Monster Blog

My blog is always in the back of my mind. Unfortunately, despite being a classic DINK (double income no kids), I still find it difficult to find time to write, which is a shame because A LOT has happened this year worthy of blogging about! So I’m going to do a mighty big ‘Monster’ post to cover ALL of it so I’m up to date and can get back into blogging without having all the things I haven’t written about weighing on my mind!

The Triathlon

I competed in my very first triathlon in March. Now, let’s not get carried away, it was not a 12 hour iron man by any stretch. It was an enticer length women’s triathlon designed to, well, entice the ladies into trying a triathlon. It worked. I was so intimidated by the idea of a triathlon, especially the swim and the transitions (i.e. going from swim to bike and bike to run) that I wouldn’t have gotten up the nerve for anything bigger. To be honest, the idea of mixed gender triathlon intimidates me, which is super lame…in any case it was the perfect mix of circumstance to get me out there.

I was number 1 because of my last name. Not because I was super keen or seeded. Just to let to 20 people who asked/assumed that know...

I was number 1 because of my last name. Not because I was super keen or seeded. Just to let the 20 people who asked/assumed that know…

For anyone considering doing a tri, here are my top tips

–         Do it with a friend! I was so nervous at the start, getting my stuff set up and trying not to feel completely out of place but my good friend Tania helped me keep calm. We also had great fun training together and shared tips we’d found online (including using bright towels to find where our bikes were ‘racked’).

–         Practice your transitions (no brainer)…more than once. I thought I had my transitions sorted, had practiced a swim to ride and a ride to run. But my transition times were terrible on the day. I underestimated the importance of transitions for my time which was out by about 5 minutes on what I had wanted to do. I know it was my transitions which let me down. My husband who was there watching said I dawdled on the bike to run and stopped to do up my shoelace. I guess I used the transitions as a rest to recover from the leg before, but really they should be done briskly and running just as hard as you would in the run leg.

–         Don’t be scared of the swim! I was and it was unfounded. If you are worried about the swim just hang back a bit on your first one to start and do at least twice as long as the length in practice sessions (depends how far you are going! Ours was only 300 m but our training swims were 1 km). I jumped straight in with everyone despite fear of being hit in the face by an errant foot and didn’t get hit once. My strangest experience was coming up for a breath, facing the right, looking straight at someone less than six inches away who was coming up for a breath facing left! Awkward .

–         Pace yourself on the swim. I went out HARD (nervous energy no doubt) and the leg to the first buoy was super easy, to the second felt like I was dying and the final two were strong. So maybe don’t go out too hard for the swim. Don’t panic about being the last, I did and felt really self-conscious and like I would be the last out of the water. As long as you have done some swim training beforehand, you won’t be last in an enticer (I recommend doing an enticer!) and if you need to catch your breath for a second or around the buoys, just do breaststroke! It’s not the end of the world!

–         Think through what you are wearing and the order you will need to change. I wore leggings for the ride/run which – after the swim – were very difficult to get on in a hurry. That was a mistake – nothing tight!!

–         Get a support team! Every time I passed my cheer squad I got a huge boost and they always made me smile yelling funny things out or just cheering.

All in all, I felt like it was a real accomplishment. Yes, it was only a tiny portion of the full Olympic distance tri (which I watched my brother-in-law compete in the next day, very inspiring!) but the challenge, fear and exhaustion all combined with adrenaline, strength and sense of achievement for us both to decide that next year, we’re going to do the next one up. Like big girls 🙂

To the Snow Fields – In Summer…

Well, not quite summer, but in early Autumn (March) hubby and I decided to load up the mountain bikes for a road trip…to the snow fields! During summer, they open up Thredbo – one of our favourite slopes in the winter, for riding.

On the way, we stopped in Canberra, which is a mountain bike mecca. So many places to choose from for riding! We decided on Stromlo which is a mountain bike park which makes Glenrock (my local) look pretty average (and it is not, Glenrock is massively sweet as bro). It was well maintained, the trails are well thought out and overall just sooooo much fun! I even tried a see-saw for the first time (and did it successfully once).

