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Race 5: Paddy Pallin Adventure Series, Royal National Park

I’ve been hassled by the lovely Leah to get into triathlons. Paddy Pallin’s adventure race of mountain biking, running and kayaking counts as a triathlon, right?

I was super keen on this race, something a little different but right up my alley. I managed to wrangle a friend (B-real) in to join me in the mixed pairs and together we tackled the unknown.

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Before the race!

The layout of the course is kept secret until the day. You have a list of things you need to take, such as pens to mark out your map, safety whistle, a compass, etc, but that’s about it in terms of hints of what you will be doing. B-real stayed the night before, easier to get up and get to the event, and we went through our backpacks, our plans, how much water to take, and goodness did we take a lot of food! Better to be over-prepared though! We both had no idea what to expect.

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Hacking river, our kayaking leg

We arrived, set up our bikes, and headed over to get our maps. Taking a look at the maps I realised that the first run was completely familiar to me from mountain biking through Royal National Park. The bike leg was straight forward and fast, the next run was new and gorgeous. After that, back to the bike, another run, and then into the kayaks for the final leg. I’m glad the kayak leg was last, we ended up soaked from the hips down. Carrying the kayak down to the river for our last leg the photographer commented that I had the only genuine smile he had seen all day. How couldn’t I smile, I was having a ball!

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Planning time!

It was fun to plan the route, though this one was simple and straight forward. I estimated the distances between our check points but being a novice map reader, I didn’t spend much time making myself familiar with the landmarks. This would have been much more helpful in identifying how close we were to a checkpoint, and on the bike legs I didn’t really have a good estimation of the distances we had travelled. We were pretty good at guessing how far we had run, but again, better attention to landmark details and it would have been much smoother and faster.

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If you’ve thought about a Paddy Pallin event but you’ve never tried one, I recommend it. About half of the participants were new to this racing format, so we weren’t alone. On the first run leg, a pair in front looked back and saw we’d just missed a slightly hidden checkpoint and yelled to us where it was. Everyone was like that – maybe not the top 10% of serious racers who are in it to win it, but everyone else was super helpful in finding the checkpoints. A couple of people who had done them before told us to do it at our pace, to take it easy, which we did. We need to work on our kayaking skills, but other than that we just jogged along the trails, cruised on our bikes, and get soaked in the water. Afterwards they put on a meal for you and cake!

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After!

So what’s next? Hopefully I’ve sparked some interest in friends to try more adventure races with me, but in the mean time, more cross training. Riding, running, lifting weights, hitting up races of all sorts and practising my skills. Oh, and eating cake.

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A simply gorgeous day to spend in the wild around Sydney.

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Sun kissed in Sri Lanka

I must start this with an honest statement – Sri Lanka wasn’t high on my list of places to visit. But, my gorgeous friend, Piyankarie, was finally getting married to her long time love and I didn’t want to miss that! She had also sent us all several itinerary ideas to help us out. So, let the whirlwind 9 day holiday begin!

First stop on the agenda was the popular tourist destination of Dambulla. The place I chose to stay was super cheap and simple, and I loved it! It was just a bed, a mozzie net, and a cold water shower, and it was perfect. In the mornings, monkeys surrounded us whilst we ate breakfast on our porch, everyone walking down the secluded lane would smile and wave – the kids were really good at saying “bye”, but didn’t seem to know hello which was very cute.

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(L to R, T to B) check out the sweat shine on those arms; a relaxing cheeky monkey; the view from the top of Sigiriya; village meadows; our park tour guide.

