The old faithful

A real pleasure this morning to ride with a few friends. Just a River Ride, and not at a great pace, but good company and a good solid ride.

One of the girls lives on the north side, while for the other three of us, the River Ride is an old faithful. It struck me how familiar I was with where we were riding, but for Katharine, there were only glimmers of familiarity. Every so often, she would remark, "Oh, I know where we are now".

Everyone has an old faithful ride, or run. They can become a little old and tired after a while, but introducing others to them can make you realise how fun they were for you at some time way back when, and help you to see them differently.

20 bucks in 20 seconds

A stroke of fortune tonight that I checked out the Triathlete Chronicles and followed the link to the Australian Longcourse Championships. I was kicking myself this morning when I thought I missed the Early Bird cutoff... happily the cutoff is midnight tonight. So, I'm in, and I saved myself $20.

OK, so entering took me a little more than 20 seconds... but I love 20 bucks in 20 seconds on Rove... And just for the record, I'd turn gay for Cameron Diaz.

Heaven on the feet

I've written about a lot of mundane things on this blog. For many followers of the Triathlete Chronicles, this will be another. For fellow runners, though, this might be one of that most strikes a chord.

I've got two words for you... NEW SOCKS!

The joy of the feeling of new running socks is truly something that unites runners the world over. You can feel it from the moment you pull them over your feet. As you slip your feet into your running shoes, adjust your laces, and take the first few steps towards your front door, it gets better and better.

There is nothing like running in new socks. It's truly heaven on the feet.

Success... of sorts?

Well this weekend's training was more successful than last, with a run on Saturday and an endurance WT on Sunday to replicate a long ride.

A long way to go before I can consider myself truly "back in training" but it's a start. Let's see what this week brings...

Mind over all

I picked up a free postcard last night. It's one in a series of five postcards - mind, heart hand, eyes, body - which represented the five themes of the creation of fashion.

I thought how appropriate it was that I had received "mind", in terms of my approach to training and competing. In the creation of fashion, "mind" represents a source of knowledge and ideas. Not quite appropriate to the endurance athlete... so I got to wondering what the five themes of endurance sports might be. Maybe:

Mind - a the source of will and strength
Heart - the engine that drives the machine
Breath - an essential fuel, but sometimes, a meditation that comforts and endures
Legs - tools of the trade, propelling us forward
Body - the focus of our efforts, the sum of the parts.

Where's Athletic Powerhouse?

I'm back!

First ride this morning in a few months. And oh, what a success! I'm so out of practice of packing for a long ride that I left my helmet and bike shoes at home. Great. Thus my intended attempt at a River Loop was shortened to incorporate the Green Bridge from the uni, and only 20ks or so instead the best laid plans...

While I had to dust the cobwebs off trusty "Lance", I have been keeping myself busy with running. In fact, I completed my first off-road race just a couple of weeks ago at the Lamington Classic, a marathon over two days - 21.8ks each way on the Border Track between Binna Burra and O'Reilly's. Saturday, O'Reilly's to Binna Burra and Sunday, back to O'Reilly's.

My mate Megsy sent out an "anyone in?" email a few months back. I decided it would be a good way to keep me doing something post France, so we entered early in September. I kept up my running and starting building my distance back up.

A few weeks later I was online and saw the following announcement on the site:
Update: Entries closed Friday 26 Sept as we reached our 50 limit, but…

A limit of 50? What kind of race was this? Probably not one for less talented athletes such as us! I had images of all the athletes finishing in a couple of hours or less, then a couple of hours later, Megsy and I would stagger from the forest... As it turned out it wasn't far off that, and although we didn't stagger we had enjoyed the company of the Tail-End Sweep for most of the day.

I had been worried that my longest runs of only 16ks or so wouldn't be enough endurance - this fear was unfounded; my unfamiliarity with running on what to me was rugged terrain meant I couldn't really run all that much anyway. The middle section of the track particularly was quite wild - large mud holes, fallen trees to climb over, and some quite thin areas of track. A couple of creek crossings for good measure providing some nice slippery rocks to scramble over.

The fastest runners had an overall time for both days that was less than our Saturday time. Our Sunday time did not officially get recorded at all, as we set out earlier to get much needed head-start. Although I am disappointed that we were not be recorded as both way finishers, Megsy had fulfilled a lifetime dream to traverse the Border Track both ways, and I'd had my first taste of offroad racing.

All in all the Lamington Classic was a fantastic experience. An inexpensive weekend away, with two nights' accommodation provided for a small fee on top of event entry, making the cost of the entire weekend racing, accommodation and meals for just $110. What a bargain!

On top of that, the chance to challenge yourself physically, and to meet some fantastic people. The great thing about trail running is that the kind of people it attracts are all similar. They care for the environment and are mindful and respectful of other runners. It was great to share the weekend with them, particularly Saturday night when we found out some more of the history of what the organisers believe is the oldest trail run in Australia.

Thanks to Bruce and the organising committee for a fantastic weekend.

And what of the Athletic Powerhouse? Well, I declared at the beginning of the post that I'm back... so time to recommit not only to a full training schedule, but also to the much-neglected-lately Triathlete Chronicles.

Le Legende awaits

With Le Tour we picked up our hire car to return to the Alpes for the Alpe d'Huez Triathlon. Driving through Paris proved a challenge to say the least! A full length Triathlete Chronicle is in progress to tell this story...

