Sunday, September 16, 2012

Things To Be Grateful For

It seems like an eternity has passed since I have written a blog, but when I went back and had a look, I realised it was only a little over a month since my last post (still not great, but better than I had previously thought). My mind boggles at how much has happened since I last graced these pages, and it has been a huge rollercoaster ride. There have been some amazing times, and some really tough times… And it’s funny how life often lands you right where you didn’t expect, but in a pleasantly more satisfying position than you once were.

I have a philosophy that I don’t write a blog until I am satisfied that I can portray my experiences in a positive and inspiring light. It would be fair to say that I have found that last month or so to be rather challenging, and to be honest, I have only just felt ready to sit down and tap away at my keyboard on the topic with enthusiasm and positivity.
If you had asked me six months ago what I was going to be doing right now, I could have told you exactly how my life was mapped out for the next year. I was going to South Africa and Europe to race my bike, then I was returning home to Palmerston North for three months before moving to Rotorua to take up a position with the employer I was with at the time. That plan all ran quite smoothly until about a month after I returned from my trip. I think it’s fair to say that when you leave your home and your job for two and half months, chances are that when you come back, things will have changed… In my case, they certainly had. My workplace had changed, and I Had changed… Let’s just say, to oversimplify it… We grew apart in the time I was gone, and I decided that it was a more positive step for me to move on and choose a different path. My experiences and the wisdom I gained during my trip probably helped make the decision easier, or at least made the risk seem more adventurous and exciting. I knew quite explicitly what I wanted out of life and my career, and to stay where I was wouldn’t contribute anything beyond financial stability. It was a bold move, and a decision I didn’t take lightly. It was the first time in my life that I had left one job before securing another.
I was committed to my move to Rotorua. It was what I wanted, and I was going to make it happen. So in the space of about a month, I left one job, started another, moved towns, bought a house that backs onto the Redwoods (AMAZING!), built an awesome bike room in my house, unpacked, constructed numerous pieces of flat pack furniture (the bane of my existence), started a vege patch, a compost heap and got some chickens (how very environmentally aware of me), done various gardening and handywork chores around the house, fixed the fence that my dog broke, then lost said dog riding on the trails in the forest, and presented another photo evening… All with the unwavering support and help of my partner and friends (you guys know who you are), and my amazing Mum who came all the way from Australia just to help me move my shit from Palmerston North to Rotorua (there is a lot to be said for just paying someone to pack up all your shit and move it, as opposed to doing it yourself, although I can guarantee that next time I move, I will promptly forget this lesson in the bid to save a few dollars)… Oh, and in that time, I aged another year… Like I said earlier, it seems like far, far longer than a month ago! It is frighteningly easy to go about being so busy in times like this that you forget to express your undying gratitude to those around who helped, and let’s face it, you can make things happen, but part of making things happen is relying on those who care about you, and maintaining those relationships, to me, is most important above anything else, so for those of you who helped me out over the time of my relocation and premature mid-life crisis, please know that I am forever indebted to your kindness and you have earned a very special place in my heart.
For the last 6 months of my life, throughout my trip and my move, I have constantly been in transit… It has been unsettling, but like I have said on so many occasions to so many people… Things happen for a reason and opportunities often present themselves in the most unorthodox of fashions, and I have always found it to be good advice that you should never shy away from something that is a challenge, or looks like hard work, because underneath that is where opportunity often lies.

My farewell dinner was an amusing affair... A group of close friends threw a little do for me at the Coachman, and it was never going to be a "normal" gathering. Of particular note was my ability to get completely sloshed off half a glass of wine, and then Emma's amazing ninja cake, carefully crafted just for me... I felt very much loved! I've always said that the thing I will miss most about Palmerston North is the people, and the evening of my farewell was a testament to that. I will especially miss Barb's amazing sports massage!