In Dambulla we headed out to Sigiriya, the Lion Rock, the site of a palace and monasteries before being abandoned in the 14th century. The climb up was impressive and a little scary – beautiful gardens and moats lead up to the climb, and metal stair cases lead you up where the rock ones are not being used. At the top you get a fantastic view of the surrounding country side and can walk amongst the ruins, where the king would sit and watch people dance whilst offerings were brought to him. It was incredible and getting to the windy side gave much relief to the sweltering climb. Once back down, we went on a village tour, riding in a bullock cart into the jungle, then onto a kayak to cross the lake before arriving at a little hut with a beautiful woman, her mum and her little baby boy slung in a hammock in the kitchen. The views along the way were incredible and the food they made for us delicious! Curries made from pumpkin, ash banana (similar to bananas but a bit denser), jak fruit (which had a weird meat texture), mango and finally some fried fish. My gosh it was delicious! After lunch, learning how to cut and grate a coconut and keep an eye out for elephants, we walked around a lake, being joined by some other tourists riding an elephant, and then headed on the most amazing park tour I’ve done. Not just because we got to see elephants close up, but because of our incredible guide, he was deaf. This meant that throughout the tour he was very animated and engaging, allowing us to feel like we learnt so much more from the effort required to communicate, the effort he put into us. To get the driver to stop the jeep he would tap the metal with a metal ring, point to whatever it was we should see, pass us his binoculars to see the birds and show us in his book which one it was. We got up close to several elephants, they were everywhere, and even saw a beautiful little 2 week old. They are such majestic creatures and surprisingly a bit smaller than I had realised.

I got sunburnt! Here I am talking about the importance of sun safety and I get burnt. Thankfully it was a small burn on one shoulder and I reapplied my sunscreen, but I put it down to a singlet, very sweaty mountain climbing and the rubbing of my backpack wiping off the sunscreen. Regardless, a good reminder of being sun smart.

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Travelling on to Kandy, a city nestled in the middle of the mountain range, and the views seemed only to get better and better. We toured a spice garden, a batik factory, the botanical gardens, many many waterfalls, and more amazing food. The hotel this night had a very friendly cat that I just couldn’t help but pat. We boarded a train from Kandy to Ella in third class after the others had all sold out. If you read online, everyone goes on about how you have to book first class or the observation deck, that otherwise it’s not going to be a comfortable ride. We went with third, and honestly it was perfectly fine! There was no air conditioning, but there were fans and the windows opened. In fact, it was quite cool up in the mountains that many times we closed to windows because it was too cold. We met a couple of Australians, sitting across from us, that made the journey even more fun, and the gorgeous Sri Lankan man sitting near us who laughed at all the things we did that must have seemed odd, and told us when the best views were coming up. Everyone says not to eat street food, but to be honest, I think if you avoid meat products and be a bit sensible you should be pretty good. So, when the trained pulled up, people lined the sides of the carriages with fresh fruit and some hot delights, which we had to sample.

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(L to R) Kandy botanic gardens; train from Kandy to Ella; hotel on a boulder in the landslide area!

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Breakfast

The mountains were quite cool in the mornings, but they heated up. We drove out of Ella back to Colombo and seeing the farming on the sides of these steep mountains made me giddy. You truly can’t be afraid of heights to work there! Back in Colombo the hotel was a great choice, definitely needed the comforts of air con, mostly because it helped get rid of that feeling of city smog suffocating you! I felt like we got into a routine in the city – early in the mornings we went out running with a lot of locals along the ocean front, back for a shower, then relaxed checking out the town and places to eat before and after the beautiful wedding!

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(L to R) waiting for the bride; the entrance song and dance; tying the knot literally; and heading off on their new life together!

The wedding, what a gorgeous wedding! Piyankarie and Mithun looked amazing, both had moments of tears in their eyes during the traditional ceremony (all in Sinhalese so had no idea what we being said, couldn’t help smile at the obvious jokes though!), and then we all stuffed ourselves with the incredible food before dancing the afternoon away! After covering Piyankarie and Mithun in confetti as they left, we had the best tuk tuk driver experience of the trip! This guy was crazy, telling us that the scars he showed us on his arms were from being shot by the Tamil Tigers during the war, then telling us they went to Australia as refugees, and whilst taking us through random back streets that wasn’t the way we had gone to the wedding, then asked us several times “no chance you are government police?”! Turning the wrong way down one way streets he would just say “naughty tuk tuks” and laugh! He was a hoot! That afternoon we went to a resort with a pool to relax as the sun set on our second last day. The next morning, a last minute run around, touring more of the city and finding a delicious place to eat lunch, then watching the final sunset and squashing coins on the train line before we headed to the airport for a 1am flight. It was sad to leave and not at the same time.