France Day 8 - the Champs Elysees

Today was celebration day for Carlos Sastre and Team CSC. As much as us Cadel fans were reluctant to admit it, Team CSC truly deserved their win this year. They had truly dominated the peleton, throwing everyone off the scent by setting up Frank Schleck in the yellow jersey early on in the race before letting Sastre loose on Alpe d'Huez.

The tour was over, and we took our positions in the grandstand at the Champs Elysees and waited for the riders to come through.

It turned into a long afternoon in the sun, and with few options for refreshments close by, the natives were restless. We had a big screen on which to watch the action... though 'action' is quite a loose term when applied to the last day of the Tour de France. It is more like a procession than a race, and the yellow jersey holder sips champagne as they cruise through the Paris countryside.

Gert Steegmans took the sprint stage victory for Team Quick Step. The presentations were made to the jersey holders:
  • Carlos Sastre - Yellow Jersey
  • Oscar Freire - Green Sprinters Jersey
  • Bernard Kohl - Polka Dot King of the Mountain Jersey
  • Andy Schleck - White Young Rider Jersey
  • CSC - Team

We waited for all of these presentations to be made to await the parade of teams. We gave all the riders cheers, especially the Aussies. It was awesome to see Stuart O'Grady enjoying his team's success.

Finally, Silence-Lotto entered the Champs Elysees. Few other spectators remained as the Silence team passed the Aussie bay of the grandstand to an enormous cheer.

I didn't care who else was there. It was important to me to wait and give Cadel a huge cheer for his efforts. As a nation we Australians are fickle, and quick to dismiss our countrymen that fail to live up to the lofty expectations we burden them with. Cadel in particular seems to be his own toughest critic, and although I would have loved to be seeing him in yellow at that moment, as far as I am concerned he still did himself and his country proud.

France Day 7 - Part 2 - The Race of Truth

After arriving in St Amand-Montrond for the TT finish, I packed up my bike for its transfer to Paris. I scoped a spot opposite a big screen just a few hundred metres shy of the finish line and soaked up the sun and atmosphere.

In cycling the time trial is known of "The Race of Truth" because, well, there isn't anywhere to hide. Each cyclist is let off individually, and they race against the clock in their race against one another.

Today, like never before, would be truth time for Cadel Evans. He was in 4th place overall; 1:34 down on the yellow jersey of Carlos Sastre. Frank Schleck and Bernard Kohl were only seconds ahead of him on the standings. Sastre was the one he had to reel in.

All of us in the tour group were hopeful, some even confident, that Cadel could do it. Sastre had never been known as a strong time triallist...

One by one, the cyclists started, and came through the finish. Finally, after what seemed like hours, we saw on the big screen that Cadel was being counted down and waved off by the starting official. He put in a solid ride, unfortunately today needed to be more than "solid". It needed to be the time trial of his life.

Even more unfortunately, the man who was having the time trial of his life was Carlos Sastre. Phil Liggett was once again being proven right in his theory that the yellow jersey somehow allows men to ride themselves into some confidence. Or ride like two men. Or like men with three legs.

Yes, Phil Liggett sure has a unique way with words...

Before we knew it, though, Sastre and his yellow jersey had ridden himself to a Tour de France victory. Cadel Evans had ridden himself out of the one thing that had haunted him since this time last year.

It was a sombre group that returned to the bus for transit to our hotel. At least when we got there, we enjoyed one of the best meals of the trip.

France Day 7 - Part 1: the "anti-TT"

...the day we held so much hope for...

As we boarded the bus in Vichy, decked out in all the Aussie gear we had, we shared boundless optimism for the day ahead.

While Cadel and co had 55km "race of truth" our ride for the day was either 50k or 100k to the time trial finish in Cerilly. KKB again joined a rebel ride, as Andy had calculated that they could take in both the TT start and finish, still in around 100ks. If I thought I had a hope of keeping up, I would have joined them on this adventure, as I would have loved to check out the excitement of a TT start.

The complete opposite, I dropped off the back of the 50k pack at the first hill. The guide was trying to get me to speed up, even offering to give me a push, to get back on the back. But I was sick of riding at everybody else’s tempo, as I'd been expected to do for the entire tour. I just wanted to ride my bike through the French countryside. That's what I thought I'd signed up for. The tour organisers web site said they catered for cyclists of all abilities. And, I guess they kind of do. They cater for fast cyclists who want to do serious Ks. They cater for slower and less serious cyclists, who just want to ride a bit. In my experience, they don’t really cater for slower cyclists who want to do serious Ks like everybody else.

I've never really minded riding alone, so on this last day, stubbornly, I continued to do so, almost as a bit of a protest.

After not too long, the guide gave in and rode with me at my pace. We got to chatting and I took the opportunity to pick the brains of an ex World Champion, and also to give her a bit of an insight into what it’s like to be a back of the pack athlete.

I asked her what her greatest accomplishment had been as a pro, and also what her favourite memory was – prompting her that quite often, they aren’t the same. She agreed. Her greatest accomplishment was a no-brainer. When you’ve been a world champion, it doesn’t get much better. She said that her best race was one that had a very different result. She hadn’t won, she hadn’t placed. But she’d trained so hard, given so much, and enjoyed the experience in a different way.

We talked about my upcoming attempt at the Alpe d’Huez Triathlon, and she asked me which my favourite leg was. I told her that I preferred training for the bike.

“I know I’m not very good at it, but I just riding my bike. I love the anticipation of a long ride, I love plotting my route and packing up my pockets with goodies. I love the freedom of just being out on the road. And, I’ve learned that life’s too short to not do the things you love to do.”

