Sunny Nth Queensland

1551721 10152203818976003 961472162160114122 nAnother 10 weeks gone....well since I last updated my blog.

I have been silly busy with work related stuff, making life happen and planning for the next crazy episode of racing, skills courses, shop openings and preparing for the Forrest Festival and Chase the Dog.
So apart from the stupid business of filling my days with planning and getting stuff done I have been so blessed with travels to warm weather locations! 

Victoria is a beautiful state to live in, the Otways are even more amazing and my home town of Forrest is paradise...there are a few weeks of the year however when Winter becomes pretty intense and being invited to work and play in Nth Queensland is a given. 

Yet just how did I convince Norm to travel and work and play with me to Airlie Beach and Townsville just after returning home from our trip to Alice Springs and Townsville in May?
Norm loves being at home and so do I, however he was fair keen to keep winter in his itinerary and stay put. Problem was I knew what we had planned and knew I need Norm to join me to make it happen and knew if I could get him away from home, the good times would be enjoyed.

The plan was hatched to drive in our new Jeep from Forrest to Airlie Beach in about 2-3 days. Just Norm and I and driving as far as we could each day. Normie loves a long drive and he had not done this one and nor had I.

10414899 10152165889016003 4807929000830154259 nSo straight up the centre we went, long straight flat roads that lasted all day long.
I really enjoyed day one, and could not believe how tired I was that night when we woosed out of sleeping on the side of the road in our swag and went the motel option instead. Motels are not cheap even for a 3 star so we were lucky to find a room available at a fairly new clean and modern place for $140 a night. Nothing like laying down flat with your head on a pillow!

Two and a half days later we arrived in Airlie Beach and our accommodation was amazing. Staying at Shingley Beach we explored, rode our bikes and enjoyed a latte outdoors in the sunshine. Winter in Victoria was quickly forgotten.

We left home on Tuesday 2nd July, and on Friday 5th July we were riding the Great Whitsundays Walk (which is offically a ride as well!). I had read and been warned that the first section of the ride was up, up, up and up and we knew what to expect though could not believe how much UP there really was. The track itself went through amazing rainforest canopies and offered some amazing views from time to time. Its also fair to say that we did a bit of hike – a – bike along the way as some of the climbing sections just went on for longer than our car travel legs would allow us to ride.

10450528 10152169953206003 5357898502122925093 nIn the back of my mind I was sure we would be rewarded soon for what goes up must come down, and it needed to happen soon before Norm totally cracked it! This venture was over the “norm-capacity” in time, and hurt factor and I can openly admit I was on the verge too.

The entire ride on the “hill” is only 28km long and we both only packed 1 bottle each and a teenie weenie snack to eat. Pfffttt...28km is nothing...or so we believed. If you plan to this ride, take plenty of hydration and many snacks. Our ride time from our hotel to McDonalds Cannondale was 3hrs and about 40km (road and commute at start and end).

As Norm and I were riding out finally at Brandy Creek end, we both agreed before anything else we needed to eat and drink. Nearing on 4pm now our first view of the golden arches sucked us in even though we knew a heartier meal might be available elsewhere.
My order was:

  • Banana Berry smoothie
  • Double shot latte
  • Diet coke
  • Chicken wrap
  • Yep I was thirsty!

10410338 10152171366236003 1441142776059397008 nWe dropped in to see Chris at Ride Whitsundays after that and spent some time chatting about the use of the trail for the MTBSkills courses. Both her and Michael offered some suggestions to using some of the other trails off the main one. Phew! We were worried about taking our groups deep into this EPIC trail. Like I just said, this trail is one of those EPICS that you will talk about for a while and will hit your legs and mind like a brick wall. Its tough so when you go up to Airlie to do this ride, remember pack more than you think you need and be prepared to be out there longer than you think.

Saturday and Sunday brought about the MTBSkills courses for the Airlie crew with many coming from Mackay as well. I was stoked at how they went and the people we got to meet – again this always astounds me!
Thank you Chris for taking all the time and effort to get us up to Airlie Beach to teach and meet a whole new bunch of wonderful people on bikes. We hope you come visit us soon too!

10532803 10152181118216003 6121646278123166347 nOn Monday we drove to Townsville to get ready for our busy week of more MTBSkills lessons.
This time thanks to Rockwheelers MTB Club and the Tilley family.
A little bit more warmth in Townsville allowed Norm and I to venture our on a walk up Castle Hill and a gelati down the Strand.
On Tuesday we got to meet a group from the Solider Recovery Centre and teach our thing with MTBSkills.
Wednesday was a free day where I took Norm to Under the Radar mountain bike track at Pallarenda, which he loved. Its a great loop with fun flowing trail that winds its way around the hill.
Thursday we spent some time scoping Douglas for more teaching elements for our upcoming clinics.
Friday I had a private lesson in the morning and we both had our junior skills class in the afternoon.
An evening to recharge and prepare for 2 days of extensive teaching and full sessions on both days.