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(L to R, T to B) tuk tuk rides; last sunset; packed trails; maintenance Sri Lanka style.

There were some things about Sri Lanka I didn’t like. I don’t want to paint an incorrect picture of perfection – the pollution in the major cities was pretty bad, especially in Kandy where I think the mountains held it in. The rubbish surprised me, so much litter everywhere you went. There was a bit of begging and harassment, but thankfully not to much and some I was willing to donate to. The worst was at a waterfall where a guy would not leave us alone. He tried to get me to take a rock as a “present”, when I wouldn’t, he put it on top of my phone and I didn’t want to drop it on the ground and let it smash. I probably should have, he then followed us everywhere saying that his daughter was collecting coins for school and we should give her something. We heard later that this was used by others elsewhere. I really hated that. I don’t buy souvenirs no matter where I go, so regardless, I did not want a rock. But, people were friendly, so many smiles, a bit of ripping off but the exchange rate means that it wasn’t something to worry about really.

In the end, there are pros and cons to every place you visit and you take the good with the bad. Sri Lanka was an amazing place. I want to return some day, but there are many places I want to also experience before I head back. I am so grateful that my gorgeous friend Piyankarie got married there, otherwise I don’t believe I would have ever ventured to that tiny island, the size of Tasmania with the population of Australia. It was a life changing experience, I mean that, and hopefully I will be a better person for the things I have learnt.

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Thank you Sri Lanka for an amazing experience

 

 

Guest Blog 2: Rin Meyer

Continuing on with featuring amazing women I know, this is Rin. We went to the same school, her mum was my favourite teacher, a strong woman that raised an equally strong daughter. I’ve always admired Rin’s tenacity and her multi-day trekking adventures. I asked her to write about her experiences, and if you’d like to know more about some multi-day hikes, check out these links, as recommended by Rin; AuswalkGreat Walks of Australia If you are suffering from depression, believe you may be, or know someone who is, or may be, check out these great resources, Beyond Blue, Black Dog Institute, and Lifeline.

I am incredibly honoured that Eliza has asked me to contribute as a guest blogger. We were both daughters of teachers in a small country town and as kids grew up on farms and worked just as hard at school as we did at home. And now our paths have crossed again. I was incredibly inspired to watch her journey from 12 runs in 12 months to placing 5th at the Wylde Classic on the weekend, she is one of my motivators. And this is my little contribution to her brilliant blog. Single. 34yrs old. High school Head teacher. Farmers daughter. Teachers daughter. Amazing Aunty. Great friend. World traveller. Overweight. Bush walker. Cat lady. Sufferer of depression. Crochet queen.

“I though it was normal to get a bit emotional”

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I became an obsessive compulsive map reader.

I am all of those things. But of all of those things, in no particular order I would think the thing that has changed how I live my life now is living as a sufferer of depression. Like with life there are highs and lows, and with depression the wave can be much higher, and much deeper. I was told this in about 2010. Having always been a kid who sought my own fun, I though it was normal to get a bit emotional, or down but apparently the blues at that time in my life overwhelmed me. I had to find a way, and for me medication was not the answer. I knew I loved walking and one night I was with my mum at a View Club meeting in our small country town and two incredible inspirational women spoke about their journey of walking. They were local women. Sharing their journey of their walk across England on the Coast to Coast walk. I was inspired and thought if these women can do it, so can I. I walked once before in Germany. I was much younger, but no fitter, and I nearly died doing it. I was an exchange student at the time and I’m pretty sure my host family would still talk about it to this day. But we made it. Together. And I think that is the message here. What a crazy thought. I wasn’t talking about a small 5 km or a day walk, these were long week walks in solitary environments away from people. But it happened. These walks have happened all across Australia and there are plenty more to do, but the most powerful thing was getting others behind me, either in spirit, or in person and people came together.

