healed up and ready to start going through the process of gaining my confidence back.

Oh, and get a new helmet.

How do you best deal with getting your confidence back after a crash or near miss?

Part of me never knew just how overweight I was...

Obsessed with weight

My whole life I’ve obsessed over weight.

When I was young I was known as the fat one of the family, was told I’d eaten too many biscuits whilst my stomach was patted before a debutante ball, that I should exercise more when I already played netball, soccer and squash. As a teen, I was what would have been considered MEDICALLY as a “healthy” size. As a teen, I was what would have been considered SOCIALLY as an “obese” size.

At university, my weight ballooned. I became focused on my studies because I wanted to do well. I wanted to become a member of the Golden Key Society (tick), I wanted to get first class honours (tick), I wanted to get into a PhD (tick). I was in an unhealthy relationship, I was mentally in an unhealthy place, and I funneled my issues into study and eating. I never knew just how overweight I was.

Now, I didn’t eat because I loved food. I hated food. Nonetheless, I ended up somewhere above 120kgs, I have no idea how far over that, because I stopped weighing myself. I hated myself. So much self loathing, avoiding clothing stores because it was horrible to try on clothes, how they sat, they way they felt, I already hated how I looked, I didn’t need to struggle with fashion chains to reinforce that.

Part of me never knew just how overweight I was...

Part of me never knew just how overweight I was…

I did try to exercise. Each time, someone made me feel ashamed, which sent me further into the spiral. I would go running, well, my attempt at a run, only to have bogans pass by in their cars and scream “run fatty” at me, or “go eat a cake”. I didn’t get it – you hate me when I’m fat and make fun of me, but when I’m trying to lose weight to become the size you deem acceptable, you make fun of me still? What do you want?

Eventually, I decided that I didn’t want to be that anymore. I wanted to be active, I wanted to be fit, I wanted to have a future and I didn’t care about the bogan comments. The want to change came from within me, the only truly successful way to lose weight and change your life, because you want it. I started walking, then jogging, then running, then cycling (when I finally felt a bike could take my weight), and weight lifting. I lost half my weight. It was hard, and I learnt that it will always be hard, but that little things like climbing stairs become easier, unlike those crazy hills climbs or runs when I’m trying to get my new PB. I aimed to just keep at it, but I did get obsessive. I weighed myself twice a day, I obsessed over how big I was and how little I should become. I constantly compared myself to everyone around me. I still thought I was huge. It took a long time for my mental picture to actually catch up with what I truly looked like. I remember two specific events. The first, I had to fly to the USA and I had always hated how uncomfortable and embarrassing it was to sit in what felt like tiny plane seat. I sat down and actually had room in the seat either side of my hips – what the f*ck! The second, I had always thought a friend of mine was gorgeous and tiny. I went to a party at her place, a kind of fancy dress party, and at some stage she decided to have an outfit swap with a couple of other people – something I never would have imagined I could do, being so much bigger than everyone else! Yet, it turned out I was smaller than her, I left wearing her dress, and had tried on some other guys outfit for the night, and I was stunned. I never thought she was anything but a normal beautiful size, and smaller than me, a size I wanted to be, and here was proof, staring me in the face, I was in her dress and it was too big for me. I was smaller than I realised.

Achieving physical feats I never thought I would - Quandary Peak

Achieving physical feats I never thought I would – Quandary Peak

Then enter the world of cycling. With all it’s rules and the harsh way that some people will treat you when you don’t know the rules – like the ridicule at not knowing if you’re meant to wear undies under cycling knicks (I’d never worn knicks before and I wear undies under my yoga pants!), the apparent taboo of wearing white leg warmers, having bar tape that doesn’t match your seat. I just wanted to ride a bike, I just wanted to get fitter and faster. Ignoring all of that, the more I rode, the more I realised I would need better clothing, cycling specific clothing, so I started to invest in cycling kit. Women’s kit is horrific for your self esteem. I’ve spent the majority of my cycling “career” buying men’s kit because women’s kit either doesn’t fit right, isn’t available in my “size”, or is just ugly (I don’t always want to wear pink and bows just because I have female organs). I have a fragile self esteem when it comes to my size, it’s been a long battle, and though I should feel empowered that I have lost half my weight and that I’m a “normal” size, putting on women’s extra large cycling kit just hits me where it hurts. Lycra is weird and unforgiving enough as it is, skin tight, showing all your rolls and creating new ones to remain in place as you race, adding to that a size that I know I am not is at times, and riding among some of the thinnest women I’ve ever met, all built for climbing hills it seems, is difficult to deal with. I know a couple of young girls who already, at 15, are buying men’s kit too because of the mental game women’s kit plays. It broke my heart to hear that from one girl, so young, so active and fit and out there trying. My only advice here is to ignore it. I can’t even do that well, but I try my best. I order cycling kit, I ignore the label and just wear it. I judge it on how it feels, is it comfortable, is it warm or cool, is it going to cradle my butt the way I need it to on those long rides? Yes, well then it’s great kit. Does it look good? I hope so, because I still want to like what I’m wearing, I want to like how I look in my kit because it does affect my mental state (despite how much it shouldn’t!). You know what doesn’t affect my mental state? How red my face goes, how hard I am wheezing, because I know I am trying, I know I am pushing my hardest and trying my best and I’ve come a damn long way to lose close to 60kgs.

