Saturday, June 30, 2012

Spectacular Mornings, Impressive Turnouts and Frostbite... Is This What People Do When They Don't Ride Bikes???

I've often wondered what people do with their time when they don't ride bikes... I got some idea this last couple of weeks... They work hard (not that I don't usually), they sleep in and they go out on dinner dates. Yet for some bizarre reason, regardless of the fact that I am in my "off season", my life still seems to revolve around bikes and bike-related activities. 
Last weekend I had the pleasure of sitting through two intense days of a Level 1 MTB Coaching Course run by Bike NZ. Not only did I learn some cool stuff, but it was a reunion of sorts with a bunch of mountain biking peeps I haven't seen in ages, including coach Sadie. It was the first time I had seen her since I came third at world champs, and there was much to discuss, debrief and plan, and also much to be excited about still! Our Saturday evening was a raucous affair made memorable with about 12 rowdy mountain bikers piling into Cafe Cuba for a feed, then an assault on the new "toothpick" artwork outside (I think we have discovered it's true purpose... We managed to fit 8 people in amongst it's long, red antennae... Surely this was put here to tempt drunk students???) and then topped off with a game of "Tractor"... This sort of behavior is highly unorthodox for me... My usual Saturday night would entail some Facebooking followed by an early night to bed for riding the next day.

So now, all that's left to do is a small assessment and I'm a Bike NZ Level 1 registered coach! Scary concept huh?

Tuesday night was my first photo and story presentation from my trip in front of my home crowd in Palmerston North. I stayed up until 2am the night before trying to get Powerpoint to behave itself to no avail, and only discovered at 5pm the afternoon of the presentation that I could get it to work if I split my presentation into 4 separate Powerpoint files. With no time for a test run, I rocked up with my thumb drive and laptop at the hospital education centre and just crossed my fingers that it would work (thank God it did)! In the true spirit of my trip, the generosity and support on the evening was outstanding. A package arrived on Tuesday from Russ Baker of CORC with two huge blown-up photos of me that he had put together from 24 hour solo world champs (thanks Russ!). Door prizes kindly donated by Yeti, Ayup Lights, Xalt, Pedal Pushers, Camelbak and Adidas were well-received by a crowd of around 60 curious guests who, whilst only requested to make a gold coin donation, contributed $135.50 on the evening (that's more than a gold coin donation on average! Thanks everyone!). The proceeds will be donated to Karen Hanlen's Olympic Games campaign. I have been asked on a number of occasions now why I don't use the donations towards my own riding, and the answer is simple... On my trip, there were so many people who made such generous and heart-felt gestures towards me, and I felt that in the same spirit, my photo evenings gave me the opportunity to do just that for someone else.
 I was blown away by the turnout... And was super nervous. There is always that niggling concern in the back of your head that you are going to organise a huge party and have noone show up... Fortunately, this was not the case on Tuesday. I was also really stoked to see Kashi from Yeti Cycles in the crowd, and Barb from Xalt... Two people who have showed unwavering support for my riding since the conception stages of the Cape Epic early in 2011. I showed a bunch of photos and a few videos, told some stories and got a few laughs. The feedback I received afterwards was amazing and very much appreciated. I was really humbled by the number of people who came along and after my initial nerves, was really excited to be sharing my experiences with everyone. It was really special for me to relive the experience like that, too... It's so easy to go on a trip like that, come home and then immerse yourself back into everyday life and work and forget just how amazing and precious that experience was. Thanks to everyone who came along for letting me share it with you! Next evening is in Wellington on the 16th of July at 7pm at the Southern Cross Garden Bar... I'm looking forward to it!
So in amongst an otherwise busy week at work, I squeezed in some gym time, a core workout here and there and even a run! Not a lot of riding though, so when my flight touched down at 6.15pm on Thursday evening back at home after a couple of days away in Auckland for work, I was itching for some two-wheeled action. I went home, threw the contents of the boot of my car in the hallway, loaded up my bike, lights and gear and set off towards Santoft, hoping to catch the MMBC crew who ride out there on Thursdays at 7.30pm. I arrived a bit late, but not one to waste a lovely evening, headed out by myself anyway. The night was relatively mild (about 8 degrees) and it was rather pleasant to be devoid of leg warmers and a jacket. Once I neared the end of a loop, I bumped into the rest of the group then set off on a second loop with Mike and Brendon, which turned into a bit of a smashfest for me whilst trying to hold their wheel. I was so stoked to be out in the forest enjoying an evening on the bike. I'd had a pretty hectic week so far... The ride seemed to disperse all that into the clear night sky.
With the weather for the weekend looking to be fine, I figured I wouldn't mind heading out for a long-ish ride on Saturday before the club XC race on Sunday. I hadn't been up Takapari Road in a while and hadn't really done any significant climbing since I got back from Europe, so Takapari road it was... I'm not sure what happened in my head after deciding that, because before long, I had the crazy idea to ride up in the pre-dawn darkness to watch the sun rise from one of the higher viewpoints on Takapari. I attained a partner in crime for the trip via Facebook and it was all go! Once I had started talking it up (and certainly once I had roped someone else into it), it had to be done, so Saturday morning, I was up at 4.30am and loaded into the car by 5am on my way to pick up Sheralee for the drive out to Pohongina Valley and the foot of the Ruahines.
It was bitterly cold as we pulled up on the side of Takapari road, but that was nothing compared to what we would experience right on sunrise with 800m more altitude. We set off in the darkness. My legs were screaming at me after my lunges workout at the gym the previous evening. It's funny how I seem to have this mindset of "I'm fit... I can do as much as I want and I'm invincible... How hard can it be???". Well, Takapari's steep pinches reminded me that it was hard enough that I probably shouldn't have been doing lunges a mere 12 hours earlier! As we climbed, we came across more and more ice. Puddles were frozen solid and cracked abruptly under my tyres as I rode over them, and the frozen ground sparkled under my lights like a thousand diamonds ingrained in the earth.