“We had battled through and accomplished a fight alongside nature and the feeling was something I just wanted more of.”

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(l-r) Seeing the end point of our 149km Cape to Cape; Blue mountains traverse; Great Ocean road walk.

My first walk was in Western Australia- the Cape to Cape track. 149km of track through the Margaret River region. My best friend came along and our love for walking was forged. Each day was a challenge. Our very first day the most- I usually always have a melt down on the first day saying how silly the idea is and I should never have started. I ran out of water, I drank my friends water, we suffered through shin high sand on an 8km beach, and we still hadn’t finished the walk. But when we sat down at the end of the day, we had made it. Together. We had battled through and accomplished a fight alongside nature and the feeling was something I just wanted more of. More than the walking itself was the scenery I’ve experienced. I’ve walked the Cape to Cape, I’ve done the Great Ocean Road (98km), I’ve done the Blue Mountains Traverse (76km) and the last walk was the Mornington Peninsular Walk (82km). And there are more in the pipeline. A few friends and I have locked in that Coast to Coast walk in England for my 40th birthday. So there is still something to work (or walk) towards.

“the sense of achievement was far greater than any mood that could get me down”

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Sally is my dual time walking companion.

Best day I’ve ever had on track, and admittedly the most challenging, was on the Great Ocean Road walk ending the day on Johanna Beach. The weather is always to be watched on a walking week and we had some ideas what we might have been in for . But not all of it. As we set out a torrential down pour occurred. We all had the the opportunity to turn back. But I chose to push on. That day we only did 17km on track, a relatively short day on an endurance hike. but it was the most rewarding of all battling thunderstorms and lightening and ending our days walk with a blistering sand storm on the 2km beach. I could hear Lawrence Of Arabia playing in my head. I came away from that day having battled something bigger than myself. Greater than my own doubt. And more forceful than the person who lives in my head. Nature is immense, and it has my eternal respect. My body was sore, I lost a toenail because of that day in waterlogged walking boots, but the sense of achievement was far greater than any mood that could get me down, or the itch of a regrowing nail. So in all of this my battle isn’t my weight, which I’m pretty sure most people would look at me and say it were. It really is the depression. Planning a walk, knowing the struggles ahead, conquering those first day demons and having all the support in the world is the most positive thing I could hope for. People have sponsored me for the walking, allowing me to contribute this to Beyond Blue, people have been on practice walks, called me for pep talks and the hits of “like” of the Facebook page is always a nice feeling. There’s no nicer people than walkers I’ve heard many a time. It might just be true.

“I’m not meant to be able to walk 149km in 8 days, but it happened.”

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Mornington peninsular walk

As a walker I come to know that there is something bigger than us all, that makes us feel small, and it’s the ultimate in getting out there and having a go. I’m not meant to be able to walk 149km in 8 days, but it happened. I’m not built to climb up mountains or scale muddy downhill paths, but I do it. And it’s amazing. I get it done knowing that I have the support of friends and family and that there are bad days, and there are great days. but at the end of the walk I will feel an amazing sense of accomplishment and be able to wonder and marvel at nature. It’s an amazing feeling and if I can do it, you can too!

How do I train in all this rain?

In Sydney, you may have heard, it’s been raining. A lot. Rain puts a dampener on any outdoor training regime, but it gets particularly difficult for mountain biking. I’m not averse to cycling in the rain – depending on the intensity, my perceived safety among traffic, I don’t mind it too much, though I prefer it to start raining on my when I’m already on the bike, rather than to start in the rain! However, for mountain biking, it’s not simply a case of putting up with the rain, well not with the amount of rain we’ve been having in Sydney. Instead, there is the condition of the trails to consider. With all this bad weather, we’ve had flash flooding of the trails, trees down, and riding through the mud can damage the trails and their longevity. All in all, this means that the hours I can spend on the trail are strictly limited. There will be a few days of sunlight that get my hopes up of finally being able to take my brand new bike out on the trails and work on my skills, only for the next few days to be constant rain.

