I woke up super early the next morning full of excitment that this would be my last day on the road before I have a ten day break at my parents place.It was breakfast in the dark and coffee at sunrise before I packed up and pulled my rig out of the rest area and joined the morning traffic which was already filling the highway south to the state capital.The increasing traffic made me glad that I had decided to stop this section of the ride at Gosford as my stress levels were rising in direct proportion to the huge amount of vehicles that joined the highway inland from Newcastle.One plus was that increasing stream of cars created quite the tailwind which helped my cause greatly,crossing over the off ramps to stay on the highway though was a excercise in terror.It wasn't quite as bad as riding into Buenos Aires which I'd done in 2006 but it wasn't much fun just the same.
The rest of the ride that morning wasn't much to write home about apart from an increase in the severity of the rolling hills which I know continue all the way to Sydney.I didn't mind hitting a few longish climbs that day and the fact that I'd covered 85 kilometers by the time I stopped for lunch showed that I was having a great day out on the road.It must have looked pretty strange to all the motorists on their commute to Sydney to see me sitting on the side of the highway eating cold beans straght out of the can and brewing coffee in the relative shelter of a roadside pullout.These pullouts did give me a chance to get out of the way of the traffic the whole way down the coast but even though the road surface in New South Wales was a huge improvement the strong stench of trucker urine had not change at all since I crossed the border a couple of weeks earlier.I swear that the smll of urine,heated by the hot Aussie sun,will unfortunately be one of the things I will remember most about this trip.That and the huge amount of garbage littered around overflowing trash bins were not things I wanted to feature prominently in my memories but that is just the way it is and that is sad.
It was still early afternoon when I saw my exit to the seaside town of Gosford at the town of Ourimbah and began the 15k trip down to sea-level and the Gosford train station.The last time I was in this town it was to pick up a pair of wheels which I had made for my second Ironman distance triathlon in 1992.A lot of water had passed under the old bridge since then and ever so slowly I was feeling the old enthusiasm for all things athletic returning.First though,I had a date with a couple of trains and thankfully the good folks at the Gosford train station didn't freak out when they saw me push my rig into the station.I always worry about how I'll be recieved when I fly,bus or train with my bike and usually the treatment from people in western cultures is the worst.Second and third world countries are used to people travelling with everything they own and are happy to just throw everything on top of a truck or cram stuff inside a train.Thankfully I had again picked a Sunday to roll into the big city and the train was pretty much empty all the way into Sydney a short 70-odd kilometers away.I was concerned about the second trip which would see me train it from Central Station is downtown Sydney to Katoomba in the Blue Mountains 110k to the west.I need not have been worried as I was the first guy on the train and found one of the only bike specific spots provided.I hung my bike on the designated hook and jammed my trailer into the corner of the compartment opposite my bike.Too easy.
One strange thing about that day was the culture shock of arriving back in "civilizaton".Some of the looks that people were giving me as I walked through Central Station and while I was sitting in the train were too funny.Clearly the good folk of the big city were not used to seeing reaaly sweaty,dirty,feral looking cyclists dragging all their worldly possesions around the country.People made no secret of avoiding me but I'm sure I smelt as bad as I looked so I can't say I blamed them.It gave me the luxury of having lots of room to spread out in the train which was a bonus.As usual it was the kids who were the exception,they were all interested in my bike and I even had acouple of young dudes come up and ask me about my gear and my ride(much to the disgust of their mothers).
Once I the train arrived into the popular mountain own of Katoomba it was a short 4k ride to my parents house in nearby Leura where the first thing on the list of must do's(after saying a big hello to my folks)was to jump into a hot shower and once clean open the parcel full of nice new,clean clothes that I had shipped down from Cairns a couple of months earlier.Man I never thought clean clothes could feel so good.I parked my bike in the garage and vowed not to touch it again for at least a week.It was time to get my head out of travel mode and switch to the role of the dutifull son as I was told there was a long list of chores for me to do around the house that my ageing parents just could not manage.No complaints here though for three meals a day and a warm bed each night I'll do just about anything.