It was a truly beautiful morning. We watched dawn crack the horizon over the rolling hills of the farmland and the new day was upon us quicker than I had imagined it would be. As sunrise neared, the clouds started to roll across the top of the mountain and obscure our view of this glorious time of morning, so we descended back down until we found a suitable viewpoint unhindered by the clouds.
It was bloody cold... Spectacular, but cold. My GPS read minus one degree and I was sure it was a little colder than that once you took into account that the GPS sits right next to the lights on my handlebars, which generate a bit of heat. We watched the sun climb over the mountains in front of us and push it's way through the clouds... It was totally worth the early morning, the climb and suffering the cold. I love watching the sun rise. There is something so amazing about the way it seems to bathe everything with gentle newness.

We briefly discussed whether we would set off back up the road and climb the rest of the way to the top, or whether we would head back down to the car now we had seen our sunrise. My fingers were numb and painful, and I suspected climbing higher probably wasn't going to make them any warmer, so we decided to descend back down to the car. I reckon with wind chill, we would have been down well towards minus 5 degrees, and as we descended, I started losing dexterity in my fingers, and my knees where wobbling underneath me as I tried to stand up to descend. I wouldn't say I was concerned (I'm a tough little nutter), but I certainly knew I wasn't in a good way, and there was very little natural insulation on my scrawny body to protect me from the cold. By the time we got back to the car, my hands were throbbing and were so painful I felt like I was about to lose consciousness. I dumped my bike on the ground, jumped in the car and switched on the heater. Warming my hands back up was excruciating and brought quite a few tears to my eyes! Even later that afternoon, I still hadn't regained full feeling in the tips of my fingers. It was a real rule #5 morning, although I'm sure Sheralee would attest to the fact that there was certainly no game face for this one... The world in my immediate vicinity knew I was in the hurt box. Time for a new pair of toasty warm gloves!
By the time we packed up the car and headed into town for a fry-up brekky, I had returned to my usual spritely self, although somewhat tired and still a little cold. It was an interesting experience, to say the least, but in hindsight, maybe next time a better sunrise trip to save for Summer!