Our purpose to be in Townsville over this time was to impart our knowledge, help grow the club through keeping new riders and more experienced riders alike safe, enjoying their riding more and giving them more confidence through teaching on their trails.

10457156 10152184422276003 4976920045129821903 nIts a pretty special job and during this time we really get to know some new friends and people who impact us as much as we do them.
I guess thats when you know you are doing a good job, when its not just about going through the motions but its about the “people” and how much fun you and they are having during the sessions! 

Norm's highlight was teaching Ruth Corset, a national road champion and a person that he holds high on his inspirational list.
My highlight was my all boys Sunday afternoon session, giggles, humour, massive 'light bulb moments' and good friendships made.

The next day Norm left to set on his journey home to Forrest via visiting his mum in Toowoomba, arriving home on Wednesday 15th July.

 I now had an entire week to myself, a couple of MTBSkills private sessions, a few (heaps actually) social rides, walks up Castle Hill goat track, gelati down the Strand, early morning roadies, coffee catch ups, commutes to Douglas for courses and rides and a dinner date with the other Tilley family of Gail and Haydn.

The moment Norm goes, I miss him like crazy so busied myself visiting people and planning rides.

10478424 705843716156004 4595425992040023148 oIn amongst this great week of events I had to wind down and recover somewhat for the other reason I was here...The Paluma Push!
This event is quickly becoming more popular each year, with entries selling out in a few short days.
An increase of 100 entries meant that 650 were paid up ready to race in 2014. 

Paluma is up high on a range, around 900 mts above sea level with rainforest and some spectacular terrain quite different to that at sea level back in Townsville.


Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 7.58.15 amWhen you have a look at the elevation profile, it doesn't look too bad as far as
hill climbing is concerned...until you ride the course and the undulations that follow every lump and bump imaginable are testament to my lack of hill climbing of late!

On the day we got there early, Brett was volunteering and it was a good thing really, heaps of time to socialise, toiletise, caffienise and preparise (excuse the English for the sake of the story).

The race started at 9am and whilst the morning had been as cool as a winters morning in Victoria, the sun warmed things up nicely even though I had not done one iota of warm up, and when the gun went off my legs went into instant numb overload. Its amazing, this instinct takes over that I have yet to harness in training, the ability to shut down all pain and suffering and pedal like a madman and ride above and beyond my current fitness for the first 10-15 minutes.

Its quite funny...its like the energiser bunny ads where you see the toy slow down when the battery runs out, thats me! As soon as we hit the longer 2-3km steady dirt road climb, my mind said pedal, my legs said, no NO and NOOO! So I had to settle for a leg emptiying 20 mins knowing that the Paluma Dam was coming up soon and apparently this was technical and I would love it. 

During this time of climbing to the dam, Ruth was up front, never to be seen, Deb Latouf passed me and Jasmine was just up ahead. So I was running 4th and whilst my mind kept saying, settle for 4th Jess, you don't have it in you today...I could not concede. That crazy instinct inside me kept fighting until the very end. I had to push on and never give up, its what I have trained to do my entire life, even before I took up mountain bike racing, I was born to suffer and come out the other end with a lesson or two. 

As we crossed the dam wall I wondered what I was in for, hoping it was long enough to catch someone ahead. The initial part of the competition add on was a steady climb – damn the dam! Then it started, a wide track that had a line or two to choose from as it descended for longer than it ascended, rainforest roots, water ruts, drops, creek crossing, rooty ups and downs that sent off a lot of love when I settled on looking way way ahead and totally got off the brakes. Wow, did I make up some spots! And then I caught Deb with Jasmine just up ahead. By the time the dam loop was finished, we were about 30km into the race.

The next 35km seemed to resemble a playgroup of roller coasters, big fat fire roads that rolled up and down and sometimes popped you up the top of the next roller, sometimes not and often I felt the loss of elevation far too much and like a learned lab rat, started to predict the patterns of this race course, sometimes in joy and a few times with fear of what was to come.

All this time Deb and I were doing the old cat and mouse chasing up and down hills, with Jasmine constantly looking over her shoulder to see where we were and somehow she just dug deep and kept the distance ahead to about 50-100mts most of the race. 