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It is hard, all those days of wasted plans, not being able to get out and focus on the things you were so keen to work on. It easily leads to a loss of motivation, a loss of drive, that can be difficult to recover from.

So what do I do?

1. Work on my strength.

I’ve loved lifting weights since I was first introduced to them a couple of years ago. At first I was afraid, I wasn’t strong, I didn’t want to get too “big” looking or some ridiculous thing like that, as I thought all women who lifted weights turned out looking like men. But, I learnt that’s not the case, at all! Even if it was, who cares? I feel incredible when I lift weights, when I feel strong and capable, when I see that I lift more each week, each month, and see tone in my muscles. I think a flexible and comprehensive fitness plan is the best kind of plan for what I want to achieve. Do I want to be the best mountain biker in the world? No. Do I want to stand on a podium for winning the Scott 6+6? No (though that would be an awesome!). Do I want to be fit and strong, have significant muscle mass that protects my joints and bones as I age? Do I want to stay fit and active as I age, feeling stronger and healthier every year? Hells yes. So, time to lift more weights.

2. Keep on riding.

I can’t get out there on the trails, but I can ride about on the roads. Road cycling was still part of my training, so I have increased my road cycling, more in the amount of commuting I am fitting in at the moment, and some trainer sessions, those Sufferfest videos really get the heart rate up! The wonderful experienced I had at the Tour des Plages has only made me even more determined to ride longer distances. This will help with my endurance and all the hills I tackle in between will only help my fitness. Although, I need more hill practice, that’s a must.

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3. Street skills.

I can’t get out to the trails, but I can get out on the street. There are a few little drills I can work on, and I like watching Youtube videos (MTB tips are my favourite to watch) to give me ideas on what to work on – some cornering work, track stands, slow-moving handling skills, things that will be useful out on the trail when the weather finally clears!

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4. Experience.

Ever since becoming active I have wanted to experience more. Perhaps that was part of the driving factor for my change in lifestyle. I have noticed that during training programs, people get burnt out, lose focus, start to hate the activity they love because of the pressure to train when some days you just don’t want to. I don’t want to reach that point, and my aim for the year is to compete in the Scott and do well by my standards. To ride hard, ride well, finish strong. To achieve that, I don’t want to get so focused on a strict training program that I will lose that love of mountain biking that made me aim so high in the first place. Keeping that in mind, I like to add in runs around Sydney, which I’m ok with in the rain, as well as planning some camping and hiking trips in the coming months, and a trip to Sri Lanka.

So until the rain stops and the trails dry out, I will do my best to stay motivated. I will do my best to not let the weather get me down and stop me from being active. I will try to be flexible, to keep improving my fitness and strength and enjoying being out and about as best I can in all the wet weather!

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Tour des Plages

I follow a few different cycling clubs on Facebook for all my relevant updates, mostly with mountain biking trails, closures, all those useful things. Somehow, I stumbled across an unofficial event with the Rapha Cycle Club, the Tour des Plages. Four check points, a potential of 160kms, teams of 4, tackling the weekend traffic of Sydney roads, and almost non-stop rain after the first checkpoint. I had recently connected with a fellow Sydney rider through Facebook, thanks to my blog posts through Roxcycl, who I thought might be keen for a crazy day of riding like this, and who may know more people to make up a team. Thankfully, she was! So the team, Wheelie Tyred, was set.

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First check point, Palm Beach, getting our hashtags on!