Having now done my ride so early in the morning, I was left with a full day at my disposal, and what better to do with a full day than ride my bike again??!! I loaded my dog, Paddi, into the car and headed out to Santoft for a cruisy little ride (because to be honest, my legs were feeling slightly smashed). Now, this is the first time my little puppy dog has featured in my blog, and she is truly just as crazy as me. She loves riding and followed me around for a good solid 10km lap before collapsing back into the car for the drive home. We also bumped into Mike and Emma while we were in the forest and they were busy clearing the track for tomorrow's club race (excellent work guys!!!).

So, riding out of my system for the day, I got the household chores under control, mowed the lawns and collapsed on the couch for a meal ready to hit the hay before heading out to Santoft again tomorrow. I guess that regardless of whether I'm racing or training or both or not at all, riding a bike, and the people I ride bikes with, are always going to be a really important part of my life... I'm one very lucky gal!!!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Icy Trails and Blue Skies

For those of you who don't know, I'm moving to Rotorua near the end of the year. As chance would have it, the company I work for are opening a new store in our fine mountain biking mecca, and I am lucky enough to have been appointed to head up the operation. Cool huh??

So I was making my way to Rotorua last Wednesday for a business trip with the Ninja in the back of the car and the Ayups charged and ready to go for some after-work action in the forest. I arrived quite late on Wednesday evening, a little bit pooped and headed out for a meal before returning to my hotel with the intention of crawling into bed with the heater on. Once I had a belly full of food, though, I couldn't get the thought of a crazy, late-night ride out of my head, so I kitted up and headed out the door at about 8pm for some trail goodness in the Redwoods. It was a beautiful clear night and exceptionally cold, with a frost already creeping across the ground. There were a few other riders cruising around, but mostly making their way out of the forest after their ride. I doubted that there were many other people as nuts as I was to start a ride that late. As I made my way further into the forest, the number of other lights passing me dwindled until I was well and truly alone (it occurred to me at this point that I probably should have told someone where I was going before I left!). I railed around corners in the dark, hearing nothing more than the crunch of my tyres on the ground and my breathing as I climbed. I remember thinking to myself "how amazing is this??? Being able to sift out the door this late at night and hit up single track like this! I'm gonna love living here!". I rolled in after my ride at about 10pm and crawled into a nice warm bed for work the next day.

After a Thursday full of work and house hunting, I hit up an early morning gym session on Friday at Golds Gym before heading to Zippys to catch up with Ra from NDuro... Whilst I am not at liberty to divulge the contents of our conversation, I must say I am pretty damn excited by what's coming up in the next year or so on the mountain bike calendar! Ra's passion is just contagious. It's so easy to get carried away once you start bouncing ideas around with him!

I ventured into the forest again on Friday afternoon, making my way right up to the high point of the forest to the new trail Te Tihi O Tawa. This little gem is nestled in the same native forest as Tuhoto Ariki and I don't think I could describe it any better than if I said it would have to be the love child of Split Enz and Tuhoto Ariki. It has the lovely flow of Split Enz with the rooty terrain and native forest backdrop of Tuhoto. The thing I liked even more about it is that you have to climb to get to it and earn your turn! As if a sweet trail in it's own right isn't awesome enough, Tihi drops you back in half way down Billy T. From there, I climbed back up to Corners, then hit up some Chinese Menu to bring me to the top of the new "Be Rude Not To", where I watched the sun set as I floated down the trail.