As I was riding along, attempting to 'race' and have no regrets, my mind did chatter a lot, things like,”this is NOT fun,” “Gee I need to train on the hills again,” “I should just let Deb have 3rd,” “oh my legs, you have nothing and this climb is so steep, gee I would like to walk this,” “have a gel, keep drinking maybe thats why your legs feel empty,”...and the mind chatter goes on and on and on...

Sometimes when I race, I am so in the zone I use the mind chatter to bring me even higher into a state of concentration, but today it was distracting and I would say the sufferfest was not high on my list of fun times.

Nearing the final 15kms we entered the 2nd last loop that the competition riders do and the moment I descended the first big fire road I knew this was going to be a killer loop. The downs were steep, really steep and the ups were of course the same. If my legs were not cactus before they were now. I did walk a section here, up out of a muddy crossing I believed I could walk faster than ride.

I had a drink at the feed zone, but decided not to get it and just had little sips of what I had left. Thirty seconds stopping did not appeal to me, that meant I might concede my position of 3rd. Into the next loop, the Graveyard loop, the steady 'dead' farm land track handed my sore legs to me again and I was starting to reel in Jasmine. When I caught her on the final 7km of trail, I felt this wave of unsportsman like greed come over me, like pass her and smash her NOW...and then in that same moment of brain activity I decided to tell her she deserved 2nd place, she was my carrot all race and she deserved 2nd place, and I would take 3rd and lets finish this fast! It just felt wrong to bother about placings at this point and I felt like we were all where we deserved to be.

We rode in together and came through as planned.
For 3hrs and 16 mins I had felt more hurt mentally and physically than I had in a long long time...I am still not sure if its a mix of non specific training (riding for fun) or the fact that I had worked and socialised pretty hard for the past 3 weeks up in sunny north Queensland. Whatever the case, I have yet been able to wonder if I in fact enjoyed that race, I had moments to enjoy the dam loop, I could do that again!

What is the lesson I was meant to learn this time? I don't know then end of this blog it will come to me.

I can easily say, “Jess you are meant to do some training and hills etc...if you want to have fun on these races”, or “Jess is it time for you to enjoy these races instead of fighting for a place?” or was I just tired and overdone and a bit hormonal with the other girls absolutely wanting it more than me?
One thing is for sure, none of us saw Ruth Corset. She won and was way out in front finishing in 3hrs and 1 minute. I would love to see her do the Otway Odyssey and dabble in a few more mountain bike events. Ones with big climbs and scattered single track sections. 

After racing the Paluma Push all morning, there is one good thing that comes from all that hard work and that is when you are able to stop!

Thanks to Steve Gray for washing my bike and for all the people I got to chat to that said Thank you to me! I had my own day of suffering and others were on a high because they had knocked off minutes, and even up to an hour of their ride time from last year because they looked further ahead, rode with more aggressive elbows and got off the brakes sooner, etc..etc...

I just probably gave myself the reason I was at this I write my story, and that is it had nothing to do with me and what I got out of the race, the fact that I started and finished meant I was there, but mostly I was there to be a comrad to my fellow mountain biker and to listen to their story and to lift them up , not me.

It does bring a smile to my face when I reflect on how much others enjoyed their race and the people I meet, the friends I make and the lives I impact because of my job.
After presentations, whoever was left dug in and helped pack up the event village for about 30-40 minutes and then we were off.

As my time in Townsville and Airlie Beach was nearing an end, I was reflecting on how much I missed Norm and my home and my dogs and how much work I would be returning to, projects that needed starting and finishing...however I was looking forward to it. 

Townsville feels like a second home to me, as I have been going there two or three times a year since 2011 now.
Thank you Rockwheelers MTB club and the Tilley families at large for looking after me and embracing Norm and I as your friends.

I will finish off with some thoughts on life...time away from the grind gives clarity to ones greater purpose and this is one thing I always get back home with some renewed energy.

Going to work to earn money to pay for the “things” in life so we can have what we think we want to make us happy means nothing if we are not having meaningful and generous relationships with people beyond our inner circle of comfort.

We MUST stretch ourselves out of our comfort zone, daily. In every area, relationships, money, generousity of time, thinking of others, learning new things, including how other people 'do life' and being less judgemental.

Each time I get the opportunity to visit other places and be the guest in their home, town or region I have learnt that being a little uncomfortable and out of my depth actually forces me to listen more, understand and empathise, and ultimately be more willing to see the world in new light.

...and now I am home the challenge is to grow and build on all of this!(as the rain pitter patters down on my tin roof in the midst of a winters day)

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