She didn’t say much at the time, but I hope she took it on board and passed it on to the organisers of our tour, who say on their website they cater for cyclists of all abilities.

I hope if nothing else, the guide at least enjoyed her cruisy ride with me through the French countryside. I did.

Incidentally, KKB loved his "anti" ride as well. He said that the excitement and anticipation at the TT start was great, and they also enjoyed some love from the team cars, who used the same backroad as they did to cut through from the start to the finish. The Silence-Lotto cars all gave them big toots and waves, as they were all decked out in the gear.

France Day 6 - Vichy

Today, instead of chasing the Tour, the race came to us, passing literally straight past our hotel . We took the chance for an easy day on the bike, exploring the streets of Vichy.

By now I had a bit of an idea of how important the TDF is to the French people. Everywhere we had gone the villages of France had been lined with spectators. It’s an awesome sight, and an awesome feeling to get the cheers of the locals as you ride through before the professionals.

I had begun to wonder whether it was like the Melbourne Cup, where everyone gets a day off to celebrate a national spectacle. So, with a lazy day planned we took the opportunity to talk to some locals, in very bad French guided by our rather rudimentary phrasebook.

I have to say we did OK. We managed to ascertain that because the Tour takes place during their summer, kids are on holidays from school, and like Australians at Christmas time, everyone takes the opportunity to take holidays and enjoy the sunshine. The family that we spoke to were on holidays in Vichy, and were also looking forward to watching the Tour come through town.

I haven’t really written much about the Caravane Publicitaire, or promotional caravan. The only way I can describe it is, to imagine a normal Australian street parade, but on speed. The concept is the same – most of the Caravan consists of floats on cars, buses, four wheeler bikes, you name it – however because the Caravan Publicite needs to stay ahead of the cyclists of the Tour, it travels the tour route at an average speeds of up to 50kph. It travels the entire route, so speeds its way along highways and winds its way through roadside villages at what seem like breakneck speed, all the while distributing promotional products to the millions of spectators the Tour attracts.

I’d been told about the Caravane before my trip to France, but the fact that I marvelled at it shows that it really is something that can only believed when seen in person.

Today’s stage, being a flat stage, saw the field stay fairly much together, and they raced through Vichy at such a speed that it was almost like a “blink and miss it” experience. We stretched out our experience by soaking up the atmosphere of the Caravane. We spent the rest of the afternoon watching the end of the Tour stage in a bar in the middle of Vichy’s famous Parc de Sources, where the Hall de Sources houses taps that deliver the mineral water the city is famous for, and that night found a restaurant in which to enjoy a beautiful meal, the first of a few four course set menu meals we enjoyed during our time in France.

At the end of today Cadel Evans is in fourth place, 1:34 behind Sastre... what will tomorrow's time trial bring...?

France Day 5 - Feed Zone La Frette

Today the Tour rode from Bourg d’Oisan to St Etienne and our schedule was to ride from Alpe D’Huez to the feed zone just before the town of La Frette.

I snuck out early to get a head start, as I felt this was the only way I was going to get through the 110ks before the roads closed for the tour. KKB also made his break with a small group who were also sick of waiting around for something to happen.

The descent from Alpe d’Huez was, unlike previous rides, quiet and desolate. No crazy cycling fans, no music blaring from campervans. It was different, but not unexpected, for the Alpe d’Huez "hangover".

Further down the road towards Vizille I was tucked in behind Andre and heading along at a nice pace when we encountered some road furniture. That’s what they call all kinds of bits and pieces that Europeans tend to put on their roads – I guess their version of Australian “traffic calming”.

This particular bit of road furniture was a sloped kerb, painted gloss white, so until you were right upon it, it looked like a painted line. In a split second Andre managed to avoid it at the last minute. I hit it, swerved, wobbled, and finally came down like a bag of spuds.

Miraculously, Lance was fine and the damage to me was minimal, just a bit of skin off my knee, elbow and hand, even though my jacket, gloves and knee warmers. But it was a close call, with traffic around. Luckily European traffic is much more mindful of cyclists than their Australian counterparts. I am thankful for my lucky escape due to the diligence (and expert breaking) of a passing motorist.

After a few tears and a hug from the gentle German, we continued on to meet the bus, where I made my decision to continue to ride for the 110ks.

While I still don’t regret this decision, the riding I did between the bus and the end of that day’s riding was some of the hardest I did on the trip. We were on a time limit and the pace was on. Particularly after my crash, I felt like this wasn’t what I’d signed on for.

We were nearly at our destination when the Gendarmarie closed the road literally in front of us, preventing us from entering the Category 3 Col de Parmenie. What now?

Well, my question was answered. The back road our guides chose featured a climb that mentally I just wasn’t up to. Finally, I got off my bike to nurse my wounds. When we got to our destination – revised due to the road closure – all I wanted to do was go and find Phil. Thinking he was closer than the 20ks it turned out to be, I hopped back on my bike to hunt him down. Finally, with one of the girls and a guide we got to the meeting point, La Frette.

I never saw the feed station, as we took back roads. But I did see the riders come through the town – just a small breakaway with the main group in pursuit. Fantastic to finally lay eyes on Cadel, up close, though in fast forward!

A long day finished with an even longer bus ride to our next hotel in Vichy. On the up side - my first flavoured milk of the trip, on a "pitstop" at a servo.

France Day 4 - Race Day Craziness

Our guide book itinerary for today reads "Race Day Craziness - All Day". A pretty accurate description of how the day turned out, actually...