The boys have done some stellar work on this trail and are to be highly commended for their efforts. The new trail dips and kicks and turns through berms in a rollercoaster ride through the area cleared by the logging to then join back up to it's old ending at the edge of the forest again. The whole way down, there are these little kickers that have just enough punch in them that as you hit them, you seem to float over the crest of the kicker before landing on the other side and carrying merrily on your way. The trails in this forest are a true work of art, and I think I appreciated them more  now that I knew they were going to be my home trails very soon (YEEEHAAA!). I had made arrangements to meet Raewyn and Ash for a night ride, but by the time I made my way back to Long Mile, I was actually pretty pooped and ready for a hot shower and a feed, so after a bit of a catch up, left them to it. I doubt I would have kept up anyway after the day I'd had!!!

Saturday morning was one I was looking forward to very much. I met up with Rotorua legend Gaz Sullivan to shred some more dirt. After my adventure up to Tihi the day before, I was keen for another run, so we headed up there again. Riding early in the morning through the areas that had been felled gave a true appreciation for the effect the logging has on the trails. There was still a lot of ice and frost around and the frost would melt and settle on the trails, turning them into a muddy sludgefest. The trails with tree cover didn't suffer the same fate. I suppose that's one of the downsides of building trails in a working forest. The flipside of that, though, is that the views that have been revealed now that the trees are gone are quite spectacular. One of the things I love about Gaz is his passion for mountain biking. As we made our way around the forest, pretty much every five minutes, he would say something along the lines of "I love this place!" or "isn't this really cool". I couldn't agree more. The Redwoods, and the trails that inhabit them are indeed very special. It's funny how after being overseas and seeing some beautiful and amazing places, I seem to have a greater appreciation for the beauty we see here at home. We live in a really amazing place, just as amazing as anything I saw overseas. None of them are any more or less spectacular than the other... Just different... And each an amazing place in it's own right. Gaz was absolutely right... We are so incredibly lucky to have a natural resource like the Redwoods on our doorstep where we can enjoy some amazing trails. The other thing I enjoyed about riding with Gaz was that he kept me bloody honest for the day. I'm pretty sure I only managed to out-climb him once in our whole ride, and I was quietly pleased when he announced he was just about done for the day (because so was I!!!). I can't wait until I move to Rotorua and hit up some more trails with him. He's a great riding buddy! thanks Gaz!

After some more house viewings and breakfast at Zippys on Sunday morning, I hit up the forest one last time before heading home. It was a super cold morning and there was still some pretty substantial ice on the trails. I found it amazing how the ice seemed to lay on the trails in perfectly formed crystals. It was beautiful, and the sound of my tyres crunching over the ice was kinda cool. Once again, I discovered bits of exposed trail where the frost had made the trails quite muddy, especially up the likes of Tickler. I also made my way up to the top of Gunna Gotta, hoping that by then, the trails would have dried out a little, but it was still pretty slippery up there. The new Gunna Gotta is going to be a great trail once it rides in, and the views from the top without the trees are spectacular, not to mention that you can actually see the whole trail snaking down the hillside from the viewpoint on Split Enz.

Desert road was lined with snow for the drive home, and as the temperature sunk below zero, I was lucky enough to snap a spectacular picture of the sun sinking behind the snow-covered mountains. I've said to a few people now that having just done such a huge trip, and then knowing I am moving on again in a little under three months, I still feel like I am in transit, and it's quite unsettling for the time being. I can't express enough how I am going to miss the community in Palmerston North. They have given me such great support and I am sure I will return for a visit on occasion! But I'm really looking forward to my move to Rotorua... To have the trails and good climbing so close is going to be great for my riding and motivation. I love the people in Rotorua, too... There is so much passion for mountain biking and I am so excited at the prospect of being a part of that collective passion and helping make amazing things happen for the community and for the sport of mountain biking. I really felt like I was at home this week while I was visiting. I'm still on this amazing, positive high after world champs and it is so empowering. I feel like I've had the opportunity to do good things and I am on the right track in life. I have a lot to be grateful for, and a lot to look forward to and that's a pretty special place to be in!

