Wednesday, December 4, 2013


The blog has been quiet of late!

That's because I've been moonlighting over at pedaltorque.
And riding my bike. Hard.

Want to see what I have been up to?


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

WEMBO - Singlespeeding at the 24hour solo world champs.

Many people asked me why I chose to singlespeed at the 2013 WEMBO24 Hour Solo World Champs and almost as many let me know they felt I should be racing elite.  Nice compliment.  I had my reasons.
Enroute to Canberra I pondered my entry choice.  SS24 solo.
This was my forth worlds.  I've raced elite.  I've raced age group.  I went up an age group this year.  Maybe I am in age denial - but I wanted to do something different. I knew there was tough competition.

This year has not been focused riding for me so I also knew I didn't have the form from previous years.  And yet - I knew I wanted to race and be part of the WEMBO patchwork.  Mostly I wanted to push myself, try something crazy.  Expand my capabilities as a cyclist.  Have another experience.

Well holy shit.  Singlespeeding for 24 hours is an "experience".

Here is how it went.
I arrived in Canberra on the Tuesday.  Plenty of time to settle in, sort out gear and pre-ride.  Bear had made good time driving down and met me at the airport - a welcome sight - no taxi!!!  Grateful!

The course was essentially the Scott red and blue lap and already well marked from the previous weekends racing so it wasn't hard.  I had only just got my race bikes built up a couple of weeks prior to the race - so this was some of the first real race pace riding.  Better late than never! Well ok, this is not the way to prepare but for me this year it's what I could manage so roll with it.

On the plus side the stable I had was primo!  The BOO (custom carbon and bamboo with a carbon lefty) got to meet Aussie trails - and handled them like a boss.  My Koiled Ti SimpleJack was so dialed in on the geometry stakes I now believe Shannon is one of the most underrated Bike Designers we have in our country.  That thing is so sweet.

SsimpleJack loving the rocks!
Pre-riding was fairly straight forward.  I knew the course, I've ridden it before.  For the first time I can say there was nothing I felt trepidation about riding - the general consensus is it was a pretty easy course technically.  Still plenty of places to hurt yourself if you lost concentration - but all in all a good start!  No pre-ride at Stromlo is complete without some selfies in the observatory. 

The burnout observatory on Stromlo - so cool, and yet a grim reminder.
Raring to go? My BOO was....
Prerides got done, food smashed, afternoon naps taken.  Got to meet and greet - highlight was getting to see Kelvin - a fellow employee who read a company newsletter and decided if I could, he could - and he did!!! You can read his story here Kelvins WEMBO story

Wasn't long until the rest of the crew rolled in.  Bear, who drove all my gear from Brisbane and back (!!!) was already in attendence.  He rides road with the Masters B crew and now has a bad case of singletrack-itis.  Ha hahahaa - there is no cure ! :)

Stef arrived straight from NSWIS training and managed to eat a whole pizza and two cheeseburgers on her drive- she is a promising track sprinting superstar who does pretty much the polar opposite to what I do on a bike.  Her legs are about as wide as my torso.  Shan also rolled in ready to take his place at the head of the pit team.  He is Koiled, and after Italy considered to be a mandatory part of my 24 hour recipe for success.

Shan spent hours making sure everything was perfect.
Stef needs to work on her killer face.  Far too smiley.
Mostly it was an awesome time with awesome people.  I know the job of support is a tough one.  It is straight up hard work and there is pressure to get it right and make the decisions for your rider.  It is also emotionally tough (understatement) to send your rider out time and again when they are broken.

Thank you.  My crew - you were awesome. Because of you I could race and have my experience.   I hope you got something out of what we did and you all deserve a little piece of the bronze medal! 

 Smashing the Luge Berms.  Fun at first, but hard to hold onto it later in the day!