With noone keen to ride the six of us took the opportunity to take the cable car to Pic du Blanc, at Andy's suggestion. The views are quite indescribable from 3330ft, looking down on Alpe d'Huez and further down to Bourg d'Oisans. To the north the view is across to the top of Mont Blanc, and to the East across to L'Aguilles D'Arves and - this was so exciting to me - Italy!!!

I also got my first touch of snow at Pic du Blanc - I was excited to stand in snow and make a snowball!

We returned to Alpe d'Huez for a bite to eat, and to decide on a plan for the afternoon ahead. Andy, Miri and I headed through the centre of town to find a spot on the closing slopes of the climb. I was overwhelmed to catch my first glimpse of Switchback 1 on race day, graced with a massive FREE TIBET sign on the side of the hill - of course for Cadel.

Andy was getting SMS updates so we knew what was going on in the race. Our heart sank when the news of Sastre's breakaway came through. Although, he was in a group with the Schlecks - after all with Frank in Yellow they were his main rivals right...? Right?

(Those damn Schlecks! We had seen them everywhere that morning - on flags, jerseys, banners... even random toddlers... and joked that they must be eying off a career in real estate after cycling.)

Our view perched on the side of the hill at Alpe d'Huez was such that we could see the groups winding their way up the hill. First, the lone figure of Carlos Sastre, pedalling like a man possessed, determined to claim the stage win, and perhaps the yellow jersey, at the top of this legendary climb.

We were excited to witness Cadel leading his group around the last switchback of the climb, although what would happen between here and the finish line, well, this group wasn't going to catch Carlos Sastre. He was to finish Stage 17 as not only the stage winner, but as the wearer of the leader's yellow jersey.

While disappointed, we like Cadel were not beaten yet. There were more opportunities ahead, especially the time trial, and we would be there to see him fight another day.

France tour Day 3 - Galibier

Another bad night's sleep saw me opt out of the "Queen" stage ride I'd optimistically signed up for. It was going to be a hard ride and with only six hours sleep over the last two nights, I'm sure I would have regretted it.

I was devastated to make the call. I wondered whether I would regret it. But with Alpe d'Huez triathlon looming large after yesterday's climb, I thought I was doing the right thing.

The shorter ride was up col du Galibier - another of the Tour's notorious climbs - but without Telegraph and Croix de Fur. Alpe d'Huez ends both rides.

We took the bus to col du Lautaret to start. The forecast was for a 6 degree maximum on Galibier so I rugged up appropriately. The climb was gentle but relentless and the scenery quite stunning (although personally I find the lack of vegetation in Alpine regions a little bleak). I stopped several times to take photos.

Closer to the top and the wind really picked up. I was quite worried about being blown off the mountain! I heard a voice behind me saying something I didn't understand. A lovely Belgian man thankfully spoke English as well. He accompanied me for a while, positioning himself to shelter me from the wind as much as he could, talking to me the entire way to the monument to the founder of the Tour de France. Another photo opportunity - so he rode off, warning me to save something for the last k of the climb.

Rightly, too, as it turned out. It was the worst of the climb (opposite to Alpe d'Huez). At the top were two of our guides, who chatted to me while I piled on all the extra clothes I'd brought for the descent, and Dean also took a snap of me and Lance at the summit!

Back down to Lautaret, from where we wound back down the valley to Bourg d'Oisans, with some stunning scenery for company. The tunnels through the hills also a highlight.

My regret of the day happened now. A bus was leaving imminently back up the mountain to our accommodation and I was too weak to resist. The moment the bus reached the 21st switchback I had his sinking feeling in my heart. I knew I should be out there, riding. I'd planned to use the opportunity to take photos and soak up the atmosphere that was building on the slope.

Not to give in to this, when we got to the hotel I didn't go inside. I got on Lance and rode down to switchback 11 and rode back up from there. Past the Luxembourgians, through Dutch corner, chatting to the Aussies and getting a push form one of them. The photographers didn't freak me out this time, in fact I took a snap of them (they're part of the festivities too!).

I got to the top feeling well satisfied that I'd not given in, that I'd had another go.

By now the shopping area at the top of the climb was a hive of activity. Everyone was in party mode and as I was wearing some Aussie gear many of the pilgrims gave me a thumbs up, shouting "Cadel Evans!!!".

More encounters with Belgian men - when I wasn't on my bike they didn't hesitate to hug and kiss the Aussie girl - as Cadel was in actual fact Belgiums big chance at yellow as well, riding for their team Silence Lotto!

Soaking up the atmosphere of what is without a doubt the Holy Grail of the TDF was a wonderful finish to a day that had started in tears of disappointment.

France tour Day 2 - Alpe D'Huez

I chose my swear bubble Tshirt for today's travel to the south of France, and my first ascent up Alpe D'Huez. I really didn't know how I would cope! I opted for the shorter ride with Suze, up Alpe d'Huez from Bourg d'Oisans. Most of the other riders (including KKB) started 30ks earlier at Vizelle.

There was just so much pleasure in this ride. It isn't just about being able to say you've done it!

Andy described Alpe d'Huez as a feat in engineering - building a road up not a hill, but a sheer cliff face. It climbs over 1000m in less than 15ks so it isn't for the fainthearted! Our group proved that, with several hopping into the bus at different points up the climb.

The scenery is spectacular and if you have the time you can marvel at the feats of the riders who have won stages of the Tour here, as each switchback is numbered and the signage honours one or two the riders who have done so. As I passed these signs I wondered whether after Wednesday, Cadel Evans would be honoured here alongside some of the tour greats - Lance Armstrong and Marco Pantani to name just a couple. Ironically, one of Cadel's biggest rivals in this year's race, Frank Schleck, has his name immortalised here after his win in 2006.