Our second ride at Stromlo was on the morning we had to get to Thredbo by the afternoon for our mountain bike induction. We chose a loop we thought would be doable in the time we had but ended up slightly stressed out as it took a bit longer than expected! Probably because of the truly monstrous climb which was involved – I almost died and had to have several breaks. In the end the trail was super fun and we were sad to leave but excited to get to Thredbo and do some full on downhill riding.

I’m not a downhill rider, luckily in the last season Thredbo put in what was referred to as a ‘flow-trail’ which was challenging but not out of the ream for an intermediate rider – probably not for full on beginners though. In order to get our passes, we had to do a mountain bike induction which basically involved some instruction on getting on the chair-lift with our bikes (which was surprisingly easy). We also had to do a quick test with our guide to show we had basic MTB skills, just going down a hill with a few turns which we passed easily. He said it was surprising how many people with zero bike skills wanted to try the trail and without some skills, its just plain dangerous. He then showed us down the flow trail to shows us the features and also point out where it crosses with the DH trail for hubby.

Thredbo on bikes!

Thredbo on bikes!

It was super fun but also a real challenge and kind of scary in places. We did the induction in the afternoon and were all set to go for a full day the next day. It was a good idea as the induction takes up a couple of hours and you still have to pay for a full-day pass afterwards if you want to keep going. I ended up doing the trail seven times and it took about 20 minutes each time. By the 4th or 5th, I was feeling it. In fact it HURT and not where you might expect. Of course my hands hurt from gripping the brakes just to stay in control (in fact when we took my bike to be serviced, they said I’d worn out my brake pads! Yep, that’s embarrassing). My forearms hurt the worst and every bump felt like torture. The first half was the worst, very bumpy, but the second half was smooth and super fun and by the bottom I thought ‘that wasn’t so bad, I could do another!’.

It was weird being at ‘the snow’, as well call it, when there was no snow. It was a ghost town. MTB riding on actual mountains has not really picked up in Australia to the same extent as in Canada (i.e Whistler). I think though that they need more trails before that will happen. Yes it was fun, but the same run over and over starts to lose its excitement and if we wanted to stay more than a day or two there needs to be more variety. All in all I think I enjoyed Stromlo the most, although I learnt a lot from my downhill riding. There is a downhill flow track on Stromlo we did once on the way to the snow and once on the way back. On the way back, I beat my first time by about 2 minutes, which I attribute to the confidence boost I got in Thredbo.

The Colo(u)r Run

A friend of mine asked me way back in February if I wanted to join her on the Color Run. I was hesitant. Firstly, in Australia we spell it with a u, i.e. Colour. Secondly, it is a purely for profit event with ‘runners’ able to contribute to charity at their will but no donations from the organisers. Thirdly, it is a total gimmick where people run in tutus and the majority do not even run it with people stopping to dance around in coloured powders like idiots. I mean, come on I am a runner, not some half-arsed walk/runner who needs a gimmick to want to run…

Um.

Yes, I own two tutus...

Yes, I own two tutus…

Yeah it was awesome. Soooo much fun with some great friends who were totally into it and we basically had fun dodging around people, not caring about getting dirty, or looking like idiots in our tutus, smoothing coloured powder on ourselves and each other and leaping around/pretending to be horses (it was around a race track) when we should have been running. Yes, a lot of people just sauntered the whole thing. Yes, we stopped to dance around like ‘smurfs (blue)’ or ‘oompa loompas (orange)’ at each of the colour stations. No, charity did not benefit. But do you know what? Even though I like to run for a cause, sometimes I just want to have some fun and am prepared to pay money to someone else to sort out the details.

And they damn well sorted it.

It was so well organized, no crowding or too much waiting which, for an event where over 10,000 people joined in (pretty much all of Newcastle was there it seemed), is saying something. The after party was good fun with music and hyped up DJs and everyone going nuts with their little finishing packets of powder, exploding everywhere.