The next few day were all about spending lots of time hanging out with my parents and celebrating my 46th birthday before knucking down to a list of gardening and household chores that would keep me busy in between the hours spent on the couch ploughing through my mothers huge collection of movies and various televisions series on tape and dvd.It was great to be able to just switch off for a while but before too long I did have to turn to the bike and my equipment and do some repairs.I scouted out a local bike store and ordered a new skewer and put my bike through a bit of a service.The bike had held up amazingly well but then again I'd only ridden just over 2,500k which is what I would have done during a normal Ironman training period so it's not like it's been overused.A long tear and a broken zipper inside my sleeping bag needed mending as did a couple of tears on one tarp and a rusty vipper on my tent needed attention as well.
One week turned to ten days and a seriously cold weather front which brought gale-force,gusty winds turned those ten days to two weeks before I finally made the decision to head off on the second leg of my journey.I had spent a couple of days staring at the map of Australia and plotting a couple of different scenarios.I could ride my way south to the coast of Victoria on Australia's southern coast which would allow me to check out the beautiful Victorian countryside and Great Ocean Road before heading along the South Australian coast to Adelaide or I could just head straight west through the New South Wales inland and on to the town of Port Augusta north of Adelaide before bracing myself for the ride across the barren Nullabor Plain.The first route allowed me the scenic tour but would require at least an extra week of riding and limit the amount of time I could dedicate to run and swim training.The northern route would take about 600k off the distance and give me the time I need to get myself run fit and swim fit for Ironman Western Australia in December.As I was still hurting mentally from the serious let-down of not finishing both events I entered last year I decided that I needed to get my priorities straight and make sure I was in the best shape possible to put on a decent show in the Ironman.
I also was given a little motivational boost by a couple of people who contacted me and told me that even though it was obvious I was a little down about the percieved lack of interest in my trip there were in fact quite a few people who were following along, quietly enjoying my blog.It was a great help to me as I had pretty much decided to bail on continuing the blog after raising less than $300 for Athletes in Kind over a period of two months.I really didn't know what to do about that and my confidence plumetted even more a I watched the popularity of some other Ultra-athletes on Facebook go through the roof.I guess I just don't have the "rock star" persona that is required these days and past achievements mean little if you don't look the part.I was reminded of something a friend of mine in Penticton said to me after I didn't finish Ultraman Canada last year.After wondering out loud about why I'd not recieved any of the promised support for my fundraising efforts from various people who had followed my trip around eastern Canada.He told me that perhaps it was the fact that I hadn't performed at all well during the two events that summer which may be the reason.That kind of pissed me off as I didn't realise that I needed to win stuff to have my fundraising validated.I was too busy fighting my own battle with depression which made getting out of bed every day hard enough let alone finding the motivation to train like a pro.
With that in mind and after adopting the "if you can't beat them join them"mentality I decided to ride the shorter northern route and dedicate the next nine weeks of my ride to actual Ironman training and in doing so,giving myself the best chance of performing well in my age-group in Ironman West Oz and then continue on to Indonesia for my ride through to Ironman Malaysia.Hopefully some of the hundreds of people who have read about my trip on Slowtwitch.com and Facebook will start to get involved and donate some money to Athletes in Kind and perhaps I may even generate some sponsorship to allow me to continue on to Canada and the U.S for the 2010 triathlon season.If not,well I guess it will be time to move on and find something else constructive to do and continue to find reasons to keep myself above ground.
As a thank you to those few who have contacted me to let me know that they are following my trip I will continue with the blog until December and give a more detailed account of not only my ride but the Ironman specific training I will be doing along the way.I will also add personal video diaries documenting the rest of my Oz trip,similar to the ones I added to my Canada trip last year.Be patient though,I will be isolated for the best part of the next three weeks and will post updates as often as I can.Until then you can check out my other two blogs which cover my Sth American and Eastern Canadian trips which I did in 2006 and 2008.The links are on the left of the page.
Bye for now and see you all in 1000 miles or so.