Putting things into perspective


On Sunday 19 July 2015, at 10:20am, I waited with about 33 female riders, on the side of the road in the small township of Mulgowie Queensland Australia, for the Chief Commissaire to announce the start of the race. A race in honour of a young woman, Mardi Bartlett, who lost her life, doing the thing she loved with a passion…cycling. This was my second road race, a 3-lap 54km course. I felt nervous. Cycling Queensland placed me in C Grade, though I am a D Grade rider. A good friend and mentor, convinced me to go in wide eyed and with the view to learn and have fun. “It’s not the quickest rider that is impressive, but the smartest.”

The ride out was at a safe pace. A tail wind, with moderate rough surface. The fun began at the hairpin turn…straight into a head wind. I got dropped on the second last hill of the first lap. I know why it happened. I had already decided it would the evening before. Lesson 1: Don’t let your negative thoughts win. I was soon in the company of 3 other riders. I rode solo for what seemed like forever. I kept my eye on the group, the band slowly stretched. Soon they were just a speck of dust. I watched them fade into the distance, support cars following. I fought to catch, but I couldn’t get back on. I could see another rider drop. I continued to pedal as hard as I could, in hope of catching her. Eventually I got her! We concocted a plan and so began 2 laps as a team of 2. I have always told myself, that no matter what, I will always finish a race. It’s my number 1 rule. When we got to the finish line for lap 1 my friend and Commissaire shouted “Stay together and keep on riding!”. So that’s exactly what we did. We would do it for Mardi.

When you are out on the open road a lot happens. You need to be aware of your surroundings and be fully alert. Working together is tricky. You have to find a balance and work as a team. I was full of fight and wanted to smash it. I was also feeling hesitant as I didn’t want to put any stress on my partner or come across with a pushy attitude. She was a fighter! Her attitude was outstanding! We talked to each other, to the cows, made jokes about the cabbages and sang! YES! We sang as we rode up the steepest of the hills “Ain’t no mountain high enough!…Ain’t no valley low enough!…” You learn a lot about yourself when you are thrown into the wind. Rather…a wall! I’m pretty sure it was 30 knots! Lesson 2: The art of patience and power of determination. There is no point into going into something half arsed! If you are going to do the thing. DO IT! So rather than wallow in my self pity, I visualised a young woman in my head. Racing and winning and smiling. Being amongst her peers and celebrating her achievements with her parents and family. Too often I worry about the little things, and not the big things. I am lucky to be alive! To be able to ride my bike with friends and share the joy and excitement and thrill of the race as I cross the line!

Rest in Peace Mardi. You are loved.

Fear Face

Today I was invited by my best mate, Speedie, to join him on his Sunday morning Mt Nebo ride. It’s about a 1,000metre climb up one of Brisbanes most beautiful mountains, right at my doorstep. We took off at 5:30am (dark and chilly) picking up a few friends on our way. The slow climb out of The Gap is the steepest part, at which point you wonder why you chose to do this and not be tucked in bed! Not too far up the road I mentioned to Speedie that at sunrise we may expect to see kangaroos. Did I jinx him…because not even 10 minutes later BAM he runs one down! I still cannot believe he stayed on his bike! A miracle he wasn’t hurt badly. We rode very cautiously from this point.

As many know, I’m not a fan of gutters or steep descents. Not for the lack of wanting to descend, as I carry plenty of weight advantage…but as a result of purchasing a bike frame that is too large, combined with a bung shoulder, I have a great deal of difficulty in positioning my body and reach to the brakes. It’s quite normal for me to get cramps in my tricep if I tense, which adds to my delimma. So, today, I decided to focus on my descent rather than my ascent. I simply told my friends to go on ahead as I prefer to be left alone in this situation. I concentrated on my positioning (bum back into the saddle, body tucked into the top tube), taking the lane, and used the brakes by tapping them before the corners and when I felt a little spooked. I have found that using 25mm tyres have assisted me by softening the blow of the road surface, but finding the corners a little more tricky. In time I should be able to adjust to this.

For me, today was tough. I counted down the kilometres until I arrived safely back into The Gap. I’m pretty sure that we all have our own fears when it comes to cycling. A properly fitted new bike will help. Hill coaching will also get me over this hump and into the right head space. One last note: we all need to remember we are someone’s mother or father, wife or husband, and we have a big responsibility to our loved ones. Ride safe.