Alpe d'Huez is a tough climb but even as I climb it two days before the tour comes through the route is alive with spectators of all nationalities. Dutch corner is a highlight - set alongside the church in the village of Huez, there is even a monk who blesses all the cyclists who pass with water fresh from the glacier above. Not to mention the cyclists. They estimate that 1,000 cyclists a day climb the Alpe in summer. I've never seen so many cyclists in one day! It's like heaven!

Closer to the top of the climb got harder again, as the wind kicked in, the spectators thinned out and the altitude made it cooler. The photographers took a snapshot after frightening me - I wasn't expecting to see men in fluoro safety vests in the middle of the road. When they started calling to me, "madamoiselle, madamoiselle..." I wondered what kind of emergency lay ahead of me. They followed with "You have a beautiful smile" and pointed a camera at me, I soon realised what was going on!

I reached the summit, I think in around 1:40 or so and befriended the Robbie McEwan fan I'd met a few hours before on the tour bus, after commenting on his Silence kit and Ridley bike. Richard was consulting a map to find our hotel - very handy!

The summit of Alpe d'Huez is notthe same as the TDF stage end, so Richard and I continued through the township as I recalled Phil Liggett's commentary... "This might be the recognised end of the climb to Alpe d'Huez but the riders still have almost 2kms to ride to the end of today's race, and it's all uphill!"

As we rode through the town we came across one of the other tour groups, and Dave McKenzie (ex Aussie pro rider and SBS commentator). He took the time to chat about the tour, SBS coverage, and what the next few days might hold for the riders, which was a bit of a buzz. Richard and I continued on to our hotel, where KKB had already checked in.

France tour Day 1

Our first day in France sees just a short ride from our hotel near the Airport through the village of Mitry Mory. A total of 30ks.

I am initially a little concerned about the pace set... will I be able to keep up on the rides that are to follow?

Back to the hotel to watch the tour from the bar. It's bittersweet with Aussie Simon Gerrans getting the stage win, but Cadel losing yellow.

Alpe D'Huez awaits...

Well, the Athletic Powerhouse is off this morning to France for a week following the TDF and the Alpe D'Huez Triathlon. I'll post when I can but please think of me on Wednesday 30, when I battle the Alpes and altitude for the triathlon. It won't be much of a taper, riding every day and eating rich French food... but it's all part of the experience. Au revoir!

Cadel 08 on TV!!

Yes! Some of my mates are already over in France cycling the Pyrenees. How exciting it was to see them on TV, in the scrum of fans fighting for an autograph...

Andy was there for the start of the stage in Carcassonne and was wearing his Cadel 08 shirt while eagerly awaiting the disembarkment of Cadel, the Yellow Jersey holder, from his Silence Lotto team bus.

I was so excited for him when he emailed through that when Cadel finally emerged, he saw them in their shirts and waved! So they are working! Just a few days till KKB and I get over there too. Go Cadel!

How many sleeps to go?

9 till my last day at work...
11 till I jump on a plane...
13 till my first ascent of Alpe d'Huez...
14 till the big one...
19 till the Yellow Jersey is awarded on the Champs Elysees...
21 till I attempt to become the first non professional Aussie girl to finish the Alpe d'Huez Long Course Triathlon...

Me acknowledging TQ acknowledging me...

This past weekend I was awarded the "Volunteer of the Year - Technical Official" by Triathlon Queensland. Of course, I was extremely flattered that the Technical Committee would nominate me, let alone endorse me as the most outstanding.

When I was introduced as the Technical Official of the year, I found it interesting that most of the achievements the MC talked about related to my competing - finishing Ironman, and also that I was shortly to jet off for my next conquest in France. Maybe it just sounded that way to me, because I was surprised that they would mention my life as a competitor at all.

Perhaps its acknowledgment that you don't have to be one or the other, that being both is more valued by the organisation. If so, I couldn't agree more. Triathlon needs more unity...

Interestingly, TQ took a brave step that night in not only acknowledging an athlete as a TO, but also acknowledging Ironman and 70.3 competitors as world representatives.

To me, the stand TQ took in doing this is more deserving of an award, than my modest contribution to the sport.

A different perspective

This last weekend I drove out to support KKB at Insomnia.

It was out at Kurwongbah, off Petrie-Dayboro Road. I regularly ride this road - I even have a pet name for it... referring to it affectionately as the "nine hills of death".

Somehow, it all looked different on Saturday. I don't know whether it was the fact I was a motorist rather than a cyclist; or whether it was that it was a different time of day. I looked around at the countryside almost wistfully, sometimes smugly thinking to myself,

"It's taken me almost an hour to drive here, and I usually ride!".

It was kind of weird, but satisfying, to get a different perspective on an old favourite.

Going for Gold

I had a disappointing weekend off the bike, I felt unwell and not up to three hours on the wind trainer with my training buddies. But today I was back into it with my usual Tuesday session of a strength mag trainer session and short run off the bike.

After an hour and a half or so on the mag trainer, I don't quite know what comes over me. It might only be a kilometre run out and back, but it's a brutal kilometre uphill and I attack it like a madman.