 The race itself was a bit of a blur.  I rode through the first 10 hours without too many issues but after that I started to feel bad.  Really bad.  Weird bad. A new sort of deep fatigue that I find hard to describe - a new feeling of no energy.  I put it down to my lack of long rides and maybe my cheat fitness through strength training.  Had I changed the metabolic processes in my muscles?  Probably.  I think the majority of my riding was no longer than 2 - 3 hours.  I knew it wasn't enough and I'd have to pay - so I did.  It became clear somewhere in the evening - this was the hardest 24 hour I have ever done.

Top fashion points.  How good is the SUPACAZ tape? 
SS was brutal.  Hardtail was worse.  Every rock, rut and bump was microtearing my muscles and by about half way I hurt quite a lot in my everything.  Knicks and saddles that had been fine on a dually were definitely not fine on a hardtail.  But that's what 24hour riding is.  It is pain and punishment for a seemingly never-ending period and nothing but you and your will to endure.  It's called endurance for a reason.

Shannon and Bear prepping lights for the evening.
Most people won't realise that this was a huge ride for me.  Everything on nothing.  Checking out my strava history I'd been lucky to be getting in more than 100km a week this year.  About 25% of what I was riding on the previous year.  So taking into account I had effectively bought a water pistol to a gun fight, I am super proud of what I managed.  For the record, riding a 24hour solo on no fitness is stupid.

Dinner time - too smashed to eat and it was only 10pm(ish)

lonely midnight hours!

Western Wedgetail, fast and furious.  And rough.

Nearly done....

Pit Boss checking if I know what day it is... sure I do. IT'S RACE DAY.
So somewhere between 11 and 12pm on Sunday I rolled in and stepped off.  I finished behind the amazing Ms Frankie, and the awesome Bec Parkes.  Both these women have my utmost respect.  Having experienced an SS solo ride for myself I can certainly say I see these riders in a new light. 

So what is next?  Not sure.  Lots of road coming up with the Koiled Shebeasts and maybe I can hear bagpipes.  Too soon to say.  But I reckon I will be hearing them through the clicking of a derailleur should I choose to go!!!!  All those roots, shale and mud.... *shudder*

Everyone should take a minute to walk out to their geared duallys and tell them they love them.  I know I have.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

State Team Time Trial

I love this race.  It is so different to anything else you do on the road.   Often road is focused on who can make the best short lived allies but inevitably it comes down to everyone for themselves when the white line approaches.   Its a dynamic I struggle with.

The TTT is different.  It is about understanding the best machine that can be made out of the requisite team parts - and making the best effort you can with the riders you have bought together.  I enjoy it.

working together is the path to success - and doing it well take practice!

This year at the last minute I jumped into a team organized by fellow HPRWer Mel Symon.  I love Mel.  Her attitude to racing is top notch.  When everyone starts looking at each other in the bunch Mel will go - more often than not with parting words like 'Stuff it I'll go. I am not scared".... See what I mean?

Mel gathered together a good bunch, with Dyane Hannan and Donna Fyfe rounding out the four.  We managed one group practice before Donna got ill just days out from the race with tonsillitis.  Emma Moloney thankfully stepped in at the last minute allowing us to still race with four.

warming up with a red bull 
On race day we realized we had some tough competition from the GC Cats girls - so much experience with Helen, Sharon and Laurelea.  Race was on!

As we lined up in the midday sun it was hot - well over 30'.  Everyone went into their own quiet space thinking about whatever they think about on the start line.  For me I just breathe and say the count down.  I try not to think about anything other than the process of starting smoothly and not crashing on TT bars in close quarters.

We headed out and I followed Mels instruction to lead us out.  Not having practiced together it was difficult to know how our pacing would be relative to each other so we'd have to work it out on the road!


TTTs are hard on your pride.  Some days you grovel at the back and have to miss turns for the greater speed of the group.  Some days you get to ride at the front and provide strength for others - all the while watching their measure of suffering.

