Thursday, October 22, 2020

Spring Has Sprung

 This one is a little out of left field for me as I am not usually a flora or fauna watcher but here in Brisbane in Spring you can't help but notice the Jackaranda trees blooming everywhere. Their bright purple flowers are like a beacon right across the city and suburbs. I also thought Geoff might like it. ;)

New Farm Park, which is right on the river, nestled alongside the city of Brisbane has a large concentration of these beauties and I thought an early morning ride to catch them during sunrise might make for an enjoyable pedal and some great photos.

Having the paths to myself, in the cool of pre dawn, was delightful and I made it to the park with plenty of time to spare. 

So, as I had three batteries for the drone I had a play around with it. I don't get it out much and needed the practice!

Pre sunrise, killing time

In fact, because of a hill on the other side of the river it took the sun quite a while after the "official" sunrise to poke it's head up and bring the colours out on the Jackarandas lining the park's ring road.

The sun finally peeking over the hill.

I set the drone to take time lapse photos and even though it doesn't have a great camera. I was happy with the results. I mean, how can you not take great photos when you have these trees to work with?!

The ride back to the car was much busier but still pleasant as it was a nice cool, clear morning. The old Story bridge looked great in battleship grey this morning.

Excuse the music er noise in the video. "Free" for a reason.....


Tuesday, October 20, 2020


 "Ok, so what the fig does that title mean" I hear you ask? 

Well, some dude (Paul Heymans) organised a MTB race/ride along the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail now that the whole trail is complete and without the missing link in the middle bit, that had existed for years. I have ridden various bits of the rail trail over the last 10 years or so but never the whole 161km length at once. But this race existed on the premise that "if a lot is good, then more must be better"! Hence the Times (x) 2 bit.

I recall scoffing at this ride two years ago when it was first mooted. 161km (x2) and bugger all climbing? "How hard could that be" I mused at the time. 

Roll on two years and with everything about 2020 pretty well FUCKED (technical term), about two weeks ago I thought "why the hell not". I mean, I'm not particularly fit and have done exactly zero training for a 322km-in-24-hours ride, so why the hell not? I need to salvage something from the ashes of this year.

I proceeded to get my Tour Divide bike out of mothballs as it runs a dynamo hub and can run a light all night long for free (virtually) - oh, did I mention the race starts at 7pm so the first 11 hours are in the dark? Upon close inspection one of the front wheel spoke nipples had sheared. A quick visit to Troy at Area 54 Outfitters (Troy built the BNT for me for the Tour Divide Race in 2015) and he had both my wheels fixed up and ready to roll. A quick Friday night camping trip with Deano the week before proved a handy shake down ride.

I have been working the warehouse job full time and squeezing in any flying the company are offering, so I have been pretty bushed each day for the last 2-3 months. In anticipation of a big night I took the day off (and spent all morning running around taking care of last minute race prep) but was still a bit rushed getting to the start at Esk on the Friday evening. I was there an hour before the start but a pre race hamburger took 25 minutes from the local cafe and before I knew it I was trying to find the race starting line in the dark. I told myself to just chill as what would it matter if I started 15 minutes late? After all, the race went for 24 hours.....

I ended up being ready to race at about 1845 so had 15 minutes to spare. I don't bother with the pre race gathering (nerves sessions) anymore and find it much more calming to just rock up very close to the start time anyway. You can always chat to people as you ride along after the start.

Now, the start actually came at 1858 (2 minutes early) and I was still right at the back of the 49 starters. I actually wanted to be a bit closer to the front because I figured those at the back would be chewing dust for the first few kilometres as it is SO dry here in Oz at the moment. 

So, after the start I just pedalled slowly and let the group get away from me. There was a bit of a breeze which blew the dust aside but when the trail turned into wind or downwind the dust was blinding and choking - so I just slowed even more. These races are finished by saving your legs for later.

I caught a few riders as they stopped by the trail side to adjust their gear. I caught one guy at Mt Hallen and said "g'day". Nothing. "Hows it going?" Nothing. Maybe he had ear phones in or maybe he was just rude. I couldn't tell in the dark. Anyway, about 500m further just as we crested a hill and we picking up speed I heard "ptsssshhh-shh-shhh-shhhh" as he got a punture in his front tyre. I asked if he was ok but got no response again - so I rode on. Gotta be a big boy and look after yourself on rides like this.

Shortly after I caught Troy, who was riding as a roving marshal/mechanic in the ride. Troy is normally in full on Iditarod training by now but with international travel on hold and no clear path in sight he was taking a breather from training (relatively - this WAS still a 322km ride!)

I dropped Troy after a while (or he backed of to enjoy the solitude) and leaving Lowood I caught Chevonne, who I rode with a bit last year in the Brisbane 500 ride. We chatted for a while before she dropped me on some gentle climbs. I was determined not to go too hard, too early but I also suk on climbs at the moment.

