I didn’t do fantastically well at the first Grimsey’s Adult Swimfit (the open water clinic) I attended a few weeks ago. Although I did survive it -and the jellyfish stings – and the only way to get better at swimming in the ocean is to do more of it. Which seems terribly unfair, if I’m honest.
The main point I clung to was that even though it was horribly hard work, I did better with Grimsey than I ever would or could do on my own.
So the day after the Bribie Island Triathlon, while I was still on a high from not drowning or getting eaten by a shark in the Bribie passage, I signed up for the next clinic, due to take place this morning.
And last weekend we heard the awful news that Fiji was suffering through a deadly cyclone.
Seemingly unrelated, these events. But no.
Since Wednesday the TV and radio news have been excitedly reporting that the colossal winds in Fiji were eventually going to have an effect on our own island paradise. The main message was that the Eastern seaboard of Queensland should expect to experience freak waves and rip-tides all of this weekend. Beaches would be closed. Surfers from all over the world were scrambling to fly in to Queensland and tackle the deadly waves.
Surfers are so weird.
Indeed, yesterday morning I awoke to strong gusty winds that blew all our doors shut and dried my washing in 0.3 seconds. I quietly panicked all day, wondering whether Grimsey has a mother who hounds him about not doing unsafe things, or whether I should get my own mother to ring him. Until finally at 7.00pm I received an email and text message from Coach Grimsey – the session was cancelled.
So, today would be a bike ride kind of day instead.
I’ve been meaning to ride to Redcliffe for quite a while, but haven’t had the chance. It’s been burning a hole in me like my money used to burn a hole in my pocket, back when I had some once (before I started this triathlon malarkey and spent all my money on running shoes and race fees)
So I was quite excited to get out on the bike and trek out to the seaside, where I would stuff my face with breakfast before returning on my bike.
As usual with my plans, this didn’t quite come to fruition – I only achieved two of the above three things.
I woke up early-ish and packed my bag with the stuff I would need upon arrival at Redcliffe – my wallet, my phone, a hat to cover my sweaty yucky hair and some water. I left Shane a note with strict instructions that I would be arriving in Redcliffe at 9.30am and if he wanted any breakfast he’d better make sure he was there at – or very close to – that time.
I didn’t have anything to eat beforehand, partly in preparation for the mammoth plateful I would order from whatever Redcliffe cafe I happened to fall into first, but also because I wasn’t too concerned about my performance on my ride – I wanted to enjoy it but not necessarily break any land speed records.
After a quick pump of the tyres and awarding Matilda the dog a conciliatory bone for staying home without me, I was off and riding.
Almost immediately the gusty winds were knocking me around. It was a strange experience – sometimes in the car I have felt the wind slam against the side of the car as I am driving along, but this was my first go at surviving that on the bike. It made me a little more wobbly, so I went a bit slower, and then when I hit the wind head-on I basically slowed to a snail’s pace.
It was going to be a slow haul, for what I thought was roughly 35km.
Other than the wind, it was a beautiful day for a ride. In fact, maybe the wind helped to keep me a bit cooler, so I shouldn’t be too mean about it. I reminded myself that I was grateful for the time outside, for the chance to do the ride I’d been planning for so many months. I could hear the birds enjoying their morning songs and although there was lots of traffic, is was mainly Sunday drivers and church-goers, not the crazy commuters you get during the week. Everything felt very relaxed.
I got out of my suburb slightly slower than usual, and cycled briefly through an industrial estate that must have seen a recent car crash. There was shattered glass absolutely everywhere for about 8 metres, and I had no option but to ride straight through it. I literally shut my eyes and held my breath, gingerly pumping my legs but ready to un-clip at any moment. I waited to hear the hiss from my tyres, but the Triathlon Gods must have appreciated my Sunday morning worship of them because they did not smite me. I made it through.
After making it through the industrial estate, my route to Redcliffe includes a few friendly hills. I don’t find them too bad – they’re not too long and they’re not too steep, so although they present a challenge and I have to change through a lot of gears, I know I can make it through them. I pushed along and felt like I was getting a good workout.
With the hills over, the traffic lights began. I didn’t count but I estimate there are 792 sets of traffic lights on the way to Redcliffe (along Deception Bay Rd and Anzac Ave, for those playing along at home)
I don’t mind un-clipping and having a little look around at my surroundings as I wait for the light to turn green, but I do hate those few seconds upon take-off, where I have to clip back in, gain momentum, not get run over by the line of cars behind me, and aim perfectly straight along the road. It’s a bit much for my tiny brain to handle, especially on a Sunday.
Still, I am nothing if not a law-abiding citizen, so stop at the traffic lights I did. And eventually I made it to The Big Roundabout that I had not dared to tackle before. I’d always turned around just before it and headed home. Well, today we met for the first time and there was really nothing to worry about. I know it is probably only a matter of time until I get a rude car driver who gets annoyed with me for being on the road, but I have so far found that drivers in our area are very kind and patient. So I felt very safe and had no problem whizzing around the roundabout.
With my ego getting pretty full to bursting, my next challenge was sure to have to take me down a peg or two.
I knew there were roadworks along the road after the roundabout, and I had mentally prepared myself for the extra squish this would mean on the road with me and the traffic trying to share a smaller space. But as I approached the roadwork, I could see that the left lane (which they have been working on) was separated by a barrier but not actually closed off. In a split second, I had a choice to risk cycling along the road that is being worked on, by myself, or squeeze along with the thousands of cars for a kilometre or so. I veered left and headed into the left lane.