Monday, June 11, 2012

A Weekend of "Firsts" to Celebrate My Arrival Home

As we drove out to Santoft for our night ride on Thursday, the temperature reading on the car hovered somewhere between 2 and 3 degrees Celsius. To add insult to injury, the heating in the car had decided to stop working so I had to put the air con on to de-mist the windows. My poor little body wasn't used to this sort of carry-on... It was used to 30 degrees, Mediterranean beaches and cycling tan lines! We arrived at Santoft and cowered in the car, barely able to admit to ourselves that we would have to get out and kit up for riding sooner or later. I finally worked up the courage to emerge from the car to find it actually seemed (marginally) warmer outside than in. We unpacked the bikes and layered up nice and warm. It was only as I was about to switch on my lights that I just happened to looked skyward to see the clear night sky crowded to capacity with stars. I don't think I have ever seen so many stars at once. It was magic.

As we sifted into the forest, it became apparent that my pre-ride layering had been a little overzealous and I had to strip off my jacket before too long (my toes never warmed up though!). I was surprised by how good my legs felt (even after the previous morning's run!) and after the previous few days heavy rain, the trails were running just lovely. There were about eight of us who braved the cold that evening, and I couldn't help but smile to myself as I ripped around the forest chasing that spot of light in front of me, thinking "I feel sorry for all those suckers curled up in front of the heater watching TV. They have no idea what they are missing out on!".

Friday was a very low-key return to the gym for me. I haven't been to the gym in months (in fact, probably not since last Winter) and I actually really enjoyed it. It's a nice quick, no BS work out that you can't pike on (let's face it... What excuse could you possibly have for not doing an indoor workout?). I was really stoked to discover that finally, 4 years after the accident that damaged my shoulder, I am able to do assisted chin-ups again. It's a far cry from the sets of 18 overhand, unassisted chin-ups I used to do in my rock climbing hey-day, but it's a work in progress at least!

Saturday's weather wasn't really all that inspiring. The sun was (kind of) out, but the wind was howling, which is always a dangerous way to spend a day on a bike when you only weigh twice as much as a peanut. I slept in, then spent all morning procrastinating on what I would do for the day. After all, I'm not in training and still wanting to enjoy myself, but to be honest, all I wanted to do was ride my bike. I spent some time cleaning the Ninja and making her all lovely for the 4 hour race the following day, then finally made the call to hit up the wind trainer (once again, this was a first since last Winter!). I smashed out a pretty solid speed workout which left very little in the tank. It was highly satisfying and made me feel much better, then I racked up another first and did some baking, knocking up a pretty mean Greek Halva (thanks to Ismini for the recipe!). I was also stoked to have found my way into the NZ Weekend Herald AND the Weekend Standard for my efforts during my trip. Of particular note was the fact that I picked up more of the back page of the Standard than the rugby did! Awesome!

Sunday was a nice early start to make my way over to Hawkes Bay for the Pukeora 4 Hour. I love this race, and I really like riding the trails at Pukeora, so I was really looking forward to smashing out 4 hours solo. I was keen to see how my legs would react to it, being my first big hit-out since 24 Hour Solo World Champs. With the Manawatu Gorge road finally open (this weekend was full of "firsts"!), I was running pretty early for rego. The temperature reading in the car couldn't quite decide if it was zero degrees or one degree (thank God I had the heating fixed on Friday!), although it didn't look like it was that cold (but it was... definitely). As I drove towards the east, the sun peeked it's head over the hills and splashed across the fog and the fields, throwing pinks and oranges into the clouds that hung lazily in the Sunday morning air. In hindsight, I should have taken the time to stop and take a photo. It was one of those sights that was hard to do justice with words.