Coming into the Ipswich area the lead riders were coming back the other way. That put them about 15km in front of me so far (over about 60km ridden so far)! Far out!

I caught Chevonne again just before the Wulkuraka turn around point and she rolled into the station just a minute or two behind me. I ate some lollies, had a drink and took a photo before headeing back North. It was a warm night and I was sweating. I had not needed to pick up water yet and as usual this meant I was carrying too much. I had eaten almost nothing for the first 67km either....

Heading North I passed many, many riders rolling into the Wulkuraka turn around point and was a bit perlexed as to where they came from. I didn't recall passing so many others.

I settled into an even gentler pace, especially on the climbs as my legs were starting to hurt by now. I had taken the risky move of having a remedial massage on  my legs early Friday morning as they were quite tight/tired from a year of riding every day. The risk was that there would be no recovery day for my poor legs and right now it was hurting quite badly along my quads where the masseues had knuckled into them. Hmmmmm... not good.

The organisers of this ride had arranged for us to have our pre prepared drop bags delivered to Fernvale, Moore and Yarraman. As I rolled into Fernvale I only wanted the cheese and bacon roll and the can of iced coffee out of my Fernavale bag. Scoffing these down, I topped up my water bottle and filled it with my chosen electrolyte (Synabol Extreme) while chatting with the checkpoint volunteers. They were super cheery, which is always a great thing to pep riders up who may not be seeing the entire joys of the ride.

New Lockyer Creek bridge deck! Here is the old bridge deck in 2014.

I put my head down and just chugged along thinking I would reassess my plans once I got back to Esk. I had plans to change my knicks, eat and resupply before setting off again. I rode alone and saw no other riders for this section which was nice but being alone in one's own thoughts exacerbates all the aches and pains.....

Rolling into Esk I was right by my car (I had parked under a street light right by the trail so I could organise myself easily). I was a bit disappointed and surprised to see that it was just after 1am. Six hours for 134km?!! It was all dirt and I was on mountainbike tyres and not super fit, so it was ok I guess.

I put some fresh knicks on, slathering the chamois cream on very thickly ;), ate some stuff, drank some coffee milk and put my spray vest on as it was getting quite cold. In fact, riding out of Esk was bloody freezing! It didn't help that the first 7-8km of trail consisted of quite a lot of railway ballast and on my fully rigid bike it shook the heck out of a very cold me.

It was 18km to Toogoolawah, which was mostly billiard table smooth after the initial crappy section out of Esk. The next section to Harlin seemed to take forever and it didn't help that one of the roving marshals passed me like I was standing still (he was on an e-bike) while I was trying to eat a cheese and crackers pack as I bounced along, swerving all over the trail! 

Somewhere around here most of my aches and pains subsided! My legs stopped hurting! My arms stopped being sore from crouching in the aero bars and even my butt seemed to stop hurting! I think the genius of this ride is starting at 7pm and putting in the hard yards in the cool cold of the night.

I rolled into Moore looking for my drop bag and a coffee hit from it's contents. Apart from the cheese and bacon roll there was nothing else I really wanted or needed. 

I was slightly bemused to see my Moore AND my Yarraman drop bags lying side by side. Too bad if I needed it at Yarraman!

On the plus side, I would have a canned coffee and cheese and bacon roll on the way back South! I left everything else as I was still carrying heaps of stuff from my Fernvale bag, 90km earlier! (I was too cheap to leave it behind, so carried the weight penalty)

The next section to Linville is only 7km, then it is the climb for 22ish km up to Blackbutt - my favourite section of the entire ride. There were a heap of caravans free camping at the old Linville station. Awesome to see! Climbing the trail toward Blackbutt I started to catch another rider. After 5-10 minutes I finally caught him...or her. It was Chevonne again! We chatted for a bit then I slowly climbed away from here. There are a few big dips into creeks along here where the old rail bridge has been removed and I absolutely bombed down these. This is where I got away from Chevonne as I had noticed earlier in the night she is very careful on the technical sections.

Around here I was passed by the race leader, Joris, who was powering back down the hill toward the finish in Esk. This put him ~ 50-60km ahead of me!! These guys are animals!!

First light was breaking as Wayne Thompson, another RATS member caught me, about half way to Blackbutt. We chatted for quite a while as we hadn't seen each other all year. Wayne was rocking a single speed bike which indicated how strong a rider he is. I dips me lid to him!

I stopped in Blackbutt briefly to fill my water bottle, my first refill since Esk (I was running a litre or so in my Camelbak) so lost Wayne here. Chevonne also caught me and we too'd and fro'd, catching the first of the sun's rays, all the way to the northern terminus of the ride at Yarraman. 