These last couple of weeks as I've bolted up the street gasping for breath I've had flashbacks from the The Coolangatta Gold... the scene where Joss McWilliam's character does his secret squirrel training in a banana plantation. He sprints up this massive hill, ducking and weaving through banana trees like a prize fighter...
...which kind of begs the question - why this scene and not the famous scene from Rocky, where he runs up the stairs triumphantly? Surely it would make better reading on The Triathlete Chronicles... does anyone who's reading this even remember The Coolangatta Gold?

Off the top of my head I can think of a three good reasons...
  1. I've never actually seen Rocky
  2. Joss McWilliam is hotter than Sly
  3. Most people think Ironman means surf life saving anyway, so why the hell not!
And... "Going for Gold" has quite a ring to it, and the perfect title for a blog post! Then again, maybe I've got "Rocks in my Head"...

When nature calls

Nature called me yesterday but I didn't listen.

Showers had been forecast all weekend and when I woke up to a relatively clear sky I knew I should get my long run in yesterday rather than putting it off until Saturday as I have been. I just couldn't though. I made every excuse in the book - it will rain, I'm tired, I should go to work early... but really, I was just being lazy.

So this morning when I woke up again to no rain, even though the sky was ominous, I knew I there were no excuses that would cut it.

I got ready quickly, maybe too quickly, and set off towards the city along the bike path.

Nature called again today about 4ks into my run. This isn't the first time the Athletic Powerhouse has been in this dilemma, and to this day KKB still asks me which is "the poo house" every time we're in the vicinity of where I relied on the kindness of strangers for a comfort stop a couple of years back.

There weren't many options for relief today though so I kept going as best I could, racking my brain for a solution. Closer to the CBD I remembered a gym just up from the river so took the appropriate exit.

I'll admit it, part of me was hoping they would refuse me entry, not being a member and all, just so I could have a bit of a rant about Fitness First right here on the Triathlete Chronicles. But most of me was ecstatic when they signed me in and directed me up the stairs to the Ladies.

Even with this major win, mother nature had the last laugh. I was still a good few ks from home when a downpour saw me drenched from head to toe, punishing me for scorning her the previous day.

You really can't beat mother nature.

Not another one!

Yes, another picture of the Glasshouse Mountains... (yawn...)

I couldn't resist stopping to take this on Sunday's long ride. Mt Coonowrin is one of the most remarkable and distinctive of the Glasshouse Mountains and I was surprised at how close it was when I rounded a corner somewhere on Old Gympie Road.

The ride itself - 144ks from Petrie through Dayboro, Mt Mee, D'Aguilar, Woodford, Peachester, Beerwah and back through Caboolture and Narangba to Petrie. A couple of nice climbs and, at the bottom of Mt Mee, a pinchy climb that, I was told "is more like a punch really...".

It was a bit full on but with a warning like that I was expecting something killer...

Although it was a long day, it was a good guide as to how the big day in France is going to feel, though I suspect France's ride will be a little more vertical...

Only one month to go...

I know, the Tour and Alpe D'Huez Triathlon aren't till July. What I'm talking about is the Winter Solstice.

Every year at this time I eagerly await it, the shortest day of the year. It means that, even though it doesn't get warmer yet, at least it starts getting lighter.

This year, according to Wikipedia, it falls on the 20th June, so there's literally only a month to go...

Cadel Cheer Squad

In preparation for our pilgramage to the slopes of the French Alpes to cheer on Cadel Evans in the Tour de France, I've designed a couple of shirts with the Design'O'Matic at Remo General Store.

Check out Cadel 08 and Evans 08 designs.

You can even buy one if you want...

Death Defying

Yesterday was a huge day which started at 4.05am with a feeling of apprehension, and ended at around 8pm, hoping I hadn't caught my death (as my Nana used to say).

The early rise was to drive for an hour to meet friends at Tamborine Village at 6am for a 115k ride up Mt Tamborine and then O'Reillys. It was a pretty tough day in the saddle - and with just over 2000m of climbing all up, there were some killer descents without much protection that gave me cause to think just a little bit about self preservation.

I was looking forward to a Hoodoo Gurus gig at the Doomben races that afternoon, and kept myself occupied wondering what they might play... so during the tough bits of the ride Death Ship kept popping into my head - a song about love gone wrong, but also just a little bit of hope.

After a hectic afternoon we got to the races not long before the Gurus took the stage at 5pm so I found my spot at the front of the stage and waited eagerly.

They got through The Right Time, I Want You Back and Waking Up Tired but at some stage during their fourth song, Death Defying, the rain started. The song ends with the words

If there's one thing that I've learned
It's the point of no return
And if that's to be our fate
Now's no time to hesitate

Collectively, it seemed that the other fans and I thought this was a good omen - and that they would continue despite the apparent dangers. We were all drenched... it was past the point of no return for us!

Ironically, it seems the health and safety folks thought that the rain did in fact make now the exact time to hesitate. The gurus were told to leave the stage in fear of electrocution. Alas, the Hoodoo Gurus would not be defying death today.

Lucky for me I'd already done my share of Death Defying on the slopes of two of Brisbane's best hills... and it seems on waking up this morning (yes, tired) that my fear of my death of a cold is not imminent either...

AndyCamp Day 3

Day Three was the doozy. 117ks of solid climbing, refer to the bikely route for details.

Between the 35k and 75k marks the profile is distinctly uphill, and lumpy, so with an overall elevation climb of 500ks - there is much more climbing than that. I am happy to admit now that I was at breaking point at about 74.5ks. Finally though I spotted the sag wagon waiting ahead, with the driver there to cheer me up the last hill. Yes, the LAST hill!