Rego complete and number plate on the Ninja, I was faced with the dilemma of what to wear. It was cold, but a beautiful clear day, so it would undoubtedly warm up later. I opted for the Rule #5 option and decided to brave the morning cold with just shorts and a jersey (which ended up being spot on after about the first half lap). We lined up at the start and then the hooter sent us on our way! I was stoked to stay with the front boys up the first section of road and into the start loop and as I made my way around the course, I was just loving it! I remember thinking at one stage "F@#k, I just feel so alive when I am racing!"... I don't know why that is... Whether it is the adrenalin, the speed, the fact that I feel so good, or most likely, a combination of all three. I felt like my legs were carrying me effortlessly around the course. I felt so good and so strong. Having just been in the thick of ultra-endurance events, I treated it like a sprint event. I started hard and just kept going as hard as I could. It wasn't that I wanted to rip the legs off anyone (or rip the legs off myself, for that matter). I was just enjoying the freedom of doing this race for fun, at a pace that I felt like riding at, and it just so happened that yesterday, I felt like riding really, really fast.

Most of my laps on the 7.5km course came in between 26min and 28min, so I set my sights on smashing out nine laps for the day. Ever since riding in Europe and South Africa, I feel so comfortable on the bike, and I'm sure it has contributed to an improvement in my technical skills. Corners that I used to brake into were now railed without a second thought, whipping my rear wheel around with just a little bit of sgommata to bring me back in line with my exit from the turn... It felt great. It was also really nice to see Jude Young out on the trails after her Moonride win, and also to meet Rebecca Houston. It was a smashing day out on the bike. I ended up taking out first place in the Women's category, nearly two laps clear of second place. I also happened to finish 9th overall (including all the teams), 5th in the men's solo and also beat all the mixed and women's teams! On investigating last year's results, I was super pleased to see I had smashed my last year's effort by nearly two laps!

So many people have commented to me about my "not training" philosophy over Winter, and how it doesn't really seem like I'm sticking to that school of thought, and they are right, I'm not training. I'm having fun, doing what takes my fancy and hopefully carrying my fitness from my trip over into Summer so I have a strong base to start training on again. My two main objectives over Winter are to stay fit and to keep loving my riding. On the back of that, most other things fall into place quite nicely. Never underestimate how far your head will carry your body... Not the other way around...

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Home Crazy Home

So when I sat down to finally write up my first blog since returning from my trip, I couldn't believe it had been nearly a week and a half since I returned home. There's certainly been a lot going on, and adjusting to a "normal" life and schedule back in Palmerston North has had it's challenges after being away for so long.

I arrived home late on Saturday the 26th. The flight had been long, but I had been lucky enough that my two long-haul flights had only been half full, so I had been able to score myself a row of seats to lie down, put my feet up and get some sleep (and also alleviate the swelling in my knees to some extent). I was naive enough to think that this alone would help me avoid jetlag... How wrong I was! The first week and a half after I returned, I was like a zombie. I'd wake up at 4am and then be ready to crash out about 3pm in the afternoon. It was horrible! It's only today that my body finally seems to be back in sync.

So after a rather unusual first night's sleep back in my own bed, I headed out on the Ninja nice and early the following morning to help out at the IBIKE4KIDS event that was being run by Manawatu Mountain Bike Club and Sport Manawatu. To be honest, I felt smashed, but I was so excited at the prospect of seeing a bunch of little guys and gals getting into the sport I love so much. I sincerely hope it enriches their lives as much as it has mine. We ended up with over 350 kids on the day, and my role was as "ride leader". I must admit that I probably looked right at home amongst a bunch of little people, many of them around the same size as me! Some of those kids are damn fast and I had to really give my tired legs a bit of a nudge on a couple of occasions to avoid embarrassing myself! The good folk at the club gave me a great welcome home and made me feel like a bit of a superstar for the day, which was lovely (they made it very difficult for me to try and be modest!) and the kids seemed to think it was pretty cool that I had been riding bikes overseas. I got asked for some photos and autographs, which was very flattering, and rather exciting, but a little odd for me at the same time... I guess that regardless of how I see my result at world champs, if that is something that other people find awesome and inspiring, then I'm really happy to be part of that. I can't think of my efforts being put to better use than to get kids (and adults alike!) out riding bikes.