Mel realized in the first half the pace was slowing too much for her so called herself off and sent us up the road.  I noted when the Gold Coast girls passed us and counted the time to the turn around.  Off 6 minutes ahead - we needed about 3 mins to hit the turn and be on par.  It was almost that to the second - we were still in this.

Well - all I can say is I am very impressed with Dyane and Emma.  They definitely gave everything they had.  I couldn't have asked for more.  Dyane had just come back from a couple of weeks overseas holidaying in irish pubs and it is was her day to feel the pinch.  Emma seemed to get stronger on the way back and rolled great turns.  In reality we were messy and all over the road - but then we had never ridden together before race day. We didn't talk anywhere near enough - it is impossible to talk too MUCH in one of these things (why is this making me think of Sharyn Smith :) ) - and hearing with a TT helmet on is a black art! I constantly rode off the front like a horrible team mate and proceeded to get angrier and angrier with myself for letting the girls down... which unfortunately makes me ride faster!  We got the calls sorted in the second half and did this less.  This is where some practice time would have come in handy!   Still the point is to make the most of what you got and we did that.

Dyane completely buried herself, Emma was a beast, and Mel made a tough decision for our overall good - and while the gold coast girls ended up quicker - I couldn't be more pleased with being part of the silver team.  It should be noted Mel rode a massive ITT to finish solo just minutes behind us. Thanks ladies!



Tuesday, September 17, 2013

State Masters Championships - QLD

They say the best training is racing, so I have been getting out and about racing where I can regardless of whether or not I think I can produce a result.  With WEMBO looming and a less than perfect preparation it seemed that entering in the back to back double of the State ITT Championship followed by the State Road Race Championship would be a good idea - for training.

So first up - the ITT.
I am not too bad at ITT's.  Generally speaking for my size I am probably punching above my weight.  Good TTers are usually powerhouses and generally a little bit bigger and stronger.  Still, ride what you brung - and these legs are all I got.

I had done a couple of TTs this season with HPRW club events, so it wasn't my first of the season.  Can't say I had done any TT training though so I knew my shoulders and body would complain from the TT position. It is such a specific thing it is hard to be comfortable and produce good power without practice - but I figured my body could just recall what I used to do in the triathlon glory days and get on with it.

looking fast.  the most important bit!

So I approached it as a training ride, and did it to the best of my ability.  I even managed some comedy on the start line - yelling out inside my 15 seconds count down "HEY TOGHILL - WATCH THIS" before monstering my start as best I could.  I might not be as fast as last year - but I haven't forgotten how TT.  Analysis says I spent 100% of my time at THRESHOLD. Can't ask more of myself than that.

I got to watch Cat Newell and Jess Toghill rip some great times too.  Need to find 40 seconds on Jess when we end up back together next year.  Good news is if I start actually training that shouldn't be too hard - I'm onto you Toghill!

 In the end it was good enough for the Gold medal in my masters cat - well outside my expectation!
As I left the ITT I was debating whether or not I would ride the next day....  
Morning rolled round I had more reasons to ride than not, so off I headed this time to Kalbar.  The day was hot and the course was apparently very lumpy.  Should suit me perhaps - though generally the view was it would be hard for anyone to stay away.

 As I warmed up I felt the dead resistance in my legs from TTing the day before.  My own fault.  I didn't warm down like I should have.  Still, race goal of racing to train was in my mind.  I warmed up, but not too the letter.  And the ache stayed there right up to the point we started.  Then something else took over.  It was that something that made me lead everyone out over the first 1km or so when I should really have been sucking wheels and protecting my perceived lack of preparation. Then I decided to roll to the back and take a look at who was who.  As I did this I noticed Cat Newell and another woman start to drop the next riders up a climb as they set a strong tempo.  Without realizing it, they rode a small gap of 20metres or so.... hmmm. Maybe that might be something.  I decided to have a go.  I wound it up from the back, and by the time people realized what I was doing I was already gone, bridged and rolled to the front asking Cat and Laurelea to hit it.  They did without question and we were away.  5km on a hot, windy and hard course I had started a break. 