The next 20ks was almost for free - a very nice downhill right through Peachester to Beerwah. From there it wasn't far home and I was grateful for that!

AndyCamp Alpes Edition for me was 307ks of riding over 3 days. I've never clocked this kind of mileage before, so I am well proud of my effort.

The photo - yet another of the glasshouse mountains, this time a northerly perspective from Mary Cairncross Park.

AndyCamp Day 2

Day Two of AndyCamp had another 120ks scheduled - see the bikely route.

I knew fairly early on that I couldn't face it all, so had a plan to turn towards home at Kin Kin and do a nice easy 70ks with the intention of saving my legs for Day Three. I was satisfied with my efforts both ways on the little climb between Pomona and Kin Kin - and such beautiful scenery as well to keep me occupied.

After cycling back to Tewantin three of us went into Noosa for a fantastic breakfast (the thought of scrambled eggs was the only thing that had got me through the 35ks home) and then laid on the beach for the afternoon. It was all I could do - with just under 200ks in my legs over the last two days, I was too sleepy to move! At the end of the day I felt quite rested though, and thought I just might be able to handle Day Three.

AndyCamp Day 1

The Alpes Edition of AndyCamp started with a 120k ride from Yandina through Kenilworth, Brooloo, Imbil, Belli, Cooroy and back to Yandina. Check the bikely map and elevation.

There was lots of climbing, most significantly in the stretch just before Cooroy. We rode along the ridge of a range that just kept going up! The views were, if not spectacular, quite pleasant and certainly beats most of the rides around the Brisbane 'burbs!

Although I felt pretty good through most of the ride, I had this little voice in the back of my head wondering how on earth I was going to back this up for the next two days...? But I concentrated on the task at hand and just kept riding.

One day down, two to go...

Dirt & Dust... it's a must.

My latest triathlon adventure was like no other to date.

Julia Creek's Dirt & Dust Triathlon was started by a group of enterprising locals back in the mid 90's, with an aim to put Julia Creek on the map. The Festival is now a weekend smorgasbord of not only triathlon, but also bog snorkelling, bullriding, horse racing, not to mention Australia's Best Butt competition.

I travelled to Julia Creek with the CEO of Triathlon Queensland. I was the race referee, meaning it was my job to make sure the Elites, racing for a $2,500 first prize, had a fair race. It was the first time I'd been given this responsibility without another more experienced technical official on hand to help with any curly ones, and more importantly, it was the first time the Dirt & Dust triathlon had had the benefit of a "qualified" TO. So like many of the competitors, I also felt the nerves of a 'first timer'.

Although the distances seem harmless enough, the race is no walk in the park. The 800m swim is in a muddy outback creek. The ride is 27ks on a straight route into town (on Sunday this meant 27ks into a rather nasty headwind). By the time the 5k run starts, the sun is nearing its midday apex.

I take my hat off to all competitors in this event. None more so than my friend's mate Burke. He'd spent 5 months training for this, his first triathlon. In the process he'd reportedly lost 15 or 20 kilos. He told me after the race that he ran all of the run for fear that if he stopped he'd not be able to start again. He also admitted to having just a bit of a tear in his eye when he crossed what I hope is the first of many finish lines for him.

In fitting with the vibe of the weekend, the presentations for the Triathlon took place between the 3rd and 4th at the Julia Creek Racecourse that afternoon. We all proudly watched as Burke, to his surprise, collected his 2nd place prize in the Clydesdale category. It was his lucky day - the race organisers threw in the 3rd prize pack as well because, well, there were only two entrants in his category.

It was my lucky day too. I had the honour of witnessing what in my opinion is one of Australia's great destination triathlons. More importantly, I had a unique opportunity to offer my advice to help a small country community build on an event that is already one of the biggest on their calendar.

If you're looking for a race that's off the beaten track, both in location and ambiance, Dirt 'n Dust is certainly a must.

Thanks for the memories

I was a TO at Mooloolaba on the weekend and for the first time I was thanked by an athlete for volunteering for the sport.

I was surprised at how good It felt to be appreciated in this way. As a technical official you are quite often on the receiving end of anything but thanks, especially if you are sent out on the bike to be a draft official... or even worse, stationed in Penalty Box!

Even so, like most volunteers, I don't TO for the thanks, I do it because I perceive a need to deliver a service I believe in. The politics of the governing bodies of triathlon aside, I love the sport of triathlon, in all its forms. I predict that when I look back on my life in later years, some of my fondest memories will be steeped in triathlon.

So, no, I don't TO for the thanks I get, but I'm already thankful for my triathlon memories.

It's on the List

I've published Vaujany-Alpe d'Huez Triathlon to my Triathlon Links list so I'm now 100% committed. The only way a race link gets off that list is by me being able to move it to the Triathlons I've Done list...

We are one, but we are many

An interesting encounter with some "cyclists" this morning up at Mt Mee. I'd fallen off the back of my pack (nothing uncommon there) and was concerned I'd missed them as I passed through Mt Mee township. I pulled over to call them when the two "cyclists" came by from the other direction.

They correctly diagnosed my predicament and offered some helpful advice that there was a lookout a couple of ks ahead.

"Were there any cyclists there?" I asked.

"Hmmm... there were a few triathletes up there. 2 or 3 of them."

I was a little perplexed at this chaps choice of words. It was as if he wasn't sure whether he should consider my triathlete friends as cyclists or not. OK, so triathletes might like to poke a bit of fun at roadies' penchant for white nicks and long socks - but generally I thought we were all at one with one another. Am I wrong?