Before I knew the "rules"

Before I knew the “rules”

I struggle at times. I want to high five that bigger girl as she runs around the suburbs, or has a smash out on the cross trainer at the gym – but I don’t know that it would come across in a good way. I want to encourage more women to start riding, but I want them to come to it because they want it. I want to help people change their lifestyles to healthy lives, to long lives, but they need to want it too. How can I achieve this? How can I encourage people without coming across in a somehow negative way, especially when I still look at myself and fail to see a true role model. My only idea of a way forward here is to keep working on myself. To keep working on my self esteem, to keep looking after my mental health and reminding myself that I’m doing awesomely. To keep being a friendly face at my gym and to be positive and encouraging to all the people I meet who are trying to lead active lifestyles. To keep being active, keep aiming at achieving things that push my boundaries, like the Scott 6+6 race in October, to keep ignoring the labels and be proud of what I have accomplished. So I’ve never won a race and I probably never will, I won the race to beat obesity, to avoid diabetes, to be healthy and fit, and that’s a much more important race.

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A Hawaiian getaway

This year is such a big year for me. Roxcycl ambassador, turning 30 in 4 days, a trip to Hawaii, following up with a trip to Sri Lanka for my amazing friends wedding! That’s all before the year is half way done.

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Ten days in Hawaii didn’t quite feel like enough, and trying to incorporate training with a holiday can be quite difficult. I had organised my training weeks so that my “recovery” week coincided with Hawaii, allowing me to take it easy. However, I’m not really good at relaxing on holidays, I need to be doing things, I need to be active. As such, though it was a pretty chilled few days, I still managed to throw in a few fun activities, going with what was suggested, what was available, and leaving my week open to be active, to allow me to relax, and to go with the flow.

I managed to get in a couple of runs, demo-ed a specialised dualie 29er (so awesome!) for a couple of days, a few hikes and swims and taught a great crossfit workout (something completely new to me). It feels great to change things up. I barely rode my bike, realistically, and was able to get out running (so uncommon lately!) and even better I was able to get out hiking! I love camping and hiking, some of the most amazing experiences I’ve had have been out hiking and camping throughout Australia, especially with friends, multi-day hikes, it can be so rewarding. The scenery gives back so much, and being a biologist, finding gorgeous organisms that drive me to learn more about the surrounds is awesome.

IMG_20150210_134534One frustration I had whilst in Hawaii, and I’ve had it hiking in more “remote” areas of Australia is a lack of phone access. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love being unplugged for a few weeks to get back to what is really important, i.e. not social media, but myself, living in the moment. However, not being able to look up that species of cardinal and finding out if it was introduced to Hawaii as a way of making the place feel more like “home” to mainlanders (as many Europeans did when introducing species into Australia), or if the chameleon is native to Hawaii, I was pretty sure they were introduced but I wasn’t sure and wanted to look it up! I was also desperate to learn more about Big Island and the volcanoes whilst we were hiking around, but just couldn’t! I ended up writing down a whole lot of things to remind me to look it up later!

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I am happy that I managed to be so active but to take it (mostly) easy on my recovery week. I am happy that I planned to be flexible whilst away on holiday, as I know that my next trip won’t have the same kinds of opportunities. When I go away again, I will plan for the time before and after, and enjoy my time whilst I am there. I won’t pine for my bike, won’t pine for my weights. I’ll enjoy the people I’m with, my surroundings, my time to reflect on what’s important to me and what I enjoy.

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How do you deal with being active on holidays, or having holiday training? Any tips would be greatly appreciated, at the moment, my best time is to plan for either side and just go with the flow when the holiday comes around!

More holidays and hikes are planned in the future, hopefully you can join me on some.