What came next was pretty much a blur or red haze as we worked to stay away.   We put a good couple of minutes on the bunch by the end of lap one.  I looked at who I was with and knew if I could stay in the break I had my category won.  It was a big ask.  The hills themselves weren't too bad but I was redlining on the flats just to hold the wheel.  I really wanted to hang in and help Cat get over the other girl if I could so I worked with everything I had.

It was exciting to make a break that got clear, and even better to be in one that looked like it had a chance of staying away.  It takes time to learn where and how to do these things, and when they work it is a sense of achievement!

In the end, Laurelea was  too strong and rode away when she decided she wanted to.  Cat and I never gave up but at the same time we acknowledged she was simply too strong and we didn't have anything to answer with!  Cat wound up with silver in an AWESOME ride - a double silver state champs for her.

So a training weekend turned into a double state champ for me. Couldn't be happier really - and maybe the best performances do come when we take the pressure off ourselves. Definitely an idea that needs more exploring....
Enjoy the journey.


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

HPRW Nicol Jackson Womens Series - Round Two ITT


Every year HPRW run a fantastic womens race series - and the TT round is my favourite.  They do an awesome job of attracting women, many of whom are first timers - they had 42 women this weekend!  Definitely doing something right.

Personally I was there to race for fitness and fun - and am mostly to get back and being part of it, and being me.  That said old habits die hard, and once on the start line I felt my usual routine kick in.  Concentrate on how to start.  Deep breaths to kill nerves. 

Starting in the first 10 riders - there was no-one to hold us for the start so it was a push off clip in hammer type affair.  Boo!  Much prefer being held when I have TT bars.   Last time I raced this course I did the full 33km - so today was a walk in the park with the 20km out and back in front of me! I love this course, plenty of hills and some rough road. It was a beautiful morning with a great turn out across the grades. A grade had some strong girls - Katrin, Jess, Jemma, Marianne and a good handful of international level triathletes out to try their hand.  Plenty of tough competition.  Now we are talking!

A smile? Clearly not going hard enough.
TTing is really about balancing on the redline - go as hard as you possibly can but don't explode.  It is a knife's edge.  Based on my data I am going to go ahead and claim the knife as my biatch - 99% threshold.  YEAH ! In the pocket!!!!

Hills hurt when you are already on threshold.
Completely unexpected - somehow I rode faster than last year when I was in peak form.  Maybe when we let go and enjoy the ride we get out of our own way?  Food for thought.

As an added bonus, I made it onto the A Grade podium 3rd behind Katrin and Jess. Mostly I loved seeing all my bike riding buddies, talking trash, racing hard and leaving having had a great time!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Escape to the extreme.

I don't know about you guys, but I have found my bike to be a wonderful escape in tough times.
Yes I race and stuff but most importantly I escape to my bike.  The physical repetition, the breaths and heart beats form a blank it out, back to basics mantra.  I used to experience it running, and now I can find it on the bike - it is a reset switch for me.   In really tough times the roadie alone might not do it - but the combo of the physical work  and the mental demands of single track make the ultimate medicine.  Someone said to me life is what happens when we make other plans and this year I am the very living proof of that.  After a life of routine, hitting every training session perfectly, having everything aligned and being how it should be, organised into OCD boxes - the wheels fell off.

My marriage ended, my family changed.  My health disappeared.  My friends dispersed, some people did some disagreeable things and some crazy, crazy stuff happened.  My opportunity to ride halved. My team and main social network all but disintegrated.  My ability to go out and reset was restricted.  In essence my ground fell out from under me.  The plan was simple.  Zero touring experience, two bikes, three bags of stuff on some freeload racks, and a test to see if we could cover five days of hard riding - a RAAM test.