Maybe next time I have a workmate or neighbour bail me up about what a danger "cyclists" are on the road, I should agree with them - but be sure to make the point that "triathletes", on the other hand, are models of consideration, lawfulness and patience when riding their bicycles on the road?

Something in the air

It's a great time of year to be out training.

With two weeks until Mooloolaba and three 'til the Australian Ironman in Port Macquarie, the roads and bike paths are full of athletes putting the finishing touches on their training.

Finely tuned athletes, testing their new race outfits, and gaining that extra bit of confidence from what they know is one of their last big sessions before they start tapering - resting their bodies and focusing more on the psychological than the physical side of their race.

There are also a fair share of weekend warriors out there who look like they're just starting out - perhaps sneaking in a run or ride to convince themselves they really can make good on that drunken pact they made with their mate, to run the 10ks or cycle the 40 in a team event.

Whatever their motivation, whatever the goal, I often experience a wave of comraderie for those out there with me. Especially on days like today, so close to race day, there's something in the air that's almost palpable... a mixture of anticipation, self-confidence, nervousness and excitement.

More than anything, there's a sense of positivity in the air. Go on... breathe it in...

Mountains all around

Rode up Mt Mee yesterday, and was delighted to see that Mt Beerwah (at least I think it's Mt Beerwah) was part of the view.

OK, so Mt Beerwah is a little unclear. Admittedly it wasn't the clearest day but I've decided that if I am to remain serious about this blog, I will have to invest in a mobile phone that takes better photos!

Guinea Pig

The tickets are booked, the plans made.

All remains now is to train for the Alps! Our longest day cycling is 140ks taking in Col D'Galibier, Col D'Telegraph, Col de la Croix and Alpe d'Huez.

When the planning started I thought I'd be able to devote my time to cycling, but we happened to find a triathlon over there just a few days after the Tour. So now I have to prepare for a 2.2k swim and a 22k run, either side of a 115k ride through the Alps.

I've decided to stay with my original plan of mainly cycling, with a run and a swim each week, plus a run off the bike. My training schedule will be flexible, so I can train with friends as much as possible, as a contrast to the lonely miles I clock up when training for Ironman.

It will be a test of my commitment and discipline to be able to train with a less rigid schedule - but sometimes you have to experiment a little and see how it works out.

Older? No, wiser.

I've just started mountain biking as a bit of cross training.

Those of you who know the Athletic Powerhouse may be alarmed at this turn of events. After all - contrary to what images my online alias conjures up - I'm not the most confident or proficient cyclist on two wheels.

But there is nothing like being out on the road, whether it be riding somewhere for coffee with a group of friends or clocking up the big ks solo, in pursuit of 'the perfect ironman'. After just a few turns off road, I'm sure I'll feel this way about MTB too - once the fear of impacting a tree fades just a little... I've already sensed a freedom of being out in the bush that you don't get when you're restricted to the shoulder of a busy road.

I've ventured into MTB at an interesting time in my life. As a woman in my mid-thirties I am just starting to grapple with my own mortality. While not an issue for me personally, several of my friends are struggling with their ticking clock. On my last visit to my hairdresser, I was told that my ever-so-slightly thinning hair is normal for women as we "get older", and, well, in general, things just aren't as they used to be.

Just after my birthday last year, I told one of my long-time friends that my issue with turning 35 was physical. She quickly reminded me that I did Ironman triathlon for fun - clearly, I was in the best physical shape of my life.

(Of course, she was right.)

MTB is just another chapter in this journey. Like all the other ones before it, it poses some risk. And like those before, if the payoff is greater, the risk is worth it.

I can't think of a better payoff than challenging my fear of getting old.

Chicken or Egg?

Yes, it's been a long time.

I've agonised about this post because I'm supposed to write about my training and racing - about my quest for the perfect Ironman. Not having trained, least of all for an Ironman, I've struggled with what I should write about?

In reality, there's plenty. We're planning our next adventure, a trip to France to cycle some of the stages of le Tour. I've recently bought a mountain bike. So in reality, there is heaps of excitement, lots to look forward to, and more than a little apprehension about whether I can do these things. Not unlike how I feel when I start dreaming of my next Ironman finish.

Usually what appears on this blog is the aftermath. The pondering of my training and racing. This time, I'm hoping it's like the chicken and the egg - that my writing can inspire my training rather than what usually comes first.

Top of the world

My first ride back from Busselton... Hmmm....

Perhaps it shouldn't have been so long between drinks, so to speak, but, well, it's been Christmas, and it was an Ironman... surely I deserved a few weeks off...?

We set out from Maleny on a 90Km ride. It certainly seemed manageable, probably because I hadn't looked at the profile...

When we turned off after Kenilworth to take Obi Obi Rd across to Mapleton, we knew it was going to be fairly uphill. What an understatement! I'm not good with gradients, but the 15% bit was easy in comparison to what followed.

Just one other was with me on the "climb" so I stayed on for as long as I could. Which wasn't that long given my recent cycling hiatus. A few cars passed us, but we resolved not to accept "outside assistance" (after all, that would be cheating) so instead we took our shoes off to get more traction on the steep incline. This made it seem marginally easier at least...

We regrouped at Mapleton to find that all but 4 of the group had resorted to pushing our bikes up the neverending climb. Kudos to James who managed the feat on his time trial bike! How, I'm sure I'll never know.

The view from the top of the range are stunning. I had to stop and snap a shot to share here. It's not quite the top of the world, but these kinds of rewards for hours of toil are pretty special.