As I rolled into the Yarraman station I was attacked by a viscious little magpie, my first of the ride (because it was night prior to this). Another few riders rolled in and were similarly greeted by the little bastard! A few of us chilled for 5 minutes but as I had no drop bag (remember, it was back in Moore) I decided to get rolling and hit the Blackbutt bakery for some breakfast. Before rolling out I attached a couple of lengths of silver strip to the back of my helmet. This is apparently the best magpie pecking deterent going around. It won't stop them swooping but it scares them off from making contact, which can be bloody painful!

Most of the ride back to Blackbutt slopes downhill, which was much appreciated. I rode into Blackbutt with Chevonne again but bid her farewell as I had the bakery on my mind. I was looking forward to a bacon and egg roll and a coffee but they didn't do rolls so it was a delicious curry beef pie, washed down with a chocolate milk and chased by a bit of caramael slice. 

No seats outside due to Covid restrictions.

Caramel slice.....YUM!

As I rolled down the trail to Linville I began passing other riders with a small white number plate. "What the hell were they doing" I asked myself? Two events on the trail in the one day? This trail is popular! Passing a rider a bit more slowly I noticed that the number plates stated "150km". Ahhh, yes, there was a 150km ride that started at 6am. I also noted with some slight bemusement a few 322km riders still struggling up the hill with them. These guys would have a long, hot day in the saddle before they got back to Esk!

(Turns out that a bushfire closed the trail shortly after I passed through and all these riders were shuttled by bus from Blackbutt to Linville on the return leg to avoid the hazard. I would have been bummed out to have missed the opportunity to do the full 322km under my own steam)

At Linville I ducked into the loo. When I came out a woman walking past began chatting, asking about the magpies (they are THE talking point on the rail trail such are their numbers and relentlessness) and we got onto fitness and being fit-for-life in general and it was refreshing to speak to somebody else who "got it" with what we were doing with this ride.

The 7km to Moore was mostly uneventful, until the outskirts of Moore where I was visciously attacked by several magpies. These things aren't just protecting their young. They get some sort of enjoyment out of "going" cyclists for sure! The silver tape seemed to keep them from making contact but I did wave my arm at them a lot just to be sure.

At Moore I raided both my drop bags and again, being a tight arse, I loaded up my bike with all of the bars, nuts and lollies that I could fit. I had waaaaayyy over catered for this ride and was eating nowhere near what I thought I might.

Heading out of Moore I was mercilessly swooped by the black and white terrorists for quite a while. Then, once they left me alone I began to notice that it was warming up quite a bit. The rail trail has no tree cover so there is nowhere to hide. Considering that it was about 9am and I had been riding for about 14 hours straight, I was feeling pretty good. Not tired despite being awake all night and no major aches or pains to this point!

I stopped at the service station in Harlin to get a cold Ginger Beer and a bottle of water to top up my supply. While stopped some guy in a car told me to be careful in the creek crossing as the ambulance had just carried another rider away with some serious head/facial injuries. "Yep, I sure would" I told him and wondered to myself if the lack of sleep had caused the crash. (Turns out he rolled his front tyre off the rim at the bottom as all the bridge-less crossings have a stupidly designed dogleg at the bottom, just as you hit maximum velocity for the climb out the other side. I bet these were NOT designed by cyclists!)

There are a few climbs out of Harlin toward Toogoolawah which are tough with around 280km already in the legs. I walked the steepest climb just to give some different muscles some use. The scenery was nice, if dry looking.

The rail tunnel was pretty cool, both literally and figuratively speaking!

After the tunnel is the section of trail that the E-Bike marshal passed me on last night. It seems to go on forever and ever. This morning was taking even longer as I watched the GPS tick up to the 300km mark. Eventually, it got there!!

Woo Hoo!!

Just out of Toogoolawah a family who were cycling the trail started hollering and hooting "only 18km to go!!"

Wow, only 18km more? I could do this!

In fact, I caught two more riders about 10km prior to Esk and dropped them like they were standing still. I must admit, that made me feel good as they were on cyclocross bikes and I was dragging my 2.2 mtb tyres along all this way.

Riding into the finish at the old Esk railway station I got a small cheer from the volunteers and from the racers who had just finished in front of me. Chevonne and Wayne were there, finishing about 40 minutes before me. My time was 17 hours and 10 minutes which I was happy with as I honestly didn't know if I could finish this thing. Even at peak fitness in the Tour Divide Race my biggest day was "only" 275km, so 322km in that time was great. Despite being up all night, I honestly felt like I could have kept going and if I had someone to pick me up at the southern end, I might have!!

Here is my Strava log of the ride/race.

Crazy stuff but you know what? I really, really enjoyed this ride. I gave myself almost no chance but I invoked my Number 1 rule - Never.Give.Up!!