I was really excited to pick up a role the day I arrived at my new home in Rotorua as an Account Manager for the local radio network with Mediaworks. The juggling of job interviews in amongst vanloads between Palmy and Rotorua was an interesting task that I managed surprisingly well in between having phone conversations in my best “friendly interview voice” then getting off the phone and saying “F#@k! I have less than 24 hours to drive back from Rotorua to Palmerston North, load the van again, clean the house, get my bond back, attend dinner commitments and get back to Rotorua for a second interview”… I made it happen, and I got the job (and I’m sure my new boss will find this hilarious if she happens to read this post!). My passion years ago when I was just out of school was in audio engineering and radio and it’s kinda cool to have done a full circle and return to that passion with a wealth of new knowledge and skills. The people I work with are all awesome. They are all as crazy as me in their own unique way and it’s been refreshing to learn some new skills and be back in a positive environment.
So now, time to talk about riding. As I alluded to previously, I bought myself a lovely little 4 bedroom house right on the edge of the Whakarewarewa forest… And I mean right in the forest. I ride straight out my back gate and touch tar seal for only a matter of metres to cross Long Mile Road before I am hooning my way around some of the sweetest trails in the world. My first week or so in my new home, I didn’t touch the dirt with two wheels I was so enthralled in unpacking, doing gardening and getting into my new job… But once I had all that under control, nothing could hold me back. I was arriving home in the evening, kitting up with my Ayups and heading off on missions into the forest. Already there are some fond, vivid memories of those first couple of rides and the buzz I got over just been able to sift out my back gate and straight into it. Wallabies bounding around over the trails in front of me, possums the size of dogs that scampered up trees as I rode past, watching from Katore road as other rider’s lights seemingly hovered in the darkness as they descended Be Rude Not To. I remember one evening the full moon was so bright and the sky so clear that I was able to switch off my lights as I rode up Katore Road to the start of Gunna Gotta, then as I crested the peak of the hill, seeing the lights of Rotorua glistening back up at me, and the moon reflecting off the lake… I finally felt, for the first time in 6 months, like I had a home again.
 The other thing that is amazing about living so close to the forest is doggy recreation. My first ride out in the forest was on a weekend and I hauled my partner and our two dogs out of the house and up Nursery Hill to sample the trails. My partner hasn’t really done a lot of mountain biking, but there sure is nothing like a baptism of fire… our first ride was a nice little loop around Genesis, and asides from the obligatory bruising, she seemed to enjoy it and handle it fine (and the dogs loved it!), so that week, as I was entering myself for the final Winter Nduro, I decided I would “surprise” my beloved by also entering her in the 15km category. This meant that the following weekend, we needed to go on a “training” ride. One thing my partner hasn’t quite figured out yet (or hadn’t at that stage), is that a “short” ride for me can range anywhere from ten to fifty kilometers. My full intention was to take her out for a 15km ride, and it was entirely with her best interests at heart. I figured that if she could bust out 15km without even realising that was what she had done, then it would give her some confidence fronting up to this lovely little race I had entered her in (I know what you’re thinking right now… Just how thoughtful and loving I am, right?). Anyway, she smashed out the 15km with relative ease (the dogs did a pretty good job of it, too), and even managed a clean run of Gunna Gotta. I was well impressed, and pretty proud of her efforts… So much so that I took her out for another 15km the following day (I think I was pushing my luck by then!).

As it turned out, come race day, she won the open Women’s category of her race, despite her worst fear being that she would come last. I knew this was dangerous, because it meant firstly, that I needed to lift my game if I didn’t want to be chicked by my own girlfriend, and secondly, that I needed to buy her a bike if I wanted to get my training bike back to achieve the former. Massive thanks to Bryce at Cyclezone for hooking me up with a deal that made the latter a little less painful than I was expecting!
 My effort at the last Winter Nduro, however, was a little less than impressive. I must admit I had expected as such, although I really hate the whole “excuses before a race” thing. The day previous, I had smashed out my threshold test on the road bike (something that needs to be done at the start of each training phase to gauge improvements and involves riding hard, and often vomiting at the end). So when I lined up for the 45km NDuro, the legs were a bit weary, but the mind and spirit were willing, so it was all go! No surprises that I wasn’t all that fast. No Brains was as sketchy as ever and resulted in a couple of rather ungraceful dismounts on my behalf but it was just so good to be out on the bike. I felt reasonably strong and comfortable for the larger portion of the day, but struggled significantly with the last 15km. I hit the wall in a big way and the lights were out in my head, although my legs kept turning. It was, once again, my old friend complacency paying a visit. So often in these shorter races, I neglect to look after myself because I so arrogantly view them as being just that… A “short” race. I remember riding along Chinese Menu with the full knowledge that I still had to ride up Direct Road to the top of Hot X Buns, but hoping that maybe it had been taken out, or someone had forgotten to mark it and send us up there… No such luck, and had it not being for the lovely young lady handing out jet planes at the bottom of the climb, I may have ended up lying on the side of the trail in a quivering mess. Exaggerations aside, I made it to the top just fine and then edged my way back down Hot X Buns. It was running pretty rough, and my low blood sugar meant my head wasn’t quite up to the task of negotiating technical pieces of the trail. After the previous day’s effort, my legs were buckling underneath me as I tried to stand on the pedals… It was such a relief to cross the finish line to be greeted by cupcakes, ginger beer and treats! As with all NDuro events, Ra turned a standard old race into a stellar day out with special little finishing touches. It was also great to catch up with my old mate Paris, who was there with Tony representing Magellan and their new line of cycle GPS. There were an inordinate number of people in the crowd that day that won themselves a new Magellan Switch Up GPS and it was refreshing to see an event sponsor see the value in getting their product into people’s hands and getting people excited about it. I was lucky enough to pick one up for myself, and will fill you all in on my thoughts once I have had the chance to put it through the usual treatment.