Plan was hatched maybe 48hours earlier and before we knew it we rolled out.  Some spares, a couple of riding kits, credit cards and an iPhone.  A rough idea of which direction (south) and a plan to find and ride down the pacific highway was as detailed as it got.  What's the worst that could happen?

Cruel to be passing through the Gold Coast on such a perfect beach day!

Day One - Brisbane to Ballina saw a slow start as we rode the bike paths and back roads to the gold coast.  From there we took the gold coast highway down to the point the Pacific Motorway gives way to the Pacific Highway and bikes become legal.  It was hot but reasonably good going. The punctures started not long after we found the Pacific Highway and tested resolve - until we found the safety pin piece INSIDE my rim. 

What the hell?  No idea how that could have gotten in, but with two pairs of hands, some tweezers and too many close passing trucks we had it fixed.  Both of us tried not to think about the number of tubes we had already gone through - the burn rate meant we would need to restock well before Sydney if we had a hope of making it. Not that we had a clue where we could do that.  I guess that is why they call it Adventure!

Heading into Northern NSW - about 140km in Day One.
The climbs started at about 180km up over St Helens and overlooking Byron and happened to be in the heat of the day.  I grew up in this vicinity so I am always appreciative of the beauty of the northern rivers.  Except after 180km, mid 30's and a dirty big hill.  Then I am reduced to basic pedalling and intermittent prayers.  Newrybar really is hilly.  We stopped for cold drinks and from there rode the rollers down and into Ballina.   Found a place to stay and sorted out the bikes, clothes, food etc for the next day and set about refuelling.

Day Two - Ballina to Coffs Harbour.

I knew when I woke up I had done 220km with an extra 10kgs on my bike, but that was what I came for so lets get this started.  walked out of the aircon and was immediately HIT with heat.  eeew.  It was only 7am! 
Day Two. 8AM and the livestock were already hiding under trees and it was easily 30+.

Day Two - the heat was unbelievable - and got oh so MUCH worse from there!

As we rolled it was beautiful but somewhere in my mind an alarm was definitely going off.  As a country girl I knew when the livestock are hiding at 8AM I am pretty sure that is a sign of bad things to come.  When the road starts to bubble I think that is the apocalypse. I am still 99.9% certain I rode from Ballina to Coffs Harbour via HELL.  Must check a map.

This road is actually melting and sticking to our wheels. Hell was starting to look cool.
Yes by 10AM the road was bubbling and melting.  And so was I.  I began to worry about flats and punctures from superheated tar. Shannon's Garmin was showing 38'c and climbing.  The papers were full of stories about the record heat wave, and detailed how the BOM had to add a new top category and colour to their heat maps to depict the hotter than ever before temps.  And we were riding in it.  All day.  With weights strapped to me and my bike. And with an epic day already in my legs. *gulp*

If you could stand the wet gooch, this seriously helped in the heat.
But that's what we were there for.  So we got on with the job.  No talking, no need. Just getting the job done.  We suffered.  We stuffed our jerseys with ice and kept rolling.   The temp peaked when we were in no mans land probably about 70km out of coffs - where there is NOTHING but state forest.  No shelter, shops, servos or even cars.  Everyone was somewhere out of the heat.  The road temperature reached 53'c and I stopped the updates - I was past the point of needing to know.  Breathing felt like when you opened an oven and the hot air rushed out and into your lungs.  We had no idea how far to the next water point.  It was clear we were now in dangerous territory.  Too hot to stop, too hot to move.  But move you must.  The pace was a crawl, but it was movement and in these conditions and kms movement to your next water source is actually movement towards life.
What comes after extreme heat? Extreme storms. AAAARGH!
Is that the best you've got? Well, I am still riding!