Admittedly, I started to panic when I saw all the signs warning ‘CONSTRUCTION ZONE – DANGER – KEEP OUT. My ego shrunk away entirely and left my brain to fend for itself. NO UNAUTHORISED ENTRY said the next sign.
Oops. Not so law-abiding after all.
I pedaled on, assuming I could turn around and go back again if I found myself blocked off. It seemed that nobody was actually working in the construction zone – all the machinery was abandoned on the kerbside. The road wasn’t dug up, so it was perfectly ride-able. I just had to hope they hadn’t blocked off the other end of the zone, thus preventing me from getting back on the road.
I pushed on, wondering what would happen if the police came along and saw me riding through the construction zone. I thought of the Instagram post I’d seen the night before, where one of the triathletes I follow (for inspiration) had been pulled over by the police and fined $107 on-the-spot for not having a bell on his bike. I didn’t even know this was a thing! Seriously if you are a police officer reading this, I apologise profusely because I actually took my bell off and chucked it in the bin. I had no idea I had to keep it. I promise that I am usually very law-abiding.
SIDENOTE: But also, why do I have to have a bell? I am not allowed to use the footpath on my bike (by law) so is the theory of having a bell that car drivers might move out of the way if I ding my little bell? Seems unlikely, frankly.
Eventually I got to the end of the construction site and found that I was able to exit freely. I breathed a big sigh of relief and continued on through the traffic lights.
The only vehicles that frightened me for the rest of the trip along the main road were buses. Those things are huge, but sneakily quiet so you don’t hear them coming, like you do with trucks. The element of surprise adds to the fear, and I also have to say that bus drivers are absolutely the worst for giving bike riders space. In Australia, you’re supposed to give cyclists a one metre berth by law. Well, all the buses that passed me this morning were within touching distance. I did not approve.
It was nice to finally pull off the main road onto a quieter street. I thought all the excitement was over, until a few kilometres further along I came across some more construction works. And this time the road was entirely dug up and all traffic had to use one of the lanes normally reserved for oncoming traffic.
I wobbled a lot along this stretch of road – I was so conscious of trying to keep as far left as possible, and trying to maintain a steady speed for the drivers behind me to be able to judge when would be best for them to overtake me. It was not much fun. I pushed my little legs as hard as I could, so that the cars that got stuck behind me didn’t have to go as painfully slowly as they might have had to. It was hard work.
Frankly I blame the stress of these roadworks for the next thing that happened – I took a wrong turn. Somehow, I turned right before I was meant to and found myself in the middle of a cycling race. I wish I were kidding but I’m not. Some old lady started clapping and cheering me on – I think I might have been the first female she’d seen so she possibly thought I was in first place. Even though I was clearly not dressed in lycra and I had a backpack on. That would be so rookie (and is totally the sort of thing I would do in a bike race)
To make matters worse, as I suffered the humiliation of being overtaken by various athletes on TT bikes, I spotted the police up ahead, operating a car compliance check. I don’t know if you get these elsewhere in the world but in Australia this is basically a road block created by the police, who randomly select cars to pull over and check for illegal defects.
OK Triathlon Gods, you got me you buggers. Or so I thought. I was convinced I would be pulled over and fined for not having a bell (I DIDN’T KNOW!!) but it’s highly probable that being mixed up in the bike race saved me, because I didn’t get pulled over and I was out of there safe.
After a few more minutes cycling, it suddenly dawned on me that I was lost. I took a turn downhill, because that had to be a good thing I thought. Then I scanned the horizon and found a spot where all the buildings seemed to stop, and figured that must be where the ocean is. So I headed in that general direction and found myself back on the main road that I had exited a while before – I was back on Anzac Avenue.
I rode past the hospital and was struck by a thought that I was so glad I wasn’t in there on such a beautiful day. I pedaled on and eventually came to my nirvana – the cafe strip.
Obviously my first port of call was to take a selfie and my second was to give Shane a call to make sure he’d woken up and was coming to meet me. I’d arrived about 40 minutes earlier than I had anticipated – it turns out that Redcliffe is only 23km from my house, not 35. So Shane hadn’t left yet, and I needed to fill at least 40 minutes.
I set off for more riding along the foreshore, which I highly recommend because the bike lane is the road (it is a shared lane) and all of the cars driving along the front go really slowly, as the drivers and their passengers apparently take in the beautiful views.
I cycled past the spot where I should have been swimming with Grimsey and Co, and the waves didn’t look too bad but I was glad I wasn’t in them.
The best part was finding a semi-decent hill, with a roundabout at the top and at the bottom. So I circled around and did that hill about 6 times, which was great practice I thought.
Then I found a strip with a fierce headwind, and rode up and down there twice as well. I can report that a headwind will slow you down by about 7km an hour. Well, that’s how much it slowed me down on the same stretch of road, anyway.
At 9.35, I made it back to the cafe strip and met up with Shane, where we downed 4 litres of coffee topped off with delicious fried breakfasts. Shane had lots of information to download (he is a thinker generally, but when he has thought some interesting thoughts he will suddenly feel the need to tell you about everything he has been thinking in a great big brain dump) so two hours later we were still sitting there at the cafe, soaking in the coffee and sights and sounds of the Redcliffe markets.
Which meant it was 11.30, on a hot sunny day. And I’d already done a 40km ride.
So I pulled out of the ride back, hitched a lift with Shane and came home to get on with
blogging gardening and trips to the local dump. But it’s kind of nice that I now think of 40km as a short ride. I’m pleased with that idea.
Grimsey has rescheduled today’s training session for next Sunday, so I’ve signed up for that one (being the last chance to get in the open water before my stupid 1km ocean race in Mooloolaba the week after) and I will have to continue to dread it this week.
Maybe I’ll ride there though…