So like I mentioned previously, not my best day on the bike, but we all need days like that to provide a kick in the bum… It’s funny how when you don’t train, riding seems to become a more onerous task, but if you train too much, the same occurs. It really is a delicate balancing act. My best times on the bike are always when I am fit and fast and enjoying being on the bike (because let’s face it, riding a bike fast is way more fun). So now that I am settled into my new home with my new job, time to crack out Sadie P’s recipe of pain to kick start a new season, which will begin with the Yeti Tribe gathering and Deans Bank 10 hour in Wanaka on the October long weekend!
Now onto the story of losing my dog in the forest… I have taken Paddi out riding with me hundreds of times… She is extremely well-behaved on the trails (in stark contrast to her general behaviour in everyday life) and knows to run behind the bike, and knows how to get out of the way if she does happen to end up in front, so you can imagine my surprise when I took her out one morning and she did a runner on me. I was already pushed for time, so I was moving at a pretty steady pace, but for some reason, Paddi really seemed to be dragging the chain. I remember riding along thinking how amazing it was to be out riding early in the morning before work on such a lovely day, and even having a giggle at Paddi’s amazing drift into a bermed corner at full speed. Next thing I knew, Paddi took off up the embankment along the side of the trail and disappeared, obviously seriously intent on chasing whatever scent she had picked up. Firstly, I was pissed off… It meant I was going to be late for work, but after standing there calling her for 15mins, the realisation set in that she definitely wasn’t in my general vicinity anymore. I felt sick in my stomach and I searched around desperately for her to no avail. I love my dog and the thought of returning home without her and leaving her in the forest made me so sad, but I knew I had to get to work, and realistically, where the hell do you look for a dog in the forest??? It would have been like trying to find a needle in a haystack. I rode home with tears streaming down my face, calling her the whole time. I was hoping that maybe she had just decided she didn’t want to ride today and had made her own way home, but when I returned home, no such luck. I was absolutely beside myself and I had to go to work! I couldn’t bear the thought of not seeing my doggy again! I popped next door to my neighbours and asked them to call me if she came home and I left some food and water for her, then I turned to Facebook for help. The power of social media these days is mind-boggling. Within the space of an hour or so, I reckon half of Rotorua would have been keeping an eye out for my dog. I headed to work and about four hours later, received a call from my next door neighbour that Paddi had found her own way home and was in the backyard! I was so excited that she was back, though I must admit, I felt a bit bad that I wasn’t able to thank everyone personally for keeping an eye out for her. She was a very, very thirsty and tired doggy when I arrived home to lock her up inside!
 Right now is probably a good time to mention just how amazing my new neighbours are here in Rotorua. I’ve never felt so welcomed into a neighbourhood before. They have street parties, drop by with food, keep an eye on the house when I’m not home… And help me find my dog when she has gone missing or escaped from the back yard (again). I’m really stoked to be surrounded by such an awesome bunch of people, and I hope to make a valuable contribution to the community here. I was also stoked to hold my third photo evening not long after I moved here before my new home audience. It wasn’t a huge turnout (and for my lack of marketing beforehand, I couldn’t have expected any better), but everyone was so engaging and interested, and it made it so much easier and so much more relaxing than presenting to a room full of silence. I found it incredibly fitting that the set of Ayup lights up for grabs actually went to one of my new neighbours!!!
This week just gone has been a cracker, but in getting back into my correct blogging behaviour, I think I may save that for a post of its own. Earlier this week, the mountain biking community bid farewell to a mountain biking legend, James Dodds. I didn’t know James very well, but I certainly knew of his reputation of being an all-round good dude with a zest for life and an energy that could fill any room. It’s a sobering thought that someone can have such a huge influence on a community, then all of a sudden, not be there anymore, and for me, it was a timely reminder to live each day like it is your last, and to be thankful for all the amazing things you have. I’ve had a challenging month or two, but through it, have seen how bloody good I have it. I live in an amazing place, surrounded by amazing people, with amazing trails on my doorstep. I have an incredible partner, family and friends who have been there for me unfailingly when I needed them most, and a dog who loves me enough to find her own way home to me. Regardless of what comes my way, life always turns out to be bloody awesome, and I don’t know if that’s just because I’m lucky, or because I just make it happen… Either way, there’s always something to look forward to, and I find that pretty exciting!

1 comment:

  1. it took a while for this blog to 'hit the press' but it has been well worth the wait - awesome read :)