It has actually gotten me excited about running again, I enjoyed it so much. I did parkrun the day before in preparation, knowing I wasn’t going to push on the event day, and did NOT enjoy my run. But after doing the colour run… I really wanted to go back and do a parkrun! Weird eh? I’m actually pretty keen to sign up for another event soon to keep my current running motivation going. I was reading through my old City2Surf posts and thinking about how defeated I felt afterwards compared to how I felt after the Color run…no contest really. After City2Surf I wanted to vomit. After the Colour run I wanted to party.

So let’s party, feet, let’s party.

 In Summary…

I actually have about 2 or 3 other things to talk about (commuting to work by bike, loving on MTB riding a bit more, swimming during winter, RAW challenge) but this is more monster than I had intended and I have some other shit to do. So I will leave you with some Mantras I’ve been using lately:

No-one is thinking about you. They’re thinking about themselves…just like you

Why should they overtake you? You are strong, fast and ride all the time. You ARE the fastest

I LIKE going to the gym. It isn’t a chore, it’s a privilege!

Happy travels!

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The odds of being eaten by a shark

Due to my engineering background, I understand risk analysis. I do risk assessments all the time in the laboratory where I do my research. Anyone who has done a risk assessment will understand the risk matrix which sets the consequence versus the probability to determine the risk. Anything with a high probability and high consequence (i.e. death, permanent disability etc) is a no no. In fact anything with a high consequence is generally ruled out in the lab, even if the probability is unlikely.

Strangely, risk analysis is not something I consciously do in my normal life, despite the fact I do many risky things. I snowboard, mountain bike, commute by bike, I go running by myself in the dark among other things. The risk is high in many of these activities with very high consequence, as I recently found out when I gave myself a concussion falling off my mountain bike, not to mention the 4 stitches in my shoulder (which had to be scrubbed under anesthetic to get rid of the dirt…).

Overconfidence = stitches

Overconfidence = stitches

But actually, when I think about it, I actually DO assess risks constantly. When on my mountain bike, I will walk sections I am uncomfortable with or not ready for, I will slow down when trying a new trail, I take compression bandages (for snake bites), always have my phone and make sure I tell someone where I am. My fall was a result of overconfidence and doing something I knew to be pretty silly (trying a large, for me, jump). When I run by myself, I am usually with my dog who is pretty scary looking, although harmless as a kitten (maybe a bit more harmless than a kitten, those things have sharp claws while the worst Melvin would do is lick you…). I also run in well-lit and populated areas. When I snowboard I wear a helmet and try to scope out new, possibly difficult runs from the chair lift. I also wouldn’t snowboard by myself and don’t let myself get out of control while boarding.

I can’t eliminate the risk without completely stopping all the things I love, so instead I try to bring it down to an acceptable level.

On that note, a friend has recently asked me to come open ocean swimming and I am considering the possibility. She goes with experienced ocean swimmers and she recounted her first time out to me. First, they look for a rip. Not to avoid, but to use to get ‘out the back’ behind the surfers and waves. Then they swim, often from one beach to another along the headland. It. Sounds. Terrifying. But also….exhilirating. She said it is incredibly beautiful and uplifting thing to do. But like, what about sharks? I’m not going to lie, the thought is so terrifying to me I may not be able to go through with it. BUT If I think about the risk assessment matrix the probability is so low it is practically non-existant…let’s look at some facts.

There have been 202 shark attacks in NSW in the last 100 years. According to the same website, the risk of a fatal shark attack was calculated to be 1 in 292,525 (0.0003%) based on ocean use and population statistics.

In comparison, 369 people were killed in NSW in fatal car accidents in 2012. According to stats in the ‘Road Traffic Crashes in NSW, 2012’ report, this is 0.74 fatalities per 10,000 licence holders – a percentage of 0.007%, which is a 1 in 13,514 chance.

So I am 21 times more likely to die in a fatal car accident than be killed by a shark.

My calculated risk of death is therefore much higher in the drive to the beach than the swim at the beach. Numbers crunched. Logically then, if I accept the risks to drive a car, I should be able to accept the lower risk of swimming in the ocean. Logical decision making says yes.

Emotional decision making…still on the fence. Stay tuned.