Monday morning I was back on a plane nice and early for a flight to Auckland for my first day back at work, then another flight back to Palmerston North the following day... A total of 14 flights since I left New Zealand in mid March! Wednesday I had the pleasure of downloading all my Garmin data from my entire trip and was stoked when I realised that from the time I left NZ to the time I returned, I had done 2180km of mountain biking and over 47000m of climbing! No wonder I went through three sets of tyres and a couple of drive trains!

Thursday evening I ventured out to Santoft to meet some peeps for a night ride. To be entirely honest, since I got back from my trip, it's been hard to be inspired to ride back home in the Manawatu, not because it isn't a beautiful place, but after all the adventure and riding in new places nearly every day and being out in lovely weather, the thought of riding something I've ridden before isn't as appealing as it once was. The cold has also knocked me around a lot since I got back. When I left Milan, it was 30 degrees, and when I arrived in Wellington, it was single digits, raining and windy! So anyway, I've found that riding with other people makes heading out for a ride a bit different and more exciting. I felt wasted that evening. I had this weird sensation where I felt like I was sitting outside my body, watching what I was doing, but with very little control over it. It was weird, and a little bit scary, especially riding in the dark... The path that my light pierced through the darkness seemed to expand and contract with my throbbing head. Regardless, I had a blast... It was nice to be out on the bike for the first time since I got back.

The other thing I did Thursday afternoon was pick up the new addition to my family of bikes from Pedal Pushers... A sexy little GT Bump BMX (with a pretty groovy little colour scheme, too, might I add!). I've never ridden a BMX before, but I figured, for the small price of one, now was a good time to try it out. It's a cool little machine and yet to be named (suggestions welcome!)... For some reason, I feel inclined to called it "Mr Frog" (I have no idea why). My first ride on my new toy was Friday morning when I rode it to work. It was a weird feeling and actually a pretty good workout (sprint, sprint, sprint, coast, sprint sprint). I'm pretty keen to learn some nifty little tricks and hit up a pump track or two on it... It's fun to try something new on two wheels, although I don't think it will ever take the place of endurance riding for me!

A day of rest, cleaning and unpacking on Saturday was followed by my first time back on skinny wheels in about three months. I rocked up on my roadie at 8am for a 75km group road ride and was quietly pleased when the rest of the group announced they wanted an "easy day". I really wasn't feeling up to a smash fest just yet, and as it was, there were times when I was feeling a little stretched in terms of speed or power, but funnily enough, never distance. I felt like I could have kept going all day, but there was no way I was chasing a bunch down or taking anyone down in the final sprint back into Palmy. The thing that struck me as odd on our ride was that in 75km, we didn't even crack 500m of climbing! A strange concept for me after the trip I have just had! It was a really pleasant ride nontheless. The company was good and there were times on the ride when I would just soak up the surroundings. It was nice to smell familiar smells, see familiar sights and speak a familiar language... It's funny how we travel the world and speak of how wonderful and how beautiful the rest of the world is, but we rarely stop and take notice of the beauty that exists in our own back yard. We really do live in a very special part of the world... No better or worse than anywhere I visited... Just different.

Monday morning I punched out a couple of hours on the mountain bike before work and watched the sun rise from my bike... It was a pleasant morning out and even though I was just out for a bit of a cruise, I still racked up an average of 18km/hr on the mountain bike off road, which was encouraging. Since I returned from my trip, there are three things which bring tears to my eyes:

1. Watching the video from world champs. That scene where my support crew puts me back on the bike for another lap is a real tear-jerker... I miss them. What an amazing thing it was that they did for me. The video can be viewed here.

2. Looking back through my photos at all the amazing things I did and saw, and the amazing people I met (I hope we catch up again some day!)

3. The sight of a beautiful sunrise on the bike... Gets me all the time...

I think that what makes traveling so awesome is that it is all relative to where you come from. If you traveled all the time, I doubt there would be an appreciation so great for the unusual as when there is a benchmark to compare it to. Going somewhere you don't know and comparing it to what you do, is what makes the experience so exhilarating. It's so good to be home...