After an age of slowly making our way forward we turned a corner and THERE IT WAS! A servo.  HEAVEN.  I think we drank 6 litres before we even moved.  The servo guy ran out the back and got chairs for us from his office as we lay under a tap and then wandered around inside grabbing about 12 litres of various fluids and iceblocks! After about 45 mins I deemed myself sufficiently revived and knew the clock was ticking - time to roll.  There was no fallback plan to get to sydney.  I had to ride, and there was a time limit.  I felt the pressure, squared my shoulder and got on my stinking bike. As we moved out the temperature was dropping.  relieved to find it a cool 38'c. Because of the MASSIVE STORM COMING.

Time to put this bitch to bed.  Time to put the emergency lights on and motor through the rain and thunder. And somehow through one pedla stroke at a time we made our way to coffs.  Which AGAIN ended with a massive climb after 200km+ in the legs.  Must really check the routes next time!

Day Three - Coffs Harbour to Port Macquarie.
Destroyed, and only 200km to go.  Yay!  Why did I want to do this again?
Thankfully it was a cool morning, but did you know it is pretty undulating from Coffs Harbour to Port?  I did not know that.  Now I do.  Most of the strava stuff has gaps in it by this point as we began to constantly forget things, including turning on Garmins.

On the plus side we had our bike set up, and roll out routine sorted.  Little words required. And our bodies were kind of riding in, in a broken sort of way.  I concentrated on drinking for the first four hours knowing only too well how dehydrated I was from the previous days visit to HELL.
The silent milestone ticked over - past halfway. I started to allow myself to think I was going to make it.  After all anything was easier than the day in hell just passed.

Day Three - Probably 20'c cooler, past halfway and not dead!  Winning at life.

Day Four - Port Macquarie to Raymond Terrace
Ok, I know I said Day Three was undulating - well that makes Day Four non-stop hills  Nothing of a particularly tough gradient - but consistent leg sapping, soul breaking hills.  I thought Newcastle was a SWAMP.  I am sure swamps are flat so WHY ARE THERE HILLS EVERYWHERE.....the universe hates me.

Luckily I was there to pull massive turns and get us through as the picture below proves and no-one can say any different because there is proof. Pics are proof. Proven.

Day Four - Rough as guts, post servo smiles.  Drafting the whole way to Sydney. Honest.  This pic proves it.

Glamour stop on Day Four. No smiles now.  Heading into Newcastle.  Filthy Road Grimed and Hard Core.

Horror neck rash - but strangely enough the gooch was fine.

Day Five - Raymond Terrace to SYDNEY.
Knowing we had only a short 148km to conquer I was keen to get on the road.  I knew now I would make it, one more day and a short one at that.  We rolled out and set a great pace.  You should know this - last-day-itis never fails to bite.  All was well, until this....

Day Five: A rack malfunction + locked back wheel@40km/hr.  Glad a spare tyre was packed and that I have mad skillz.
Well, I guess that is why you carry a spare tyre 800km.  So on it goes and on we go.  The traffic understandably was the heaviest in this part of the ride, but really everyone gave us a wide berth.  Waterworks road is about 100 times more dangerous in my opinion and the only time we had any problems was riding in suburban/town centre areas well off the highway!
Try and smile - I think we might actually make it!  This is what the hills looked like - happy, sad.
As I passed through the sandstone cliffs and climbs of the hawkesbury I started to reflect on what had been had done, with so little preparation or planning.  No argument in the toughest of conditions, and most of the time no speaking.  Take care of yourself, and then if you can help the other.  An understanding probably developed over all those races and rides that allowed for singular focus. Quietly I thought it - RAAM on a tandem was looking possible.
sandstone cliffs, we gotta be close!  Under 50km to go.

Surreal! Central Station.
As I stood in Central Station it dawned on me just a few days earlier I rolled out my driveway with pretty much nothing and now I was here, in an iconic sydney location.  And I got here on my bike.  Pretty quickly too.  I felt a deep sense of satisfaction and capability.  And pride too. Yeah, I rode to Sydney.  Why?  Because I can.

Gloves were harmed in the making of this ride.