Immediately, I was doubting myself. Could I even make 160kms? I am so slow, will everyone get annoyed at me because they are constantly waiting for me? This self doubt has always plagued me, and I see it in others as well, especially women, especially those new to physical activity. Why do we do that, that self deprecation? I had been working on a blog post about this, about my efforts to stop people I know from talking that way, and stopping myself too. It’s hard, and putting my hand up for this ride definitely made it a struggle to fight against.

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Palm beach, before the rain.

Our little team of 4 instead turned into the mega team, with 3 hitchins! Such friendly, smiley, lovely people that made me feel so welcome and excited for the massive ride that lay ahead. We scuttled through the city, but when we hit the more serious climbs, I started to notice something. Everyone was waiting at the top of a climb for me and as soon as I’d get there, in need of a break, some refueling, they’d roll off again. I was too embarrassed and ashamed to ask them to wait, and this really, honestly, made me doubt why I endeavoured to attempt this ride, to get on the road again with others, when I felt like an unwelcome burden, slowing the group. I wasn’t as strong for the climbs. My self doubts felt they were being fulfilled and I felt like I shouldn’t have been there.

But Karen noticed.

Then everyone noticed and realised. This wasn’t a race. This was a day out riding around Sydney together, supporting each other through the ride. Suddenly, the feel of the ride completely changed. I think no-one was really aware of my abilities, having not known me before the day, completely understandable. They were used to riding with each other, so as I fell to the back of the pack, it wasn’t initially noticed. But once it was, my gosh, I have never been on such a ride, as the slow poke, and felt like I wasn’t a burden. I felt welcomed, encouraged, that we were all in the ride together, and was even included in future long ride planning!

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(L to R) Check point 2, Manly Beach; Check point 4, Custom’s House; Finish line, Rapha Store and cafe!

After our first check point, through a miscommunication, we lost our 3 extra teamies. The rain had started, and we decided we would head down to the second check point at Manly, see if we could find our teamies (should have swapped numbers!) and then hop on the ferry across to Circular Quay. The ferry ride gave us a chance to eat some more substantial food (read donuts) and warm up with some hot beverages. We ran into a couple of other teams doing the tour and had some super friendly chats. One team was doing a tour of pubs and yum cha for the day, the exact kind of attitude suitable to a rainy, windy, long riding day!

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Soaked to the bone, but I loved the ride! Definitely gave those knicks a good work out.

Two more check points lay ahead, and every kilometre of this ride was new for me. The girls in my team were confident in Sydney traffic, knew where they were going and gave me great confidence in my ability to mingle with the drivers. They encouraged me to join more training rides with them, difficult given where I live and where they start from, but it was so heartening to have that encouragement. The rain continued, the winds got stronger, but I felt awesome! I felt like I could keep riding all day long, the attitudes of my team mates was awesome, I was just so happy and ecstatic even with the rain, it didn’t impact the day for me at all!

In the end, I always knew I could do the distance. I knew I had the mental strength to keep plugging away until I made it to the end, I’ve got the endurance. My doubts were about my ability, being too slow, holding everyone up, that I’m just not good enough to ride.

We need to stop saying these kinds of things. It is holding us back, as we doubt ourselves and become crippled by that doubt, believing that doubt, we do not move forward as quickly as we could be. We hold back from great opportunities, like this ride. We don’t attempt new obstacles because we are so convinced we can’t do them. But what if we ignored those feelings of self doubt and instead believed in ourselves. Who cares if I’m the slowest, the only way to get better is to keep riding – but what if I hadn’t turned up at all? I’m only hurting myself and my progress through this kind of talk, so, despite how desperately I was feeling those things, I am glad that for once (and hopefully forever more), it did not stop me from going on this ride, it will not stop me from trying that next obstacle, for putting myself into new scenarios that challenge me.

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The sun returned as we finished the ride. Best. Day. Ever.

I highly recommend these two blog posts on this topic, they have resonated with me a lot.

Self-Deprecation and the Female Cyclist 

Dig In: Being Honest About Your Strengths

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?