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Race 3: Capital Punishment 50K in Canberra

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A new race this time, point to point instead of the laps, so it had a different approach. I have done one other 50K race, The Kowalski Classic, which is essentially ALL singletrack in Kowen, near Canberra. I finished that race in 4 hours, but I was pretty conservative in how I rode. I decided that for this race I wanted to get under 4 hours, and I wanted to push myself harder. Even if that meant that I pushed too hard and didn’t finish, I wanted to do that. Sounds crazy, but I’ve never pushed so hard that I couldn’t do anything after a race, I’ve never reached that limit and I have no idea how close I get to it, so I want to try. I want to know how it feels when I’m reaching that limit, I want to know how to gauge my effort without simply holding back for the whole race, being conservative in my efforts to ensure I “last”.

For a short race recap, check out my youtube video, here.

I lined up, and we raced up dairy farmers hill – the hill that I used to climb on my road bike for training! Some were complaining about the climb, but really the mountain bike has much easier gears for the climb! You can just sit and spin it up there! After that, straight into some fire trails that I had ridden on my cyclocross bike, so I knew what I was in for. We zoomed over to stromlo, following the bike path where a fellow competitor told me to stop, to slow down because I was going too fast. He caught me later at the refuel station and we leap frogged each other for the rest of the race until he got cramps. He urged me on so I could tell people I beat him – not true really when he had to slow down with cramps.

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Stromlo felt different for me. I had ridden it a lot when I lived in Canberra, and there was not a single thing that I had to get off my bike for by the time I left. I felt confident and fast with Stromlo – but now, it all felt new! Everything that had been an issue, that had taken time to conquer, was all back at square one! I had to get off for so many things that were just stupid. It got me down a little bit, but I tried to just focus on making up the time in between. I finished in 3 hours (10th in my age group!), which would have been much quicker had I not stopped so much, but was still a great time for me. It has taught me that I NEED to go and practice these places for the Scott. As it will be held at Stromlo, I plan now to go down for a few weeks in advance to ensure these areas I had conquered are back at being comfortable again, otherwise I will lose so much time in every lap.

The other big thing I learnt was that I need to double check my bike after a service. The gears changed perfectly, but the guys had pumped up my tyres far too much. I luckily checked that and changed the pressure, dropping it by 15psi for each tyre before I headed out. Unfortunately I didn’t have a shock pump, so I couldn’t fix that – it was set too high, I couldn’t compress the shocks at all, which may have contributed to how uncomfortable I felt on the trails that were once so comfortable for me. I had also changed a bit of my set up, which I had intended to return to normal, and the newness of that may have also contributed to the discomfort.

IMAG6044 All in all, it was a great race, I felt like I had pushed pretty hard, though I didn’t reach that all out goal. I rolled back to Canberra, an extra 10kms for my day of riding and spent the afternoon relaxing in my hotel room. I have noticed that after races where I push myself incredibly hard, I get emotional. I was watching Mean Girls and sewing on the bed, and ended up in tears! I spoke to my oracle, Eliza Kwan, who won the 50K despite crashing, and she told me it was a common occurrence. After pushing your body that hard, the influx of adrenaline, you can experience a bit of a come down. Knowing that, I just let it happen, try to relax, not try to do anything that is going to push my mind or body too much, eat what I like and of course, get some quality rest!

I followed the next day with a 2 hour spin around Sydney at sunset, and surprisingly that felt great. Thankfully it’s all flat around here so it could still feel fast without tiring me out. The weather was unbeatable, the company was awesome, and the route was great. I take that as a reinforcement that my training has been helping, being able to follow up a massive race with a comfortable 2 hour ride makes me confident that if I keep this up, the Scott won’t be too unbearable!

Looking forward to the next race, but first, my 30th birthday, which will be a crazy amount of mountain biking, and great company with loved ones! Woohoo!

How to choose a bike

bikes26, 27.5, or 29?

Tubes or tubeless?

Carbon?

Single or double chain ring?

Women’s specific or unisex?

Fox or Rockshox?

Hard tail or dualie?

A multitude of questions and to start with it can be incredibly overwhelming. When you want to invest in a bike, and not just a bike to rock around town on, but one you want to give back to you when you ride, you should try things out and learn what you can.

I’ve tried the full range of wheel sizes – personally I find the 26er a whip and a total weapon with tight corners and the most amazing fun to flick around corners. My first attempt at a 29er was poorly matched, the frame size was too big and as such the bike felt too out of control for me. Since then, I tried again in Hawaii and I felt like a demon! That beautiful Specialized Epic Comp 29er was fast, was fearless, hopped over logs with ease! It didn’t feel as quick around the corners and took a little more handling, but it was a fun bike! My current bike is a 27.5 and I feel the size works well for me. For what I want to do, some climbing, some technical, some tight corners, I feel the easier handling of the 27.5 size will work best for me. The 29er is quick, and I wouldn’t mind one in the future, but for now, the 27.5 is calling me.

I’m a sucker for tubeless, but I can appreciate the extra speed you’d get from the tube set up – just as I can appreciate the wider tyre for more grip and stability especially in the wet!

I currently have a beautiful hard tail and I feel that for my endurance events, sitting on a bike that has no rear suspension for 6+ hours will leave me feeling a little worse for wear. Dualies are smoother and much more forgiving of the little mistakes, good thing for when I’m starting to feel a little fatigued towards the end of my rides.

It’s easy to end up wanting the next biggest thing, the shiniest bike, the beast that will be the envy of those around me – but what good is that if I can’t ride the thing properly? What use is a high end bike if I don’t have the skills to appreciate those components and those shocks? I want a bike within my means, that will help me to develop my skills and that I will continue to use for a long time because I love to be on it.

As part of the Roxcycl ambassador program, we, the ambassadors, are given $1000 to help us to achieve our goals. For me, I wanted to put that to a new bike, one that would accommodate my butt for 12 hours and not have me writhing in agony! The good people at Roxcycl also have connections with bike stores in Sydney and are doing their best to get me sorted with a bike that does what I need, gives me room to grow, won’t cost an arm and a leg, and leave me with a great relationship with one of the brands! As such, I’m doing my best to educate myself, to get out there and demo a few different kinds of bikes to see what it is that I like and don’t like. It still feels like a difficult decision, but thankfully I have a lot of great advice from people in the know to help me out.

How do you choose your next bike, or any sporting equipment, that is a bit of an investment? What factors are important to consider?

 

Race 2: WSMTB 4 hour at Wylde

Back at the site of the first cancelled race, a familiar Clear skies that led to rainchain of events began. We arrived, early, with threatening clouds in the distance and a rainy night before, but the sun out and shinning. Just like last time, the sun was overtaken by clouds and the rain started falling. Everyone thought that they would cancel the event again, but, after a half hour postponement, we would begin.

No one was excited. No one was smiling at the slippery tracks that lay ahead and mud that would cake onto the wheels and frames of our bikes. No one, except me.

For the short race recap, check out my youtube video here

I don’t know what it is, but I love riding in mud and sand. I like to practice in sand, knowing that my bike will be unpredictable and that I need to respond with the changes, without over correcting, but just going with the bike. I think too many people were trying to control their bikes too forcibly, and they ended up in a lot of trouble. That’s IMAG5912[1]not to say I didn’t lose control, but I never came off the bike, just spun out, but managed to save it and stay upright.

A lot of people quit this race after the first lap. That was the not the way to go, in my opinion. That first lap was the hardest, it was the muddiest, the most dangerous for those heading out at full speed and those uncomfortable or new with handling their bikes and may not have had much experience on different trail conditions. The second lap, which I headed straight into, was much more compact, a bit drier and I shaved 10 minutes off my lap time! That little bit of sunshine when the rain stopped had done wonders. I was still covered in mud and had mud caked into my tyres so badly that I spun up all the hills like I was on a roadie, but the trail was much nicer to ride, far less slippery. To illustrate that, Rex went out on the 3rd lap (for his first) and came back without any dirt on him! It’s like he didn’t even go riding! We both got another lap in each before the 4 hours was up, so 60km of single track ridden between us.

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In the end, it was a really great race. We both enjoyed riding it, I lost control a couple of times when I was pushing the envelope a bit and was getting a little cocky (mostly on my last lap!), but it was thoroughly enjoyable. I think I managed my hydration well for this race, and considering I have a 7 hour endurance race here in a month or so, I’m stoked I have that set! Now, I need to work on food. When you were once obese, it’s difficult to convince yourself you need to eat high energy foods during sporting events, well, it is for me. I look at these things and feel as if they are unnecessary and will somehow magically make me gain back all the weight I had once lost. But, as athletes, putting ourselves through so much, pushing ourselves so hard, we need to fuel our bodies appropriately. We need to replenish the energy we are burning through, or our bodies will fade, and we’ll hate the experience. I’ve been trying to work on this, but this race, though I didn’t feel super fatigued, I know I wasn’t refueling as well as I could be. With the appropriate choices (i.e. not just super sugar filled “energy” bars or gels, more wholesome foods), I will be able to keep my energy levels up, without putting the wrong kinds of things intIMAG5909[1]o my body, and paying for it later.

Thanks again to Rex for riding and supporting me on this race, to my local bike store, TBSM, for the marquee and the lovely Glenda and Hunter coming out to show their support, and to my sponsors, Roxcycl Australia, without whom I may never have decided to challenge myself so hard in 2015.

Check out the calendars to see what races I’m up to next, why not come and join me on one? Happy trails!